Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Main Characters: Chris, JD
Warnings: Some bad language.
Summary: A good day at the office quickly turns bad for two of Team Seven.
Inspired by an episode of CSI:NY
My thanks to Blackraptor for generously archiving my work since I started writing just over nine years ago.
The rapid fire of AK47s reverberated around the interior of an abandoned garage. The men of DEA Team Five, ATF Team Seven, and numerous DPD officers, raced to any reasonably safe spot available in order to dodge a bullet and return fire. The sounds of ricochets, and slugs finding flesh, mingled with choking, swirling gun smoke as a fierce battle ensued for precious spoils, or in this case, a stash of stolen guns, and millions of dollars worth of heroin.
The DEA were chasing the drugs, and Team Seven were trailing stolen AK47s, which led them to collaborate. Both teams expected the takedown to be tough, but the ferocity with which these criminals fought to escape capture and avoid the loss of their merchandise, surprised even them.
Travis had appointed Chris Larabee as lead, so Team Seven tech JD Dunne was parked up close by and recording every moment via both audio and video, in order to secure evidence should a skirmish ensue. He would later remark that there were moments when even he couldn't figure out what was going down, and was grateful that later he would have an opportunity to scrutinize his recordings.
Inside the surveillance truck, JD's heart thudded wildly as he debated whether to disobey an order. Chris had told him to stay put and get the data no matter what, but not being able to interpret either team's positions, or learn if any officers and agents had been hit was driving him crazy. He checked his vest and gun and was about to leave the van when Larabee's voice ordering all to cease-fire caused him to toss his headphones back on and continue to maneuver the cameras to scan around the smoke-filled area. He grinned. JD had counted eighteen lawmen going in, and could see eighteen still alive; though it was clear some were wounded. His grin widened when Chris's voice crackled over the com.
"Seven-One to surveillance. All officers accounted for. Advise paramedics, Coroner and CSI that the crime scene is secured."
"Copy that, Seven-One. Chris…"
From wherever they were standing, six men grinned on hearing the expected query. "We're all good, JD, and we'll be a whole lot better if you got good recordings."
JD momentarily closed his eyes in relief, snapping off a sassy reply to cover his reaction. "Hey, Bossman, this is me, remember?" He took a shaky breath. "I'll drive the van back as soon as you hand me your mics and headsets. Surveillance out."
The two teams approached the large stack of heroin bags positioned close to a semi. Vin jumped up into the truck, and returned holding up a recovered AK47. He nodded to confirm it was from the stash they were looking for. Larabee and DEA team leader Matheson shook hands. The former spoke.
"Good result." Chris noted the arrival of more armed officers and spoke into his com. "JD, I'm handing over to Matheson and after I hand you the headsets, I'm riding in with the merchandise. I'll meet you in the video suite; I want to check what you captured."
Dunne's voice replied instantly. "Copy that, Chris."
Larabee turned to his team. "I'll see you back at the office."
The eighteen-storey Federal building accommodated eleven Federal agencies, of which the DEA took up three floors. The ATF occupied five, with the top ATF floor situated on level eleven. Travis, the various secretaries, the typing pool, and top brass occupied sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, with IT, and the DOJ and Treasury Department nestled on the floors between them, and Teams Seven and Eight on floor eleven.
The Crime Scene Unit's labs were positioned on two levels below the ground floor, where the security lobby was located, with offices for their supervisors on the levels immediately above the lobby. In the basement was a vault to store any valuable merchandise waiting to be analyzed by the CSU, along with a secure and climate controlled storage facility for impounded items and CSI case evidence. Right now, after the day's raid, and in that very vault, the heroin and guns from the largest drugs and arms seizure in Denver's history was sitting, waiting for detailed processing
In one of the sealed off, semi-darkened, sound-proofed video suites on the first floor below ground level, JD and Chris were studying the rushes from the day's bust. Both with headphones on, Chris watched while JD's fingers flew over the keyboard and paraphernalia to isolate sounds and blow up images as dictated by the Team Leader. Larabee tapped JD's shoulder and the young agent lifted one earphone.
"Can you clean that up? That shooter there said something, but the gunfire obliterated it."
JD nodded and clicked, tweaked and fiddled until the speech was singled out. He played the dialogue back into the headsets.
>>"Guys, get the hell outta here, now! Feds it doesn't end here! This is ours, and we have no intention of giving it up."<<
The pair exchanged glances and again freed up one ear. "A threat?" JD asked.
Chris nodded. "It sounded like a warning, but he's dead, so I guess now it's just an empty one."
Headphones back in place, and immersed in their task, the pair continued with their analysis, unaware of a triggered alarm and the ongoing evacuation of the Federal building.
On the approach to their building's parking garage, Vin slowed the vehicle carrying himself, Buck, Josiah, Nathan, and Ezra. The five men stared out at the masses occupying the sidewalks and pavements directly outside the building. Parking up, they exited the SUV and walked toward an official line of DPD officers and the lobby security team. Tanner spoke.
Security head and retired police officer Bob Packer approached the team. "Hey guys." He pointed to the newly arrived men suiting up. "Gas leak. The building's been cleared of personnel, so now, we wait."
Buck's gaze was scrutinizing the staff milling around. "Are Chris and JD out?"
Bob shrugged. "I would think so. The alarm was first sounded over ten minutes ago, and as far as I know, all who are logged in are accounted for." He paused, "Though I haven't yet had that confirmed."
Josiah glanced inside the building's lobby and noted the abandoned security posts and the lit up monitors. His attention turned to the men now entering the building wearing protective suits, and then to Vin as the Texan dialed his cell before frowning. "Problem, Vin?"
Tanner looked around to see others having similar issues. "There's no cell service."
Buck made a sound that his teammates recognized as frustration. "That means we can't call to be sure Chris and JD are out of there."
Ezra pointed toward the evacuated agents and colleagues. "Our esteemed teammates are well aware of emergency protocol. I see no reason for them to have remained inside."
Vin pursed his lips. "You're right and yet…"
"…I got a bad feeling about this," Buck finished.
Vin nodded at his words. "Yeah."
A squeeze to his shoulder told JD that Chris was satisfied. Removing his headset, he turned to his boss and hero and grinned. "I'll get this finished and on your desk by…"
Now unencumbered by the headgear, the pair turned their attention to the door. JD's brow furrowed at a muted sound. "An alarm?"
Chris tilted his head, approached the door and squatted close to the floor. He sniffed. "Smell that?"
JD also sniffed. "Shoot, gas!" He stood and followed Chris to the door.
Larabee stood. "Let's get out of here, Kid. Lord knows how long that alarm's been going off." He had barely stepped outside when he grabbed JD, pushed him back inside and pulled him to the floor. Crouching, the pair peeked out through the door to see men in coveralls walking around.
"Since when do men from the Gas Company carry guns?" JD whispered.
Chris's features were stern. "They don't; and look…" The pair saw the men with no facial protection. "If there's a gas leak, why no masks?"
Grant Eland stared around the empty crime lab. His brother Mick, a known local dealer in drugs and weapons, had put this fallback strategy together in less than an hour, which made him wonder if it had been a contingency plan all along.
Obtaining a Federal ID for authenticity had been tricky, but far from impossible. Releasing mercaptan into the building's air conditioning was a stroke of genius. A 'gas odor' ensured a swift evacuation and an easy way in for the expected Gas Company's personnel. After a full sweep was performed to guarantee the building was clear of employees, Eland and most of his crew would head for the vault to retrieve what was taken from them.
While JD tested all forms of communication, Chris watched the movements of the intruders. It soon became apparent that the men were checking the building, before joining up at the elevators for the next phase of their operation. He heard a sigh and turned to his youngest agent and friend. "What?"
"Internet's down; so are all internal lines, and there's no cell phone service, either."
Lightly chewing on his lower lip, Chris pondered for a while. "Right, we need to get you out of here to raise the alarm."
JD stood bolt upright. "Huh? No! I'm not leaving you to take these guys down alone. Have you seen the weapons they're carrying? C'mon, Bossman let me help."
Chris dared not tell JD how proud of him he was right then, because he needed to maintain control. "No arguments, that's an order." He pointed toward the elevators that the gunmen were entering.
"All signs indicate these guys are heading down to the lowest level. I'm assuming they want what's in the vault; they're desperate, and clearly armed to the teeth so don't plan on failing. The exit to the security lobby will be on lockdown to ensure folk on the stairs exited the building via the fire doors. Our only other way out from here is on the lowest level, but maybe there is that chance you can get out and into the lobby. I'll have your back so..." He took JD's arm to urge him to leave, but JD dug his heels in.
"Kid, we don't have time…"
"The internal network is still operational..."
Chris glared in exasperation. "…And the building's empty, JD."
The youth barely contained his 'duh' expression. "Right, but the monitors in the lobby are likely still on. I can send a flash message out. Maybe someone outside will see it. Besides, you already said we maybe can't go up."
"What if one of these guys sees the message, instead?"
The young tech shrugged. "What if they do? They won't know what it is. For all they know, it's a screensaver."
Chris was torn. It was a great idea to send an alert, but held its hazards. Then again, they sure could use a hand in taking these guys out, or raising help from outside, whichever came first. If his hunch was right, it was only a matter of time until the gang would escape with the contraband, time that Chris couldn't afford to allow them. He nodded. "Do it."
While JD worked his magic, Chris kept watch. Before long, the youth spoke. "It's done."
The blond moved around in front of the monitor and offered a kick-ass grin. "Good work. Let's go."
Outside, Travis stood next to his top team and shook his head. "Absolutely not."
Tanner rubbed his brow. "Call it gut instinct, or maybe we just know trouble finds this team wherever we go, but we believe Chris and JD are still in there, and we wanna go in."
Orin raised his hands. "That's not in my jurisdiction, boys. We have a situation, the building is on lockdown, and following protocol is mandatory. Unless things should change to prove reasonable doubt, we will follow procedure."
"That is most unsatisfactory," Ezra insisted.
Travis nodded. "Following protocol often is."
Inside the building, and with guns drawn while staying low, Chris and JD had almost made it to the stairs leading to the second level below ground. Through the crime lab's glass walls, they could see the monitors flash JD's alert message to empty rooms and corridors. Chris blew out a short breath when it appeared no one had yet to notice them. He tapped JD's shoulder.
"The hit is definitely on the vault."
"But they'll never penetrate steel that thick," JD whispered.
Both men dropped to the floor when a thunderous noise shook the floor beneath their feet.
"What the hell was that?" JD squeaked.
Chris pursed his lips before speaking. "I think that was their means of entry to the vault, and if I'm not mistaken, we don't have a lot of time before they break through." He curled his fingers around JD's neck.
"It's up to us to stop these jackasses from leaving with the drugs and guns in that vault. I reckon they already have someone waiting at the loading bay in the parking garage. That area would have been cleared, too, so will be conveniently deserted." He glanced around. "Somehow these guys have obtained a security passkey, and right now, we're the only ones standing between their success and failure."
JD's gaze met that of his hero's. He nodded and extended his hand. "Then what are we waiting for? Good luck, Chris."
Larabee took the offered hand and pulled JD in. After a quick backslap, he pulled away. "Stay focused, and be careful."
JD nodded. "You too, Bossman."
Chris offered a crooked smile. "Let's do this."
Fire trucks screamed their approach to the Federal Building before two smaller ones peeled off and disappeared into the underground parking garage. Three larger trucks pulled curbside and several firefighters jumped out. The Fire Chief spoke.
"Is the building cleared of employees?"
Bob Packer pushed his way through the throng to offer a sit-rep, explaining that there were men from the Gas Company inside, and he hadn't received the final personnel headcount yet. The Fire Chief spoke into his radio.
"Hold position, waiting on the all-clear."
Inside the parking garage, twelve men dressed as firefighters jumped out of the smaller fire trucks once they'd parked up and waited for the elevator doors to open, so they could load up the trucks with the recovered merchandise.
In the building, before the two agents could access a stairwell down to the second level, the elevator pinged its arrival. Unwilling to show their hand too soon, the pair hurried off through an office to avoid detection. Keeping low, and attempting to double back to the stairwell, Chris made his way along the corridor with JD right behind and mirroring his movements. Chris was just about to turn a corner when he ducked back and took JD with him.
"They left a guard at the exits," Chris whispered. He noted JD's nod. "What you're about to observe, you keep between us, okay?"
"Sure," JD rasped back, more than a little curious about what Chris was referring to.
Straightening, Larabee strolled straight toward the guard, who, for a split second nodded at him before realization set in. In those moments, Chris took the man by the throat, turned him and wrapped his arm around the man's throat. When in the Seals he would have snapped the guy's neck, but this time Chris settled for a power squeeze to a pressure point in the neck just behind one of the man's ears. When the guard went limp, Chris eased him down, relieved him of his radio and stuffed balled up paper into his mouth to gag him. He took out his cuffs to secure the man and then dumped him into a copy room. JD gathered up the thug's automatic rifle and ammo clips before he handed them to Chris.
Larabee grinned. "That makes us a little more even, huh?" He tucked his own H&K into its hip holster and gestured for JD to head for the stairs.
On the second floor, the main elevator and stairwell came to a halt. The only way down to the level that incorporated the vault, archives, and storage area, and finally into the parking garage loading bay, was via exclusive and passkey only, elevator and stairwell, located at the opposite end of the second floor offices.
Also on the bottom floor, its personnel were on duty around the clock to allow continuous access to the facilities once staff signed in. Due to the evacuation, this very location, and a place JD referred to as the 'Bat Cave' due to its stringent security protocol and its lack of natural light, was now devoid of security staff or procedures. Instead, criminals whose objective was to take back the contraband recently secured, likely occupied the area.
On the second floor it was all quiet, however, Larabee had no doubt the level would also be restricted in some way. Chris studied the route they needed to travel. Only clear glass walls surrounding every office and corridor paved their way, leaving nowhere to hide.
As if reading his mind, JD offered a crooked grin. "Maybe we'll get lucky and there won't be anyone on this floor."
Chris shrugged. "We might at that. Come on, and keep alert." They walked softly. If someone was down there, they might not initially see them, but if they were careless the criminals sure as hell would hear them. Halfway down the deserted corridor, Chris and JD's luck ran out.
JD didn't need to be told twice.
Two armed men walking down the opposite corridor spotted the two agents through the expanse of glass between them. In a split second, continuous machine gun fire cut through two glass walls and the offices sandwiched between. It sent projectiles and vicious shards of glass in all directions, while huge, shot out plates of glass plummeted to the floor before shattering.
Chris and JD ducked low and ran, both firing back as they did so. Chris stumbled, sucking in a cry at the sharp pain in his hip as he waved JD to keep going. Their only advantage was that the guards were further away from the elevator than themselves. Chris had his passkey ready. Reaching out he held it up to the elevator's reader.
"JD, cover me!"
Snatching up the automatic, JD rested the butt against his hip and fired, forcing their pursuers to stay hidden. Suddenly the gun locked.
"I'm out of ammo!"
At the beep from the device, Chris tapped in his code and with fresh gunfire pinging all around them the pair dove into the empty steel car. Turning to face front, Chris unholstered his H&K. JD snatched his other Colt from its ankle holster and the pair fired back. The pockmarked metal doors slid shut only moments before the armed men reached them.
A few seconds later, Chris hit the stop button to halt the descent, allowing them to catch their breath and reload. They were both bleeding from flying debris.
"Are you hit, JD?"
JD touched a hand to a wet patch on his side just under his right arm, and saw the blood on his fingers. "Not by a bullet. You?"
Chris scrubbed at his hair and decided JD didn't need to know just now that his right hip was on fire from the bullet freshly lodged in there. With one hand on the bloody wound he leaned into the pain and changed the subject.
"When this car stops again, we're gonna come face to face with the bulk of the gang who, by now, know we're here." Larabee straightened and stroked the automatic. "Even with this baby I don't think we can win against those odds. The most we can hope for is to play for time."
He stared at the elevator panel and his gaze moved up to the ceiling. He pointed at the service hatch and a grin appeared. "Feel up to a bumpy ride, Kid?"
JD nodded, catching on instantly. "An empty car arriving sure would confuse them, huh?" He saw Chris grimace, shake it off, and then nod. JD thought to ask why, but figured he'd do it later.
"And I can rig the doors to jam open, so the car can't go back up."
Chris looked at JD. The kid was bleeding, while he was in his own world of agony; but he dared not dwell on how bad he and JD looked right then. What he had to ask himself was, were they up to this?
He agreed. "Sounds like a plan." Pushing his pain to the back of his mind Chris hoped that his leg wouldn't give out just yet. They had to get this right.
Outside in the street, staff were either restless or had used the free time to grab food or coffee from a nearby vendor. Team Seven however were far too focused to eat, being more interested, and more than a little concerned as to where Chris and JD were.
While his teammates observed proceedings, Nathan's attention turned to inside the lobby. Something through the glass doors had caught his attention and he bobbed his head left and right to look past the folk on the sidewalk and in through the glass.
"Vin, you got your spyglass on you?"
Tanner turned toward the team's EMT. "Sure, why?" He pulled out a small, brass telescope from his jacket pocket and extended it.
"What's going on with those monitors in there?"
Placing the lens to his eye, Vin focused on one of the monitors in the lobby.
There was a long pause. "What do you see?" Buck asked.
"Chris and JD are inside," Vin declared.
His features grim, Tanner passed the spyglass to Buck who viewed a monitor. He saw a red screensaver with the ATF shield logo, and the name 'Larabee' in bold, black letters zipping and twisting around the screen before stopping to flash and then resuming the sequence.
Buck looked around at his expectant teammates. "Let's go."
En masse, they approached the officers guarding the main doors, who instantly halted them.
"We have to get inside, lives depend on it," Vin insisted.
"No way," one man replied. "No one goes in there until we get the 'all-clear'."
A scuffle ensued as five resolute men pushed forward against a dozen equally determined officers. Travis and several top brass arrived to investigate the commotion. Buck glared back at them.
"We have men in there. Something must be wrong, or they'd be out here by now instead of sending us cryptic, visual messages via the internal computer system."
"We have good reason to believe this is not a gas leak," Vin added.
Before Orin could ask why, a thunderous vibration shook the sidewalk beneath their feet.
Vin and Buck turned feral gazes on Travis. "That didn't feel like a gas explosion, more like a heavy weapon firing and hitting something," Buck barked.
"Let us in there, NOW!" Vin insisted.
The fire chief approached. "Your security man has confirmed two missing men in the headcount. Also, I've been in touch with the authorities. There's been no alert for this building. We should go in."
Travis raised a hand. "Stop! I now declare this a Federal matter."
Buck grabbed Vin's arm and gestured to the others. "I reckon that could have been some kind of a missile launcher." He gestured to a direction. "What do you think? Parking garage?"
Vin nodded and stared at Travis. "We're headin' for the parkin' garage. We need DPD backup."
Travis nodded. "You have it. I'll alert SWAT."
Vin looked to his resolute teammates. "Vest up guys and let's go!"
JD replaced the elevator panel, nodded at Chris, and pointed. "When I press this button we have ten seconds to get up through the maintenance hatch before the elevator descends on a programmed test run. I've set it to shut down for a maintenance safety check, which means only your passkey will get these doors shut and the car going again."
Chris patted JD's arm "Good work." He noticed the growing red stain on JD's shirt just under his left arm. "You sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine. Just got caught by some flying glass." He pointed at the small wounds on Chris's face and neck. "You're hurt too. Lucky you have a jacket on, but you still got a few nasty hits from when we got fired on." JD had no idea yet as to how bad a wound the coat was actually hiding.
Chris shrugged, and then blew out a sharp breath. If they didn't get moving, he was afraid his throbbing leg would give out. "You ready?"
"Uh huh." JD laced his fingers together and cupped them to make a step up for Chris. Larabee placed his boot in JD's hands and as he was boosted up, he had mere moments to carefully push open the hatch cover and climb up through.
Once he was settled on the elevator's roof, Chris went to his knees and reached in. Pressing a button on the control panel, JD grabbed Chris's outstretched hand and with JD's free hand grasping the edge of the hatch opening for leverage, the blond hoisted his junior agent through the gap. No sooner had they closed the access panel the elevator jolted into life. While fighting to keep their balance, the pair began their precarious and risky descent.
As Chris anticipated, the gang was indeed expecting company, and clearly surprised when they fired into an empty car.
"Whoa, whoa," Eland hollered. "We need this in one piece to get us and the merchandise down to the garage." He used his stolen passkey and ordered two men to check the stairs. He and the rest of the gang continued hauling the pallet truck filled with kilo upon kilo of heroin out of the vault. Another empty truck sat waiting to carry out the weapons crates.
Once the gunfire and shouting had subsided, Chris shucked his jacket, eased open the service panel, and poking his head and shoulders down through the gap, peered out into the storage room. Seeing that the thieves had their backs to the open elevator, and were some distance away, he nodded to JD, hung the automatic across his shoulders, and dropped stealthily to the elevator floor. He barely caught the scream as pain shot through his body from his hip, and half fell, half leaned against the car wall while trembling fingers clutched at his blood-soaked pants.
"Not now," he hissed before composing himself. Running on pure adrenalin, Chris eased his way out and behind some nearby wooden pallets.
JD followed Chris but as he hung there, the pain from the wound under his arm caught him sharply and he more fell than dropped to the floor. He barely managed to exit the elevator and execute a nifty drop and roll to reach racking on the opposite side to Chris before Eland and the gang opened fire on him.
The automatic in Chris's hands, and JD's Colts, barked out in reply to the onslaught of bullets. Several men went down, including the two who had previously gone up the stairs looking for the threat to their plans. Deciding to take no chances, JD carefully aimed for the elevator's control panel and fired. Chris covered him, and then helped him finish the job before firing on the gang once again.
Eland himself yelped when a bullet entered his side and his radio dropped from numb fingers. With his good hand, he relentlessly fired an automatic, driving JD and Chris further back to deeper cover. In the time gained, he tried to get the elevator to work, but realized he was not only screwed in that mode of departure, but also running out of time. Eland changed tactics and ran to the security door to the stairwell. After activating the security pad, he ran out and up the stairs.
With JD hot on his heels, Chris was out and after Eland. Once the door closed behind them, JD shot out the door reader to ensure no one else could follow them.
For Chris, every step was white-hot agony, but he simply brushed the sweat from his brow and eyes, grit his teeth and kept going. After a long and exhausting chase up eight flights of stairs, the tired, hurting, battered, and bleeding pair finally cornered the man on floor six.
Outside the parking garage, Josiah was concealed and pointing a thermal imaging camera into the area. After several agonizing minutes, he raised a hand and flashed his fingers and thumbs twice, then two more fingers. Vin whistled.
"Twelve men in there."
"And all well armed, no doubt," Ezra reminded.
"SWAT haven't arrived yet. Do we have enough manpower to take them down?" Nathan asked as he glanced around the officers waiting on Vin's word.
"What choice do we have?" Buck snapped. "We've seen proof that Chris and JD are in that building and still alive. They need help, and knowing them, they're probably trying to stop all this on their own. We can't afford to wait."
Vin spoke into his mic. "This is Tanner, uh, Hawkeye. Take up formations. Prepare the radio scrambler. We go in two."
Instantly the armed officers geared up to go in. Vin nodded to Josiah and offered up a single index finger. One minute later, Josiah spoke over a megaphone.
"Attention inside; you are surrounded. You have thirty seconds to exit the building without your guns and with your hands on your heads, or we're coming to get you."
Seconds later, the reply to Josiah's order was heavy gunfire. He waited for an opportunity, and when the gunfire slowed, Vin gave the order.
"GO! GO! GO!"
In almost a repeat of the earlier raid, armed officers, headed by Team Seven, rushed into the garage and returned fire no less vigorously, and a lot more accurately than their adversaries. One of the gunmen tried to speak into the radio to those in the vault room, but thanks to the scrambler, all he got was static. The elevator wouldn't come down when called, and they quickly realized they were trapped.
With the knowledge of heavy jail sentences hanging over their heads, and just as their earlier counterparts, the gang decided to go out in a bitter firefight. With exceptional skill and their unique understanding of each other, Vin, Buck, Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan worked together to restrain the group, calling out plays and moves in between warning each other of imminent danger and ensuring no man was left exposed.
"Buck...go right!" Vin directed.
"I see him, Nathan. Follow Josiah!"
"I'm coming up on your left, Vin," Josiah warned.
"Circle around. Buck's exposed!"
"Got two cornered!" Buck announced.
Sensing victory was theirs for the taking, Buck and Vin became like men possessed. Such was their need to enter the building and get to Chris and JD; they ignored Josiah's barked warnings and forged into the final fray without as much as a thought for their own safety.
With DPD falling back to allow the recently arrived SWAT team to take the backup position, the few remaining criminals called for a ceasefire. Once the twelve men were successfully contained and accounted for as alive, injured, or dead, Josiah approached their agitated pair of teammates.
On learning that there was no longer access to the building from the garage, Vin and Buck had thunderous expressions and were about to storm off back to the front of the building when Josiah caught hold of the pair and slammed them up against one of the fake fire trucks.
Ezra and Nathan warned off any onlookers with glares that made it clear this was family business, and everyone knew not to get involved with Team Seven when they were in this frame of mind. Josiah's voice was dangerous and low.
"We have yet to learn whether our brothers are still alive in there and here you are taking it upon yourselves to add two more to the tally?"
Buck was at first furious, but quickly calmed down on seeing that Josiah was speaking more from fear than anger. Vin was less obliging.
"We have to get in there," Vin said huskily, a rare glimpse of trepidation in his features.
Josiah relaxed his grip, and his soulful blue eyes misted over. "I know, but having to watch you both die to find them is unacceptable."
There was a long pause. Buck spoke. "Aww hell, Josiah, we're not going anywhere, you should know that."
Josiah, Ezra, and Nathan smiled, seconds before Buck and Vin did, too. Josiah released the pair.
"Good. Now, let's find our boys - together."
Turning a corner into an office, Chris and JD unexpectedly found themselves standing before Eland. They barely got moving before the man fired, causing more glass and splintering wood to rain down on the pair. As they took cover and fired back, fresh blood patches dotted their shirts and spread wider. Without warning, Eland suddenly put down his gun, held up something in his hand and pulled at it with his teeth.
Peering out from their cover position from behind a desk, Chris instantly recognized the danger and called out. "Put the damn pin back in!"
Eland spat it out and grinned. "Too late, Fed. But at least I get the satisfaction of knowing I took two of you out with me."
JD sat up. "Chris?"
"Jesus," Chris breathed. "Kid, down!"
Before Chris finished his sentence, and while grabbing JD and pushing him down hard to the floor, a grenade blew Eland and most of the office and windows apart.
Squawks of shock and anxiety went up from the crowd outside the Federal building when an explosion from midway up the structure sent showers of glass and debris onto the street and the fleeing people below. Inside the building, the sprinklers came on and one by one, the monitors in the lobby shut down in a burst of pops, crackles, and sparks.
Team Seven had just returned from the parking garage and stared at the scene incredulously. Josiah looked up at the pall of smoke overhead.
"God help them."
Travis's voice carried over the din. "We're in!"
Moments later, so were the five men of Team Seven. They hurried through the internal downpour and straight for the stairs.
As JD pushed up on his elbows, silt and rubble slipped off his back and head. He coughed hard, and then took a moment to catch his breath before slowly staggering up onto his feet. Standing was painful, but the desk he'd been shoved behind had undoubtedly saved him from a worse fate.
Water soaked his shivering form as he stared in horror at the scene of smoke, fluttering paper and wreckage. Trying to ignore the smell and remnants of smoldering flesh, his gaze scoured the immediate area for Larabee. "Chris?"
JD's heart clenched when he saw a hand peeking out from under some debris just beyond his earlier prone position. Clearing the upturned furniture and lumps of dusty concrete, JD finally reached his prize. Trembling fingers touched a still neck, but seconds later JD's fear turned to elation. Carefully pushing rubble off Chris's wet, dust-covered form, JD was treated to a groan.
"Chris, it's JD. Where are you hurt?"
Larabee came around to near-silence. At first, just the sounds of the sprinklers were audible, but slowly other noises filtered through; creaking metal, falling silt, dropping wreckage. A breeze to his left told him the windows were gone, and then it all came back to him and he moaned. His actions brought a new noise - a voice. He knew that voice.
Swiping away a mix of blood and water from above his own eyes, JD coughed. "Hey, can you move?"
Chris could feel every ache, but he figured it wasn't too bad. "Let's see, huh?"
"Just take it slow," JD warned.
Agreeing, Chris grasped JD's waiting arm and very slowly maneuvered onto his good side. He took a breather when the pain ignited in his hip, and hissed when JD touched fingers to the now exposed sensitive, blood-soaked area.
"Sorry. Jeeze, Chris, you've taken a bullet."
Chris nodded slowly, causing water and dust to fall from his blond hair. "Yeah, a while back. Aaah. Shit, I think that final jolt finished it off. It hurts like hell."
"Why didn't you say? How the hell did you keep going?" JD's eyes bore into Chris's as he continued helping Chris sit up at the blond's own pace.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time." Chris smiled, tightly, and then grimaced as more pain darted through him. Looking around, he noted Eland's gory remains. "Get us outta here, Kid. Not really keen to share office space with barbecued scumbag."
Figuring it was hysteria, JD giggled at the comment. It really wasn't funny, in fact, it was all he could do not to upchuck at the sights and smells around them. He again looked at Chris, young eyes reflecting total hero-worship as JD took Chris's hand and looped the blond's arm around his shoulders. "Lean on me, Bossman."
Chris was happy to do so. He was tough, but not so stupid as to not accept help when he needed it. "Thanks, Kid, reckon I will."
Lightheaded from events and loss of blood, Chris gratefully used JD to keep the weight off his bleeding, burning hip. Disheveled, but determined, the battered, bloody, soaked pair shuffled their way toward, what they hoped, would still be the stairwell.
The unmistakable stench of smoke, destruction and charred flesh hit the five men as they ascended the slippery stairs way ahead of the following SWAT, ATF, firefighters, and DPD teams. Protocol be damned, until they saw Chris and JD looking back at them still living and breathing, they had no intention of stopping.
Reaching the damaged floor, the five were shocked at the destruction and smoke. Incredibly, the blast had gone more sideways and out, than up through the floors above. They inched forward with fear in their hearts. How could anyone survive this? The other officers caught up and were no less shocked at the sight. SWAT took control.
"Right, this is declared a disaster zone. I want everyone but the firefighters back downstairs, now…" Just as Commander Niles Michaud saw the distraught members of Team Seven about to argue the point, from out of the smoke, two scruffy, huddled forms appeared. "Good God."
On hearing Michaud's words, Vin was about to tell him where to stick his orders when something drew his attention toward the swirling smoke ahead of them. Two ragged figures emerged through the haze. Both Vin and Buck would know those forms anywhere and didn't hesitate to run straight for them, with Nathan, Josiah, and Ezra hot on their heels.
"We need paramedics standing by," Michaud instructed into his comm. "And get a rescue team and more firefighters up here, stat!"
JD had never been so glad to see help arriving. He wasn't being much help to Chris who was becoming a dead weight as the blond's injuries slowly overwhelmed him. With JD's own ribs and head aching, not to mention the cut in his side smarting somewhat, he was struggling to keep them both upright, but somehow they forged on. However, JD readily relinquished his charge to the eager hands of Vin and Nathan, while happily accepting the warm embrace of Buck, with Josiah joining them, before he sank to the floor.
Ezra stood between the two groups, emotion-filled green eyes brimming with a mixture of relief and gratitude. Instantly his quick mind was back in control and he stared at the smoldering wreckage. "We need to get them out of here."
Buck grinned at his surrogate sibling, roomie, and work partner as he held him carefully but closely. "Damnit, Kid, all you had to do was work through the recordings."
JD sank into the comforting, supportive embrace. "Yeah, well we kinda got bored with it." He tried to see around Buck. "Is Chris doing okay?"
Welling eyes cast a glance at his oldest friend. "Rest easy, Kid, Chris is in good hands."
"Damnit, Buck, I asked if he was okay." JD slumped back, a little puffed after his outburst.
"A straight answer would be the way to go," Ezra advised.
Buck nodded, and then looked appreciatively at JD. "Yeah, he's okay, and talking to Vin and Nathan."
Vin held Chris against him and his trembling fingers pushed at the soaked, blond hair. "Looks like you been puttin' in some overtime, Pard."
Larabee smirked. He spoke softly. "I'm holding you responsible for maintaining my manly, cool exterior, so before I pass out please tell me you've got an ambulance standing by for a fast getaway."
Recognizing an attempt to put on a brave face, Vin bit back the worry eating into him and winked. "Don't sweat it, Cowboy; even if you crawled on your belly outta here while cryin' like a baby, there's not one guy here doesn't think you're a hero."
"Hero? Sure don't feel like no hero. And besides, I couldn't have done it without JD." Chris tried to sit up, but Nathan, who was putting pressure on his hip wound, held fast.
"Hold still, now."
Chris hissed at the pain from the extra pressure. When it eased off a little, he glanced around. "Where's JD? Is he okay?"
With pride, Vin looked across at their youngest, then back at Chris. "He's fine. Talkin' Buck, Josiah, and Ezra's ears off."
On hearing that, Chris relaxed. "Good…good." Moments later, Chris went limp.
Nathan looked at an anxious Vin. "He's okay for now, just passed out." The EMT looked up at Michaud. "We need to move. It looks like he's lost a fair amount of blood."
With the interior of the building now off limits to all but firefighters and investigators, shocked personnel and agents looked on as an unconscious Chris was stretchered out to an ambulance. JD wanted to walk out, but by the time he, Buck, and Josiah got to the lobby, his strength was almost gone; so while Ezra cleared the way for them, the two men flanking him cunningly held him up enough to make it look like JD was walking under his own steam.
With the ambulance taking both casualties, the doors slammed shut and the teammates watched Chris and JD head off to the hospital. Travis was right with them.
"Just go, we're handling this."
Five grateful men nodded their appreciation and ran for the vehicle they abandoned earlier. To the backdrop of flashing squad cars, parked fire trucks, milling, shocked colleagues, a street strewn with debris and criss-crossed with water hoses, and a smoke pall billowing out from the Federal Building, they headed off to the Denver General hospital.
Chris blinked. He felt sure he'd woken once and saw Vin. Just about believing it was all a dream, a familiar pair of blue eyes framed with soft, wavy brown tresses convinced him he really was awake this time.
Offering Chris a drink, Vin smiled. "Back at ya. It went well."
"Huh?" Chris rasped.
"They got the slug out of your hip. It chipped the bone, but there's no lastin' damage. Doc says you can go home in a couple of days, but you'll be grounded for at least a month, before drivin' a desk."
Larabee huffed. "We'll see."
Vin's smile broadened. "Yeah, we will."
Chris relaxed before his eyes widened. "JD?"
Vin signaled with his head. "Right there."
Turning his head, Chris smiled as four teammates winked, waved, or grinned at him. JD was lying on the top of the bed next to Chris, fully dressed in fresh clothing, and fast asleep.
"He okay?" Chris asked, gesturing to Vin to be helped to sit up.
Buck nodded. "Aww, you know, the usual battle with his pain meds. He shouldn't need so many after tomorrow, though. He was discharged a few hours ago."
"He was bleeding. Was he shot, too?" Chris wanted to know.
"No," Nathan cut in. He formed a shape with his fingers. "He had some glass in his side, 'bout this big. The doctor removed it, and stitched him up. JD's just a little sore now."
"Aww, man." A rousing JD held out a hand for assistance. "Don't let me sleep, Buck."
The brunet grinned as he helped the hair-mussed youth sit up. "Hey, you're the one who dozed off mid-sentence, Kid."
JD smiled at Chris. "Hey, how's the hip?"
Chris shrugged. "Pain meds are working nicely right now. Gonna hurt like a bitch soon enough, I reckon."
JD nodded and ran a hand over the bandages under his fresh shirt. "Yeah, I can relate to that." He brightened. "I got eight stitches."
Larabee actually laughed, then looked to Vin.
"Twelve, sorry, Kid," Tanner answered.
Now JD was shrugging. "Eh, you win some, you lose some. Oh, hey!" He jolted, making Chris jump and causing him to hiss as the movement jerked his hip.
"Ooh, sorry, bet that hurt, huh?"
Chris spoke through gritted teeth. "Ya think, Kid?"
"What the hell are you jumping about for?" Buck admonished.
"I forgot to ask what happened to the guys we locked in the vault?" JD and Chris watched five men's faces light up.
"They attempted to blast their way out of the room with the weapon that took out the vault door," Ezra informed.
"Attempted?" Chris asked.
"They blasted through to the records room, and straight into the waiting arms of SWAT."
They all laughed. Josiah spoke. "CSU aren't so happy. Records were destroyed in the blast, not to mention most of their offices from the earlier skirmishes."
"At least they weren't in them," JD said, sobering the moment. The men had seen the shattered glass and bullet-pocked furnishings, and were amazed how their two friends ever survived such an onslaught.
"So, Stud," Buck chirped up. "You get to stay with us when you get out."
"Why?" Chris asked. "I can't leave the ranch unattended too long…"
"...Ah, well, if you insist, then we'll just have to stay with you out there…Vin too, of course."
Chris groaned. "You've got work."
"True, but not for the next seven days," Nathan grinned.
"I don't need babysitting," Chris growled, though there was no menace in it.
"Sure you do," Vin winked. "And if you complain, I get to spoon feed you and take you to the bathroom."
"I'll be looking after your diet and bandages," Nathan put in.
"I'm on laundry and housekeeping duty," Josiah smiled.
"Apparently I'll be shopping, and cooking," Ezra said, looking horrified.
"I get to rest up, too, so Buck has to clean out the stable stalls all by himself," JD beamed.
"We'll see, Munchkin," Buck teased while knuckling the crown of the grinning youth's head.
'Damnit. Larabee, you're slipping.' Chris looked around at each of them. "Got it all planned out, huh?"
The six friends nodded.
Staring down at his elevated, heavily bandaged hip and thigh, Chris settled back. He smiled. "Thanks, guys."
While comforted by the companionship of true brotherhood, and to a muted dialogue that suggested Chris and JD were being awarded commendations, Chris began to drift off into a drug-induced slumber.
He and his team were highly successful, but though they worked hard, and planned well, they somehow regularly managed to stumble into the kind of trouble that ended in injuries. Chris smiled to himself before finally falling asleep.
And he could hardly wait to get back into the fray.