Author's notes: Well, this came from the Vin lunch. Hello to the girls! This is for you. All errors are my own.
"Sonofabitch," Vin growled as he was sent crashing into some canisters in the remote warehouse. He staggered as he stood up, feeling the cold weight dripping down his back. "Damnit!" He felt dampness in his hair. He was tempted investigate what was in his long hair, but instead he narrowed his eyes on the perpetrator.
"Simple bust my ass," he mumbled Ezra's words as he used his anger to fuel the leap at his attacker, Carlos, John Narvolos's bodyguard.
If Vin was having a bad afternoon, Carlos's day was going to be the worst in his life. The bodyguard's gun had jammed as he was ready to fire at Vin. He still used the gun as a weapon, employing it as a bat, forcing the sharpshooter into the canisters. Carlos would have no more lucky breaks.
Sidekick, sidekick, sidekick and then an uppercut to the jaw was all that was needed to drive the gun dealer's bodyguard into an unconscious state.
There were, however, other conscious attackers, and Tanner sought shelter. He spied Standish, firing from a corner. The long-haired agent dropped and rolled on the concrete. He could feel his jacket sticking to the floor.
Vin heard the crack of a Glock - Buck's gun - and was grateful for the cover. Ezra nodded at his companion. They were in a precarious situation. Standish handed him a gun. The semi-automatics were the arms that they were supposed to be buying from Narvolos.
Ezra had set up the meet a few weeks prior. It was a meet and greet, a show of faith and then the bad guys would get arrested and go to jail. But, upon arrival, they were patted down and their weapons confiscated by six men, four more than had been agreed upon. Vin hated when the criminals didn't keep their word. How did they expect to get a reputation if they couldn't be trusted? The bad guys evidently did not watch enough television.
"What is that?" the Southerner commented on the stain on the back of Vin's jacket. He checked his suit to make sure he hadn't inadvertently rubbed against it.
"No idea - worry about it later." Tanner popped off a few shots to the vicinity of where he had seen the last shooter.
Ezra lifted up his hand. "They are throwing their guns to the floor." And the sharpshooter heard the silence, then Chris's voice telling them to put their hands on their head. The undercover agent stood up and took a step away from Vin, studying the other agent. "You should start worrying now. I swear it smells."
Vin peeled off his jacket, and looked at the stain. It began at the collar and went all the way down the gray suit jacket. The purple brown color of the mark stood in start contrast on the light colored fabric.
The sharpshooter touched his hair. He could feel the areas in his hair, which had stiffened upon contact with whatever had leaked on him. "It's in there, isn't it?"
Standish shook his head, but answered, "Yes." He covered his mouth for a moment in thought. "I think I will go find Nathan."
"You do that," Vin replied in frustration. He had grown his hair after the army. The occasional girlfriend would trim it, but other than that he liked it long and didn't fuss with it. His hair had been long when his mother died. It was one memory which kept his connection to the past.
Carlos was moaning to awareness. Tanner picked him up and pushed him against the wall, patting him down roughly. Carlos groaned again, and the sharpshooter tossed him to the ground.
"Hey Vin," Nathan called out. "Ezra here told me what happened." The undercover agent followed behind the medic. "Let me see." Nathan had slipped on some latex gloves and examined few pieces of hair. "This has got to be cut out."
Tanner jerked his head away from Jackson's examination. "What?"
"Look, I don't know what this is. Those canisters aren't marked." Jackson gestured to the spillage. "Could be anything, but better safe than sorry." The black man crossed his arms, a sign of confidence that he would win the argument.
"Before drastic measures why don't we go to my salon?" Ezra suggested.
"Salon?" Buck snickered, with JD by his side.
Vin threw up his hands in the air. Buck and JD must have overheard Ezra talking to Nathan. The twosome had to be in the thick of the machinations of Team 7 to the annoyance of the sharpshooter, who felt his hair was a private matter.
"Yes, where I get my hair styled," Standish drawled. His southern accent became thicker when he thought people were acting like idiots.
"Yeah, Ez, for most boys it's called a barber shop." JD attempted to be patronizing.
Ezra smiled his retort. "Men use a salon."
Tanner touched the back of his hair. The stuff was sticky, and the undercover agent was right - there was an odor to it. "I don't know. . ." The sharpshooter thought of the worse-case scenario of his hair falling out, never growing back because of some weird chemical reaction. He glared at Carlos once more, thinking of how he should meet out some more punishment on the bodyguard.
"You'd rather have Nathan," Ezra motioned to the medic's close cropped hair, "or better yet, let Josiah have his way with a pair of clippers." The southerner pointed to the profiler in the distance, whose hair was sticking up and disheveled.
Vin looked back and forth to his two team mates and made a decision. "We need to tell Chris we're leaving for awhile."
Ezra guided the sharpshooter by the elbow, away from the protesting Buck, JD and Nathan. "I'll take care of that. . ." he stated, and in the next breath called out, "Chris, we will be back later."
Larabee waved at the undercover operative to come over. He was ignored, and watched his two agents leave the premises. "Where are those two going?" Chris asked Josiah.
"Lord only knows," Sanchez replied, and directed his attention back to the officers who had responded to the scene.
At the car, Ezra stopped Vin from opening the Jaguar's door. "What?" Tanner asked. He just wanted to get this over with before he lost his nerve. He had never gone to a salon before. It sounded too foreign.
"You are not sitting on my leather interior with Lord knows what on you."
"What do you want me to do - walk?" Vin stepped away from the car.
"No, just wait a moment."
Ezra opened the trunk of the Jaguar and pulled out a 60 inch wide roll of plastic. Vin raised his eyebrows, wondering why the undercover agent had the plastic tarp in his trunk. On the other hand, Vin admired the idea and wished he had thought of it.
Standish draped the plastic sheeting over the passenger seat then gestured that Tanner could sit down. "Feel like I'm wrapped in fuckin' saran wrap," he said as he moved around to get comfortable.
The team had returned into the office, and began working on paperwork. It was always a late night after a bust. This one had gotten out of control, requiring more explanation to satisfy the federal government. Chris had called Ezra's cell phone, then Vin's, and went directly into voice mail. His first message was crisp, his second, twenty minutes, later was filled with threats, and his third was expletive filled.
JD had been watching the elevator from his vantage point at his desk, waiting for Standish and Tanner to return. He hoped when the two returned, Chris would bring his grouchy level to a mid-level 5 instead of a bad-tempered 10. The elevator dinged its arrival and a man stepped out wearing blue tinged sunglasses, a shirt with some strange graffiti on it, a jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Dunne got up to assist the man to find the correct floor. "You can't. . ." JD blinked, realizing the man was not a stranger. "Ahh, Vin you look great." JD pinked a little, embarrassed he had not immediately recognized his friend.
Tanner's hair was shorter, about five inches, if JD had to guess. It was the same length as the computer specialist's. However, where his hair was straight, the sharpshooter's was wavy, more so without the weight of the additional length. It was shiny, and slicked off his face. "There's stuff in your hair," Dunne commented.
"Yeah." Vin touched it gingerly.
Buck came over, noticing the sharpshooter and undercover agent had returned. He gave the Texan the once over. "You look like a reject from a music video."
"My suit was ruined so the place next door to the salon gave me some clothes."
"Not just any generic label clothes," Ezra added, coming up behind Buck.
Vin shrugged his shoulders and then began to list the designer names. "A Grail shirt, Diesel jeans, Paul Smith jacket and these are Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses." He fidgeted nervously when he noticed JD and Buck were staring at him with their mouths open in shock. "Anyway, they said something about it being past season. . ."
"They let you in the building like that?" Wilmington snickered.
Standish shook his head, and grinned. He enjoyed the mustached agent's discomfiture. "Yeah, we even heard some cat calls from the secretary pool."
Vin bowed his head, and fiddled with one of the necklaces around his neck.
JD placed his hand to his chest. He never thought he would see Vin wearing jewelry, unless it was one of those med alert bracelets. "You're wearing jewelry."
Tanner picked up the necklace. "Yeah, this necklace, this is Sanskrit for. . ."
Josiah interrupted, "Honor, loosely translated." He had come in behind JD, glasses perched on his head. He motioned to Vin for permission to touch the amulets.
Vin nodded. "Right," he replied. "And, well, this symbolizes a wolf." He picked up another necklace.
"Freakin' pirate," Buck commented, unsure of the stylized sharpshooter replacing the scruffy one he knew so well. "What took you so long?"
"They weren't busy so they threw in a massage with these hot rocks." Tanner moved his shoulders, showing how relaxed he was at that moment. "Have to say, haven't felt this good in a long time."
"Glad you ladies are back," Chris yelled from his office. "Get to work, and don't ever pull that stunt again."
Ezra rolled his eyes in response.
"I saw that," Larabee said.
"Drinks are on me tonight," Standish sighed.
JD smiled. He knew the undercover operative was trying to make amends. It would be an expensive night.
+ + + + + + +
At the saloon that night, Ezra noticed the beer was flowing quite freely on his tab. He was nursing a glass of brandy.
"Another round?" Buck asked the Team 7 agents. He received a nod from everyone except Ezra. Wilmington laughed.
He went to the bar, waiting to get Inez's attention. JD was by his side to assist in carrying the beers and drinks over. The mustached agent noticed a group of four women giggling near the bar. Sipping their martinis, they were glancing over at the men of Team 7. "Ladies, what seems to be the problem?"
Two of the girls smiled at him, the other two kept up their conversation. The red-headed girl was bolder than the rest. "Is that your friend?" She used her glass as a pointer.
Buck squinted. "Who? Vin?"
"Tall guy, wavy hair. . .yeah, him," she replied.
"Yeah, wow," the other woman purred.
"What's he drinking? Can I buy him a drink?" one of the quiet girls asked.
"No," JD interjected, elbowing Buck, whose mouth had gaped open. "Ezra's got the tab tonight."
"Oh, is he's gay?" The red head pouted. "All the good ones are gay."
Dunne laughed, and started to explain, "No, Vin's not. . ."
"JD, you know those two are pretty open. . ." Wilmington interrupted. He drew his shoulders back. He needed to be back in the game. One of these women would be coming home with him.
"Buck!" JD glared at his roommate, trying to will him to correct the misstatement.
The mustached agent ignored him. "Hey, I'm not gay."
The red-head placed her hand on his arm. "Good for you." She grinned and led her friends away from Buck, near a pub table.
"What the hell is wrong with you? They'll kill you if they find out," JD said loudly, making himself heard over the din of the crowd.
"Guess if you want to be paying rent on your own, then you won't say anything." Buck turned his back towards JD, and gestured to Inez that another round was needed.
"No, I'll just use it for blackmail later," JD replied, joining Wilmington at the bar.
They returned with the drinks in hand, passing them out to Josiah, Chris, Vin and Nathan, before taking their own beers.
Tanner noticed Wilmington staring at him. He tried to divert his attention back to his Budweiser.
"What's going on?" the sharpshooter questioned.
Buck was going to reply, 'Nothing,' but JD was needling him. "You seemed to have acquired some animal magnetism."
"Buck, you never said it was contagious," Ezra commented. He swirled his drink and then finished it off in a swallow.
Wilmington tried not to get flustered. "It isn't. Your boy is just looking so pretty. . ."
"Pretty? Are you okay, Buck? Something you want to talk about?" Chris grinned. They were all enjoying his awkwardness. Josiah and Nathan laughed softly.
"What, hell, no. . . shut up," Buck mumbled, and drained his beer.
Dunne rolled his chair over to Wilmington's desk. "Guess who was in first today?"
"Vin," Buck answered. The sharpshooter was always the first one in the morning.
"No." JD shook his head. He didn't want to wait for his roommate to guess. "Nathan, then Josiah, then Vin..."
"So he was running late." Buck rolled his eyes, returning to going through his drawers searching for a pen.
"Takes him more time to get ready," JD stated. He rolled back to his desk. He had found the incident shocking. Tanner was the most laid back about his looks. He just wanted to be clean, and anything more than that was not necessary.
"Yeah, whatever. . . Sherry's here." Buck was distracted from his pen search. He motioned with his chin to the woman coming off the elevator. "Man, she's hot. Today is going to be the day. I can feel it." It was well known among Team 7 Buck was attracted to Sherry McWilliams, administrative assistant to Team 3.
"Hey, Buck," Sherry said. She waved her fingers at the mustached agent in greeting. In her other hand she carried a basket.
"Sherry," Buck answered in a low voice. He watched her walk by, and head to Vin's desk.
The sharpshooter was working on his computer, and did not notice her arrival until she announced herself.
"Hiya, Vin. I made you some muffins. I know how much you like them." She lifted the basket in an exaggerated manner, and placed it on Tanner's desk.
"Thanks, Sherry." Vin removed the napkin covering the basket. He took one of the cinnamon swirled muffins out, and bit in.
She sat on the corner of the desk. "I have some tickets to Nickelback. I was wondering if you would like to go?"
"Well, there is that whole no fishing off the company pier," Vin replied, pausing between bites of the muffin.
Sherry laughed. "We work for the federal government. Don't ask, don't tell - And I'm not planning on telling." She reached out and touched the sharpshooter, who grinned at her. He stood up in a fluid movement dipped her and there lips came together. . .
"AHHHHH!" Buck yelled. The image burned in his mind. The Mighty Mouse bed sheets were tangled around him. He ripped them away to free himself, and get to Vin Tanner.
"Buck, hey!" JD came in, still sleepy eyed and clad only in boxer shorts. "Are you all right?"
Wilmington took a deep breath to collect his thoughts. He glanced at his alarm clock, which held steadfast to 6 am. Vin had to be stopped, but Buck knew JD would try to convince him that the sharpshooter was not a threat. He couldn't draw suspicion. He faked a stretch, and a loud groan. "Yeah, I gotta get to work."
"It's six o'clock." Dunne shook his head in confusion of the early hour.
"Yeah, I have some paper work I need to finish or Chris will have my head. . . I'll meet you there." The mustached man set his feet on the floor. Vin would be into work soon. Buck slipped on yesterday's jeans and found a shirt in the hamper.
As he got off the elevator he raked his hand through his hair to comb it. He jumped when Vin exited the break room holding a mug of his strong brew.
"Hey, Buck, what brings you in early?"
Buck smiled at the sharpshooter, with his still-long hair, and serviceable clothes. There was nothing fashionable about the man before him. "Junior, you look great. Just great." It had all been a nightmare- a horrific one.
"Thanks. You've be drinkin'?" Vin offered his coffee to his friend.
"No, what? No." Buck waved off the mug. "You thinking about cutting your hair?"
"No, why?" Tanner touched his hair, looking offended.
"No reason." Wilmington placed his hands up. "Just don't ever change. Okay?" Buck grinned. He was going to buy Sherry a cup of coffee and a scone this morning. She liked scones, but maybe Wilmington would clean up first. He had a feeling that Sherry liked a well-groomed man.