by Joy K
(Inspired by a commercial on American television)
Give the page a couple extra seconds to load... there's a treat at the end of the story! Enjoy.
(JudyS - this is for you! Hugs)
The Magnussun case was finally over. It had been a long hard haul for the whole team, but especially for Vin and Ezra who had been undercover nearly three weeks longer than anticipated. The bust had gone well, with only a few bruises when two of the perps had predictably refused to go down easy.
Chris watched his team silently from his office. They deserved some down time, but that could only come after the mountains of paperwork were completed. Assistant Director Orin Travis had promised that the next two weeks Team Seven would serve as backup to the other teams. Team Seven had grumbled about being backup, but Chris knew that they all recognized they needed some down time.
Dropping his eyes back to his own file, he worked for a few minutes until he heard the inevitable, "Damn it, Buck! That's mine."
Chris looked up to see what had caused JD's outburst. Apparently Buck had taken a pencil off JD's desk. The fact that the young agent was angry and determined to get the pencil back spoke volumes about their need for a break. Neither Buck nor JD was angry by nature.
His eyes drifted over to Josiah and Nathan as they traded files and spoke briefly before returning to their notes. These two men were rocks - steady, reliable and predictable. Both men had enough experience to know how to roll with the stressful times and relax in the down times, having long ago learned how to play well with others.
Looking at Ezra, he smirked. He definitely did not "play well with others." The southerner was self-reliant and distrusting almost to a fault. He had improved since joining Team Seven, but had a long way to go before he placed his life in his teammates' hands without thinking. He watched Ezra pinch the bridge of his nose and then roll his shoulders, unable to hide the weariness that dogged him. He'd been undercover too long in the past few months and this assignment had seemed even more stressful than usual to Ezra - likely because Vin was undercover with him and the burden of responsibility for his friend's life was heavy.
Vin. He'd missed his friend during the past few weeks. Tanner's easy companionship and his help around the ranch had become a part of Chris's life within weeks of hiring the Texan. He watched as Vin angrily jabbed the backspace key with his index finger. Obviously he was having trouble writing his report. Ezra leaned forward in his chair saying something that Chris could not hear from his position. Vin rubbed the back of his neck in weary frustration and said something back. Ezra offered a few more words and Vin nodded and began typing again. That connection between the two of them was a mystery. Vin was proud and found it embarrassing to ask anyone for help with writing reports. Ezra normally wouldn't waste his time on such "trivial things," yet he offered his assistance and it was willingly accepted. Both men had spent much of their young lives fending for themselves, and making the best use of what they had. It was easy to see what Vin got out of the exchange, but he didn't know what Ezra's angle was.
"Agent Larabee, Sir?"
The knock and interruption startled him. He'd been so deep in thought that he hadn't noticed Chuck, the mailroom clerk come in.
He nodded to the young man.
"Here's your mail, Sir."
"Thanks," said Chris, watching as the young man left the area with his mail cart. "Sir" made him feel so old.
He thumbed through the mail and decided to play deliveryman for his team.
"Nathan?" he said as he stepped out into the bullpen. He sailed Nathan's envelope like a Frisbee across the area.
"JD," he said repeating the action sending the team's youngest an envelope. From the smell of it, likely from Casey Wells.
"Buck." He sorted through and pulled out five envelopes for the ladies' man.
He walked over and handed Josiah his latest issue of a psychology journal and continued on toward Ezra and Vin's desks.
"Your mother says hello," he said handing Ezra a postcard from the Riviera.
"Mr. Larabee," Ezra started to protest.
"It's a postcard, Ezra," he said. "It's hard not to read it."
Ezra conceded the point and read the short missive from his mother.
Larabee stood in front of Vin's desk holding up one last piece of mail.
"Me?" asked Vin. "I never get mail."
"Not unless it's Guns and Ammo or Soldier of Fortune," quipped Ezra.
Vin accepted the plain white envelope from Chris. It was about the size of a greeting card. He looked on the back as well as the front. No return address.
"What'd you get, Kid?" Buck asked of JD, snatching away the card the young man was reading. "Dear JD, Thank you for the fishing rod. I hope we can use it when I come home for spring break. Happy Valentine's Day. Casey."
Buck stared dumbfounded. "You got your girl a fishing rod?"
JD snatched the card back. "We celebrated Valentine's Day last weekend when she was home since we knew we couldn't today."
"JD. . . Son. . ." said Buck, "I don't know where I failed you. You get a lady jewelry, flowers, candy. . . Not fishing gear."
"Casey happens to love fishing!" JD argued, tucking his card into his desk.
"And what did she get you?" Buck continued.
"A game for my play station."
Buck rolled his eyes.
"Ah, young love," said Josiah with a chuckle. "What did you get for Raine?" he asked Nathan.
"She has to work tonight, so I sent her a card and flowers at work," said Nathan.
"See?" said Buck nudging JD.
"And I bought her a bracelet which I'm going to give her tonight."
"What, no chocolate?" said JD.
Nathan started to reply, but suddenly clamped his mouth closed. Some things were better left as secrets.
"Wild Thing. . ." music drifted from across the bullpen. "You make my heart sing. You make everything. . ."
The music stopped suddenly as a mortified Vin Tanner closed his card, but it was too late. A blush crept up his cheeks as he realized everyone was staring at him.
"Wild thing?" asked Buck as he walked over to Vin's desk. "Now this is a story I gotta hear, Junior."
Vin shook his head and fended off Buck's long arms as the dark haired agent tried to swipe the card from him.
"Come on. Who's it from?" Buck teased as the struggle became a wrestling match.
Chris moved to his door, out of range of the pair. He smiled as Buck began to tickle Vin in an effort to get the card away. This was the break they needed, something foolish to make them forget the stress of the job.
"Aha!" Buck declared triumphantly as he snatched the card from a now breathless sharpshooter. He opened it and the song began to play again. "Da-amn!" Buck said in frustration.
"What?" asked JD. "Who's it from?"
"Inez, perhaps?" Ezra suggested.
"No," Buck protested. "You'd better not be seeing her behind my back," he added, poking Vin in the chest.
Vin pushed Buck off his chest and rolled away from him.
"Who's it from?" asked Nathan, now intrigued.
"It don't say," said Buck.
At the same moment, Vin and Buck seemed to have the same thought, diving for the desk and the envelope. Vin came up triumphant, snatching it, putting it in the desk and locking it before Buck could grab it. He slipped the key down his boot and snatched the card from Wilmington's hand while Buck was down.
Buck rattled the drawers to Vin's desk, knowing that the locks on the desks weren't all that secure.
"Buck," Chris said in hushed warning.
"Ah, hell, Chris," Buck answered. "I was just going to break it a little."
"We have reports to finish," Chris reminded. While he enjoyed the break, he was the boss and they did have work to complete.
Slowly everyone settled at their desks. Vin quickly unlocked his desk, slid the card in and re-locked it, a blush still showing on his cheeks. As they returned to their reports, JD absently began whistling "Wild Thing." Vin slouched a little lower in his chair.
"I wish I'd found that card for Casey," he said.
Everyone stared at him blankly for a moment. Nope. Their minds wouldn't let them picture Casey as a wild thing. Buck chuckled. "I don't think so, Kid."
"Raine, yes," Nathan whispered.
Josiah coughed in surprise.
Nathan looked up, realizing he had said it aloud. "I uh. . ."
Josiah laughed loudly and Nathan shrank back in his chair, grateful that only Josiah had heard his comment.
"Tick tock, Ladies," said Chris from his door way.
Everyone settled down and went back to work. But for the rest of the morning refrains of "Wild Thing" were hummed or whistled, much to Vin's embarrassment.
It only got worse when they were called out to back up Team Two in the afternoon. Buck was lead for the team for this operation. Assistant Director Travis had requested that he be given more leadership opportunities in training for one day leading a team of his own. It didn't matter to the higher-ups that Buck had no intentions of leading a team. He was second in command and it was procedure. Chris didn't mind and the team didn't mind. . . except today. Vin seemed to be having an issue with it.
"How are things looking, Wild Thing?" Buck said over the radio.
Chris had to stifle a laugh, knowing that Vin would not be pleased.
The sharpshooter muttered something half beneath his breath.
"Come again, 'Wild Thing'?"
"I said, I'm going to kick your ass, Two."
"Tisk, tisk," countered Buck. "Is that any way to speak to your leader, Wild Thing?"
"All clear, Two," Vin growled.
"Don't push it, Buck," Chris said off mic.
Buck nodded in agreement. Teasing was fine, but they had a job to do.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done; he just didn't know it yet.
The case ended rapidly with the surrender and arrest of ten smugglers. The area had been secured when Vin left his perch high up in the rafters to join in the clean up.
"Hey, Wild Thing," said Jim from Team Two. "Nice view up there?"
"Yeah," commented his partner, Marty Mikelssen. "Let me know when you're going to kick Two's ass, Wild Thing. I'd like to see that."
Vin turned red. "I might be kicking someone else's ass first," he threatened.
Jim and Marty chuckled, but backed off. Neither wanted to mess with an angry Texan.
Vin stalked toward the command center, ready to give Bucklin a piece of his mind. As he approached he heard it.
"Wild thing. . . You make my heart sing. . ."
Sung very badly by all the agents standing nearby.
. . .Buck's days were numbered.
Vin waved at the rowdy bunch, acknowledging the joke. It would only make things worse if he made a fuss.
Buck looked up when he heard the singing. "What the hell?" he asked softly. "How did they know?"
JD let out a small curse from the back of the van. "It's my fault," he told Buck. "I left us on an open channel."
Buck groaned knowing that his comments had been broadcast to everyone at the bust. Vin would be the brunt of jokes all through the bureau. He shrugged. There was nothing he could do about it now, and Vin deserved some payback for all the practical jokes he had played. He just hoped he wasn't on the receiving end of some new ones.
Vin stopped next to Chris who gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.
"I think ya'd better be lookin' for a new number Two," Vin said softly.
"This one's life span is looking a mite short."
"Now, Vin," Buck soothed. "It wasn't all my fault. JD here, he left the channel on an open frequency."
"Wouldn't a mattered," said Vin, "if your lips weren't flappin'."
"Ah, come on, Vin," said Buck. "We just want to know who thinks you're a 'wild thang'!'"
"You're never gonna find out, Bucklin," said Vin, "and you're gonna want to watch your back."
"Wait, I know," said Buck. "Kim from the secretary pool."
Vin shook his head.
"Marnie?" Buck asked. "Nancy? No wait, Carla!"
Vin walked away.
"That's it isn't it?" Buck called after him.
For the rest of the afternoon Buck peppered him with questions about his mysterious secret admirer. Each time Vin had said no, and Buck was running out of suggestions.
"I still say it was Miss Recillios," suggested Ezra.
"No. You wouldn't do that to me, would you, Vin?" said Buck.
Vin raised his eyebrows and smiled.
"Nooooo," Wilmington groaned.
Vin chuckled and shook his head. Buck was an easy mark when it came to Inez.
Long after the others had left for the day, Vin sat at his desk contemplating the card. He pulled it out of the desk and looked at the envelope again, unaware that Chris was standing in the doorway watching him.
It had been mailed from outside the building, but that didn't rule out anyone inside the building. He'd thought for a while that maybe it was a prank, but none of the guys would be able to keep a straight face that long. Except maybe Ezra. But Ezra was too tired and hadn't had time to pull this off. He opened the card and let the song play. Having the reputation of being a wild thing wasn't so bad he guessed.
"Could be worse things to be known for," said Chris.
Vin cursed in surprise, snapping the card closed. "I thought you left."
"Forgot my briefcase," said Chris unlocking his door and retrieving the case. As he locked the door he said, "You don't know who it's from, do you?"
Vin shrugged with that lopsided grin. "I'm not ever telling Buck that."
Chris chuckled. He'd watched as even Josiah and Nathan had joined in the guessing. He'd laughed when JD suggested Miz Nettie had sent it and Buck had cuffed him hard enough to knock him off his chair. A Valentine's card had been just the thing the team needed to remind them there was more to life than the slime they dealt with every day.
"Time to go home," Chris suggested.
"Yeah," Vin agreed. "I'm not going to figure it out sitting here all night."
He locked the card in his desk.
"Night. . . Wild Thing," said Chris with a Cheshire cat grin on his face.
"Wait! You know who sent it don't you?"
Chris shrugged and laughed as he walked away. He had no intentions of telling Vin if he knew. It was too much fun to keep him hanging.
"Chris! Wait!" Vin grabbed his jacket and ran after the blond. He could hear Larabee whistling the tune as the elevator doors slid closed just before he could reach them.