ATF Crossover Without a Trace
This occurs just after my previous story A Holiday Gift. Can be read alone, though some questions might arise that can be answered in the first story.
Not my guys, (M7/ATF or WAT) just borrowed them so I could play with them for awhile.
Thanks to my Beta Lori for al her work in keeping me on the straight and narrow.
"Hey Fitz! Glad to see you home!" A tall black haired young man moved towards Martin Fitzgerald's side as he hefted his suitcase up and slid his skis and poles over his shoulder.
Martin smiled at his friend and teammate as Danny Taylor stepped to his side and relieved him of his suitcase.
"Hey, Danny! It's kind of nice to be home. Thanks for picking me up tonight. Sorry for the lateness."
"No problem Martin. It isn't that late yet."
Martin laughed, "Yeah, midnight on a work night isn't late."
Danny laughed with him, "Come on, I've got your truck in the short term lot and time's almost up. How was your vacation, other than getting snowed in for a few days?" Danny asked as he pushed through a glass door and led the way to the nearby parking lot.
"It was great Danny, but you'll never believe what happened," Martin answered, his blue eyes sparkling as he thought of the last two weeks.
"Well, you going to tell me or do I have to guess? Though it seems to me that you have some new skis; these are a different color," Danny said as he unlocked the pickup's canopy.
"Yeah, they are." Martin slid the skis into the back of the truck as Danny set his boots and suitcase beside them.
"You alright?" Danny looked him over carefully as he unlocked the truck's door for Martin.
"Yes mom, I'm fine. Had a great vacation, and I'm going back as often as I can." Martin smiled as he got in, letting Danny drive. He was tired; it had been a long day.
"Oh yeah? Why's that?" Danny said as he started the truck and put it in gear.
"Well ... Um ... Where to start? Maybe I should wait until I'm not so tired," Martin teased.
"Hey Fitz, this is your buddy, your friend, your teammate, your chauffeur! You've been gone two weeks. Spill it Buddy or I won't take you home."
Martin laughed. "Danny, this is my truck, you're not keeping my truck."
"Oh I know several places where I could get rid of it fast," laughed Danny as he edged the truck into the traffic heading for the pay booths. "Well, you going to tell me or do we drive around the city all night?"
"Okay, okay! I would like to get some sleep tonight! On Christmas Eve day I went skiing; it started snowing pretty heavily, I got disoriented in the fog and crashed into a guy snowboarding. We were both knocked out from the impact and I awoke to find the other guy's friends helping me. They were staying in this huge log house nearby; there were seven of them and one woman. They brought me into the house, made me feel right at home and while I was there I met a guy who looks exactly like me. They treated me real well, even came up with a Christmas stocking and gifts for me. The food was great ..."
"Hold it! Hold it a minute! Back up Harvard. You are going too fast; did I hear you say you met a guy who looks just like you? How the hell could that be?" Danny shot a glance at Martin, and saw a wide smile on his face. "What's going on buddy?"
"It turns out the guy I ran into was Vin Tanner, one of the men of that crack ATF team in Denver, the one they call The Magnificent Seven. That's who I've been with since Christmas Eve, Denver's ATF Team 7. Their leader, Chris Larabee, is something else; those reports about him in the Bureau's newsletters don't begin to do him justice. The rest of the team is ... well ... a mixed group, but they treated me like family."
"That's nice, but what about this Tanner guy?"
"He does look like me, just a bit thinner and with hair well past his shoulders. We are identical twins and Chris Larabee is our older brother," Martin said, sitting back and smiling in anticipation of his partner's reaction.
The truck came to a screeching halt in the middle of the lane; luckily they were on a side street near Martin's apartment, and at the moment no vehicles were around. Danny looked at Martin in shock, then narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "You're pulling my chain aren't you?"
"Let's get to my place and I'll tell you all about it. Got pictures too."
A couple minutes later, Danny had found a parking place for the truck and they were making their way into Martin's apartment.
"Want some coffee?" Martin asked as he carried his belongings into his bedroom.
"I'll make it," Danny answered, shrugging out of his coat and tossing it over an armchair he headed for the small kitchen.
The coffee was almost done when Martin returned to the living/dinning room dressed in sweats and carrying a packet of pictures.
Danny poured them each a cup of coffee and handed one to Martin who had seated himself on the couch.
"Thanks. Here's a picture of my brothers," Martin said handing Danny several photos.
Danny's eyes widened as he looked at a close up picture of a slender young man with long wavy hair and a big smile on his face being taken down in the snow. There was another picture of the same man throwing snowballs and trying to run in the deep snow with a couple other men chasing after him. Next there was a photo of a blond man dressed in black, with a splash of white snow on his chest and a surprised look on his face. There were two other pictures; one showing the blond watching TV with the younger man sprawled on the floor in front of him, and the second one showing the two men standing next to each other, the blond with a pair of skis, the other on a snowboard.
"My God! This kid does look like you, but the other one doesn't at all. How in the world? What happened?"
Martin laughed tiredly, "I'll tell you everything, but it's going to take some time. You doing anything tonight?"
"Got all the time we need. So start talking."
An hour later Martin had finished telling Danny everything that had happened since he'd left New York for his holiday vacation. Danny was smiling at him, taking in the sparkling eyes and wide grin.
"It's great Martin. What a story that would make. Are you all getting together again soon?"
"As soon as we can. Chris invited me to come for my ... OUR birthday in May. Then we'll try to get together for his in late June and stay together for the 4th. Or they might come here in March. Whatever, we will have a party for everyone, when it happens," Martin said, yawning.
"I better get going. You need some sleep," Danny said rising.
"You can stay here Danny; there's no sense in you driving to your place when I have a spare room you can use."
Martin offered rising too.
Danny smiled, "Thanks, I am kind of tired. Are you sure?"
"Come on, no problem. We'll have to get breakfast on the way to work though."
"I can handle that," Danny laughed following Martin to the spare room. "Are you going to tell everyone at work about your brothers?"
"I don't know. I'll tell Jack at least, for now anyway," Martin replied as he returned to the living room to turn out the lights.
Danny stopped in the doorway, "What about your father?"
Martin looked at Danny with anguished eyes. "I don't know. I have to talk to him," Martin leaned against the wall beside Danny for a moment. "But I don't know what to say yet." Martin shrugged his shoulders, "I'm too mad at him right now to even think of that confrontation."
Danny placed a hand on Martin's shoulder, "Don't worry for now. You'll cross that bridge when the time comes. Maybe your brothers can come and help you on that."
"Yeah they said that too, but I want to talk to him first."
"Well Fitz, if you need help, you know I'll back you up totally. You know we all will, especially Jack and Vivian." Danny gripped Martin's arm and Martin slapped him lightly on the shoulder.
"Thanks Danny. I appreciate your help. Now let's get to bed. Morning'll be here soon," Martin smiled at his friend.
"See you in a few hours," Danny said, entering the spare room as Martin walked down the hallway to his own room. Soon silence fell over the apartment.
At eight o'clock the two agents made their way into the Missing Persons Unit offices and Martin was warmly greeted by Samantha Spade, the pretty blonde who was a friend and teammate, then Vivian Johnson, who considered the two young men as her adult boys. She hugged Martin and then looked him over sharply, carefully checking him for casts or bruises. Cocking her head she smiled at him. "Martin you look pretty happy about something. Your holidays must have been good for you."
"Yes, Viv, they were. Had a great time and met some nice people."
"Good for you. Glad you are home safely," Vivian moved away and Martin headed for his boss' office, seeing him watching from his desk.
Senior Agent Jack Malone waved Martin in when the young man hesitated at his door. Leaning back in his chair Jack greeted his youngest team member then asked him what was wrong, seeing how nervous Martin had suddenly become.
Jack listened in surprise as Martin quickly told him about his new found brothers and a little of what had happened in Denver.
"I have to talk to my father, sometime. I am going to try to do it at home; I don't want him here raising the roof or bringing you all in on it. I don't know what he will do or say, I just don't want him to take it out on my team," Martin finished, concern written all across his angular face.
"And you're going to face your father alone?" Jack asked quietly, knowing how formable the older man was, how controlling and self-absorbed he was. It wouldn't be a comfortable situation for Martin, or anyone.
"Vin and Chris wanted to be here when I did, but I want to talk to him alone first. He has the power to cause all kinds of problems for their ATF team and for our team too, and I don't want that to happen. Maybe once I talk to him, the three of us will confront him. I just ..." Martin stopped talking, shaking his head. "I don't want anyone hurt on account of what my father might do when I talk to him."
"Martin," Jack paused, waiting for the young man to look at him. Martin's head came up and his worried blue eyes locked on the older man. "You know we will stand behind you. You know there is no love lost between Victor and me, but if you need any help, support or anything, I am here for you, so just holler."
"Thanks Jack," Martin swallowed, then a small smile crept across his lips, "I really appreciate your support. I need a little time to get everything sorted before I talk to him, but I will let you know when I am going to do it. Thanks."
"Martin, you are my team member, I'm your boss; I am here if you need me. Now I think it's time to get to work." Jack smiled warmly as Martin nodded his head and rose, "Glad to have you back Martin."
"Glad to be back," Martin replied with a smile as he left the room.
For several minutes Jack sat and thought over everything that Martin had told him. He hoped that the young agent would be able to handle his father's reaction to the news, as he was sure that Victor would rake his son over the coals as he usually did. Martin was strong, but Jack found himself wishing that his newfound brothers would be there to stand beside him during the confrontation with his father; it was apparent to him that Martin was already much closer to his new brothers than he could ever hope to be with Victor Fitzgerald.
With a sigh, Jack picked up the papers on his desk and walked out of his office; they had work to do.
February roared in with a vengeance. The weather in New York went from cold and sunny with a little snow during January, to cold and windy with snow and ice. On top of that people continued to go missing daily. Jack Malone's team worked long hours every day, as did several other Missing Person Units. The team was exhausted and was looking forward to the up coming three day holiday weekend.
As Jack watched his team work, noting the tired faces and short, snappy answers they gave each other. He ran a hand over his own tired, gravel-filled eyes and said a silent prayer that nothing new came in; he figured he'd have a rebellion on his hands if it did. The last week had been hell; two young women disappeared together and were seen all over the city, but no contact was made with worried families or fiancés. His team had been run ragged, and when a ransom message showed up, everything went into overload as they frantically looked for the women, following leads and conducting interview after interview as they fought time and the elements on only a few hours of sleep.
Yesterday, Danny and Martin had been on their way to follow another lead when their car had been T-boned at an intersection by a drunk driver. The passenger side of their vehicle had been hit so hard their car had been driven across three icy lanes and smashed into the front of a car stopped at the intersection waiting for the light to change. Danny and Martin had been trapped in their car for two hours, smashed against the front of one, with the nose of the drunk drivers car buried in the other side; the driver of the other car had a massive heart attack and died before rescue crews had arrived.
Jack sighed as he watched Martin limp to the printer. They had been so lucky; the two young men had escaped with minor injuries, mostly bumps and deep bruises. Jack hid a smile as he watched his two agents; Martin had bad bruising on his right shoulder, arm, side, hip and leg, while Danny's entire left side was one huge black and blue bruise. Both were limping and it was obvious they were in a considerable amount of pain, although neither would acknowledge it.
Shaking his head, Jack watched Danny limp to Martin's side and stand quietly waiting for his papers to be printed. Both young men were so tired they were leaning against the wall beside the printer; dark circles under their eyes, and neither looked as if they could muster enough energy to get home. He knew he would be driving them both home soon. He was just relieved that the case had finally ended, though they'd found only one of the women alive late this afternoon.
Jack's eyes went back to the two men standing by the printer. The case was over; it had been a strange one, all about one woman's jealousy over her friend. The woman had proposed one last "girls only" fling before her friend settled into marriage, and the friend had readily agreed, not knowing that the fling was to end in her death. For five days Jack and his team had worked day and night trying to find the women; Jack shuddered at the memory of what they'd found.
Just them a noise caught his attention and he looked towards the elevators to see two figures coming towards him. 'Damn,' he thought, 'not another case,' then he looked closer at the two men, and a smile crossed his face. He shot a glance at his two agents, Martin was shuffling painfully back to his desk, a sheaf of papers in his hand, while Danny was picking his papers out of the printers tray.
Jack stepped forward as the lean blond man moved towards him and the younger, thin long-haired man walked into the bullpen, a small smile on his lips. Jack saw Vivian and Sam's heads raise, looking at the newcomer in shock. Danny froze in position, dark eyes wide. Jack's smile widened as Martin, unaware of what was going on, paused at his desk, laid the papers down and frowned at his chair.
Martin stood by his desk; his right side hurt from shoulder to knee and he just wanted to go home to bed for a week. He was so tired nothing made sense to him anymore. He had been running on pure adrenaline for the last week, snatching an hour's sleep now and then when he could. He glared at his chair as his brain told him to move, but before he could sit down he heard a soft voice behind him.
Vin paused behind Martin; he could feel the pain and tiredness rolling off his twin and wished he could take some of it away for him. A tired voice said Move in his head and he smiled. "Hey Martin," he said softly so as not to startle the slumped body in front of him.
Martin's head came up and he slowly shuffled around to see who wanted what now. His eyes landed on a jeans clad figure in a heavy fleece-lined buckskin coat; the face and hair looked familiar, but who ... Finally his brain caught up with his tired eyes, but he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"Vin?" he asked, afraid he was having a walking dream.
"Yeah brother, we're here," Vin answered quietly, seeing his brother was on the verge of collapse.
"Wake up Martin. Chris and I are here," Vin smiled at the confused look in Martin's eyes.
"Oh God! You are here!" Martin suddenly exclaimed and reached over to hug Vin, gasping when he moved too fast.
Vin wrapped Martin in his arms for a moment; aware of people watching them and feeling his face turn red.
Martin quickly pushed back and looked at Vin, a smile crossing his tired face. "What are you doing here?" His eyes caught movement and he looked to where Chris stood beside his boss. "Chris! You're here too. What are you two doing here?" he asked, taking a staggering step towards his older brother.
"Whoa, cowboy. You don't look so good, stay still," Chris ordered grabbing Martin's left arm as he lurched forward another step.
Suddenly Chris was beside him and Martin threw his left arm around the blond's neck in a quick hug.
"You about done here Martin?" Chris asked, feeling the tremors running through his brother as he stepped back.
"Almost," Martin frowned as he looked at the paperwork on his desk, then smiled as he looked back to his brothers. He was still trying to figure out if they were really there. He glanced around and he saw his teammates standing, shocked looks on the women's faces, smiles on Jack and Danny's. He nodded to the men.
"ATF Agents Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, this is my boss Agent Jack Malone, and my partner Danny Taylor," Martin remembered suddenly to introduce his teammates. The men shook hands as Martin looked at the women. Vivian had stepped closer, with Sam just a few steps behind her.
"Vivian, Sam, this is Chris and Vin, my brothers."
"Brothers?" Both women's eyes opened wide in surprise, but Vivian overcame her shock faster and stepped forward with her hand out. "So this is why Martin was so happy when he returned from his holiday trip," she said shaking both men's hands.
Chris smiled, "Yes ma'am."
"Viv is our resident Mother Hen, and tries to keep us in line," Martin said with affection.
"Chris Larabee, ATF from Denver?" Danny asked.
"Yep. Vin's our sharpshooter," Chris replied, noting the dark circles under the man's eyes.
"The Magnificent Seven!" Sam stated suddenly.
Chris shot the pretty blonde a green-eyed glare. "We just do our jobs," he half growled.
"Sorry," Sam backed up a step, her dark eyes flashing. She wasn't sure she liked this abrupt man, but she still took in the lean frame and handsome features.
Vin laughed, "We don't think we are 'Magnificent.' We just do our job. Now how much longer are ya'll going to be here?"
"About five minutes," Jack said before any of his team could answer. "Martin, Danny, are your reports done?"
"Yes," Danny said, handing Jack the printout he had in his hand, as Martin turned to the papers he'd placed on his desk. Vin's hand on his arm steadied him as he picked up the papers and turned back to Jack.
"Think I got it all," he said as he handed the stack to Jack.
"Alright, you two get out of here. Call a cab, I don't want either one of you driving," Jack ordered looking from one tired face to the other.
"But my car is here, I picked Martin up, whenever we came in today," Danny said as he grabbed his coat." I can drop him off at his place."
"No, I don't want either of you driving tonight."
"I can drive, if Danny gives me the directions," Chris cut in before Jack could respond.
"You can stay at my place tonight Danny, should be enough room." Martin looked at Danny who was scowling at Jack.
Jack grinned back at Danny. "Thank you Agent Larabee. I was going to take them both home if they refused to take a cab."
"You look almost as bad as they do Jack. And call me Chris."
"We just finished the week from hell a little while ago. We all are tired, but the rest of us are not as bad off as these two; they were in a car accident yesterday. Take them home and make them rest," Jack told Chris as he watched his young agents struggle into their coats. "Oh, they both have some pain medicine, looks like they need them."
"We'll make sure they get rest and medicine," Vin said as he turned to follow Martin and Danny.
"When do they need to be back?" Chris asked as he shook hands with Jack.
"Tuesday. We've got three days off," Jack answered.
Chris nodded, "We'll take care of them. See you Tuesday."
With the departure of the black clad man the bullpen fell silent; Jack looked at the two women, one watching him, the other, the empty hallway. Jack smiled at Vivian and knew he had to tell the women some of what he knew. He stepped further into the bullpen.
Chris and Vin picked up their duffel bags at the security desk where they'd left them minutes earlier. They followed the limping FBI agents out the door and to the parking lot where Danny's car was still parked. Danny unlocked the car and Chris started it while Vin started scraping ice off the windshield. Martin got into the back seat and fought a minute to stay awake as he buckled his seatbelt, but by the time the others got into the car he was sound asleep. Vin slid in beside his sleeping brother as Chris and Danny got into the front seat.
"Which way?" Chris asked.
Danny pointed, "Out that exit, and go right, then left. We have to get to Queens."
Chris followed Danny's directions, and drove slowly; the streets were turning to ice, and traffic was fairly light. By the time Danny directed Chris to Martin's apartment he too was fighting hard to stay awake, and a freezing rain had started to fall. It surprised Danny when they found an empty parking spot almost in front of the tall apartment building.
Chris parked, grabbed his duffel bag, and steadied Danny as he got out of the car. Vin had awakened Martin and was helping him. Danny hoped the elevator was working. Luck was with them and before long they were in Martin's apartment on the fifth floor.
"I've got a sleeping bag, couch is pretty comfortable. Spare room's got a queen sized bed," Martin said as he straightened the earth tone afghan on the couch and grabbed a shirt and coffee cup off the table. Limping, he quickly disposed of the dirty shirt and cup as Danny sank down onto the couch. Chris and Vin looked around the living room, its pale blue walls and white pine furniture, end tables, bookcase, and small dinning room set with bar stools. Only one wall in the room held pictures, several blown up photographs of Vin and Chris in the snow and in the log house.
"Anyone want coffee?" Martin asked as he went back into the small kitchen.
"I could use a cup," Vin answered as he sat down in a comfortable armchair.
"Okay, be just a couple minutes," Martin quickly got the coffee maker going, then rummaged in a cabinet and found the last bag of cookies he had stored there and set them on the bar. He leaned against the stove for a minute with his eyes closed as pain coursed through his body. He needed his pain pills but was too tired to go find them. Suddenly his head came up and his eyes opened; his brothers were here, and he hadn't known they were coming. What was going on?
Collecting four mugs, Martin filled them, slid them onto the bar, and moved around the end into the living room to pass them out. Vin was beside him and took two mugs from his shaking hands.
"Go sit down before ya fall down," Vin told him, as Martin took Vin's place in the armchair and handed out mugs of coffee, then sat down beside Danny on the couch.
"What are you two doing here?" Martin asked as he took a swallow of the strong coffee.
Chris and Vin exchanged a quick glance, and Vin answered, shrugging, "We heard you yell."
Danny leaned carefully forward, resting his elbows on his knees, holding his cup tightly, "You heard him yell?" A wicked grin crossed his lips, "Sounded more like a scream to me!"
"Screw you," Martin said, his eyes shifting from Danny to Vin. "When?"
"Yesterday, around 9 a.m. our time. Something like, 'Danny' then 'No.' We called but couldn't find out what was going on, so we caught the first flight we could; woulda been here sooner but we were on a bust when we heard you."
"Good thing we came, you look like hell. Both of you. What happened?" Chris asked.
"Wasn't anything too exciting. We were on a tough case, had a lead, and were heading to check it out. Danny was driving, we were crossing an intersection and were hit by a drunk who'd run the red light. T-boned us and shoved us into another car. Had the nose of the guy's car buried in my side of the car, and the front of the other one stuck in Danny's side. We were trapped for two hours before the rescue crew got us out. I yelled at Danny then when he hit us, I guess. I don't really remember it too well," Martin said as color tinted his cheeks.
"You're both alright?" Vin asked.
"Yeah. Just a lot of painful bruises, doctor said we'd be pretty sore for awhile and we're supposed to get some rest, but," Danny shrugged, "this case had priority. It's over now though, so we can rest for three days, except now Martin has company."
"We can visit tomorrow. Think it's time to get some sleep." Vin said as he rose and helped Martin to is feet.
"Where's your sleeping bag, or spare blankets?"
"Closet there," Martin pointed as he made his way to his bedroom. Vin found the closet in the hallway and slid the closet doors open.
"I can sleep here on the couch, just bring me a pillow and another blanket," Danny called. Chris was there to help to help him as he got up from the couch. "Thanks Chris. You and Vin take the spare room, I can sleep here," Danny said as he pulled off his jacket and tie.
Vin carried several blankets and pillows into the living room, followed more slowly by Martin carrying a set of sweat pants and a tee shirt. "Here Danny, you'll be more comfortable in these."
"Thanks," Danny said, unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it off.
Chris and Vin's eyebrows rose seeing the black bruises which covered Danny's left side, shoulder, and ribs, and disappeared under his pants. They exchanged a look and Vin followed Martin towards his bedroom as Chris prepared the couch for Danny. Vin helped his brother out of his jacket.
"Where're your med's?"
"Oh, pocket," Martin replied as he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the bottle.
"Is it time for one?" Vin asked as he read the instructions on the pill bottle.
"Yeah. Need two," Martin said unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it off as Vin got him a glass of water from the master bathroom.
"Damn, that has to hurt!" Vin exclaimed, seeing the massive bruises all up and down Martin's right side, from shoulder to knee.
"It feels like a herd of elephants ran over me," Martin commented as he accepted the pills and water from his brother. Shakily he made his way to his bed and crawled in falling asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.
Pulling the blankets farther up Vin tucked them around Martin, then went to the guest room where he found Chris sitting on the edge of the bed finishing his cup of coffee.
"They should sleep through the night. Think I could too. Which side do you want?" Vin asked as he pulled a pair of sweats from his duffel bag and quickly changed.
"I'll take this side."
"Closer to the bathroom for an old man," Vin snickered.
"Keep it up boy, and you'll be sleeping on the floor, so this 'old man' can have the whole bed," Chris shot back at him.
"We'll see," Vin grinned over his shoulder as he headed out the door, tooth brush and tooth paste in hand.
Chris shook his head and downed the rest of his coffee. He rose and stretched long and hard, relaxing when he heard his back pop. When Vin returned he grabbed his own sweats and headed for the bathroom.
Vin was sound asleep, buried under a pile of blankets, when Chris returned. Chris smiled as he turned out the light and got in the other side of the bed. Before long all that was heard throughout the silent apartment were quiet snores.
Chris woke and looked around the unfamiliar room, and the lump of blankets beside him. He suddenly remembered where he was. All he could see of Vin was the very top of his curly head; his brother was cold-blooded and was burrowed past his ears in the blankets. For a moment Chris wondered how Vin could breathe. Glancing at the clock on the nightstand beside him, he saw it was almost six thirty, still dark outside, but he could hear the early morning traffic outside the window. With a sigh he closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but after a few minutes he gave it up and rose. After stretching he made his way to the small kitchenette, bare feet silent on the wood floor. By the kitchen door he glanced across the dim room and saw that Danny was still soundly asleep on the couch; it looked like he hadn't moved a muscle all night. Rubbing a hand over his bare chest he turned the light on over the stove and looked around until he found the coffee and filters. Moments later he had the coffee maker working and wondered if he could find something to make for breakfast. After several minutes of rummaging through cupboards and cabinets he gave up on breakfast and decided to take a shower as soon as the coffee was done. He stretched more and running a hand through his hair settled a hip against the counter to wait for the coffee to finish percolating.
Just as the coffeemaker gurgled a last time, there was a loud pounding on the door. Chris snarled then hurried across the room and down the short hall to answer it. Someone knocked hard again, and he heard an angry voice call out, "Martin, open this door right now!"
Chris unlocked the door and pulled it open, his green eyed glare nailing the tall older man as his raised hand stopped short. Cold grey eyes looked Chris over in surprise, taking in the wild blond hair, bare chest, lean hips clad in low riding sweat pants and bare feet.
"Who are you and what are you doing in Martin's apartment?" the grey haired man demanded.
Chris crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the door frame, his eyes turned to green ice. "I should ask you the same thing. Why are you pounding the door down at this time of the morning? And who the hell are you?"
Insulted, the tall man drew himself up, towering almost six inches over the half naked lean man.
"I am Martin's father, Deputy Director Victor Fitzgerald of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Now who are you?" Victor's eyes narrowed as he looked at the man in his son's doorway. A thought flashed through his mind and his eyes widened. "Are you my son's ... companion?"
Chris straightened in surprise at the accusation. He couldn't believe the pompous ass in front of him was their
father. Looking at the man's eyes though, he knew it was true. A shiver went through him; how could this man be their father? He was cold and heartless, what woman would take up with him? Chris couldn't believe the man had accused Martin of being gay. With a snarl Chris glared back at the man and said, "I'm ATF Senior Agent Chris Larabee, here to visit Martin, not sleep with him."
Victor's lip curled in contempt, "Then why are you dressed like that?"
Chris smiled coldly, "Because it's six thirty in the morning; how else should I be dressed?"
Victor sneered at Chris and was about to make another comment when his eyes caught a figure stepping up behind the man. His eyes opened wide in surprise. He hadn't seen his son in several months, but this thin, long-haired figure couldn't be him, even though he had his son's facial features. The young man stopped a step behind and to the left of the blond and adopted a defensive position, one that efficiently blocked the doorway.
"What's goin' on Chris?" The younger man spoke in a gentle Texas drawl as his blue eyes took in the older man dressed in a designer suit.
"Looks like Martin's father's come to see him."
"Oh. That's all? Tell him to come back later, everyone's still sleepin'."
Victor sputtered as the long haired man took a step back. "I demand to see my son!"
Vin stopped and looked at the older man, "He's sleepin, an' Danny's sleepin'. They had a rough week, come back in a couple a hours. They's got orders to rest."
"See you around eleven," Chris added as he shut the door in their father's face. A minute later they heard footsteps moving away, and smiled at each other.
So that's our father, Vin thought.
Yep, and he's not at all happy.'
"Oh well. He might be in a better mood later," Vin smirked as he turned away.
"I think that's wishful thinking. Let's get some coffee and talk about breakfast. I couldn't find a damn thing to eat in the kitchen. We've got to have a little talk with our brother about his eating habits." Chris gripped Vin lightly on his shoulder for an instant, in thanks for showing up at the door. Vin's head nodded as they made their way to the kitchen.
"Think we have to go grocery shopping. I saw a store down the block. Need a cup of coffee first though," Vin said quietly as he entered the kitchen after checking that Danny was still deeply asleep.
Chris saw his glance and smiled; he was glad that their voices hadn't awakened Danny or Martin. He accepted the mug of coffee from Vin and watched as his brother looked in the refrigerator and cabinets, shaking his head.
"I'll go for my run and stop at the store. Give me some money Lar'bee. I'll split the groceries with you." Vin smiled at the look that crossed Chris' face.
"You going dressed like that?"
"No. Got runnin' stuff in my duffel. Don't worry, I'll change. This coffee's terrible; colored water just doesn't cut it big brother." Vin said making a face at his cup.
"Well, first one up makes the coffee. You were dead to the world so ..." Chris smirked at the one fingered salute Vin gave him as he drank down the coffee and sat the cup aside.
"I'll be up early tomorrow. What are we going to do 'bout our father?"
"Martin's call. Figure he hasn't told him yet. We'll follow his lead I guess. You better get running. I'm getting hungry."
Vin snorted as he headed down the hall to the bedroom to change. After a moment Chris jogged down the hall after him, remembering that Vin wanted some money.
Ten minutes later Chris was in the shower and Vin was running down the block, keeping an eye out for ice and slick spots on the sidewalk, unaware of the light colored car that followed a block behind. After six blocks the car turned away and Victor Fitzgerald had his driver head to the Federal Building. He knew there would be a skeleton crew at the building since it was a holiday weekend, but he knew he could commandeer a computer to check out the arrogant AFT agent, if he was really an agent.
It was bitter cold on the streets of New York, the wind working its way between tall buildings to try to make anyone on the streets miserable. After almost twelve blocks Vin turned around and headed back towards Martin's apartment, wishing he'd bundled up more. By the time he reached Martin's block he was shivering with cold and was happy to see that the grocery store was now open. Ducking into the store he smiled at the old man and woman at the checkout counter and jogged down the first aisle, the cart making a cheery clatter. He threw a couple of different boxes of cereal into the cart, followed by milk, sour cream, eggs, then bread and jam. Soon several packages of meat were added, then some potatoes, apples and bananas. He looked over what was in the cart, hoping he could carry it all, then at the last minute he added a large package of peanut M & M's.
At the checkout, the man smiled kindly up at him and said, "You are not Martin, but you look just like him except for your hair."
"I'm his brother. We're here to visit him," Vin replied, smiling back at the white haired man and his wife as he pulled out his money.
"Ah! We are the Laughlin's. I'm Emmit and this is Mary. We've known Martin for over a year now. He is a very nice boy. It is so nice to meet some of his family," Mr. Laughlin said as he reached out his hand.
"Vin Tanner," Vin answered, shaking the proffered hand as his groceries were expertly bagged.
"Mr. Tanner, do you need help with these? We aren't busy. I have a few minutes, I can carry a couple of these for you," Emmit said as Vin started picking up sacks of groceries.
"Thank you Mr. Laughlin. I'd appreciate it. Didn't think I bought that much," Vin answered, eying the last two sacks, his hands and arms already filled.
"No problem. Martin's only a little ways away, and he's done many helpful things for us. I'll be back in a couple minutes," Emmit told his wife as he picked up the last two bags and followed Vin out the door.
Minutes later Vin was thanking the man and carrying the groceries into the apartment with Chris' help. Emmit refused a cup of coffee and headed back to his store. Chris and Vin made short work of putting the groceries away. Vin was peeling off his running shirt in the hallway, heading for their bedroom when Chris held out his hand for his change.
Vin paused long enough to drop two dollars into Chris' hand and continued towards the bedroom, Chris marching behind him.
"I gave you a fifty!" he exclaimed.
"Groceries are expensive here," Vin answered as he stripped and grabbed clean clothes from his bag. "Need to get in the shower, its cold out there. You kin start breakfast," he said as he pushed past Chris and hurried into the bathroom.
"Smart assed Texan!" Chris said as his naked brother shut the bathroom door. He knew he'd paid for all the groceries; no way had Vin hadn't spent a hundred dollars on the few groceries. Shaking his head he headed to the kitchen and began making breakfast for his brothers and guest.
Chris and Vin were enjoying a second cup of coffee when they heard a shuffling sound from the hallway. A moment later Martin appeared, bare-chested and wearing sweat pants. His whole right side was mass of dark colorful bruises that covered his shoulder and extended halfway across his chest, stomach, and back. The bruises disappeared under his pants. His limp was more pronounced and his eyes were filled with pain.
Vin jumped up from his chair and helped Martin into a chair as Chris got him a cup of coffee.
"Where's your pills Martin?" Vin asked.
"Fell off the nightstand, I couldn't reach them."
Vin hurried to the bedroom and found the pill bottle on the floor a little ways under the bed, then reached into the closet and grabbed a zippered sweat shirt from a top shelf. He'd seen Martin's goose bumps when he helped his brother into a chair in the other room. Quickly he returned to the kitchen and placed two Vicodin and a glass of water into Martin's left hand.
"Let's get this on you before you freeze," Vin said as he carefully gripped Martin's right wrist and slid his arm into the shirt, noting the wince of pain. With care he worked the shirt up Martin's arm and over the badly bruised shoulder. Martin slid his left arm in and Vin quickly zipped it up for him.
"Thanks Vin. I appreciate this."
"No problem, that's what brothers are for. What'd you like for breakfast? Chris' cooking." Vin smirked at their other brother.
"I'd love an omelet, but I need to go to the store first; there isn't a thing to eat in this apartment."
"There is now. We got some groceries already."
Martin stared at Vin for a moment in surprise; as the pain started to recede his eyes began to clear and he was starting to think straight again. "You didn't have to do that!"
"It's okay. We showed up unexpectedly so it's the least we can do," Vin assured him. They both smiled as they heard Chris grumble, "With my money."
A groan was heard from behind them and the twins glanced to the couch and saw Danny carefully pushing himself up. Vin moved to his side to steady him as Chris added more eggs to the omelet he was making.
"You OK pard?" Vin asked.
"Think so. Thanks. I think that couch is closer to the floor than it was last night," Danny answered, rubbing his back with his right hand.
"They're all built to shrink at night you know."
Danny grinned at Vin, "Someone else who understands couches!"
"Yeah right," snickered Martin, turning back to his coffee. "As if they only shrink. Some of 'em eat unsuspecting sleepers."
As the battered FBI agents finished their omelets, Chris put on another pot of coffee and looked at Vin. "We had a visitor early this morning. He should be back around eleven, though I figure it'll be sooner."
Martin groaned and lowered his head, "My so called father?"
"Yeah. He wasn't too happy to see strangers here. Thinks I'm your bed partner," Chris snickered.
"Damn. He would. I can't do anything right by him." Martin lifted his head and looked at his brothers. "I've been trying to get a hold of him since I got home, but each time I called he was either out of town, or too busy to talk to me. Now he just shows up," groaned Martin.
"Well, we're here and we can all talk to him," Vin said.
"I'll get cleaned up and get out of here, give you time with him," Danny stated and started to rise.
"No need to Danny. You're my friend. I don't have anything to hide from you. You don't have to leave, he's the one who isn't really welcome here," Martin told Danny sincerely. "You know what is going on anyway. Stay."
Danny looked at Martin, then at Chris and Vin, who both nodded in agreement. "Well, I can go rest on your bed while you all talk to him."
"If you want to, but it's not necessary," Chris told him.
"Maybe he won't yell as loud with you here," grinned Martin at his work partner.
"Hey thanks!" quipped Danny. He picked up his coffee cup and raised it towards the brothers, a smile on his lips. "Here's to good luck for us all."
They all clinked their cups together, then finished their coffee.
While Vin and Chris cleaned up the kitchen and straightened the front room, Martin and Danny showered and dressed in jeans and shirts, Martin providing Danny with the last of his clean clothes. By ten the four were sitting around the small living room watching a hunting show on TV. None of them were surprised when they were interrupted by a heavy knock at the door. Martin carefully rose and went to answer it. Throwing open the door he gazed at his father a moment, then turned and limped back into to the living room.
Victor Fitzgerald had spent the last couple of hours on a computer at the FBI headquarters. He had finally gotten some information on ATF Agent Larabee, who was recognized as the leader of one of the best ATF teams in the West and Vin Tanner, the team's arms specialist and sharpshooter. He also found that Tanner had been an Army Ranger and bounty hunter and had been with the US Marshall's for awhile. Almost all of his military records were sealed. Larabee had been a Navy SEAL and had been hand picked to lead ATF Team 7 by AD Orrin Travis a couple of years ago. He was a widower. Team 7 was known to many, both in and out of the government, as The Magnificent Seven. Their records were impressive, he had to admit. He had met Travis a few times and recalled that the man was proud of the teams he had in Denver, especially Team 7, and the way they worked to get their assignments completed. He didn't contain his surprise when he entered the living room and saw both men sitting there, along with Agent Danny Taylor, Martin's partner.
"Dad, you know my partner, Danny Taylor. You met Agent Chris Larabee earlier, and this is Agent Vin Tanner, who you can see, is my twin brother," Martin said, sitting down beside Vin on the couch.
For a moment Victor ignored everyone but Martin, "What happened to you?"
"Car accident couple of days ago. Danny and I were struck by a drunk driver," Martin answered shortly.
"Why are these men here?"
A look crossed Martin's face and Danny had to turn his head. He knew that angry look and almost felt a little sorry for Victor Fitzgerald. Getting control of his smirk, he looked back at Martin, whose eyes darted to him then back to his father.
"They're here because they were worried about me and came to support me. They seem to care more about me than my own father does."
Victor's face flushed in anger, but before he could say anything, Martin continued.
"As you can see, Vin is my twin, my brother. Chris is our older brother. And Danny is my teammate."
Victor flashed Vin and Chris a quick look; he could see that Vin was almost a look alike for his son and it could be possible since Martin had been adopted. But he was sure there was no way the blond, black clad Chris could be related. He shrugged, "Well you were adopted when you were a baby, and we knew you were a twin, but the other one had been adopted before we found you. We were never able to find out if it had been a brother or sister to you." Victor looked at Vin. "Looks like it was a brother after all," he said unconcernedly.
"All three of us are brothers. We all have the same father."
"That's nice. How did you find that out?" Victor asked, deciding to just listen to his son before he headed out. Clearly Martin had something on his mind and whatever it was Victor wished that his son would just get on with it. He had an important meeting at one, so at the most he had an hour and a half to spend with Martin before he would have to head back to the helicopter.
"We were able to get the records unsealed, and I made some phone calls. The records listed the names of both our mother and father." Martin paused, not sure how to go on. He felt Vin's shoulder against his and realized that Vin was leaning against him a little in support. He glanced to his left and smiled into the blue eyes watching him.
"Well, have you contacted the father?" Victor said, seeing how the long haired man leaned lightly against Martin.
Martin looked at his father. "Not until now. Seems our mother was from Dallas, Texas; her name was Lori Bancroft, and she was a waitress at a fancy restaurant in a big hotel there. She had an out of town boyfriend for several months, then he left. Her name is on the birth certificates and she filled in the father's name, Victor J Fitzgerald, from DC. She lived long enough to turn her sons over to the state; evidently she didn't want anything to do with the father and didn't want the State to contact him after her death."
As Martin talked, Victor felt four pairs of eyes on him. He schooled his face to show no emotion as his thoughts returned to the time he had spent in Texas. He remembered the pretty, petite, brown-haired girl with large blue eyes and the wicked sense of humor. He'd been drawn to her from the first time she waited on him, and despite the fact that he had two small daughters and considered himself to be a happily married man, he couldn't resist the vivacious young woman. Their affair had lasted for over seven months before he left the state of Texas for good. His musings were interrupted as it suddenly registered in his mind what his son was trying to tell him.
"What do you mean my name's on some birth certificate?" he growled.
"She put your full name on them. If she didn't know you, how would she come up with that name? Your name isn't that common," Martin said, then struggled to get up, feeling his bruised body protest the quick movement. Vin jumped up and grabbed his left hand and eased him up the rest of the way. "Thanks Vin," he said breathlessly. "I'll be back in a minute," and headed for his bedroom.
A couple of minutes later Martin limped back into the room and sat down again, several sheets of paper in his left hand. He placed them on his lap and handed the top ones to his father.
"There's a copy of the birth certificates. We did find out that you were in Dallas during the time that she could have gotten pregnant. We know when you left; it was seven months later when she died after giving birth to twins."
Victor looked down at the paper in his hands; his eyes quickly skimmed the document, then he looked up at his son. "So?"
"So? Well, months later you and mom went to San Antonio to adopt a baby, and found out he was a twin, but the other twin had been adopted. You never knew if it was a boy or girl. Well it was a boy, and he was adopted by Eric and Jeanne Tanner. His adopted father was a Texas Ranger, who was killed in the line of duty, then his mom died and he was put into the system. But you are our father. We've had DNA tests, and Vin and I are identical twins."
Victor looked from Martin to Vin. There was no way anyone could deny that they were related. But he made himself breathe easily, controlling the sudden anger that rolled through him. He had adopted his own son! He looked at the paper in his hands and willed himself not to react, remembering his wife's cousin calling them from San Antonio about a baby boy. His wife's insistence they go see the baby, she had found out she couldn't have anymore children after two daughters and many miscarriages. He had gone along with it, hoping that the child would be adopted before they got there. But no, the blue-eyed baby was still there when they arrived at the care center; he hadn't gone to a foster home yet. The only thing they had found out about the baby was that he was a twin, the other one had been adopted a couple months earlier. The orphanage in Dallas had burned down and he'd been sent to San Antonio. Now what did Martin want from him? This Vin may be his son's twin but he didn't have to have anything to do with him. What did they want with him?
"So? What do you want me to do?" Victor finally asked, hiding his anger.
"Nothin'." Came a quickly drawled reply from the long-haired Vin. "Don't want a thing from you ever. Just wanted you to know you've got more sons than you thought. I was happy with my mom 'til she died."
"If you don't want anything from me, why bring this up now?" Victor asked, his gaze settling on Martin again.
"Thought you'd like to know you have more sons. Mom might be a bit surprised when she finds out."
Victor stiffened, "She doesn't need to know anything. It all happened a long time ago."
"Yeah it did, but Mom deserves to know what happened in Texas, and that we are your sons by blood."
"Why? It's in the distant past, over and done."
"If you cheated on Mom once, you probably cheated on her more than once. You do travel a lot."
Victor blanched and he quickly changed the subject before Martin saw the truth in his words. "And Chris Larabee? How can he be your older brother?"
The conversation changed so fast no one noticed the expression on Victor's face. Martin smiled at the silent man in black and Chris grinned back at him, before speaking for the first time.
"Remember a recent conversation with Gail Larson, Mr. Fitzgerald?"
Victor's face paled as he looked at Chris. Yes, he remembered that conversation with Gail. She had called him out of the blue just after New Year's, wanting a sample of his DNA to prove that he was not her child's father. He had called his physician and had him fax the information to Gail's doctor.
"She lied," Victor muttered angrily, unaware he'd spoken out loud.
"Sort of. Would you have sent the information if you knew what it was going to be used for?" Chris asked.
Victor shot Chris an angry look as he remembered back to his college days, over thirty years ago. He'd met Gail Larson when she accidentally ran into him as she was hurrying to a class. She had come around a corner and crashed into him; her well curved body had ended up in his arms as he grabbed her, preventing her from falling to the floor from the hard impact. They'd exchanged names and room information as he helped her gather up her books and scattered papers. Minutes later she was sprinting down the hall to her class. They had dated for over two years. He'd liked the pretty green-eyed blonde; they had a wonderful time together and when the term was over they continued to date. His family, however, refused to accept her; she was the daughter of a small town farmer from the Midwest, and he came from old money. He continued to date her while his family arranged his future for him; long before graduation he was well and truly tied down, although of course Gail didn't know anything about his plans for the rest of his life. When graduation arrived, Gail told him she was pregnant. He hadn't believed her; they'd been together for over two years, so if she was going to get pregnant, why not sooner? He knew he could never marry her, even if he wanted to; his life had already moving forward without her, so he instigated an argument and walked out to start his new life, leaving the pretty blonde the day before graduation. He'd seen her from afar the next day, but after that glimpse had never seen or heard from her again. He'd gone on with his life, never giving her another thought until that phone call in January. She hadn't said much; as far as he knew she had never married and he assumed that her child wanted to find its biological father. He was happy to have his doctor send the information, as he was that sure he wasn't her kid's father. He'd never even asked if it had been a boy or girl, he simply didn't care.
How wrong could he have been? Looking at Chris Larabee, he could see Gail in the color of his hair and the green of his eyes. She'd had a glare that could cut through a person like a sharp knife when she was mad or upset; he saw that Larabee had inherited it.
"What do you want of me?" Victor heard himself asking again, his voice cold as he pushed his thoughts back to the present.
"Nothing, like Vin said," Chris answered. "I didn't want to ever meet you, after what you did to my mother years ago."
"Then why are we having this conversation? I came to see my son; he's been trying to contact me for awhile. I had a little time on my way to Albany, so stopped by, only to find ....this."
"We didn't expect you; it's a holiday weekend, and we came to visit Martin. You showed up on his doorstep so here we are, talking to you about your past, and," Chris paused glancing at Martin and Vin, then continued, "we decided you needed to know that you have three sons, not just Martin. And that you adopted your own son years ago."
For a moment Victor sat quietly, his thoughts rolling back and forth in his head. He was angry enough to take his 'sons' heads off, but tried not to show it. He'd been tricked into adopting his own son, and then tricked again into sending important information that proved that he was the father of another son. What did they really want? He couldn't believe that Larabee and Tanner didn't want something from him. He didn't think they'd come all this way just to 'visit' Martin, so what was really going on? He wanted nothing to do with them; he didn't care if they were his sons, he had his own family. Knowing that Martin was his biological son didn't change anything either; Martin was old enough and as far as Victor was concerned, he was on his own. The boy was a rebel, resisting all of the family's efforts to get him to go into politics as had been planned for him, and Victor was still angry at Martin's career choice. No matter how good he was at his job, there was only so far that a man could go in that line of work.
"What do you want?" Victor asked, trying to hold his anger down.
"We told you, nothing, Pa," Vin answered in his soft drawl, a small crooked smile playing over his lips.
Victor looked at the young man, "I am not your 'pa, dad, or father,' no matter what," he snarled.
"'Course you're not. My pa died when I was two years old, my ma when I was five. They were the only family I had until I joined Team 7. They're my family, along with Martin and Chris. I've got all the family I want. You are nothing to me," Vin hissed suddenly, a little unnerved at how hostile Victor was.
"Then why are we having this conversation? If none of this is important to you, why even bring it up? My life is my own. So, I made some mistakes along the way, everyone does. But it is in the past. I don't need this, I don't care who you two are."
Slow to anger, Vin felt his face beginning to turn red, his drawl became more pronounced. "No, you don't need this; we did, ta close off somethin' that happened in the past. I knew I'se adopted, but I never cared; I had a ma who loved me, and even though now and then I wondered what my blood folks were like, it didn't really matter to me until I met Martin. Then I was kind o' curious as ta what kinda father and mother we had who could give up their own kids. We didn't know anything about our mother other then her name and that she was a waitress at a big hotel. Didn't know anything about my real dad either, 'til now. Think I was happier not knowing you. I'm glad I'm not in yer family, don't think I care that much for you; you aren't nothin' like I ever imagined my father ta be. I'm just sorry Martin had ta live with you fer so long. I'm glad too that you didn't get ta raise Chris either; he'd a been raised to be a snob so I probably wouldn't have been working with him in Denver."
Victor glared at Vin as he talked, wishing he could hit the young man for his insolence. He controlled the urge to strike him and glanced at Martin, his real son, who was sitting with his eyes downcast, still slightly leaning against Tanner. "Martin had a good upbringing, he never wanted for anything," he snapped. Martin's head rose, his eyes wide with, what? Surprise? Victor wondered for an instant.
"Boarding schools; summers at someone else's place; trying to do everything you demanded of me to get your approval, you always trying to make me into something I didn't want to be. You were never interested in what I was doing or in what I wanted, and you put down when I got the job that I really did want. That's what I wanted?" Martin asked with feeling.
Before Victor could reply, Vin spoke. "How many times have ya talked to Martin since the holidays? Do you even know where he went for Christmas? What happened to him? Did you care enough to check up on him when he got home? And yer supposed ta be his father who cares so much fer him."
"I know where he went and when he got home."
"How many times have you talked to him since he got home?" Vin shot back. "Not once in over a month."
"He's an adult; he doesn't need his father checking up on him all the time."
"Yeah, but he wanted to talk to you, and yer too busy all the time."
"I am busy. I know he's been calling me, that's why I stopped by today," Victor defended himself from the angry Texan.
"An' accused Chris of ..."
"Vin, it's alright. Calm down," Martin said quietly, his hand on his angry brother's trembling arm.
Vin glanced at Martin, who had leaned a bit more into his side. Their blue eyes met and held for a long moment until Vin took a deep breath and nodded. Thanks for trying to protect me brother, he heard in his head. He grinned at Chris and they saw him relax. He shuddered at Victor's cold, galactic gaze; he couldn't believe that this man had raised his brother.
"There's nothing more to talk about. You told me you two are my sons. You want nothing from me. There is no point in this conversation and I have an appointment I need to get to this afternoon. So if we're done, I'm leaving." Victor said as he started to rise.
'You don't care what you did to our mothers' lives, or how you affected their families. You're a cold bastard aren't you? It's too bad those women aren't here to have a talk with your wife." Chris' quiet voice cut across the room as Victor rose to his feet.
Victor's head whipped around. "My wife is of no concern to you. Leave her out of this."
"We know she'll never hear it from you, but it's only right that she know Martin has found his twin brother. I don't give a damn about you; my parents care about me and I have all the family that I'll ever need."
"She will know Martin found his brother, but nothing else. She doesn't have to know anything else."
"How are you going to prevent me from telling Mom that you are our father?" Martin wondered out loud, looking up at Victor.
Victor paused; he hadn't thought of that. Martin was close to his mother, and Catherine always watched out for her precious son, even if she didn't like everything that he was doing.
"I would hope you would not distress her with this. She doesn't need to know."
"Why not? What do you think Mom would do? She's married to you, she knows you, and she's had your daughters, who are the joy of your life. She probably knows that you had an affair, or suspects it, at least. I don't think she would be all that surprised to learn that I am your real son, and that I've found my twin brother." Martin rose to stand eyeball to eyeball with his father.
"No! Don't you dare don't tell her anything!"
"Why? What are you afraid of?" Martin's eyes narrowed as he looked up at his father standing a couple feet in front of him. Suddenly a thought hit him and his eyes opened wider. "You traveled an awful lot. Still do. Seattle, Texas, Denver, California, Florida, and more over the years, mostly to Albany and places on the east coast nowadays. But I remember Mom and the girls talking about how sometimes you'd be gone for several months, setting up field offices and hand-picking the agents. Just how many times have you cheated on Mom?"
Victor clenched his jaw in anger and took a step towards Martin, his fists curled at his sides. He was vaguely aware of movement to the side, but he was totally focused on Martin and paid no attention to the men who were suddenly flanking his son.
"It is none of your business what I have done in my travels," he hissed, his voice filled with rage. "My life is my own and you stay out of it."
"As if I've ever interfered in anything you do!" Martin's low voice spit back.
"You have no right to talk to me this way, no matter how old you are, or who you think you are."
"What? It's all right the way for you to talk to me, my family and friends anyway you want to, but I'm supposed to jump through your hoops? If I say anything you don't like, you jump all over me as usual."
"None of this is 'usual,' and I will not tolerate you talking that way to me. You will obey me; I am still your father!"
"Yeah," Martin said bitterly. "A father who doesn't give a damn about your own sons, and who has how many affairs over the years? How does Mom put up with you?"
It was too much for Victor, too close to what he was hiding, his hand lashed out so fast that no one saw it coming and his fist connected solidly with the left side of Martin's face, knocking him sideways into Chris' side. Victor froze in shock at his son's cry of pain.
Chapter 6 - Epilogue
The blow from Victor caught Martin on the left side of his face, driving him to the right and into Chris' side. Involuntarily he cried out in pain, as the numerous bruises on his right side made contact with his brother. Chris grabbed him, wrapping his strong arms around him and preventing him from going down when his right leg buckled from the force of the blow. Martin's eyes widened in shock and he could feel blood flowing down his chin from the corner of his mouth.
Victor stared at the dazed, stunned look on his son's face and watched the blood drip slowly off Martin's chin onto the front of his T-shirt. He was surprised that he had struck his son hard enough to draw blood, but his anger was like a living thing looking for release, and he knew that if the other men weren't there he would have struck Martin again. He took a step forward and saw Martin shrink back into Larabee, who quickly maneuvered himself so that he was standing a half step in front of his younger brother. Tanner was now also a little in front of Martin, while Taylor had positioned himself to the side of Larabee and was watching the elder Fitzgerald very carefully.
"Don't even think about it," Chris growled, stopping the older man before he could take another step forward.
Victor's hands dropped to his sides as he took in the three brothers in front of him, barely feeling the sting in his knuckles anymore. Fleetingly he wondered how they could have formed such a close, protective bond when they had only just met. He shook off the thought and retreated; he had an appointment to get to, and this needed to be wrapped up now.
"Stay out of my life. Do not tell your mother about this conversation. She doesn't need the worry, nor does she need to know that I'm your real father," Victor said his voice full of venom.
"No! I will not lie to her. She deserves to know the truth. Just get out of my home," Martin said quietly, his voice deadly.
"Just because you always get your way with everything, you don't talk to me like that."
"What're you going to do, hit me again? Why all this fuss over telling Mom that you're my real father, and that you have other sons? Why all this hate?" Martin snarled, stepping forward and brushing the blood from his chin. "This has nothing to do with us, does it? You're hiding something that you don't want anyone to know, aren't you?"
Victor's eyes narrowed with an all consuming rage that gave everything a reddish tinge and he spat out, "My life and what I do is of no concern to you. You'll never find her. Stay out of my life and away from me and my family." With that he turned on his heel and a moment later the door crashed closed behind him.
For a moment silence replaced the angry words that had echoed through the room. Then Martin sighed wearily and looked around. "That went well."
"Yeah real well," Chris said as he looked at Martin. "Sit down before you fall down."
A moment later Vin handed him a wet paper towel, and he wiped his chin and the cut on the side of his mouth.
"I thought it started out well, but it sure went down hill from there," Danny remarked as he went to get the coffee pot.
"I don't think I've ever seen him this mad." Martin said from his seat on the couch. "God, he sure as hell was angry about something. If you weren't here, I don't know what would've done; the look he gave me was enough to send me right to hell, and 'don't pass Go' either. I've never seen him angry enough to hit someone before ..." A shaken Martin accepted a cup of coffee from Danny and took a sip, wincing when the hot liquid touched the cut at the corner of his mouth.
Several minutes passed as the men rehashed what had happened in the last half hour. Vin finally said into the silence, "Damn, he was mad. You could just see when everything finally hit him."
Chris gave a short laugh, "I think your temper is like his, Vin. When you get mad your temper just takes over."
"Hey!" Vin yelped and turned red. Everyone laughed for as Vin mumbled, "I'se not that bad."
Chris shook his head, his mischievous grin widening. "Vin, remember the Delgado bust when I was wounded? When I went down some of Delgado's men were trying to drag me out with them. Vin was in the rafters yelling his head off. I had made it to my knees by the time he got down there," he grinned at Vin, "and I had to grab you to keep you from pounding Joseph Delgado into the concrete. I had you in a head lock for almost ten minutes before you finally calmed down."
"Guess I was a bit upset," Vin grinned sheepishly.
"A bit? That was a bit?" Chris teased.
Vin rolled his eyes as Chris snickered and Martin and Danny laughed.
"He does have a temper."
"I wouldn't talk if'n I was you Lar'bee. You got one too. So I guess we both inherited something from ol' Victor. What about you Martin? Inherit anything from him?" Vin looked curiously at his twin.
"Nope, nothing. Well ... I do have a temper, but it isn't too bad, not like you two anyway."
Danny grinned, "Fitz, I know what you got from him. You do things on your own, just rush in without thinking. Remember the first case you were on? Almost got yourself killed when you went after that computer geek alone; got your head bashed in with a baseball bat."
Martin ducked his head as his brothers turned to look at him; he could feel heat building in his cheeks. "I just wasn't used to working with a team. Never did it before. I was alright," he said defensively, hearing the question in his head.
"Yeah, you were just fine, just a little concussion, that's all. But he did learn, I think," Danny laughed at Martin's red cheeks. "I think he has a temper too, we just haven't seen it yet."
"Thanks Taylor, you just might see it today!"
Laughing, Danny looked at the brothers, "What are you going to do today?"
"You two are going to rest," Vin answered as he tossed bottles of pain pills to Martin and Danny, then smiled at Danny's theatrical groan.
"Too early to take another pill right now," Martin said with a grimace as he set his container on the small table beside him.
For several minutes the four men sat in companionable silence, drinking their coffee.
"I wonder what he's hiding." Danny suddenly said.
"I don't know, but he sure didn't want anyone questioning him about his past," Martin added.
"And he sure doesn't want your Mom to know he's your real father," Vin put in.
"He's had other affairs, so maybe he's got more kids somewhere," Chris stated flatly.
The others looked askance at Chris and he shrugged. "What else could it be? He got really mad when you mentioned that he had traveled all over the country and said it wasn't anyone's business what he did. Then you said something about affairs over the years and that's when he hit you. I'd say he's hiding the fact that he's cheated on your mother more than once," Chris finished, looking at Martin.
Slowly Martin nodded in agreement. "He kept telling us to stay out of his life. Yeah, he's really hiding something that he doesn't want us to know."
Danny suddenly leaned forward, his dark eyes going from one to the other in excitement. "Remember his last words? Just before he left? He said something like 'You'll never find her.' Never find who?"
For a long moment there was silence as the brothers thought back over the conversation.
"I don't know Danny. Maybe he was talking about Mom. He doesn't want me to tell her that he is my biological father; because he doesn't want her to he had an affair after my sisters were born. Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue, the way he said it." Martin tried to reason it out.
Vin shook his shaggy head. "I don't think so Martin. I think Danny's right. Victor hit you when you accused him of having affairs and wondered why your Mom was still with him. He was ready to hit you again when he left; he was so mad he didn't realize he let something slip out. What he said, 'You'll never find her' ...that just doesn't make any sense if he's talking about your mother."
"I think Vin's right, he let something slip. We might have another brother or sister out there that he does know about," Chris said thoughtfully.
"From what he said, it's got to be a sister," Danny stated.
"Ah hell," Vin mumbled, slumping back in his chair, his gaze going from one brother to the other.
Chris shook his head and smiled, "A girl."
"How will we ever find her?" Vin asked quietly.
Martin and Danny grinned at each other and looked at Vin.
"Hello? Brother? We're with the Missing Persons Bureau. It's our job to find missing people, and we have all kinds of information and resources available at our fingertips."
"And we are good at our jobs!" Danny remarked.
"Yep, ya are good at what ya'll do, as long as ya don't get T-boned," grinned Vin.
Danny grabbed the pillow he was leaning against and threw it at the long-haired sharpshooter, catching him unexpectedly on the side of his head.
Vin snatched it just before it hit the floor, but before he threw it back he remembered the bruises that covered Danny's left side. "I owe you one, when yer feeling better," he promised Danny with a grin.
Danny smiled back, then asked, "Martin, where's your paper and pencils, or pens?"
"Over there in the cabinet under the bar, this side. Why?"
"Stay put, I'll get it," Vin rose quickly and found a tablet and pen in the cabinet, handed them to Danny, then sat down again.
"We need a list," Danny said, squirming around until he was able to use the couch arm as a prop to support his writing hand. When he settled down he started jotting notes. After a couple of minutes he looked at Martin. "Do you remember the places your dad was at for, say, longer then a few weeks?"
"Over the years, he's been in Denver and LA, Miami. Oh, and I remember Mom and my sisters talking about how they almost had to move to Seattle." Looking quickly at Chris and Vin, he stated, "My sisters are eight and nine years older than I am. I think they were pretty small when Seattle came up. I don't remember how long he was there, but I'm sure it was over 8 months. Denver and LA were after Seattle, about four months in each city." Martin ran his hand over his face. "Dallas was after LA, and Miami was when I was around two or so. Five months."
"Shit! A needle in a haystack," Vin stated as Chris nodded in agreement.
"It will take time, but I think we can do it," Danny replied, looking up from his notes.
"I'll talk to Mom and get the dates and lengths of time dad was gone."
"What're you going to tell her?" Vin asked.
"The truth. I'm not afraid of my father and Mom should know I think."
"How's she going to take it?"
Martin looked at Vin, "She's nothing like Victor. She's been married to him for over 35 years. I'm sure she knows that he's fooled around, so it won't be a surprise."
He paled as he was struck by a sudden thought, and looked at Chris in anguish. "Oh God! I just realized that Mom and Dad were married a couple of months before Dad graduated from college; their anniversary is April 19th. That means he was still seeing your mom when he married my mom!"
Chris' body stiffened in surprise. That stinking son of a bitch, Chris thought.
Martin and Vin's heads cocked and Danny wondered what was going on as the twins looked at Chris.
We'll get him even if he is our father.
Chris wasn't sure which brother had said that, but he smiled coldly in return. He deserves what he gets I think.
Lets find this 'girl.'
Danny watched the three of them in confusion, then suddenly smiled as he realized that they were having a complete discussion without any of them uttering a single word aloud. Now he understood what Martin had been trying to tell him about their weird, unspoken conversations. He snickered to himself as he watched them, then finally laughed out loud. "Sorry guys. You know, it's too bad you all don't work together; with this connection, you wouldn't need radios or cell phones."
"Sorry," Vin mumbled.
"Okay, let's see what we can come up with in the next two days." Chris said as his brothers and Danny nodded in agreement.
By Monday evening their list had lengthened. Martin had talked to his mother and gotten a complete list of the cities in which his father had spent time along with an accurate list of dates. At his brother's insistence he had not told her about Victor being their father, or the recent visit of Victor's. He wanted to talk to her face to face to tell her about Vin and Chris, and that Victor was their natural father.
Earlier on Monday Danny and Martin had spent several hours showing the two ATF agents around "their" city. By the time they returned to Martin's apartment Vin was ready to bolt for open country; the masses of people everywhere unnerved him and he couldn't wait to get back to the apartment and the relative quiet. They ate a meal of several Mexican dishes prepared by Vin and Chris, then Danny headed back to his own apartment, promising to see them all at the office the next morning.
Chris and Vin were awakened early Tuesday morning to the ringing of Chris' cell phone. They both knew something was up at home even before Chris answered.
"Hey Chris. Sorry to call you so early, but we have a bust going down in two days, and need you home as soon as possible," he heard Buck's voice say. "Sorry to cut your vacation off."
"That's all right," Chris answered, sitting up. Vin slid out of bed, and grabbing his clothes headed for the shower. "What's going on?" Chris asked, watching his brother's slender form disappear out the door.
"Jake Bell's finally decided to sell to Ezra, and the meet is Thursday at noon. Travis wanted us to finish this one."
"Damn. I was beginning to think this was going to fall through. We'll get a flight as quickly as possible."
"Already got you and Junior on the 10am flight from La Guardia, Southwest Airline. Tickets are waiting for you at the counter."
"All right. We'll see you this afternoon."
"Sorry Chris. But this one was just too big, and it was ours to start with, even with Team 3's help."
"I know Buck. We've been after him too long to let it go. We'll get him this time. See you later." Chris got out of bed and headed for the little kitchen.
"Morning Chris," Martin said with a sleepy-eyed smile.
"What are you doing up so early?" Chris asked as Martin shoved a cup of coffee across the bar at him.
"This is my usual time. Though I don't think I'll be running for a couple more days. I heard your phone ring, bad news?" Martin asked as he turned bacon in a frying pan.
"Yeah, sort of. Got a bust going down. We have to get back, this is one we've been working on for over a month," Chris answered, then grinned at Vin who slid onto the bar stool beside him, his mostly wet hair lying on his shoulders.
"Bell's decided what he wants to do?" Vin asked as Martin handed him a mug of coffee.
"Yeah. Thursday at noon."
"Damn. We'll have to get tickets."
"Already taken care of. We pick them up at the airport, soon as we get there. Flight leaves at ten."
"I'll drive you. I'll let Jack know I'll be late, he won't mind," Martin told his brothers as he slid plates of bacon, eggs and toast in front of them and then prepared one for himself. After refilling the coffee cups he moved around the bar to sit beside them on another tall stool.
"You sure? We can get a cab," Vin said.
"I'm sure. We'll leave at seven; you need to be there at least two hours early, and you still have to pick up your tickets as well."
They all glanced up at the clock then laughed as they realized what they had done. "Still got an hour," Chris smiled as he went back to his breakfast.
Three hours later the brothers talked quietly at the gate, waiting for Chris and Vin's flight to be called. None of them noticed the alert set of eyes that watched them from behind a newspaper in the nearby lounge area. As they waited they made plans to get together for Vin and Martin's birthday late in May, if not sooner. Chris and Vin had copies of all the notes they had put together over the weekend, and promised to exchange information with Martin if they discovered anything new. The plan was for Team Seven's resident computer whiz, JD Dunne, to take a crack at seeing what he could find out when he had the time.
The three brothers were determined to find out if they really did have a sister out there somewhere. They knew it would be a long, hard hunt, but they were prepared to go for it all the way.
Suddenly Martin's phone buzzed; it was Jack Malone, and he knew he had to leave. With a last quick hug for his brothers he hurried away and Chris and Vin settled down to wait for their flight home, knowing they'd see Martin again soon. Together, they were going to find out what Victor was hiding.
- FINI - for now