Baptism Under Fire

by LaraMee

Main Character(s): Chris, Vin, JD, Buck and Ezra

Larabee's Lepers, WWII AU

Disclaimer: I own no rights to the Magnificent Seven, or its characters and make no financial gains in this endeavor.

Author's Notes: The Larabee's Lepers AU is based on 60's television series, Garrison's Gorillas, which in turn was based on the movie The Dirty Dozen. It therefore contains little graphic language or violence. And of course no one had sex back then... <snicker> I have also tried to remain true to the terms and attitudes of the time (mostly as it pertains to ethnic prejudices and differences), so not everything is going to seem politically correct. If you are offended by this, my apologies.

The general premise is that criminals are recruited into the army, as sort of a 'special forces' operation in which they use their specialties for the war effort. They are 'commanded' by a Lieutenant in the regular army... well, more like 'ramroded'. Their incentive is that, if they do their job and survive the war, they only have to serve six months of their sentence, and would then be paroled.

Easier said than done.

If the characters seem a bit off (most notably JD), it's because I have tried to mesh them with those of Garrison's Gorillas. There were only 5 characters so I've had to improvise with Josiah and Nathan, as they don't 'fit in' to the series as the others do. The character I used for Josiah, known only as "Sergeant Major", had a very minor role in the series, but Nathan's incarnation in this story is completely improvised.

Please note: If you don't know Garrison's Gorillas, none of the characters really get along very well. They argue, distrust, and fight... a lot. For example, the opening scene is based on one from the series. Therefore, don't expect to see "THE BOND" or the "FELLOWSHIP OF THE GUN" here. The characters in this incarnation have a long way to go before that kind of thing comes along. If that disturbs you... sorry! You've been warned though.

Part 1
Lieutenant Christopher A. Larabee sat at his desk, trying desperately to finish his report before all hell broke loose on the floor above him. The blond officer growled under his breath as the sound of shattering glass announced the fact that the nightly ruckus had begun. Pushing himself up from the desk, he strode quickly out the door, calling to Sergeant Major Sanchez as he did. The two members of the regular military reached the heavy double doors at the same time, mirroring resigned looks before they threw the doors opened and entered the large room that had, during peace time, been a library. Now it served as the main gathering place for four of the most stubborn, hard headed individuals it had ever been Larabee's misfortune to be acquainted with.

"Knock it off!" The slender blond bellowed as he surveyed the action in the big room. There were two men wrestling around on the floor, and angry curses filled the air. As for the other two, one sat slouched in a chair, watching the action intently with a broad smile on his face, while the fourth man dodged the action as he tried to get the larger man to wager on the outcome of the fight.

"I said, knock it off!" Larabee wasn't overly shocked when two of the four men completely ignored him, while the other two simply stared at him with looks of innocence.

Sanchez stepped past the officer and grabbed the two combatants by the collars of their shirts and pulled them away from each other easily. Bright blue eyes snapping beneath silver brows, the big man said, "The Lieutenant told you boys to knock it off... so knock it off!"

The taller of the two men glared at him, spitting out several words in a foreign language, but he offered no resistance to the officer. The smaller of the combatants struggled in Sanchez's grasp for another minute, but finally stopped. When the two men appeared to be ready to stop their fighting, the Sergeant Major released his grip.

Looking around at the shattered glass, broken furniture, and overall destruction brought on by the fight, Larabee said gruffly, "now, who wants to tell me what happened."

"Ask him," the smaller combatant growled, canting his head toward the other man. "Tanner started it."

Turning his gaze on the slender, blue eyed man, Chris said, "well?"

Tanner drew himself up straight, glaring at the soldier. "He was rootin' around in m' stuff again. I told 'im last time... I caught 'im in m' stuff again, I'd rip his head off."

Looking from Tanner to the other man, Larabee said, "JD?"

"He's crazy! I didn't go near his stuff! Who'd want to, anyway? Just a bunch of injun stuff - "The dark haired man broke off as he jumped back to avoid the knife that suddenly embedded itself in the woodwork behind him. "See! I told you... he's crazy!"

Glaring at the knife wielder, the Lieutenant addressed all four men. "All right, all of you. You've got an hour to get this place cleaned up. And you'd better be doing it together. Do I make myself clear?"

There was a general grumble among the four men, but they nodded and together, as the team they weren't yet, they moved to follow his directive. Larabee caught Sanchez's eye and gave a sharp nod, transmitting the instruction to watch the quartet with a single look. Josiah nodded in return. The big man walked over to one of the few upright chairs, lowered his large frame to the seat, and folded his arms over his broad chest.

Lieutenant Larabee stood in the doorway for a few seconds, then retreated into the corridor. He strode back to his office and settled in behind the desk once more. With a sigh he realized that his concentration was gone, and the report would probably not be finished anytime soon. Standing once more, he padded across the room to the small bar and poured himself a drink. Slouching into the large wingback chair near the room's fireplace, he stared into the flames. His thoughts began to drift and, as usually happened, he thought back to the beginning of his current assignment.

The career soldier had returned from the campaign in Africa only to be approached by General Orrin Travis. Travis had been given the go-ahead to put into action a rather daring - and some thought foolhardy - plan. In short, a small group of talented men would be recruited to form an elite fighting force. This special team would be utilized to infiltrate behind enemy lines when the regular armed forces couldn't be used.

The catch was, this special team was to be made up of men from prisons throughout America. Criminals whose talents, if utilized for the good of the war effort, might very well contribute to successfully ending the war. Their incentive was simple: A pardon six months after the war ended. The catch was they had to survive.

Larabee had spent the next two months visiting prisons throughout the United States, recruiting the men for this endeavor. He had approached nearly one hundred convicts and, in the end, had enlisted the talents of four of them.

Buck Wilmington was a self-styled ladies man who had lived well thanks to his ability to charm one wealthy matron after another. He often spent that money whining and dining younger members of the social elite all across the world. His luck had come to an end when he had been found in bed with the wrong man's wife. While his talents with the ladies had been his undoing, Larabee recruited him because he had also proven to be a formidable enforcer for any number of underworld leaders.

Ezra Standish was a conman, pure and simple. But he was one of the best. His capers were considered in certain circles the things of legend. There wasn't a con he couldn't run, and he had 'written the book' on several. His single failure had also been his undoing however and, like a house of cards, his world fell apart. The debonair Southerner had leapt at the chance to leave prison behind, but spent a lot of the time complaining about that choice now.

JD Dunne was the youngest con Larabee interviewed... he had been sentenced the day after his eighteenth birthday. There wasn't a lock or safe the young man couldn't open, and nothing mechanical he couldn't operate. He had been abandoned to the streets early in life and taken in by a family of petty criminals. It was the only life he knew, and he enjoyed it.

Vin Tanner had been the final man the officer recruited. He was on death row for murdering a man, although he swore that he'd been framed. Tanner was white only by virtue of his ancestry, but had been raised on an Apache reservation. He hated the white man and denied his birthright, wearing that hatred as a chip on his shoulder. Tanner had been recruited for his ability to use any type of firearm available, but had also been found to be invaluable when it came to a need for someone to scale buildings or anything else that posed a barrier to the objective at hand.

These four men, along with Sergeant Major Josiah Sanchez and Private Nathan Jackson, made up his command.

Sanchez was a career man, nearly at the point of retirement, with a rather checkered career. He had an early life steeped in religion, but had entered the military after several scrapes with the law. There were rumors that he had been something of a vigilante, going after people who were reputed to live outside the confines of the legal system. Nothing had ever been proven, and all the big man would say about that time was that he 'had trouble turning the other cheek'. Larabee saw a great deal of potential in recruiting the big man as a part of his elite force. The quiet, typically gentle man offered both a steadying force amidst the younger and more volatile men. He also had the strength to bang their heads together when the situation called for it.

Nathan Jackson was the final member of the squad. He had approached Chris himself, requesting to join his command. It had been a bold move for a man of color, and one that the Lieutenant was impressed by. Although his request to add the big man to his command resulted in several raised eyebrows and negative comments, he persuaded Travis to okay the transfer. The Negro soldier was placed in the unit to maintain the vehicles and weapons, but the blond soon discovered that he had been studying medicine before enlisting, and hoped to be able to return to his studies after his tour of duty was concluded.

Larabee sat staring into the fireplace as he contemplated the turn his life had taken. The team had been formed almost two months ago, and still the four cons couldn't seem to get along for more than five minutes at a stretch. There was at least one fistfight a day, leaving the quartet looking more like boxers than soldiers. Black eyes, swollen lips, and bruised knuckles were as much a part of the uniform as olive drab and combat boots.

Josiah did his best in training the men, but it was an uphill battle at best. The lack of cooperation was nearly too much for even his estimable patience. Sanchez had confided in him after the first week that he felt more like a nursemaid than a drill sergeant.

And if Josiah was the nursemaid, Larabee was the warden. They even called him that when they didn't think he was listening. It was his job to make certain they became the success Travis had envisioned. There weren't many days that left him feeling as if he were up to the task.

He would know soon enough.

Their orders had come in that morning... their first mission. This would be their baptism under fire as a team, and would make or break the entire concept. If anything happened to keep them from completing the assignment successfully, there would be no way either he or Travis would be able to prove the worth of the General's pet project. The four convicts would return to prison, and the soldiers would be reassigned. And he would have a black mark on his record that his career might not survive.

Larabee looked down into his glass with a smirk. It wasn't as if his record was all that stellar, anyway.

A knock at the door drew the blond's attention and he called out, "come."

Sanchez entered the room, drawing to attention as he said, "the room's cleaned up."

Nodding, Larabee waved the big man to 'at ease' and said, "Pour yourself a drink."

"Thanks." Sanchez did just that. Leaning against the Lieutenant's desk, he said, "Rumor has it you're going out tomorrow."

"Yeah. We've been given a mission. We're going behind lines to bring out a defecting General."

"What do we know about him?"

Shrugging, Larabee said, "Not much more than I just told you. Travis was ordered to keep the details away from us... in the event we're captured."

Shaking his head with a disheartened look, the bigger man said, "Think they'll ever trust us?"

"Honestly? No."

~ LL ~

"I cannot understand why it is imperative that we leave our beds at this ungodly hour," Ezra Standish grumbled. "It isn't as if the war effort won't last past dawn."

"Ain't gonna be dawn fer an' hour 'r so," Vin Tanner replied sharply. "Figger this 's th' time a day a fella like you 's used t'."

Standish glared at the other man, but before he could form a retort, the Lieutenant interrupted them. The tall blond whistled for silence.

"Alright. We'll be over the jump zone in just under ten minutes."

"The jump zone?" Standish replied with a gulp.

"Yeah, jump zone," Dunne practically chirped excitedly, "where we'll be jumping out of the airplane."

"No!" The dapper conman cried out, the blood draining quickly from his face. "No one said anything about jumping out of this thing."

"That's what happens when you don't make the planning meetings," Buck Wilmington observed from where he was lounging against the side of the plane. "We talked about this, Standish."

"Well, I refuse to. I will remain on the plane and return to the airfield."

Larabee leveled a look at the smaller man. "If you don't go with us, then as soon as I get back to England, you'd better have your bags packed. You'll be returning to the States... and prison."

Standish seemed to be weighing the options. Finally, gracing them all with a very long, put upon expression, he said, "I'll go... but I will not enjoy it."

"That's all I ask," Chris said, clapping the smaller man on the shoulder.

~ LL ~

The jump went off without a hitch, the five men landing in a broad clearing. They quickly gathered up their parachutes and hid them in the underbrush of the nearby woods. That finished, they gathered in a small group, watching for signs of their contact. A light flashed on and off three times in succession; the signal they were watching for. The blond lieutenant stepped out from behind the trees and went to meet their contact.

Ten minutes later the special unit was hidden away in the back of a delivery truck, bouncing along a pocked dirt road that led to their destination. The defecting General was hidden away in the cellar of a small factory, being guarded by members of the local underground. Larabee's men were to get him out of the town and rendezvous with a boat that would take them back to England.

It seemed fairly straightforward and simple. Chris couldn't figure out just why his stomach was in knots over something as easy as the mission sounded.

"You're thinking on something awfully hard," a soft voice interrupted the Lieutenant's thoughts.

Turning to look at the big, mustached man, Larabee said, "just wondering if this assignment is as simple as we were led to believe. My gut tells me we could be in for some major trouble."

Wilmington smiled, "well bring it on. Isn't that why we're here, fighting the bad guys?"

Shaking his head, Chris said, "It's not as simple as that Buck. This assignment could make or break this team. If things don't go well, you'll all be sent back to finish your sentences."

"And you?"

Shrugging, the blond said, "I'll go back to regular army."

The ladies man could see that there was more to it than the other man said, but didn't ask. He knew that the regular army officer had little faith in any of them. Not that he could blame the man. Had he been in the blonde's shoes, he'd have shot himself in the foot and gotten a ticket home.

Buck looked around him at the other men of the strange little group. Of all of them, the only one he sensed any sort of honesty or honor in was Tanner. There was something in the quiet young man that told the big man that he wasn't a criminal. Not like the others. Standish was a conman, born and bred to the role. Dunne didn't know anything else, and seemed to truly enjoy the life he had been forced to leave behind. He himself had never hidden the fact that he liked the life he had led. He had heard many men insist upon their innocence over the years, but Wilmington truly believed that Vin Tanner was an innocent man.

Glancing sideways at the man they had come to call "Warden" once more, the large man studied the blond. Larabee was quiet and kept to himself much of the time. That didn't exactly come as a surprise, considering the company he was keeping. But, even when he was in their midst, he said very little. He gave the orders and expected them to be carried out without question. Other than that he mingled little with the other men. Even Josiah Sanchez saw little of the imposing blond if business wasn't involved.

Despite the fact that Larabee kept himself separate from them, Buck knew one thing. He liked the man. More than that, he respected him. Thinking back over the weeks they had been together, he couldn't remember an incident in which Lieutenant Christopher Larabee wasn't as completely fair as was humanly possible. He was an honorable man.

The truck slowed to a stop, bringing all the men out of their thoughts. They left the truck, finding themselves inside a warehouse. There was little inside other than a few crates and barrels, indicating that the building hadn't been used for some time. After the special unit disembarked from the truck, Larabee spoke quietly with their contact, then came to stand before the four men. "We're going to wait here for now. The General will be brought over later today. There's been a lot of activity in the town, and they don't want to risk bringing him over until they're certain it's safe."

"So, we're jist s'posed t' sit here 'n twiddle our thumbs?" Tanner asked quietly. Although his words were soft, the edge on his voice was hard. It was clear that the young man didn't relish the thought of sitting around for several hours.

"No choice," Larabee said bluntly.

"Well, I for one shall make good use of the time," Standish drawled. With that he climbed into the cab of the truck and stretched out on the upholstered seat.

Rolling his eyes, the blond said, "at least he won't be complaining all day. The rest of you might as well get comfortable, too."

~ LL ~

Tanner stalked around the old factory for what had to have been the thousandth time. The other cons had complained to and about him, but his only response had been to pin them with a cold glare before returning to his circuit.

Larabee felt as if he was watching a wild animal pacing around a cage far too small for it. A wolf, plucked from the wilderness and forced into confinement... that was what the younger man looked like. He just hoped that the general was brought over soon, or things were going to get ugly.

Leave it to Dunne to light the fuse.

"For crissakes, would you just sit down?! I'm getting dizzy from watching you!"

Vin stopped long enough to glare at the smaller man, then resumed his prowling.

JD stalked after him, grabbing the lean man by the shoulder.

Tanner spun around. As he did a long, thick knife appeared from no where, point pressed against the smaller man's throat. In a deadly calm voice, the former death row inmate said, "y' touch me ag'in an' I'll split y' gullet t' gut. Got me?"

Dunne stood, hazel eyes wide enough to show white all round. His Adam's apple bobbed convulsively as he nodded his understanding. He exhaled noisily as Tanner pulled the knife away and returned to his walking, then slumped enough that it looked as if he might just fall to the floor. Recovering, he staggered over to collapse onto a crate as if he were suddenly without any strength.

Larabee watched the exchange with interest, wanting to see how the cons interacted under pressure. He wasn't certain he liked what he saw. If they couldn't keep it together now, when all they were doing was waiting, he had little hope that they would be able to work together later, when it counted.

Part Two

The stillness was split by gunfire, the men waiting in the big building responding quickly. Larabee and Tanner were quickly at the door, the blond peering out the crack into the street beyond while the con held a gun at the ready. After several seconds, the lieutenant said, "Looks like we've got trouble. If I'm not mistaken, the truck transporting the General is under attack."

Moving away from the door, Larabee headed toward the truck, nodding for the others to join him. "Dunne, get this thing started. The rest of you get in the back and be ready. And someone drag Standish out of there."

Seconds later the door of the old factory burst open from inside, shattered wood flying through the air. The truck barreled out at top speed, heading toward the battle that was taking place in the square nearby.

Gunfire erupted from several places, as Nazi soldiers fired from hiding. Their attack was focused on a single truck that squatted like the proverbial sitting duck, steam rising from beneath the hood. Scattered shots came from inside, accounting for a few of the attacking soldiers.

JD drove expertly, dodging around the various obstacles that blocked their path. They were at the square within seconds, the three men in the back began firing on the hidden soldiers, the man in the passenger seat firing from the open window. The sound of semi-automatic gunfire rang out through the square, but soon decreased sharply as the special troops made quick work of the enemy attack.

Larabee leapt from the truck cab and sprinted toward the other vehicle, now riddled with bullet holes. Dodging the bullets from the few remaining Nazis, he pulled himself into the back of the truck.

The others continued the counter-attack, keeping watch for their commanding officer to reemerge from the truck. Tanner looked up sharply, keen eyes spotting something the others had missed. The muzzles of four rifles suddenly appeared over the edge of one of the buildings, a new threat for the Lieutenant. Unable to get a decent shot off, he knew Larabee and the defecting officer would be easy targets. There was only one thing to do.

"Tanner!" Wilmington hissed as he saw the slender young man leap from the back of the truck and sprint low to the ground toward the other vehicle. He watched as concrete flew up around the running figure, continuing until Vin disappeared into the back of the truck. Letting out the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding, the ladies man whispered, "Crazy fool."

~ LL ~

Larabee looked up from where he crouched inside the truck, staring at the other man with a shocked and angry expression. "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Ambush," Tanner hissed. "Four rifles aimed right on this truck. You 'n th' general ain't careful, yer gonna git yer heads blowed off."

Looking down at the man sprawled on the floor, Chris said, "don't have to worry about the general."

Staring down at the body the blond was crouched beside, Vin saw that there was only a gory pulp where the man's head used to be. "Ah, hell."

"Let's get out of here," Larabee said. Together the two men slipped out of the truck, heading back toward their own transportation. Gunfire erupted, kicking up concrete all around them. The blond reached the cab of the truck, turning as he sensed something. To his shock he saw Tanner a few yards away, sprawled out on the ground. Cursing under his breath, he sprinted back across the open area, reaching the felled man. He heard gunfire all around him, and knew that the other men were covering them.

Reaching down, the lieutenant unceremoniously grabbed an arm and hauled the lean body up over his shoulder. As quickly as he could, he dashed back to the truck, moving to the back. There Wilmington and Standish were waiting. Buck grabbed Tanner from Chris' grasp and hauled the unconscious man into the bed of the truck.

Larabee piled into the truck as well, yelling out as he did, "get us out of here, Dunne!"

The truck bucked as the young con slammed it into gear, shoving the accelerator to the floor as he headed them out of the square and away from the enemy gunfire.

~ LL ~

They managed to get ten miles out of town before the truck gave out, coughing and wheezing to a stop at the edge of the road. Dunne leapt out of the cab, grumbling about their luck as he moved toward the rear of the vehicle. Pulling back the canvas tarp, he was greeted by the sight of Larabee and Wilmington hovering over a prone Tanner, while Standish sat at the rear of the truck bed, gun at the ready.

"The truck's had it," JD announced needlessly.

"Go check out the engine... make certain," the blond ordered from where he sat, pressing a cloth against Tanner's side.

"I said, it's had it," Dunne repeated in an annoyed tone.

"We've had it if we don't have transportation," Chris growled. "Now go check the engine."

The tarp was slapped down as the younger man stormed away. The lieutenant barely noticed, too intent on the life he was trying to save. He looked down at the blood seeping between his fingers from the ragged wound in the lean, well-muscled torso. Pressing down against the injury site, he was rewarded by a soft groan and a pair of half open blue eyes.

"Lemme be... git away from... me," the semiconscious man groused as he tried to push the offending hands away.

"Lay still, you're hurt," Larabee ordered, realizing that Tanner wasn't conscious enough to understand what was happening.

Vin continued to struggle, knowing only that he hurt, and the hands on him were adding to that pain. As he slipped toward unconsciousness once more, he slurred, "said lemme... be."

As the slender body stilled beneath him, the blond reached out and touched the long neck. Rewarded with a faint, rapid pulse, he shook his head. Turning to the ladies man, he said, "See if you can find something we can use to bind his wound."

"How bad is it?" Wilmington asked as he began looking through the boxes and crates.

"I'm not certain. The bullet's still in there, and he's still bleeding. We need to try and get it stopped."

"What do we do if JD's right and the truck's dead?"

Looking into the rogue's face, the army officer said, "He'd better be wrong."

~ LL ~

Wilmington had come across a stash of first aid supplies tucked away in one of their packs, which Larabee suspected was the work of Nathan Jackson. With coordination that the blond hadn't expected to find with any of these men, he and the con worked to get Tanner striped to the waist and the wound cleaned. While Wilmington held the unconscious man up, Chris carefully bound the bullet wound, wrapping the gauze thickly around the lean abdomen.

As they lowered Vin back onto the floor of the truck, he moaned softly. His eyes slanted open, lids settling at half-mast, revealing glassy black where blue normally resided. A hand came up, blindly seeking... something. His head tossed back and forth, and the younger man mumbled incoherently.

Uncertain as to what else to do, Larabee offered his hand, letting the long fingers curl around his forearm. He watched as Tanner visibly relaxed with a long sighing breath and a few muttered words. The con's eyes closed, and he seemed to drift off into unconsciousness. When the blond started to pull away, however, the younger man groaned, fingers clamping onto his arm.

With a grin, Wilmington said, "looks like you've been designated security blanket, Warden."

~ LL ~

They were stranded. The truck was unsalvageable, they were at least twenty miles behind enemy lines, and their lines of communication had been severed with the attack in the town square.

And Tanner had a hole in his side.

"So, what do we do now?" Wilmington asked.

Larabee looked at the other man. "We get out of here."

"And how exactly do we accomplish that?" Standish glanced over from where he sat crouched behind a tree, watching for signs that they were being chased. So far there was no indication that the Nazis were pursuing them, however.

"Walk if we have to until we find a car or truck... or even a wagon if that's all we can find. We get to the rendezvous point and meet our ride home in twenty-four hours."

"Or?" Wilmington asked.

Shaking his head, the lieutenant said, "There is no 'or', Buck. We get there in twenty four hours."

Looking down at the prone figure lying on a blanket in their midst, Dunne said, "I can think of a way to lighten our load."

Realizing immediately what the young man was suggesting, Larabee glared at him. "We do not leave one of our own behind."

"He's made it pretty clear he's not one of us," JD argued. "He wouldn't hesitate to leave one of us behind."

"You don't know that, Kid," Buck said, joining the growing argument. "He risked his neck going across the square to save Larabee's bacon. That doesn't sound like someone who'd throw someone else to the wolves."

Hazel eyes flared as Dunne said, "You call me a kid again, and - "

"Knock it off!"

Three pairs of eyes shot toward where Standish stood. The elegant con artist hissed a warning, "I hear engines. Stop this infernal sniping at one another, or we're going to be found before we even have a chance to move away from here."

Larabee jumped to his feet and jogged across to where Ezra was on guard. Peering around the tree he saw nothing, but could hear the faint rumblings of at least two vehicles. Turning to the other two men, he said, Wilmington, Dunne, get across to the other side of the road."

"And once we get there?"

Staring evenly at the big ladies man, Chris said, "Improvise."

~ LL ~

The approaching vehicles appeared a minute later. It turned out to be a staff car and two motorcycles. Larabee counted four men in the car as well as one man on each 'cycle. All of them wore Nazi uniforms. Turning his attention to where the two cons had disappeared, he searched for a glimpse of Wilmington and Dunne.

A soft groan caught Chris' attention and he spared a glance back to where Tanner lay. He frowned as he saw the injured man was attempting to get up. "Lay still... stay down!"

Vin blinked, turning confused and pain blurred eyes toward the hissed words. "Wh-what?"

Ezra left his post, crouching down beside the slender man. Placing a hand on one shoulder, he spoke quickly. "Nazis approaching, Vin. Lay still or you'll give our position away."

"C'n... c'n help," the con stammered.

"You can help by lying still," Standish replied.


Turning, the grifter saw Larabee motion for him to return to his post. Nodding to convey his understanding, and giving the shoulder beneath his hand a brief squeeze, Standish moved back to the tree he had been hiding behind.

As the small convoy drew even with them, the convicts - turned - soldiers opened fire, catching them in a cross-fire. The enemy soldiers returned fire, but the element of surprise worked well against them. In less than two minutes the Nazis lay dead on the road.

Cautiously four of the men left their cover and moved to check on the soldiers as well as their vehicles. Dragging them off the road, they quickly stripped the bodies of their uniforms, donning them themselves. Larabee retrieved a fifth uniform, carrying it to where Vin lay. Crouching down beside the semi-conscious man, he reached out to touch Tanner's shoulder. He was surprised when he found a blade at his throat, but managed to recover.

"It's me. I just wanted to see if you were awake. I've got a uniform for you to put on, it'll make it easier to get through to our rendezvous."

Letting the knife drop, Tanner said, "s-sorry... y' s'prised me."

With a wry grin, the blond said, "my fault. Let's get you into this, okay?"

Frowning when his noticed a wide stain on the jacket, Vin said, "'s got blood... on 't."

"Yeah," Larabee said evenly. "They didn't exactly give up their uniforms without a fight."

"They... dead?"

"Yes. Is that a problem?"

"Jist...jist don't cotton... wea... wearin' a dead... dead man's clothes."

"Understood. Don't have a choice right now though. Ready?"

Tanner nodded, then bit back a cry as the lieutenant pulled him up. Wilmington was there then, helping to pull the uniform jacket on over his bandaged body. They replaced his own pants with those of the uniform, and even traded his own boots with those of the Nazi. By the time they finished, Vin lay against Larabee, covered in perspiration and panting for breath.

"Look at him, he can't last a mile. Dragging him along is a waste," Dunne growled.

Larabee shot an angry look at the young con. "Stow that kind of talk. He goes with us. No discussion."

"C'n... c'n take care a... m-m'self." The injured man pushed himself away from the supporting embrace.

"Never thought otherwise," Larabee said quietly. "But right now you need a little help."

Carefully Chris and Buck lifted Vin to his feet. The slender man swayed, moaning softly as he struggled to stand. The two men carefully guided him across the ground to where the staff car sat waiting. They got him into the back seat, stretching him out and covering him with the blanket. Larabee got in beside him, lifting the other man's head and shoulders onto his lap as if it were the most natural thing to do. Tanner groaned and settled against the man, only vaguely aware of being in the Warden's lap.

With Larabee and Tanner in the backseat, Standish climbed behind the wheel, while Dunne and Wilmington straddled the motorcycles. The quartet started off down the road. They had traveled only a couple of miles before a new problem reared its ugly head.

Driving ahead of the other vehicles, Buck topped a rise, then just as quickly wheeled the bike around and came back to meet the others. Stopping the motorcycle, he waved for them to stop. When they did, he dismounted, propping the bike on its stand before jogging over to the car. Leaning against the high side of the open vehicle, he waited for Dunne to approach before announcing, "We've got a roadblock up ahead."

"We've got the uniforms," Chris noted. "As long as they don't look too closely we should be fine."

"What about the chief there?"

Larabee looked down at the unconscious man. Even insensate Tanner's face was pinched with pain. He tried to come up with a scenario which would make it believable that they would be transporting a seriously wounded soldier away from the nearest town, but came up with nothing. That meant that the only thing they could do was to make it appear that they weren't transporting an injured man. Heaving a sigh, he carefully shook the other man's shoulder, frowning when he felt the heat pouring off Vin even through the heavy uniform jacket and the blanket they had covered him with.

As blue eyes cracked open, the lieutenant spoke. "We've got a situation up ahead, Tanner. We've got a roadblock just over the rise, and they're going to question our transporting a wounded man in this direction rather than going back to the town we just left."

"Jist...leave me," the Texan muttered in a hoarse whisper. "Y'all c'n git through without a hitch if I ain't... with y'."

"No," Chris argued.

"Won't say nothin'... give nothin'... nothin' away. Y'all c'n git away."

Realizing that the younger man misunderstood his meaning, the blond clarified it. "We're not going to leave you behind, Vin. We'll get you back to friendly territory and find a hospital."

Looking up at the other man, Tanner shook his head. "I got a bullet in me... lost blood... got a fever. Ain't... gonna make 't... t' no... no... hospital."

With a glare, the blond said, "you aren't going to die. Not under my command."

The semi-conscious man smile wanly. "Y' gonna chase off... th' grim r-reaper, too?"

"If I have to," Larabee answered.

Shaking his head, the injured man said, "damned if I... don't b'lieve y'." He began working to push himself up.

Chris carefully helped him to sit up. Together they worked to position him in the corner of the seat, propped up between the back of the seat and the side of the car. His hands trembled, shoulders quivered, and his face lost any hint of color. Still he managed to pull himself straighter in the seat, exhaling a shaky breath as he did. Managing to peel open leaden lids he grated out, "let's git...this... over w-with."

They drove up and over the rise, coming to the roadblock, made of sandbags on either side of a thick board balanced between a pair of sawhorses. If the board did little to detour drivers from going through the block, the machine guns on either side of the road did.

One of the soldiers on guard moved smartly toward the car, ignoring the others as he headed straight for Larabee. The blond lieutenant had donned a general's uniform, knowing he would draw any questions to himself by virtue of the rank.

The others tried not to appear shocked as the Warden began to converse in fluent German with the Nazi. As he spoke, he pulled a heavy wallet out of the inside pocket of the jacket he wore, presenting a thick piece of paper from it to the other man. The soldier quickly scanned the document and returned it, executing a smart salute.

It seemed the ruse was working until the man's eyes settled on Tanner. The injured man sat, obviously in pain, pressed tightly into the corner of the seat. He managed to return the man's gaze evenly, not revealing the fear that coursed through his already traumatized frame. Vin knew he wouldn't be able to keep it up; that he was already on the verge of falling on his face.

Larabee spoke to the enemy soldier, his voice low. There was another exchange and then... laughter. The other men listened as the Lieutenant and the soldier shared some joke as if they were old friends. After a second salute, the Nazi waved toward the barrier, indicating it should be moved. Two other soldiers lifted the board, carrying it to the side of the road, leaving the way clear.

Returning the salute, Chris nodded toward Standish, who eased the big car into gear. Slowly, as if they had all the time in the world, the little entourage continued down the road.

Without taking his eyes off the road ahead, the blond said, "hang on a few minutes more, Vin, then we'll get you settled back down."

Tanner managed a tight nod, and replied in a breathless whisper, "'kay."

They drove on for half a mile before the lieutenant ordered a stop. As the car pulled off the side of the road, he turned to the injured man. "Come on, let's get you laying back down, and I want to check those bandages."

"C'n take care a... m'self," Vin muttered the words, but there was little strength behind them.

"Don't doubt that for a minute," the lieutenant said. "But you're under my command now, like it or not, and that means you do as I say."

Tanner slanted a glare in his direction, but it was weak and without much promise. Changing the subject he said, "sounded like y'... was ol' friends w-with that kraut. What'd y' say to 'im?"

Realizing that the younger man was questioning whether or not he had given them away somehow, and figuring that there was precedent to base his paranoia on, the blond shrugged and said, "he asked me what was wrong with you. I told him that you met up with a pretty young working girl last night who plied you with liquor and stole your wallet. He bought it. Now, can we lay you down and take a look at your bandages?"

Tanner regarded the army officer for a few seconds longer, as if measuring his trustworthiness. Finally, with a faint smile, he nodded. And then fell into the startled lieutenant's arms, unconscious.

"Damn it," Larabee growled. "Buck, I'm going to need your help here. Ezra, JD, keep watch on the road."

"We're sitting ducks here!" JD shot back angrily. "If he can't hold out until we get behind our lines, then --"

"Then we're going to be sitting ducks while Tanner's injuries are tended to." Wilmington rounded on the volatile younger man, towering over him as he glared menacingly. "Now, you haul yourself over yonder and keep watch on the road."

Dunne glared back, refusing to back down for several seconds. Then he smirked, shrugged his shoulders, and moved away.

"If you're through with your little staring contest, I need some help here," the lieutenant called the big ladies man back to the situation at hand.

Nodding, blue eyes still on the little bantam rooster that now stood behind a nearby tree, watching for signs of trouble, Buck moved to the staff car. Turning his attention to the injured man lying sprawled on the back seat, he climbed in beside him, kneeling on the floor. While Larabee held Tanner, he carefully pulled the heavy jacket and shirt beneath away, revealing the heavy bandages. The two men exchanged looks when they registered how much blood had soaked through the material.

"We don't get him some help soon, he's gonna bleed to death," Wilmington said in a hushed tone.

"I don't know why he didn't say anything earlier," Chris growled. "He had to be bleeding the entire time we've been on the road."

"Well, let's see what we can do about stopping it now," Buck said as he began adding another layer of bandage material to the already thick pad. Sitting back, Wilmington shook his head. "Not a lot more we can do unless someone wants to take the bullet out."

Shaking his head, Larabee said, "Not unless we absolutely have to. We'll be at the rendezvous soon as long as we don't run into more trouble."

The bigger man looked at the blond lieutenant with an expression that said clearly that he didn't have much faith that they could accomplish that feat.

~ LL ~

As soon as they had finished tending to Tanner the best they could, Larabee instructed Standish to head out. With Wilmington and Dunne riding point on the motorcycles, the elite force returned to the road. The soldier kept one hand protectively on the injured man, while he watched the road behind them for signs of pursuit.

They were within three miles of allied territory when Buck once again signaled a halt. The little convoy stopped, the big man jogged back to the staff car. "We've got about a dozen or so Krauts up ahead. Looks like their transport broke down."

Looking down at the man laying beside him, Larabee knew they would never be able to pass him off as being hung over this time. The man was barely hanging on to life as it was. Studying the situation for almost a full minute, he said in a quiet voice. "We'll make a run for it."

"You're kidding!" Dunne yelled. "We scammed the last bunch of Krauts, why not try it again?"

Looking pointedly down at Tanner and then pinning the youngest member of his team with a glare, the Lieutenant said, "You listen to me, you little punk. I call the shots here, and that's it. You don't questions my orders, you carry them out. If you can't manage that then you'll be shipped back to the states as soon as we reach England. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," JD growled, turning away.

"Dunne, Wilmington, get in the car. We'll leave the bikes here."

"Yes... sir," Both cons steered the motorcycles off the side of the road and returned to the big staff car. Dunne stood next to Standish and motioned the other man to give up the wheel. The other man hesitated only a few seconds then moved over. If they were going to try such an insane idea, he decided he liked the idea of being able to duck. Meanwhile Wilmington perched on the corner of the backseat on the opposite side of the car from Larabee. Tanner lay, moaning softly between them.

Trying to decide when he had lost his mind, Chris nonetheless said, "All right... let's go."

JD put the big car into gear and stomped on the accelerator as hard as he could while the others scrambled to hang on to something. The unconscious con let out a soft cry as the rough movement jarred his injured side. He calmed as the Lieutenant held him against the bucking movement of the staff car.

The Nazi soldiers looked up at the sound of an approaching engine. One of them stepped into the road, preparing to wave down the driver for assistance. He found himself facing a big staff car that gave no sign of slowing, and was forced to leap aside before it ran him over.

Caught by surprise, the soldiers could do little but stand there while the car roared past them. By the time they reacted and lifted their weapons, the car was nearly out of sight. Only a few shots rang past the car's occupants.

~ LL ~

They nearly made it. Just over half a mile from where the allied soldiers were standing their ground against the German threat, the staff car died.

Turning from where he had been watching the road behind them, the Lieutenant called out to the con driving, "what's wrong?"

"Damn it!" Dunne slapped the heel of his hand against the steering wheel. "I can't believe it!"

"What! Dunne, what's going on?"

Shaking his head, the young man replied, "The damn thing's out of gas!"

The blond stared at the driver for a full minute, than chuckled. The others looked at him, than began to laugh as well. Only the unconscious Tanner failed to catch the joke. "Well, I guess we walk from here."

Chris and Buck carefully lifted Vin into their arms, cradling the injured man between them. He opened his eyes, blinking beneath a frown as he found himself being held between the two larger men, and then fell unconscious again.

With JD walking in front of them and Ezra bringing up the rear, the ragtag group of special force soldiers began walking.

~ LL ~

They made it to safety without further incident. They made quite a scene hiking up the road, the dark haired man at the front sporting a white cloth on the end of his rifle. As soon as they were within hearing range, Larabee called out, giving the password that would allow them to enter allied territory.

A car was commandeered by Lieutenant Larabee, and they climbed in, carefully laying Tanner out on the back seat. Once more, Chris climbed in beside him, lifting his head and shoulders into his lap. Wilmington, Standish and Dunne crammed into the front seat. Ezra was nearly sitting in Buck's lap to allow JD room to shift.

Reaching a field hospital, they handed the injured con over to the medical personnel. Finding a tent for the other three men to stay in, Larabee went in search of the commanding officer. Delivering a report to the man, he asked for an alternate rendezvous, knowing that Vin wouldn't be ready to travel for a day or two.

The army officer wasn't certain as to what he was going to take him back to, or any of the cons for that matter. They hadn't been successful; had lost the defecting German before they could even speak to the man. He expected to be ordered to give up his command, and the former criminals returned to serve out the remainder of their sentences.

To his shock and relief, Travis informed him that there had been a leak farther up the line, information fed to the Nazis by a soldier who wanted to see this particular mission to fail at all costs. The man would likely find himself behind bars by the time the elite group of covert operatives returned to England.

With a shocked expression still on his face, the blond returned to the tent where his men rested and delivered the news. That shocked expression found itself mirrored on the other three faces, and he simply shook his head. "I guess you boys have a guardian angel looking over your shoulder."

Shrugging, Standish said, "We have only beaten the odds."

Wilmington's expression darkened, and he added, "Well, I just hope Tanner does as well."

Larabee nearly smiled as he heard what could be the beginning of camaraderie amongst this strange assortment of men. He looked into the deep blue eyes and realized that the big man meant every word he said. Then his hope faded as he saw an indifferent expression on Standish's face and something bordering on contempt on Dunne's.

With a sigh, the soldier said, "I agree, Buck. I'm going to go check on him now, and I'll let you know."

"Reckon I'll be here, Warden," the mustached man replied with a grin.

Larabee hid his smile until he left the tent.

~ LL ~

The blond slipped into the medical tent, nodding to the attendant that came forward to meet him. He introduced himself and asked about his injured man.

"He's in surgery, sir," the orderly replied.

"Any idea of how it's going?"

The other man replied in a respectful tone, "the doctor believes he'll make it, as long as they can get the fever down and keep the wound from getting infected. They had to give him a lot of blood just to stabilize him enough to begin the operation. If you don't mind me saying so, he's a stubborn one."

A smile gracing his handsome features, Larabee said, "so I've noticed."

~ LL ~

As he had twice a day for the past two days, Chris Larabee strode into the medical tent, moving purposefully toward one of the cots. Looking down, he was pleased to see a sleepy pair of blue eyes peering up at him this time. "Well, nice to see you awake."

"How... long," Vin rasped in a weary voice.

"Long enough."

Trying to push himself upward, Tanner said, "We gotta... ca... catch our r-ride home."

Stopping the trembling body with one hand, Larabee said, "lay down, soldier, that's an order. The boat's already sailed. They're going to send another transport for us in a couple of days."

The blue eyed man dropped back to the mattress with a groan. "We goin' back... t' pri... t' prison when we... git... back?"

Shaking his head, the Lieutenant said, "No."

Frowning, Tanner said, "Y' kiddin' me?"

Smiling now, Chris said, "No, Vin, I'm not kidding you. Everything is still a go. We'll go back to the estate and start preparing for the next mission. You'll be sitting that one out I suspect, but as soon as you're strong enough you'll be back in the saddle with the rest of us."

The younger man seemed lost in thought for a minute, leading the officer to wonder if he was going to ask to be released from his contract. Then he spoke, his voice quiet and filled with emotion. "Y' know, Warden, I don't r'member much after I got shot... jist bits 'n pieces. But one thing I do r'member 's seein' yer face whenever I woke up... hearin' yer voice when I was ready t' let go 'n give up.

"Reckon I owe y' m' life." He extended his hand toward the Lieutenant.

Taking the offered hand, Chris slid his hand forward until his fingers wrapped around the trim, muscular forearm. He felt Vin's fingers wrap around his in return. No words were exchanged, the two men simply locked eyes, a silent pact made and agreed upon in that single look.


They were going to meet their transport home to England, settled in the back of a canvas topped truck. Vin lay on a stretcher in the middle of the vehicle's bed, while the others sat on the benches at either side. Tanner was dozing, made sleepy by the medication they had given him right before they left. He was doing even better than the doctor expected, and the medical professional predicted a full recovery in a few short weeks.

Chris Larabee sat on one side of the truck, near the sleeping man's head. He sat with his legs stretched out before him, arms folded across his chest. He watched the other three occupants of the truck through hooded eyes, studying them.

Ezra sat at the other end of the bench from him, idly shuffling a deck of cards and staring out the back of the truck. Across from him sat Buck, long legs stretched out before him, arms folded across his chest, eyes closed. At the far end of the truck sat JD, seeming to be as tightly wound as he had been during their escape. He stared out the back of the truck, then his hazel eyes scanned the inside, as if he wasn't certain if the threat he awaited came from without or within.

Larabee sighed. That glimmer of hope he had felt the day they reached the allied camp was fading. There was no connection between the four cons, nothing that told him that they had formed any sort of bond as yet.

As yet.

The blond held onto those two words as if they were a lifeline. It may not be there yet... but, maybe someday...

The End


I would love to hear from you... what do you think? Would you like to see more stories in this AU? Do the characters translate all right? Do you have any questions about the series Garrison's Gorillas? Is there anything in particular you would like to see happen in this AU? Anything you don't want to see happen?

Thanks in advance for the feedback!