by Heather

Buck, Nathan, Vin and Chris exited the elevator. They heard Josiah saying, "Watch it! Watch it! Waatcch oout!!" They raced down the hallway pulling their guns. Chris was about to knock when he heard the groans, and noo’s. Without warning Buck kicked the door in. The modest apartment was suddenly filled with people shouting, "ATF! ATF!" Buck and Chris charged straight in Nathan and Vin fanned laterally, guns at the ready.

JD heard the door splinter and then explode inward. Without conscious thought he shoved Standish over, out of the line of sight, pulled his gun and placed himself kneeling between the gunmen and his friend. Josiah dove off the couch rolling coming up in a low squat adjacent and foreword of Dunne again effectively shielding the gambler.

"Whoa! Whoa!" Chris said immediately raising his arms. "Everyone stand down." The leader would later muse that it was the nonstop training and skill of his team that kept anyone from getting shot. Everyone froze. Hearts thumped frantically, and breaths were held. Noone moved, recognition quickly enveloped everyone. Suddenly sighs and "thank God’s" rolled through the apartment. Guns were uncocked and holstered. "You guys ok?" Chris asked quickly surveying the apartment from where he stood.

"Yeah." Breathed out JD

"What the hell were you doing? It sounded like someone was dying in here." Buck said with exasperation. His heart still raced.

"Ezra crashed."

"What?" Vin asked.

JD appeared sheepish, "We were playing on the Play Station and he crashed his car." Even Josiah appeared slightly flushed. Unusual for Sanchez nothing seemed to rile or embarrass him.

"Oh God Ezra I’m so sorry." JD said suddenly remembering how he had shoved Standish to the ground. The young agent quickly turned his attention to his curled friend. The others hot on his heels.

Standish lay curled apparently holding his breath against the pain. His eyes squeezed shut, his jaw muscles quivering as he clenched his teeth. He ignored Josiah’s large callused hand on his sandy brown hair. He ignored JD’s "I’msosorryEzra.Ohgoshi’mreallysorry." The words just tumbling out over each other.

Nathan knelt infront of the undercover agent and said, "Breathe Ezra, you gotta take a breath."

Standish thought, ‘an’you’re a trained EMT?’

"Ezra look at me." Nathan again. "Come on Ezra open your eyes, take a breath." Jackson ordered gently. He could only imagine the agony his friend had to be going through.

"Next time let’em shoot me." Standish finally breathed out unable to hold his breath any longer, "it’d be a lot less painful" He finished. Josiah and Nathan chuckled.

Buck hauled JD out of the way patting the agent on the back, "You did good kid."

Dunne looked with dismay at Standish still curled on the floor resisting any attempts to move him.

"Don’t worry JD if it were Cavanaugh coming through the door, Ezra would be thanking you." Tanner added. He came from the kitchen carrying the pain meds Dr. Murray had left. He placed them in Jackson’s outstretched hand followed by a glass of water.

Nathan gazed up at Josiah as he forced a pill down Standish, "He eat anything today?"

"Yeah badly burnt toast and some milk." Sanchez answered.

Jackson gazed down at Standish, the undercover agent had settled for short shallow breaths, his eyes still closed but not clenched. Moisture clung to his upper lip, either from the glass of water or perspiration. "Ezra you feel nauseous today?"

A pause and then a soft, "yeah."

"How’bout now?"

"Yeah." again very softly. Nathan nodded and got to his feet leaving the preacher to watch over the downed agent.

"Buck you wanna whip up some toast, and burn it pretty thoroughly." Jackson paused and added, "black enough to make it unappetizing."

"Sure, why?"

"Settles a stomach." >

Ten minutes later the kitchen smelled of smoke and burnt bread. In a grand flourish Buck presented a chipped china plate to Jackson, holding two very black pieces of bread. "Forget it Buck," Josiah said walking out of Wilmington’s room. "He’s out." Sanchez explained answering the questioning stare.

Buck sighed in mock exasperation, "I work and slave over a hot stove and this is the thanks I get." With an exaggerated motion he dumped the toast into the waste basket.

"A toaster Buck, not an oven." Nathan pointed out.

"Whatever." Wilmington answered sitting down his stomach rumbling. "Hey what’s for dinner, anyhow?"

Larabee ignored the commotion around him. His thoughts roamed back to the problem at hand. The Judge wanted to speak with Standish tomorrow. That should prove to be a fiasco. Judge Travis and Ezra had a history. Not a very good one at that. It seems the young undercover agent stood before the Judge a long time ago in children’s court. Pickpocketing or something. Standish stood before him with a distant Uncle or Aunt, promised never to do it again but before leaving the office lifted the Judge’s wallet. He mailed it back a week or two later, above all else requesting a finders fee. Travis never forgot or forgave the transgression. It had been a different time and a different city but the two adversaries were basically the same. Maybe a little older, maybe a little wiser, but basically the same men. Standish still pushed the boundaries, still had a smart mouth, the Judge toted the line, followed the letter and the spirit of the law. To bad Ezra had a little more spirit and oration than brains, and to bad the Judge was tired of turning the other cheek. Chris chuckled at the thought. Maybe he could convince Nathan to dope Standish up before they left in the morning.

"What’s so funny Cowboy?" Tanner asked. He watched his friend closely. All day Larabee had kept to himself, more so than normal. Tanner had met more talkative mimes(he had less tolerance for theatrics however). Now for the first time since the bust, Chris actually smiled and laughed, albeit a small chuckle. Tanner was curious, apparently so were the others because they were all staring at their leader. "Just thinking about the meeting the Judge requested between himself and Ezra." The room was suddenly filled with groans and sighs. Probably another verbal warning to chalk up with the many Standish had accumulated over the past 18 months. It had gotten to the point where one of the others had to go along to keep him in line.

Nathan asked, "You think that was a good idea?"

"Nope." Chris answered toying with his glass of water, "but had no choice."

"You think maybe Nathan should drug him?" Tanner asked, concerned for Standish. He found himself enjoying the gamblers company. They had the same dry sense of humor and common joy for pranks. This was met by a combination of laughs and serious gazes. Some thought it was good idea. Maybe it would be, Chris dismissed the thought.

"Already thought of it, probably not a good idea." Larabee smiled, "God forbid Ezra should get sick in the office." Nods of agreement circulated the room.

They six men ran through what they had found that day. Compared notes and observations. Nothing concrete lead them to Cavanaugh. Why had he decided to take a pop shot at Chris. He must have felt Larabee was getting to close to something. But what? It still eluded them. From the bank files, the success case loads that Cavanaugh had piled up it all appeared suspicious but nothing solid. Finally Nathan made a connection, "You guys noticed the successful cases he’s had have been minor ones. Allot of them but they were minor, but all the big ones were a bust." The rest of the others quickly scanned the papers before them, and found what Jackson said to be true.

"Almost like throwing chum to the sharks." JD whispered to himself. The others stared at him. "He baits us but never lands the big fish." Dunne explained.

"Still doesn’t explain why he decided to shoot at Chris." Josiah rumbled

"How’d you manage to piss him off Chris?" Buck asked.

"Don’t know." Larabee muttered.

The early sun gleaned in through the eastern windows. Chris sat in the kitchen and rubbed his face tiredly. He checked his watch again almost 6am. He ran his hands through his wet hair, how could things become so complicated. It was a simple bust, cash for guns, they had done it close to a hundred times. The scenes were the same but the actors different. His team was one of the best, no the best. Chris did not like to think like that, if one got cocky you normally got yourself or someone else hurt or killed. How could this happen if you were the best? Was he slipping? Was the team getting to self assured, maybe they were just getting sloppy? Why did noone see Cavanaugh as a threat? Larabee thought about his old friend and felt his gut twist. He clenched his jaw against the pain and wondered why it hurt physically. Why did his stomach have to churn, why did this have to hurt so bad? Larabee thought about the man he just sat with for the past three hours,while he ran through Sanchez’s printouts. He watched Standish gently shift positions, witnessed the grimaces, and heard the soft moans. His injuries were by no means life threatening, but he certainly held a monopoly in the uncomfortable department. What surprised Larabee, Standish never complained, never uttered a word. He kept his eyes closed in a facsimile of sleep and suffered through the night without disturbing anyone. Stoic would not have been a word he would have associated with the mouthy southerner, Larabee knew better now.

"How you doin’ Cowboy?" Chris snapped his head up at the sound of the trackers soft Texan drawl. Larabee hated when the tracker snuck up on him.

"Fine." The desolation clearly undermining the poorly disguised lie.

"Uhuh." Tanner answered putting coffee on and taking a seat across from his boss. Larabee sat his with is elbows on the table his head hung between hands. His appearance matched his tone. He hurt. Vin tried another tact, "Ezra still sleeping?"

Larabee gazed up at his friend and realized what the Texan was trying to do. Nice try, probably would not work, but he would play along. "I don’t think he’s slept more than a few hours last night, and no two were back to back." Vin nodded his head in understanding. Standish would be miserable for a few more nights, then things would level out. Tanner glanced at the friend across the table. He did not think Larabee would be so lucky.

Chris gazed down at the sleeping form. He finally fell asleep and now I have to wake him. Larabee peered down at his undercover agent, sighed and gave him the benefit of the doubt, "Come on Ezra, time to get up." Nothing, no movement, no change in breathing, when Standish did sleep he slept like the dead. Chris laid his hand on the brown head and shook it gently. "Ezra wake up.". A reaction this time, a hitch in the breathing pattern, a slightly adjusted leg, the partially ajar mouth closed and swallowed. Larabee repeated the gesture with more vigor, "Come on Ezra, time to wake up." The dazed sleep laden eyes opened and unrolled. A guttural incoherent mumble was uttered and the eyes closed again. Chris did not understand the words but the meaning was very clear. Larabee smiled, even exhausted Standish had something to say. With persistence born from being a leader, Chris managed to gently haul the undercover agent out of bed and get him into the shower. The foul litany of curses that spilled from the genteel southerner were enough to make a sailor blush. Josiah stood in the small doorway of the bathroom, "You know Chris he’d probably be more cooperative if you did not put him in there with all his clothes on."

Vin stood beside Josiah amused by the scene infront of him. Standish stood in the shower leaning his forehead against the wall below the nozzle, still dressed in jeans. Larabee stood beside him just as soaked, he pouring shampoo on the gambler.

"Don’t get the shoulder brace soapy, it’ll chaff." Tanner pointed out. He shrugged knowingly. In afew minutes Larabee tossed the brace to Josiah, "clean it up, we might as well make him presentable all around."

"Vinegar and ammonia." Tanner offered quiet advice to the large man beside him. Sanchez nodded and left.

Three quarters of an hour later, Ezra sat at the kitchen with blood shot sunken eyes, wet uncombed hair and a scowl. The scowl had been a glare when Chris towel dried his hair. They fit him in another pair of Buck’s jeans and white tee shirt. Wilmington’s extensive wardrobe consisted of t-shirts and colorful jungle print button up shirts. Jimmy Buffet style, Buck had explained. Though Standish had developed a repertoire for the singer, and collected quite a few of his CD’s he refused to subjugate himself to the level of Wilmington and become a ‘parrot head’,( at least publicly). "I’d rather be shot dead than wear a shirt like that," Standish had muttered dejectedly from the edge of Wilmington’s bed as Buck rummaged through his bureau and then closet. They settled on the simple white T-shirt. Getting Ezra into it without inflicting pain was impossible, the small room became a spawning ground for foul language and curses. Now Standish sat in the kitchen, he would have felt humiliated if he did not hurt so bad.

"Here Ezra eat some breakfast." Jackson slid a plate of toast and jam and a pill, toward him. Ezra stared at the plate, then the unwavering features of Jackson. He thought about arguing but did not feel up to the fight. He picked up the toast with a shaky right hand and took a tentative bit. His stomach growled in response, he was hungry. Chris and Vin watched this from the living room. Maybe he would be to tired to challenge the Judge’s authority.

The gentle lurch of the stopping elevator caused the undercover agent to wince. Vin and Chris noticed but kept quiet. Larabee scratched at his chest. The kevlar vest made him sweat and it itched. Chris opened the passenger side door. With Larabee’s help Standish managed to climb into the black truck. Thankgod it had running boards. Tanner leaned over the front seat and drew the seat belt across the southerner. Thankfully the shoulder harness lay against his right shoulder sparing the left. "Is that really necessary?" Ezra asked through gritted teeth as Tanner clicked the belt home.

"Wouldn’t want you damaging anymore of your bones Ezra." The tracker smiled sitting back as Chris climbed in and started the truck.

They drove in silence. The morning commute into the city slowed everything to a crawl. Chris knew some overland short cuts that would get them a few miles closer to city limits but did not think the gambler would appreciate the maneuver. Chris sighed. He normally avoided this traffic headache by going into the city early morning. It was 8am, the heart of morning rush hour. He peered over at Standish, the gambler sat with his head eased back against the head rest with his eyes closed. Chris did not think he was sleeping. He gazed at Vin through the rear view mirror. The tracker sat in the middle of the back seat his arms draped over the back of the seat. He appeared amused. Larabee chuckled, figured Vin would find something funny being stuck in traffic. Chris gazed at the truck’s digital clock, they were going to be late. Chris hated being late. He peered accusingly at the gambler. With his eyes closed Ezra raised an eyebrow and said quietly, "It’s not my fault Mr. Larabee, you picked this dreaded route." Chris swore and Vin laughed outright.

Chris and Vin flanked the southerner in the elevator. Standish had been quiet since his comment in the truck. This worried both his partners. "Now listen Ezra just answer the Judge’s questions and we’ll be out of here real quick and back to the office."

"You’ve got nothing to worry about Mr. Larabee." The elevator stopped, Standish let out a small groan, and they entered the office space of the Judge. A receptionist gazed up from her computer, small delicate headphones clung to the top of her head. She smiled at the three men her gaze lingering on the smaller man in the middle. She knew Mr. Standish and liked him allot, but she also knew how much he riled her boss. As forethought she had picked up a bottle of Zantac, the poor Judge would need them before the day was over. "Go right on in gentlemen, he’s expecting you." They smiled their thanks and strode passed her desk and down the carpeted hall to Judge Travis’s office.

Orrin Travis looked up from the law book that occupied his attention. He lowered his wire rimmed reading glasses when the three men entered the large office. Chris and Vin appeared as they always did, confident, well groomed (even the long haired Texan) and all business. Standish was more of a shock. Instead of the designer three figure well tailored suits and well kept appearance, he stood in a pair of oversized jeans clinging desperately to hip bones, white tee-shirt, tucked in but terribly wrinkled, and untied high tops. Orrin was sure he had seen JD where the same sneakers just the other day. The blood shot eyes were not unusual, Mr. Standish did not fancy himself a morning person. The dark circles and pale features were new, even his hair looked unruly. The Judge hid his surprise and finally spoke, "Mr. Standish why don’t you take a seat."

Ezra eyed the two uncomfortable looking chairs, something out of the Spanish Inquisition no doubt, and then the soft leather couch. "You mind if I make use of your couch?"

Chris and Vin gave him a warning stares. Ezra sighed shallowly, "things are spinning a touch to fast and breakfast is gurgling." Next thing Standish knew he was sitting on couch with his feet up. "You feelin’ better pard’?" Vin asked quietly. The pale features had a sheen on perspiration. Nathan had warned them the medication would make him dizzy and nauseous. Standish had his eyes closed praying he would not vomit, at least not in the Judge's office. He heard someone place a wastebasket next to the couch. That did not help his mind over matter fight at the moment. "Mr. Standish why don’t you take it easy for a bit while Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner and I get some coffee?"

"Sure." A dry quiet reply. The elevator stopping had been the last straw for his queasy stomach or so he thought, but he would not give in to his body's urgings. He knew in the end should his stomach decide to betray the rest of his body, there was nothing he could do about it. Let the others leave,he welcomed the solitude. He felt humiliated as it was, having been showered and dressed by the others(in Buck’s clothes no less), all he had to do now was puke his guts out in the Judge’s office. He would never live it down. Standish did not hear the office door click close. His sleep deprived body had found a comfortable spot and took advantage of it. He fell asleep. The oxymorphone seared through his veins, dulling senses, relaxing muscles, and smothering pain sensation.

The Judge clicked the office door closed. He turned to the two ATF agents and friends. A humorless smirk crossed his wrinkled features, "Coffee gentlemen." It was an order not a request. They headed down the corridor to the elevator. They were a few yards away when the elevator charmed announcing it’ s arrival. The doors slide open. Jack Cavanaugh stepped out. His face grim and determined. Even if he did not hold the automatic rifle, the three men that he faced would have recognized the deadly glint in his vacant eyes. Before them stood a man who had nothing to lose. The receptionist started to speak saw the gun and became deathly silent. Cavanaugh ignored her. He glanced left then right and then spotted Larabee, Travis and Tanner. Before either ATF agent could grab their weapons Jack Cavanaugh swung the rifle around and began to fire.

All three men recognized the threat. Both Tanner and Larabee grabbed the Judge and hurled him backward and around a corner. Larabee dragged the Judge while Tanner pushed from behind. All were hunched over hands over their heads as glass windows burst outward from the sharp rapid report of gunfire. SHIT SHIT SHIT Larabee’s mind shouted as they raced room to room with a mad man, one time friend firing ceaselessly at them intent on murder. They hauled the Judge around like a rag doll but the older gentleman kept up gamely. Of course he had incentive, nothing like having a raving maniac firing nonstop to help keep you moving. They pushed and dragged each other trying to find a relatively secure place to make a stand. Thankfully those few people on this floor had the wisdom to stay down and quiet. The Judge surrounded himself with good people.

Tanner had managed to pull his gun but held his fire as Chris lead them back around another inadequate partition. Their main concern right now was saving Travis’s life. Finally Chris found a cubby hole. An electricians work hole, in the wall, under a desk. Without preamble he shoved the Judge toward it. "In there now!" He hissed. The Judge turned to argue when Chris unceremoniously shoved him bodily into the small opening, "shut your trap and get in." Larabee hissed back pulling his own weapon. He turned his back on the Judge ending any further argument.

The two ATF agents headed off down the corridor leading the gunman away from Travis. The Judge had to admit he held his breath as Jack Cavanaugh’s brown thick corduroy legs stopped infront of the desk. He must have saw something because then he fired and took off running.

Chris and Vin found themselves back in front of the Judge’s office. His thick oak door was flanked by large windows. The blinds had been pulled and shut. At least Standish was safe unless he decided to get up and take a stroll. Larabee came up with a plan. Tanner hated it but they had no time. Chris stood his ground a few feet down from the office, toward the elevator. Travis had a corner office the corridor from the elevator made a backward ‘L’ with the corridor they just ran down, which was lined by triple paned glass that over looked the busy street. Chris stood just out of sight. Vin stepped back into the shadow’s of the closet that stood across from Travis’s office windows. They could hear Cavanaugh jogging down the hall.

Jack turned the corridor and found his prey. Warning bells rang in his head but he ignored them. He was going to take down the man who he had loved like a son. That son now betrayed him. Larabee had to have known he was on the take, he had been accepting bribes for years. Somehow he had gotten sloppy and Larabee tripped across it. Cavanaugh cursed the southerner, if that damn undercover agent had stayed where he was and not take the bullets intended for Larabee all would have been ok. But no, the southerner acted unpredictable, and Larabee’s people began to dig into Cavanaugh in earnest. His whole world had fallen apart, he knew he would eventually end up in jail, but he would never survive. He had nothing left to lose. Larabee’s team had dug up enough evidence in the last twenty four hours to nail his coffin closed. Cavanaugh smiled that was just fine he would take a few of them with him. Now Larabee stood infront of him. His arms raised to his side as if in surrender. "Come on Jack you don’t want to do this." Larabee said. He backed up instinctively. Cavanaugh closed in quietly, "Say good bye Chris, my boy."

Cavanaugh raised his gun as he took another step forward directly in Vin’s gun sights. "Why don’t you." Vin said softly just loud enough to grab the gunman’s attention.

"Drop it ATF." Tanner continued never moving from the shadows. His voice quiet but clear.

"Right after I drop your boss." With that Cavanaugh attempted to squeeze the trigger. Vin fired. The suddenly quiet area exploded with deafening bark of a gun. Jack Cavanaugh’s body jerked backward, his body swinging to face Tanner. The older man still tried to raise his gun. Vin fired again throwing the large body backward and through the glass of the Judge’s office. Cavangaugh’s body got tangled in the closed blinds momentarily and then crashed to the floor. Dead.

Vin holstered his weapon and stared at Chris. "Sorry pard’." Tanner said as he gazed back down at the body still tangled amongst the blinds now on the floor in the office. They both turned when the Judge jogged up to them. He quickly noticed both younger men were ok. "Mr. Cavanaugh?"

"In your office, dead." Vin answered.

The Judge wrinkled his brow, "and Mr. Standish?"

Both Vin and Chris exchanged questioning looks and opened the office door.

"Gawd he can sleep through anything." Vin said smiling in relief. The gambler lay on his back his head facing his left shoulder and back of the couch, still very much asleep.

The coroner and his people whisked the body away on a stretcher with a squeaky uncooperative wheel. Yellow tape surrounded graced the front of the office, disconnecting at the door only to start up again on the opposite side. The first homicide officer to arrive had wanted to remove Standish from the room, arguing he was not apart of the crime scene. He was contaminating the scene. Judge Travis furrowed his brow and then approached the boisterous civil servant. Chris and Vin hung back, Travis had that look, the same exasperated volcanic expression he often portrayed when dealing with the irritating gambler. "He is not contaminating the crime scene, he is part of IT!" The officer took an involuntary step back, not immediately grasping what the short tempered Judge just told him. Finally brown eyes widened and asked, "he slept through the whole thing?"

"Yup." Larabee answered stepping in to aid the detective. Noise erupted from the elevator as Buck, JD, Nathan, and Josiah flooded out of the elevator, in a jumble of noise and excitement. As they approached the Judge, Vin and Chris, they noticed the crime scene tape and shattered glass.

JD moaned, "Oh God the Judge finally shot Ezra."

Tanner could not hide his laugh. Buck slapped the kid off the side of the head, signaling him to keep his trap shut. Who knows it might have been self defense. Wilmington and the others took in the carnage, "Where’s Ezra?" Buck finally asked. Maybe the others had shot the gambler after all. When no answer was immediately forthcoming Nathan asked, "You didn’t really...."

"No we did not shoot Mr. Standish. Though a few weeks ago it may have been a real possibility." Travis smiled half heartily. The ATF agents infront of him made a good team. Standish made them whole ,the missing link, so to speak. "He’s in the office." Josiah and Nathan slowly opened the door and found the conman sleeping soundly on the couch.

"How long he been out?" Nathan asked.

"An hour maybe and hour an a half." Larabee answered

" He slept through all this?!" JD asked incredulously, holding his arms out indicating the mayhem that encompassed the office.

"Yup." Answered Vin.

"Damn no wonder he’s always late for work." Buck said whistling softly to himself.

Vin waited sitting on the kitchen counter in Standish’s apartment. It had been five days since Cavanaugh had been killed. The funeral had been three days ago. It was rough on Chris and Buck. The others went to give them support even Ezra. It had rained that day, seemed it rained at all funerals. The gambler had gone back to his own apartment the day Jack had been killed. Nathan did not like it, but Ezra would not budge. He even went so far as to hail a cab, shutting off any further discussion. Chris actually laughed when Nathan threw his hands up in frustration, and Ezra left in a cab. Vin stopped by everyday, to drive the gambler to work. He could not drive a standard with broken ribs or collarbone and had been forced to commute with the sharpshooter. The first day took five rings of the door bell before the undercover agent answered the door. No hello, no smile, Ezra just opened the door and shuffled back to his room like a zombie. Tanner had laughed and plopped down on the sofa waiting. Vin had been shocked to see that Ezra still had not unpacked the multiple moving boxes that were stacked neatly in a far corner. No pictures graced the bare walls, not personal photos adorned counters or table tops. Infact Vin had been afraid Ezra was packing up but when he noticed the sheen of dust that covered the boxes he realized he had never unpacked. Still an outsider, still waiting for them to throw him out. Damn him.

Vin heard the shower shut off. He checked his watch, they would be late again today. A smile crept onto the tracker's clean-shaven face. Chris had hoped Vin would be a positive influence and put a momentary halt to the gambler's tardiness. Instead the opposite had occurred. Ezra hurried for no one and insisted they stop for coffee on the way to the office. Tanner would almost rather face a charging grizzly than get in the way of Standish’s morning coffee. Vin looked up from a leather bound book he found in an opened moving box, "Canterbury Tales" by Chaucer. He thumbed through it and settled into the couch beginning to read it. He did not hear Ezra enter the room. Vin snapped his head up when he heard, "You may borrow it if you like." Standish stood before him in a tailored well fitted suit. His left arm in a sling, only a slight bulge over the shoulders indicated he wore a collar bone brace.

Tanner rechecked his watch. Standish was moving better, getting ready quicker. The dark circles and bags under his eyes had started to disappear. He had begun sleeping most of the night as well. "You ready?"

"Yes sir." Standish opened the door with his right hand and allowed Tanner to exit first.

As they settled in for the twenty minute commute to the office Vin finally asked, "What are you doing this weekend?" Tanner braked as traffic stopped. On Friday traffic seemed to move smoother.

Standish regarded him quizzically, "I do not need baby-sitting despite what our fine Mr. Jackson may think, if that’s what you mean Mr. Tanner." Ezra answered a little more curtly than he meant too.

Ezra was surprised when Vin chuckled, "I know Ezra. Nathan, he’s just worried about you, doesn’t think you’d ask for help when you need it." He stared pointedly at the undercover agent. He turned his attention back to the road and gently depressed the accelerator. "I was just wondering if you wanted some help unpacking some of your stuff." He paused and took a furtive glance at the southern man. Ezra was staring out the passenger side window. "You know you’ve been here over 18 months don’t you think it’s time to settle in?" Tanner pushed a little further. Vin slowed the vehicle to a stop mimicking the movements of the commuters infront of him. He watch Standish sigh and lean his head against the passenger door window. Vin mentally noted the range of motion of his neck had increased some over the past few days.

"I don’t know.." The soft southern drawl barely floated over the engine noise.

"It’s not bad luck or taboo to unpack your stuff." Vin fished. He witness the subtle change in positions, he used the right bait. Vin hid his smile Ezra believed in the same jinx he had. It took Larabee 6 months to convince Tanner to unpack his few belongings. "Listen we’re all going to Inez’s tonight." Standish threw him a questioning glance. Vin explained simply ,"Buck and Chris need to blow off some steam." So do you pard’, he thought to himself. Ezra would normally try an squirrel out of the Friday night ritual. Vin caught Standish’s eye,"Let me know then." Tanner turned his attention back to the car infront of him. At least he did not get a flat out refusal. They were finally getting to him. Standish was apart of the team, with a little more time and prodding he would feel like part of the family.


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