Ezra pulled up in front of Vin's apartment building leaving the engine of his Jaguar purring quietly. Vin had called him at the last moment to say that his classic jeep - classic heap, more like it - had died on him that morning and could Ezra please give him a ride to work? Naturally, he'd said yes. He hadn't bothered calling in to the office, they'd probably die of shock if he was ever actually on time - besides, Vin would have called in for both of them. Nobody would be that surprised. They all knew that Vin's automobiles had lamentable timing in 'dying' at the most inopportune moments.
Besides, thought Ezra as he nodded to a sheepishly grinning Vin as the sharpshooter opened the passenger door, it wasn't like they were going to be doing a lot of work anyway. All that was happening today was a last minute briefing on his and Vin's imminent undercover assignment. The first meet was this afternoon and everything was ready and in place. Unfortunately, as he and Vin had a habit of turning routine undercover meets into melees with seemingly effortless abandon, the rest of the team tended to get... what was that quaint expression Vin had used last time they'd discussed it... Ah, yes, 'a little antsy'.
The interior of the Jaguar was filled with a companionable silence as Ezra pulled out of Vin's neighbourhood. They were comfortable with each other. It was a partnership that they both trusted; a partnership forged under fire and in shared blood, sweat and tears. They knew that the other man would do whatever it took to keep them both safe while they were under. The whole team worked well together in the field - a fact that had shocked the more vocal of the detractors at their odd mix of personalities - but it was an acknowledged fact that Ezra was the best in the business... and that under his tutelage, Vin Tanner had become one of the best too.
Without any serious thought, Ezra pulled the Jaguar over into the most unlikely place imaginable; the parking lot of a local twenty-four hour convenience store. It was a private tradition between the pair that had started the morning of their first undercover assignment... and one that they had chosen to keep to themselves; it was a little silly tradition after all. Wandering inside, Vin stocked up on chocolate and candy and Ezra went and retrieved a couple of bottles of mineral water. Side by side, they went to the counter to pay for their purchases, and, at the same time, they purchased their joint lottery ticket. They'd never won so much as a dime, but that didn't matter. It was more for fun than anything else... a little tradition to help relax them before beginning an assignment.
One week later, the take-down for the arms smuggling ring that they had infiltrated was carried off without a hitch; nobody got so much as a splinter and rumour going round the Denver ATF was that Larabee had actually smiled in public.
Later that evening, Ezra Standish was sprawled comfortably on his leather couch, sipping the excellent single malt that his friends had bought him for his birthday and surfing through the TV channels on his way to the local news network... what he saw on the screen had his jaw dropping with shock. Reaching for his wallet that he had discarded on his coffee table, Ezra Standish withdrew the lottery ticket from inside it and stared at the numbers... he wasn't dreaming. Oh shit, we've won the lottery!
Picking up his cell-phone, Ezra hit speed-dial 2 and said, "Mr. Tanner, we appear to have a slight situation--"
"Yeah, Ez," said the surprised and slightly horrified voice of Vin Tanner, "I saw the news. I'll be there in an hour."
Having talked over what they were going to do for most of the night, Vin ended up crashing at Ezra's condo. The next morning, Vin called Chris, Ezra called AD Travis and the four of them met up at Chris' ranch, where the 'terrible twins' broke their news to the older men. To say they were surprised would be an understatement.
Face expressionless, Chris looked at the pair and said, "So, does this mean you boys are quitting... is that why you called us?" In his heart he didn't believe that. He didn't think anyone on his team would ever desert the rest of their unofficial family for anything as petty as money... but his head forced him to look at the possibility... this was a lot of money. Most people wouldn't think twice about it.
Vin glared at him in disgust and Ezra retorted with, "Mr. Larabee, don't be an idiot!" Chris felt the tightness in his heart ease ever so slightly... that reaction told him all he needed to know. He allowed a touch of a smile to appear on his face and Vin and Ezra both relaxed visibly as they realised that he got what they had been trying to tell him.
"You're not quitting?" asked a confused Travis, just wanting to make sure. At the vehement shakes of their heads, he stared at the troublesome pair and in a genuinely confused tone of voice said, "Then what are you going to do?"
"Give the money away," said Ezra calmly, laughing inwardly at the expression of utter disbelief that graced their boss and friend's faces.
Chris shook his head, grinning in sudden amusement. "Your reputation's going to end up in tatters, Ezra..."
At the same time, "You're what?!" demanded Travis.
"We don't want it, sir," said Vin in a mild tone, "and we don't need it. We talked about this for most of last night and we're happy as we are."
"Vin is telling you the truth, gentlemen. We don't know how much the win is... though we know it will run to several million dollars after taxes. We do not want it. It will affect the way people treat us at work and we don't want that."
"That's why we called you, Mr. Travis. We want you to talk to the lottery people for us. Explain that we don't want no publicity an' we don't want the money. If we give you a list of charities can you make it so that whatever it is that we won is split up between 'em?"
Orrin Travis looked at the two men in complete disbelief, but their expressions were open and sincere. "Chris?" he questioned.
Studying his two men for a long a moment, Chris then turned to address his boss, saying, "It's their money, sir. I would recommend, however," he added, returning his attention to Vin and Ezra, "that you keep at least some of it and invest it. After all, considering the size of the prize, even taking a million out of it wouldn't make much difference, though somehow I doubt the two of you would take that much."
Vin and Ezra looked at each other for a long moment and both Chris and AD Travis looked on with interest as Vin cocked his head slightly to one side and stared at Ezra. Nothing was said for a moment and then the southerner smiled and nodded. Chris fought a grin at the slightly horrified expression on Travis' face as he realised that the two memebers of his team that attracted trouble with regular monotony had their own version of non-verbal communication - just like he and Vin did.
Ezra turned to them and said, "All right, Mr. Larabee. It is a sensible idea and we will listen to you."
Ezra rolled his eyes at Chris' muttered, "That'll make a nice change," that was met by Vin Tanner sticking his tongue out at their team leader and friend.
"Whatever the final total amount happens to be, we'll invest one hundred thousand dollars for each of the team. The monies will be made available in event of medical or other emergencies; other than that, they will be made availabe to the others if and when we ever go our separate ways."
Touched but not surprised by their generosity to their teammates, Chris looked at Travis. "Can you help them and can you make sure it's kept quiet?"
Orrin Travis smiled. Tanner and Standish never ceased to amaze him; for that matter, nor did the rest of Team Seven. "I'll make the calls, gentlemen. Now then... which charities did you have in mind?"
Four weeks later, the quiet planning and organising were done. The Benevolent Funds and the Widows and Orphans Funds for Denver's police, fire and ambulance personnel received anonymous donations; as did the Denver Children's Center and the local animal shelters. All in all, thirty five million dollars were distributed to worthy causes in and around the city of Denver.
Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish never breathed a word of what they had done to anyone, and, honouring their wishes, neither did Chris Larabee or AD Orrin Travis. Each of those two men was profoundly humbled and grateful to the pair, though.
The mismatched two-some had been unwavering in their choice of action and it had touched Chris Larabee deeply. In one morning's conversation, he'd seen unbelievable generosity from two of his men that had no thought of recognition for their actions - in fact, they insisted on complete anonymity.
At the crux of the peace that Chris Larabee felt was the reasoning behind their actions. Ezra and Vin may both have said that they didn't want the notoriety or the headaches that the money would bring... but their main reasoning was plain enough... they were happy doing what they were doing. They felt like they were making a difference.
They were ready, willing and eager to give away thirty-five million dollars rather than risk having to give up doing what they were doing.
How many team leaders could expect to receive that kind of loyalty and dedication to duty from their men? Other than the 'terrible twosome' he had to be the luckiest man on the planet because he had six men that felt that way.
Many people wondered how he could ride herd on the misfits and outcasts who made up his team. What they didn't understand was that, to him, it was an honour and a privilege to lead a team made up of such dedicated and kind-hearted men.