The Quandary

by Phyllis

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fan fiction. The characters of Magnificent 7 are owned by and copyrighted to CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment, every one in the western world but me. Taking them out to play and promise to return them, no matter how much I want to keep them.

Quandary-a state of uncertainty; perplexing situation or position; dilemma

Quandary, a word Ezra might use to describe Chris Larabee at the moment. At least, he might if he were conscious.

Larabee sat with his head down, his elbows propped on the chair arms. His fingers were laced together so tightly that his knuckles were red, while his fingers were purple from lack of blood flow. Suddenly remembering that his youngest agent had been sitting in the exact position only a few hours before, he tore his hands apart and jumped to his feet, startling the men sitting around him.

Nathan looked at Josiah, an unanswerable question written in the large dark eyes; “What can we do’. The man before them was coming apart at the seams and neither man was sure how to stop it. Jackson could stop the flow of blood when they were bleeding and he could set a bone, but the mind was out of his realm. That area fell into Josiah's field of expertise. Unfortunately, Josiah's worried eyes shone with the same lack of inspiration as Nathan's.

Normally, Buck, or Vin, would be the one to deal with the man in black, but neither of them was available at the moment and therein lay the problem. Vin Tanner occupied the bed next to the chair Larabee had just vacated and Buck Wilmington was down two floors, in a similar room with his own partner.

Jackson and Sanchez watched the pacing form of the team leader and waited. Maybe Vin would awaken, or perhaps it would be Ezra, who occupied the second bed in the room. Buck might possibly abandon JD Dunne's side and join them. Or maybe, and far more likely, they would have to figure out what to say to help the blond deal with having three agents down with injuries and the knowledge that he had been the catalyst that put one of them in that position.

"I'm going outside for a minute. Call me if either of them starts to wake up," Chris instructed the two men. He failed to notice that both men jumped at the sudden words after the long silence. Throwing the door open, he marched out into the hallway.

Jackson and Sanchez glanced at each other and breathed a sigh of relief. The tension in the room had been thick. Silently shaking their heads, the men relaxed into their chairs, both silently hoping Larabee could work out a few things before he made another appearance in the hospital room.

+ + + + + + +

Chris stormed down the hall and through the door leading to the stairs. He started down with the intention of walking off some of the tension that had him wound tight, but he found himself reentering the hospital two floors down and moving down the hall to the room where JD Dunne lay. Larabee stood at the door, hesitating. He stepped back and dropped his head as he leaned against the far wall, trying to gather his nerve. He glanced up and down the hall, looking for any excuse to not go in. There was nothing. He knew what needed to be done and steeled himself to do it. Taking a deep breath, he stepped across the hall and pushed open the door.

He stepped into the room and froze. Buck sat, head in hand, next to the bed where the youngest member of the team lay. As many times as Chris had seen his men injured, it never came easy for him to see it yet again. He knew Buck had heard him enter, but the man did not acknowledge the intrusion. Chris took a deep breath and approached.

“Buck? How’s he doing?”

Wilmington did not move for several moments and then he turned to look at the team leader. His eyes were deep sunk and red rimmed, with dark shadows marring the skin underneath. Whether it was from fatigue or tears, Larabee was unsure, but that was anger in the blue eyes was obvious, rolling off the agent in waves, and aimed at straight at his old friend and boss. The blond knew he deserved the look, but it did nothing to lessen the blow.

“He’s still out. They're saying there may have been too much blood loss, a lack of oxygen to the brain according to the doctor.” Buck stood and moved closer to his old friend. He lowered his voice, but the venom was still evident in his words, in his posture, and in his eyes. “He may never wake up. Or IF he does, he may not be JD again. He’s strapped down and under observation. They’ve got a kid that wanted nothing more than to be the best agent he could be, who only wanted to stand on equal footing with the people he worked with, who wanted the ‘great’ Chris Larabee to see him as something other than a computer geek, they’ve got that kid, that good hearted, wonderfully optimist, ‘see only the good in people’ kid on suicide watch.”

Buck’s blue eyes grew darker with rage as he leaned in close to Larabee and hissed, “How do you think he is?”

Chris did not move away from the intense emotions that radiated from the taller man. He stood and listened to the words, knowing that every one of them was true.

“Buck, I don’t know what I can say. I never thought JD would…”

“Shut up.” The words were low, hissed in a tight whisper of breath, but full of venom as Wilmington’s face twisted into mask of fury.

Larabee had never seen the normally jovial man this livid, not at him.

Wilmington continued, “Don’t talk to me about what you ‘never thought’, cause he ‘never’ would. He didn’t, couldn’t. Unlike you, he values life. He would stand up and face his problems, not try to escape by crawling off into some hole to die. Or into some bottle.”

Chris’ eyes flared as his jaw tensed. “Don’t make judgments, Buck. You’ve never been there.”

“Never been there? I lived it the same as you.” Wilmington pressed forward, forcing the blond back a step. “I may not have been married to Sarah or fathered Adam, but I loved ‘em as much as you. I didn’t dive into a bottle. Even if I had wanted to, I didn't have time. I had better things to do; like preventing my best friend from jumping into the grave right alongside ‘em. I did what I had to keep that part of my past alive, to continue living. Just the same as that boy would do.”

Buck backed away and Chris relaxed the fists that his hands had folded themselves into.

Wilmington spoke with his back turned to the blond. “JD did not try to kill himself and I’ll prove it. As soon as he wakes up, and I know that he's okay, I’ll prove it, to you…” His hand waved to the mirrored wall. “…to them.”

Larabee took a step forward, only to have Buck step back over to the bed, blocking his view of the pale form lying there.

“Get out.”

“Buck, I…”

“Get out. Now. I don’t want you around the kid until this is settled.”

Chris’ mouth was tight in anger, his eyes narrowed, as he stared at the other man’s back. He thought about Tanner and Standish lying upstairs, injured and unconscious. He remembered the scene in the warehouse the day before and then the scene at the apartment that Buck and JD shared later that same day. The last thirty-six hours had taken on nightmarish aspects for the Team Seven leader. The images froze him into inaction for a moment and then he shook his head to clear them away. Finally, the slighter man nodded before turning and walking from the room.


“Okay, everyone set?” Chris asked.

Six heads nodded. Chris stood and the men followed his lead. As they moved from the conference room back to the main office, Larabee stopped next to JD’s desk. The youngest member of the team had had nothing but trouble for the past two weeks, what with lost files, malfunctioning equipment. The normally cautious agent had been involved in two minor traffic accidents. He had suffered through a rash of lost keys, late court appearances, and crashed computers.

“JD, I want you to double check the audio equipment.”

Hazel eyes looked at the blond. “I already checked it three times, but I’ll do it again.” The young man was grim-faced as he stood and moved off.

Buck heard the exchange and frowned. He stepped up behind Larabee as the boy walked away.

“You really think that was necessary? No need to undermine the kid’s confidence.”

Turning cool green eyes on the mustached man, Larabee responded with, “Seven men are going in. I want seven to come out. It’s not my plan to undermine JD, just want everyone to do their job.”

“Don’t you worry about JD. He’ll do his job, same as everyone on the team.” Wilmington’s voice had a hard edge to it that he usually reserved for suspects.

“Never expected anything less, Buck.” Chris went into his office, closing the door behind him.

One hour later, the seven headed out.

+ + + + + + +



“You got a line?”


Chris turned in his seat. Josiah sat beside him, with Nathan and JD in the back. Ezra and Buck were just pulling up, ready to make a deal with a gunrunner for dozens of stolen automatic pistols.

The car rolled into the warehouse with Buck driving. He parked the car just inside and both agents got out and moved further into the cavernous interior. Chris sat leaning forward, as they listened to the exchange. A lot of small talk and a little business conversation continued for several minutes, but finally Ezra spoke the magic word and Larabee gave the go to move in.

The four men exited the surveillance van and headed into the warehouse. JD followed Chris to the left while Josiah and Nathan headed right. Chris glanced up to see Vin in the rafters, his rifle trained on the suspect, Jake Stillman. A quick nod and Chris stood up, “ATF! Nobody move.”

The sure sign of a small time crook was for him to believe he could fight his way out. Jake Stillman was a small timer. He, and the four men with him, went for their guns. Shots were fired as everyone dove for cover. Buck had been standing at the back of the van that carried the illegal weapons, supposedly examining them as Ezra stood next to Stillman. The two agents dove, taking cover in opposite directions. Seeing the two men diving under anything for protection, Chris directed JD to go left and provide cover to Standish. Larabee indicated he would cover Wilmington. With a quick nod, the young agent moved off.

The next few minutes were a bewildering patchwork of movement and sounds. Chris could hear Vin’s rifle barking from high above, but he could not make contact with any of his agents as once again the audio equipment failed. Larabee swore as he slapped at the transmitter hanging on his belt. He peered around a corner and saw Buck just in front of him. He moved forward, calling to the man to announce his presence. Buck turned his head slightly, grinned and gave him a thumbs up before turning back to the action.

The suspects were quickly subdued and cuffed. Nathan and Josiah had managed to take down three men, while Vin had taken down Stillman and a second gunrunner. Chris and Buck moved out and joined the others. They were there only a moment before they heard JD call out.

“Nathan! Chris!”

Buck nodded as he helped Josiah restrain the prisoners. Larabee and Jackson moved off to the area Chris had last seen JD. Rounding a stack of crates, they found JD bending over Ezra, blood seeping through his fingers as he pressed on the undercover agent’s abdomen. Nathan dropped down next to the wounded man and, pulling his pack open, applied a pressure bandage to the wound.


The medic glanced up and nodded. Larabee relaxed at the gesture. JD had risen quickly. He watched the exchange before moving off. Chris’ eyes followed the young agent, but he did not move. Hearing the young man’s voice, though, he stood and headed in that direction.

“Vin, stay down. Nathan will be here in a minute. You need to stay still.”

The urgent words had Larabee stepping up his pace to quickly locate the two young men. “Vin?”

The lanky Texan was trying to sit up, mumbling incoherently. JD held the man down as he talked to him.

Chris squatted on the other side and helped to restrain the sharpshooter. Vin struggled for a bit and then faded as consciousness deserted him. He relaxed into the arms of the blond and Chris gently lowered him to the concrete floor. A quick check found a knot and deep, bleeding gash on the younger man’s head. Chris looked at the dark haired agent squatted on the opposite side.

“What the hell happened? What’s Vin doing down here?”

JD shook his head. “I was coming over to help Ezra when I heard something off to the side. I couldn’t see anything, but I thought one of the suspects must have gotten around behind us. I glanced up and Vin was looking at me, so I signaled that I was going to check. Vin acknowledged.”

“Why didn’t you just stick with Ezra? I told you to cover ‘em.”

Before JD could answer, Buck and Nathan joined them as assistance for Ezra had arrived in the form of paramedics and Team Three. Nathan had watched as the paramedics assessed the condition of the southerner and then loaded him into an ambulance for transport to the hospital. Seeing the undercover agent was taken care of, Jackson went in search of the three missing team members with Buck following along, arriving as Larabee began to question their young team member.

Buck stood at JD’s back as Nathan moved to squat at Vin’s side. Chris released the Texan into the medic’s capable care and stood, glaring at the young man as he asked again, “Why didn’t you stay with Ezra, JD?”

“Vin indicated that he had it. I…"

"IT?" Chris snarled.

JD's eyes widened at the tone, but he continued. "Ezra. He had Ezra's back. I moved off..." his hand waving in the general direction he had taken. "…that way and when I got back, this is how I found 'em"

"Did you see anything, JD?" Buck asked softly.

The dark hair swayed as he shook his head. Nathan's voice drew the three men's attention back to the injured sharpshooter.

"Buck, why don't you take JD and tell the paramedics we have another injured man over here?"

Wilmington placed his hand on JD's shoulder to lead him away from the angry blond, but the young man stopped and turned to the dark skinned medic.

" 's he going to be okay, Nathan?"

"Yeah. You know this Texan is hard headed, boy. He'll be just fine after a little rest." Nathan smiled up at the youth and then watched as he nodded curtly and moved away with the taller agent.

Larabee looked at the man on the ground and then brought his eyes up to meet the dark brown eyes of Jackson.

"You mean what ya said to JD?"

"Chris, it's a big gash. If he doesn't have any problems, he'll be fine."


Nathan looked down as he said, "He could have a fracture, swelling. Won't know anything until they check him at the hospital."

Chris' only response was to look down at the man that he had come to depend on in so many situations, studying the lax features. Moments later, the paramedics arrived and, within minutes, the group was moving toward the waiting ambulance. Larabee climbed into the back and Nathan slammed the door shut. Larabee glanced out the window to see Nathan join Buck and JD as they watched the vehicle depart.


The blond team leader stood in the hall, outside of JD's room, his mind replaying the words thrown at him by the man who had been his best friend for years. Buck Wilmington was a trusted friend and Chris had often relied on the man's uncanny sense of people.

How many times had Chris listened to Buck's opinion of a situation or suspect? The tall agent had a feel for things, a feel that had served them both well. If Buck believed that JD was incapable of attempting suicide, then Chris had to believe it, also. But, on the other hand, how could he dispute what he had seen?

He moved down the hall and through the door to the stairwell once more. He paused and considered going back upstairs, but, instead he moved down and exited the building. Finding a bench, he fell onto it, the weariness of the past day and a half finally catching up to him. Scrubbing his hands across his whiskered face, he thought back on the scene that had taken place in the waiting room late last night.


The men sat or stood at various spots around the room. Chris stood, staring out the window, tension evident in the squared shoulders. Buck sat on the worn vinyl couch, his arms thrown up over the back and his eyes moving from his oldest friend to his newest. JD sat next to him, hunched forward, his hands clenched in front of him, the only movement as an occasional blink. Josiah and Nathan sat in chairs across the room, both men adopting a relaxed posture.

Buck, JD, and Nathan had arrived a couple of hours after the others. They had stayed at the warehouse and assisted Team Three in the clean up and cataloging of the arms confiscated in the takedown.

JD had wanted to go to the hospital as soon as the ambulances had pulled away, but Buck and Nathan silently agreed that giving Larabee time to cool down would be in the best interests of everyone concerned. So, despite JD's insistence that they go and check on their two injured teammates, they had remained at the warehouse.

Wilmington had the anxious youth once again check the communication devices. The young agent was surprised to find them in working order and was at a loss to explain the breakdown. Buck and Nathan listened as JD explained what he had found, or not found, actually. Finally unable to avoid the inevitable any longer, the three men grabbed a vehicle and headed to the hospital to reunite the team.

All this, Chris had learned from Nathan after the arrival of the three men. His response to their arrival had been a cool one as he sat across from Sanchez, who had accompanied Ezra to the hospital. Larabee had found the profiler patiently waiting for news on the undercover agent when he had gone to the waiting room after being tossed out of the cubicle where Tanner was being examined. The older man stood and greeted the team leader on his arrival and, after a few words, they had settled in to wait.

The group had been together for an hour when the doctor entered and they all rose to meet him.

"Chris. Boys." The doctor eyed each man. He had treated all of them at one time or another and knew each by name. "Okay, Ezra sustained a wound to the lower back. It exited midsection, near where his belt buckle would rest. We took him up to surgery and repaired the damage. There was nothing major involved, so it was a matter of cleaning and stitching the perforations. He's on a strong antibiotic to, hopefully, ward off any infection."

The doctor looked squarely at Larabee as he said. "I also have administered a strong sedative. I will not have another incident like last time. My nurses don't need the added stress. So, until I deem him capable of exiting on his feet, he will remain on a sedative. Am I being clear?"

The blond merely nodded. He recalled the last time Ezra was supposed to remain hospitalized and decided that he was well enough to leave. The southerner had simply gotten up, got dressed and walked out. The nurses sounded the alarm and had security running all over the grounds, throwing the entire hospital into a panic before Buck and Vin had finally located the man sleeping quietly in his own bed. The next day Larabee found himself in AD Travis' office getting chewed up and spit out for not having control of his men. Chris didn't want a repeat anymore then the doctor did.

"Vin went upstairs for a CAT scan. He's on the way back down. He has some swelling but there's no fracture." The doctor watched Larabee as he continued. "He's still out, but that's okay. We aren't going to get worried until twenty-four hours have passed. You five just relax and, as soon as we get them settled, I'll send someone to get you."

After a nod from the blond, the doctor turned on his heel and left. The men stood for a few seconds and then moved away from the door. Buck draped an arm around JD's neck and they started back to the couch. Larabee stopped in front of them, pinning the younger man with his gaze.

"JD, what happened after you left me?"

JD drew up short, looking up at the blond. He took a deep breath and began, "I moved off to the left. Ezra was squatted down behind a pile of boxes. I was going to call to him, when I heard a noise behind me. I glanced that way and then looked up at Vin. He was looking at me and I tried to radio him, but the radio wasn’t working, so I signaled that I had heard something and I was going to check. I thought maybe one of the suspects could have got behind us. Vin signaled that he had it."

JD stopped as Chris stepped closer. "Signaled how?"

Confusion clouded the hazel eyes and his brows drew together as he responded. "He nodded and pointed to his eye and then to Ezra." JD's hands mimicked his words.

"So what did you find?"

JD's eyes dropped. "Nothing. There wasn't anything there."

"Did you fire your gun? After we split?"


“Are you sure?”

Buck stepped forward. He had dropped his arm from JD’s shoulders when Larabee intercepted them, and he now placed himself slightly in front and to the side of his young roommate. "What are you implying, Chris?"

"I'm not implying anything. I'm just trying to figure out what happened." Larabee turned back to the shaken young man. "There was no one behind you?"

"Not that I found."

"You heard what the doc said? That Ezra was shot in the back?"

JD's voice was low and raspy. "I heard 'im."

"Who was behind Standish?"

The boy’s body went still as his eyes darted from side to side in remembrance. Then the hazel eyes went wide and moist. "Me and Vin?"

"Why was Vin on the floor? Why did he come down from his perch?"

"I don't know. Maybe he saw whoever shot Ezra."

Larabee leaned in close to the young agent. "He saw them and he didn't take 'em out?"

JD was pale as he stared at the team leader. In an almost inaudible voice, the young man asked, "Do you think that I shot Ezra, Chris?"

The two men stared in each other for a long moment, one in anger and the other in shock, before Larabee straightened and stepped away, his silence hanging heavy in the room. The implications of Larabee's question were obvious.

Chris had turned and walked to the window before turning back to the young man. "JD, I don't think…no, I don't think you would have shot Ezra. But, you have been distracted lately."

"I haven't, Chris. I don't know what is going on, but I … I don't know why..." JD stammered.

Buck stepped back and placed a hand on the trembling shoulder. "JD, just calm down. Chris knows you didn't shot Ezra. Now, think, you didn't see or hear anything that might indicate that someone was back there with ya'll except for when you first got over there?"

"No, I didn't see anything. I didn't check every crate, but I looked around. I glanced up to see if Vin could see anything and saw he was gone. That's when I headed back and found him on the floor. There was a two by four lying across his back. I checked him and he seemed to be coming to. He kind 'a pointed in Ezra's direction and mumbled his name, so I went to check on him. When I found Ezra, I yelled for Nathan and applied pressure to the wound." As if the thought reminded him, the young man glanced down at the blood stained jeans he was wearing. He shivered slightly and brought his eyes up to meet Wilmington's. "I need to change," he told his roommate, his voice cracking.

Buck squeezed the shoulder under his palm.

Larabee had turned to face the window and, ignoring JD’s statement, continued, "So, when we check, we'll find your weapon fired and your fingerprints on the piece of lumber used to attack Tanner?"

JD paled even more as he thought about the evidence piling up against him. "I just moved it off so I could roll Vin over."

Chris turned slowly to face the young agent. "Tanner wouldn't come down without my okay. Not unless he was trying to help someone or stop someone he couldn't shoot, a friend." Larabee's gaze never wavered as he studied the dark haired agent.

JD stood frozen, his face going pale at the man’s words, and suddenly he bolted for the door, his hand over his mouth. Chris moved to follow him. He found his way barred by Wilmington.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Chris?"

"I'm not finished talking to him yet."

Blue eyes blazed. "The hell you're not," the man snarled. Buck stepped closer, using his height to force the blond back a step. "He's only going to the restroom, probably to toss his breakfast, since we haven't stopped for the last eighteen hours, because the man he looks up to more than anyone in the world, just accused him of betraying his team."

Chris glanced around and saw the unbelieving looks on Nathan and Josiah's faces. He thought about the things he had implied, but he did not back down, meeting their gazes as if daring them to say something. He had two men down and he wanted to exact vengeance on someone. Unfortunately for the youngest of their team, he had become the target of that urge.

Josiah's smooth voice asked, "Chris, why would you think JD could betray us like that?"

Larabee paused for a moment before turning to stare out the window, then turned to look at the men. "I didn't mean it like that, not betrayal. An accident maybe or misjudgment…something. I just want to know what happened." The scene in the warehouse flashed before his eyes again and with it, the flame of anger flared once again within him. "If JD didn’t…somebody set us up."

"Well, it wasn't the kid." Buck hissed. "Vin's getting hurt is clouding your thinking."

"That's bullshit, Buck."

"You think so? You're letting your friendship with Tanner override your judgment."

"And you're not doing the same thing in JD's defense? That boy can do no wrong as far as you're concerned." Chris stepped up, nose to nose with the taller agent.

"JD ain't no boy. He's not perfect, but he's not a traitor. Nor is he so careless that he would shot one of us in the back or, so cowardly, that he would then brain someone else to cover it up. You're lashing out blindly and not thinking it through."

Sanchez stepped between the two men, both of whom had doubled their fists. "Brothers, we need to step back and take a deep breath. Emotions are running high due to the injuries to our brethren."

Nathan took Wilmington's arm and turned him away from Larabee.

"Buck, let's you and me go check on the boy."

With a curt nod, the angry man allowed himself to be led to the door. He didn’t look back as he stepped into the hall in search of the youthful agent. Jackson took a second to glance at Josiah and nodded before following the angry agent out.


"Chris, you need to calm down and think. Your conclusions are understandable, even reasonable, if we were talking about anyone other than the youngster. You know it and I know it."

The blond's mouth was pinched tight in anger and his hands, still fisted, were planted firmly on his hips. He finally took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension that had them tied into knots.

"I never thought JD betrayed us. He's not capable, but he's been making mistakes. Maybe he made one in the warehouse."

"And tried to cover it up by hitting Vin with a two by four?" Josiah questioned.

Larabee stood, looking at the man, and then slowly shook his head, hands coming up to run his fingers through the short blond hair, ending up interlaced behind his neck. "No. No, he wouldn't do that." Dropping his arms, Chris turned and moved back to the large window and looked down on the parking lot. He shook his head as he stated, "None of it makes any sense. There was no one back there but JD and Vin. Vin didn't shoot Ezra, JD didn't shoot him, JD didn’t hit Vin. So who does that leave?"

"Maybe Vin can tell us something when he wakes up." Josiah offered.

The blond placed both hands on the glass. "God, I hope so."

+ + + + + + +

Ten minutes later, Buck and Nathan hurriedly reentered the room. Buck glanced around, asking, "Is the kid here?"

Chris pushed away from the window he had been leaning against as Josiah rose from the couch, the vinyl squeaking as he stood.

"Isn't he in the restroom?" Chris questioned as he approached, genuine concern in his voice. He watched as Buck squeezed his eyes closed, running a hand through his wavy hair before turning away. Larabee's eyes went to the tall dark man standing quietly in the doorway.

Nathan stepped into the room. "We checked the restroom. It was empty. We checked all over the hospital, we can't find 'im anywhere."

Buck whirled around on the three men. His hands hung fisted at the end of tensed arms. "Where the hell could he go?"

The others stood wordlessly, watching the man move stiltedly around the room. "He wouldn't just walk away. He doesn't have a car or the bike. How could he leave? Walk?"

He stalked around the room, looking for answers that the room could not give him. Chris moved forward and stepped in front of the big man, putting a halt to the pacing. Buck glared down at the slighter framed Larabee.

The blond accepted the accusatory look from his old friend by holding a hand up in surrender. "Home. Could he have gone home? He was talking about having to change his clothes."

Wilmington took a step back, his brows pulling down in a frown of concentration. "How? Why wouldn't he come get one of us to take 'im?"

Chris' face clouded. "Maybe because I'm here." He paused for a moment to allow the other man time to consider. When Buck nodded, Chris moved his hand to Buck's shoulder. "Come on, let's go check. Nathan, why don't you come with us?"

Nathan nodded. He walked through the door, followed closely by Wilmington. Chris turned to Sanchez. "Use the cell. Keep us up on the latest."

Josiah nodded. "God's speed, brothers."

+ + + + + + +

Buck burst through the door, calling, "JD?", as the door banged against the wall and bounced back to be stopped by Nathan’s palm as he and Chris entered on Wilmington’s heels.

Buck moved quickly around the living room and kitchen. He glanced out onto the balcony, and not seeing what he was looking for, he turned toward the bedroom that JD occupied. His footsteps slowed, as did his heartbeat, at the scraping noise he heard coming from the room and he breathed a sigh of relief. He glanced back and, seeing the others watching, he indicated that JD was in the bedroom.

Passing the bathroom, he hesitated, a strong odor drawing his attention. He stepped into the room and disappeared from view. An anguished cry of 'Nathan', spurred the two men in the living room into motion.

Nathan reached the doorway first, momentarily blocking Larabee’s view of the small room. When the blond finally got a view of the small area, he froze at the threshold. His first impression was ‘red’. Everywhere he looked, he saw red. It covered the walls surrounding the tub and ran down the outside to pool on the floor. Buck was covered in it, as was the limp form of JD Dunne. The older agent was standing awkwardly, his feet slipping on the wet tiles as he struggled to lift an unconscious Dunne from the tub while gripping towels wrapped around the young man’s wrists.

Nathan grabbed the trailing legs of the young agent and, together, they lifted him over and out of the tub, gently laying him on the cold tiles. Larabee wasn’t sure how long he stood there before he became aware of someone calling his name. Shaking his head, he looked at Nathan to see his mouth forming his name once again.


“Call 911. Tell them to hurry, Chris.”

Larabee backed out of the claustrophobic atmosphere within the tiny space and pulled his cell out, hitting the three buttons without even looking. He identified himself as an ATF agent and gave the operator the address and requested an ambulance, remaining on the line as she requested. Chris could hear her repeating the address to the proper emergency personnel through the instrument at his ear while, at the same time, he could hear Nathan talking to Buck. As much as he wanted to go back and check on them, he could not get his feet to obey the order and he remained stationary in the middle of the living room.

He jumped, startled, as the operator’s voice seemed to boom in his ear.

“Sir, do you have any more information for the emergency personnel? Do you know the nature of the injury? How it occurred?”

The blond tasted bile as he formed the words and then spoke them out loud.

“He…he cut his wrists, a suicide attempt.” Chris could not ignore the urge any longer and he bolted for the kitchen, tossing the contents of his stomach into the sink. Relieved, he sloshed some tap water around in his mouth and swiped his hand across his face before bringing the phone back to his ear. “Sorry. Are you still there?”

A gentle, but professional voice answered, “Yes, sir. Are you all right?”

“Yeah. Any idea for far away they are?”

“I can check on that for you.”

Chris moved to the sliding glass door and looked out. “No, never mind. I can see ‘em coming.”

“Agent Larabee, I need to send the police out on an apparent suicide.”

“Have them meet us at Denver Memorial. We won’t be here long.” He disconnected the call, placing the device back in his pocket as he moved to the door to let the paramedics in.


The exhausted man sat on the bench, the cool night blowing softly around him. He vaguely wondered if he would ever be able to close his eyes again without seeing the gut-wrenching scene in the small bathroom. Taking a deep breath, he started to catalog the evidence, picturing the warehouse in his mind.

One-JD had approached Ezra from the back. The undercover agent would not have seen him. Two-Vin would have a complete overview from his position. Three-JD moved past Ezra to investigate a noise, signaling to Tanner first. Four-If Vin had seen anything, he would have called…No, the radios weren't working. What would Vin have done if he saw someone and couldn't communicate? Come down? Shoot? Chris shook his head as the thoughts tumbled around inside.

The scenario was incomplete. There had to be something missing, something that made Tanner abandon his position. Add this to the problems Dunne, a young, but competent agent, had been having for the past two weeks and, suddenly, Larabee was thinking someone was playing with them. But to what end?

And the boy? Would he try to kill himself? Wilmington had been adamant that Dunne would never do anything like that. Stepping back from the situation, Chris had to admit to himself that such an act was out of character for the young man. So what he was left with was a lot of questions and no answers.

The ringing of his cell phone stopped his musings. He pulled it out and answered curtly, "Larabee."

"Okay, Nathan, I'm on my way back up." He snapped the small instrument closed and headed to the entrance of the hospital.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his eyes and immediately closed them again, thinking that it shouldn't hurt that much to merely open the lids. He felt a hand on his shoulder and figured it was Chris. Josiah's baritone voice startled the sharpshooter as well as troubled him and he forced his eyes open just enough to make out the face of the profiler.

"Jos…" Tanner coughed a dry cough, his eyes closing as he did. He reopened his eyes to see a glass and straw being held in front of him and he gratefully took it. Turning to see Nathan standing there, Tanner nodded his thanks. Before he could speak, the door opened to admit Doctor Cope.

"Well, welcome back." The physician approached the bed, pulling a small flashlight out to check the reaction of his patient's pupils. The doctor listened to Tanner's heart and lungs; he checked his pulse and blood pressure.

Chris entered the room while the examination was going on and Cope couldn't help but notice the drop in Vin's heart rate at the arrival. The doctor smiled slightly, shaking his head. While he hated the fact that injuries were the reason he saw the seven, he marveled at the chance to watch the physical effect they had on each other. All seven were close, though some were closer than others, as evidenced by the lessening of anxiety the appearance of Larabee had caused in this young man.

His exam completed, Doctor Cope straightened and stepped back. "You have a headache?"

Vin nodded slowly as his eyes maintained contact with Larabee's. Chris nodded and Vin finally broke eye contact.

"Okay, I'm going to prescribe something for you. It won't knock you out," the doctor said as Tanner began to shake his head. "It’ll help with the pain."


"He'll take it." Chris stepped up to the foot of the bed.

Cope nodded and moved over to the bed where Ezra lay.

"How is he?" Nathan inquired.

"His vitals are good, strong. I hate that I had to drug him like that, but he should be coming around soon; I've cut back the sedative, already. He's about to the point where I feel comfortable letting him walk out, which he will attempt at the first opportunity.”

Turning from Standish’s bed to face the others, he mused, “I fail to understand why each of you feels that you are more capable of healing at home than here. " The doctor slipped his hands into his pockets as he confessed, "What I did isn't exactly ethical, but…" He shrugged.

Larabee smiled slightly at the man's admittance as Nathan chuckled in the background and confessed, "Well, I for one, don't plan to report ya. In fact, I think I may try that myself next time."

"You have my permission. And my best wishes," Cope said. He turned, moving toward the door, where he stopped and turned back. "And good luck. I don't imagine that it will take long for him to catch on; any of them." That said, he left the medic snorting as the other two smirked.


The blond turned at the sound. "Hey, cowboy. How you doing?"

"I feel like I got run over by a truck."

"Yeah? Well, you look like it, too."

"Is JD okay?"

Chris frowned at the question, but didn't answer as a nurse came in and added a syringe of pain medication to the IV hanging from the bed pole. After she left, Larabee moved from the bed to stand at the window, his back to the Texan.

"Chris? Is JD okay?"

"JD 'll be fine. Buck is with 'im." He turned to face the sharpshooter, hoping he wouldn't ask the question again, but Vin's response was not what Chris was expecting. He needed to know what Vin knew.

"Did she hurt 'im? I tried to warn 'im, but the radio wasn't working."

Holding up a hand, Chris approached the bed. "Whoa. She? She who? Who did you see? Where?"

Josiah and Nathan moved closer, listening.

"The woman… in the warehouse. She was in the back…hiding in the crates...watching JD. She had a gun…She shot Ezra," the young agent stated haltingly, his voice soft, but full of emotion. Vin looked from one man to the next. "I couldn't get a shot off. Every time I’d sight ‘er, she’d duck out of sight. She was dressed all in black and moving fast, weaving in and out. I thought I might be able to get to JD and, together, we could get her."

Tanner relaxed back into the pillow with a sigh as the short speech sapped his limited energy. Chris propped one hip onto the bed as he studied the younger man. “What did this woman look like, Vin?”

Tanner rubbed a hand across his face. “She’s tall, slim, but looked muscular from what I could tell; had short, black hair. I think. Could have been a tight cap or something, though.”

“You’ve never seen her before?”


Chris turned to the two men standing near the foot of the bed. “Either of you see anything in the warehouse?”

“No, nothing.” Jackson stated.

Sanchez shook his head. “Neither did I, Chris. Team Three swept the building and found no evidence of a third party.”

“Well, they either missed it or she is really good.” Larabee stood and moved around the room. The other three watched as he moved once again to the window, placing one palm against the cool glass. After a couple of minutes, the blond turned back to face the men.

“Nathan, Buck indicated that he heard something in the bedroom, right?”

Jackson frowned and nodded. “Yeah. He moved toward the hall and seemed to relax about the time he got to the bathroom. If I remember right, he nodded.”

“We need to go over to the apartment and check it out. Josiah, I need you to stay with Vin and Ezra. We don’t know what this woman wants, so let’s just be safe.”

Larabee and Jackson started to the door, but stopped as Tanner called out.

“Chris? What’s going on? What happened to JD?”

Larabee looked at Sanchez and Jackson before turning to Tanner, his face a hard mask of controlled fury. It was a look that promised someone was going to get hurt.

"Someone tried to kill him at the apartment. You rest. We'll be back, soon."

Larabee didn't wait for a reaction or a response. He turned and left the room with Jackson in tow.

Vin turned his eyes on Sanchez, the rage evident in the light blue eyes. His mouth was tight as he asked, "Tell me, Josiah." Tanner's jaw flexed as he waited.

The profiler dragged a chair closer to the bed and took a seat. He began to fill the sharpshooter in on the events since the attack that left him unconscious. By the time Josiah was through, Tanner's jaw was working overtime as he fought to control his anger at Larabee.

"How could Chris say that to JD? He knows him better than that."

Josiah nodded as he said, "He does, Vincent, but he wasn't thinking straight. Before you go and blame someone…just as Chris did…get all the facts."

Tanner's mouth pinched tight as his nostrils flared in a deep breath as he bunched the sheets in his fists. He closed his eyes and fought to regain control of his emotions before looking once again at the older man. But before he could say anything…

"Am I, once again, being maligned for the debacle that this case has apparently turned into?"

Two pair of blue eyes turned at the voice. Sanchez stood and approached the undercover agent's bed.

"Well, good morning, brother. We weren't excepting you to wake for a couple more hours." Josiah smiled down on the undercover agent. "And, no, we were not 'maligning' your person."

"Well, if that is not the situation, exactly who is Mr. Tanner preparing to blame for what? And who did Mr. Larabee lay blame on, before acquiring all the facts?"

"Damn, Ez. For a man who ain't even opened his eyes, you sure got a handle on the conversation." Vin drawled.

The green eyes peeked open as the undercover agent turned his head. "I find it advantageous to remain silent until such time as I feel confident that I am fully aware of my surroundings."

Tanner stared at the man, a look of annoyance on his face. Standish returned the stare, a distinct smirk in his features.

Sanchez stood, watching the exchange with amusement as the two men continued to glare at each other. He finally chuckled, drawing the attention of both men. Josiah decided to ignore the twin glares and recounted the same story he had just told Tanner.

"Good Lord. Surely Mr. Larabee does not entertain the notion that the young man is capable of such a devious act? Even had he been the one that caused my injury, never, in the wildest imagining, could he be malicious enough to attack Mr. Tanner in order to conceal that mishap."

"Well, Chris did jump the gun a bit," Josiah conceded, "but you have to understand; he had two men down and that always makes him a little aggressive and short-tempered."

"It makes him mean." Tanner observed as he turned his head back and closed his eyes.

The blunt statement brought smiles to the faces of the other men. Standish glanced around the room and asked,

"Where is our condemnatory leader?"

"He and Nathan have gone to Buck's apartment to find evidence that JD was attacked."

"Let us pray his mission is successful." Standish stated.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee fingered the metal tool in his hand. He had a key to each of the team’s dwellings, finding it easier than trying to locate keys in case of an emergency. He hesitated momentarily at the door and then used the implement. He and Nathan entered the apartment and headed to JD's room.

Both men paused at the bathroom. Chris looked into the room and, where earlier he had seen only horror, he now saw a crime scene and his investigative training took control, locking his emotions deep inside.

“Nathan, take the bathroom. Look for the weapon; anything out of place or that doesn’t belong. I’ll be in JD’s room.”

The tall medic nodded and entered the small space as the blond resumed walking. He pushed the ajar door wide open and flicked on the light, scanning the room, noting the disarray that usually defined the area was evident. Clothes lay piled up in a corner; shoes, tossed in the general direction of the closet, populated the floor. A snowboard, a skateboard, inline skates, a hockey stick, all these things cluttered the hardwood floor. Chris slowly moved across the room, studying everything as he picked his way through the disaster area. Everything looked…well, normal. At least, normal for the young agent’s room.

Chris stood in the center of the room, slowly rotating, scanning the area without moving his eyes, only his body. His eyes caught a flash of red and he moved forward, to the window. Leaning forward, he examined the stain. ‘Blood’.


“Yeah, Chris? You find something?” Jackson joined the team leader in the small bedroom.

“Looks like a fingerprint. What do you think?”

Nathan moved closer and examined the window frame. “Yeah, you’re right.” He looked around the window and then out onto the ledge. “Chris. Looks like another one on the outside.”

Chris followed Jackson’s line of sight and nodded. “I think you’re right. It’s light, but it’s there. If someone heard us when we came in…”

“Be hard to miss with Buck yelling.”

Larabee nodded at the remark, then continued, “If they heard us, they might have slipped out the bathroom and in here without us seeing and then gone out the window onto the fire escape.”

“Makes sense,” Nathan agreed. “Something else, Chris. There’s nothing in that bathroom that could be used to cut JD’s wrists. Whoever it was, took it with them”

Chris smiled at the information, knowing it was more proof that it was an attempted murder. Larabee reached into his pocket and extracted his cell phone. Flipping it open, he punched in a number and waited.

“It’s Larabee. I need an forensics team at Wilmington’s apartment.” He paused and listened for a moment. "Yes, sir."

Larabee moved out of the bedroom and back to the living room as he listened.

"Orin, this was an attempted murder. Tanner woke up and indicated that there was a woman in the warehouse. She's the one that shot Standish.” Chris paused. “Yeah, Vin saw her do it. That warehouse needs to be gone over again. Team Three may have missed something." He paused again, listening. Larabee's face tensed in anger and he clenched the small phone tighter.

"No! I'm not saying that they're incompetent. I'm saying that there was no reason to look for evidence of someone hiding. We're being led around by the nose. All the crap that has been happening with Dunne the past two weeks, the attack on Tanner and Standish, and Dunne, for that matter, none of it makes sense. Now this scheme to make it look like a suicide attempt by Dunne? Someone is doing this and I plan to find out who. And why. I took the bait and practically accused JD of assaulting Vin with that two by four after shooting Ezra."

Chris stopped, rubbing a hand across his face as he realized that was exactly what he had done. He had looked at the facts and ignored the gut feeling that told him JD did not do anything wrong. Taking a deep breath, he turned his attention back to the phone in his hand as he ran a hand through his hair. "I should have stood behind the kid."

He turned around, surveying the room. Memories of the good times he had had in the room lurked in every corner. Afternoons and evenings of watching football and auto races; arguments, in jest and in earnest; hours of male bonding and brotherly teasing.

"Judge?” Chris’ voice softened with emotion. “I need you to pull some strings and get JD moved out of the psych ward."

Nathan's gesturing caught the team leader's eye and he nodded as the medic indicated he was going downstairs.

"I know, Judge. He's supposed to stay until someone evaluates him, but he didn't try to kill himself. Please,” his pleaded, his voice choked with emotion. “This was an attempted murder. I don't want him waking up in restraints. Please, Orin."

The Judge's voice was a soft murmur coming through the instrument. Larabee smiled slightly at the words spoken. "Thanks, Judge. I owe you one. I'll call you later."

As Larabee hung up, the sound of the door opening drew his attention. Nathan Jackson entered, followed by the forensics technicians.

"Greg, Sam. Good to see ya, boys."

Chris shook the offered hands.

"So, what do we have, Chris?"

"An attempted homicide made to look like a suicide attempt. There are traces of blood on the windowsill in the bedroom on this floor. I want to know who's and anything else you can find."

"Consider it done." The two men started toward JD's room with Sam stopping at the door of the bathroom. He turned back to the two members of Team Seven. "This is Dunne and Wilmington's place?"

Chris nodded.

"Damn," he stated as he stared into the small room. Tearing his gaze away, he looked at Nathan and Chris. "Tell Buck we send our best to the kid."

Larabee's mouth tightened as he once again nodded. As the man entered the bedroom and disappeared, Chris turned to Nathan.

"Let's get back. I need to talk to Buck."