Many Thanks to Sammy...

by Kitipurr

Vin sighed as he shifted, trying to take some weight off his sore ribs. The belt tying his wrists behind him was starting to chafe, but he was hardly in a position to do anything about it at the moment. Beside him, an equally-bound Nathan was woozy but at least semi-conscious, a particularly nasty cut on his forehead dripping blood onto Vin's shirt where he leaned heavily against the sharpshooter. All in all, this was not one of Vin's better days.

He and Nathan had been taken by surprise. An octet of motor head Nazi-wannabes had been sampling their product in the supposedly abandoned diner at the far end of the train yard where Team Seven had been scouting to set up a meet with a particularly high-end smuggler. Because the entire train yard was abandoned, awaiting the new property owners to complete negotiations with the city and banks for their building plans, they'd been more lax than they should have been in checking out all the buildings. There hadn't been any vehicles in the area, so they'd assumed they were simply looking to roust out homeless people. They hadn't expected to walk in on the hangout of a handful of cocaine-dealing Aryan Nation supremists with a fetish for dressing as Hell's Angels rejects.

They'd been taken like a couple of rookies, jumped and stripped of their weapons, then trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys and gagged with their own ripped t-shirts. They'd taken a few good licks in the process - Nate because of his color, Vin because of his hair - which apparently for bald leatherettes with snake and skull tattoos immediately equaled `gay'. Mostly they'd just taken some bruises and cuts, nothing too significant, before they'd been dropped in a corner and the dopers had begun discussing what should be done with the intruders.

The big thing in their favor - that which had kept them from being shot outright, Vin was sure - was the leader's concern over what would have to be done with the dead bodies. Apparently they all walked to the hangout from a fairly good distance, and therefore had no immediate way of disposing corpses. Leaving the bodies anywhere near here would be leaving their hangout open to possible exposure once the bodies were discovered. Plus, for all the big talk, Vin got the impression that the leader didn't want to be the one to pull the trigger himself but wasn't keen on revealing that little fact to his followers.

Problem was, the longer the agents were prisoners of these morons, the more likely someone would get over any squeamishness about killing. And it had been at least an hour already.

Vin glanced up when the door opened. He didn't want to admit it, but he'd actually been holding his breath in hope of rescue. Next to him he felt Nathan tense slightly. There was no way either of them were getting out of this without serious assistance, and they both knew it.

Unfortunately, the newcomer was just another redneck skinhead biker in torn black jeans, a skin- tight olive tee and a black leather jacket that looked like it had been run over by a truck a few too many times. Steel-toed army boots adorned his feet and his otherwise bald head bore a pair of expensive- looking metal-framed sunglasses. He wore a small Hitleresque mustache and a gleaming gold cross hung at his neckline. A tattoo was very visible covering the back of his head, some sort of snake or dragon encircling an upside-down heart. And if all that didn't make him look menacing enough, the Beretta 92 FS sticking noticeably from his belt added just the right amount of `neo-Nazi' to pull the ensemble together.

"Who the hell are you?" the tall, wiry skinhead in the corner asked the newcomer with no sign of patience.

Vin glanced from the new guy to the ringleader of their captives, wondering whether this was a good development or not.

"Mick sent me to collect his take of the drop," the new guy shrugged. He glanced at Vin and Nathan in the corner, and a single eyebrow arched over the edge of the sunglasses. "Having some fun, boys?"

"Mick didn't say nothin' about sending a stooge for his cut."

"Mick doesn't have to tell you shit, Baker," the new man drawled lazily, lips quirking in a tight grin. "You work for him, not the other way around."

"Who the hell are you?" another skinhead demanded angrily. "Ain't never seen you before."

"That's cuz I don't mix with gutter trash," the new man replied casually. "Name's Simms. Mick's got a new boss, and I'm his intermediary with your little ring. Kazanski figured he needs to confirm you morons aren't gonna get picked off by the mayor's new drug enforcers before he's gonna trust you to continue on your own."

"We ain't never needed a babysitter when we was under Harding."

"Yes, and Harding's six feet under, isn't he? He got goosed for narcs on a routine traffic stop, and had to be put down. Kazanski wants to make sure none of you are gonna pose the same kind of problem," the new guy snarled, his Midwestern accent elongating some of his words. "You and Mick are nothing more than low-level scumbags, but you can still cause trouble if you're stupid enough to get made by the cops. My boss wants me to make sure there isn't a need to clean house on this entire operation."

Vin noticed their numerous captors took pause at the idea of being `cleaned' - an activity that would likely not leave any of them breathing. It was clear that these were drug runners on the lowest rung of any organizational ladder, and it was unnerving for them to suddenly be answering to an upper-level player.

Simms took a moment to pause, considering the hostages on the floor before him. "So, anyone want to explain why you've got the nigger and the fag taking up space?"

"They wandered in," the lead dealer shrugged. "We took'em down, but we ain't figured out what to do with'em yet."

"They `wandered in'?" Simms asked, his tone thick with sarcasm. "Your lair is the middle of a fucking train yard and they just wandered in?"

Vin saw several of the dealers swallow hard.

"Did you think to question them, maybe find out why they were in this god-forsaken pigsty?" A few shaking heads drew a heavy sigh. "Jesus, what are you, a bunch of trolls, you can't even figure out that maybe you should find out why they're hanging around here? What if they're cops?"

Vin fought the urge not to cringe as five pairs of eyes darted to him with sudden anger and fear. This was so not good.

"Allow me to show you how to deal with something like this," Simms said harshly. The man reached down and grasped Nathan's arm, yanking the medic to his feet. "Bring his friend," he growled as he pulled the stumbling prisoner toward the back room.

Vin hissed into his gag as one of the others hauled him to his feet and dragged him along. He was pulled into the kitchen area, where Simms was pushing the medic into the diner's old freezer. Vin was tossed in beside Nathan, having to twist himself harshly to avoid landing on his teammate. He couldn't contain the grunt that bubbled up from landing hard on his ass, sending a shudder up his spine. Assuming he lived to experience it, his back was going to hurt like hell later.

As Simms ushered the gang members out of the freezer ahead of him, one of the druggies asked, "Now what are you gonna do?"

Simms smiled as he glanced around the interior of the door.

"Now I'm going to leave you all to find your eternal rewards."

The man gave the a hard push on the one skinhead ahead of him, tumbling him into his friends and sending the whole group falling into each other. He then pulled the freezer door closed and grabbed a long piece of pipe which he jammed through the inside handle to keep the gang from being able to open the door from the outside.

"We're clear! Take them!" Simms yelled as loud as he could. Then he ducked to the floor, pulling Vin and Nathan down and covering them both with his body.

The three men lay still in the dark for a few minutes as the sounds of battle outside echoed dully through the walls of the freezer block. Vin could hear shouts interspersed with gunfire and crashing noises, but the freezer's thick insulation kept him from being able to identify anything in particular. His mind was screaming for someone to make sense out of everything, but his instincts told him to stay still.

When silence had reigned for a few minutes, an attempt was made by someone on the outside to open the freezer door. After the unsuccessful try, a rhythmic knock that Vin vaguely recognized resonated through the steel. Surprisingly, Simms levered himself off the two agents and pulled out the pipe, unblocking the door.

The door swung wide.

"Everybody okay in here?"

Vin blinked as Buck Wilmington strode into the freezer, passing Simms without so much as a questioning glance.

"We are alive, Buck, though I fear Nathan seems a bit worse for wear." Simms bent down to check on Nathan as Buck pulled Vin to his feet and begun the process of removing his bindings.

"JD already called for an ambulance," Buck nodded. "I'll leave you with these two and go help Chris and Josiah with sweeping up the trash."

"You all are unharmed?"

"Not a scratch. Bad guys got a few boo-boos, but nothing too serious. We got'em handcuffed, but it'll be a few minutes before the paddy wagon shows up to cart them off."

"We shall join you momentarily, unless Nathan appears too injured to be moved before the paramedics arrive."

"I'll let Chris know." And with that, the big man sauntered out.

Vin stared at Simms as the man shrugged off his leather jacket and draped it over Nathan's form.


Ezra Standish looked up, green eyes revealed as he pulled off his sunglasses and hooked them on his shirt collar. Vin stared at the man who had been his soul mate for nearly a year now... a man who he hadn't recognized for the past half-hour at least.

A man who was currently... bald.

And tattooed.


The question came out more of a whisper than anything, a hoarse squeak of a sound in the face of complete and total shock. Ezra's lips curled in a small, sardonic grin.

"Hello, lover."

"Vin? You all right there, cowboy?"

Vin blinked a few times, then realized Chris was leaning over him. And they were in a very white room.


"Hey, Tanner. Had me worried there for a few."


"Yup. You passed out and banged your head on the concrete when you hit home. Not the best way to end the day."


"Mild concussion. Milder than yours, actually. You've been out almost an hour, while he's just been woozy."


"He'll be in shortly. He's getting help from one of the nurses getting his mustache off."

"Oh god..."

Chris Larabee had to grin at the look that crossed his friend's face. If he hadn't watched the transformation himself, he too would have had a hard time grasping the complete appearance change undertaken by his refined southern gentleman agent.

"What the hell did you do to him, Larabee?" Vin growled.

Chris chuckled. "Hey, don't look at me. I sacrificed my favorite pair of jeans for that outfit. JD lost a chunk of hair for the `stache, not to mention witnessed the destruction of one of his favorite camouflage tees. All Buck and Josiah gave up were sunglasses and that necklace. Oh, and while you're on the sedatives, I think I'll tell you now that you need a new jacket."

"New jacket?" Vin asked dully. "My jacket was in the van..." His eyes widened as he put the clues together.

"Yup. That beat up piece-of-crap that Ez was wearing was your two-day-old bomber jacket. Ez had Josiah rub it down with a brick and then Buck backed over it a few times with the truck."

"And... his hair..."

"Shaved his hair using one of Nate's emergency surgical razors. Josiah used a surgical marking pen to draw on the tattoo. It should wash off in a few days."

Chris watched as Vin struggled to wrap his brain around the whole situation. When JD's testing of the new satellite surveillance disk had picked up Vin and Nathan's situation in the diner, the team had known they might have only a few minutes before the drugged-up bike-Nazis decided to eliminate the intruders. JD had kept the receiver focused on the diner, easily tuning in to the skinheads' nervous chatter as they discussed what they should do.

It had been a calculated risk to let Ezra go ahead with his plan, but with no idea exactly how many bad guys were in the diner, no idea of the exact layout of the building, and no idea how many guns they might face if they just stormed in, they couldn't take the risk of a raid. So Chris had let Ezra take charge - handing over his pants without question, then watching as Ezra instructed Buck to slash them with a knife and dredge them in the dirt. He'd watched Josiah quickly shave every auburn lock from Ezra's head, and carefully draw on the tattoo. JD had sacrificed his shirt and hair without question, and helped Ezra secure the little mustache with super glue from Nathan's kit. He'd helped Buck with the decimation of Vin's beloved jacket, though he'd never admit it, and laced up JD's army boots onto Ezra's feet himself.

"He okay?"

Chris pulled himself from his musings to study Vin's face carefully.

"He's pretty pissed that surgical pen doesn't just wash off with soap and water," Chris chuckled. "And I don't think he's too happy at being bald. But yeah, he's fine."

"Can't believe it was him..."

Chris grinned, patting Vin's arm gently. "Go back to sleep, pal. Next time you wake, he'll be here."

Ezra looked up from the book he was reading when he heard the bedclothes rustle. Vin's blue eyes blinked lazily at him, struggling to focus. Smiling, Ezra reached forward to grasp his lover's hand.

"I'm here, love."

Vin focused for a moment, his eyes coming to rest on the baseball cap. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. Ezra sighed.

"Yes, I'm still bald. And tattooed, for that matter."


"Oh, please don't restrain yourself, my love. Mr. Wilmington has been having an absolute gala time poking fun at my pate, I certainly wouldn't want you to miss your turn."

"Wasn't gonna," Vin said quietly.

Ezra frowned. "Really?" It seemed so out of sorts for the notorious prankster. "Not even a little joke?"

"Nuh-uh," Vin murmured, grasping Ezra's hand tightly. "I love your hair."

Ezra smiled softly, unable to refrain as a warmth bubbled up within.

"It will grow back," he said simply. "Something that could not be said if those ruffians had done you serious injury."

"Just a bump on the head."

"Ah yes. Of course, that was not from the villains, but rather from the shock of seeing me doing my impersonation of Hitler's lapdog. I do apologize but I was unable to think of a way to signal you of my true identity without risking my cover and your lives."

"S'okay," Vin said quietly. "Just... seein' ya like that... kinda gave me the willies, ya know?"

"I understand completely. I suspect our Mister Jackson might have had a similar reaction, had he been coherent enough to recognize me."

"Yeah, probably woulda wigged him out but good."

"Well, thankfully he has missed out on the full effect. Alas, it will be a few weeks before I have re- grown my tresses to their previous styling. I suppose I shall have to adorn myself with a hat for the next week or two."

"Can get ya a nice Cowboys hat."

"God forbid."


"Mr. Tanner, if I were ever to despair to the level of `ball cap' I assure you it would be none other than the Atlanta Braves. But I think perhaps I shall go with something more snappy, like a newsboy-style cap, or perhaps a wide-brim gambler style. Something with flare."

"Always gotta have that," Vin chuckled lightly. He gripped Ezra's hand tightly, and felt reassured by the returned grip. They never spoke about such things, of course, but it hadn't escaped him how close they'd come to perhaps never seeing each other again. Anytime one got hurt even slightly, it was a reminder of what they had and what could be lost too quickly.


"I know."

Vin sighed as he closed his eyes. He'd been scared, more than he wanted to admit. Of all the ways to die, of all the dangers he'd ever been in... being at the mercy of lunatic druggies with prejudices was probably the scariest thing he'd ever imagined. And to have been so close...

The tight squeeze on his hand told him that he hadn't been the only one.

Ezra leaned over to brush a lock of hair off Vin's forehead and brush a gentle kiss against his brow. He began humming softly, the way he did when he was working to lull Vin into sleep. Tonight Vin didn't protest, taking comfort in Ezra's presence. He smiled tiredly as he drifted.

"Love ya, Ez."

"You too, Vin," came the soft reply. "Always."

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