Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em damnit!
Thanks to Phyllis for Brothers Larabee / AU2
Ratings/Warnings: None well, some implied nudity, but is that a bad thing?
Summary: An assault on the Double L puts Vin and JD in a precarious position
In the Larabee household, it was soon to be Nathan's birthday. Planning a heavy weekend of cookout and celebration, the seven brothers tripled their efforts during the week leading up to the event in order to clear the board of all but daily chores. By Thursday's bedtime, all seven were feeling more than a little weary.
Around midnight at the Double L, the darkened ranch house resounded to the sounds of soft snores. The piercing warble of the security alarm caused JD to sit upright in his bed. Still trembling from the bolt from the blue that woke him from a deep sleep, he fell back into his pillow, groaning. "Aww Lord, not again."
Their new alarm system was a crock. It had gone off four times that week, and was the leading culprit as to why the family was more tired than usual. Deciding he might as well pee now he was awake, JD ignored the pounding of disgruntled feet past his door as his brothers went to shut off the noise, and shuffled sleepily into his and Buck's shared bathroom.
He had just completed his need when a naked Texan suddenly entered the room and caused JD to gawp. Vin slapped a hand across JD's open mouth and 'shushed' him before he could speak. "We got company armed company."
JD's eyes widened then grew even larger when the sleepiness evaporated and he got his first good look at his brother. He tugged away the hand covering his mouth. "You got no clothes on!"
Vin pointed to a ceiling panel to the loft and cupped his hands as a step. "Fuck the clothes up there JD, now!"
In his tee and PJ bottoms, JD placed his right foot into the interlocked fingers and with a push off and a lift from Vin, did as he was told. Leaning back through the hatch, he grabbed Vin's outstretched hand to help him clamber up. They just got the panel closed before a man's voice from below yelled out that the room was clear.
JD released a breath. "Now what?"
The pair stared across and around the loft space. The roof extensions for three bedrooms meant that instead of one vast attic, there were now several smaller ones, each with their own access panel; so getting around the house that way was impossible. Vin huffed softly as he pondered their predicament.
"We'd best hold still for now. I need to get back to my room and get my other gun," he whispered.
Still looking around, JD frowned and answered in similarly hushed tones. "Other gun? Where the hell did you hide the first gun? Wait! I'm not sure I wanna know."
Allowing himself a small grin, Vin tore away some tape from the small of his back that was holding a Beretta Bobcat 21a. "I always go to bed prepared. When bounty huntin', I never knew when I might need to tape a gun to my skin and hi-tail it out." He handed the gun to JD. "I know you only have rudimentary gun skills right now, but that's all you'll need with this little fella." Vin noticed JD reach for the gun, while attempting not to stare at him. He slapped the gun down hard into the boy's hand.
"Can't you look at me?" The small swallow rippling the younger man's throat gave Tanner his answer. "Jesus, JD, anyone'd think you ain't ever seen a naked man in the flesh before." The Texan's jaw dropped. "Aww shoot, you never have, have you?"
In the dim light leaking through the edges of the hatch panel from the bathroom below, JD hoped Vin couldn't see his flushed cheeks. "I...I saw the back of Buck once when he was going out of the bathroom as I was coming in." He finally turned to Vin. "I'm...I...it's just not something I've done a whole lot of. I lived with my mom for Christ's sake."
JD just shrugged, shyly.
Deciding this was neither the time nor place for this discussion, Vin dismissed it. "Wait here, I'm gonna go back and get my S&W." He noted the alarm on JD's face and winked. "I'll be right back I swear." Easing open the panel, Vin stuck his head down inside the bathroom, and listened for a long several seconds. Satisfied the coast was clear, he dropped soundlessly down and padded out toward his bedroom.
Five sleep-attired brothers were no longer drowsy as they glowered at the three men with guns and wearing ski masks. Grateful he thought to throw on a robe, Chris flashed a `hold fast' glance to his brothers and addressed the man who appeared to be in charge.
"What's this about?"
"Money. You got it, we want it."
Ezra huffed out a laugh. "If you came here with designs on robbing a safe, then you are about to be sorely disappointed."
Morgan Dennison was a man of meticulous planning, and was not about to be duped. "Don't lie to me. I know for a fact you pay your regular ranch hands by check and your seasonals in cash, with a bonus at end of season for each man that signs on to come back in the spring." He pointed to Buck as he continued to address Ezra.
"Him, you, and some long-haired fella I don't see here right now, made a substantial withdrawal at the bank in town this morning, and as pay day's not until tomorrow " he waved his gun around. " You see where I'm going with this, right?" He swallowed, uncomfortably at the feral grin from the man who had asked the opening question.
"Correct, except you overlooked one small change of plan. Due to a private event this weekend, we paid off our workers a day early. They're gone, and so is the money. You lose." Chris felt a surge of satisfaction at the anxious glances from Dennison's cohorts.
"Ask anyone who knows me I never lie."
"Then we'll take what you got."
"Gonna be mighty disappointed," Buck grinned. "Did you miss the point about us having a big event this weekend? Cupboard's bare, pal unless you wanna take your ill-gotten gains in food and liquor." He tried to steady the swell of concern as one gunman turned to study the family portrait on the wall above the still-glowing hearth.
The man pointed. "Hey, isn't that the guy we saw at the bank earlier?"
Dennison looked, and nodded slowly. "Yeah." He turned his head toward the others. "So, he's a brother?" Morgan smiled, and then pointed at JD's image. "And there's another kid here, too interesting." He enjoyed the tiny shuffle of feet from several of the captives and addressed one of his men. "Get back upstairs and search again."
"They're not here," Josiah offered. He never lied either, but so that Chris wouldn't compromise himself, he figured this was one occasion where he felt it justified. "They're away overnight picking up something we need for the weekend."
"Well, let's just see about that, shall we?" Dennison nodded and one man moved toward, and up the staircase.
Inside his bedroom, Vin had just managed to neaten his bed before grabbing his gun, a rifle from the lock box under his bed, and a small flashlight; when noise on the stairs alerted him. He looked longingly at the jeans draped over a chair in one corner, before slipping into his bathroom to escape detection. It wasn't an ideal situation, fighting without clothes, but he could think of worse things like seeing his family hurt. Vin struggled to get up into the loft hatch unaided, but the panel was just sliding back into place when the goon looked inside the room.
Accepting it would be wise to stay put for a while, Vin cursed that he'd been unable to grab his cell phone too, unaware they had all been confiscated in the first sweep. The sound of tires rolling up the gravel path had him curious and he strained to listen. Vin smiled at the realization it was the cops. They probably came to check on the alarm sounding. He used the distraction to get back to JD.
Gun raised, Morgan stepped behind the front door and looked at Chris. "You know what to do. Fuck this up and we'll shoot everyone in this room, and any cop who steps over that threshold. Understood?"
Chris nodded and answered the knock at the door. "'Evening Officer."
"Mr. Larabee. Are we to assume your alarm has malfunctioned again, sir?"
The blond nodded. "Yeah, I'm real sorry about this. I've disconnected it, and will be ripping it out tomorrow. Can I offer you boys a coffee?"
The officer touched his hat. "Much obliged, sir, but we'd best be getting back. Goodnight."
No sooner had the door closed when Chris was floored by a brutal punch to the jaw. Dennison glowered down at him. "What the fuck were you playing at? Coffee?"
Grateful for the hand up from Nathan and Buck, Chris wiggled his bruised jaw and spoke. "If I hadn't, that would have been out of character."
"And if they'd accepted?"
"I would have directed them around back, nearest the kitchen." Larabee's eyes narrowed. "I would never do anything to compromise my family's safety."
"Keep thinking like that, and we'll get along fine." Morgan looked toward the man returning from upstairs. "Anything?"
Kennedy approached. "Six rooms slept in. I re-checked them all. The toilet in one bathroom wasn't flushed like, maybe someone was in a hurry?"
Morgan's head snapped round to the group of brothers. "Who else is here?"
"No one," Buck reiterated. "Our kid brother's a slob. We're on his case about his room all the time. We share a bathroom, and I was using it when the alarm went off. I guess, with all the commotion, I forgot to flush." Unconvinced, Dennison gestured for the men to sit down.
"Now what?" Josiah asked.
The man paused for a moment, and then gestured to Chris. "Now you open the safe."
"What?" Morgan growled.
"The safe's wired to the alarm. If the alarm is tripped, it locks down the safe until I reset it."
"So reset it."
Chris pointed to the small box on the wall with wires hanging from it. "I reckon you've killed it. I'm gonna have to get an engineer out here."
"Why would we risk such a thing?" Ezra countered. "You have us under threat, at gunpoint. You witnessed the local constabulary responding to the alarm. This is a sophisticated piece of equipment, we researched it thoroughly and it met our needs precisely."
Morgan approached. "Alright then smartass, call the engineers."
"Might I remind you, it's the middle of the night "
"And for that kind of technology they'd be a 24/7 company. Call them or I start shooting kneecaps."
Chris stood. "I'll do it." The third gunman, Fletcher, accompanied him to the study. Five minutes later, the pair returned and the gunman nodded.
"They'll be here at 8am."
Dennison gestured for Chris to sit with his brothers. Taking up a dining chair, he did likewise. "Okay, then, seeing as you say you dismissed your workers early for the weekend, and there's nothing more can disturb us we wait."
JD shivered. God, it was drafty up here. And dark really dark. He glanced around, wondering what might be sharing this space with him right now, and shuddered at the thought. 'Hurry up, Vin'. He calculated where they might be in regards to the rooms below. Above the landing, just before the stairs, he was sure of it. He, Buck and Vin shared this floor, while Nathan, Ezra, and Josiah the top tier. His room was the smallest, but JD didn't mind. It was less to keep clean, and the fact that it used to be Adam's made it kinda special. JD sighed. Lord, what he wouldn't give to be in there and sound asleep in bed right now.
He held his breath when a loft hatch opened up behind him. Releasing the shaky breath he smiled. "Vin, thank God. You okay ? Shit, still naked?"
Vin grinned. "Long story. You ready to go commando 'Double L' style?"
"I reckon you're already there. Bro'."
"Funny, Kid okay, here's the plan." Vin paused. "This is risky."
JD nodded. "Okay, what do we do?"
"One of us has to get caught."
The two brothers' gazes locked. JD nodded again. "Okay, I guess that's me."
Vin swallowed, nervously. "It would make sense, but I can't ask you to do that, Kid. Things could get real ugly, real fast. They have guns they could beat on you when they grab you. I can't knowingly let that happen."
JD smiled, lopsidedly. "We don't have a choice. We need a distraction, and you're the marksman in the family. What do you want me to do?" He noted the Beretta Vin held up.
"I'm gonna tape this to your back. When I make my move, hopefully we'll both be armed." He raised a hand to squeeze his kid brother's neck. "You still up for this?"
"Hell yeah. Chris and the guys must be about ready to rip those bastards' heads off by now. Let's give 'em a hand."
With their accompanying goon in immediate proximity, Buck nodded his thanks to Nathan as he and Josiah handed him and the others mugs of coffee. He snuck a glance at Chris, but the blond's head was lowered, his lips pursed in thought. Buck reckoned the man must be going crazy, wondering if Vin and JD were doing okay he sure was, and no doubt the others were, too. He also figured Chris was plotting, and likely waiting on a sign, probably from Vin, as to when to make a move.
Buck's stomach did a flip on thinking about JD. The kid was eager, and a quick study, but was a total novice in the potential evil of the real world. He, Vin, and Chris had only recently begun teaching JD how to use a gun. Vin was also teaching him self-defense, but other than that, the kid was vulnerable against the likes of these men holding them, and way too gung ho to be afraid to challenge them. He prayed Vin would wise up and get him and JD the hell out of there and go for help. They didn't need heroics sometimes, heroes didn't survive, and for the Larabee brothers, that was simply not an option.
Sensing eyes on him Buck glanced up to see Josiah looking his way. The big man smiled, and Buck assumed the ex-preacher was likely saying a prayer right now too. Good. With the cops happy with Chris's response and long gone, and all the ranch hands on a long weekend sabbatical, they needed all the help they could get.
Josiah muttered a soft 'amen' and glanced around at his brothers, landing on Buck. The brunet and Chris were more alike than they realized. Both men were like coiled springs, and part of his prayer was for them to stay calm. Another part was for the status quo to remain. These intruders were armed, but so far had not been physically violent. The final part of his prayer was for JD and Vin to remain safe. Josiah feared provoking these men might be the catalyst that would change their fate, and the thought of losing one of his family was too unbearable to contemplate.
Nathan needed a break. He had been pushing himself professionally for so long, and was desperate to step back and simply reconnect with his family and life in general. However, tonight if things went awry, his life, and the lives of his brothers might be forcibly changed forever. He mentally calculated what supplies he had available should these weapons go off, and how long it might take for the paramedics to reach them. Nathan decided it wasn't good, on all counts, and determined to do anything necessary to stop his headstrong family from placing themselves in the paths of bullets.
Ezra was furious. He had nothing in his repertoire to appease this situation. He considered offering his own money in exchange for their freedom, and that was still an option, but only now realized how he feared an offer like that may affect his standing with his brothers. Would they think him shallow, egoistic, possibly cowardly, for pursuing such an option? Why all of a sudden did he even care what they might assume? He glanced around and smiled, inwardly. He cared, because he loved them. He might never verbally articulate the endearment, but it was nonetheless true. And now he was back to square one, and concluding it was definitely preferable to risk their disdain, than see them hurt in any way.
Chris was terrified. The fury had passed, and now he was left fearing the one thing he dreaded more than anything. Being unable to protect those he loved. Failure once was unforgivable, but the love of his father and brothers had dragged him from the abyss of wishing for his own blissful demise. They had taught him to love, laugh, and feel again, but even without that precious support, he would die for any one of them kill for any one of them. Yet here he was, trapped in just a bathrobe while being held at gunpoint with his family, and missing his two youngest siblings. If it wasn't for the constant reassuring glances from his brothers, Chris was sure he would have gone loco by now, and likely be dead, or nursing a hole in some part of his body.
Or worse, clinging to the life of one of the others for his recklessness. That's why, despite the burning anger in his gut, and the anvil pounding in his head urging him to get up and act, Chris waited for a sign. He had to believe it would come and soon, because there sure as hell were no technicians on their way.
Sergeant Cam Bristow of Four Corners police department stared at the phone on his desk. He knew Chris Larabee well, had gone to school with him and Buck, and was leaving college just as Nathan enrolled. Bristow knew Chris was an enigma in many ways, but not as a talker. The man was straight as an arrow over his affairs, and no one was ever left in doubt as to how the blond felt about a situation.
Yet Chris had just called and spoken pure gibberish. Why would he ask him for technical support for the ranch's alarm system? Checking the logs, he discovered a squad car recently called into the property after an alarm had registered. However, the report was a malfunction. Contacting dispatch, Cam decided to play a hunch and request a unit drive by and keep an eye on the place.
As they perched on the ranch house roof, JD shivered, and couldn't begin to imagine how Vin was feeling without any clothes on. With his rifle hanging by a strap across his back and an S&W in hand, the latter checked the tape holding the Beretta in place at the small of JD's back and covered by a thin T-shirt.
"They're gonna see this."
JD smiled through the chattering of his teeth. "If I make it to the bike, I got jeans and a sweater in the saddlebags. That should hide it pretty well."
JD went shy. "No. Dumb, huh?"
Vin winked. "Not so much. I haven't even got a change of clothes in mine." He squeezed JD's arm. "You ready?"
The youth nodded. "Sure."
"No heroics. If they start in on you, you tell 'em everythin', got it?" Vin bit back a smile when JD stared defiantly at him. They had already debated the fact JD would never give him up but Vin needed to have one more crack at it. He ruffled JD's hair. "Go and be careful."
JD started to move across the roof to the back of the house, and the emergency stairs. He looked back at his naked brother. "You too. Don't get caught " he flashed a grin. " Bits that dangle get trapped up in things and you ain't had kids yet." He disappeared over the roof's edge to the sound of soft cussing.
Vin stared up at the sky. It would be getting light soon. Thank God Nettie was given the day off, or that would be something else to worry about. JD needed to get across the yard to make their plan look authentic. He should just make it. Squatting there, exposed, Vin inhaled the bracing air. His tanned skin rippled with goosebumps, but he wasn't cold. He had slept naked most of his life, disliking the restriction of garments on his skin while he slumbered. Earlier, on hearing the others going to switch off the alarm, Vin had merely walked to his bedroom door to ensure they had it covered. But his natural wariness had paid off.
On hearing unfamiliar, angry voices greet his brothers; Vin had barely enough time to grab the small handgun he kept in his bedside table for emergencies, and check no one else was upstairs, let alone worry about getting pants on. He figured that when this was over, the guys would dine out on this for a long time to come. Vin grinned. Just having them alive to do so, would be compensation enough. Hearing the distant familiar creak of the garage side door, Vin nodded to himself and stood in all his glory to look out across the property. Not long now. He just hoped they could all get through this unscathed.
Heart pounding, JD padded barefoot across the grass to the garage. Slipping inside, he went to his bike, opened up a saddlebag and took out a pair of jeans and a Red Sox sweatshirt. Grateful for the extra warmth, and checking the gun wasn't bulging through the material, he flipped up the kickstand. He cursed and hopped a bit when it took skin off his bare ankle. Picking up a metal pail, he then wheeled the bike out into the yard. JD was surprised at how easy it had been so far, and almost felt sorry he needed to give the game away, but the moment passed when he remembered his brothers' safety was what this was all about. Him riding out might bring help but, more importantly, could have dire consequences, and was why Vin and he had agreed to this strategy. Straightening, JD looked back at the house, threw the pail against the garage wall with a resounding clatter, and then, pushing his bike, ran like hell toward the drive.
Tanner moved cat-like over the roof toward the front of the house. He peered across the lightening yard and smiled at the clang, followed by a small figure, barely a smudge of color in the gloom, pushing something and belting toward the drive. As expected, the front door opened and raised voices shone flashlights across the grass.
"There!" One man went haring after JD, calling out a warning as he did so.
Vin inhaled sharply and his buttocks clenched with tension. "Come on, Kid they got guns, stop now."
Hoping he had bought him and Vin enough time, JD went to slow down but a gunshot sent something fast and hot whizzing past his ear. "Shit!" Tossing his bike, JD crouched, raised both hands in front of him and turned toward his attacker. "Don't shoot!" When JD squatted, Vin almost crapped himself for fear his brother had been hit. He exhaled noisily in relief when he saw JD straighten, before the man approaching snatched at the kid, punched him, and manhandled him toward the house.
Tanner checked his watch. In five minutes, JD would be ready to act if he was still fit enough. Guilt overwhelmed the ex- bountyhunter. Had he placed too much on JD's head? He was like no other youth Vin had met; so naïve, trusting, and he grinned yep lovable. Sure he had true grit, but grit could get you killed.
Vin shook off the negative thoughts. Time to act. Just about to get into position, the naked Texan's lithe form straightened as he stared toward the distant highway. His sharp eye spotted a squad car, but the unit seemed hesitant to turn into the drive. Taking the strap of the rifle hanging over his shoulder, Vin raised the scope to his eye and pointed.
Factoring in distance, wind speed, and trajectory, he knew it would be a difficult shot, but it would certainly raise the alarm. He lowered the rifle. On the other hand, if he missed, and the bullet sailed aimlessly past the squad car, the crack of the gun would alert the gunmen to someone else on the property. Taking aim, Vin held his breath as he debated what to do.
The tiniest of movements from Chris alerted the others that something was up. The blond's momentary glance upwards suggested Vin and JD were on the move. All five men prayed their 'move' would be to get off the property. Less than a minute later, a metallic clatter and the consequent reaction from the gunmen had all five anxious brothers on their feet. Before either of them could beg for calm, a gunshot sounded and five horrified pairs of eyes went wide.
Chris and Josiah grabbed a furious and advancing Buck. Dennison and Kennedy cocked their guns and warned them against moving. Larabee's feral features matched Buck's.
"If any one of my family have been hurt, you'd best pray your insurance policies are up to date."
"Jesus man take it easy." Still seeing stars from the punch to his face, JD's feet barely touched the ground as he was dragged across the yard by Fletcher. The man wasn't overly large, but he was surprisingly strong, although, JD remembered, it wasn't as if he was meant to try and escape. Still, he needed to make it look good, and prevent them having time to check for anyone else, so he dug in his heels.
"Get off me, you freak!" The second blow was fueled by a gun butt and split JD's brow. Still reeling, he vaguely remembered being tossed in through the door before fresh hands pulled him upright.
"What have we here?" Morgan asked of no one in particular.
Staying in character, and painfully aware of his brothers' concern, JD shrugged off the fist holding his sweatshirt and glared at the new face. "Who the hell do you think you are coming here and holding my family at gunpoint?"
"Where did you come from?"
Glancing at his brothers, JD straightened defiantly. "I got out the back way." Kendall disappeared to check. This was it, if their plan was working, the roof would be ignored. The man returned, satisfied there was no one else inside, or out back of the property, and unaware of the silent 'whoop' inside JD's heart and head.
"Why couldn't you have just stayed put?" Buck snapped, more in relief that JD wasn't seriously injured, than in anger, and in a vain hope of distracting their captors.
"I wasn't about to hide while these yahoos held you guys at gunpoint. Geeze, Buck can't you ever give me a break?"
"A break?" Buck turned to the others, exasperated. "A break, he says." Still in Chris's grip, the brunet leaned toward JD. "You ask for a break? I'll give you a break when you quit doing stupid things, boy!"
"What you gonna do, Buck? Beat on me? Like hell you will."
"Well, maybe I'll just pack you back off to Boston, you cocky little shit!"
"You won't need to, Jackass, I'll go willingly!"
"Sweet as this is SHUT UP!" Morgan snatched at JD's arm and propelled him toward Josiah and Nathan. "Fuck me; I'll be glad to get out of this madhouse."
Blinking away the blood dripping into his eye, JD made a face at Buck before turning away and glancing at the clock on the mantelshelf. "Me too."
Tanner checked his watch. Time was almost up. The squad car was making a U-turn in the road to return to the stationhouse. It was now or never. He took a calming breath, raised the scope to his eye, released the intake of air, and as he did so, squeezed the trigger. One second after the shot was fired; he was clambering down onto the porch roof.
Officers Plant and Rees instinctively ducked at the pop and tinkle of glass behind them. Rees turned and gawped at the hole in the back side window. "Someone's shooting at us."
Plant spun the car back toward the ranch. "Call it in. The Sarge was right, something is going on over at Larabee's place. Tell him we're en route, negative on lights and sirens."
"What the fuck was that?" Dennison pushed his face against the window, but could see nothing outside. He looked at his men. "That was a gunshot, right?"
"Sounded more like a backfire on the highway," Chris deadpanned, not missing JD's change of position to stand in the center of the room, and opposite the door.
Everyone jolted as the front door burst open to reveal a naked Texan wielding one rifle and one Smith & Wesson SD9 handgun. In unison, JD reached around his back and pulled out the Beretta Bobcat. Vin fired twice with his S&W, successfully disarming Fletcher and Kennedy, despite them being on opposite sides of the room. Jolting at the thunderous noise of the gunshots, JD held bead on Dennison, while secretly praying the guy didn't fire.
As he attempted to run to the back of the house via Ezra, the brothers pounced on Kennedy just as Fletcher stood and reached across the polished floor for his gun with his uninjured hand. Vin fired a mere inch in front of him, halting the attempt, but that momentary distraction of all seven brothers gave Dennison the opportunity to take quick steps forward and place his gun against JD's head.
"Okay there, jungle boy you eager to see your brother's brains spattered all over these nice wood walls, or are you gonna play nice?" He turned to JD. "Lower your gun, boy."
Just as a wide-eyed easterner was considering his options, Vin's feral rasp caught everyone's attention. "I'll clear the wax from both your ears with hot lead before you got chance to squeeze the trigger."
Not taking his eye off JD, Morgan shrugged. "I'm willing to test that theory." He hissed at JD. "I told you to lower that piece, boy."
Hand shaking, JD complied. Vin ignored the vibrations rolling off his brothers and focused entirely on shooting the guy wearing the ski mask before he could fire. A gunshot pierced the silence, jolting the six Larabee brothers. Dennison screamed out and stared down at his bleeding foot, before howling out again and dropping to the floor when Vin's gunshot took him in the shoulder. Chris stepped forward to wrench Morgan's gun from deadened fingers, while Buck gently reached over, curled his hand around JD's and spoke softly.
"Give me the gun, Kid."
Finally realizing Buck was next to him; JD looked to Vin, then Buck before relinquishing his hold on the weapon. "He told me to lower the gun. He never said I couldn't fire it."
Buck grinned, drew JD in close, and then looked at Vin. "You can quit pointing your weapon too now, Tanner," Buck stated, dryly.
Vin stared at both his lowered guns. "Huh?" Suddenly catching on, he stared down at his exposed appendage then back at his family. "Oh, har, har, Bucklin."
Before anyone could decide whether or not to laugh, police officers pushed through the open door, and ordered everyone to the floor. Still giddy from being shoved to the floor, and the events unfolding, Ezra looked up at the armed officer standing over him.
"Would this be in reference to Mister Tanner's lack of attire?"
Police officers stared in astonishment as seven prostrate men started laughing. The chuckles gathered momentum when, situated directly behind Vin, Nathan asked him to quit winking at him, and Vin protested at being the 'butt' of their jokes, sending them all beyond hysteria. The arrival of Sergeant Bristow, SWAT, and the FBI settled things once Cam identified fugitives from victims, and the brothers were led into the kitchen for coffee, treatment, blankets, and statements.
It was late morning before the crime scene was relinquished back to the seven brothers. Buck stepped out onto the deck and found JD wrapped in a blanket and sitting on a bench. He eased himself next to the youth and lightly fingered the white strips holding closed the cut on JD's brow. "You never take your eye off the guy with the gun `til someone takes control or you fire first."
JD flashed a sideways glance and grin, and nodded. "Got it."
Buck leaned against his brother, pleased when JD leaned right back. "I'm so proud of you and Vin."
JD smiled. "Jesus, I'm just real glad I don't sleep naked." They both laughed.
"One thing for Vin, it didn't take long for the cops to frisk him." JD snorted at Buck's comment and the two brothers' chuckles built and they laughed until they cried.
JD wiped his eyes. He spoke after a long pause. "I was scared."
"Nothing wrong with that," Buck assured. "I was, too."
"So was I, Kid."
They turned to see Vin, now fully clothed and carrying coffees for them.
"No way," JD disputed.
Winking, Buck rose and gestured for Vin to sit while he returned indoors.
"Yeah, way," Vin assured. He smiled. "Being buck naked didn't help, either. Got splinters in places a man should never have 'em," he admitted.
"Splinters?" JD asked.
Vin nudged JD's elbow. "We made a good team."
JD's eyes glittered. "We did, didn't we?"
"Good shot to the foot," Vin complimented.
"I was aiming for his thigh," JD grinned. "Good shot to his shoulder."
"Was aimin' for his prick." Vin laughed aloud at JD's howl at that remark. The pair sipped their coffees.
JD sighed. "Not nice, is it? Shooting a man."
"No Kid, it's not, and it rarely goes as well as on TV. Try not to dwell on it. You had no choice, and they threatened us first. Okay?"
"Sure." JD just hoped he could sleep tonight. He decided to change the subject. "You know you're gonna get ribbed about being naked for months, don't you?" JD more stated than asked.
"Yeah, reckon so." The pair smiled as the other five brothers joined them. "But we nude that would happen."
JD laughed, the others groaned, good-naturedly. "Barely a comment was made earlier, though."
"I'd skin 'em alive if they dared."
"Enough!" Chris called, unable to hold his own chuckles. "You guys ready for lunch?"
Vin nodded. "I could eat. What we got?"
"Not sure," Josiah replied. "But I understand the salad remains undressed."
More groans, before the mood turned somber. "We need a new alarm," JD said, softly.
"Maybe not. The cops reckon the other nights were dry runs," Buck informed.
"Tests?" JD queried.
Chris nodded. "It's not uncommon to test for responses. How fast we react, whether cops come and how long they take if we're armed when we check it out."
"And if an alarm is persistently malfunctioning, it makes everyone complacent," Nathan added.
JD agreed. He hadn't even bothered to go check, assuming someone else would.
"Indeed," Ezra stated. "Our system was not truly at fault, but I was wondering, as I'm in the business of security, may I offer my associates' expertise in the field, to garner advice as to the purchase of a reliably suitable, and more advanced system?"
Chris nodded. "Uh, yeah, okay, that would be great, thanks, Ezra." He turned to smile at JD and Vin. "I couldn't be more proud of you both. You scared the shit out of me, but you did good." He turned to Buck. "Great diversion too, you and JD squabbling like that."
Buck winked at JD. "Who said we were faking it?"
All seven brothers were now standing and moving toward the door. Chris glanced back. "Come on, Vin don't be bringing up the rear."
"Not you too, Cowboy," Vin groaned.
Draping an arm around both his youngest brothers' shoulders, Larabee nodded. "I'm surprised you weren't expecting it, boys. When have you ever known me to leave you hanging?"
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