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: This is probably giving it away, but this is not a deathfic. I wanted Chris to throw something, so I built this story around it.
Chris was being led into a small, empty room by three men. The faces of his captors were covered making them unrecognisable. Chris' face and body were covered in cuts and bruises, with his eyes swollen shut. He was barely conscious and was in actuality dragged rather than led into the room. His captors made him kneel down, and he wavered trying to maintain his balance before he finally stayed in position. One of the men stood directly behind Chris, another was positioned to his right with the third man standing behind the second. The man who was to Chris' directly beside him pulled a gun and fired causing Chris' head, now crimson with blood, to snap to the left and his body to crumple to the floor. The picture then faded to black.
The men in the room were stunned into silence. Suddenly Buck jumped out of this chair, "What the hell was that? Where did you get that tape?" he stared accusingly at Josiah.
Josiah shook his head as if trying to eradicate the image he’d just witnessed, "It was in the elevator when I came up."
The tape had been left there marked ATF, TEAM 7 - "MAGNIFICENT SEVEN". After determining it was actually a video tape and nothing more dangerous, Josiah decided to call everyone into the conference room to check it out.
"Mr Wilm...Buck we cannot be placing blame, we need to figure out who sent it," Ezra, after scanning the room and only finding expressions mirroring his own, decided any reaction he might have would have to wait, this team couldn’t fall apart, not yet.
"Like hell we can't. I'm going to find the bastards, then I'm goin' to blow their fucking heads off."
"Buck, please calm down. Ezra's right, we need to figure this out together. Chris wouldn’t want us running into danger, especially without each other as back up," Nathan had noticed that Buck was having trouble controlling his emotions. He couldn't blame him even Nathan was screaming inside for revenge and he was sure everyone else in the room was too. "Where's Vin?" as Nathan had scanned the room he noticed that one of them was missing.
"Chris gave him the day off," Josiah stated sadly, at least there was one question he could answer.
Nathan moved towards the phone, "I'll call him."
Everyone waited as patiently as they could: Josiah moved over the TV and extracted the tape, placing it in a plastic bag; JD sat slouched in his seat watching Buck pace the room; while Ezra drummed his fingers on the table.
Nathan slammed down the receiver, "There’s no answer. Maybe one of us should go over there, wait for him to come home."
“Nathan’s right," Vin should be told in person, and as soon as possible, but dammit, this wasn't a task Ezra really wanted to do. The usually observant undercover agent hadn’t noticed Vin was absent until Nathan mentioned it.
Josiah regarded Ezra and saw the determined expression. Ezra was taking responsibility, at least as far as letting Vin know. But then no-one should be doing that alone, "Would you like some company, Ezra?"
"Thanks, Josiah that would be greatly appreciated."
"Yeah well, while you two go off and find Vin, I'm going to track them down NOW. You can’t expect to leave us here doin' nothin'," Buck growled his anger only held slightly in check. He wished he could hit someone, but no-one in this room was to blame.
Ezra stepped into Buck's path, "I have a feeling that is exactly what these sons of bitches want us to do."
Buck grabbed hold of Ezra's jacket ready to shake the hell out of him, "Get out of my way, they've killed Chris and I'm going to find out why before I repay the debt," he snarled.
"Buck please, Ezra's right. These people are trying to get at all of us, or else why send the video tape. They think we’ll storm off without thinking and make a mistake. Going after these....," Josiah couldn’t find the right words, "Trying to handle this alone would be the biggest mistake."
Buck shoved Ezra aside, "I don't care what you say, I'm going."
"Then I'm coming too."
Buck swung around ready to take on anyone else willing to challenge him, but was taken aback when he found himself standing face to face with JD. The kid had lost a lot of color, his eyes were red and he could hardly keep the tremor out of his voice. Buck sighed and calmed down considerably, "No, JD you can't come. I don't want you to be around....I don't want you to see this."
"Well, if you won't let me come with you I'll go in another direction, one of us is sure to head in the right one. If I find them first...."
Buck’s anger was rising again, "No you won't. If they catch you....you could end up like....." Watching JD’s expression, Buck realised he couldn't win and that the kid would follow him anywhere, "Okay JD, we'll stay here and try to figure this out, then we can all get these guys together."
Ezra nodded, JD was the only person able to keep Buck sane. He wondered if the kid knew how much control he had over the older agent. "Alright, Josiah and I will head out to Vin's. Nathan take the video tape down to the lab perhaps we can get some fingerprints. JD, you and Buck start going through our most recent cases. I suspect we have upset some people, presumably while delivering felons to justice." Ezra was startled, he’d given orders and his teammates were actually complying. He shook his head as he exited the room, no, there’s no way I’m taking over Chris’ job.
* * * * * * *
Ezra and Josiah knocked on Vin's door, receiving no response. Knowing that Vin never locked his door, Josiah turned the handle and entered. He stopped abruptly in front of the doorway and Ezra had to squeeze past him to get into the room. Vin was sitting on the edge of the coffee table, staring at the blank screen of the TV with no expression on his face. Ezra followed Vin's line of sight and noticed the video case lying next to the TV, "Oh God, no." Ezra grabbed a tissue to pick the case up and looked for a plastic bag he could put it in.
Josiah moved over to where Vin was and placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder, "Vin?" Vin didn't answer, look up, or brush the hand away: there was just no reaction at all.
Ezra pressed eject on the video recorder ready to put the tape in the bag he'd found. Before Josiah knew what was happening, Vin jumped out at Ezra and wrestled the video away from him, "It's mine." He then went and sat down in exactly the same position, clutching the video to his chest.
Ezra motioned for Josiah to come away from Vin, "What should we do Josiah? He's taking this terribly hard, I wish he hadn't been alone when he watched Chris...."
"I know Ezra, I feel the same. I dont' think Vin will come with us. Maybe if we call the others to come over here. Vin might want to become involved if he realises everyone is trying to help."
Ezra nodded in agreement. Josiah stepped back and while he was talking quietly into the cell phone, watched as Ezra lowered himself next to Vin trying to give him comfort without saying a word.
* * * * * * *
Buck was getting more and more frustrated. JD was going through the files on his computer, printing out records on anyone who could want revenge on the team. All Buck could do was storm over to the printer and practically tear the pages out before returning to his position behind JD. "That's it," JD looked up just as Nathan strode through the door, "We've narrowed it down to five people."
"That's good JD. You can bring those printouts with you," Nathan had just gotten off the phone with Josiah.
"Why? Where are we goin'? We should be chasin' these people down," finally Buck had some suspects he could hunt and now Nathan was talking about going somewhere else.
"Vin had a copy of the video we saw delivered to his house. Josiah and Ezra are real worried about him and think that maybe all of us around sharing the information we've gathered might help."
"Poor Vin," JD couldn't imagine what it would have been like to watch something like that happen to your best friend alone. The image of Chris was almost unbearable, but without Buck, or even the others, being there...
* * * * * * *
JD was clearly alarmed when he first stepped into Vin’s apartment. Vin who was usually so easy going and generally leaning back or slouching, was sitting rigidly on the coffee table, clutching the tape, with Ezra seated quietly next to him. Josiah was watching over both of them, "Did you find anything?"
"The tape seems clean, but forensics will give me a call on my cell phone if they find anything," Nathan answered.
JD came out of his trance and fixed his gaze onto anyone other than Vin, "We've narrowed it down to five. Three of them own factories in the city, we should probably start there."
"There was no traffic noise in the background. The walls seemed to be made out of timber and then painted over. Also, they looked as if they led him through from a corridor which is usually found at the bottom of stairs. It must be a multi-level house. That style of building is found out towards Buford."
Everyone spun around to look at Vin, Josiah stepped closer and crouched down to look him in the eyes, "How many times have you watched that?" he asked, but Vin had gone silent again.
Buck grabbed the files from JD causing everything to get spilled onto the floor. Buck knelt down and started rifling through the paper. "What are you looking for? I can help," JD had also lowered himself onto the floor and was trying make some order of the files. "This," Buck stated as he lifted up a sheet of paper, "Beckman's factory is located in the city, but his brother owns a holiday house at Buford. Sometimes they’d store merchandise there to deflect attention."
Vin jumped up and headed out the door with Buck hot on his heels. Ezra also stood, "I'll go with Vin and Buck, the rest of you can go in Josiah's vehicle."
* * * * * * *
When the six men reached their destination they could only spot one person patrolling the building. He was wearing clothes that they recognised from the video.
"Josiah, you and Nathan head round the back. Signal us if it’s all clear. Buck you move round to the right, Vin and I will take the front." Ezra whispered, he really wanted to stop giving orders, but at least it was keeping him from falling apart.
Josiah was about to stand up and put Ezra’s plan into action, when Vin dashed out into the open. The guy on watch shot at Vin but missed. Buck who was right behind Vin, took his shot, and watched as he toppled off the balcony.
* * * * * * *
Beckman wasn't expecting Team 7 to show up here. He'd thought for sure that after seeing the video tape alone, Tanner would wander out on his own enabling them to grab him then. The others were supposed to be scouring the city searching the factories. He’d then have sent them a video tape featuring Vin Tanner. If everything had gone according to plan, the rest of the supposedly Magnificent Team should have become distraught making them easier to trap. Beckman’s brother had not deserved to die in prison, but these guys certainly deserved to watch each other die.
Vin saw Beckman heading towards the back of the house and threw himself on top of him. Buck was still right behind Vin but let his friend take the bastard down. Ezra, who had come up from the rear noticed someone quietly backing down some stairs, "Buck, with me. The rest of you try and pull Vin off that guy before he beats him to death."
Buck rushed past Ezra down the stairs in hot pursuit. Ezra found another staircase and headed towards them hoping to cut the criminal off. As he was heading down the corridor Ezra noticed a doorway, he stopped and stared at it for a second. Shaking his head, Ezra continued. He spotted Buck and saw that his friend had caught the third guy. Turning he retraced his footsteps, stopping once again at the door. Of course, it would be locked. Allowing himself to release some tension, he pulled out his gun and shot the lock.
Ezra rushed over to the inert form lying on the floor. He noticed the blood on the side of Chris' head but there was no gunshot wound. Ezra let out the breathe he had been holding when he checked for a pulse and found a faint beat.
"EZRA!" Buck yelled after having heard the gunshot.
"Buck, over here!"
"What are you...." Buck stopped abruptly when he walked into the small room and saw Ezra cradling Chris.
"He's still alive call an ambulance."
* * * * * * *
Team 7 had called in the local police and handed Beckman and his hired help over to them. Buck climbed into the ambulance with Chris and the others were getting ready to follow them to the hospital. Ezra turned before climbing into a vehicle looking for Vin and found him standing in the distance watching. Their eyes met, Vin bowed his head and walked away.
* * * * * * *
Chris had been badly beaten and had some internal injuries. Beckman had staged the video by using paint type bullets, the force made Chris snap his head to the right leaving a bruise on the side of his head.
At the hospital the staff would only let one person in to sit with Chris at a time, so the five members of Team 7 took turns. Nobody knew where Vin had gone, and if he was at home he wasn't answering his phone.
When Chris finally regained consciousness, Ezra was sitting with him, "Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr Larabee."
"Ezra?" Chris was trying to take in his surroundings and realised he was in hospital. "Beckman..."
"It's okay, everything's been taken care of."
"Where is everyone? Where's Vin?"
Ezra had known that question would be coming, "Josiah, Nathan, Buck and JD are in the waiting room. Vin should be along a little later."
"Why? Is he alright, nothing's happened..."
"Vin's health is perfect, there's nothing to worry about. You've been through a great ordeal and I think you should get some rest."
"I want to know what's happened."
"I promise we'll fill you in after you've rested," Ezra had no idea how he was going to explain, he wasn't even sure Chris realised that they'd all thought he was dead.
* * * * * * *
Buck pulled up outside Vin’s apartment. He noticed the younger agent sitting on the curb watching the cars drive past. Buck strolled over and sat down next to Vin, "How’s it goin’ pard?"
Vin shrugged and turned towards Buck waiting for him to continue.
"Chris is being released today. He has to stay at home for a week, then he should be fine to come back to work."
Vin continued staring at Buck.
"Look, we all understand why you didn’t come and visit Chris at the hospital. But now he’s home I think you should come and help us keep him company."
"I don’t think so Buck."
"What do you mean, you don’t think so? He’s your best friend."
"No, he’s your best friend," Vin stated as he stood and headed towards his apartment building.
* * * * * * *
"I’m here to release you from this dismal place," Ezra smiled as he entered Chris’ hospital room.
Chris was already dressed, sitting on the end of the bed waiting, "Bout time. Where are the others?"
"Buck and Nathan are finishing some paperwork back at the office, although they should arrive at the ranch before we do. JD and Josiah are already there, tidying up for your homecoming. Josiah even offered to cook us dinner tonight in celebration."
"What about Vin?" Chris couldn’t help but notice the omission.
"I’m afraid Mr Tanner will not be joining us," Ezra wished he’d had other news, it seemed that was all he was ever telling Chris. Buck had been completely disheartened when he’d come back to the office and repeated the conversation he’d had with Vin. "I’m sure he’ll come around, he just needs time. Now, are you coming or should I ask the doctor if you can stay another night."
"Coming," Chris grinned. "You seem to have developed a knack for giving orders."
"I most certainly do not give orders. I merely request." Ezra stated as he headed towards the exit.
Still grinning, Chris followed Ezra. "That’s not what I’ve been hearing from the others. They said I’d better start getting used to undercover work, my position’s been filled."
"Mr Larabee, I can assure you I have no desire to usurp your leadership. Undercover work is much less stressful."
Chris caught up to Ezra and stopped the other agent before they’d reached the car. He turned and looked him straight in the eye, "Thanks Ezra."
"You’re more than welcome, Chris."
* * * * * * *
Chris stepped out of the elevator. He'd missed work, he always did when he was forced to stop. Everyone was already there when he stepped off the elevator, they all looked up and smiled glad that their leader was back.
"How are you feeling?" Nathan asked.
"Fine, is Vin in his office?" No-one had told Chris that Vin hadn’t been coming to work either. “I need to speak to him.”
Team 7 felt terrible. They should have told him that Vin had cut himself off from everyone, not just Chris. It had been hard enough explaining everything that had happened. Chris had insisted, the next time he woke in the hospital, that they tell him everything. They had watched as the emotion crossed his face, the most prominent being pain and guilt. He’d said he understood why Vin wouldn’t visit, but they all knew it still hurt.
"Vin hasn't come to work since Beckman," Josiah answered.
* * * * * * *
Vin arrived at his apartment with a bag of groceries. He stepped through the doorway and then stopped putting down the bag, "What are you doin' here?"
"You should lock your door, you never know what kind of riff raff will let themselves in," Chris was sitting on one of the chairs holding the video loosely in his hand.
Vin kept his expression carefully neutral and didn't say anything, he just moved across to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall.
"Planning on coming back to work?"
"Hadn't thought about it."
Well, at least that was response, Chris held up the tape, "Light entertainment?"
"Just don't want to forget."
"Forget what? Vin, it wasn't real. I'm here and I'm fine."
Vin had become silent again.
"I know it was hard seeing that, there are no guarantees that won't happen, but you can't push everyone away."
Chris looked over and saw that Vin's expression hadn't wavered. He jumped up and threw the video across the room smashing it into pieces, "Dammit Vin, do you think that just because you've cut yourself off we're all gonna stop caring. Or maybe you think this is all my fault, maybe I shouldn't have any friends just in case I hurt them. Hell, I should probably just send my team away, reassign everyone to some remote position in Mexico or something. That way no-one would get hurt right? I'd definitely have to split Buck and JD up, it would be much better if JD didn't know if Buck was dead somewhere and vice versa." Chris stopped his tirade and stepped closer to Vin, looking him in the eye, "You're not the only one who's been hurt, we all know how it feels. I've never known you to be selfish before, but if you've honestly stopped caring about the rest of us don't bother coming back to work."
* * * * * * *
The next Monday, the discussion five members of Team 7 were having was interrupted by the sound of the elevators. Everyone stared as Vin stepped out, but nobody spoke.
Having five pairs of eyes following him didn't bother Vin, he just strode up to Chris' office and entered without knocking.
The others turned to each other and shrugged. Vin was actually in the office, and going to see Chris. It looked as if things might actually start getting back to normal.
* * * * * * *
Chris glanced up from the paperwork on his desk. When he saw who it was, he leaned back in his chair and waited for Vin to say something.
"I've come for my reassignment to Alaska."
Chris smiled slightly, trust Vin to say something sarcastic, "If that's what you want."
"Only if the rest of you are reassigned with me."
"Are you kidding? Ezra thinks it’s too cold in Denver."
"Well, in that case. If you haven’t found a replacement."
"Welcome back Vin."
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