Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. We have ownership over any new characters but the rest belongs to others (such a shame!).

Authors' Note: I'd been in a really foul mood and decided to take it out on Vin and Ezra, who in turn took it out on each other.

Placing Blame - ATF

By Ladysmiths


Ezra glanced back at the boat shed he'd just exited. Well, that had been the biggest waste of time. The agency had sent Team 7 to San Fransisco on a last minute assignment. They'd had to spend the night in one of the cheapest motels Ezra had ever had the misfortune to step foot into, he'd had to sleep in the same room with two other team members of the team due to over booking. That fact had seemed to Ezra the most ridiculous thing about this trip so far. Naturally, the meeting with Kent Farrow had gone as dismally as expected. Kent had said he had all the buyers he needed to off load this shipment, and accompanying him to meet with the supplier and pick up the weapons was most definitely out of the question. Chris was going to be pleased, although he shouldn't complain too much, this was all his fault. He could have said no to the assignment, just because Team 7 had a slow month didn't mean they had to take on any case that came along, especially so late in the game. Although, now that the operation had come to a screeching halt, perhaps Ezra could find a room in a better part of town and take a couple of days off. But first he had to tell Chris, a task he wasn't looking forward to. At least Vin would be there to back him up. Actually, where the hell was Vin, some backup Ezra could have been shot during his short meeting and Vin was nowhere in sight.

"Ez, over here."

Ezra jumped at the sound of Vin's whispered drawl, his eyes darted in every direction and when he was satisfied no-one was around, he ducked between the sheds where Vin was hiding. "Mr Tanner, you scared me half to death. What are you doing?"

"How'd the meeting go?" Vin asked, knowing the answer already. Ezra would still be with Farrow if everything had gone to plan.

"Remarkably well thank you, I was just heading out to meet with the supplier."

"And you're stopping for a chat?"

"What are we doing here Mr Tanner?"

"The snitch said the drop off happens on one of these boats."

"I'm glad you were listening."

"I figured we could keep watch for a while, maybe work out which one it is. At least we can tell Chris we tried everything."

"You have a point, and besides I'm not all that eager to return to that flea infested shack they have the nerve to call a motel. I suppose that's what we get for allowing Buck to select our accommodation."

* * * * * * *

"Ezra, isn't that Farrow and his men?"

Ezra turned his head in the direction Vin was looking, "Why yes, I didn't realise you knew what Mr Farrow looked like."

"Of course, I was watching you in the boat shed the whole time. I take this job just as seriously as you do."

Ezra kept his eyes trained on Kent Farrow and his men as they loaded boxes onto a barge, "It seems like we've worked out where the weapons are, perhaps you should call Mr Larabee."

"I'll have to find a pay phone."

"What are you talking about, use your cell phone."

"I didn't bring it," when Vin saw the expression on Ezra's face he quickly defended himself, "I can't hide very well if I have phones start ringin'."

"Have you ever considered turning the damn thing off?"

"Why don't you call on yours?"

"I left it back at the motel."

"So what are you lecturing me for?"

Ezra sighed, "Let's just get back and inform Mr Larabee which barge they are using, or at least retrieve our cell phones."

Vin had been continuously glancing at the barge, "They've gone. We should go check out the barge first. Maybe we can find some evidence, just in case the sale happens while we're gone."

"Mr Larabee will have our heads."

"He'll be madder if we lose these guys. But, if you want, you can go back."

"And inform Mr Larabee that I left you here alone. I don't have a death wish."

Vin picked up his backpack, "Well then shut up and follow me."

Both men ran towards the barge, one or the other occasionally turning around to make sure no-one was behind them. Vin leapt onto the barge, while Ezra found the plank Kent Farrow had been using to load the boxes. Ezra followed Vin to where the boxes were lined up along the edge of the barge. Vin peeked into one of the crates, "It's empty."

"What did you expect? Mr Farrow and his associates didn't appear to be having trouble carrying these on board."

"If you didn't think we'd find anything, why did you come?"

"I wanted to be thorough. I take this job as seriously as you do."

"At least... Duck!" Vin pulled Ezra down behind the crates as one of Farrow's men boarded. He walked the length of the barge then stepped onto the dock.

Ezra peered over the edge of one of the crates, before sitting down next to Vin. "He's standing guard, we're trapped."

"Shit."

"That's all you have to say? If you hadn't insisted on snooping."

Vin rolled his eyes, "Oh man, you're not gonna start whingeing, are you?"

"It's getting dark and I'm hungry."

Vin pulled a squashed sandwich out of his backpack and threw it at Ezra, "Here."

"This doesn't constitute food."

"Take it or leave it."

"I certainly hope Mr Larabee has sent out a search party already."

* * * * * * *

Chris paced the room, "Where the hell are they?"

"Probably out enjoying themselves without us," Buck grumbled.

Nathan walked into the room, "This is the only room available for the rest of the week. The two other rooms have already been booked out, seeing as how we were meant to be leaving today." Nathan looked pointedly at Buck.

"Great," Chris sighed.

"I'll get our stuff from the other rooms," JD jumped up glad he could be doing something other than sitting there and watching Chris fume.

"I think we should go out to the docks, see if we can find out what's going on."

"Maybe Farrow took a liking to them and actually invited them along?" Josiah knew it was a long shot.

Chris shook his head, "One of them would have called us by now."

"On one of these cell phones?" JD was standing in the doorway holding up Vin and Ezra's phones.

Buck threw up his hands, "I'm gonna shove those phones down their throats."

Nathan turned to Chris, "Promise me this is the last time you send those two off on their own."

Chris grabbed his coat, "Let's go."

* * * * * * *

Despite his complaining, Ezra had eaten the sandwich Vin had given him without noticing that Vin had no more food. However, now another problem presented itself, "Um, Mr Tanner, I need to relieve myself?"

Vin grinned, "You should have gone before we left." When the only answer Vin received was a scowl, he pointed towards the edge of the barge.

"Mr Tanner, you have to be joking."

"It's either that or asking that guy for a toilet break."

Ezra checked to see whether the guard was still there, and seeing no other option crawled towards the water. He contemplated jumping overboard, but the other barges were too far away and the water too far down. Besides, considering his luck today, even if he did try he'd probably drown under the waves that were splashing against the boats, tear himself in half on the ropes, or the guard would notice him and shoot him.

"It's getting late. We should probably take turns sleeping," Vin said as Ezra again took a seat next to him.

"This is worse than that dilapidated building we stayed at last night. I would never be able to sleep in such uncomfortable surroundings."

"Fine, you get first watch."

* * * * * * *

Chris stood next to Buck as he watched the rest of his team come towards them.

"The few people that are still around haven't seen anyone fitting their descriptions," Nathan said.

"Yeah," JD added, "And there's no sign of any struggle."

"You know a barge taking off after dark seems a little suspicious," Buck stated pointing towards the barge.

Josiah stepped up behind Chris, "Where's the worst place Vin and Ezra could be right now?"

Chris stared at the barge slowly floating out to sea, "Wake the coast guard."

* * * * * * *

Vin shook Ezra awake and whispered, "I thought you said you couldn't sleep here?"

"I wasn't sleeping, just dozing," Ezra whispered back. "Oh my God, we're moving."

Vin glared at Ezra and nodded.

"It's not as if I could have done anything about this, even if I'd been awake," Ezra hissed.

Both men jumped when someone started shuffling one of the boxes. Vin reached for the gun in his backpack, while Ezra took out his sidearm. However, before they could act, they were grabbed by two of Farrow's men and quickly relieved of their weapons.

Farrow wasn't looking very pleased with his uninvited guests, "What have we here?"

Ezra took the lead, "As I stated earlier today, I really am desperate for some quality merchandise. My bodyguard and I thought that once you'd witnessed out persistence, you would realise I'd pay any price." Ezra stopped when he realised Farrow was looking at something behind him. He turned to see the guard they'd been hiding from holding Vin's ID. Ezra turned to Vin, "You're a cop? You son of a bitch."

Before Vin could reply the guard threw Ezra's ID, which had also been in Vin's backpack, to Farrow. When Farrow nodded his head, the two men holding Vin and Ezra bound their hands behind their backs.

Vin tried to struggle, "Hey, not so tight."

"This is all your fault," Ezra grumbled. "We should have just given up as soon as the meeting was over. But no, you had to think up this hair-brained scheme."

"My fault?" Vin retorted, "I don't remember holding a gun to your head. Besides, what happened to wanting to be thorough?"

"We should have gone straight back to the motel after the meeting."

"You should've stayed awake."

"I could have gotten us out of this if you had hidden our identification."

Farrow couldn't believe it, didn't these guys realise what kind of trouble they were in? "Shut up."

Vin tilted his head in Ezra's direction, "He started it."

The goon closest to Vin punched the sharpshooter in the stomach, causing him to double over. As Vin caught his breath, he asked, "How come you only hit me?"

Ezra glared at Vin, "If my hands weren't tied up, I'd have delivered that blow myself." This statement earned Ezra a fist to his mid section also. "Are you happy now, Mr Tanner?"

"He hit me harder."

"How could you possibly know that. I'm just able to take it better than you."

Farrow aimed Vin's weapon at Ezra, "I said, shut up."

* * * * * * *

Five members of Team 7 were standing on the front of the coast guard's boat, following the barge at a safe distance.

JD handed the binoculars to Buck, "There's some scuffling going on, but it's too dark to pick out any faces."

Buck stared through the binoculars, "Can we get any closer?"

"We don't want to spook them," Nathan answered. "Besides, we don't even know if it is actually Farrow."

"There's another boat heading towards the barge," Buck stated.

Josiah squinted in that direction, "It's just going passed, it didn't stop."

"It's the supplier, it has to be," Buck said.

Chris agreed with Buck, "Maybe they'll be kind enough to let us check their cargo."

* * * * * * *

Farrow watched in disbelief as his shipment floated passed, hardly even slowing down. He handed his gun to one of his men, and pulled out his cell phone to find out what was going on.

"At least someone had the foresight to bring a cell phone," Ezra's drawled.

"Shut up, Ez."

Farrow was beginning to re-think his lifestyle choice, he'd never experienced this many hassles before. "I know you don't like strangers joining the party.... I didn't invite them.... They're being taken care of.... Look, just turn around, the deal can still go ahead." Great he hung up. Farrow stalked back over to where Vin and Ezra were.

Vin hung his head, "I guess we're to blame."

"Hardly," Ezra hadn't liked the one-sided conversation they'd overheard either, but he wasn't going to take responsibility for this. "If Mr Farrow knew how shy his supplier was, he shouldn't have us standing out in clear view of any passing vessels."

These guys were unbelievable, they never stopped. Farrow lifted the lid of one of the crates and ordered Vin and Ezra to step inside.

Vin tried to resist, kicking out at the men holding him. However, when he saw Farrow aim the gun at Ezra's head he stopped struggling. "Real clever Ez. Any other useful tips you'd like share?"

"Could've given us separate boxes," Ezra grumbled as the lid was placed over their heads and hammered into place.

Both men pushed at the sides of the crates when they felt it being shuffled. Vin groaned, "This can't be good."

Suddenly they felt themselves falling and were jolted when the crate hit the ocean. Ezra tried to avoid the water as it began seeping slowly into the sinking box, "My suit will be ruined."

"Oh, I can't believe I'm gonna find out whether you can talk underwater."

* * * * * * *

Chris, Buck, Nathan and Josiah were arresting Farrow's suppliers and checking over the weapons they'd found on board, when JD yelled, "They've just thrown something overboard."

Chris snatched the binoculars away from JD, "We need a diving crew now!"

* * * * * * *

Chris moved closer to where the hospital staff had just wheeled Vin's bed. They had decided to place both men in the same room, although Vin had still needed to have his chest strapped due to a cracked rib. Buck, Josiah, Nathan and JD were now sprawled on chairs between the two beds.

For the first time that night, Chris hadn't been able to push down the panic that rose when they'd first opened the crate they'd hauled onto the boat and both Vin and Ezra had slid out, unconscious. Even when the doctor had assured Chris that both his agents were going to be fine, Chris had insisted that he and his friends be allowed to stay until they woke up.

Much to Chris' relief Ezra had woken just before Vin was brought in. He'd asked about Vin and once Josiah had reassured him that their young friend would be fine, Ezra had drifted back to sleep.

"Ezra?"

Chris turned to see Vin struggling to open his eyes. "Ezra's fine, he's right here," Chris whispered to his best friend.

"Good," Vin grunted as he gave up and let sleep overtake him.

"We should leave them to rest," Nathan said, feeling relieved now that he'd heard both agents' voices for himself.

"Yeah," Buck said. "After what these two put us through, we deserve a drink."

Chris nodded his head in agreement and followed his team out the door.

* * * * * * *

"Sleeping beauty has finally woken. I thought I was the late riser."

Vin pushed himself up into a sitting position on the bed and leaned back against the pillows, "They put us in the same room?"

"Yes, I think it's our punishment."

"I'm sure Chris will think of something worse later."

Ezra grimaced, "Which hardly seems fair, you're the one who dragged me onto that barge."

"We're not starting this again are we?"

"Well, it's true."

"If you had kept your big mouth shut, Farrow would never have thought to throw us overboard."

Ezra pointed at Vin, "If I remember correctly, that bandage is there due to your own vocalisations."

"I told you he hit me harder."

Just then Chris walked into the room, "You guys are looking better."

"Actually Mr Larabee, we're not quite recovered enough for any lectures."

"I think you are," Chris grinned. "I never want either of you go off on your own in the middle of an assignment without letting the rest of us know. You both left your cell phones at the motel, we had no idea what was going on. What if we hadn't gone down to the docks and noticed the barge taking off? What if we hadn't been able to get hold of the coast guard? What if we hadn't seen something get thrown overboard while we were arresting the suppliers? What if we hadn't got to you in time? You guys are just lucky we caught Farrow. You're both suspended, and I'm booking both of you in for a conference on responsibility and teamwork."

Vin frowned, "That's a bit harsh."

Ezra had the same unhappy look Vin did, "I agree with Mr Tanner. It sounded as though we led you directly to the felons."

"Yeah," Vin added. "You should be thanking us."

Chris shook his head in resignation, "You're being released tomorrow. We'll be heading directly to the airport after picking you up."

* * * * * * *

"No offence Ez, but I can't wait to get back home to my own apartment."

"None taken Mr Tanner, I feel exactly the same way."

Buck poked his head into the room, "You guys ready to go."

"You bet," Vin said as he jumped up, grimacing at the ache in his rib.

Ezra shook his head and followed the others down the hall.

"The others are waiting in cabs outside," Buck stated. "You'll be sharing one with me."

Both Ezra and Vin frowned, this togetherness was driving them crazy.

"I'm just glad I don't have to share a cab with the other four," Buck mused.

"Dissension among the ranks?" Ezra asked.

"The motel we were staying at only had one room free this week. We all had to share," Buck answered. "You know I'm not one to place blame, but whoever booked our accommodation has a lot to answer for."

Vin stared at Buck in confusion, "Didn't you organise the motel?"

Buck glared at Vin, then at Ezra, "Actually, you two are to blame. If you hadn't gone off and gotten yourselves into trouble, we wouldn't have had to hang around for the extra days."

"Really?" Ezra and Vin said at the same time.

"Yeah, I hardly slept, squashed in one room with four other guys. And Josiah snores."

"How awful," Vin mumbled.

"It was," Buck nodded. "The others all claimed a bed and I had to sleep in a chair."

"How inconsiderate," Ezra drawled.

"Your right," Buck continued. "Chris, Josiah, Nathan and JD are to blame for my discomfort. You guys have no idea what it's like to feel claustrophobic. It felt like I couldn't breath....."

Both Vin and Ezra rolled their eyes and resigned themselves to hearing all about Buck's complaints on the way to the airport.

THE END



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