Disclaimer: This story is the product of different minds coming together to have some fun. All rights to these characters belongs to others. This is strictly for entertainment and we will make no profit.
Rating: NC-17 (If you are under 18 or don't like m/m relationships turn back now!)
Authors' Notes: This story was like a lightening bolt. Without warning the whole story flashed into my mind..and wouldn't you know it...I wasn't able to write it down at the time. It took quite a while to actually to get what I had in mind down on paper. One leaving the other and being seen as the baddie has always intrigued me - this is my version.
Chris spotted the sharpshooter standing at the bar of the Saloon. "Where the hell were you?" Chris snapped as he walked towards Vin.
Slowly turning around, Vin stared at Chris with a bored expression.
Chris' tone took on an annoyed edge, "You were supposed to be there for the preliminary meeting with the supplier."
"I got held up," Vin shrugged.
"Doing what?" Chris looked as though we was trying to control his anger. "We specifically discussed what was to happen today. Ezra introduced me to Kirkland as a potential buyer and you and Buck were supposed to be my bodyguards. And you just decided not to show up? What if something had gone wrong?"
Vin waved his hand indicating the other five team members behind Chris, "You had plenty of people backing you up."
Chris' voice became low and steely, "That's not the point. I expected you there. I don't even know whether or not you're going to bother showing up for the bust."
"I'll be there," Vin mumbled.
"And I'll have to explain the extra bodyguard," Chris continued.
"Actually, bringing extra security to the sale will display that you are cautious and not willing to take too many chances," Ezra interrupted. "I have no doubt Mr Kirkland will be accompanied by one or two extra bodyguards himself."
Chris sighed, "Well, did you at least finish the report I asked for on Monday?"
Vin didn't answer, just shook his head so slightly that Chris almost missed the movement.
"It's Thursday, you've had three whole days to finish it," Chris couldn't believe this. "What's going on with you? I need you all to take on a certain amount of responsibility, but you haven't done one thing I, or anyone else, have asked of you in past few weeks. You don't bother showing up for meetings, you refuse to write up your reports, and now you're not even interested in participating in this bust. If you have a problem, or need help with your writing....."
Vin eyes flicked to the other members of the team, "You have to do this in front of everyone, it's not as if I didn't hear all this yesterday when you dragged me into your office."
Chris turned his head and saw the others shuffling uncomfortably behind him. Everyone knew Vin hated having this kind of attention drawn to him, but Chris' anger had surfaced again, "So you're ignoring me, I was beginning to think you just weren't listening."
"If you'd get off my back," Vin stopped and threw some money on the counter as the bartender handed over a bottle of whiskey.
"Since when do you order whole bottles of whiskey?" Chris demanded.
"Great, now you're tellin' me what I can and can't drink." Vin pushed the bottle at Chris' chest, "Here, it's on me," he stated as he stalked towards the door.
Chris stared at the bottle, "Damn."
Josiah placed a hand on Chris' shoulder, "I'll go after him."
"I think I'll join you," Ezra stated. Vin's friendship was incredibly important to the undercover agent. Obviously something must be bothering him, everyone on Team 7 had always been able to trust that Vin would be there to back them up. Witnessing Vin's uncharacteristic behaviour for himself had made Ezra realise just how worried he was about the sharpshooter, "We'll make sure he gets home safely."
Chris just nodded his head dejectedly and slumped into one of the chairs, opening the bottle.
"Chris," Buck started as he moved to where Chris was sitting.
"Can we just not talk about this right now," Chris already felt drained and tired, he just needed the quiet support of his friends.
Sensing this, Buck, Nathan and JD sat down around the table and the four men shared the whiskey.
* * * * * * *
Vin sighed as the bartender poured his drink. Indicating that he wanted the bottle left where it was, Vin watched out of the corner of his eye as his two friends entered the bar. Vin had noticed the Jag following him, but had hoped that they'd just take note of the bar and keep going. Just this once he would have liked to be left alone.
Draining his glass in one swallow, Vin began pouring himself another, "I don't need babysitters."
"We thought we'd keep you company," Josiah said as he and Ezra took a seat either side of Vin.
"Yes," Ezra agreed. "And perhaps join you in a libation."
Vin finished his second glass and began pouring. Both Ezra and Josiah realised that Vin wasn't going to offer them a drink so they each ordered a beer, and Ezra indicated that he'd pay for everything.
"You two can keep each other company," Vin stood and grabbing the bottle of whiskey headed for one of the booths. He hated that Josiah and Ezra were watching him, but couldn't think of anything that would shake them off. If he left and moved on, he knew they'd just follow him again. Vin supposed that if he went back to his apartment, they would most likely report to Chris and then go home themselves. However, if they were going to ruin Vin's plans, then they'd just have to hang around and get home a little later themselves.
"Should we go over and try to talk to him? Or should we leave him be?" Josiah asked as they watched Vin make quick work of the bottle.
"I don't think two people accosting him with questions is going to work," Ezra drawled. "Perhaps only one of us should try."
"I don't know," Josiah shook his head. "Vin can be stubborn, and he seems pretty determined to shut everyone out."
"Eventually he'll still need someone to reach out to," Ezra said quietly.
Josiah smiled slightly. When Ezra had been just as stubborn about keeping his distance from the team, Vin had been the one to keep badgering the undercover agent until he learnt what it meant to have friends. Josiah wondered what Vin would think if he knew that Ezra was now saying the exact words Vin had used when the rest of Team 7 had just about been ready to give up on Ezra.
Both Josiah and Ezra jumped out of their seats as Vin stood to leave.
"I don't think you should be driving," Josiah stated.
"I'm not drunk," Vin objected.
"No," Josiah agreed, Vin only had one bottle although that was more than the young man usually drank. "But you're still over the limit."
"Give Josiah your keys, he'll return the jeep to you tomorrow at work. I'll take you home," Ezra figured that maybe one on one, Vin might open up and tell him what was wrong. "Unless, of course, you'd prefer us to cause a scene right here."
Vin gave up, these guys just wouldn't go away and he was tired of arguing, he'd had enough of that with Chris earlier. Vin threw the keys at Josiah and let Ezra lead him to the Jag.
* * * * * * *
Vin leaned back into the seat and closed his eyes, hoping that Ezra wouldn't try to start a conversation.
Ezra didn't quite know how to begin, he didn't think that opening with a sarcastic comment would work this time, "Vin, you know you can come to me if you need to talk about something."
"I can't," Vin drawled.
"Can't or won't?" Ezra wanted to know.
Vin opened his eyes and glanced at Ezra, "Both."
Ezra fell silent, he hadn't realised how important it was to him that Vin talk to him. Ezra wasn't deterred, it was more than obvious Vin needed someone and Ezra was determined that he'd be the one the sharpshooter eventually turned to.
"This isn't the way to my apartment," Vin observed.
"No," Ezra agreed. "You can have the spare room at my apartment. You know I hate driving in your neighbourhood, especially at night."
Vin shrugged and closed his eyes again.
Ezra was glad Vin had let it drop. The real reason was that he himself needed to keep an eye on Vin. Besides, Ezra was afraid that if he left Vin at his own apartment, he'd just go out looking for another bar or liquor store. This way at least Vin wouldn't get anything more to drink. And Ezra would feel much better having Vin close.
* * * * * * *
Vin woke early, his arms still wrapped tightly around the body tangled with his. Running a hand over his face, Vin whispered, "What have I done."
Manoeuvring his way out from under Ezra, Vin was careful not to wake the undercover agent. All he could think of was getting out of there as he quickly as possible as he threw on his clothes. Vin didn't want to explain his hasty departure, in fact he didn't want to talk to Ezra at all. Silently he slipped out the door and left the apartment.
* * * * * * *
Ezra's thoughts were all on Vin as he rode the elevator up to the office. Unfortunately, Vin had still refused to talk about whatever was bothering him. However, Ezra wouldn't let Vin push him away, the sharpshooter had been distancing himself from everyone for far too long now. All at once Ezra had realised his long-standing attraction for Vin, his concern for the younger man had pushed all his feelings to the surface and all Ezra wanted was to hold Vin. Taking a chance, Ezra had stepped closer and tentatively pressed his lips to Vin's. When the sharpshooter's mouth responded and his strong arms wrapped around Ezra pulling the undercover agent closer, there was no way Ezra could miss Vin's hunger for human comfort.
Vin hadn't been there when Ezra woke, and the most plausible reason Ezra could think of was that Vin had wanted to get into the office early. It made sense, Vin was already in Chris' bad books and coming to the office late wouldn't have helped the situation. Still, Vin could have woken Ezra, the undercover agent would have gladly come into work early if it meant spending more time with Vin. Although, the thought that Vin had been concerned about Ezra's comfort and let him sleep peacefully for a little while longer was pleasing to Ezra. A slight smile played on Ezra's lips as the elevator doors opened.
The smile quickly faded when Ezra heard a door slam. Everyone on the floor turned to see Vin stalking down the corridor.
"Vin. I'm not finished," Chris growled as he came up behind Vin. "You can't just walk away from something you don't want to hear. You need to..."
Vin whirled around, "I don't need this."
JD almost dropped the file he was holding. Vin's words had cut over Chris' and no-one on Team 7 had ever heard him shout at anybody before, even if he was angry Vin's voice usually turned low and deceptively quiet.
Even Chris took an involuntary step back as Vin's eyes flashed and he clenched both his fists.
Taking a deep breath Vin turned and continued stalking towards the stairs. Ezra reached for Vin as if to stop the sharpshooter, but Vin just walked straight passed him barely glancing in Ezra's direction.
Trying to reassert some control Chris called out, "Don't you dare leave this office, Vin."
Vin wavered as he held the door open before he walked through the exit, slamming the door behind him.
The room became silent, and the air was heavy with tension. The rest of Team 7 didn't know what to say.
Chris looked around at the startled expressions, "Don't you have any work to do?"
Everyone shuffled back to their offices, except for Ezra who was standing frozen to the spot staring at the door Vin had just left through.
"Ezra?" Chris asked.
Ezra broke out of his trance, "I'd like to go after him."
"Leave him be for now. Let him cool off," Chris had known one of the team would want to chase after Vin. Hell, that's what he wanted as well, to make sure the sharpshooter was alright, however now was not the time.
Ezra was watching the worry play over Chris' expression, before glancing at the door one last time, "Perhaps you're right Mr Larabee."
* * * * * * *
Ezra lightly knocked on the door to Vin's apartment as he walked in. He'd left the office a little early, after spending the whole day hoping the sharpshooter would return. Everyone had gone about their work individually, without speaking to one another, until Chris called a meeting to discuss the bust that was going down on Monday. Chris was going to spend the weekend preparing with the Judge and the leader of Team 3. There were no comments or suggestions, no bantering, not so much as a grin was seen on any of the faces around the conference table. Chris just laid out the plan, still including Vin in the equation. However, this was the first time any of Team 7 had felt that Chris doubted Vin's dependability.
Ezra wandered through all the rooms, even though it was quite clear Vin hadn't been here. Ezra realised he had no idea where to start looking for Vin, he'd already ruled out all the usual places seeing as Vin seemed determined to avoid his friends. If the sharpshooter didn't want to be found, Ezra didn't think he, or anyone else, would be able to track Vin down.
Closing the door firmly behind him, Ezra sighed as he headed back to the Jag. He'd come back tomorrow, surely Vin would want to return home sometime over the weekend.
* * * * * * *
Ezra put on his sunglasses to hide his bloodshot eyes as Buck approached the Jag. He hadn't slept much over the weekend, and really didn't feel like being here.
"Kirkland's due in a couple of hours," Buck began. "Chris is going over everyone's final positions."
Ezra nodded, but before he could head towards the group, Buck continued, "Judge Travis is here. He'll be in the van with JD." When Buck noticed Ezra was about to ask the question, he added, "I think he's checking on rumours he's heard about Vin. You haven't seen Tanner, have you?"
Bowing his head, Ezra mumbled, "I'm afraid I haven't seen Mr Tanner since Friday morning."
Ezra walked towards Chris to let him know he was ready, while Buck continued checking the perimeter.
"What's happenin' Buck."
Buck spun around when he heard the familiar Texas drawl behind him, "Vin, where did you come from?" Buck hadn't noticed a vehicle approaching.
Vin waved a bottle in no particular direction, "Over there."
As Buck approached the sharpshooter he was assaulted with the scent of alcohol. Jesus, it was midmorning and Vin already reeked of whiskey, "There's been a change in plans. We don't need as many people, you can go home Vin."
Vin stared at Buck and narrowed his eyes, "No, Chris said I absolutely had to be here. Don't want to get into trouble."
Vin began heading towards the gathering. Buck tried to reach for the sharpshooter, "Vin, we can handle it."
As he jumped away from Buck's reach, Vin stumbled down the slight incline, "Shit."
Everyone turned and watched as Vin stood unsteadily and ineffectually dusted off his clothes, before he continued staggering towards them, with Buck following him.
Vin ignored all the stares, and blocked out Ezra's anxious expression, as he stood directly in front of Chris, "I'm here."
"Go home Vin," Chris hissed. "You've been drinking."
Vin blinked and turned the empty bottle upside down, "It's okay, I've stopped."
Chris' face was a mask of anger as he pushed Vin aside, "Nathan, you'll be my second bodyguard."
"Hey," Vin had barely managed to keep his balance when Chris had shoved him. "That's my job."
Josiah grabbed Vin by the arm, "You're coming with me son."
"I ain't your son," Vin slurred as he tried to pull his arm out of Josiah's grip, dropping the bottle in the process.
JD quickly bent down and snatched the bottle up as he headed towards the van to check on the audio equipment. Judge Travis pulled Chris to one side, while everyone else shuffled nervously to their own positions.
Josiah dragged Vin up the hill, practically throwing the smaller man out of view behind a rock.
"Watch it," Vin mumbled.
Ignoring Vin, Josiah pulled out his weapon and began checking it over and surveying his vantage point.
* * * * * * *
The bust went smoothly, Team 3 were able to swarm in on JD's signal, and Kirkland and his men only put up a minimal fight.
Josiah had been glad when Vin stopped muttering and became silent. In fact, the sharpshooter seemed to have been watchful and attentive as soon as Kirkland arrived.
Now that they had regrouped with their friends, Vin decided to pipe up again, "We should celebrate."
Chris snapped, he grabbed the front of Vin's shirt and pushed him backwards away from everyone, "Don't you ever come anywhere near a bust drunk again."
The rest of Team 7 watched as Judge Travis joined the two men. Ezra immediately wanted to follow the Judge, but Buck placed a hand on his shoulder, "We should stay out of it Ez."
Ezra glanced towards them, both Chris and Travis were obviously reading Vin the riot act, "Vin needs our support."
"He needs to get his act together," Nathan said drily.
JD sided with Ezra. "Vin's always the first to stand behind one of us when we're in trouble."
"He showed up to a bust drunk, Kid," Buck sighed. "He could have ruined all our hard work at the least, or gotten himself or one of us killed at worst."
"Something's botherin' him," JD defended. "He'd never hurt..."
"You're suspended," Chris' sharp tone cut over JD's voice.
The rest of Team 7 all faced the same direction, and saw Vin shove his gun into Chris' hands and throw his identification to the ground.
"I quit," Vin's voice matched Chris'.
Pushing past the Judge, Vin purposefully avoided his friends and stalked off.
"Vin," Ezra called as he began to follow the sharpshooter.
As though Ezra's voice had provoked him, and without glancing backwards, Vin started running.
Josiah held Ezra back, "Let him go, he needs to sober up first."
Chris could see that his team was hurt and confused, and he cursed as he bent down to pick up Vin's ID.
* * * * * * *
Ezra quietly stepped into Vin's apartment, expecting to find the sharpshooter passed out or at least with a hint of a hangover this morning. Even though this wasn't the case, the sight of Vin tossing clothes into a bag did nothing to relieve Ezra's uneasiness.
"What do you want Ez?" Vin asked without turning around.
"Where are you going?" Ezra wanted to know.
"Away," Vin answered. "Seeing as my friends won't leave me alone."
"Perhaps I could..." Ezra began.
"No," Vin interrupted. "That included you, why is everyone harassing me?"
"We're concerned about you," Ezra wished Vin would turn around and look at him, he hated having to talk to the sharpshooter's back. "I was hoping you'd let me in, after the other night."
Vin sighed, "The other night? What are you talkin' about?"
Ezra's tone became firmer, "I know you remember what we shared." Ezra could still feel Vin moving over him, caressing and tasting his flesh. Vin had been slow and gentle, as well as strong and controlled, and Ezra refused to believe that Vin had not been completely aware of what he was doing. "You were not that intoxicated."
"I wasn't drunk," Vin conceded as he turned to face Ezra, his blue eyes hard and cold like ice. "So, that roll in the hay didn't mean much, seeing as I haven't thought about it since."
"No," Ezra whispered as he backed out of the door.
Vin returned to his packing, violently throwing his clothes into the bag.
* * * * * * *
Stifling a groan, Ezra stopped mid-stride when he heard Nathan's voice. He'd hoped to get to his office before anyone discovered he was in, but also knowing what everyone wanted. When Ezra, Buck, JD, Josiah and Nathan had gathered at the Saloon that night, all of them had wanted to go check on the sharpshooter. Realising that the five of them all confronting Vin at the same time probably wasn't such a good idea, Ezra had volunteered to drop by the apartment in the morning, hopefully giving Vin enough time to sleep it off. Now however, the last thing Ezra needed was to answer a lot of questions.
"Did you talk to Vin?" Buck asked as the rest of Team 7 began to gather around.
"Yes," Ezra sighed.
"How was he?" JD wanted to know.
Keeping his voice and expression carefully neutral, Ezra answered, "Apparently in need of a vacation. Mr Tanner was packing."
Ezra glanced over at their leader, who was standing back from the group. Chris lowered his eyes, turned on his heel and stalked into his office.
"What do you mean?" Nathan continued with the questions. "Where is he going?"
Ezra shrugged, "Right at this moment, I couldn't care less." Realising his emotions were threatening to overwhelm him, Ezra moved towards his office.
Catching Ezra's arm, Josiah whispered quietly so that no-one else could hear, "Whatever Vin said to push us away, don't take it personally."
Finally, Ezra shut his office door behind him and slumped into the chair, knowing that he wouldn't be able to get any work done that day.
"Don't take it personally," Ezra mumbled and almost laughed. Vin had been able to discard him without a second thought, exactly like almost everyone in Ezra's life had at some stage. He should have expected it, since when did he trust people to do any different.
Ezra had honestly believed in the relationship he'd thought was forming between them, even now Ezra's body ached the same as it had when he'd first reached out for Vin. When Vin's mouth had covered his own, Ezra had put his heart and soul into the kiss and he'd thought Vin had done the same, however Vin had just taken the comfort he'd needed from Ezra at the time. He should have seen it, hell Ezra was an undercover agent, using people was his job. But somehow Vin had snuck under Ezra's defences, and Ezra winced as he remembered wrapping his arms around the sharpshooter, whispering that all he'd ever wanted was to hold Vin. Ezra should have guessed that it had just been a one night stand when he'd woken alone, however he'd automatically trusted that Vin had a good reason for leaving his bed. Before Vin, Ezra couldn't ever recall giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, and as he felt the hurt and anger build up inside him, Ezra realised why.
* * * * * * *
Chris slammed the phone down. Judge Travis hadn't said anything about cutting all communication with Vin. If he had, Chris would never have allowed Vin to leave in the first place.
When the Judge had asked Chris to let the FBI borrow Vin for this assignment, Team 7's leader had reluctantly agreed to speak with the sharpshooter about it. Naturally, Vin had said yes, Chris hadn't expected less.
The FBI and local police had begun to notice that a small group of bounty hunters were consistently bringing in their marks dead, always claiming it was self defence. All the kills seemed to be excessively violent, however the only witnesses belonged to their little gang. Money, drugs and weapons which should also have been brought in, or at least found at these criminals' hideouts, were beginning to disappear only when these bounty hunters were on the case. Knowing they had an ex-bounty hunter on staff in the ATF, the FBI had requested Agent Tanner to infiltrate the group. The plan had been that Vin either be fired or quit while the bounty hunters were still in town, hopefully he'd be able to join the gang here, and then move on with them as they drifted to other towns.
Knowing that some bounty hunters used members of the bureau and police as sources, Judge Travis had been insistent that the rest of Team 7 not be informed of Vin's assignment. That way the reactions to Tanner's departure would be genuine. Chris knew that his team could have handled feigning the bewilderment they were displaying now. So did the Judge, but he also knew that they would want to be involved, and even if he'd forbidden them to go anywhere near the sharpshooter, he had no doubt they would try to follow Vin anyway. Chris suspected that was why he hadn't been informed that he wouldn't have any contact with Vin until after the assignment, and was now regretting letting the sharpshooter go.
Chris had no doubt that Vin had known about the restriction on communication from the beginning. He'd also been just as adamant as the Judge about keeping the rest of Team 7 in the dark. Vin had figured that they would worry more if they'd known about the assignment. And, just like the Judge, Vin knew that his friends would want to help. The last thing the sharpshooter needed was to be distracted by the possibility that one or all of his team members were following him, potentially putting them all in danger.
The Judge had assured Chris that Vin would have an agent close by as back up, but now that Chris was prevented from talking to Vin or even knowing his exact whereabouts at any given time, he was beginning to think he'd made a mistake.
Chris considered telling his team everything, and that all that had happened over the past couple of months, up to and including Vin quitting, had been all part of a plan. But then, they would feel just as worried and useless as he did right now. Chris would keep bugging the Judge until he gave in and disclosed Vin's location, at least then he'd have something to tell his friends and something for them all to do.
It had been surprisingly difficult to keep up the pretence of fighting with Vin. Although neither man ever meant what they said, the anger and frustration they were forced to display seemed to sap all their energy and left them feeling just as upset as if they'd actually argued. Chris had been grateful that he could still turn to his friends, even if he couldn't discuss what was wrong, he could draw on their support.
On the other hand, Vin had to continuously push everyone away, even to the extent that he had to hide so that he could have a break from their concern. Chris had been alarmed when Vin had stormed into his office one morning, incredibly upset that Josiah and Ezra had followed him from the Saloon. Although Chris felt there was more to it than Vin was saying, he had become closed and Chris could actually see the wall being built around the young man. Chris had thought about holding Ezra and Josiah back, but knew it would seem strange that he give them orders not to go after the sharpshooter. Besides, they had been on their own time, and Chris had no authority over them. However, after seeing the range of emotions Vin had been trying block out, Chris had kept an eye on his team, trying to find excuses for them to leave Vin alone. When he'd heard Ezra's report this morning, Chris realised that he hadn't even been able to do that.
Chris tiredly meandered out of his office, needing to be close to his friends, wondering when Vin would be able to receive some much needed support.
* * * * * * *