The Devils You Know
by Charlotte C. Hill
October 2009 sports challenge

"Twenty-two! Thirty-four! Hut!" The ball was so mud-covered Chris couldn't really snap it anymore, so he relied on Buck's octopus hands to get a good grip and just drag it from between his thighs. Buck's hands snugged up against his balls were the only reason, Buck claimed, that he'd been willing to play quarterback. Weirdly though, he kept thinking about a doctor delivering a baby.

Chris shook off the feeling as Buck jerked the ball out of his hands, and as soon as it was gone, he charged. Well, slid. Rick Miller, the ass of a field supervisor of Team Nine, was playing defensive lineman, and the reason Chris had been willing to play center; the chance to slam into the son of a bitch legitimately was too much to pass up.

Arms crossing, he tried to sneak in a sucker punch as he slammed into the man's chest; they slipped and landed in a pile, and Chris had the oddest angle on Buck's cleats as his partner jumped over them both. Oh, this was gonna be good. Scrambling up to his knees, he watched Buck's headlong dive into a pair of tackles who thought they were supposed to be tackling him. The leap had a bowling ball effect, Buck's helmet and elbows catching them at ankles and calves and knocking them both down, so that all three of them slid another few feet in the mud, a foot shy of first down.

"Damn, Chris, that was great!" Vin trotted up, white teeth flashing, skin glowing; somehow, Vin had managed to avoid falling so far, and Chris wondered where his antigravity pack was. Everybody else looked like they were in a commercial for industrial strength laundry detergent. In this rain and mud, it had gotten so bad he could barely tell Ezra and JD apart. Vin, on the other hand, had a few muddy prints on his shirt from collisions with people on the defensive line, but compared to the rest of them he looked pristine.

"You know when you play wide receiver, you're supposed to actually try and catch the ball, Tanner," he said, more envious than annoyed that Vin wasn't carrying ten extra pounds of mud on him.

"If Buck could throw the ball within twenty feet of me," Vin threw back, taunting happily, "I might have a reason to try."

Chris grinned. This game was doing the trick, and tensions that had been growing between Team Seven and the bunch of Team Nine yahoos who thought they were the best were getting ground into the mud wallows on Abe Lincoln High's flooded out football field. Discreet punches had been happily thrown, from both sides. Far more obvious body-slams had been executed that would have made a real referee throw half of these men and women off the field. If Team Seven won the bet and the sole rights to the only showers within a mile of here--and if any of them could walk tomorrow--he'd call it a landslide victory.

Chris whistled for a huddle and chafed at his chilled forearms. It wasn't that cold until you stood still, mud-covered and soaking wet in the drizzling rain. The rest of the team joined him in the huddle, Buck's teeth the only white part of him left shining behind a divot of grass stuck in the chin guard of his helmet. When JD and Ezra were close enough, Chris could clearly identify JD's youthful, animal energy in brown eyes. The kid's testosterone was way up from all the activity, but JD wasn't glaring at the other team; he was glaring at Vin.

Nice. Looked like even JD had worn out his resentment of the members of Team Nine, so as far as Chris was concerned they could all go home right now.

"That's it," someone called from the sidelines. Chris looked over, saw Rob Evans of Team Four holding up two pieces of two by four that he slammed together, a cave-man starting gun. "All right, ladies and gents," Rob yelled, "this is fucking nuts! Last play, and then we're packing it in."

Groans of relief and happy rumblings of imminent victory from his team were drowned out by snarls and shouts from the other team; they were only three points back, and the next closest showers were back at the offices, nine blocks away. It was a good bet that nobody was going to be permitted back into government vehicles--sure as shit Chris wouldn't let anybody inside his truck, grimed up like they were. And while the school was closed for spring break, well, Rob's wife was its head basketball coach. Apparently she was very understanding of the convoluted politics that dominated a federal agency. That, or they all owed Rob for convincing his wife to trust him with her school's locker rooms.

"Yeah, this is your chance!" Nathan turned to yell. "All you have to do is grab a fumble, get through us, then canoe through that lake at your forty yard line, and run for the touchdown. Give it up!"

The snarls mixed with laughter. Everybody was winning today, just to be out of the office early and letting off a load of stored-up steam.

Chris turned back to the huddle and rested his hand on Vin's damp shoulder, grinning at the muddy print he left behind. "Buck fakes the snap and hands it back to me. I fall on it. Everybody else stay out of the way. Buck runs ten yards back to make 'em think he's got the ball. Got it?"

"Yeah," Vin said, and jogged away.

"Absolutely," Josiah muttered, still panting a little.

"But--" JD began.

Chris cut him off. "Buck takes the ball on the snap and we all go after Vin," he said, grinning fiercely. No way was Vin going to leave this field looking like he'd been standing on the sidelines with Team Four. "On three."

Ezra's face, manic with the adrenaline of the game, turned positively evil. "Oh, definitely."

"Yes!" JD hissed with glee, and took off.

Buck grinned at him through the mud smeared up one side of his face and mashed into his hair. "He'll be pissed," he said, but it wasn't a warning--it was the kind of anticipation that only a true friend can feel for the coming misfortunes of another.

Chris felt a shark's smile stretch his lips. "You think?"

Buck's low laugh echoed behind him.

They got to the line of scrimmage, Rick Miller snorting like a bull three feet in front of Chris. "Twenty-eight!" Buck's hand pressed right up against his ass and knuckles rubbed against his balls. It wasn't much more than any quarterback might do when a muddy, wet ball was in play, but Chris knew Buck was doing it on purpose, and barely resisted a flinch; bastard was going to pay--and love every minute of it, no doubt. "Thirty-seven!" He glanced down the line, weighted to the right so everyone could get to Vin. Everyone dug in their cleats, trying to find purchase in the churned-up muck. Knuckles balanced them in the mud. Vin, innocent and ignorant prey, had one finger extended, just barely sinking into the muddy ground. "Eighteen!" Buck's wrist rubbed against the cleft of his ass. Now that was overdoing it, but what the hell was he going to do, jump up like a startled virgin? No, he was gonna get this ball the fuck out of his hands, and Buck's hands out of his crotch, as fast as he could.

"Hut!" The ball was gone, snatched from his hands. Nathan cut left and Chris jumped right, behind JD and Ezra. Josiah was the only one who'd crossed the line of scrimmage.

Chris let loose a banshee yell and launched himself. Slipped and slid. Vin's eyes went huge and round and betrayed, real deer-in-headlights, just before Ezra's shoulder tapped the backs of his knees. Half a summersault over Ezra's back, shoulders landing with a loud squishing whap, the only part of Vin he saw clearly as muddy water flew was his mouth, wide open in shock. That was a mistake, too. He caught Vin around the waist, letting momentum drag them both a little, wasn't surprised to hear an incredibly familiar bellow as Buck added himself to the pile, and then the world went dim.

Miller had figured out that the ball was in here somewhere and the idiot was still trying to create a fumble and make the play.

Vin's chest was surprisingly warm against his. Maybe it was the absence of mud. Or maybe it was time to blow off an entirely different kind of steam.

"Fuckin' 'friends,'" Vin growled from beneath him.

"Better the devils you know," Chris mocked.

"Fuck that! I am gonna kill you all!" The last was yelled loud enough to make Chris's ears ring.

"You'll have to get out from under here first," Chris challenged, laughing down at him.

Chris's hand was wrenched halfway around his back, and when big fingers closed on it, he stiffened in anticipation of pain. None came.

"Get the fuck off me!" Again, Buck yelling, right next to his ear.

"Don't be in such a hurry, Buck," Vin said, making the name sound a lot like 'asshole' to Chris's ears, but Buck just laughed, low and throaty and happy, a sound that, coupled with Buck's weight on him, went right to his balls.

With Herculean strength, Chris managed to turn his head, and his chin guard bumped with Buck's somewhere west of Vin's. "How the hell did you get down here?" Chris sputtered, laughing, then, "oomph." Somebody else had jumped on top of the pile. The hand on his wrist slid down to his ass and squeezed. Chris grunted, tried not to jerk against Vin's leg in a way that would seem too much like the reactionary hump that it was, and banged his helmet against his lover's. His 'cut that shit out right now' glare was wasted, though; Buck was all flashing teeth and laughing blue eyes and energy, far too much energy for Chris to expect him to contain it for no good reason.

"Jesus!" Vin wheezed, and Chris worked his comparatively free arm past Vin's ribs and to the ground, trying to brace himself and lift a little of his weight off his friend.

His hand sank to the wrist in mud. "Sorry," he lied with a smile.

"Sorry my ass," Vin groused, wriggling under him. "You did that on purpose. You are the most evil son of a bitch I ever called friend."

Chris just panted and smirked while the rumble continued around him: splashing water, groans and curses of a dozen wet, adrenalin-driven men and women, and laughter. He was glad someone appreciated the lunacy of this play.

"You're crushing people down here!" he shouted, then heard several variations from Buck, Ezra, Vin and JD. Ezra and JD's voices sounded strangely close, given that he couldn't see either one of them.

Slowly, the weight of the world began to lift from Chris's back. More light filtered down. The still-kneading hand slid furtively off his ass, and Chris started trying to slide off Vin and get to his back in the mud. All he needed was a big, Buck-shaped handprint on the seat of his jeans to really get the other team going.

He got to his back within a few seconds and ground his already filthy seat into the mud. Then he tried to get up. Fell down. Tried again, thinking back to childhood and the lessons he'd gotten on ski slopes and ice skating rinks, but it was like a keystone cops fiasco, and he hated to admit how much he was enjoying himself. Vin hadn't even tried to get up yet, just lay there with his arms spread wide, smiling up at the rest of the team like he'd wanted to end up there.

Every member of Team Four, who had volunteered as referees, wisely stayed where they were, laughing their asses off from the relative safety of the sideline.

Chris looked over to watch three of them as they gingerly picked their way onto the field, smiling and shaking their heads. Connie Bryant tossed him a towel and a word of warning: "Do to any of us what you just did to Tanner, Chris, and I'll personally coat all the urinal handles with itching powder."


Buck somehow thought he was sexy even covered in mud and offered, "Connie honey, if you want to see a guy play with his package, all you need to do is ask."

"Too bad you don't wait to be asked," Bryant said dryly.

Chris shot Buck an amused glance. "Shot down again, stud."

"She'll warm up to me eventually," Buck assured, only half joking, and Chris shook his head. Connie Bryant was a beautiful powerhouse of uncertain sexual orientation, and she hadn't warmed up to Buck in the eight months she'd been on Team Four. Buck took her shit as good-naturedly as she ignored his, and they worked just fine together, so Chris couldn't complain.

He held up a warding hand and tried to unsnap his helmet, and ended up on the ground again. Bryant's contralto laughter did nothing for his ego, but all he had to do was turn his head to see half of the other players in the same straits.

Except Vin. Vin had already scored the key from Rob and one of the huge duffel bags that had all their dry stuff in it, and was slipping and sliding off toward the gym with JD right behind him. Even having suffered on the bottom of the pile, Vin still looked cleaner than most everybody else, whereas JD looked worse. In fact, JD looked like the Swamp Thing, and could use all the extra shower time he could get.

Chris shook hands with Rick Miller and said tightly, "Good game," thinking that the man was an idiot for showing zero sportsmanship with that half-assed last play. He didn't wait for a reply.


"I'm right here," Buck said off his left shoulder. Buck then took the time to clap Miller on the shoulder, too hard. "You all have a good time jogging back to the federal building," he laughed, jolly, and plenty loud enough for all of Miller's team to hear. It was a hell of a slog, and looking like they did, they'd be lucky to clear the security at the door. He grinned. Maybe security wouldn't let them in.

The thought did wonders for Chris's already good mood. "You still got Keisha Parker's phone number?" he asked of Buck, watching Miller's team grunt and groan as they stumbled away.

"Maybe. Why?"

Chris nodded toward Miller, who hadn't made it ten feet. "Motor pool's got hoses. Nice, cold water. Keisha wouldn't wanna let slobs like that into a government office building, would she?"

Buck grinned wide. "Oh, pard, you look so sexy to me right now. C'mon."

They trudged across the field to Chris's truck and Chris held the door while Buck fumbled his cell phone off the seat. He called up the contact and dialed the number before handing his phone over to Chris, who delivered the intel like it was state secrets, and suggesting that if he was in her position, he'd make those fools hose down in the motor pool before they set foot in her building.

Buck's pupils widened and his lips parted as he listened to Chris's side of the call, and Chris narrowed his eyes. While Buck was smart enough--and discreet enough, though few would believe that--not to put on a display in front of fifteen fellow members of a government law enforcement agency, he might do... something. The desire to do something shone in his eyes.

Chris helped him out by removing temptation, carefully sidling two feet further away from him.

It took a few more minutes to finish the call, lock up his truck, and say goodbye to Rob and Connie and the rest of the guys milling around clean and relatively dry. Buck grabbed him into a combination hug and chokehold. "I gotta get a shower before my balls freeze off." Chris almost fell when Buck let go, and glared hard at the man's retreating back.

"I do not know how you put up with that man," Bryant said, and Chris resisted a sigh. If she suspected what all he really put up with, she was smart enough not to mention it.

"He grows on you," he tried. The look she gave him suggested otherwise. Buck was half way back across the muddy field by now, and those big feet were remarkably sure. "See ya," he said to her. He picked his way carefully and hoped he wouldn't land ass-up before he reached the gym.

He made it, barely.

Buck was still standing barefoot by the benches when Chris walked in, and he looked like he was maybe considering a nap as the men's locker room steamed up and warmed a little. Chris peeled off clothes so wet and mucky they stuck to his skin, while Buck finally walked into the shower with his jeans and tee shirt still on. It wasn't a half-bad idea, really; at least it'd get most of the mud off.

Nathan and JD were already finished showering and stood near the shower entrance, drying off. Ezra had hogged the handicapped shower, and relaxed on the little wooden bench in a decadent sprawl under steaming shower spray. He looked for all the world like he was waiting for his body servant to come and scrub him down.

"Ain't nobody gonna do your washing for you, Ezra," Nathan derided.

"More's the pity," Ezra sighed, eyes still closed.

Chris turned on an open showerhead and, after a second's thought, cupped his hands and threw cold water Ezra's way.

Ezra hissed and jerked upright, brushing imaginary, stray droplets off his arm. "I'm surrounded by heathens," he said, and leaned forward to duck his head under the steaming spray.

"Yeah, pretty much," Vin chuckled. He was already rinsing shampoo out of his hair. Chris wondered again why he kept his hair so long. It looked good, but it had to be a bitch to take care of; dark, brownish water still flowed freely into the drain.

Buck started tugging his wet clothes off, dropping them on the floor with a splat. Chris turned away.

"But we won, Ez," JD crowed. "I told ya you should've bet on us!"

Ezra cracked one eye open as Chris, Buck and well, everybody else turned accusatory glares on him.

He shut them all out with a simple drop of his eyelids. "Sue me," he muttered. "I forgot how much Chris hates Rick Miller."

"I'll say," JD continued. "Fifty bucks a piece for us, and--what'd you lose to Team Four, Ez? Another couple hundred?" He was cackling like... Chris glanced over at the kid and swallowed back a grin. He cackled like Buck or Vin would, when they were impressed with their own wit. Damn, but the older guys on the team were rubbing off on the kid.

"You bet against us, Ez?" Buck mock-growled.

"Oh, shut up. You'd have thanked me and made me take all of your broke asses to dinner, which I would have been happy to do if Chris didn't hate Rick Miller so much."

"You shoulda known we were gonna win," Buck said, sauntering naked Ezra's way and towering over him, obviously still in a mood to screw around.

Chris shrugged it off and turned his face into blessedly warm spray. Ezra was right; they would've probably lost if Rick Miller weren't such an asshole.

"And now you're out the four or five hundred you're sayin' you would've spent on us, pard," Buck went on. "I say you ought ta buy for us anyway."

"Good thing for me you don't make my financial decisions then," Ezra said archly, and Chris turned to see Ezra sprawled again, eyes closed… and Buck's ass, pale and round and firm against the darker skin of thighs and back. The skin would be cool to the touch from the clammy wet weather outside. Smooth, chilled, maybe damp-feeling... the muscle would clench if he touched it, then relax, inviting any other touch he wanted to offer.... He cleared his throat and looked away, right into Vin Tanner's smug, too-knowing eyes.

He squinted, pretending for all he was worth that he hadn't just been eyeing Buck's ass with lewd intent, but Vin started chuckling. Damn. He snuck another peek as Buck backed away from Ezra and moved back to his own showerhead, pushing his wet clothes aside with one foot. Buck was half-hard, just firm enough to lengthen and plump his dick up, the kind of hard that promised all sorts of good things with even the slightest encouragement.

Chris was getting the same way, himself.

It wasn't his fault, he thought grumpily. It was the weather, and the athletics. Sports made a man horny, everybody knew that.

And didn't that sound like some lame-ass excuse Buck would use?

Yeah, it did. Apparently JD wasn't the only one around here taking up Buck's bad habits.

They had to go back to the office, at least long enough to log off their computers and shut stuff down and listen to Chris as he decided what needed doing on Monday. Big bust coming up. Good to have let off steam, bad if anybody'd gotten injured out here--damn, that would be an interesting report to file to Travis: we were teaching Team Nine a lesson on a muddy football field and now my sharpshooter's in the hospital five days before he's supposed to plant himself in a window eight stories up. Hell, Vin had barely gotten wet. Far more likely that Buck would've overdone it, or JD, and if it were Buck they'd have to start over, rebuild the plan from the ground up. JD, they might be able to use in the van even if he'd been injured, as long as--

"Hey look, everybody," Buck goaded, in his very most annoying voice, "Chris is at it already."

"Yep," from Vin.

"Damn," Nathan offered up.

"Stresses like clockwork," Josiah said. "You're going to give yourself a heart attack, Chris, and then you won't be able to yell at people anymore."

"Pay up, gentlemen."

Chris glanced to Ezra, still on his wooden bench, eyes still closed, his hand held out palm up like the guys had their wallets stuffed up their asses. "What was the bet, Ezra?"

"That you wouldn't relax for 10 minutes."

"You bet against me?" Chris demanded.

One green eye cracked open. "I thought we'd already gone over this."

They had. And Ezra was right. Again.

Chris ducked his head under the shower spray and concentrated on the warmth seeping into his frozen skull, and not about anything resembling the coming op, or the paperwork, or his people's plans, or everything that could go wrong--

"Buck, you wanna see if you can do somethin' about that?" Vin's voice, the tone at least as annoying as Buck's had been, brought his head up again after uncounted minutes.

Chris glanced around from under his dripping hair and saw that only he, Vin, Ezra and Buck were left in the shower area. The vaguely repulsed look on Ezra's face confirmed exactly what Chris had thought Vin meant. "Grow up," he snapped at Vin.

Buck, never interested in growing up, moved one showerhead closer.

Chris's dick pulsed, he could feel it reacting--purely from the shock of warmth after all that frigid mud and water. It had nothing to do with Buck stepping closer.

He kept his face to the wall.

Buck turned off his own shower and hit the taps on the one right beside Chris, until Chris warned him off with a look. He backed off all of a foot.

"You're no fun," Buck muttered, still too close--far too close to Chris's adrenalin-stoked system.

Vin saved him coming up with a suitably obnoxious reply. "Ezra, if we want a ride back in the van we'd best get a move on. Buck, you comin'?"

"Nah," Buck said, sounding like he'd just spotted a pretty woman in a bar. "I think I'll catch a lift back with Chris, here."

"That's all you're gonna catch," Chris growled, plenty loud for Vin and Ezra to hear and annoyed for real, now.

"Fine," Buck said, but he said it in that mock-innocent way that said anything but. Vin laughed some more.

"Frankly, I'd planned on hitching a ride back with you as well, Chris," Ezra said. "But now… the thought is just a touch revolting." He turned off his showerhead and dried off, fast.

Chris cursed under his breath. He didn't flaunt his relationships and never had, not even with Sarah, and Buck's flirting was bullshit--just like, he thought, eyes narrowing at Vin, Vin's suggestions. Vin had a streak of dark humor in him, and loved a good joke at Chris's expense more than anybody. Maybe it hadn't been the best idea to muddy him up on the field.

On his way out, Ezra offered snidely, "Please God, don't do anything I wouldn't do. This is a learning institution after all."

A learning institution that was unlocked, and the person responsible for it was another AIC and damned if Chris was gonna get caught holding his dick in here with anybody, even with a woman. With Buck? Out of the question.

He told himself that while everyone else filed out. He told himself that even as Vin trotted back in brandishing a brass key. "Rob wanted to know what was taking so long. I told him to let you lock up. It's just the one door, okay?"

"Sure Vin!" Buck sounded too enthusiastic for his own good.

"We're right behind you," Chris said brusquely, and finally reached for the shower gel dispenser.

"Maybe," Buck said.

"Definitely," Chris growled. Vin just shrugged and left. Chris heard the door slam shut behind him.

Chris hated that he and Buck were common knowledge to the team. He'd liked it far more when the team was new enough that people thought they didn't like each other. Far more. Vin and JD's ribbing and innuendos made his skin crawl, Ezra's feigned annoyance pissed him off, and so did Josiah's and Nathan's silent approval. None for the obvious reasons like law enforcement and hazing and unwritten rules.

This was private, his and Buck's alone. It ought to stay that way.

Buck had never agreed, never cared who knew--hell, Buck had browbeaten him into telling Sarah, after Chris had proposed to her, with some bullshit "She has a right to know who you are" justification. It had scared her, for a while, and Chris had been so pissed at Buck he hadn't spoken to him for a week.

Chris had always suspected Buck had talked to her, tried to explain the nature of the brotherhood they'd shared back then. He must have, because she and Buck became good friends, but he didn't think she had ever understood, not that part of them, the part that had ended the day before his wedding and started again nearly a year after her death. Nobody really understood that, even though everyone thought they did.

"If you think you're gonna get fucked here, you've got another think coming," he warned.

Buck just grinned. "Aww hell, Chris, I don't care. It's just fun to get Vin going."

No, it wasn't, because it stripped Chris bare, made him self-conscious. It exposed too much of him. And Buck, God damn him, refused to grant him any quarter. "Jackass."

Arms slid around him, warm and slick, and the half-hard cock nudged against his ass. "Your jackass."

Chris jerked out of Buck's hold and finished his shower, turning off the taps only when he was warmed clear through. He left Buck in there and headed for the locker area, and the bag with all their stuff in it… and found nothing. Not even towels. His sopping tennis shoes rested right beside the door. His truck keys hung out the top of one.

Holy shit.

Vin. Or Ezra. Or shit, JD and Nathan and Josiah too. But probably Vin. Or Ezra. Maybe JD.

"I'm gonna kill 'em all, just to be sure," he muttered.

Buck, who had finally turned off his shower, walked out and looked around, holding his soggy clothes at the end of an outstretched arm. "What?"

"You don't see anything strange?" he growled.

"No. Where're our towels?"

Chris waited. Waited some more. Wondered why and how he'd fallen in love with a man so goddamned dense that it was taking him this long to figure out the obvious.

"Huh," Buck finally said. "They must've really not wanted to work this afternoon."

"Who do you think did it?" he asked as the vein in his temple started throbbing.

Buck shrugged. "Not like we'll ever find out. C'mon."

"WHERE? Where the hell am I supposed to go naked?!"

"I've got clothes." Buck held out the clothes he'd worn into the shower--probably the only reason he still had them. Water drizzled off them, soaked and showered on as they were. Jeans, underwear and shirt were all bundled together as Buck started to wring them out by hand. "You can have my shorts and my tee shirt. You can't have my jeans."

Chris narrowed his eyes. "I thought you loved me."

"I do love you." Buck said, showing off that beautiful, sensual smile that told Chris he should've taken Buck up on the offer of a hot shower fuck, if only to delay the realization that somebody had stolen his clothes. "That's why you get my shirt and my shorts."

Chris looked around the empty locker room, wondering how hard it would be to break into some kid's locker and steal his stuff. The tactician in him was already starting to admire the flawless execution of this plan, but he was not walking outside naked. Not in Buck's underwear, either.

Chris had an idea. He took Buck's shirt and underwear anyway, revolted as he dragged the dripping, sticking cotton on, but he still had a better idea.

After Buck had donned his wet jeans and shoes, Chris made him fetch the truck and drive it over by the gym. He cowered by the door and peered out across the muddy field, watching Buck jog shirtless around the track and wondering briefly if Buck would abandon him here too. But no, the truck maneuvered around poles and over curbs and drove around the track Buck had just jogged, and Buck pulled it in just a few feet from the door. Chris locked up and jumped into the passenger seat. A routine traffic stop would be hard to explain-- not quite so hard as explaining the homicides he planned to commit later, but hard nonetheless. Buck had the heater on "high" and the cab was beginning to warm up nicely.

"If we get stopped by cops…"

"It'll be a story that goes down in infamy," Buck said. "Be warned, they've got our IDs too."


"Yep. Whichever of 'em did it--and it's looking more and more like a team operation--they apparently took your keys and cleared out the truck too. Notice I got no wallet?"

Chris glanced beside his bare thigh on the seat, and down into the foot well. No wallet. No gun. "They took our guns."


"They took our guns to keep me from shooting them."

"Probably," Buck agreed placidly. Buck started chuckling as he edged the truck back around the track, and once he started he couldn't seem to stop. "Damn, they got us good," he said, almost sounding proud. Well they were Buck's friends. Not Chris's, not at this particular instant, but Buck's, the same way kids belonged to the other parent when they did something bad. Besides, this was just the kind of dumb-ass stunt Buck would have pulled. In fact… he tracked back in his mind, wondering if Buck had had an opportunity to set it up, but no. Buck had been with or near him the whole time, so unless the guys had developed secret sign language that he didn't know about, Buck was just being good-humored because that was the man's way.

Bastard. Buck wasn't sitting here soaking wet in someone else's overlarge underwear. Buck wasn't gonna have to explain himself to the security guard of the underground parking lot at the federal building, or if he was, he wouldn't care.

Chris took a breath and let it go. Maturity made it possible. The knowledge that efforts at revenge would only be met with greater tricks on the part of his team made it imperative. Juvenile pranks. He was beyond that. He spent the nine-block ride making a plan and rummaging for a blanket, grateful that his truck windows were darkly tinted. The plan involved him keeping the blanket while Buck walked bare-chested upstairs, all seven flights in the stairwell so as not to run into anybody, fetched their stuff, and brought it back down. It also involved him warning Buck that if Buck didn't come back within 10 minutes with all of his clothes, Buck would pay and pay and pay.

"You're no fun," Buck grumbled, and Chris breathed a sigh of relief. The complaint promised cooperation.

Buck came back nine and a half minutes later wearing a tee shirt that was so tight it had to be JD's, and grinning. He stuck his stupid head into the cab and said, "No deal. We are to proceed to the ranch where we will find the black duffel bag with your clothes, our wallets, IDs and guns, and if we're very lucky, the miscreant who planned all this."

So Ezra was still upstairs, was he? And JD, since Buck had obviously lifted the shirt right off the kid's back. "Ezra's shirt would've fit you better," he sighed.

"The kid said Ezra was hiding somewhere up on twelve. The only sign of Ezra in the bullpen was the note JD was holding for us." Buck frowned. "Even if he'd been there he wouldn't have let me bully him out of his clothes."

Good point.

"Well?" Buck asked, still standing outside the open passenger door.

"Well what?" Chris sniped. "They didn't leave us any choice."

"Nope," Buck said, still too happy, "they sure didn't."

"If you think you're getting fucked out of this, you're sorely mistaken." Chris's pride was wounded. His feet were wet and clammy. His legs were bare. His poor dick was shriveled to microscopic proportions from the cold and the indignity of it all.

"So you say."

So he did. He watched oncoming traffic the whole trip home, looking for Vin's jeep or Ezra's Jag. Ezra's Jaguar was faster than anything except JD's motorcycle, and if whoever had taken his stuff wanted to get away clean, they'd need a fast ride.

Nothing. And no vehicles sat in the driveway at his place. He unlocked the front door and sure enough, right there sat the bag, with guns still snapped into holsters, wallets, and cell phones all inside. He supposed he should be glad of that.

He used his cell phone to call the office. "Standish," Ezra answered the main line.

"Yeah. Guess what?"

"I've no idea, Mr. Larabee. When do you plan on arriving? Some of us would like to get a start on our weekend, you know."

"Smooth, Ezra. Who's there with you?"


"Uh huh. Lemme talk to 'em."

And damned if somehow, every single one of his men wasn't able to check in, sounding like he was right in that room. They'd conference-called whoever was still driving back to town. He still had his money on Vin. "All right, all right," he said, finally giving up. "Go home. See you tomorrow."

"Indeed." Ezra clicked off.

Chris peeled off the still-wet clothes and headed for another shower to warm up the re-chilled parts of him and get the smell of that cheap, industrial grade shower gel out of his hair.

Buck joined him.

"I said no sex," he warned when the shower door slid open.

"What, you're punishing me now because they got you good?"


"How about I punish you?" Buck soothed, stepping into the big stall.

"Asshole." He made room against his better judgment, knowing as soon as he did that Buck would get whatever Buck wanted. At the moment Buck seemed only to want shampoo, which he used quickly on his head, then a lot more slowly on the dark thatch of hair between his legs, lathering his groin and inner thighs without touching his cock. Chris leaned back against the tile wall and watched, interested in spite of himself.

"You really kicked Miller's ass," Buck told him, proud.

Miller had come down on Chris's people more than once, or tried to. Filed reports on them, gotten them into trouble and generally been a horse's ass. The guy was jealous and resentful of their status, and thought trying to pull them down was the same as duplicating their results. "Yeah, we did."

"No, I mean you did. He's lucky we all wore helmets or you'd have broken his nose when you had the chance."

Chris frowned, waving it away. "Come on, I wasn't that bad."

"Would've been," Buck said, and he still sounded proud.

"Well you shouldn't enjoy it so much," he groused.

"Bet your ass I enjoyed it. Loved it every time you slammed into him, since I couldn't. And everybody else did, too."

"Not enough," Chris said with a shrug. "They still stole my clothes." Home, warm, wet and watching Buck's hands play at his groin, feeling his own arousal answer that unspoken offer, it was easier to see the humor of it.

Buck smiled, and his hands finally stilled. "Damn, you looked good out there, all puffed up and pissed off. I don't get to see you like that much anymore."

It was true enough; administration and the potential for legal ramifications had pretty much put an end to the drinking and fighting of their early years. And Buck really must've enjoyed it, the way his dick was standing up from the sudsy dark curls. Buck was loading his hands with more soap. Chris didn't have to ask where it was going; he just stood there as Buck reached to scrub his fingers gently through Chris's pubic hair, taking more time, rubbing and squeezing his balls until Chris's dick was as hard as Buck's was. He wondered why he ever said no, given how rarely he actually backed it up with action. Lack of action.


"I liked the way you looked wet and shivering in my tee shirt, too," Buck said, whispering like it was a secret admission, like the bathroom was bugged.

"I looked like an idiot."

Buck's laugh was barely a breath between them. "Yeah. Hair all scraggly and eyes on fire, like a wet mutt nobody's sure they want to try and handle. Turned me on real bad."

"What doesn't?"

"Good point. Speaking of which…" he finally touched Chris's cock, a firm, soapy grip that had Chris hissing and humping forward against his will, "you want it in here, or you want to get under the covers like respectable adults?"

Even Buck was laughing at him today, and he couldn't say he minded. "Thought you were gonna punish me," Chris teased.

"I can do that anywhere."

That was the truth. "Bed." He envisioned a little rough play, after that game; he was still pumped up by it, now that he took the time to notice. It had been… he hesitated to use the word, tried to avoid it in general… fun. Whatever Buck had planned would be fun too.

Twenty minutes later, with the silly threat of a spanking behind them and buried to the balls in Buck's rhythmically clenching ass, he let the word fun frolic more freely, at least inside his own head. The afternoon had been fun, and he'd enjoyed the hell out of it. This was fun, too. He ground his hips against the fleshy padding of his partner's ass, groaning when Buck did, and dropped his forehead down onto a quivering shoulder. Buck's hand, which had been flailing back to try and reach some part of him, settled down when Chris grabbed it and squeezed, then tightened almost painfully on his own when Chris thrust once, hard and deep.

"Fun" was too small a word for this. This was necessary, like air to breathe, and personal, and damn Vin anyway for horning in on it with his innuendos and his approval. Chris Larabee needed approval from no one.

But that didn't change the fact that he appreciated it.

He kissed the soft skin under his lips, squeezed the hand he held. "Ready?" he breathed.

Buck groaned and gathered himself, humping his ass up against Chris's pelvis, and threatened, "You don't hurry up, you're gonna be the one down here getting pounded."

After the kind of sexual struggle that brought fresh sweat to both of them and made yet another shower seem like a pretty good idea, after the groaning and swearing and whispered endearments and pleasure, Chris slid out and off his partner and star fished himself out on the bed beside Buck, who barely deigned to groan as the mattress shifted.

He smiled at Buck's lax profile and thought about it. He knew his men, knew what each was capable of. No way had JD come up with this; he'd have been too embarrassed at the disrespect. Likewise, while Ezra had no shame in him, he wouldn't have been willing to be caught alone for this one. Josiah and Nathan were generally above this kind of bullshit, which left the obvious. Maybe he shouldn't have been so determined to muddy Vin up today.

He snorted. "Stealing our fucking clothes."

"And guns," Buck mumbled happily. "And badges. And gettin' 'it all out here in a way that'll never let us know which one of 'em really did it."

Chris rolled onto his side and pressed up against his partner, dropping a heavy arm over the man's back and letting his fingers trace soft, warm skin. "I know who did it."

Buck blinked and grinned. "Well of course we know, but there won't be a way in the world to prove it."

Chris nodded at that, and nuzzled his nose into Buck's hair. There were plenty of upsides to that little prank. The guys would be full of themselves, which was always good for unit cohesion. Everybody'd gotten the afternoon off. He and Buck had gotten some extra time to do this. They had time to do this again before five o'clock even rolled around, and the lazy speculation in Buck's eyes pretty much guaranteed the prospect. There might even be time for a nap. "Yep."

Buck's knee edged out, slipping in between Chris's thighs, and his grin widened into a jaw-cracking yawn. "They know us pretty good."

Chris smiled and pressed even closer to Buck. When he looked at it that way, and possibly with the added benefit of post-orgasmic lassitude, his team was really pretty damned brilliant.

The End

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