This is dedicated to the bored Von who challenged me tonight.
Warning: Language. Unbetaed. Only spell-checked
Buck stared at Chris in dismay. “Tell me you told them no.”
Chris Larabee shook his head, his blond-brown bangs falling onto his forehead again. Impatiently he shoved it back. “I have to agree with the man. We are stubborn bastards.”
With a sigh, the ladies’ man let his forehead slam into his desk. That was one statement he could not refute. And there was proof of it – in the form of the lean figure shaking his head in dismay as he leaned against the far wall.
“Aw, hell.” Tanner whispered, his face paling as he contemplated his leader’s words. There was no way out of it. “Who told them that?”
Buck had the grace to blush as the others silently pointed their fingers at him. It was his fault. He had yelled the words, not expecting them to be thrown back at them. He had not known there was a reporter nearby, one who had turned in time to catch Wilmington’s outraged yell as he forced his way past the security perimeter. It could have been any of them. But it had been Buck – so the situation was his fault.
Flames shot up from canyon, lighting the bridge with eerie shadows that writhed and danced in the darkness. Fire crews directed water and fire retardant chemicals towards the flames in an attempt to save the man trapped below them.
“Where are they?” Buck Wilmington struggled to see past the smoke rising from the battered jeep.
“I think I saw Chris over there.” JD Dunne pointed to the cluster of paramedics and firemen on the far side of the bridge. Seeing the expression on his partner’s face, the young ATF agent immediately led the way.
“Hey! You can’t go through there!” A firefighter stepped in front of them only to back away from Buck as the normally even-tempered agent thrust his badge out and growled wordlessly. As soon as he saw the badge he shook his head, muttering, “Damn, stubborn ATF bastards.”
The rest of the firemen either ignored them or figured they were supposed to be there. Buck and JD dodged men, equipment, hoses, ropes, vehicles, and the general mayhem of several different jurisdictions meeting at one place. Fire trucks were parked next to ambulances, park vehicles, state police, Denver PD and the local sheriff’s vehicles.
And against the far railing, Chris Larabee stood, held up by the sheer bulk of Josiah Sanchez as Nathan helped a paramedic wrap the agent’s hands. The bleak expression was more than Buck wanted to ever see again. He had seen it once before… and it had been followed by years of fear, fear that his best friend was self-destructing in front of him.
“Anything?” Buck asked softly.
A sharp shake of Josiah’s head told them the news. Buck shut his eyes.
“Where’s Ez?” JD asked, eyes wide as he stared down at the men trying to reach the jeep. The Jaguar was parked on the other side of the bridge, half hidden by a pair of huge rescue trucks.
“Smart mouthed, stubborn jackass is down there.” Nathan gestured over the edge of the bridge. “Said he was not giving up on his friend, something about being in the middle of teaching him how to dress like a gentleman.”
“Are you the ATF agents?” A man came up to them, his hat proclaiming him to be the fire marshal. “You need to get out of my men’s way.”
“Your men were going to leave my man to burn.” Chris spoke in the soft, almost ice cold tone that warned of an incipient explosion. He shrugged out of Josiah’s hold and stepped up to the fire marshal. “I am not about to leave him behind.”
“Listen, there’s no way your friend is still alive. The fire is spreading and is risking all the people here.” The group surrounding the fire marshal had to admit that they were surprised he had not backed down in the slightest. He looked up at Larabee, holding his ground. “The forest is dry and with this wind we can’t control the burn. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to order the men back.”
“JD!” Chris turned his back on the fire marshal. “Get some ropes, harnesses, axes – whatever you think we’ll need. Josiah, Buck, help him. Nathan, get a medical kit.”
The fire marshal was shoved out of the way as the ATF agents sprang into action. He turned his attention back to Larabee. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting my man back.”
“Damn stubborn idiots!” The fire marshal turned on his heal and headed for the State Troopers, he needed back up to handle this crew.
Moments later Buck stared at a State Trooper in amusement. “You care to repeat that?”
“You are obstructing the firemen, sir. We’ve been asked to escort you off the bridge.” The man seemed confident that those words would convince the three men he faced into instant obedience.
“Son, you are sorely mistaken.” Josiah’s voice was a dark rumble, his face showing his growing anger at the delay.
“Boy, you need to get out of our way. We’re ATF agents. One of our team is trapped down there.” Buck did not have to raise his voice, but he did, enjoying the way the young trooper blanched. “Just because the fire marshal has given up, don’t mean we have. Don’t matter what they say, we're stubborn bastards and we don’t give up.”
The trooper stepped back, waving them forward. He watched them go, contemplating their loyalty. After a moment, he turned to his partner, saying, “That’s a friend.”
“Hell, haven’t you heard about Larabee’s men? Everyone knows they’re the stubbornest, hot-headest, and most elite group in the state. Nobody messes with them, not even the devil wants to do that. And I don’t thing he’d want them angry like if he took them one at a time. The bets are that if they go, they all go at once.”
The ATF team ignored the quiet whispers around them. They ignored the silent respect in the eyes of firemen who handed over oxygen tanks. They ignored the growing heat as the fire spread, igniting brush and trees with explosive snaps.
“Chris?” JD grabbed Larabee as he headed for the ropes and pointed to the man’s bandaged hands.
“I’m going.” The blond stared at his youngest agent, not quite believing JD had grabbed him like that.
“I got you some gloves to protect them.” JD did not look away as he handed the heavy, fireman’s gloves over to his boss. He knew better than to step between Chris and Vin – people who did that just got hurt.
“Thanks.” Chris grabbed the gloves and pulled them on. Then he followed Josiah down the rope.
“Damn, those are stubborn bastards!” The fire marshal’s words were echoed by his men as they helped their comrades back onto the bridge. Above them, the flames climbed the sides of the steep ravine. The prevailing winds were preventing any kind of water drop and whipping the flames past firebreaks faster than the firemen could make them. He signaled his men back. There was nothing else he could do. He could not risk all his men for one man.
Josiah led the way down the side of the ravine. Chris followed him, slowed by his injured hands. Nathan, JD, and Buck stayed nearby, all watching their leader, worried that he would fall and be unable to catch himself.
“The chief’s called us back!” An approaching fireman jogged up to the group. “Only one left it that damn crazy southern bastard. He took a shot at us for trying to make him leave.”
“He’s our brother.” Josiah rasped through the smoke that blew in their faces. They were heading for the flames and instinct was pushing for them to follow the firemen. But they could not abandon their own.
“Damn crazy fools.” The fireman shook his head and followed his orders.
“Are you back for more?” Ezra’s voice was husky from the smoke, his clothing was dark with soot, dirt, sweat, and other things. His service pistol was pointed at them as he leaned his weight on a crowbar.
“It’s us.” Buck moved around his friends and joined Ezra.
Afterwards, Buck never quite remembered how it happened. None of the others could either. He knew he grabbed the crowbar – he had the burn mark to prove it. He knew that somehow they moved the jeep. How? Josiah would maintain that God always worked in mysterious ways. JD would claim he had been blinded by the smoke and so had not seen how the Jeep had been moved.
“Move, ya stubborn piece of shit jeep!” Chris yelled and slammed his fist into the hot metal of the jeep’s undercarriage. The flames lit the dirt-coated metal, making the exhaust pipes seem to writhe and wriggle uneasily.
With a loud groan of stressed metal, the Jeep fell towards Chris and he leapt backwards. Nathan grabbed him and hauled him clear of the rapidly moving vehicle. The rest of the team dove for the illusive safety alongside one of the bridge abutments. As the Jeep slammed into the ground, a fine layer of dust joined the smoke, making it hard to breathe.
“Aw, hell.” Vin Tanner’s voice was annoyed. The sharpshooter lay in a depression, his body covered with a mixture of dirt and soot. “Ezra’s gonna kill me.”
“No, Mr. Tanner,” Ezra joined Nathan and Chris beside Vin. “I think I’ll leave that honor to Mr. Larabee.”
“Chris?” Vin’s eyes opened. “Oh. You’re here.”
“Damnit, Vin!” Chris couldn’t keep the smile from his voice. “You know better than to race Ezra through these mountains.”
“Weren’t racing,” Vin muttered. “Brakes went out.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Josiah reached past Nathan and grabbed Vin’s upper arms. He quickly pulled the younger man into a fireman’s carry and began heading for the ropes. “The fire’s moving.”
As one the team surrounded Josiah and Vin, offering their support and guidance through the race with the flames.
“HEY!” Buck was the first up the ropes and onto the bridge. He stared at the empty expanse of cement and waved for the firemen. Then he turned and helped JD onto the bridge.
By the time the firemen arrived with the paramedics in tow, he was anchoring Josiah as Nathan pulled Vin over the bridge railing. A fireman took his place, helping the profiler scale the last few feet to safety while someone thrust an oxygen mask over his face. He refused to move until everyone was safe. Then and only then did he yield to the demands of his body, sagging to the ground as his lungs fought to absorb the life giving gas the mask fed him. Two troopers threaded his arms over their shoulders and ran, dragging him with them.
The group stopped once on safe ground and turned to look at the bridge. Flames licked the supports as the Jeep’s gas tank exploded, spraying the concrete with gasoline. A minute firestorm rose through the ravine, scorching a path through the brush and low trees. As the oxygen in the ravine vanished, the flames leapt into the air, fighting for life as it gobbled up the flammable materials in the area. With a roar it rose above their heads and then was sucked back down under the bridge.
“Whoa.” JD murmured from his precarious position between to more troopers. As he spoke, the troopers turned and headed back down the hill.
“I told ya we’d do it.” Buck crowed at the trooper dragging him towards the clump of emergency service vehicles. He pulled off his mask to announce it to the world in general. “I told ya we’re stubborn bastards! Too damn stubborn to lose one of our own!”
“Stubborn bastards is hardly an accurate description, Mr. Wilmington.” Ezra commented from under his own oxygen mask.
“We’re stubborn bastards in that we’re too damn onery for death to want us.” Buck replied.
“No, you’re stubborn bastards ‘cause you don’t want to go alone.” A wry voice spoke from behind one of the troopers. The trooper moved to reveal Orrin Travis wearing a rumpled pair of jean and a simple button down shirt. “You know you are on the news?”
Seven ATF agents shook their heads.
Travis smiled. “Agent Wilmington told the world that, and I quote, ‘Just because the fire marshal has given up, don’t mean we have. Don’t matter what they say, we're stubborn bastards and we don’t give up.’”
Buck went pale. He had not noticed the reporter or the cameraman in the confusion. “They recorded that?”
“Live and in color,” Travis smiled at the dawning realization on Wilmington’s face. “The Fire Department is not happy with us.”
“Aw, hell.” Buck muttered and let the paramedic place the oxygen mask on his face.
“Judge,” Larabee whispered, his voice harsh from the smoke.
“I agree with Wilmington’s sentiment, but not his words to about the fire marshal.” Travis spoke up. “We’ll handle this later, after you’ve been to the hospital.”
“Mr. Travis?” Ezra fought for his breath as he tried to speak. “Could you see to it…” he broke off coughing harshly.
“I will arrange for your Jaguar to be returned to the Federal Building.” Travis watched with concern as the paramedics worked on Ezra. The undercover agent sent him a thankful glance before succumbing to the paramedics and allowing them to wheel him away.
Buck stared at Chris in dismay as the events swam through
his mind. None of them had been badly
injured. Ezra had gotten the worst case
of smoke inhalation and Vin had received a few minor injures – not even a
broken bone thanks to his seatbelt.
They had been uncomfortable – the first and second degree burns, smoke
inhalation, and pulled muscles were painful but not life threatening.
“So, what do I have to do?” He asked, waiting for the blow to fall.
“You have to apologize for the comment.”
“But I can’t.” Buck looked from Chris to Travis, his eyes wide. “We’re stubborn bastards. Just ask anyone who’s ever worked with us.”
Travis looked around the room and saw the mutinous looks on his agents’ faces. Every single one of them had the same look. They were not going to apologize. They had nearly lost Vin due to the man’s belief that no one could have survived that accident much less the fire in the ravine. They were not about to apologize for going to his rescue. Finally, he nodded. “I agree, you are stubborn bastards and a pain to work with, but you are a damn fine team. Just send him an apology for hitting him in the ER and I’ll consider the case closed.”
Six men looked shocked and they looked at each other. The seventh blushed furiously.
“JD, do you have something to tell us?” Chris asked, his voice incredulous.
“Well, he called Buck a stubborn bastard.” JD murmured. He saw the looks he was getting and frowned, his eyes turning hard. “Nobody gets to call Buck that but me. Well, you guys can too.”
The rest of the team looked at each other in amazement. Then they burst out laughing. Even their youngest team member was stubborn.
Oh, you want the challenge?
TrackerChiled: write a whole fic based on someone sayin the line 'we're stubborn bastards' ::snicker::
RonneeySeda: 's dat challenge (yes my fingers are challenged
RonneeySeda: 'we're stubborn bastards'?
RonneeySeda: anything else?
RonneeySeda: just that line?
TrackerChiled: uh... nuthin else... just that
TrackerChiled: whole fic on that tho
TrackerChiled: not just one scene...
TrackerChiled: that'd be the pivotal line of the thing