Lessons Taught

by Brate


Notes: A short set early in the AU.

How the hell did I end up here? thought Chris Larabee as he watched his men train. Not one of them were following the instructions he'd set for the paintball exercise to keep them razor-sharp. The backyard of the ranch had turned into a paint-covered war zone.
JD had opted to shoot at Buck, supposedly on his team, which Wilmington chose to be an act of war. Vin was up in a tree, shooting at anyone and everyone, regardless of their team affiliation. Ezra had managed to disappear, not wanting to participate in the "meaningless exercise guaranteed to make me crawl through the mud" in the first place. Chris finally spotted him on the sidelines, placing bets on who would be the last man standing. Nathan and Josiah started out following the rules, but somewhere along the way they'd decided they'd be better served to hole up and defend themselves.
Larabee shook his head in frustration. He wondered if Travis would be so confident in the Special Response Team if he could see them now. He turned away and headed back to the house. He'd leave them to their game for now and make them train even harder later.
Vin sat up in the tree, out of range of his comrades. He watched Larabee stalk away and barely resisted the impulse to shoot him in the back, deciding to live to see another day. Then he eyed Ezra with interest when he saw the ex-CIA operative walk out into the fray waving his handkerchief as a "white flag of truce." Figuring the competition was over, Tanner leaned back against the tree's trunk and closed his eyes.
Ezra waved his white flag as he stepped onto the "playing field." Dunne lowered his rifle and awaited his approach. When Standish was near enough, he shot JD in the chest.
"Hey," the youth protested, "you surrendered!"
"Don't believe everything you see, kid." Buck laughed heartily.
"Indeed, Mr. Wilmington," agreed Ezra as he turned and shot the ladies' man at point-blank range.
Buck stopped laughing and muttered his own protest while wiping off his uniform.
"That was your first lesson, Mr. Dunne."
"How so?"
"Not everyone has the same code of ethics as you. You'd do well to remember that."
Nathan peered through the binoculars as his partner filled the small balloons. "He's up there sleeping," he reported gleefully. During the fight, Josiah and Nathan had felt that Vin was taking unfair advantage of his position and needed to be taught a lesson in humility. "Hurry."
"Patience, brother," Sanchez calmly replied. "Good things come to he who waits." He tied the final balloon with a snap. "Let's go."
Josiah and Nathan circled around and motioned to the others. The pilot passed out a few balloons to the three.
Buck hefted one in his hands, bouncing it lightly, and gauging the consistency. "What's in it?" he asked.
"Karo syrup, water, and food coloring."
Ezra gave a malevolent smile and the light flashed off his tooth. "I believe our young sniper needs a lesson as well. This one in sleeping on the job."
The five men cautiously encircled the tree eyeing the branch twenty/thirty feet up that Vin straddled. With a signal from Nathan, they all proceeded to bombard the treetop perch with the balloons.
Vin startled, almost falling from the branch as something smashed into his arm, soaking the sleeve and running down his neck. He only had time for a startled gasp when he opened his eyes and saw a dozen more incoming missiles. With nowhere to go or hide, he ducked his head under his arms and endured the barrage.
Once it was complete, Vin looked down and saw himself covered in a sticky mess of blue. He roared at the laughing men below, "I'm gonna kill y'all!"
His friends took off running for cover, still cackling like loons. Tanner raised his rifle and tried picking them off, no longer aiming for "safe" body zones, he was now going for head shots.
Larabee watched from inside the house. Maybe his men were learning something valuable out there; they were learning to be a team.
Of course he would still send them on a ten-mile hike in the morning.