by Sue M
Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
My thanks to Phyllis for beta-ing this for me, and for all her wonderful support, help, additions and encouragement.
Also, my thanks to Mitzi for her kind and generous help and advice.
Thanks to Mog for her wonderful AU
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Staring around the empty office, JD began to understand why no one was answering their phones so that he could ask to be picked up at the airport.
The young agent had been to California at a tech conference for four days, and on arriving at the office, had been informed that Team Seven were assisting Team Five on an operation.
He logged in to his computer, but after a few minutes was bored. He logged out, and decided to dump his bags and go to the mall for some magazines, texting a message to each of his team mates of his intentions in case they returned to find his bags later. Calling for a taxi, he retrieved his wallet from his duffle bag and left.
Team Seven was in position and awaiting instructions. Paul MacAfee, Team Five's equivalent to Larabee, was running the show as it was his man on the inside, and had made it clear to Chris that he was not to interfere unless requested to do so. It had been decided that all of Team Seven were to remain on standby together until further notice. Vin, however, despite being issued with the same instructions, was on alert in case of trouble, his rifle with him, prepped and ready.
Buck sighed, well aware of his microphone, "Holy shit, this is about as much fun as poking my eye out."
Chris smiled, but ignored him, also aware of his microphone.
"I mean..." Buck continued,"...this is for real, right? It's not just Mac's way of justifying his expense account?"
"Keep it down, Wilmington," Mac's voice came over the link, "And my expense account is none of your damned business."
Buck laughed, almost silently, pleased at getting a rise out of the man. Chris glared at him and made a cutting motion to his own throat to suggest silence, casting a similar glare to the rest of his snickering team.
Buck then covered his mic, "Seriously though, this is way too public for my liking, what if it goes wrong? There are a lot of innocent people down there, not to mention the danger to his own man." He looked carefully down over the balcony.
Chris nodded, covering his own mic, "Mac says he's covered every eventuality, I have to trust him on that. This is just meant to be a face to face, no guns, no money. He seems to know these people, so we go with him on this."
Buck shrugged and resumed his original position.
+ + + + + + +
JD looked at his watch; the mall would be closing in two hours. He had received no messages from his friends, so he slipped on his headphones and sat on a bench in the center of the complex and started reading his newly acquired magazine.
Team Seven's link crackled into life.
"They're here, now remember, we're just observing, I want to see if Phelps turns up, if he does, we know this is gonna be huge," Mac instructed.
Chris looked through his binoculars toward the south entrance, "Copy that, three men, and it looks like Phelps is one of them."
The rest of the team maneuvered for a better view, stretching weary muscles at the same time.
The link hissed again as Mac confirmed Larabee's observations. "I see them, and I also see Marks and his cronies; looks like this deal is on." Team Seven could just hear the clicks of a camera shutter as the connection went off.
Chris smiled, "Looks like we'll be done here soon."
The next transmission was unexpected.
"Larabee, I warned you, if you undermine me on this I'm gonna haul your ass in to Travis so fast..."
Larabee frowned, "Mac either keep taking the pills or explain what the hell it is you're talking about."
"You have a fucking agent on the ground. If he's made, we're screwed. What were you thinking?"
"All my agents are with me, Mac; you're talking out of your ass."
"Open your eyes, man. ARE YOU NOT SEEING THIS?"
Chris scanned the lower area with his glasses several times until he suddenly came to an abrupt halt, focusing in on someone.
His men were looking at him with concern, now.
"Mac, he wasn't due back yet, he's not with us today."
"Get him out of there, Chris; I've put too much work into this."
"Screw you. And he hasn't? I'm more concerned he might get caught in the middle of this." The blond looked at his team, resting on Buck.
"JD's sitting slap bang in the middle of the meeting place."
Different cries went up from each man. Vin snatched up the glasses to take a look.
Buck looked at Chris, "I know this is just a meet, but if JD recognizes any of them..."
"I know, I know! Or worse, they recognize him. Marks was the connection at the youth center. Let's get JD on his phone," Chris ordered.
Ezra shook his head, "I've already tried, and I fear his head attire may be the cause of the problem."
"Damnit! I'm going down there." Buck insisted.
Chris shook his head, "Absolutely not, that's an order. I'm not having two of my men at risk."
Mac's voice came over the mic, "I'm calling security and ordering an evacuation. There are too many variables now, I can't risk the public."
"I could have told him that a half hour ago," Buck complained.
Larabee sighed, "It may be too late," he answered, "If people panic, it could get nasty."
"It's already done. Standby."
Chris growled to himself, "Shit!" The announcement went out;
"This is a customer announcement. Due to circumstances beyond our control; we regret we will be closing down for the day. Would all customers please make their way immediately to the nearest exit? We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will shop with us again soon. Please do not panic, make your way slowly and carefully to the nearest exit. Thank you."
Despite the request, people started quickening their pace in their haste to get out, fearing the unknown. After about two minutes, JD peeked out from behind his magazine, confused by the frenzied activity.
He stood, placing his magazine on the bench and slipping his headphones off his ears, looking around as he did so.
He saw a group of men coming toward him, and at first, dismissed them, but then he looked again. He recognized the one man as Julian Marks, a rather hostile individual with a hand in several nasty businesses, one of which was supplying guns to school and college kids. JD had just spent a month undercover to expose the suppliers, taking a short break to attend the conference while loose ends were tied up and his final move could be made.
His heart lurched as he made eye contact with the man, who then broke off from the group to approach him.
"Why are you here, John?"
JD composed himself. "Just shopping, what's it to you?"
Marks grabbed his collar, "You're not at the youth center now, boy. I expect some respect."
"Scum like you don't deserve my respect, go to hell."
Marks backhanded him and pushed him down onto the bench.
"Trouble?" Phelps asked, looking at the youth as JD wiped the blood from his lip.
"Naw, just some do-gooder student, who helps out at the local high school youth center" Marks answered.
Phelps sighed. "I don't like this, the place is emptying and I don't see our contacts yet. This smells like a set-up."
Marks grabbed JD and hauled him to his feet.
"Well, at least we got ourselves a bargaining chip if you're right."
Chris' jaw was clenched tight as he watched events unfold. He turned to the others, knowing they were feeling the same. He closed his eyes, reflecting at the irony of JD turning up here, now, jeopardizing all of the young agent's hard work over the last month.
ONE MONTH EARLIER
The seven men had taken their seats and Chris had begun his briefing.
"This is a particularly nasty, but highly specialized undercover operation for one, probably two agents."
Chris couldn't help but grin to himself as he saw JD begin to draw up a 'family tree', his preparation for his computer background checks, the top of the tree being the person they were after and the first top left branch the name of their undercover man, usually Ezra. Chris continued.
JD entered Ezra's name next to the 'branch'.
"You can take a back seat on this one; you aren't the right person for the job this time."
Without looking up, and a little surprised, JD crossed out Ezra's name.
JD added Josiah's name.
"I may need you as back up."
JD crossed his name off, and started to wonder.
"JD, you're up."
JD was about to write his name when what Chris had said sank in. His head shot up.
Larabee nodded, "You."
Buck sat up straight and looked at Chris. The blond remained focused on the younger agent.
"I need you to go in as a college student..."
JD's shoulders slumped a little.
"...But the real action will be a voluntary position with the local youth center, where you'll be a volunteer group leader. Everything for that is in place."
The young agent perked up a little at the last statement. At least he wouldn't just be a student this time. Chris continued, passing around information sheets.
"This high school is rumored to be 'grand central' in a spate of gun, alcohol and drug problems fuelled, it's thought, by a connection to the local youth center. All the volunteers check out, so it has to be one or more of the students attending both the school and the center involved. Unfortunately, there are quite a lot. I need a man, or maybe two, depending on what we find, to get in there and get to know the kids."
He focused again on JD.
"JD, you'll be our first liaison. I want you in there and mixing with them, getting to know them, and letting them get to know you. The group leaders have an idea who may be involved from the outside, but no names, or clue to who's involved from the inside. They feel someone closer to their age would gain more trust."
Larabee turned to Sanchez.
"Josiah, you will be introduced as a one-time helper so we can keep contact established, and we'll send you in as, and when, the need arises." He tossed Dunne a folder.
"All you need to know is in there, as is your ID and paperwork. It's probably best if you do your usual background checks; it's just this time you'll be the only one needing to memorize them. Any questions?"
Everyone took a breath, looking to Buck as he spoke.
"How long will this assignment be?"
"As long as it takes," the blond answered.
"What kind of an answer is that?"
"An honest one, Buck, until JD gets in there, we have no idea how high this goes, all we do know is, kids are dying or getting hurt because of this, and it has to stop. JD, are you ok with this? You can turn it down if you want to."
JD nodded, "No, I'm good. If that's all, I'll get started on the background checks."
Chris nodded and watched his youngest agent rise from his chair and walk out. Chris held up his hands, as if physically holding back something.
"I know, I know, but no one else even came close to him in what was needed."
"Hell, couldn't you have just used Josiah or Nathan, Vin, hell, me?" Buck asked.
Chris shook his head, "They needed someone close to their age, Buck, sorry."
Larabee sighed, "The College has allowed us to use one of their dorm rooms for the duration, just in case someone checks JD out, so he'll be staying on campus during the time he's at the center." He looked across as Buck's mouth opened and closed, but no words formed.
"Buck," Chris continued, "Have some faith in him. Just because he doesn't get to go undercover too often, doesn't mean he's not capable. I know we worry, HE knows we worry, but one thing I DON'T worry about is his ability to do the job. Can you say the same?"
Buck's shoulders dropped, and he spoke quietly, "Of course I know he's capable, it's just..."
They all nodded, totally understanding his dilemma.
"Ok, you all have your jobs to do. We really want this one, for lots of reasons." Chris nodded to the men and left.
+ + + + + + +
Two weeks later and JD was just starting to fit in at the center. The girls adored him, which made him an instant hit with them, and as he'd opted to use his bike, he quickly rallied the boys, and two girls, interested in it, establishing a little group of followers.
What he lacked in size, he gained in speed, so his game skills in several fields earned him more 'Brownie' points with several other students. In one report back, Josiah had been amused by the fact that all of the original group leaders had been quick to stress that if JD should ever consider a change of career, they would be happy to have him.
One evening, as JD prepared to leave, he notice a small mixed group of students sitting on a perimeter wall, talking to two men, one of which he would come to know as Marks. He watched for a while, and then decided he would go and introduce himself.
"Hi," he extended his hand, "Daley, John Daley, I help out here."
Marks and his companion ignored the offered hand.
"This is private, if you don't mind," Marks growled.
JD maintained his smile, "Ah, but I DO mind, I don't know you, and these young people are here with us for the evening. Can't be too careful."
Marks faked a smile, "Of course, my apologies," he pointed to one boy, Tom Bowden. "This is my nephew, I saw him as I passed and thought I'd come over and say hello."
"I didn't quite catch your name," JD insisted, trying not to smile, noticing Marks looked pissed.
"Marks, Julian Marks, now, if you don't mind..."
"Oh I don't mind, "JD answered, "but I WILL be watching."
As JD went out of earshot, Marks shot his man a look. The man nodded and walked away from the group, got in his car and left.
It was just getting dark as JD left the center for the evening. He was about half-way back to the campus when he noticed the car that had been following him for some time, was still there. He instinctively sped up a little, but the car did the same.
'Ooookaay' JD thought to himself. He took a sudden left turn.
Looking back he could no longer see the car and felt relieved. A few minutes on and the car was back. JD cursed. Looking ahead, he could see an entrance to some alleys.
"Try and follow me now, pal," he chuckled as he entered. Sure enough, he was once again alone, and he relaxed. He had just reached the end of the alleyway when something impacted hard against the side of his rear wheel.
JD flew up and sideways off the Ninja, landing hard on his back on the asphalt and rolling several times before coming to a halt. He knew very little after the initial impact, as, despite wearing his helmet, his head had hit the ground first.
With the throttle stuck, the Ninja roared as it lay on its side. Two men got out of a car and walked over to check the prone figure. Satisfied with their handiwork, they got back in their car and sped away.
As JD lay there, the jammed bike engine roared next to him.
+ + + + + + +
Team Seven were finishing up for the day. It was late for them, but since JD was out in the field, no one had seemed particularly keen to go home. Ezra had reflected how the group often berated the young agent for his boundless energy and verbal diarrhea, and yet, here they all were, missing him like he was never to return.
Larabee's desk phone rang and he picked up.
"Larabee...yes...can you repeat that...?"
He rose from his chair and threw his stapler at his window, causing the blinds to clatter and the window to shake as it found its way through to glass.
The five men in the bullpen looked up at the noise to see their boss gesturing wildly to them. Curious, they walked into his office where he was finishing his conversation.
"No, no I'm grateful you did...thank you."
He looked at them, his paled features obvious. He swallowed.
"The local PD has been in touch. About an hour ago they attended a motorcycle accident."
Buck stepped forward, "Chris..."
Chris continued, "When the college picked up the call with the student's ID they called the number I gave them with our PD contact. JD..."
Buck groaned and felt his knees wobble.
"JD's been taken to Denver General, but that's all they know."
All the men turned to go.
"Wait! We can't all go, we'll blow his cover."
Buck stepped into Chris' face, "Is that all you care about?" he snarled.
Chris returned the gesture, "We have to think outside the box here, Buck. Until I know the score, I have to assume that he is still undercover," he hissed.
The others stepped in, calming the two down. Chris composed himself.
"Josiah, could you go and check on him, please?"
"Of course, brother." He looked at Buck sympathetically.
Chris turned to Buck, "You go too, if anyone asks, you're his brother."
Wilmington's shoulders slumped in relief, and with misty eyes he looked at Chris.
Larabee squeezed his shoulder, "Let us know as soon as you can," his voice was thick, he hated one of his men injured, but he hated it even more that he couldn't go see or go check on him for himself.
Buck nodded, and they left.
+ + + + + + +
Even the small chink of light seeping through his eyelashes stabbed shards of pain through his head. He closed his eyes tighter to make it stop. The voice he heard helped him to decide he should try again.
"JD? Come on now, talk to me."
'Buck', JD thought to himself, smiling inwardly, 'figures'. He finally opened one eye.
Buck chuckled, "I knew you couldn't resist me for long; how ya feeling?"
JD sighed, "Like shit, but hey, no change there, right?" He tried sitting but realized quickly there was too much hurting to accomplish the feat.
"Whoa there, let me help you, I'll just raise the bed." In seconds, Buck had JD sitting up.
The youth spotted Josiah, "Hey," he smiled.
Josiah approached, "Good to see you back with us, John Dunne, and I'll ask you too, how are you feeling?"
"Just a little sore, is anything broken?"
"Nope, well, just your bike," Buck offered.
JD groaned, "How bad?"
"Bad enough that it's in the shop, now that the police have finished with it." He offered his roommate some water. "Can you remember what happened?"
"Oh yeah. I think I rattled a cage this evening."
Buck and Josiah exchanged concerned glances.
"Care to share?" Buck asked.
"Well I got a name for you, Julian Marks. I found him outside the center talking to a group of kids." JD winced from the pain in his head. Buck placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Take it easy." He nodded to Josiah, "That's great for now; Josiah's gonna go back and let Chris and the guys know how you are, and they can check out the name."
Josiah approached the bed and squeezed JD's arm. "Take it easy, son, I'll talk to you soon."
The youth flipped a hand wearily in the air as a goodbye, pinching the bridge of his nose with the thumb and forefinger of his other hand. Concerned, Buck called a nurse in, and after an adjustment to the IV line, JD was asleep and his roommate resigned to a long night.
The remainder of Team Seven looked up as Josiah entered the conference room in which they had set up. Chris met him half-way.
Josiah nodded, "He's not too bad. A slight head injury, scrapes, cuts and bruises, but nothing broken. They're keeping him in for observation tonight, but hope to release him sometime tomorrow."
While talking, Josiah and Chris had sat down. Josiah continued,
"He thinks he's upset someone. This evening he clashed with a Julian Marks."
As Josiah said the name, Ezra had tapped it into his laptop, Vin looking over his shoulder. The sharpshooter whistled. Ezra smiled
"I believe what Mister Tanner means to say is...Result."
+ + + + + + +
Getting out of the taxi was not the easiest thing he'd done that morning, but the stiffness eased as JD paid the driver and made his way to his 'dorm'. He was greeted by silence, and found himself missing home and his roommate. As he tossed his keys onto the small 'made for two' table with it's one solitary chair, JD started to realize undercover work was not all it was cracked up to be.
At home, by now, Buck would have had him lying on the sofa, drink in one hand, remote control in the other and a cozy blanket over him. He sighed as he dropped down onto the threadbare excuse for a sofa, and vowed he would never take Buck for granted again.
He also missed the guys. He hadn't seen most of them since day one, just the odd phone call, and now he had possibly found a connection, he dared not contact them, for fear of blowing his cover and all their hard work. He felt thoroughly miserable.
A knock at the door caused him to stare at it apprehensively.
Struggling to get up again, he opened the door carefully to see a familiar pair of twinkling bright blue eyes.
JD chuckled and beckoned the delivery boy in, who promptly whipped off his cap to reveal light brown, shoulder length wavy hair.
"Little old for pizza delivery aren't you?" JD smiled
Vin swiped at him, instantly regretting it and grimacing as JD winced.
"Shit, sorry. Just came ta see how you're doing."
"I'm ok, thanks. Is this really for me?" Dunne pointed to the pizza.
Vin laughed, "Yeah, it's from Buck, he's afraid you're wastin' away."
"Tell him thanks; have you got time to share it with me?"
"Best get on, someone may be watching, sorry. D'ya need anything?"
"Naw, I'm ok. I think I'll head down to the center later."
"In your condition, what if Marks shows up?"
JD grinned and took a bite of pizza, bobbing his eyebrows, "That's what, I'm counting on." He looked down at the pizza and smiled as he looked back at Vin, "Mmm, this is good."
Vin shook his head and smiled, "See ya later kid."
JD watched Tanner replace his cap and leave. He sat back down on the sofa and ate.
+ + + + + + +
JD received a warm welcome at the Center as he arrived, telling and re-telling his accident story, but only saying that it was a hit and run, and not deliberate. Later that evening, he made his way toward the group that had been with Marks the previous evening.
"How are you all, this evening?" he asked.
The obvious spokesperson for the group stepped forward,
"What's it to you?"
JD smiled. "Hey, Tom, just asking. I notice you guys kind of isolate yourselves from the main group, how about a game of basketball?"
Tom stepped into his face, slightly taller than the young agent,
"Piss off, do-gooder; we don't need you or your 'games'."
Tom attempted to throw a punch, but JD sidestepped it, grabbing the boy's fist and, while keeping Tom's arm up, rigid, and twisted opposite to its normal position; the agent dropped the boy to the floor and put his foot on Tom's back, between the shoulder blades.
The kids in the center watched in awe, many of them thrilled to see a bully dropped in such a manner.
JD leaned in, applying a little pressure, "Now, play nice, Tom, we're all friends here, but know this, I don't like the company you keep, and it may be wise to consider your options."
He released the boy, who got up quickly and hurriedly left, followed closely by his entourage. JD noticed one girl holding back and he winked at her. She pressed something into his hand and followed the others. He glanced quickly to see a note, and pushed it into his jeans pocket.
Suddenly he was surrounded by youths.
"Wow, John that was awesome! Can you show us how to do that?"
JD smiled, "Sure, when my body's a little more up to it, ok?"
They all nodded and he walked over to the group leaders.
"Sorry, fellas, I was a little too sore to get punched out tonight.
Dan Hills smiled, "It was minimal force, and he struck out first, no problem." He leaned in closer, "Truthfully, I've wanted to do that to the SOB for ages."
JD grinned and, nodding to them, walked outside.
He leaned against the door frame as he looked out toward the wall the youths had been sitting on the previous night. As JD had hoped, Marks had let his guard down, possibly not expecting to see 'John Daley' that evening due to the 'accident', and was back talking to Tom and his group. The agent waved to Marks as he looked across, amused by the disgruntled expression on the man's face.
JD continued to watch them until Marks finally gave up and left. Just before he got in his car, he looked back at JD and made a gesture of pointing and firing a gun toward him, with his hand.
JD smiled wider, saluting. Once Marks had left, he returned inside.
Later that evening, in his room, the young agent read the note he had been passed. It contained times and dates of two meetings. He smiled, "Nice one!"
+ + + + + + +
Larabee smiled to himself as he looked at the paperwork in his hand. Not only did they have the name of a big time arms dealer, but he was linking nicely to Oscar Phelps, one VERY big time dealer of arms, drugs, illegal tobacco, and there was even talk of his involvement with child prostitution.
Two days earlier, Team Seven and the local PD, acted on the note JD had been passed, arresting several men outside the school, as well as Tom Bowden, the youth that Marks had been meeting with, and several other youths. They had recovered a small stash of arms and drugs from the raid, a small achievement but a disruption to Marks' operation as well as severing a source of business.
The Team Seven leader was very proud of his youngest agent. He had conducted himself with the utmost professionalism, and Chris vowed to himself to tell the young agent so.
Larabee had called a conference to decide on a plan of action, and shook his head as he heard the approach of his team, Buck leading the chorus, as usual.
The big man's spirits had been lifted as the investigation made headway. He felt sure JD's time undercover was coming to a conclusion, and he would soon have his battered and bruised roommate home where he could keep an eye on him.
They were all seated, and were just about to start, when Travis knocked and entered, closely followed by Paul MacAfee, Team five's leader.
"Pardon the intrusion, Chris, but I have an announcement that concerns you all, including JD."
Chris frowned and took a seat. Travis continued.
"Paul and his team have been working on an assignment for some months, now. As fortune would have it, JD's undercover operation has linked your investigation to his, his being to arrest Oscar Phelps. As of this moment, I am turning this investigation over to Team Five. Could you please hand over all your documentation to Paul? And Josiah...would you retrieve our agent in the field, please?"
The conference room erupted. Team Seven were furious. Eventually, Chris calmed them down.
"Orin, this is bad form. JD's worked hard on this, we all have. I can't believe you want us to hand this over."
MacAfee spoke, "I'm sorry Chris, we're better placed to close this down, but I'd appreciate some help on surveillance and the bust."
Buck huffed, "Go fuck yourself!"
Larabee glared at him, then turned back to MacAfee, sighing. "All right, just let us know when and where."
MacAfee nodded and left, Travis remained. Chris was not happy.
"This sucks. That kid doesn't deserve this, and you know it."
Travis nodded, "I know, but I'd have done the same if the situation had been reversed. I'm sorry, and I'll personally apologize to JD myself when he gets back. However, he might cheer up when he gets his new assignment."
Team Seven looked at the AD with curiosity.
"There's a nice juicy Tech conference in California next week for four days that might help."
Chris pursed his lips, "I doubt it."
+ + + + + + +
Josiah arrived to find JD talking animatedly to the majority of the kids that were visiting that evening, the rest of the group leaders, standing around doing very little. He approached the larger group of leaders.
Dan Hills laughed, "Are you sure you won't give this guy up? The kids never leave his side. Does he really have that many games for his PS2?"
Josiah laughed out loud, looking toward the youth with a glint in his eye.
"Oh yes, and his roommate can testify to it, as he's usually the one tripping over them, or tidying them."
Josiah watched JD in fascination, a sadness growing within him as he suddenly realized this clever vibrant young man had missed out on so much of his teens as he cared for his ailing mother. He decided then and there, he would try and make it up to him somehow.
JD had spotted Josiah, and after a few minutes, made his excuses and joined him. Sanchez walked him outside.
"Travis is calling you back."
JD's face dropped. "Why? Did I do something wrong?"
Josiah put a hand on his shoulder, "Bless you, son, no. If anything, you did everything right. It's clashed with Team Five's investigation and Travis has handed it all to them. I'm sorry. If it's any consolation, we have been asked to assist in the bust and any field activity leading up to it." He poked a finger gently into JD's chest, "And you, my young friend, get to go on a four-day conference in sunny California."
THE MALL - PRESENT DAY
The people due to meet Phelps, one of which being Team Five's undercover operative, had been unnerved by the exodus from the mall, and had left. Phelps and Marks were looking around the deserted mall furtively, Marks pulled JD up close and just in front of him, protecting himself from a head shot. The man bobbed and weaved, knowing it was the key to him not getting a sniper's bullet, Larabee was watching, as was Tanner, they spoke together,
Marks breathed into JD's ear.
"I don't know where those bastard cops are, but they're here, I can smell 'em. Now there's nothing I'd like more than to blow your brains out, but if you behave and help me get out of here, I'll think on it."
JD huffed, "Don't do me any favors. If there ARE cops here, they aren't going to let you walk, with or without me." He winced as Marks tightened his grip.
"Either way, I'm taking you with me." His head jerked up.
"ATF! Put your weapons on the ground and put your hands on your heads, all of you!"
JD recognized MacAfee's voice.
"Fuck you cop! I'll blow this kid's brains out before you get me!"
MacAfee spoke into the link, "We have no option, we have to do this by the book, Chris, I'm sorry."
Tanner spun his head toward Chris, "NO!"
Buck grabbed Vin's arm, "What?" The link crackled.
"Tanner, when you're ready."
JD closed his eyes. He knew what procedure dictated next. In a hostage situation, where possible, the hostage would need to be eliminated from the equation. Marks' grip on him prevented the option to 'drop' and the last thing these professionals would allow was for this armed man to walk away. He shuddered at the thought of the option they would likely use and prayed it would be Vin.
Tanner shook his head, "I can't...don't ask me to do this."
Buck's eyes were wide, "This had better not be what I think this is... Chris?"
Larabee looked to Josiah, Nathan and Ezra and with heavy hearts, they pulled Buck away. Buck was struggling.
"Chris, please, no!"
Tanner spoke again, "Paul...I..."
"You're the best shot. Vin, if anyone can save him, you can."
Larabee's face was grim but he nodded. "He's right, if anyone can keep JD alive, it's you."
Marks tightened his grip on the young agent further, now with his back to a wall close to an exit. He was sweating now. Phelps had already complied. He figured his lawyer would soon sort this out.
JD sniggered softly.
"What's so funny, ass wipe? You find dying funny?"
"No, but I find you going down for good freakin' hilarious." JD scanned the balcony, finally resting on what he knew to be Vin and his rifle. He wasn't sure if his friend could see him, but he looked up anyway, and with a small smile, he nodded slowly.
Trying to remain composed, Vin lifted the sight to his right eye. He looked into the scope and as he closed his left eye, a tear squeezed down his cheek. He caught JD's look.
"Damn." He breathed.
"What?" Chris asked.
"JD just done gave me his permission."
His link crackled, "We're ready, Tanner, when you've made your move, we'll make ours."
Vin aimed for JD's left shoulder, the shoulder that overlapped Marks' chest due to Dunne's position in front of the arms dealer, reciting the various shoulder muscles to himself as he focused. Moving down to the top of JD's arm Vin took a deep breath.
Buck couldn't look. His face was buried in Josiah's shoulder, the profiler keeping a firm grip on the big man. At the sound of the shot, they all jumped.
Vin applied pressure to the trigger as Marks paused his movements for a moment.
'Please, JD, don't move.'
He squeezed and felt the kick to his shoulder, followed several seconds later by more gunfire slightly further away. He spun around and slid to the floor, burying his face in his hands.
JD took a deep breath, his body was suddenly jerking backward as he heard the gunshot echo. He fell to the floor with a thud, pain washing over him as he was vaguely aware of more gunfire. As he started to lose consciousness, he looked across at the lifeless, staring eyes of Marks, and as he slipped unconscious, he smiled.
+ + + + + + +
As soon as Chris saw Marks and JD go down he was running, the rest of the team close behind, Vin slowly and shakily bringing up the rear. The blond raced down the escalator at break-neck speed and was at JD's side in seconds, closely followed by Buck. He felt JD's neck for a pulse, while Buck stripped off his over shirt and applied pressure to the wound. Nathan joined them as the rest of the team looked on anxiously.
Nathan looked up, "Bullet went clean through, but it's bleeding badly and as it's dark, I have to assume an artery's been nicked." He looked up at Vin as he joined them, the sharpshooter was distraught. "Great shot, Vin, you did it, man. We just gotta stop this bleeding and prevent him going into shock."
Buck had had enough and while Nathan applied pressure to the wound, he cradled his roommate tightly to his chest. Nathan was about to protest, but Chris nodded to the arrival of the paramedics and he relented.
Buck was whispering in JD's ear. As he continued with his encouragement, his eyes met Vin's, and after a few uncomfortable seconds, his face softened and he gave Tanner a slight nod.
JD stirred slightly, moaning and trying to move. Buck just held him tighter, soothing him and promising help was on its way.
Before long, JD was in an ambulance and on his way to the hospital with Buck in tow. Larabee stepped toward Vin and put his hand on the back of Tanner's neck as the sharpshooter leaned in slightly.
"You saved his life, Vin, he's gonna be ok, I know it, you did great."
Blue eyes met green.
Chris sighed, "C'mon, Team Five can clean this up, let's go to the hospital."
+ + + + + + +
Team Seven arrived to find Buck pacing in the surgical waiting area. They surrounded the big man in search of news.
"He's been in surgery about fifteen minutes. Doc said it's a clean shot, but he was going into shock." He looked at Tanner. "Why not a leg shot, Vin, why his arm?"
Vin looked at him with red-rimmed eyes. "Believe it or not, it was a safer shot due to Marks' hold on him. I was afraid if I'd gone for his leg, he mighta dragged Marks down with him, making it difficult for Mac's shooters. My way gave me a chance to hit two men with one shot." Vin scratched at his chin, finishing with a wipe to his face.
"None of the shots were a safe bet, Buck," he continued, "I just tried to do the best I could. God knows, I didn't want to."
Buck sighed and approached the sharpshooter. They stood awkwardly for a while, and then Buck embraced the young man, patting him hard on the back before releasing him. They all took seats to wait.
+ + + + + + +
While waiting, Mac came in to see them. Vin turned his head to the floor, Buck seethed as Chris gripped his forearm gently and gave it a squeeze.
"Came to see how the kid was doing," he said.
"Still waiting and he's not a kid," Chris answered.
"No, no, of course not, sorry. Just thought you might like to know, forensics think Vin's shot killed Marks, but they haven't confirmed it yet."
Buck stood, "So ya done? Can I show you the door?"
Mac shook his head, "This isn't down to me, Buck, that kid..."
Buck rushed forward and slammed the man against the wall, "...is gonna be in pain for weeks, maybe months, if he survives the surgery. Don't you DARE blame him for this, you emptied the mall before we could react to the situation. This is on your head!"
Chris and Josiah gently pulled a shaking Buck away, Josiah, taking him as Chris took his place.
"Just go. You may have got your man, but ya got mine too, and I'm not a very forgiving man when someone hurts my people, and, boy, did you hurt the wrong guy this time."
Mac spluttered, "But Tanner..."
Larabee glared; JD would have marked it as an eleven out of ten. Mac left.
JD's surgeon emerged just over two hours after Team Seven had taken to waiting. He approached the group, introducing himself as Dr. Blake, and was happy to inform them JD was in recovery after a successful closing but had struggled initially due to shock. Vin was relieved, minimal muscle damage had occurred, but a confirmed nick to a vein had caused some blood loss and that the young man would be weak for a while. The six men eagerly went to post-op to check on him.
Vin couldn't bring himself to approach the bed, holding back as the others visited. After Buck had touched and fiddled and talked, reassuring himself the boy in the bed was really there, he stepped back and pulled Vin forward.
"Come on, I know ya want to."
Vin was hesitant, but his desperate need to see his young friend outweighed his guilt and he moved closer to the bed. He scrubbed at his eyes as emotion overwhelmed him. Vin was a private person and did not often succumb to public displays of emotion, but this was one time he didn't care how he was perceived. He grasped JD's cold hand in his and whispered,
"I'm so sorry, kid."
Chris and Buck each put a hand on the sharpshooter's shoulders as the others closed in. As they comforted each other, they failed to notice the hazel eyes staring up at them.
A raspy voice abruptly drew their attention
"Tanner...you bastard... you shot me!"
Vin's head jerked up to see the young man speaking, the sorrow and guilt evident in his face.
JD huffed a soft laugh, "Thanks."
+ + + + + + +
As Vin sat next to JD's bed, he winced each time the young agent moved painfully. JD had noticed and decided it was time to address the situation.
Chris had encouraged the others to 'hover' as he knew the two youngest had yet to discuss the incident. It was as Larabee and Wilmington were about to enter the hospital room they noticed the way the two men were looking at each other. Chris turned to Buck,
"Finally, come on, let's get a coffee."
"Vin," JD started, "If I can put this behind me, so should you."
Tanner cast a sad look toward him. "I can't even begin to imagine what must've gone through your mind that day. I saw ya y'know, I saw you nod to me."
"Good, that's what I was aiming for. You had no choice, Vin, and I know if anyone else had done it, I most likely wouldn't be here now. I don't hold it against you, so please, let it go."
"Maybe one day, but for now, I need to work this through. You're a good man JD, and a damned good agent. You handled your assignment expertly, Ezra couldn't a' done any better. The guys... we, are so proud of you."
A compliment like that would have normally sent JD giddy, but the boy's face dropped, a sad expression adorning his handsome features.
"JD, what is it?"
"The kids at the center, I feel like I've betrayed them. When I'm outta here, I need to go see 'em"
Vin brightened, "I could go with you, if you like."
Dunne's face lit up! "You feel you owe me?"
"Well ya don't, but if you really must make it up to me, I know just the thing."
Two Weeks Later
Tanner looked around at all the young faces, most of them surrounding JD. They had been there a half hour, and it had taken most of that time for JD to convince the kids of his motivation for deceiving them. They were all chuckling at something JD had said.
"So, I was thinking," JD was saying to the youths surrounding him, "We can start your self-defense classes next week, if you want, and, if it's ok with you, my friend Vin and I will teach you." He was relieved to see them all agree, eagerly. With a smile and a nod, he left them and walked back to where Vin was waiting. Tanner cocked an eyebrow in question, JD nodded.
"They can't wait. This is great, Vin, thanks man."
Vin smiled, "I think you continuing to help out here in your spare time is great, kid, and I'm only too happy to be involved."
JD grinned, "Who'd have thought something so positive could come out of something so negative? Even Josiah's gonna drop in from time to time."
Vin smiled at the youth, putting his arm around his shoulders and drawing him close.
"You bet, kid. Ya hungry? I'm buying."
JD nodded, "You're buying? Then hell yeah, I'm starved."
The two left the center and headed for Vin's jeep. They were both healing, mentally and physically, and had come to realize, that, if nothing else, their blind faith in each other, and their teammates, would see them through each day, and nothing could take that away from them.