The December 2001 Challenge: [offered by Twyla Jane]
["A seed of doubt once planted, sown deep had begun to grow and crack the very foundation that united them." Incorporate this into your story whether it be text or theme. Any AU. Can be anything from drama to dare I say humor. Oh did I say that Nathan has to be one of the main players and mind you not just as a healer? Oh yes I know I am evil but I could have asked you to include a barrel of oil, dynamite and some pissed off reptiles (oh my where did that come from????). Something else concerning flamingos was mentioned... so don't be shocked when you see them.]
"Just what is this!" Dick Larson held up a piece of paper where Chris Larabee could see it and waved it angrily.
Chris raised an eyebrow, and shrugged. "From here, Sir, I'd have to say it's a piece of paper."
Mentally, Chris slapped himself for being sarcastic but he couldn't help it. Larson got on his nerves. He was a short, fat, balding man with delusions of grandeur. He had gotten picked to fill in for Orrin Travis while he was taking a well-deserved month long vacation. Part of Larson's temporary duties included overseeing ATF Team 7.
He took his job of oversight far too seriously in Chris' opinion. He'd called Chris into his office once a day for the past two weeks to discuss some minor infraction or detail. He kept trying to plant seeds of doubt and destruction. But so far none had taken root. The man acted as though he were lord of the manor, and frankly, everyone in the building, not just team 7, was heartily tired of his high-handed manner.
Chris consoled himself that his sarcasm wasn't intentional. From where he sat, he really couldn't have given any other honest answer. He didn't know what Larson was holding. And he sure as hell wasn't going to guess. Larson glared at him, which didn't really faze Chris at all.
"This...This piece of paper has got to be the most egregious excuse for a file report I have EVER had the misfortune to read." He waved the paper again.
Chris did is best not to sigh. "I see. And just what exactly is wrong with it, Sir?"
"WHAT'S wrong with it??!! Have you even read it?" Larson looked at him incredulous.
"Don't know." Chris replied truthfully with a shrug.
Truth be told, the only reports done by his men he regularly read were the ones Ezra and Vin wrote. He read Vin's because the sharpshooter asked him to check his grammar and spelling. The younger man was self-conscious about his dyslexia and had quietly asked Chris to review drafts of his reports before submitting a final version. He didn't want to turn in documentation that looked liked it been written by a second grader.
He read Ezra's because the undercover agent's reports were usually the most detailed, and typically the most accurate, despite the sometimes ostentatious language. Chris was not above using Ezra's report to double check his own recollection of event. Ezra had near perfect recall, a talent that the entire team had found useful at one time or another.
Larson's face took on an interesting shade of red, his mouth agape, as he stared at Chris. "Angry reptiles? Cans of oil? Dynamite? Why not include pink flamingos while they were at it?"
Larson slammed the report on his desk. "For the love of God, I can't believe a man of the most successful teams in ATF history would turn in a work of... of such unbelievable fiction, and try to pass it off as a valid report. Does he take me for a fool?"
[Probably], Chris thought, [I know I sure as hell think you're one.] "Reptiles, oil and dynamite, huh?"
"Who wrote it?"
"According to the report submitted by Nathan Jackson, Mr. Anders' illegal distillery was shut down due to an unlikely, dare I say impossible, conjunction of coincidences."
Jack Anders had operating an illegal distillery in an abandoned mineshaft just outside Denver. Since such crimes fell under the jurisdiction of the ATF, Larabee's team had been assigned to check it out. Chris had sent Nathan, Ezra, and Vin to take care of it, not expecting them to have much difficulty with the assignment. As it was the whole thing turned out to be far easier than even Chris had anticipated.
Larson picked up the paper, and began reading. "The abandoned shaft being utilized by Mr. Roger Anders, as a hidden illegal distillery, was incidentally a winter den for a multitude of the area's local rattlesnakes. Several, of the afore mentioned reptiles, seem to occupy the shaft on more or less year round basis. When confronted by Agents Standish, Tanner, and Jackson, Mr. Anders made the mistake of running further in to the shaft. In his hast to elude capture, he stepped on a snake that immediately responded to being subjected to such abuse, by striking him. Mr. Anders' reaction to being bitten was to jump back, knocking over a kerosene lamp that was precariously, not to mention, unwisely, perched on an old crate presumably left over from when the mine was being constructed. Unbeknownst to Mr. Anders, or any the agents on the scene, the crate still contained several sticks of dynamite. Fire quickly spread along the path of spilled kerosene, engulfing the crate, and detonating the dynamite sill within. The resulting explosion would have been minor had not the crate been located near several drums of oil. Agent Standish was quick to recognize the danger, and thanks to him, Agent Tanner, and Agent Jackson were able to escape without injury. Mr. Anders was taken to Denver Mercy General Hospital for treatment of his rattlesnake bite before being formally charged. "
Larson slapped the paper back down on the desk. He shot a disgusted, irate look at Chris. "Honestly! If Agent Jackson was attempting to disguise his own incompetence with this fabrication was not the best approach to take."
Chris thought the man had Ezra's vocabulary but not the undercover agents flair for utilizing it. He was becoming increasingly irritated with this whole situation. Not only was this son-of-a-bitch wasting his time, he was calling one of his men incompetent and a liar. Chris stood up. He leaned forward and rested his fists on Larson's desk, casually invading the other man's space and using his height to intimidate.
"Did you read the other reports before calling me up here?" He asked, his voice dangerously soft. There was no mistaking the threat.
"N-n-o. Of course not. Once I had seen this ridiculous report of Agent Jackson, I felt it necessary to bring to your attention his blatant disregard for..."
Chris held up one hand stopping Larson's flow of words. "Well, then let me tell you what the rest of them will say." Chris pinned the man in his chair with an icy glare.
"In varying degrees, all three reports will say exactly the same thing. Because, Larson, what Nathan wrote is the truth. Had you bothered to read Agent Tanner's and Agent Standish's reports before calling me up here, and wasting my time, you little piece of shit, you would have known that whatever else my men may be, They. Are. Not. Liars. And they sure as hell are NOT INCOMPETENT." Chris' voice gradually gained volume until he was shouting the last bit.
He leaned further in, and stabbed Larson in the chest hard with one finger. "Furthermore, if you ever call me in here again to question me or one of my men you better have one hell of a good reason. Call me in here one more time over some petty piss ant thing, and I will shoot you. Do we understand one another?"
Larson nodded shakily. He was pressed back into his chair trying to put as much distance between himself and Chris as possible. Chris turned on his heel and headed for the door. He slammed it hard, something that he would never consider doing had it been Orrin Travis in his office.
He headed back to his own floor. He'd be glad when Travis got back. At least Travis had the sense not to question his team's reports no matter how outlandish, unlikely or outright bizarre. There was nothing that couldn't or wouldn't happen around team 7. Travis had come to terms with that fact years ago. And so have I, Chris thought with a grin.