Sunday morning, eight AM, the phone rang. With a grumble, the body rolled over and snapped the phone open. “Yes?”
Silence. “Ezra, is that you?”
Breathing a curse, Sarah closed her eyes. Her own voice had come out of the throat they shared. “Just a moment…. Ezra…Ezra, wake up…phone.”
“H-huh?” he stammered, coming to the fore as the stepped back. He looked down at the cell phone in his hand and raised it to his ear. “H-Hello?”
“Sorry to call so early, but you wanted to know the results as soon as they came in.”
Ezra’s eyes widened. “John. What’ve you found?” He grabbed a pencil and yawned as he said, “Go ahead…”
John rattled off a chemical name. “Tasteless, colourless, odourless.”
“Results?” Ezra asked, frowning at the unfamiliar name.
“Well, it increases appetite for one. And if more is put on the food--”
“Yes, a vicious cycle. What else?”
John sighed. “It causes slight hyperactivity and a sense of euphoria.”
Ezra thought of the way Vin was acting the day before. Giddy, never sitting still…jumping Peso over cars… “Anything else?”
There was a slightly uncomfortable pause. “John? Anything else?”
John cleared his throat. “Well…”
“Well, it’s nothing that can be proven….”
Ezra sighed. “Tell me, John. I’ll decide whether or not it’s relevant.”
John heaved a sigh. “The rumours are that people with low-level psychic abilities take it illegally – to retard their abilities so it won’t interfere with their lives.”
Ezra’s eyes widened at that, but he kept his voice even. “I see. Is that all?” At John’s affirmative, he said, “Thank you, my friend. There’ll be a certificate to a steakhouse in your mail box for this.” He hung up, tapping the pen on the paper. “Damn.”
Well, Sarah sighed. That explains why he couldn’t tell it wasn’t Chris.
“As well as explains why Sebastian was drugging him.” Ezra sighed. “We need to get Vin away from him.”
Yes, and get him off those drugs.
“And I doubt there’ll be time to do it before the Draconis bust.”
There was a moment, then Sarah summed it up perfectly.
Vin smiled as he got out of the shower and dressed. Part of him wondered why he was so cheerful – he was starting to annoy himself!
He was ravenous. So he padded to the kitchen and began to open cabinets.
His cell phone rang, and he flipped it open. “Tanner, talk to me!”
“Hey, Vin!” came the familiar voice.
His smile grew. “Hey, Chris! What’s up?”
“I got breakfast – wanna join me?”
Vin’s stomach growled. “Definitely! Where?”
“Here, at the ranch.”
“I’ll be there in forty-five minutes.”
Sebastian smiled as he closed the phone and turned it off. All he had to do was keep Tanner drugged… and Tuesday would go very smoothly.
The thought gave him a warm feeling all the way through.
The beginning of the destruction of Team Seven.
At his hands.
Life didn’t get any better than this.
Vin hummed as he got his keys and jacket. Breakfast sounded wonderful. He opened his front door and gave a violent start.
“What the hell!”
Ezra smiled sweetly at Vin, leaning on the doorjamb. He was dressed down for Ezra – jeans and a light purple button-down shirt. “Good morning.”
Vin blinked. “What’s happened? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just thought perhaps you and I could have breakfast, that’s all.”
Blue eyes narrowed and the head tilted. “Why?”
Ezra heaved a sigh. “Vin, look. I realize I haven’t been a paragon of friendship in the past, but I do consider you a friend and I would like to further that connection.”
After a moment, Vin nodded. “I can see that – but does it have to be now? I’m on my way t’meet Chris and –“
“Vin, please – I’ll call him and explain. This is very important to me. You always eat with Chris….”
Something flickered in Vin’s eyes. “All right, but it’s on your head.”
Ezra smiled and walked inside. Eyes on Vin, he dialed Chris’s cell. Unsurprised when the voice mail clicked on, he let Sarah leave the message.
In her normal voice.
“Hi, Christopher. I’ve kidnapped Vin for the day. I’ll return him Monday in time for work. Bye-bye.” He hung up the phone and a hazel eye closed in a wicked wink to Vin.
Vin collapsed on the couch in hysterics! “Ez, that was great! You really sounded like a woman!”
“Why thank you, sugar,” Sarah drawled with a grin. “I’ve been practicin’.”
I LOVE the way your mind works! Ezra laughed before she stepped aside again.
Thank you, she purred in his mind after.
Vin sat up, wiping his eyes and chuckling. Suddenly he was off again, falling back against the couch back and holding his stomach as he howled with laughter.
It broke their shared heart to hear it and watch Vin helplessly giggling like a giddy child. They knew, over the course of the day, his emotions would be all over the place as he came down from the effects of the drug Sebastian had been feeding him.
They just had to keep him away from Sebastian.
To say Christian Sebastian was pissed off would be putting it very mildly. It was after one, and Vin hadn’t shown up.
He knew enough about Vin to know that wasn’t like him. Finally, he turned Larabee’s cell phone on.
Sure enough, there was a message. A woman’s voice, purring seductively over the line.
“Hi, Christopher. I’ve kidnapped Vin for the day. I’ll return him Monday in time for work. Bye-bye.” BUZZ….
Sebastian found himself chuckling. A woman. It figures. Well, one day off the drug wouldn’t hurt anything. The withdrawal wouldn’t be severe enough to notice and he’d just feed him more Monday.
Let Tanner have his fun.
It’d be his last for quite some time.
…..that can’t be…she’s dead…..
….omig-d….that was her….
Sunday night found an exhausted Vin asleep on the couch in Ezra’s townhouse. The poor man was going through withdrawal – his emotions were all over the place, he was shaking, and his headaches and nausea were warring for control.
What do we do? Sarah asked as they tucked him in. If he’s still in this shape in the morning, there’s no way he can go to work!
“Then he won’t go to work,” Ezra whispered as he sank into the rocking chair by the couch. “That might be prudent anyway – give him a day of rest before the Draconis bust Tuesday.”
But what if he’s still not ready THEN?
“He’ll be ready,” Ezra said, watching Vin sleep restlessly. “I know him. He’ll be ready.”
Monday found Christian Sebastian stewing. No Vin. No Ezra.
No calls. No word.
It wasn’t normal.
The day ended with him driving the Ram to the townhouse – to find another shock.
No Jaguar. No jeep.
Where the hell were those two?
Fuming, Sebastian drove away – more determined than ever the next day would be the beginning of Team Seven’s end.
Ezra and Vin stood side-by-side, watching the Ram drive away. “How come he didn’t come up?” Vin asked.
“The car’s hidden. He think no one’s home.”
Vin shook his head. “I don’t like what you told me. Part of me doesn’t wanna believe it.”
Ezra looked at him. “And the rest of you?”
“Thinks it makes perfect sense. Would explain a lot of stuff that went down since that undercover assignment.”
“Even though I’m very short on proof?”
“YET.” Vin smiled at him. “You’re short on proof yet. We’ll figure it out.”
Ezra nodded. “The bust tomorrow just got more complicated.”
Vin nodded. “Yeah, I’ve only got five watchin’ my back – and one wantin’ to stab me in it.” He rubbed his forehead. “But we can do this.”
“Are you certain?”
“Ez, we’ve got to do this. There may be no better time. We’ve worked on the Draconis case since before that disaster. We’ve gotta at least try.”
“I’ll be fine, Ez. One more night of rest, one more breakfast without Sebastian druggin’ me all the time….” He smiled. “I’ll be fine.”
Ezra smiled. “I bow to your self-awareness, then. G’nap, Vin.”
“Nappy-nap, Ezra,” he said in an almost sing-song voice as he burrowed under the covers for another short nap. The drug had made these temporary rests a necessity for his system to reset.
Sarah gasped with such force that Ezra was nearly knocked off his feet. “What?” he whispered once he entered the kitchen.
“Yes, it was an unexpectedly juvenile thing for him to say—“
No, it’s not that! That’s unique!
Ezra…. I think we found where Adam went!
Tuesday morning dawned sunny and clear. Team Seven assembled at the Federal Building and Sebastian fixed Vin with a cold stare. “Have fun over the weekend?”
Vin broke into a wide grin as he pulled on his vest. “Very restful,” he replied, telling the absolute truth.
Sebastian snorted and turned away, moving towards Buck and JD.
Instantly, Vin’s smile faded. “It’s going down?” he whispered.
Ezra nodded, staring at Sebastian’s back. “This weekend pushed something in him, apparently. Something’s changed.” His eyes widened.
Vin caught it. “What?”
“When all this started – I had a sick feeling something disastrous was going to happen at the Draconis bust.”
“And now we’re here – the bust’s about to begin.”
“And Sebastian is going to make a move,” they finished quietly, together.
Vin’s eyes bored into Ezra’s. “Watch your back.”
“You do the same.”
A small smile, and he went back to checking his guns. Ezra noted the way his eyes kept going to Sebastian – and the fierce light of betrayal that burned there.
We’ll get him back, Vin. Adam. And neither Sarah nor Ezra would ever be able to say which one had voiced the thought.
Draconis walked into the warehouse, the picture of supreme confidence. “All right,” he called, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s see what’s in those crates!” He moved toward the stack.
The informant, acting as he’d agreed to, slid out of the warehouse and began running. He was ushered into a waiting ATF van and driven away for debriefing.
Draconis didn’t notice. He pried open the top crate and grinned, seeing the guns there. “Perfect.” He and a goon moved it off the stack and pried the second one open.
And ‘Chris Larabee’ sat up from it, pistol pointed at Draconis. “BOO.”
After a moment of stunned shock, Draconis demanded, “What the hell?”
“ATF!” Josiah’s voice boomed throughout the warehouse. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!”
“GET THEM!” Draconis screamed, diving for cover as Sebastian vaulted out of the crate and did the same.
The warehouse blazed with gunfire.
During the melee, Sebastian slid into the cover of a stack of boxes. He slid a snub-nosed pistol from a hidden holster strapped to his leg. After determining it was fully loaded, he took Chris’s normal gun and snapped off two quick shots at Draconis’ men.
Then a cold smile crossed his face. Shielded from view, he raised the snub-nosed pistol and aimed it at JD’s head, exposed to him from that angle.
“It begins,” he chuckled. “Goodbye, Team Seven.”
One final shot blared out into the warehouse, echoing loud in Sebastian’s ears.
It was over.
Ezra stood at the door of the warehouse and watched as the flashing lights vanished into the distance, carrying Draconis and his men to jail, the hospital, and a few to the morgue. He gave a deep sigh and walked back into the warehouse.
A visibly-shaken Vin joined him. “You all right?’
Ezra nodded. “You?”
Vin shook his head. “We almost done here?” At Ezra’s nod, he nodded in return. “Good. I got one more thing to do.”
As Vin walked off, JD walked up, Buck behind him. “Where’s Vin going?” JD asked, eyes wide.
Ezra smiled at him. “He had one more thing to do, then we’re going to head out.” The smile faded. “We’ve got something to discuss, just he and I.”
Vin walked over to where Josiah was giving the final report of the day while Nathan bandaged ‘Chris’s’ bleeding hand. When Josiah finished, Vin walked up. “How’s his hand?”
“Bullet went clean through,” Nathan sighed. “He’s gonna be all right.”
Vin nodded. “Can I talk to ya, cowboy? Alone?”
A nod, and Josiah and Nathan went to check on the others.
‘Chris’ looked at Vin, his eyes cold. “What do you want? You gave your report already—“
He was cut off by a roundhouse right that dropped him right out of the chair! Using his uninjured hand, he drug himself back up. “What the hell was that about?”
Vin wound his hand into the fabric of the black T-shirt and lifted him until their noses were inches apart. When he spoke, his voice was a soft hiss.
“I ain’t under that damned drug no more. I know who ya are. I got my eye on you. An’ I’m givin’ ya fair warnin’. You go after JD again an’ I swear to G-d, I’ll do a hell of a lot more’n shoot a gun outta your hand.”
Icy blue eyes bored into equally icy green ones for a long moment, then Vin pushed ‘Chris’ back into the chair and walked away from the chair.
Tellingly, not once did he turn his back on the black-clad man.
Sebastian couldn’t believe it. He absolutely could not believe it!
He’d had it! He’d had the downfall of Team Seven so close he could taste it!
How did Tanner know? The drug should have kept him muddled! There was no way it should all be out of his system! He’d have to have the metabolism of two people for that…. <
i>How did Tanner know?
He’d have to fall back now….regroup…. replan…..
Dammit, he’d still have to play the Larabee role! He’d been so close to freedom….
How did Tanner know?
Ezra held Vin’s hair out of his way as the sharpshooter vomited violently until his stomach was empty. Then he heaved until tears were running from his eyes.
A gentle hand wiped them away and Ezra whispered, “Are you all right?”
“I sh-shot him…..” The voice was very small, and the slender form was trembling. “I shot him….”
Let me. Ezra nodded and stepped aside. Gently, Sarah wrapped their shared arms maternally around Vin. “Hush now. You didn’t have a choice.”
Vin’s eyes raised, and both a real heart and a spectral one squeezed as they noticed the blue eyes had become a startling shade of hazel green. “But I -- SHOT---“
Sarah raised two fingers and touched them to his lips. “It wasn’t Chris and we both know it. That person you shot was a monster. And you did not shoot to kill that monster. You stopped it without seriously harming it.”
Those eyes were very large. “….I done good?”
“You did what you had to.” She gathered him to her side, twisting so that he rested across the body she shared with Ezra. A hand curled over the side of Vin’s head, pulling it down so that his ear rested over Ezra’s heart.
What are you DOING? Ezra yelped.
Sarah stepped back just enough to whisper, I would comfort Adam like this. If it IS my son, he’ll respond--
Vin’s arms stole around Ezra’s waist, and his eyes closed as his body relaxed. He took a deep breath and whispered, “….love….”
“I love you too,” she whispered, dropping a kiss on the sandy hair. “My brave, brave boy.”
His voice hitched. “Ma…Mama?”
A gilded incisor flashed as hazel eyes closed. “Yes, my Adam….Mama’s here.”
“Poppy….” he whimpered.
“We’ll get him back.” It was Ezra and Sarah together who vowed it. “We swear to you, Adam. And to Vin.”
He nodded once, quickly. Then he looked at the ceiling and Vin repeated the vow as a solemn promise to the child within.
We WILL get him back, Adam. My word as a Tanner.
Yes, I feel you. I can’t move yet – but I will.
I see what you’re doing with my body. I don’t like you or what you stand for.
I’m not strong yet – but I will be.
Mark my words, demon.
I will be.
My Team and I, we will never let you succeed.
Sebastian, you are going down.
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