The following story is a work of fan fiction. It is not intended to infringe on any copyright or to make a profit. The Magnificent Seven belong to John Watson/Trilogy Entertainment, MGM, and probably others; only the story is my own. Please do not copy, post, or redistribute without permission from the author.
by the Desperado's Daughter
Vin Tanner reached forward and grabbed the dashboard. The centrifugal force almost made him sick. Chris Larabee was taking the curves too damn fast, especially at night, but Vin knew better than to correct him just then. Instead, he focussed on the van they were tailing. He could only imagine what his friends had endured.
For a moment, the sharpshooter turned to look out the back window. Josiah was staying right with them. Good.
Vin swung back around in time to see the van swerve dangerously.
"Shit," Chris muttered, then he yelled. "Where the hell are they going?"
It looked like the van had taken off into the trees. Vin squinted. "Can't see them. . . "
"Where'd they turn?" Chris bellowed.
"I don't know. Slow down," Vin commanded. He drew out his binoculars and searched for an opening in the heavy brush.
"You got 'em?" Chris cried.
"Not yet . . ."
"Well where the hell could they have gone? They didn't vanish into the f***ing air!!"
"There's no sign of them." Vin forced himself to stay calm. "There's no sign of a road or a driveway or anything." He rolled down his window frantically and pulled himself up until he was sitting in the window, training his binoculars over the top of the car. Chris' driving became less erratic and Vin felt his friend's hand hang on to his ankle.
"Get back in the car," Chris yelled. Vin tossed his binoculars in the passenger's seat and reached into his vest. He pulled out his night goggles and searched frantically. "There's no sign of them . . ." Vin repeated, more to himself than to Chris. Josiah caught up with them and followed closely.
"We've passed it!" Chris called.
"We couldn't have," Vin answered. He slid back into the car and sat on the binoculars. "Shit . . ." He shifted and grabbed them. Chris radioed the car behind them. "Did you see where they went?"
"It's like trying to find the g**d**n bat cave," Josiah radioed back.
"Oh God . . ." Vin throat was tight, and he pointed to a bridge in the distance.
"F***. . ." As soon as Chris saw it, he shifted gears and followed the river as quickly as he could.
The hard turn sent JD Dunne flying across the back of the van. His already sore chin slammed into something hard, and he groaned.
"JD, you ok?"
JD waited a moment before he answered. The blindfold made him feel disoriented. He tried to get his bearings, but it was difficult with his hands bound behind him.
"JD?" The voice was more insistant.
"I'm fine." JD pulled himself up. He could hear the smile in Buck Wilmington's voice. "Yeah, kid. I've seen your 'fine'."
"How's your arm?" JD asked, crawling toward his friend.
"The same," Buck answered.
JD was about to respond when the van slowed suddenly. The kid pitched forward and slid into Buck. The big man cried out when JD landed on his wounded arm.
"God, Buck . . ."
His words tight with pain, Buck said with a chuckle, "Hell, kid, if I'd known you wanted to dance, I'd've dressed better."
"You're hurting, Buck. What can I do?"
"You could call 911."
JD sighed. "Why didn't I think of that?"
The van rolled to a slow halt. "Head's up," Buck said.
"I'd jump 'em but . . . I'm a little 'tied up.'"
"Kid, you've got to get some new material."
The heavy door swung open and strong hands pulled both agents out of the van. The heat was oppressive and JD wondered why that was the first thing that came to mind when he was about to be killed. He heard Buck yell.
"Leave him alone!" JD cried, only to be met with a backhand across his face. The kid landed hard on his knees, but he had no time to recover as the toe of a boot connected with his ribs. Buck was cussing a blue streak. If JD had been able to catch his breath, he'd have told Buck to chill, but all he could do was gasp.
The gasps became wheezing as the injury to his ribs affected his breathing. He started to panic as he felt himself being hauled up to a railing.
"What . . . are . . . " JD couldn't finish his question. His breathing was so shallow, and fear drove his heartbeat to a feverish beat. "Buck . . " he croaked.
"It's ok, kid." Buck's voice was little more than a hiss. "Just. . ."
JD could hear that his friend was being gagged.
"What . . ."
That was all the kid could mutter before he felt himself plummet.
If he had been driving too fast before, Chris Larabee was now just plain reckless. He had seen the van stop and he could barely make out the figures on the bridge.
Again, Vin was leaning out the window, watching the events unfold through his binoculars. "Two -- three are getting out. They're opening the door."
"Can you see . . ." Chris didn't get to finish his question.
"OK, I got JD . . . blindfolded . . .looks like he's tied up. Moving slowly . .."
"Is he hurt? You see Buck?"
"OK, Buck's there. Blindfolded too . . . Shit!"
"'Shit' what?" Chris snapped.
"Buck's on the ground . . . looks like they're working JD over."
The radio popped and crackled. "Are you seein' this?" Josiah's voice boomed through the static.
Chris yelled back into the mic. "Where the hell is Ezra?"
"Damned if I know," Josiah answered, then he gasped. "What are they doing? Vin. . ."
Vin strained to see and he was dumbfounded. "Sweet Jesus," he muttered.
"What??!!" Chris demanded, but then he saw it for himself -- the silhouette of a man falling from the bridge.
Buck Wilmington choked on the gag that was forced into his mouth. He heard JD's voice. He could hear that the kid was struggling to breathe, but he wasn't prepared for what he saw when a gruff hand pulled his blindfold off.
In a split second, he saw something that would haunt him the rest of his life. JD, bound and blindfolded, hair hiding his face until, struggling, he turned toward Buck's voice. For that one moment, Buck saw JD's bruised face and bleeding mouth. He wished he could see the kid's eyes. Maybe he could have reassured him . . .
Instead he tried to get up -- to help the kid if he could -- but strong hands held him down and he could only watch as JD was jerked violently away. He could only shudder in anger as two men, in one swift move, hauled the kid up and off of the bridge.
Buck stared at the railing and listened as his friend screamed his name. He finally heard the splash as JD's body entered the rushing river below.
Buck's scream was muffled by the gag in his mouth but still he threw his head back and screamed again.
Chris had already turned the car toward the river. Vin kept his goggles trained on the spot where JD's falling body had cut through the rough surface of the water. "Faster, Chris, I'm losing him. . . "
Vin was toeing his sneakers off as he watched. He also managed to slip out of his vest without losing focus. But the water was tricky at night. Shadows played on the surface while the moonlight glittered a deceptive path across it. Anyone else would have thought it impossible to find a man in the water at night -- especially one who was bound and blindfolded.
But Vin Tanner had to try.
Once they were within a few feet of the water, Vin jumped out of the car. Chris hadn't even brought it to a complete stop when the tracker took off toward the riverbank. Vin could hear Chris cussing at him, but he dove in anyway. It was JD's only chance.
Josiah Sanchez had seen it. He'd seen the van stop on the bridge. He'd seen them beat up on a blindfolded kid who couldn't fight back, and he'd seen them hoist him up and over the railing.
He felt a fury that he'd only known one other time in his life. He knew it was a dangerous anger, but a righteous one.
And he drove like a madman up a dirt road toward the bridge. He was gonna catch the ones who'd killed the kid, and then God have mercy on them because Josiah Sanchez wasn't about to.
Chris Larabee bolted out of the car after Vin. He felt so g**d**n helpless. If JD had survived the fall, he was most likely drowning. Even if Vin could find him in the murky water, he would surely be dead by the time they could get him to shore.
This was a nightmare. He just hoped Josiah could get to Buck before Buck got himself killed.
And where in the hell was Ezra?! Damn him!! If he couldn't count on one of his men, he'd have to dismiss him. And this time, Ezra's absence may have cost JD his life.
"Come on, Vin . . ." Chris muttered. As if bidden, Vin's head bobbed up and he scanned the water frantically. He didn't yell. Chris knew he wouldn't. It wouldn't help to have the men on the bridge shooting at him. Chris' pulse raced as he watched Vin dive back under. Chris glanced at his watch. JD had been under for at least two minutes. If Vin didn't find him soon, the kid didn't have a chance.
Maybe it was the whirring of the propeller blades he heard first. Maybe it was the voice that boomed from the massive speakers . . . But there was no mistaking that the cavalry had arrived. Suddenly the bridge, the trees and the river were flooded with white light. The chopper hovered low -- ready to give chase. Josiah pounded the steering wheel with his fist.
"Yesssss!!!" he cried. He killed his headlights and stopped just out of sight of Buck's captors. Then he jumped out of the vehicle and waited.
"YOU ON THE BRIDGE: THIS IS THE ATF. LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS IMMEDIATELY."
Never had an accent sounded more wonderful than when Ezra's drawl filled the night air. Josiah watched the men around the van scurry. Two hauled Buck to his feet and pushed him to the railing. Josiah ran onto the bridge, taking out one of them. The other man shoved Buck as hard as he could, then turned to jump into the back of the van. Nathan picked him off from the chopper. Josiah ran up to Buck, who was teetering awkwardly on the railing. Josiah caught him by his belt and hauled him back to safety -- just as the van skidded to a halt, its tires in shreds.
Josiah shielded his friend and trained his weapon on the doors of the van, but it wasn't necessary. The chopper landed and the SWAT team poured out, surrounding the van and taking over the mission. Josiah turned back to Buck.
"It's all right now." Josiah heard himself say, but he wasn't sure he believed it himself. He eased the gag off and started to cut through the ropes which bound his friend.
"JD . . . " Buck said, eyes pleading.
"They're looking for him."
Buck's chin dropped to his chest. And Josiah waited with him.
JD was dead. He had to be. There was no way he could have survived this long. The floodlights from the chopper helped some. But not enough. Vin was treading water and scanning the surface, cursing himself. He should have realized that JD had probably been carried further down river. Vin's chest heaved as he tried to gain control over his belabored breathing. He had tried to stay calm, but there was no escaping the panic he felt. JD was dead. JD was dead and there was nothing Vin could to help him.
Chris Larabee was calling him -- telling him to come back to the riverbank. But Vin tuned him out. He tuned out Nathan's voice from the bridge. He tuned out everything and dove . . .
One last time . . .
"GET OFFA ME!!!" Buck struggled against Josiah's considerable strength. But Josiah held him down and called for help from the medics. He knew what Buck was feeling -- he felt it himself. He also knew that Buck would hurl himself over the bridge to look for the kid, and that wouldn't do anybody any good.
One of the young medics tried to look at Buck's injuries only to have a fist thrown at him. Josiah caught Buck's arm and, in a swift move, twisted it behind Buck.
"F*** YOU!!" Buck screamed at his friend. Josiah looked into Buck's eyes.
"Let them help you," Josiah said, knowing that there was little he could say that would penetrate Buck's frustration. Before Buck could say anything, Josiah got in his friend's face. "They're looking for him, Buck. If you try to help, you'll only slow them down." For a moment, Josiah saw those fury-mad eyes soften into an expression of such sadness that Josiah felt his own eyes fill. He reached up and put his hand on Buck's neck. "We'll know soon. And either way, I'll help you find Gentry, and we'll take him down." Buck was listening, and he nodded slightly. Convinced that Buck was through fighting him, Josiah shifted so he could support him. The medics worked on Buck's wounded arm. Josiah just wished he had some reassurance he could give.
The kid had to be all right. But in his heart, Josiah knew better.
Ezra Standish walked over to stand beside Nathan Jackson. Nathan was leaning over the railing, trying to get Vin to swim back to the riverbank. Ezra put a hand on his friend's shoulder and peered over the side as well.
"No," Nathan muttered as they both saw Vin disappear into the water again. Without looking at him, Nathan addressed Ezra.
"He's gonna kill himself looking."
"You would do no less, my friend." Ezra found it so difficult to watch the water, yet he couldn't pull himself away. "Mr. Tanner is a strong swimmer."
"But he's wearing himself down. There's no way he can find JD."
It was a strange, almost surreal scene. The unnatural search lights cast an eerie wash over the black water. People were everywhere on the bridge -- voices chattering, Mirandas being read to those being taken into custody. There was movement everywhere. But Ezra saw his band of friends waiting -- Chris from the riverbank, Josiah and Buck a few feet away on the bridge, Nathan . . .
How strange it felt. There was so much equiptment, so many trained people, and still no one could save one young man.
Ezra watched as Vin came up for air. He watched as Vin swam back to shore.
And he closed his eyes. JD was dead.
Someone was asking him something. Should he arrange to have a team drag the river? They wouldn't be able to do it til sunrise. Ezra couldn't think about that just then. Things were so . . . wrong.
"Sir," a voice cut in. Ezra was about to respond when Nathan Jackson turned and face the guy asking all the questions.
"NOT NOW!" Nathan snapped. "Can't you see that it's not the time for this?"
"I'm sorry . . . I didn't realize . . ." The young man stammered.
"Well it's part of your job to realize . .." Nathan interrupted him.
Ezra squeezed Nathan's tense shoulder, and put his other hand on the young officer's shoulder. "It's all right, son," Ezra said. "You tell them they may drag the river in the morning."
The young man nodded and apologized again. Excusing himself, he left to go back to the helicopter.
So many times JD had stammered the same way, wriggling out of an awkward situation. It was in the midst of that recollection that Ezra Standish was suddenly overcome with grief. He patted Nathan on the shoulder and released his grip. The men looked at each other, not yet willing to let their emotions keep them from doing their job. Nathan turned to go help Josiah with Buck. Ezra walked across the bridge. He stared out onto the dark waters. God help them.
Chris Larabee paced the muddy bank, watching Vin swim back toward him. Vin's strokes weren't the strong ones that had pulled him to the middle of the river. They were tired, weak . . . defeated. Chris stepped out into the shallows, ready to help if he could.
Vin pushed himself up as soon as his feet could reach the bottom. He waded over, the water still up to his waist. Vin shook his head. He paused for a moment and leaned over, trying even yet to recover his breath. Chris waited and let Vin make his way to him. He knew his friend too well. Vin was collecting himself before facing his leader. He was taking on the responsibility of having lost JD.
Chris caught the sharpshooter's arm and led him back to shore. Once out of the water, Vin started to speak. But the exhaustion and grief overcame him. He sank to his knees, hanging his head. He wrapped his arms around his stomach and curled over, rocking slightly. Wordlessly Chris knelt in front of him and hugged him. Vin's shoulders quaked.
It would be hard for the team to get through this. Chris knew they would suffer, but he would make damn sure they wouldn't have to suffer guilt as well. That was a burden only he could bear.
And he felt like it would tear him apart.
Something didn't look right. Ezra watched the water and he tilted his head slightly as he considered it. Something was strange. The gambler ran his hand down his face. Get a hold of yourself, he chastised. The ancient trees cast gnarled shadows across the surface of the water. It was easy to mistake a shadow for something else. He scanned the water once more.
And once more, something didn't look right.
It was almost as though there was a little land mass in the river. But that was impossible. But there it was.
His pulse raced and he ran to the chopper. "Give me some light on the other side," he barked, and he grabbed the binoculars out of the pilot's hands. He ran back to the rail and looked out on the water.
"Come on, come on . . ." he impatiently scoured the water. He couldn't tell yet.
"GET ME SOME G**D**N LIGHT!!!" he barked, as he trained the lenses on a mass near the riverbank. He ran along the bridge in the direction of . . . whatever it was. He kicked off his shoes and by the time the big searchlight illuminated the river on that side of the bridge, Ezra had swung one leg over the railing. After one last look through the binoculars, he dropped them on the bridge, then he jumped.
Buck turned when he heard Ezra's command. "He's got something . . ." Nathan hopped up and ran over, just as Ezra jumped into the river.
Josiah craned back to see what was going on. He turned back to Buck. "Will you be ok?"
"I'm fine," Buck said breathlessly. "Just go!! Go help them!"
Chris and Vin were making their way slowly back to the car when Chris saw the flood of light on the other side of the bridge. He stopped and pointed. "What's that?" Chris' voice was soft.
"Gimme my binoculars, " Vin said, squinting to make out what he could. "Someone's swimming," he reported to Chris who handed him the binoculars. Vin held them to his eyes. "Ezra . . ."
"What's he . . ."
"JD!!" Vin cried. He ran toward the car. "Come on . . ."
Ezra swam hard toward the body in the water. It was laying across an ancient root which protruded out of the river shallows.
There was no response. Ezra fought to make his way over. Please God . . .
"JD, come on . . ."
Ezra was almost frantic now. He tripped once over another of the gnarled roots. He pulled himself and took one . . . two steps . . . and reached the body.
"GO!!" Vin yelled. He stripped his wet shirt off and tossed it in the back seat. Chris forced his vehicle along the dirt road which paralleled the river. Thank God for little rocky access roads. This time, Vin stomach didn't lurch when Chris sped. They had to get there.
Against the medic's instructions, Buck struggled to get up. He cussed out anyone who was in his way. When one of the SWAT guys tried to make him go sit down, Buck could have decked him. But Josiah intervened and led his friend to the railing where a little crowd was gathering.
"Get the paramedics down there," Nathan yelled, and absently, Josiah handed him his radio. Nathan continued to command the activities on the bridge, but he never took his eyes off of the scene unfolding below.
Ezra took a deep breath as he leaned over the lifeless body. The body of his young friend. Seeing JD, still blindfolded and bound, brought about a rage in the gambler. This was so very wrong.
Even though the boy hadn't survived, Ezra had to check for vitals. He slid his hand up to the cold and clammy neck, knowing he wouldn't find a pulse. Sometimes he despised his job.
Buck got to the railing in time to see Ezra reach a dark figure in the water. For the first time since the chopper arrived, there was an uncanny silence. All that could be heard was the distant sound of a car approaching. Everyone watched the gambler with bated breath.
Ezra's heart was in his throat as he felt the kid's neck. Everyone watched as the gambler's head dropped and he leaned against the boy's shoulder. An instant later he swung around to address everyone waiting.
"HE'S ALIVE!!" Ezra cried. "GET A DOCTOR DOWN HERE NOW!!!"
Buck nodded and he didn't try to check his emotions. He turned to Josiah and embraced him with his uninjured arm. Cheers went up from the crowd on the bridge and once again, everyone went to do do his job.
Chris and Vin were on foot by the time the cheers arose, and both ran into the shallows to help.
With utter gentleness, Ezra removed the blindfold from JD's eyes and he was rewarded by a slight squint. "Easy there. Keep your eyes closed. Help's coming."
"Shut up, Buck," JD snapped. "I don't see any of these nurses falling all over you."
Buck grinned. "That's just because they're intimidated is all. I'll have em' eating out of my hand in a couple of day, you mark my words."
"Well, maybe I don't feel like starting a relationship with one of my nurses."
For a moment JD waited. He wasn't sure if he wanted to tell this.
"JD, come on now. You're never gonna get past this 'girl thing' of yours if you don't take advantage of the little . . . gifts that come your way."
"I don't consider a sponge bath a little gift."
"Now see, that's one of your problems. You just don't know an opportunity when it bites you in the . . . wait, when it pats you on the butt."
"God, Buck you're making my head hurt." JD cut his hazel eyes over to his friend in the next bed. "I just don't feel like messing with it."
"You've got it easy, kid. All you gotta do is tell about being thrown into the raging river, blindfolded and bound, and yet you had the instinct to propel yourself to safety."
"And that would be lying."
"JD, in the dating world, we call that an 'embellishment'."
"If I'm gonna tell her anything, it'll be the truth."
"Being snatched from the jaws of death by a tree root just isn't that exciting, kid."
"I don't need to be exciting to get a girl."
"You've gotta great scenario here. Girls like to pity you."
"They do not."
"Damn it, kid, how am I ever gonna teach you how to live in the real world if you fight me all the time."
JD sat up. "Everytime I follow your advice about women, I end up making them mad."
"That's because you haven't had years to perfect it. I might normally steer you from using your job to get women, but this time is too perfect." Buck held his hand up, gesturing a news headline. "ATF Agent Saves Himself from a Watery Grave."
"I didn't save myself. The water carried me to the side and I got my belt caught on a rock. Nothing romantic about that."
"Kid, you're gonna live a lonely life." Buck was still grinning. "Just tell the nurse you want a sponge bath."
"But I don't want one, Buck."
"All I'm saying is that it ain't against the law to ask for a sponge bath." Buck grinned.
"Then you get one and leave me out of this."
Buck sat up suddenly. "Hey, how's about a deal?"
"You're full of crap, Buck."
"Just hear me out. I'll bet you . . . the big bedroom in the apartment." JD was suddenly intrigued.
"It's simple. I bet I can get a sponge bath from the next nurse who walks in the door. And I'll have her going to dinner with me by the end of the week."
A grin tugged at the kid's lip. "You're on."
It wasn't ten minutes later that the door opened and a nurse walked in. JD's eyes grew wide with amusement and he laughed. Buck looked up to see what was so funny. Then he turned pale.
"Uh, my roommate wants a sponge bath."
"Sure thing," the nurse said, and he walked over to Buck's side of the room.
JD interrupted. "Could I get a cola or something first?"
The nurse stepped out a moment and JD chuckled. "Serves you right for meddling. So you take him to dinner, or I win the bedroom." JD lay back. "You know, sometimes life is just wonderful."
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