Vine '03: No Retreat, No Surrender

"Chris!" Buck bellowed as he ran into the semi-collapsed building. "Chris! Christ Almighty where the fuck are you?"

Dust filled the air as he forged on, deeper into the building. The old Peterson warehouse had been suspected of being an exchange point for the illegal shipment of arms for some time. Team Seven had installed concealed cameras and sat back to wait. It had been a very boring and tedious two months, but eventually their patience was rewarded. They captured on film the arrival of a small truck, the arrival of a second truck and the transfer of guns from one to the other along with the vital exchange of money. All the parties were arrested and the guns confiscated. Come the daytime the place would be searched properly.

Chris was the senior agent in charge, so it was his responsibility to wrap up the crime scene. The only people left were the local cops and Buck. While Wilmington - always the better diplomat - was talking with the cops about securing the scene until the morning, Chris did one last sweep of the building. Suddenly there was a heavy rumble, and a cloud of dust rose from the back of the building. There had been no explosion, no gunfire, as far as they could tell the old and long condemned building had just chosen that moment to give up the fight against the ravages of time and gravity to stay up.

Buck had instantly started to run toward the building. The cops had been slow to react but eventually they had caught up with the big agent and tried to make him wait for the fire and rescue services, but he wasn't even listening. One policeman even tried to hold him back, only to find himself on his backside as the tall agent barged past them into the partially collapsed building.

There were no responses to his frantic calls. He ran through the building shouting all the time, every now and again stopping to listen. The building creaked and groaned around him. He coughed and rubbed his eyes as more and more dust filled the air. Taking the less than safe looking stairs two at a time, he bolted up to the next floor. At one end of what had once been one long room, running the length of the building, there was now just a pile of timber and brick.

"Chris!" Buck bellowed as he ran to the heap of rubble, looking up through dust laden air to see daylight were the roof and two more floors had been just a few minutes ago.

Suddenly there was a loud bang and a plume of dust shot up, as what had been a door crashed to the floor and from behind it stumbled Larabee, coughing, his eyes running and his trade mark black outfit coated in a thick layer of dust.

"Oh, thank Christ!" Buck exclaimed and ran to him.

More than anything he wanted to wrap up the man he loved in his arms, just to hold him close and know he was safe, even as he covered the old floor boards to reach Larabee he was fighting the urge. Only the sight of a blood running freely down the left side of Chris’ face stopped him. Taking hold of Larabee by the shoulders, he looked carefully at him.

"You okay?" he asked, not bothering if he sounded scared and desperate.

"Mostly, nothing Nathan, a shower and a large whisky won't fix."

"Sure?" Buck ran a surprisingly tender finger up into the blood and dust stained hair, pushing it back to reveal the gash.

Larabee made no attempt to pull his head away; knowing Buck would need proof his injuries were minor, before he could relax.

"I can't even feel it, you know how heads bleed. I'm fine, honestly," he assured.

Buck pulled back, the hands on Larabee's shoulders rose. Thumbs brushed dust from the fine-boned cheek; a single finger traced the line of the lips, pausing in the tiny cleft in centre of the bottom lip. Midnight blue eyes looked deep into dust reddened forest green, seeking reassurance and receiving it in the slightest of nods.

"Thank you God, thank you," Buck whispered, lifting his face for a second before he lowered it to kiss the same lips his finger had just mapped.


That evening, all the preliminary reports having been submitted, Chris' injuries having been officially declared minor by Jackson, Buck and Chris went home. They drove, as they did every day, in separate trucks, Buck headed toward the condo he still owned but no longer live in - renting it to JD - when he was about half way there he would turn off and head out to Chris' ranch, where he actually lived. Come the morning he would leave ahead of Larabee and drive back to JD's to collect his post. Day in, day out, they maintained the charade of living separate lives, only the rest of the team knew the truth.

All that evening Buck was more than usually tactile, never letting Chris out of his sight. Once the stock had been seen to, they showered together, something they commonly did prior to sex but rarely just to rid them selves of the grime of a working day. Chris stood patiently, allowing Buck to wash him, checking him for other injuries; methodically cleaning the many small cuts and grazes - even though Jackson had already done this. He took care to be extra gentle washing the areas that were already beginning to bruise.

"I'm alright," Chris said softly as Buck continued his self-appointed task.

"I know, I just…" Words failed him as he stood, having finished washing his lover’s legs. "Shit I was scared, thought you were gone, thought I'd never see you again," he confessed.

"Never happen, I'm here for good," Chris assured.

Buck knew it was a lie, they both did, anything could happen, they of all people knew that. Today just brought it home to them. What was true was that Chris was committed to their relationship. Buck's commitment had never been in doubt, once he gave his heart that was that. Chris had been more hesitant, the sex was great, that was never an issue, a long-term relationship was different. But that hesitation was in the past, their long time friendship and a great physical relationship had matured into all encompassing love on both sides. Coming out to the rest of the team had been somewhat daunting, but necessary, there was no way they could keep it a secret - nor would they want to. They were pleasantly surprised by the very positive and supportive reaction, and for nearly three months they had lived together at the ranch. The team continued as they always had, other than Buck living at the ranch, nothing changed.

That night they made long, slow, passionate, claiming love - kissing, caressing, touching, holding, hugging. They switched, each taking the other, reaffirming their love and commitment. Since it was Friday they had a whole weekend in front of them. Saturday was always the same, in the morning they caught up on the chores around the ranch, rode at least four of the horses, put the others on the walker and cleaned house - much to Buck's dismay. When he had first moved in he found it very amusing when he first found Larabee dusting.

"Laugh it up big guy, then grab the broom, kitchen floor needs sweeping." Buck had just stood there, dumbstruck. Chris looked up, cloth in one hand, can of polish in the other. "What - you think this place cleans itself? This is not the CDC, I do not live like that, you live here - you help."

And he had, Buck never did take to cleaning much, but he was a dab hand at the washing. The afternoon was their time, fishing, hunting, riding in the hills, trekking, swimming in the lake or hot spring and fucking. They tended to do a lot of that; this was one activity that often spilled over into the evening. Sunday was team day, the others came over to eat, watch sport, ride and hang out. That was how this weekend would go. Nothing remarkable changed, other than Buck somehow managed to wake up, and get out of bed long before Chris even stirred and finished all the heavy work. There was no way he was going to let Chris further stress his battered body lifting hay bales, and this way he avoided the inevitable arguments and insistence from his partner that he was 'fine'. He was in the process of replacing a rotten fence post when a sleep worn Larabee wandered out to him.

"What ya doing?" he yawned, looking incongruous in nothing but his boxers and black boots.

"Fixing the fence. What does it look like I'm doing?" Buck asked.

"We was gonna do that together."

Buck shrugged. "I was awake, you were asleep, so I thought I'd …" he trailed off.

"You're a crappy liar Wilmington, why I ever let you go under cover I don't know," Chris shook his head. He stepped up to Buck and kissed him gently on the lips. "I'm alright, honest, but thank you anyway. You eaten?" Buck shook his head. "I'll cook, give me twenty minutes."


The first hint that there was something wrong came on Monday. Chris was in early, he was always in early, and to him there was nothing odd. By the time Buck strolled in it was nearly an hour later, everything went well until he reached to fourth floor - the FBI. The elevator doors opened, an agent he had never met, started to enter the car, then stopped, looked at Buck, stared and backed out.

Mid morning Chris was in a planning meeting, he sat down next to George Deeds, a tactical planner from the DEA, who promptly stood up and moved to anther seat. As the meeting went on it was clear that at least some of the men in the room had some 'issue' with Chris, thought this didn't extend to any women. Buck was working on a report about the security of quarry explosives in the greater Denver area when he computer told him he had an E-mail. Desperate for some relief from the tedious report he quickly opened it. The sender was an unknown yahoo account, someone called 'realman', it said 'Fucking fairies go home!'

"Oh shit," Buck breathed.

Unbeknownst to him his team-mates also had e-mails, e-mails with a link, a link that lead to a website showing video clip. JD opened his and watch in horror, a grainy black and white image, clearly from the warehouse stake out. First Buck ran into shot, then Chris stumbled in, they met, they talked - though there was no sound - there were touches, caresses and then they kissed. JD's eyes shot up to meet Vin's. The Texan looked shocked.

"Did you just get?" JD whispered. Vin nodded slowly, then first casting a furtive look at Buck to check he wasn't looking, he crossed to Ezra.

"Check your mail," he hissed.

Standish raised a questioning eyebrow, but followed instructions. "Oh dear Lord," he muttered. By now Nathan and Josiah were looking over his shoulder.

"What's going on?" Buck's voice made all five of them suddenly look up. He looked worried; hell he looked very worried.

"It's … that is, it's nothing," JD lied - badly.

"Mr Dunne." There was evident warning in Ezra's tone.

"JD, he has a right to know," Josiah stated.

"Know what?" Buck stood and walked over to Ezra's desk, no-one spoke. "Know what?" he asked again.

"Ezra, play the clip," the big profiler instructed softly.

Buck watched in silence, his hand over his mouth. Finally the screen went blank. "Did you all get this?" he asked. They all nodded. "Who from?"

"It's been posted to the inter agency group mail, it is meant for important notices," JD explained.

Buck visibly paled. "This is all over the place - all the agencies in the building?" JD nodded. "Can … can you pull it?"

"Wait," Ezra interrupted. "… we need a copy of it first."

"Why?" Buck demanded to know.

"So we can work out where it came from. JD, can you find out who posted it?"

Buck locked eyes with Ezra for what felt like hours before he nodded.

"I can probably pull it, but as to finding out who posted it, unlikely, they almost certainly used a false name and address." JD instantly turned to his own computer and went in to what the others called 'full on hacker mode'.

The site was apparently owned by 'realman'. Buck wasn't surprised, and told them about the hate mail he'd received, in addition a quick check showed he too had received the video clip. While JD beavered away at his keyboard, the others reviewed the tape. It was clearly the warehouse just after the building collapsed. Yet there were no cameras on that floor. Then they realised the significance of the angle; the camera must have been practically on the floor.

"The stairs," Vin announced. "…we had one at the top of the stairs looking down at the fire door on the floor below, in case they came in that way."

"Right," Nathan confirmed "… it must have been dislodged in the collapse. But who got hold of the footage?"

"Team three, they were working the secondary back up cameras, guess they forgot to turn that one off - typical of their sloppy work!" Josiah speculated.

"Guess someone thought there would be footage of the building falling down, or something." Vin looked over at Buck. "Sorry pal."

"Chris is gonna go ballistic, oh fuck Chris is gonna…" Buck actually backed away from the computer.


Larabee was used to not being popular, he was even used to people avoiding him, but as he walked back to Team Seven's office he was getting some very strange reactions. Some people were giving him very odd looks, one or two people looked openly hostile and a few - mostly women - grinned at him, one woman even winked!

He walked in to the bullpen, still unaware of the true situation. "Guys is there something going on?" he asked as the door swung closed behind him. "Because I've been getting some very odd reactions…" his voice died on his lips as he caught the look on his lover's face. "Buck what's wrong?" He stood frozen in front of the door, trying to read his partner’s face.

Wilmington swallowed hard, he was visibly pale. "Pard, I need t' talk to ya, alone." He was already heading for Chris’ office.

The other five watched the lovers disappear into the office, Buck pulled down the blinds and they were hidden from view. The rest of the team waited for the inevitable explosion. But it never came; there wasn't so much as one raised voice from behind the glass walls. The only sound they did hear was the phone ring.

"Reckon that's Travis?" Vin asked no one in particular.

"Yup," Sanchez confirmed.


Buck waited silently while Chris looked at the video clip and read the hate e-mail he - like Buck - had received. He waited for the explosion. But the explosion never came; instead green eyes turned up to find Buck's concern filled deep blues.

"We always knew this could happen." He stood and walked around his desk and sat down on the edge. Buck moved closer allowing Chris to run a tender hand around his slim hips. "We- have - done - nothing - wrong," he spelt out calmly.

They had discussed more than once what would happen if their relationship did ever become public, even what they would do if they had to leave the ATF. Financially they were set for life; the ranch was worth over four million dollars. They had investments and would eventually receive pensions from the Denver PD and the ATF, even if they resigned now. So while money wasn't an issue, what to do with their lives was. They could, and probably would, go in to breeding horses as a commercial proposition rather than a hobby, and possibly get themselves licences as private investigators, just to keep their hand in. These plans had been discussed on and off, usually late at night, laying together in bed.

Not that they had any intention of leaving the ATF, nor did they see any real reason why they should. Their one concern was that if they were ever found out and things went badly, it might harm the others, and that, and only that, might prompt them to resign - if the worst came to the worst.

Chris might have appeared calm on the outside, he needed to be, because he could see how badly it was affecting his lover. Buck needed him to be calm and in control, so he would be calm and in control. Inside he seethed, inside he was a worried and distressed as Buck so clearly was. Before they could talk much the phone rang.

"Yes?" Chris answered. "We're on our way." He put the receiver down. "Travis wants to see us, now. I said we'd come right up."


Travis was in a quandary, Team Seven were his best team – hell, they were the best tactical team of any federal agency in the whole damn country. Larabee was a formidable leader; Wilmington was quite frankly the bravest, most loyal man Travis had ever met. He did not want to lose them - and this was not the way he expected to lose them. He had fully expected that one day one of them would be maimed for life or killed, he never - ever expected the two of them to be a couple.

There was a perfunctory knock at the door and without waiting for a reply the two men in question breezed in. They looked as they always did, relaxed and confident.

"Orin!" Buck greeted loudly, flopping down into one of the two chairs in front of the desk. "What can we do for you sir?"

Suppressing a smirk, Chris joined his lover in front of the desk.

"I take it you two are aware of a certain video clip that has been circulated?"

"Video?" Buck asked innocently.

"Video," Travis confirmed. "…featuring you two, in an … how shall I put it? An intimate embrace."

"Us?" Chris asked.

"For God sake stop it, you two know damn well what I'm talking about!" Travis fumed.

"What of it?" Chris asked, keeping his voice even, but not quite hiding the hard edge of warning to it.

"Well is it true? I wouldn't put it past you two to be setting up some elaborate practical joke"

Chris glanced at Buck and reached out his hand. Wilmington instantly took the proffered hand. "It's true," Larabee confirmed.

"For how long?"

"That is none of you business Orin, and you know it."

Travis felt more than a flutter of unease in his gut, if Chris was calling him 'Orin' and not 'Travis' he was very confident.

"The ATF does not permit intimate personal relationships between team members," Travis warned.

"Actually the ATF 'strongly discourages personal relationships between team members'," Buck quoted evenly.

"Strongly discourages Orin, not banned," Chris pressed home the point.

"Ford and Gonzalez in Team One have been living together for years, and you know it," Buck pointed out.

"They are straight!"

A chill silence descended on the room as both men stared at their boss, never had the phrase 'Looks could kill' been more apt.

**Oh shit, I didn't mean to say that, damn, damn, damn.**

"I'm sorry guys I didn't mean it to come out like that, I'm not saying I'm against it - you two - in principal, it’s just different."

"Why?" Buck asked.

"Why? You know why."

"No we don't. Look Orin, we have done nothing wrong, we know it and you know it, so let’s just stop this charade now!" Chris stood. "We know there's gonna be some shit hitting the fan, we're big boys, we can look after ourselves. This is the twenty first century, it's about time this dinosaur moved with the times!"

Buck winked at Travis. "God, I love him when he gets all commanding like that," he breathed in his most seductive voice.

Travis was still staring, open mouthed at Buck, when Chris lent forward.

"Team Seven is the best. You need us, we keep this section in the top three nation-wide and without us there is no Team Seven, you want that?" Not waiting for a response, Chris continued. "We're not gonna quit and if you fire us we'll sue the ATF for every cent we can get and …" He rested both of his hands on his boss’s desk. "… and we won't be doing it quietly."

"Are you threatening me, agent Larabee?" Travis asked.

"It's what he does best," Buck supplied happily.

Chris was still leaning on the desk, glaring at Travis. Finally the older man nodded. "Very well, I'll back you up with the director." Travis shook his head, letting a wry smile cross his face. "What else can I do? Evie would kill me if anything happened to one of her 'boys'." Orin's wife Evie had always had a soft spot for Team Seven.


Despite what he had said, Travis decided it would do no one any harm to get Team Seven out of the building for a while. So he made a quick switch, sending them on their annual two day defensive driving refresher course the next day, instead of in two weeks time. Chris decided not to object discretion was sometimes the better part of valour. Besides, this was one course they all actually enjoyed. The remainder of the day the team kept themselves to themselves, there were the odd looks, and there had been support. When Chris and Buck had exited Travis' office, his faithful secretary had stood to meet them.

"Mr Larabee, Buck?" she started - not one woman in the building call Buck 'mister', which was the way he liked it.

"Yes Gloria my love," Buck responded, dropping his hip onto the corner of her desk so that they were eye to eye.

"I just wanted to say that … well I think it's wonderful, that film, it was so sweet, I hope you're very happy together," she blushed, looking down at the desk.

"Ah darlin' that's so kind of you." Buck reached out a single finger to tilt up her chin, flashing her a hundred-watt Wilmington smile. "We are very happy, thank you." With that he leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

Chris nodded to her. "Thanks," he said softly as they exited.

Gloria Potter wasn't the only one to express support, but there were also more hate mails, though no one had the guts to say anything to them in person.


After two days of spinning a car around a skidpan, hand brake turns, speed reversing and generally being boys with toys, the team returned to work on the Thursday.

Buck rolled over in bed and faced his lover. "Reckon I should go in early today?" he asked.

Tuesdays and Thursdays Buck went in early to use the gym in the basement of the federal building, it was something he had been doing ever since he joined the ATF. Chris seemed to stay naturally trim and hard just doing his job and working the ranch; Buck had always needed to put in a little extra work to stay fit. Two hard workouts in the gym and the ranch work were enough, he joked that Chris' constant demands in the bedroom were as good as any workout, so he didn't need to go to the gym every day.

"Why not?" Chris asked lazily, brushing a kiss to Buck's naked shoulder.

"I don't know, the locker room, showers, people might…"

"Fuck 'em! We do what we always do, and that includes you strolling round the locker room and showers the way you always do."

"You mean that?" Buck asked, he did tend to not bother with a towel in the locker room.

"Why not?"

"Well in that case I better be going."

Just fifteen minutes later Buck was heading out to his truck, gym bag over his shoulder, Chris had followed him, ready to do the morning chores in the barn. "Remember the motto pal," he called.

Buck looked back over his shoulder and smiled. "No retreat," he called back.

"No surrender."

"Not today."

"Not tomorrow."

"Not ever." With that Wilmington climbed into the cab of his old truck and drove off.

Chris watched him go with a sudden sinking feeling that he had done the wrong thing. Buck was scared, he could tell that, and it took a lot to scare Wilmington, yet he had sent him off alone it to who knew what lion's den alone. It wasn't that he thought Buck was in any physical danger, he could take care of himself, physical danger didn't bother Buck, sometimes Chris wished it would, maybe he'd take fewer risks. Chris was used to being unpopular, he was accustomed to people not meeting his gaze, crossing the corridor to avoid him, but not Buck. Buck was the life and soul of the party, Mister popular, everyone's friend. That was how he dealt with life, how he faced the inner demons that told him he was just 'poor white trash', if he was popular, he had value, he wasn't nothing. Not that Chris had worked all this out on his own, in the days when he was still having doubts about the long term nature of the relationship he had saught out Sanchez for some advice. It took a lot for him to admit to the relationship at all, let alone ask advice, but in the end his desire to make it work had forced him into it. The whole situation had led him into places he'd never thought he'd go. Chris debated whether or not to follow his lover. They had agreed not to do anything different, Chris had never gone to the gym with Buck, how would it look now? How would Buck feel if he turned up? Like Chris didn't trust him? That he needed his hand held? Sooner or later they were both going to have to face the music, might as well get it over with. With that not particularly pleasant thought he turned back to the barn. At least the women still seemed to like them, well they liked Buck anyway, some things never changed.


Buck exited the parking garage and headed down the corridor toward the gym. As he pulled open the door Patterson, a veteran agent with the FBI, who was a specialist hostage negotiator, came out. To Buck's surprise, the older man, smiled and winked at him. Buck watched him head toward the elevator he remembered that the man was a confirmed bachelor. **Well, well, well Patterson, who would have guessed.** He usually worked on a variety of muscle groups, using the multi gym. Today he cut his weight work short to work out some of his aggression on the heavy punch bag. The bag became whoever had posted the video clip, the bastard, who had rocked the delicately balanced boat that was his life. With each blow he inflicted more pain on the little, narrow minded, sneaky, weasel.

He worked much longer than normal, partly because his mind was elsewhere and partly because he was he was putting off his visit to the showers. Eventually there was nothing for it, he had to go and shower. He had considered just collecting up his bag and heading off up to the shower in Chris' executive bathroom. But he was no coward, and Chris was right, Team Seven didn't back down to anyone. So he stripped off, grabbed his towel and soap and headed to the long row of showers. McKenzie was already there. He was an ATF explosives expert, in his late forties, balding, with grey eyes, he was only just keeping the middle-aged spread at bay. McKenzie was often in the shower at the same time as Buck, it wasn't unusual. Normally they exchanged pleasantries and got on with the job at hand. This time Mackenzie stopped what he was doing, and stepped out of the water the very instant Buck appeared. Making a rather pathetic effort to cover his still half-soaped body he exited the shower, muttering something about how 'fucking faggots, shouldn't be allowed'.

Buck had watched him go, frozen where he was. Logically he knew that something like this was likely to happen, but at the back of his mind he had harboured the belief that people who knew him, wouldn't change. McKenzie and he shared a common speciality in explosives, true Buck was no longer a qualified disposal officer, but they had traded information in the past and discussed the latest developments in bomb making. It hurt more than he had expected to be so reviled for nothing, he had done nothing to Mackenzie, he hadn't even spoken to him other than a simple 'good morning'.

No one came into the showers while he was there, he wondered if McKenzie had turned people away, warned them about the queer in the showers. His fear grew when he found no-one in the locker room either. A fear that faded as he pulled on his watch, it was nearly 9:30, he was late, there was no one in the shower because they were all working, not avoiding him.


Travis had instigated an internal enquiry into the posting of the video clip. All roads led to Team 3 and to their surveillance specialist Joe Watson. Watson was good at his job, which was a good thing because even his own team thought he was an asshole. The trouble was they couldn't prove he was 'realman'. JD had got the site down within an hour, since it had been hastily set up, its security was very poor, no real barrier to an expert like JD. He had not been able to locate who set it up, the address given by the owner was that of the ill-fated warehouse. That said, Watson was severely reprimanded for failing to turn off the cameras once the bust was over.

Buck, as was his habit, took the stairs up from the gym to Team Seven's fifth floor offices. By the time he reached the fourth floor, he could hear someone coming down the stairs towards him. Suddenly the lights went out, in the seconds before the emergency lighting cut in, he felt someone beside him, started to ask what was going on, but before he got even one word out he was tumbling down the hard stairs.


The blackout was genuine, a local substation was being serviced and the next one in the system overloaded when it had to take the extra load. The power company admitted that with two stations now out, it would take at least an hour or two to get the power back on. With no proper lighting, no computers and no lifts or air-conditioning there was little point most people being at work. Chris told his team to secure the place and go home, he would wait for Buck. Vin and Ezra had already left when Wilmington limped in and sat down heavily at his desk.

"What happened to you?" Nathan asked, having noticed the limp as soon as the tall man appeared.

"Fell down the stairs, I think, twisted m' ankle."

Nathan moved to him. "You think you twisted your ankle or you think you fell down the stairs?" he asked even as he knelt to examine the ankle.

Buck didn't respond. Nathan looked up, concerned that Buck was being vague. There was a vacant look on Wilmington's face. "Buck?" No response. "Buck can you hear me?"

JD came over. "Buck it's me, JD, you okay?"

Buck suddenly tried to stand up. "I need to go now!" he shouted.

"Whoa there pal, I don't think so. JD, get Chris," Nathan instructed. "Josiah, I may need your help here."

By the time Chris bolted out of his office Josiah was struggling to hold Buck down. "What the hell’s happening?" he demanded of the team's medic.

Nathan didn't respond, he concentrated on his patient. "Buck? Come on Buck, look at me." But Wilmington's eyes were glazed and unfocused. Nathan pressed a finger down on to his fingernail and he didn't so much as flinch. Suddenly he was fighting Josiah and shouting about getting out and leaving.

"Chris, try and keep him quiet, I'm gonna call an ambulance. JD, get hold of the building super we need some of the emergency power diverted to an elevator." Everyone instantly went about their tasks. Chris knelt in front of his partner and took his hands, but Buck didn't seem to know him or in fact anyone, he started to drift, his head lolling, eyes closing.

"Buck, come on stay with me here," Chris pleaded. "Nate where the hell is that ambulance?"

"Coming, just keep doing what you're doing."


Buck lost his battle to stay conscious in the ambulance, but by the time they reached the ER he was awake again and fighting a rebellious stomach. Chris returned from filling in the obligatory forms to find his lover in restraints.

"What the hell?" He ran forward only to be held back by the doctor.

"Sir, you have to stand back."

"Take those things off him now!" Even as he was speaking Buck started shouting.

"Get me out of here, I have to go now, you got no right to keep me here!"

"Mr Wilmington is highly disorientated," he explained. "It's for his own good, and the safety of my staff."

"I'll make sure he doesn't leave or hurt anyone, just take the restraints off."

"Sir, I can't …"

"Do it now, I'm his partner and I have his power of attorney, and I'm telling you to do it now."

Chris was now standing with his face just inches from the doctor. For a moment the doctor thought about calling for security, but finally backed down. He nodded to the nurse on the far side of the bed who began to undo the buckles on the restraints. Chris nodded his thanks to the man and then turned to undo the other buckle.

"Now you have to promise me to be good," he said softly to his partner as he finally freed his wrist.

"Need t' leave Chris, gotta go home now, take me home now." Buck began to push himself up of the bed.

Chris pushed him back down. "Not yet, just lay here and be good, we'll go home soon I promise."

Buck giggled. "I love you, Chris."

Chris couldn't help it he smiled, now he didn't have to hide he found he liked to hear those words out loud where others could hear them. He felt like saying, ** See? See how lucky I am? Buck Wilmington loves me.**

"And I love you, so you need to do as I say - okay?"

"Oh you're his 'partner'," the doctor suddenly exclaimed as realisation struck him.

"I don't like him," Buck told Chris loudly.

"He's only trying to do his job, gonna be good for me?"


"Only maybe?"

"Come t' bed Chris." Buck's hand reached out and snaked around Chris' neck, trying to pull him down.

"Not now."

"Ahhh please Chris, come t' bed I'm lonely."

By now the nurse was the one giggling, Chris glared at here. "I'm sorry sir but it's better than having him try to hit Doctor Wang."

Buck's eyes followed Chris'. "Hello gorgeous, I'd love to give you a kiss darlin' but I can't, he gets jealous you know," he explained in an exaggerated stage whisper. "Let's go home now," Buck suddenly announced, once more trying to get off the bed.

"No you don't, you stay there," Chris scolded, pushing him back down.

"Don't wanna!"

"Well ya gotta, come on be good for me - please?"

Buck pouted like a spoilt child. "Only if you kiss me."

"Not here."

"Then I'm going home." This time he made a concerted effort to get off the bed, struggling against Chris as he tried to hold him down. "Ouch!" he suddenly exclaimed.

"What?" Chris asked anxiously.

"M' head hearts something awful Chris, kiss it better fer me?" Buck pleaded.

"Look what are we waiting for?" Chris asked the doctor without letting Buck up.

"We're going to take him to imaging any time now, once we get a CT scan and x-rays we'll know more. He's going to have to be still while they take the pictures, can you go with him?"

"Am I going now?" Buck asked. "I'm not going without Chris!"

"Yeah I'll go with him."

"Goody!" Buck announced.


The scans didn't show any significant injury. Chris had used the promise of the often demanded kiss to make his disorientated lover stay still in the scanner and while he was x-rayed. Now the diagnosis was a simple concussion and Buck was moved to a room of his own where he quickly succumbed to sleep. Every hour a nurse would come in and watch while Chris woke Buck up, the nurse then took his vitals and they let him slip off back to sleep. The rest of the team came by to check on the patient. Relieved that he seemed to be doing better, they left, returning later in the evening to bring Chris some food.

There was a definite atmosphere to this visit. The remaining five seemed nervous and on edge, even as Chris ate his steak sandwich he could tell something was wrong.

"Tell me," Chris finally demanded, "whatever it is, tell me." No one spoke. "I am not going to freak out, tell me."

"JD, why don't you stay with Buck while we talk to Chris outside?" Josiah suggested.

"Josiah we don't need to …" Chris began, but Sanchez held up his hand.

"It'll be for the best."

Once in the corridor Josiah told Chris the news. During the blackout - which had knocked out the CCTV camas in the underground parking area - someone had vandalised Chris' beloved Ram. Yellow spray paint, probably the kind used to mark out crime scenes on grass had been used to daub anti-gay obscenities all over the huge black truck. Knowing their leader would demand to see what had been done, JD had taken picture of the truck on a digital camera, before they covered the evidence with a tarpaulin.

Chris looked at the image JD had printed out. "Bastards!" he bellowed, screwing up the picture. The others said nothing. "Fucking bastards! I'll fucking kill them!" Chris ranted.

"Cowboy?" Vin finally spoke.


"Do we know how Buck came to fall down the stairs? I mean he's not exactly clumsy - is he?"

That was true, Buck was effortlessly graceful, lithe and supple, and he was fit, why would he fall on the stairs, even in the dark?

"Oh, shit! Someone pushed him!" Chris exclaimed.

"We don't know that, we only suspect," Nathan warned.

"I know." There was ominous finality in his voice.

Chris turned away from his friends, taking long deep breaths as he walked up the corridor, trying to calm himself down, before returning to Buck, there was no way he wanted to transfer his anger to his injured lover. Finally he turned and strolled back to the anxious group of men. Just as he turned to re-enter the room, Ezra stepped up.

"Mr Larabee, I have made arrangements for your vehicle to be picked up and taken to the body and paint shop I use for the Jag, they assure me it will look like new inside a week."

"Thanks Ez, 'ppreciate that."


Buck groped his way back to the conscious world slowly, through a fog of pain, his head pounded, his ankle throbbed. Slowly he realised he was in a hospital bed, there was that hospital smell, the unmistakable feel of the plastic under the sheet. He risked opening his eyes to see the shiny chrome rails at the side of the bed and the inevitable IV drip. As his eyes grew accustomed to the light, he focused on the man slumped in the chair beside the bed. He couldn't help releasing a sigh of happiness to see Chris there beside him. Now all he had to do was work out why he was there. The last thing he remembered was his encounter with Mackenzie in the showers. Then what? Oh yes - he was walking upstairs and it all went black. He was still trying to work what happened after that, when Chris woke up.

"Hello," Buck croaked, only as he spoke did he realise how dry his throat was.

Chris shot out of his seat and leaned over the bed to get a closer look at his lover. "Hello, how do you feel?" **Oh well done Larabee, he feels like crap, what do you think?**

"Thirsty?" Buck responded.

"Oh right, damn, hang on." Chris scrambled to pour out some water and help Buck to drink, scolding him for trying to gulp it too quickly. "I better call the nurse, tell her you're awake."

"Not yet," Buck begged, "…kiss me first."

"Don't start that again."

"Start what?"

It was clear that Buck was back in his right mind, and not surprisingly he didn't remember the events in the ER, he probably never would. So Chris lowered his lips to meet his lover’s, joining them in a long, soft, gentle kiss, that reinforced yet again the love they shared. Reluctantly Chris pulled back, laying a warm hand along the jaw of the man he loved more than life itself. If they had to give up the job and the life they loved to keep safe, then that was a sacrifice worth making.

The doctors insisted Buck stay in hospital until the afternoon, just to be sure there were no complications. His ankle was sprained, he had to keep it strapped and rest it as much as possible. Chris insisted the others go into work as normal, there would be work to catch up on after the blackout, files to be recovered. By the time Buck was cleared to leave and they had dealt with all the paperwork it was gone five. Chris called the others and told them he would meet them at the Saloon. Josiah and Nathan had been out to the ranch, picked up Buck's truck, parked it at the hospital and dropped off the keys during the afternoon.


The Saloon was alive with post work Friday night customers. Standing in the outer doorway, Buck inhaled deeply, taking in the aroma of beer, smoke and sweat.

"Easy boy, no beer for you tonight," Chris reminded. "…or in fact for the rest of the weekend."

"Ah come on Chris, I know the drill, but a man can pretend can't he?" They passed the inner doors into the bar proper.

"You see what I see fellers?" McKenzie announced.

"Sure do," responded Raily, an agent from the DEA.

"Fairies, a pair of fairies. They look like bad ass ATF agents, but they can't be, 'cause they're fairies and there ain't no faires in the ATF." Raily and Joe Watson joined Mackenzie.

"We always wondered how Team Seven stayed so close, guess we know now don't we?" Watson accused.

Buck could feel Chris tensing, ready to strike out, he tightened his hand on Chris' forearm.

"You fuck 'em to keep 'em line Larabee? Bet the kid's got a nice piece of ass, you take his cherry or was that Wilmington?"

"Why you …" Buck began to move forward.

"Buck," Chris hissed out a warning, tugging his lover back.

"Ooo," Raily mocked. "Guess we know who's the bitch in this relationship - right 'Buck'? You take it up the ass from Larabee do ya?"

"You know I always wondered about all them women, I mean no one could have that many women, right? So now we know the truth," Watson mocked

Chris just glared at the men and made to walk around them.

"You're kind ain't welcome in this bar, so just get your faggot asses outta here - for good," Mackenzie advised.

Buck seethed with righteous indignation. "You asked Inez about this did you? 'Cause she might have something to say on the matter - asshole!"

"Look, you fucking queer!" Mackenzie took a step forward. "This is the Fed bar, we all use it, it isn't the sole preserve of the so-called 'Los Magnificos' you know? And no bar I drink in is gonna be a fag bar!"

By now the other members of the team were there.

"Oh great, I should have known, where there are 2 there are 7. What about the rest of you? I always reckoned Standish was a cocksucker. So who's he doing? Tanner? With all that hair? Or is he Larabee and Wilmington's little plaything?"

"Sir, and I use the phrase advisedly, your suggestions are erroneous, though were I to 'swing' that way I would count myself most fortunate to be the partner of such a man as Mr Tanner," Ezra explained coolly.

"Really Ez?" Vin asked.

"Wel,l of course you are a most attractive man and a true gentleman, sir."

"Thanks pal."

"My pleasure."

"Look can we forget the mutual admiration society here," Riley ground out.

"Why?" Ezra asked. "Just because you are clearly all too aware of your own piteously ugly visage."


"He said." JD poked Raily in the chest. "That you're just jealous 'cause yer so pug ugly, not to mention dumb."

"Mister Dunne, I did not question Mister Raily's intelligence," Ezra corrected.

"No, JD did that all on his own," Nathan explained. "Though I think it was a waste of effort to state the obvious."

McKenzie barged his way between JD and Raily who were still facing each other, with JD's finger jammed in the older man's chest.

"Look we don't want your kind here, so let's just cut out all the talk and you two pansies get out."

"Why?" Josiah asked.

"Why what?"

"Why don't you want them here? And just who is 'us' anyway?" the profiler went on to question.

"We - is the all the rest of us. Why? 'Cause we put our lives on the line Every day and we need to know we can rely on the men we work with, in all agencies."

"Just who the fuck are you to say you can't rely on Chris and Buck, they've saved the life of almost everyone here - at one time or another," JD countered.

"An' they've got more commendations and medals between them than all you lot put together," added Vin.

"And if you think they are the only ones in the ATF or even the FBI or the DEA you are kidding yourself, sir. One in ten gentlemen," Ezra reminded. "Let me also shorten what is already a pointless conversation. You are no doubt going to imply that homosexual or even bisexual men are not - for want of a better word - warriors. What of Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart or Lawrence of Arabia, do you question their military prowess or bravery, simply because of their sexual orientation? If men who are attracted to men aren't fit to fight, how about women who are attracted to men, they are after all, smaller and physically weaker - are they also not fit to be federal agents? Do you want all the female agents to leave the bar as well?"

An uneasy silence fell on the place. Finally Fran Hollingsworth, the weapons expert from Team 3, stood up. She fixed her teammate with icy blue eyes. "Yeah Joe, is that what you want? Reckon you can't trust me to watch your back? You think I'm too distracted by your podgy little ass?"

There was smattering of sniggering laughter around the bar.

"Oh and Joe?" she waited for him to look at her, before very clearly moving her eyes to Buck's. "About Buck and his women? Well this one was no fantasy and all I can say on behalf of the straight women of Denver is - it's a damn waste - Mister Larabee, you're a very lucky men." She gave him a salute.

"Well thank you darlin'." Buck returned her salute with a small bow.

Chris also nodded his head at her, with just the ghost of a smile. Then he turned back to the three men causing trouble, fixing them with the 'glare' in silence, until they visibly squirmed. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and threatening, but clear enough for everyone in the now hushed saloon to be able to hear every word.

"So, let's get this clear, you don't want us here or indeed working with you, why? Because you don't think we're capable of watching your - what was it?" He cocked his head at Buck.

"Podgy little ass," his lover supplied.

"Yes 'podgy little ass'. Well you find evidence that either of us has ever been derelict in our duty and you take it to Travis, but be careful, 'cause he does hate time wasters. You don't want to work with us - fine - none of you are on my team (some of you aren't even in the same agency) so you don't have to work with us. All you have to do is your job, as well as you can, and Team Seven will carry on picking up the slack, just like we always have. But…" Now it was Chris’ finger jabbing Watson in the chest, "…if I ever find out who trashed my truck, or pushed Buck down the stairs, that person - or persons - will wish they had never been born, do I make myself absolutely fucking clear?"

Buck, positively beaming with pride, turned his attention to McKenzie. "By the way, about the showers in the gym, don't flatter yourself boy, you ain't that hot, besides, there's only one man for me. You know what? I think they're scared." He cast his eyes around the room. "Yup, scared shitless."

"Me thinks they do protest too much," Ezra added sarcastically.

"Scared of what they don't understand," Josiah confirmed.

"Reckon we should show them, so they'd know there ain't nothing t' be afraid off."

With that he turned back to Chris, and, cupping his lover’s face in his hands and tilting it up, with no resistance from Larabee, kissed him, long, slow and deep. As the kiss continued the silence was broken by the sound of a single person applauding. Heads turned to see Inez, her hands raised, clapping loudly, a huge smile on her face. Her applause was joined by Fran Hollingsworth, who also stood, soon women all over the bar were clapping, whistling and cheering, and eventually they were joined by many of the men. The rest of team seven just stood in a protective half circle behind the couple, and smiled. Finally Buck released Chris, resting his forehead on his lover’s.

"No retreat," he whispered, as he hung on to Chris.

"No surrender," Chris confirmed, returning the embrace.