A/N- As always, none of the characters belong to me, I'm just playing in the sandbox with them. Thanks to MOG for creating the ATF AU. Also, HUGE thanks to Retirw, she's been fantastic in getting me back on track when I get stuck! Another thanks to Pookwana for some awesome plot bunnies to try out! This is a slight crossover with CSI: Miami and The Sentinel, but you don't really need to have any prior knowledge to read this; it focuses on the Magnificent Seven characters. My apologies for any errors in airport security; I've never actually had to check a fire arm before, so I have NO idea how it works. THIS IS NOT A DEATHFIC!!! I PROMISE!! Anything you recognize doesn't belong to me.
Miami Dade Police Department
March 27th, 2003
Silently, Vin ghosted into the darkened room and slipped behind his desk. He leaned down to rest his weary head on the smooth surface; the cool wood easing his over warm forehead. As he closed his eyes in the still room, Vin's mind slowly wandered where he had forbidden it to go. The near constant surveillance of the suspect for the past month had weakened his carefully constructed barriers. Wearily, Vin remembered a black-dressed terror smirking after a successful bust, a large gentle man reminding him that there was still some good left in the world, a black man threatening to shoot his sorry ass if he didn't let him clean those cuts. God, Vin thought, Nathan would be shoutin' him up a right proper storm iffen he could see me now. Hearing the others on the team coming, Vin moaned silently as he slipped on a black jacket with the CSI symbol emblazoned on the back to hide the knife wound the suspect had given him.
Without Chris and the others, touch, even the doctor's, was out of the question. He didn't think his team had known just how important they were to him. He hadn't known either. Now that he was alone, all the old defensive responses had come roaring back. Vin could count on one hand the number of times he'd spoken more than what was required since he'd come here, even though this new team found the silence vaguely disturbing. For the same reason, he still tried to hide his reactions as much as possible, but Vin couldn't stop the slight flinch anytime somebody so much as brushed up against him. Thank God the team had finally stopped trying to touch him in greeting.
A moment later, the fluorescent lights switched on, making Vin's already pounding head ache as Horatio Caine, Calleigh Duquesne, and Eric Delko walked into the room. They'd taken the murder suspect into custody after a well timed call from Vin had managed to pull them out of a budget meeting with the higher-ups. Vin managed to escape it because he was technically needed in the field. Although the others were Crime Scene Investigators, Vin had been put on the team two months ago to "help with the fieldwork." According to Horatio's superiors theorder had come from high up. So high up, even they didn't know who had sent it.
Understandably, the group had been reluctant to accept Vin onto the team. Horatio, Calleigh, and Eric had been expecting a spoiled beach bum coasting on his father's influence. They were surprised, to say the least, when the long-haired Texan had shown up in their lab wearing faded jeans, cowboy boots, a worn flannel shirt, and more armory than any of their suspects.
The first time Horatio had seen Vin on the shooting range qualifying for his weapons, he'd realized that Tanner had definitely had one hell of a lot of training. And from some of his quirks, they'd obviously been put to use somewhere. For now, Horatio and his team had stopped trying to touch him in any way, but they still made a point to ask questions that couldn't be answered with a simple yes or no. The quiet man intrigued them. No one had given up on him yet.
Pulling up short at the sight of the sharpshooter already sitting at his desk, How the hell did he beat us here? I never even saw him leave. Horatio stopped for a moment; pain lines creased Vin's forehead. He almost started forward to check on Tanner and see if it was a migraine, but backed off quickly as Vin's body tensed the moment Horatio stepped closer. "Tanner." His voice was soft in deference to the headache. "You did a good job with the surveillance."
Vin looked up, eyes carefully shielded, and nodded in thanks.
Shit! This damned cut won' stop bleedin'. I'se gotta find me some place ta bandage it.
Making his decision, Vin cleared his throat, startling the team who were all used to his absolute silence. His voice was raspy and hoarse from the hours in the sun. "Would y'all mind iffen I come back in 'bout an hour ta finish writin' mah report?"
Horatio looked at him with calculating eyes and seemed to note something on Vin's right arm. "Were you injured?"
Horatio's eyes pinned him down. After a moment, Horatio relented and agreed. "One hour."
With a nod of thanks, Vin shut down his computer and slipped silently out of the room.
When he was gone, Calleigh looked at Horatio questioningly. "What was that all about?"
"Our young friend wasn't telling the truth a moment ago." He walked over Vin's desk and bent down to examine a dark spot of blood no one had noticed while Vin was sitting down. "He's lying, and I want to know why."
Exactly fifty nine minutes later, Vin walked back into the office and turned on his computer, purposely ignoring the fact that the entire team was leaning against a wall near his desk.
"How's your arm?"
Vin glanced at Eric, his eyes showing nothing. Damn it… This is why I always hate workin' wit' detectives.
The quiet sharpshooter turned to look at the three people standing in front of him. As hard as he searched, he couldn't find any alternative motives. They'se never gonna be family, but I might as well not make 'em think I hate 'em. "It's fine. I stitched it up whilst I'se gone." Instantly, Vin mentally cringed at his accidentally revealing that he hadn't been to the hospital.
Horatio blinked in consternation. Why would Vin stitch up his own wounds rather than go to a doctor? "Would you allow us to take a look at your work?"
Damn! Cain't tell 'em no, or they'll jist drag mah ass off to a doctor. Iffen I act like it ain't no big deal, maybe they'se won't say nothin'. Least tha scars on mah arms ain't nearly sa bad as tha rest of 'em. Vin slowly took off his black CSI jacket. The white bandages on his arm contrasted starkly with the black T-shirt revealed underneath the jacket. He took off the bandages and allowed the team to look at the neat row of 13 stitches in his bicep.
They all froze, saddened. Vin's arms were a tracery of thin, white scars from top to bottom. A heavy band of scar tissue circled both wrists.
Tortured, Calleigh realized. No wonder he hates to be touched. Looking at Vin, she didn't say a word. All three of them recognized the expression he wore. He did not want them to so much as mention the scars.
Calleigh tried to fill the awkward silence. "Those stitches are incredible. I've seen nurses do worse." Her brows rose involuntarily. This isn't the first time he's done this.
"Tha medic on mah team taught me. Said iffen I'se gonna go 'n git mah fool self cut up ever' damn month, than I was gonna have ta learn how ta fix mah ownself."
Crystal blue eyes turned thoughtful. This was the first time he had ever heard Vin speak about his life before Miami. Horatio decided to try fishing for information. To quote Winston Churchill, Vin was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. "What was his name?"
There was a moment of contemplative silence as Vin decided on how much he trusted this team, noting that they still hadn't said anything about the scars. Finally he decided a little bit of information couldn't hurt. "…His name was Nathan." The room was quiet as the others digested this new piece of Vin's life, including his use of past tense.
Vin bowed his head in grief. This is why I'se tryin' not ta 'member them at work! I gotta git outta here.
When Vin's raspy voice pierced the quiet, the others weren't surprised by the quiet pronouncement. "I'se going ta tha shootin' range." And without another word, Vin walked out the door for the second time that day.
Calleigh stared as the retreating back. "He only goes to the shooting range here when he's angry. I believe the exact words were our shooting range was 'a useless piece a junk tha's more likely ta send ya the damn bullets back wit a frensic 'nalysis then actu'ly be any good fer shootin'"
Eric looked at her with brows raised. "He said what?"
Calleigh looked embarrassed "O.K, that may have been a paraphrase."
Horatio just shook his head in amusement, trying to forget the sight of Vin's scars. "We'll get answers sooner or later. Right now, all of you have reports to work on."
Down on the firing range
The paper targets felt the brunt of Vin's anger as he emptied clip after clip into the still paper forms. Other CSIs watched in awe at the speed and accuracy Vin was showing, but he didn't even seem to know they were there.
Thoughts and memories tumbled through Vin's head, flying around and refusing to give him any peace. He could see each and every frame of that night as clearly as if it had happened yesterday, and to him, it might as well have happened last night
How tha hell did Chris do it?! Vin shouted silently.How did he keep from shooting everbody after Sara and Adam's death?
His team, his brothers were all dead! He wanted nothing more than for that paper target to be their killer. But unfortunately, even that had been stolen from him. Their killer had committed suicide when he realized that one of the seven was still alive. He'd thought they were all in the warehouse. And, honest to God, Vin wished he had been. At least then he wouldn't have to live with all their deaths. But, God damn it! The movie wouldn't stop! Every single frame of that night was crystal clear and close up in that frame by frame play. He wasn't sure how much longer he could take this. Whenever Vin dared to sleep, his dreams were filled with turbulent images and sounds. But above it all, the scent of scorched flesh always lingered.