Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Main Characters: Chris, JD, (all feature)
Ratings/Warnings: Some violence, and bad language.
Summary: A looming court date spells trouble for Team Seven's Leader.
DENVER, COLORADO, WEDNESDAY, 7:55 am
A hearty chuckle drifted up through Team Seven's bullpen. Buck's smile was full on as he talked into the phone. "You sure you've attended the seminar, Kid? You sound more like you've been sightseeing than working." He laughed. "You really got Chris to ride on a trolley bus? I hope you got photos." He glanced across at a grinning Vin, the Texan clearly relishing the information coming through.
"That's my boy," Buck answered, to JD's confirmation over the phone. "Tell his leadershipness that Vin and me'll pick you both up, later. Just call to let me know if your flight's on time. Okay, Squirt, see you later." As he hung up, Buck glanced at Vin. "Seminar my ass…they've been having a rare old time in DC."
Vin shrugged. "Hell, why not? I sure would if I was there." He pointed to a case file. "Once the Jervison trial kicks off on Monday, Chris won't have much time to relax." He grinned. "JD dragged him everywhere, huh?"
Buck nodded in agreement. "Pretty much."
Josiah joined in. "That's just what Chris needs, someone with the enthusiasm and energy to encourage him to participate in something other than work-related."
"Yes, and I'm sure Chris will be fully appreciative of such activity…and won't care one wit, or seek revenge to the fact that JD approached us for advice on his ideas before they left," Ezra announced, coolly.
They all chuckled, before Vin mock-pouted. "Hey, me or Bucklin could've gotten him out and about."
Ezra finally looked up from his keyboard and snorted out a soft laugh. "Oh yes, gentlemen…to the nearest bar, or in Buck's case, strip club."
Buck was already nodding. Vin made a face. "Okay, fair point."
"We eating when they touch down?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah," Buck answered. "You boys can head on to the Saloon, and we'll meet you there." Everyone nodded their agreement. Chris and JD had been away for two days, and all were looking forward to their return.
WASHINGTON DC, WEDNESDAY, 9:55 am
Chris took one last glance around his room. Satisfied all that he brought was packed, he hollered toward the adjoining door. "JD! Get off the phone, we have to go!"
"I am off!" came the reply.
Chris grinned. It had been a good two days. When he first learned that team leaders would have to accompany an appointed agent to a technology seminar he was mortified, and tried desperately to wriggle out of it. In truth, an upcoming trial was weighing heavily on his mind, and despite being more than prepared for it, he wanted to focus for the most part on that. However, Travis blanked all excuses and suggestions to an alternative to Larabee for the tutorial, so Chris went. Content that JD understood it was nothing personal, Larabee settled in for, what he was sure to be, a boring two days…but he couldn't have been more wrong.
JD's enthusiasm and exceptional knowledge of the subject had been edifying. Chris acknowledged to his young tech that he'd failed to appreciate just how much the kid had kept up with new technology, when it became apparent the youth was light years ahead of other teams' representatives. Chris also reflected on an upcoming trial, and how modern technology had played a large part in its transpiration. He grinned to himself. Maybe he'd suggest to Travis that all team members should attend such a seminar, and enjoyed the vision of his own team's reactions when they were informed.
Then, all hope of a quiet evening was smashed when JD dragged him all over DC to see its famous monuments lit up…and on a trolley bus tour, no less. Chris made a silent vow to grab the pictures JD had taken before they could be revealed…then mentally smacked himself upside the head when he realized they were probably already electronically winging their way to Buck as he pondered it. His mind snapped back to the here and now, and while wondering if he had checked the bathroom, Chris yelled to JD one more time before heading in.
Closing down his laptop, JD did a double take of the room He snatched up the remaining cookies from the courtesy tray, and shoved them into his overnight bag, before zipping up his laptop case. Hearing Chris yell out for the second time, he made his way over to the adjoining room door. JD opened it and answered as he walked through. "All set, Bossman." He never got a chance to hear if there was a reply.
Exiting the bathroom, Chris froze on seeing three armed men standing in his room and pointing weapons at him. Noting the silencers on the end of the barrels, he instantly realized these men would be prepared to shoot whether he co-operated or not. He pointed.
"Fairground's about half a mile from here, boys."
One man waved his gun at him, stepped forward and extracted Chris's gun from its shoulder holster. "Funny, Larabee…let's go."
Chris remained unmoving. "Go where? Who are you to give me orders?"
"We have a nice little accommodation all set up for you until Mister Jervison's trial is canceled."
Chris's blood turned cold. Harvey Jervison…that low-life was prepared to kidnap a Fed to escape prison? "Kidnapping a Federal Officer is a capital offence…"
"...So's killing one," the man interrupted. "So if you screw around, we've got nothing to lose by ending it right here, right now."
All four in the room looked up when the adjoining door burst open and a young man spoke. One of the three goons automatically reacted and on turning toward JD, his weapon discharged with a 'phut'. Chris watched in horror as JD's body jerked back against the door, to then slide to the floor, leaving a grisly red stripe as he descended. JD gasped and rolled onto his stomach, his eyes open, but not registering the puddle of blood growing around him.
"Jesus H Christ! JD!" Even as Chris attempted to go to JD, one goon held him, while the first assailant pushed his gun into Larabee's face. "You come now, and quietly, or my man will make sure the kid never gets up again."
Torn and heartsick, Chris complied. At this moment, he could see JD was still alive. Chris prayed help would reach the boy before too long. As the men hustled him toward the door, Chris dug in his heels and looked back. "For the love of God, at least let me call for an ambulance."
"Move! Mister Jervison didn't pay us to stand here chatting."
The gun jammed into his side told Chris he was out of options. As he was ushered from the room and into the nearby stairwell, all he could do was pray…for both of them.
As he lay on the floor, it hadn't occurred to JD that the chill in his body and his growing weariness was directly related to the expanding puddle of his blood around him. He was too busy wishing away the searing pain in his shoulder…or was it his chest? His body shivered as iciness swept through him, in direct contradiction of the heavy, sweat soaked bangs that hung in dripping, weighty strands over his pain-glazed eyes.
One thing he *was* aware of was that Chris had been taken. He didn't have the energy to pull out his cell phone to tell someone, or call out for help. However, a name mentioned just seconds before Chris was hauled away stuck in his mind, a name that had become all too familiar over the last few months while the team built up a case against the man.
A voice had uttered the name Jervison…and JD knew it was crucial that the information reached the cops. Drawing on the last of his energy, he cried out softly when pain ripped through him as he moved his uninjured, but leaden left arm. While fighting the surfacing nausea and beckoning darkness, he extended his index finger and used his own blood to shakily scrawl out the name that was voiced. He managed to spell out six letters before his body finally succumbed to shock, pain, and blood loss.
UNKNOWN LOCATION, MARYLAND, 11:00 am
When the doors to the van he was traveling in opened, Chris came out fighting. He succeeded in getting in a few good licks, and took one of the three men out before something heavy came down on his neck and shoulders. Balancing on his hands and knees, his body arched upwards when several heavy kicks to his abdomen forced the air from his lungs and flooded his gut with pain. Two men dragged him to his feet and propelled him toward a building just ahead. Once inside, Chris could barely keep his feet as he was dragged down some dark, slippery, stone stairs, before being thrown into a room that could only be described as dungeon-like. With the only light coming from the door that he was just tossed through, and a tiny barred window way up high on one wall, he stood on the mossy, damp stone floor and glared back at his tormentors.
"Excuse me?" Chris hoped he was successfully disguising his horror at the command.
The leading armed man waved his gun. "Strip…now…and toss your clothes on over here."
"Go to hell!"
"Do it, or die right here, right now…your choice."
Deciding he could at least attempt to escape if he was alive, Chris complied, tossing his clothes toward the gunman when finished.
"Lose the boxers."
Swallowing hard, Chris shucked his final garment and, standing there barefoot and naked, he stared defiantly back at the three goons. "You just made the biggest mistake of your lives," he hissed.
"I doubt that," the man replied. He tossed a small bottle of water toward Chris, who barely caught it. "Make it last. Your location won't be revealed until Mister Jervison is released and out of the country." The man grinned. "He sincerely hopes you enjoy your incarceration as much as he has enjoyed his."
Fumbling with the water bottle, Chris watched a man pick up his clothes and the three gunmen back away toward the stairs. Despite his predicament, and although knowing it was futile, Chris made one last lunge for freedom. Two goons lifted him and threw him across the stony ground, causing the blond to suffer several scrapes, cuts and bruises when his naked body skittered and bounced across the floor. The slam of a heavy door, plunged the space into near-darkness, and Chris shuddered as he pulled himself up in the damp, musty room. He was unsure why he had been forced to strip, guessing it was to deter him from attempting an escape. Not that being naked would ever stop him from getting the hell out of there. He decided it was more likely that their plan was to induce just what he was feeling now…frustrated, vulnerable, and cold.
Grateful to find his only water bottle intact, Chris looked around; hissing as he gingerly touched his oozing grazes. Pacing out his, he hoped, temporary prison, Chris's thoughts turned to the image of JD bleeding out on the floor of the hotel room and staring back at him. The blond closed his eyes. "Jesus, Kid…hang in there." All Chris could hope for was that the hotel staff would find JD before it was too late. Again shuddering, Chris hugged himself. He truly was up shit creek without a paddle…or clothing.
MARRIOTT HOTEL, METRO CENTER, ROOM 312, 10:10 am
"Mister Larabee…may I enter, please? Your cab is waiting for you, sir."
With a chambermaid clutching a housekeeping trolley and patiently waiting to clean the vacated room, the hotel operations manager, George Kaplan, continued knocking. His reservations manager had confirmed rooms 312 and 311 had yet to check out, and with an irate cab driver pacing his foyer, and housekeeping keen to prepare the rooms for the next occupants, George reached into his pocket for the master key.
"Mister Larabee, it's George Kaplan, operations manager. I'm coming in, sir." He glanced across at his head of housekeeping. While holding up JD's overnight bag and gift bag, Ellie Church, who had just exited 311, shrugged her confirmation of the room being unoccupied. Kaplan swiped the card, and on the lock's green light, he pushed into the room to ensure both guests had, or were close to, vacating. The cab driver needed an answer.
What he saw when he entered, caused the color to drain from his face. Shakily, he turned to both women who were now standing with him.
"Call for an ambulance…NOW!"
DENVER, 8:30 am
Neither man of Team Seven would ever forget the moment the call from the FBI came in. Josiah had taken it, and his immediate distress brought the others instantly around him. His voice was thick with emotion when he finally spoke into the phone. "We'll be there directly." His need to take a seat further alarmed the four other agents. Vin glanced at Buck, the latter spoke.
"Josiah, you're scaring the hell out of us, here." The big man's welling gaze did nothing to ease Buck's building fear.
Sanchez glanced around at them all. "Chris has disappeared…"
"What?" Vin croaked. "How can they…who says…?"
"Vin…" Josiah dreaded his next words. He glanced at Buck and held his gaze. "JD was found in Chris's hotel room…he's been shot."
Buck snorted. "Wha…no, no way Chris…"
Josiah shook his head. "There's evidence to suggest Chris may have been kidnapped. The FBI has agents checking out the hotel's camera footage as we speak." His liquid eyes glistened. "Buck, before JD succumbed to his injury, he tried to write a name on the floor."
Ezra's gaze was one of incredulity. "He just happened to have pen on his person?"
"No." Josiah grasped Buck's arm. "It was written in blood."
Buck hadn't even realized his knees had failed him until he was in a chair and Nathan was handing him a cup of water from the water cooler. He looked at Vin. The Texan's face was etched with a mix of fury and anxiety. Buck took a sip of water as Tanner spoke.
"How's the Kid?"
Josiah swiped at a threatening tear. "They're not hopeful. JD lost a lot of blood…"
"We gotta go!" Buck was on his feet.
Sanchez nodded. "Cars are arriving for us to go home and gather some belongings. A private plane is waiting to take us to DC."
Ezra calmly closed down his computer, his outward demeanor poorly disguising his inner turmoil. "Then, let's go."
All eyes turned to Nathan.
"What did JD manage to write?"
"It was incomplete…"
"Josiah," Buck almost pleaded.
"The letters he completed were J-e-r-v-i…and s."
Tanner's eyes went dark and he spun full circle to face the door. "I'm gonna rip his freakin' throat out…"
Nathan grabbed his arm before he could storm off. "He's in prison. We need to be in DC, Jervison can wait, the FBI will deal with him."
The five men headed out. Nathan was right, Jervison *could* wait. Their friends needed them now.
THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, 5:30 pm
Tanner stared through the SICU observation window. Between the anguish of seeing their youngest teammate lying there, connected to various tubing, IVs, and machines, and breathing by respirator, and the fact that their leader, a man he considered his best friend, was missing; Vin felt as if he was about to burst out of his skin. He startled when a strong hand landed on his shoulder.
"We need to visit the crime scene."
Vin nodded at Josiah's statement. He knew they had to get to work, but was reluctant to leave JD like this. Only minutes before, the doctor had explained how JD suffered hemorrhagic shock from the blood loss, and despite the success of rapid infusions of fluids and blood both at the scene and in the hospital, he had struggled through surgery. His body was so weakened, it was still uncertain he would ever wake up, and Buck had gone to pieces…hell, they all had. The bullet went clean through, and the damage had been successfully repaired, yet JD could still die. No one could accept that.
Not forgetting that, for every minute they stood around, Chris's chances of survival, providing he was still alive, diminished. The team had never been so uptight. Tanner turned to face his friends.
"We…I hate to leave JD like this."
"I assume Buck will stay," Ezra said with a heavy heart, his gaze piercing the window and fixed on the distraught brunet all but attached to JD's side.
"Buck and Chris go way back," Nathan stated, not really needing to.
Josiah nodded. "Buck will be torn, but he needs to be given the options." They all turned to look when FBI Special Agent Paul Nixon came in.
"The car provided for you is ready when you are," he informed, before exiting the waiting room and allowing them to make their decision in private.
Josiah tapped on the glass and Buck looked up briefly, before resuming his vigil. Seconds later, it sank in why he was being summoned, and with a few whispered words to JD, he joined his teammates.
"We have to…"
Buck held up a hand to stall Vin. "I just talked to the doc, and he says JD's out for count. He promised me, even the slightest change…" he swallowed the block of misery lodged in his throat. "…Good or bad, he'll let us know." He paused for a moment, despair etched in his handsome features.
"Me and the Kid had a talk. It's clear JD likely used the last of his energy, and risked his own life, to leave us a clue to try and save Chris's. I'd be doing them both, and us, a dishonor if I didn't get out there and help y'all find him." Accepting a strong embrace from Josiah, Buck and Vin's shimmering gazes locked and they both nodded. Buck straightened.
"Now you each go in there before we leave, and give that boy a reason to fight."
MARYLAND, SOMETIME EARLY EVENING
Chris looked up at the barred window. It was getting dark. He shivered, unsure if he was actually cold, or whether the ominous fading light created the illusion of a lowering temperature. Without his watch, he had no idea of time, and the only occasion nightfall had ever bothered him until now, was when he lost Sarah and Adam. Back then, blissful inebriation took care of that problem.
But having been abducted in that way, left in this hellhole with no food and barely enough water to sustain a mouse, and suffering the haunting image of watching one of his teammates and closest friends shot and left to bleed to death, was becoming too much for Chris to bear. In addition, he was desperately uncomfortable, and exhaustion was adding to his pain. Sitting on the damp, cold, stone floor was becoming intolerable, so he stood, paced, or leaned his palms against the slimy walls for some respite, but nothing helped.
It occurred to him, despite nighttime closing in; his *cell* wasn't in total darkness. Looking up, the window was partially illuminated by some external source. His heart lurched. Could it be that he was close to a highway? Or maybe this location was still in use?
Perhaps the area was patrolled by a security detail.
Prompted by that possibility, Chris began to holler for help. Several hours later, he had to stop, his voice was almost gone. Taking a tiny gulp of water, he swooshed it around his dry mouth, gargled with it to ease his raw throat, and then swallowed. Choosing a corner close to the window, he leaned back against the cold, coarse wall and eased down its length to the floor. Exhausted, Chris finally slept.
First into the SICU, Nathan leaned into his youngest friend. "I'm not gonna waste precious time telling you to fight, JD, 'cause I know you already are. When you wake up, Chris'll be with us, I promise. Just take your time, and rest while you build up your energy, it's what your body needs right now." Touching his hand to JD's brow, Nathan paused for a moment, and then switched with Ezra.
Standish gazed at the youth in the bed. The only sounds in the room were the monitors and respirator. "My friend, I have a wager that we will get a call of your improved condition around the same time we have located, and liberated our illustrious leader. When I recoup my spoils, whatever your heart's desire, will be yours." He stroked JD's softly whiskered cheek with the back of his fingers. "We will see you soon."
Josiah clung to the cross nestling against his broad chest, took up JD's cold, slack hand, bowed his head, and prayed. "My dear friend, I ask our Lord to watch over you, and keep you in good health. O Lord, give him the strength to stay strong of body, mind, and heart, and to know that we carry him in our own. Return him to us Father; we have much to teach him before he is summoned into your loving arms." Josiah raised his head and looked to the Heavens. "Trust me, Lord, you're nowhere near ready for his return, we can barely cope with his exuberance here, and there are six of us." He bowed his head again to conclude. "Amen."
Vin stared at his youngest friend for a while before finally leaning in. Resting his forehead against JD's head, he whispered into his ear. "Don't leave us. Chris is gonna want to see you when we get back. JD…thanks for givin' us a chance to find him. We will, I know it…just like I know you're gonna beat this."
Buck made no attempt to hold his tears. He knew looking for Chris was what JD would want…God knows the kid likely used up precious energy to deliver the message that would clue them in as to who was involved. Still…seeing the kid like this, and being unable to stay and talk him back into the real world was almost more than the big man could take. Placing a hand either side of JD's face, he took gentle hold, closed in, and spoke softly. "I hope I'm reading this right. If not…I pray you can forgive me for leaving you here alone." He tightened his hold. "Feel my strength, little brother. It's always here for you, no matter how far apart we are. Listen to my voice, and hear this." He touched his forehead to JD's. "I need you. Stay."
Within five minutes, five heavy-hearted, but resolute agents were heading toward the Washington Marriott Hotel, at Metro Center.
Chris awoke with a snort. Movement…he thought he heard movement. For a moment, he curled in on himself. He wasn't afraid of rats, but he'd still rather not have one crawling over him. His head tilted, no, he was sure it was coming from above him, and outside. Chris stood.
"HEY...HEY! Anyone out there? I need help…can you hear me? HELP ME!" He shivered as he waited for something…anything. God he was cold. His body ached from the roll across the floor and from holding himself stiff to fight off the chill, and his stomach burned from the earlier beating. He felt grimy, exposed…useless. Jervison would walk if Chris could not deliver his testimony, but…just how long could that take? Even if the case was dismissed on the day, which, if their fervent DA had any say in it, was unlikely, it was still five days away. Would they release him then? He shuddered. He seriously doubted he could survive here for another five days, let alone longer.
As if that very thought energized him, Chris straightened. There was no doubt in his mind his team would find him before five days had passed. Damn it…he would make it, no matter what. Jervison was going down and Chris had a personal debt to settle…and not necessarily in that order. Larabee stood and resumed calling, he couldn't do much, but it didn't mean he couldn't do anything.
METRO CENTER, WASHINGTON MARRIOTT HOTEL, ROOM 312
No matter how hard they tried to avert their gazes, five pairs of eyes were consistently drawn to the crime scene markers around JD's spilled blood, and the grisly letters he spelled out with it. Buck was terrified that JD's efforts might result in him losing his battle back at GW. That possibility, and having no idea if Chris was still alive, was driving him crazy.
Vin was faring no better. Known for his exceptional perception and tracking skills, the Texan had covered every inch of the room in the vain hope of gleaning even the tiniest clue. Finally, he approached the forensic team and handed over an evidence bag, the contents of which were so sparse, everyone squinted to figure out what he had found.
"It's not much," Vin confessed, "but I don't reckon that soil came from Chris's boots."
The OIC nodded. "We found something similar in the hallway, stairwell, and elevator. I'll work on it, check for a match, and get back to you as soon as I can."
"What now?" Nathan asked.
"Cameras?" Buck replied.
"They're on it," Ezra reminded.
Vin nodded. "Let's drop by and check if they've got license plates on the car, yet." Vin's gaze returned to the gore on the floor. "Any news on Jervison?"
Josiah shook his head. "He's tight-lipped. Maintains he has no part in this, regardless of what JD appeared to be trying to convey."
"Oh that jerkass is a part of this, alright," Vin snarled out. "If we didn't need to find Chris so urgently, I'd go back there and demonstrate a few lip-loosening techniques I've gotten hold of over time…"
While watching Buck drift backwards and then squat down next to the scrawled letters, Josiah squeezed Vin's shoulder. "The FBI is on it. If there's any chance of cracking Harvey, they can do it." His heart ached to see the anguish in Vin's eyes.
"Where the hell do we start?" Tanner hissed.
"In the camera room," Josiah prompted. He turned to Nathan and Ezra. "You three head on down there." He glanced toward Buck, "I'll bring Buck down, directly."
Despite the activity in the room, all Buck could focus on was the pool of blood that could take JD out of his life forever. As he crouched there, his mind was seeing the youth lying in the gore, weakly scratching out the six, shaky letters. He noted the final letter tailed off, a sign that JD's body had finally succumbed to the blood loss. Resting an elbow on his knee, Buck placed a hand over his mouth to conceal the quiver of his chin. "Aaah, Kid…" He jerked when a hand rested on the nape of his neck.
Standing, Buck's shimmering gaze searched Josiah's features for guidance. "He needs me…"
Josiah merely nodded. Buck's simple statement could be in relation to either of their two friends. "Would you like to go back to the hospital for a while? We can come get you when we have a lead."
"I need to find Chris."
"But…the thought of JD…" Buck's voice hitched. "…And having no one there for him…"
Sanchez rubbed a hand over his face. "I can't explain why, but I truly believe JD knows we are here. I suggest that, wherever our next lead takes us, we'll stop by GW first and check on him, okay?" He wanted to see JD too, and was in no doubt, so did the others.
Buck sighed, and then nodded. "Please…"
Wrapping an arm around Buck's shoulders, Josiah guided him to the door. "It will be brief, but…consider it done."
Night was closing in and Chris had been missing for almost half a day. They were running out of time, and they didn't have any leads, yet. There was much to do.
>> In his hotel room, Chris stared at the tickets in his hand. "A trolley bus tour?"
JD nodded. "It's the best way to see the city's monuments. You get a guide, and they're allowed to park real close, so not too much walking. When I saw it advertized, I asked the guys, and they said you'd be well up for it."
Already plotting brutal retribution, and knowing once he looked directly into JD's eyes he was screwed, Chris grunted. "When do we leave?"
Beaming, JD checked his watch, "Right after we eat."
So…a choice between several hours of probably boring, after dinner tech conversation with other delegates staying at the hotel, or a guided tour of DC's monuments…in the dark. Chris shrugged. Maybe he could catch some 'Zzs', on the way around the city.
Entering his hotel room five hours later; and as he passed a mirror, Chris couldn't believe the silly grin on his face. Tossing down his wallet, keycard and the souvenir DC shot glass and embroidered 'White House' face towel JD had coerced him into buying, he watched JD, laden with packages, flop backwards onto his bed.
"Hey, shift your carcass to your own room. Between the freaking seminar and DC by night, I'm bushed, and we gotta be packed up, have breakfast, and outta here by 10 am."
Pushing up on his elbows, JD grinned back at his hero. "Don't you wanna see what I bought the guys?"
Even before Chris could answer, the kid was up and unwrapping. Drawn to his enthusiasm, Larabee joined him.
"I got Josiah a bronze paperweight of three soldiers, Nathan a DC snow globe, Ezra a bumper sticker…"
Chris picked it up and huffed as he turned it in his hand. "He won't put this on his Jag."
JD giggled. "I know! I also bought him some White House playing cards. I got Vin some souvenir chocolate bars, and Buck…" JD was chuckling as he pulled out a pen, and a DC Tee with 'Hopeless romantic seeks meaningful overnight relationship' emblazoned across it.
Chris couldn't help but laugh at the tee shirt, and squinted at the pen now just inches from his nose as JD turned it upside down.
"See? Naked lady…then not…then…"
Chris held onto JD's wrist. "Yeah, I see. Buck'll love it." He watched his youngest teammate pack up his gifts, and pointed. "And the stuffed toy eagle? Who's that for?"
The young agent blushed. "I, uh…it's…"
Chris nodded, fully understanding. "Good choice." He helped him gather up the items before stepping back. "JD."
The youth turned his head toward him. "Yeah?"
Chris smiled. "Thanks…for organizing the tour. I had a blast."
Clutching his gifts, JD headed to the door joining their rooms. He grinned back. "Me too. See you in the morning, Bossman." <<
The sound of a gunshot jolted Chris from his uneasy slumber. "JD?" Looking around, he quickly realized where he was and that he had been dreaming. Fumbling along the damp stone floor, Chris located his bottle of water, opened it carefully and took two sips. He groaned. Every bone in his body ached. His skin felt cold, sore, and encrusted, and his stomach gurgled from hunger and burned with pain each time he moved.
The blond couldn't remember at which point he gave up calling out and fell asleep, but judging by the patch of sky he could see through the small, barred window, it was close to dawn. Hugging his knees to his chest, Larabee's thoughts turned to his teammates…his friends. He had no doubt they were in DC by now, but, despite having every faith in them, and in Vin's exceptional ability to follow a cold trail, he couldn't imagine for one moment how they could ever track him down.
And then there was JD. Chris shuddered. 'God Buck, I'm so sorry.'
Chris pushed up off the floor and paced to ease the stiffness in his body, grunting as fire again ignited in his belly with the movement. It came as a shock to find he couldn't keep up walking for too long. He was weakening, and…he glanced at his water bottle…only had just over half left. Several of his scrapes, especially one on his hip, was hot and sore…was that why he felt so woozy? He ran dirty fingers through his hair. God help him.
"Come on guys," he begged, closing his eyes and leaning against a wall. "Help me, Vin."
GW UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
After the others had visited the SICU, and while Buck said his piece to a still unconscious JD, four members of Team Seven were again looking over the camera shots of Chris's kidnapping. The license plate had been false, and the men on camera with Chris, were unknown to DCPD, or the FBI. Fingerprints offered them nothing, but Traffic cameras around the city had tracked the car to a point, so they knew where these guys weren't…just not where they were. Ezra was using JD's laptop and was unzipping files pertaining to the Jervison case. He barely contained a 'whoop' when, what he had hoped to discover, surfaced.
"In his investigations, JD uncovered associates of Jervison all around this great land of ours, one faction are actually based here in the municipality." They all gathered around.
"You got an address?" Vin asked.
"I do, and it would seem JD's usual perceptiveness has uncovered a group that appears, due to their perspicacity, to be flying under the very radar of the FBI itself."
Vin's cell vibrated and he stepped out into the hallway to answer it, returning a few minutes later. "Soil samples found in the hotel showed evidence of a construction site, but due to the compaction, CSU are confident it's not one currently in use."
"Are there many construction companies in DC?" Ezra asked.
Vin shook his head. "Not active, no. Apparently, most have offices around the city, but their sites are situated outside the city limits. The FBI has already checked over operational sites. They're currently goin' over archived records to locate defunct yards, but some that closed have changed hands several times, so it's gonna take time."
"Time is tight," Josiah prompted.
Vin cracked his knuckles, his expression turning dark as he tapped the laptop screen and stared at the company highlighted. "Time's up…for them," he threatened. All eyes turned to the door of the SICU and a heartsick Buck coming through it.
"No change," he sighed.
"Which means he's no worse," Nathan reminded.
Vin approached, compassion welling in his eyes. "Stay. We got a good lead, but we need to act soon."
Buck glanced back at JD, and then turned to the others. "JD understands…I just know it. We owe it to both of them to find Chris." He hung his head. "I just hope he can forgive me…or that…"
"...JD's not about to quit on us, Buck. When he comes back to us, let's greet him with some good news, huh?"
Buck looked at Nathan and nodded. "Yeah."
Josiah raised a hand. "I suggest we order some food and do some preparation. We need to get this right, and we need to ensure we have manpower ready to act when the time comes."
At first, their reactions suggested stopping to eat wasn't an option, but Nathan reminded them that the fact they were already tired and running on empty, could lead to mistakes and make all the difference in finding Chris in time. The group agreed to refuel, and plan their next move.
HARRINGTON CONSTRUCTION SERVICES, GEORGIA AVENUE
"You waving that at me won't change the fact no one's here, yet, sir." The overnight security guard was mighty glad there was a desk between himself and the five men glaring at him right then, especially the guy with the Texan accent waving his ID at him, and the man with the mustache and blazing stare.
"Then let us into the offices and we will wait," Ezra instructed.
"Without an appointment, or Mr. Harrington being here himself, no one's allowed in there, so unless you got a warrant or something…"
"Is there a problem Andrew?"
All eyes turned to a man dressed in a black, two-piece suit and matching three-quarter length raincoat, entering the building,
"These men are from the ATF and want to see you, sir."
Harrington extended his hand, but no one accepted it. He smiled - nervously - the five agents decided. "I cater on demand for the construction industry, fellas, no moonshine, drugs, guns or explosives here."
"We'll be the judge of that," Vin snarled.
"You wanna do this here, or downtown?" Buck threatened.
"Do what?" He paled when all five men took a step forward, and he pointed. "Fine, fine…let's go to my office."
No sooner had the office door closed, when Buck had the man pinned to a wall and was right in his face. "No bullshitting, we know you're associated with Harvey Jervison, and while your hands may appear clean, I'll bet my pension you know about the ATF agent that went missing, yesterday, and the other one that was shot and is currently fighting for his life right now."
Swallowing against the meaty forearm putting pressure on his windpipe, Matthew Harrington shook his head. "No…idea what…you're talking about…"
Buck tossed the man into his high-backed, leather chair, and glared at him while Harrington massaged his throat. Vin leaned in, placed a hand on each of the armrests, and locked gazes with the man. His voice was little more than a hoarse whisper.
"We're runnin' out of time…and patience. Your man on the door already ID'd one of the men who hijacked our colleague as a member of your workforce. If you make us dance a jig to get warrants and shit, or have to haul your ass downtown and delay us further from findin' our friend safe and in reasonable health…" he moved close to the man's ear. "Then I'll take my irritation out on you. I know of ways to make a man's death last for days."
The executive's features were a sight to behold, and the others could only guess at what Vin was saying,.
"Jervison will kill me," Harrington said, his voice low.
"Faster than me?" Vin challenged, straightening. "You wanna hope so."
Josiah moved to the desk and spread out photographs from the day of the abduction.
"Names!" Buck ordered.
Mathew shook his head. "They're gone. Harvey's not stupid; he figured there'd be cameras." He narrowed his eyes. "All he wanted was locations to keep your guy locked away for a while. I've never even spoken to Jervison, how'd you connect us?"
"The agent your men shot in cold blood has an exceptional capacity for uncovering the most deeply buried information," Ezra offered, a mixture of emotion and pride in his tone.
"We're guessing it won't take long to trace any recent communications between your people and Jervison's men in Denver, either," Nathan added.
Harrington puffed out his cheeks. "Like I said, all I did was set up a few locations…nothing more."
Josiah leaned in. "Where?"
"I don't know which one they went with…"
Buck lifted the chair by the end of the arms and flipped it onto its back. Harrington grunted as he slammed backwards onto the office floor, gasping again when Vin's boot covered his right hand and applied excruciating pressure.
"Any false leads…and I'm comin' for you, jerkass. There ain't a place on this earth you can hide."
Within ten minutes, cops and agents were crawling all over the area. In the company's parking lot, Special Agent Paul Nixon jumped out of a just landed helicopter, and ran to meet the men of Team Seven to guide them back to the waiting chopper. "We got a thermal imager on board. Neither of the three locations you listed have been used for several years, and only one is close to a main highway. They're all in Maryland, and pretty spread out. Do we go with the more remote locations first?"
There was no way of knowing how long the abductors had traveled with their prize. "Gotta start somewhere," Vin answered as he climbed into the chopper. Minutes later, they were on their way.
"Feel my strength, little brother. It's always here for you, no matter how far apart we are. Listen to my voice, and hear this…I need you. Stay."
Something about those words stirred something deep within JD, and for the first time since the bullet had initially passed through him and he lay bleeding out, he felt pain. Not that JD could remember why he was in pain, he was focusing more on a deeper, more obscure unease…a niggle that bothered him greatly. A Texan drawl tickled at the edges of his thoughts.
"Don't leave us. Chris is gonna want to see you when we get back. JD…thanks for givin' us a chance to find him. We will, I know it…just like I know you're gonna beat this."
Beat what? What did the words mean? Unable to pursue his reasoning, JD allowed his body to sink away from the teasing questions and fiery pain that built in intensity while he pondered them. It was all a bit too much right now. He'd just sleep for a little while longer.
FORMER CAWSON CONSTRUCTION SITE
Chris desperately wanted another sip of water, but couldn't trust himself right now. He felt sure he'd just down it in one, and that would never do. Sitting up against the wall opposite the window, he rubbed his gut. Chris knew the signs; he'd seen the effects of internal bleeding before. His stomach wasn't greatly distended, which likely meant it was either a slow bleed, or it had stopped. But either way, it was bad, it required medical attention. Chris knew time was against him.
He was no quitter, but his strength had evaporated and his thirst increased, due to, he guessed, the injury that had only become obvious during the last few hours. At least, he thought it was hours. Time was non-existent here. Due to the location of the window, he couldn't tell where the sun was, only when it was getting dark. Scratching at his whiskers, he looked down at the large, deep wound on his hip. It had turned greenish yellow, and when he pressed it earlier, dirty green ooze emerged. The blond figured that should be his main concern…that, and running out of water…but the fire in his belly had changed that opinion. What he wouldn't give to have Nathan next to him right now, telling him he was overreacting.
Except that, Chris never overreacted…at least not about things like this. What was it JD had called him? Oh yeah…'Mister Cool'.
"Ahh, Kid…" Chris hoped with all his heart that his youngest agent, his friend, had survived. The team needed something good to hold on to, because he felt sure, despite having no reason to, they would blame themselves when they found him dead. The blond closed his eyes. Funny, it didn't feel defeatist to say that. Due to his injuries, control of events had been taken out of his hands. If he wasn't released, or found soon, the damage to his body would be irreparable.
Opening his eyes and peering toward the steps, he sighed. That door must be made of steel. There was no give in it, not even a chink of light could get through. And he was in a basement, beneath another building…not much chance of being spotted from here. Reaching for his bottle, Chris took a swig, staring at it when barely a trickle emerged. Oh God…it was gone. How had he drunk so much, so soon? Well, that was it…he was well and truly screwed, now.
Closing his eyes again, his thoughts turned to Buck. What a great friend. He regretted never telling him…at least not directly to his face. Did he say friend? More a brother. In an unexpected turn of events, all of his teammates had first become friends…then as brothers to him. Chris felt truly blessed. Vin had been a revelation, the pair quickly discovering they were more in tune with each other than many blood relations could claim to be. He filled a void that Buck had tried to, after Sarah and Adam's deaths, but which Chris rejected at that point. Time, and the affection of a man whose very demeanor paralleled his own, had started to thaw the ice block around Chris's heart.
It allowed him to once again embrace Buck's friendship, respect and rely on Josiah and Nathan to keep him grounded, admire Ezra's unique approach to handling whatever shit got tossed his way, and let JD, with his boundless energy, ideals, goals, and zest for justice, remind him of all he once was. Chris felt protective of them all…he loved them all…and while Buck had helped keep the pathway open, Tanner had been the gateway to those first few tentative steps to emotional redemption.
Tiring, and just about to ponder on if it was bad that he had only needed to pee once since his incarceration, a familiar sound drew his attention. Struggling to his feet, Chris moved to look up at the window, his heart lurching on hearing the thudding beats of rotor wash. In the vain hope that, by generating body heat, it would register through the stone building above him, Chris somehow found the strength to wave his arms like a windmill.
"Hey! HEY! I'm down here…HEY!" The chopper circled, and Chris's heart soared. Seconds later, he was in despair as the machine noise began drifting away.
"Noooooooo! Come back…I'm here…GODDAMNIT, I'M HERE!" Lacing his fingers together, Chris raised his arms, pushed the interlocked hands against the back of his head, and closed his eyes in despair. Unsure how long he stood there before weariness overcame him, Chris dropped back to his spot on the floor, and buried his head in his knees. Maybe it had been someone looking for him, or maybe just a passing helicopter…either way, he was clearly too far down to alert them…and his actions had ignited the pain in his belly. Defeated, dehydrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed, Chris lay down.
He'd had enough, for now. Time to rest.
"That can't be!"
Team Seven were staring at the negative readout of the thermal imager. A momentary blip registered from the third place they had flown over, but nothing to convince the experts they had found anyone. Two more unsuccessful searches of sites one and two found the team wanting to tear their hair out, and fearful they were on a wild goose chase. Buck and Josiah studied each location's blueprint.
"With three choices, there had to be a reason one excelled over the others," Josiah hollered above the noise of the rotor blades.
Vin leaned over to look. "Anything different about location three?" He still couldn't shake the blip from his thoughts. They all deliberated over the plans. Buck finally looked up. "Three has underground storage."
As if poked by hot irons, they sat upright and glanced around at each other. Vin tapped the pilot's shoulder. "Back to three, and we're setting down this time!" He looked to Agent Nixon. "We're playing a hunch."
Paul nodded and made calls. He knew of this team's reputation, and was more than prepared to go with it.
They touched down, while considerably more heartened when the imager produced a weak, but more positive blip. All five men ducked out of the chopper and headed for the first of five spaced out buildings. Ezra called to them from the second one, having spotted a small, ground-level window.
"I need a flashlight!"
SICU, GW HOSPITAL
Medical staff, complete with crash cart were responding to alarms and racing to the SICU to join the attending nurses. The monitors to which JD was connected were flashing and bleeping off the scale and soon, doctors surrounded him. One physician turned to a nurse and handed her a business card.
"Call this number, I promised I would notify him of any change."
With a nod, and settling on what she would say on the call, the nurse left the pandemonium behind for a quieter location, unaware it would take her over half an hour to succeed in passing on the information.
FORMER CAWSON CONSTRUCTION SITE
Lying on his stomach, and joined by Vin, and Buck, Ezra shone the flashlight through the window and into what looked like an empty stone basement storage facility. Holding his jacket sleeve by the cuff, Buck rubbed at the dust and grime covering the glass. The beam cut through the gloom, but nothing was forthcoming on the first sweep. Ezra hunkered down even lower, and the beam's angle changed. It halted on a pale object. Josiah and Nathan hadn't realized they were holding their breath until Ezra's cry of 'There!' and Vin and Buck's subsequent leap to their feet and toward the bunker's steel door caused them to exhale.
Vin howled in frustration at the door, pounding on it as Buck ran his fingers around it looking for a weakness. "NOOO!"
Paul Nixon touched a hand to his ear and looked back at the five men. "Fire crews are ten out, paramedics fifteen."
Vin raced back to the window, dropped to the ground, unholstered his gun, and using the butt, punched through the thick glass. "CHRIS! Hey, Cowboy! We're here…you hear me, Larabee? Hold on…we're here!" Not one for idle chitchat, Vin's gaze remained focused on the still form, while Buck rejoined him on the ground and did what Buck did best in an emotional crisis…talked.
"Hey Stud…y'know, if you'd wanted us all to join you here in DC, you only had to ask. If this is payback for us telling JD how much you'd enjoy going on a night-time tour of DC, I gotta tell you, it's a doozie." He glanced sorrowfully back at the others. "I'm talking bullshit."
Vin's weary gaze locked with his. "While I reckon it's real temptin' to ask 'so, what's new?'…" He offered a ghost of a smile. "...You're doin' great, pard. I've seen you get through to JD when all else failed."
Buck nodded his appreciation. "I reckon hearing you…and the others…would help a whole lot, too."
Vin took a breath and looked down into the room. "Hey, Chris…seein' as we're here in DC and all, what say we have a beer at the Irish bar JD was goin' on about? Would sure like to try some of those beer-battered fries, and that spicy buffalo chicken wrap JD said almost blew your head off."
Ezra joined them on the ground. "I thought it might be prudent to advise you that I have already begun mentally calculating our expenses. I determined it would be a task better suited to my experienced proficiency, or, as you once described it, idiosyncratic imagination."
"Help's on its way, Chris. You just rest up and let us take care of the details." Josiah's booming tone gave no cause for him to get closer as it carried perfectly.
Nathan, however, did drop to the ground. "I'm in no doubt you're in a world of hurt right now, Chris, but you're just minutes away from getting the hell outta here."
Buck resumed as the others backed off. "And in case you were worried, the Kid's hanging in there. You being in the hospital with him is gonna make all the difference."
The sounds of distant sirens reached their ears. Vin closed his eyes momentarily, in relief. "Thank God."
Chris's body was way past wanting to move. He was no longer cold, but more…numb. The earlier chill sweeping through his fevered body had been unbearable, so he wasn't about to complain about his new circumstances. He felt sure he was in a peaceful state of unconsciousness, too, yet familiar voices were now penetrating his addled mind. Chris decided he was likely hallucinating again, and on that thought, remained blissfully semi-conscious…no harm in being prepared, yet not quite aware enough to be disappointed, either.
After a minute or so of ear-splitting noise, followed by a shout going out from the fire crew that the door had been extracted, five agents rushed into the gloom and pounded down the stone steps into the hellhole in which Chris was incarcerated. Shock registered on each of their faces at the dankness and chill of the place, but they pushed on. Vin slid underneath Chris's shoulders once Nathan had okayed it, and then watched as the team's EMT made a thorough examination of the cold, still man. Buck and Josiah's jackets were off and covering their friend, while Ezra folded his and slipped it between Chris's head and Vin's knees. They all squatted down around their leader.
Quaking with fury at his naked and battered friend's condition, but determined to keep his emotions in check, for now; Vin stroked the matted, once-blond tresses. "Chris? Hey, buddy, everythin's gonna be okay, y'hear?"
Buck leaned in. "What he said, Stud." The brunet was surprised when a trembling, cold hand curled around his wrist.
Buck ignored the tears welling in his eyes. "Still holding his own, yeah."
Chris grunted his need to sit up, and Nathan, satisfied with his examination and that there were no broken bones, nodded to just a little elevation. The blond grit his teeth as he tried to get comfortable. "Ezra…I think the words I…used were 'devious imagination'."
Standish grinned his understanding. Chris had heard them calling to him. "I do believe you are correct."
Chris leaned back against Vin's chest. "Make sure you order lots of water when you eat, Pard…that darned chicken wrap is as hot as…Hell."
Vin offered a tight grin that barely disguised his raw emotion. "Thanks for the tip."
Chris blinked slowly and addressed Jackson as he offered him some water, which he would have gulped down, if given the chance. "I'm bleeding…inside?"
Nathan nodded as he recapped the bottle. "It don't feel too tight. Docs'll fix you up in no time."
Larabee swallowed. "Good, 'cause…your asses are mine. I owe you all big for the Kid's surprise…trip."
Despite the gravity of the situation, five men laughed, but it was short lived as Chris again drifted off into semi-consciousness. Relieved when the paramedics took over, and life-flight transported Chris and Vin to GW, the others left the DCPD and forensics on the scene, and headed toward their waiting chopper. Before boarding, Buck's cell got a signal and it rang. With obvious trepidation, he answered.
"What? When? We're on our way there now. Thanks." He stared at his teammates, his earlier fears reflected now in their own features. "JD started fighting the vent a while ago. He's breathing on his own and showing signs of coming around."
Josiah snatched up the weary man into a fierce bear hug, the others closing in and offering their best wishes, while also taking comfort in their proximity. This day would soon be over, and it looked to be ending on a high.
As the life-flight chopper began its approach to the roof of the GW University Hospital, Vin eyed the IV line offering Chris vital fluids and bloods before he leaned in to his friend. Chris was severely dehydrated, and while having sustained several infected scrapes and heavy contusions, the main concern was the internal bleed. However, the paramedics felt confident enough to say that, while it was still considered life threatening, it had progressed less than they would have expected thus far. The prognosis was hopeful. Tanner stroked back a stray frond of dirty blond hair. There were still scores to settle, but for now…this would do.
Striding into the ER waiting room, four agents met the gaze of one very weary Vin Tanner. "Chris?" Buck asked.
"Just gone into surgery. I was waitin' on you before headin' up to the SICU waitin' area."
Buck nodded. "Let's go, then." Without hesitation, all five moved toward the elevators, while Nathan explained to Vin what was happening with JD.
As they approached the SICU room, a nurse exiting recognized them and smiled. "He's almost there, not long now."
Not even waiting to ask, Buck walked in and straight up to JD's bedside, closely followed by the others. Monitors were still attached to the youth, but the respirator and its eerie whooshing sounds were gone. JD was frighteningly pale, but he was warm to Buck's touch and the big man smiled. Taking the hand of the arm strapped across JD's chest, Buck leaned in. "We got him, JD…Chris is right here, in the hospital, getting fixed up. Just waiting on you, now."
If the others hadn't been there to witness it, they would have struggled to believe JD would respond so quickly to Buck's voice; but, damnit, his eyelashes fluttered and Buck's warm chuckle emerged at the sight of hazel eyes squinting back at him.
"Straight up, Squirt." Noting the raspy voice, Buck offered JD a little water, then turned his head slightly. "Vin, you wanna help me out, here?"
Ensuring he was in JD's sightline, Vin stepped forward, smiled, and nodded. "No bullshit, Kid. We gotcha both back."
No one panicked when JD's eyes fluttered closed, they knew he would rest up now, and then talk again with them later. Each man made himself known to their youngest, before leaving Buck with him to go sit in the waiting room for news on Chris.
Two hours later found Vin leaning into a sleepy blond, his misty gaze focused on pain-glazed orbs. "Good to see you, Pard. Doc says it's looking good. Rest up, JD's waking up too, and you'll need your strength for all those questions he got locked up in that brain of his."
Chris smiled. "I reckon I can…handle it." Larabee's gaze softened to an expression rarely seen from their leader. "Vin…thanks…thanks for coming after me so fast."
Tanner swallowed the lump in his throat. "Had a lot of help."
"Jervison's gonna be mighty pissed when the trial starts up as planned. DA reckons he can get an adjournment for a couple of weeks."
Larabee nodded as his eyes closed. He'd be at that trial if he had to get pushed into court on a hospital bed.
DENVER, RANCH LARABEE, THREE WEEKS LATER
For the first time since Chris and JD's air-ambulance trip home, an event JD had yet to quit talking about, and due to the efforts of all but said pair, the team were enjoying some bonding time. Chris made it to his day in court, forever grateful he got to see Harvey Jervison's pale and defeated features that day, while more than ready for four days time, when the trial reconvened.
The FBI had traced the three goons that abducted Chris, and shot JD. They were spread out in three different locations; one was in New York, one in Florida and the other with an address in Denver, but mid-way to New Mexico when apprehended. Matthew Harrington remained tight-lipped over events, but with his business undergoing a scrutinizing investigation, and for his part in Chris's abduction, confidence was high that he would also soon be serving jail time.
This get-together was arranged to rally both Chris and JD. Despite healing well, both had been woefully subdued since their return home. Chris appeared preoccupied, while JD had confessed to Buck that the memory of lying helpless and injured while Chris was abducted, was haunting him. Buck and Vin hoped that this gathering, and the bag from JD's luggage that had been forgotten about with all the upheaval, would break the ice.
After eating, and while they all sat together on the deck enjoying the first colorful tinges of an evening sky, Vin produced the gift bag and handed it to JD. "Been kinda curious about this," the Texan admitted. No one missed the pained glance between their leader, and their youngest. Chris surprised them all by speaking first.
"Been thinking, Kid…Vin talked about visiting the Irish Bar we ate at, and I reckon each of us should experience a trip around DC's monuments at night. What do you, reckon?"
JD's face cracked the familiar wide grin they hadn't seen since his return. He nodded his approval, and began delving into the bag to hand out his gifts. "It was amazing, guys. Josiah, the Korean War Veterans' Memorial…is awesomely spooky at night. I swear, those soldier statues looked like they were about to move any second."
Admiring his paperweight, Josiah smiled. "That is certainly something I'd like to experience."
"I hear the view at night across the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial is a sight to behold," Ezra commented as he thanked JD for his gifts.
"Right to the Washington Monument and the White House beyond," JD enthused. "When we stopped outside the White House, the President's helicopter flew right over our heads…right over us!" He giggled as he watched Buck enthusiastically pull his Tee-shirt on over what he was already wearing, Nathan shake his snow globe, and tilt Buck's pen upside-down at the same time, and Vin sniff at his chocolate bars with an enthusiasm only Tanner could have for anything chocolate, though JD was a close second in the candy-loving department.
Ezra opened his pack of cards and, after smiling his approval, deftly manipulated them. His head gestured toward the bumper sticker. "Not a chance, son..." His smile widened on hearing JD's snort of laughter.
"No sweat, Ezra."
Chris sat back and watched the interactions with amusement, and for the first time since his ordeal, seemed relaxed. He actually laughed aloud when the stuffed eagle made an appearance and Buck groaned.
"Jeeze, Kid…any more plushies, and I'm gonna have to build an extension to the loft."
The others sensed Chris's next move was coming for some time, so were not surprised when Chris leaned forward and wrapped a hand around JD's wrist.
"Time to let it go, Kid. That goes for me, too." JD held Chris's gaze for a few moments, but then had to look down. "Even Feds can be victims, Kid…the trick is to accept it, know there was nothing we could have done to prevent it…and move on."
JD licked his lips and looked up at a man he admired greatly. "I'm getting there."
Larabee nodded. "Good. Me too."
As he said the words to JD, Chris felt a weight lift off his shoulders. He had been holding onto a lot of anger and frustration over what he considered to having allowed themselves to get caught out like amateurs. Saying the words aloud, endorsed what Vin, Buck and the others had been advocating all along. Shit happens, even to experienced agents, it was up to the individual to use whatever tool available to shovel it away…or put it to good use and watch something good grow from it. Chris appreciated now that Jervison, and several more of his cronies, would go down due to their actions. He could live with that.
Watching JD perk-up further when Vin whipped away his stuffed eagle and begin an impromptu game of toss-the-ball with it, Chris knew, in time, and with the support of a unique group of men, the kid would be okay, too. As the sun slowly disappeared, Larabee appreciated the freedom of his environment, embraced the friendship surrounding him, and…he took a sip of ice-cold water…the simple pleasure of water on demand.