Pirates For a Day M7 ATF AU
"Thank you gentlemen so much for agreeing to model for me! I've been wanting to do this pirate photo shoot for weeks now, but just couldn't find the right participants until the Judge said you all volunteered. The pictures will be perfect for the display the art museum is doing on the subject." beamed the willowy brunette photographer as she looked over her volunteers. She missed the wry looks the figures exchanged at the "volunteered" part. However, the seven ATF agents simply nodded and smiled.
She had expected Buck Wilmington to be willing, along with his roommate JD Dunne, but hadn't been sure about the rest of the team. But since the entrance fees for the exhibit would be donated to a children's charity, and with the agreement that they could cover their features since each of them sometimes went undercover, they had all finally agreed to pose for her.
JD was harassing Buck, slashing with his sword near the tall brunet. The ladies' man swatted in irritation at the smaller figure buzzing around him like an annoying insect. The kid wore black and white striped short britches with ragged ends, short black boots, a red long-sleeved lace-up shirt covered by a short-sleeved black one. A wide black belt encircled his waist and a kerchief covered the dark hair with a black tri-corner hat over. The curved sword glinted in the light as he swung it. A pair of short black gloves and an eyepatch were tucked in his belt for later.
Wilmington was dressed in tight black pants and deep-cuffed black leather boots that showed off his long legs. A white lace-up shirt with long, full sleeves was left open, showing several inches of muscular chest to great advantage. A long blue vest came to his hips and was fastened with a wide black leather belt. A black and white striped sash held his own cutlass and a dark red kerchief hid the ebony hair. A black tri-corner hat sat on top. A black eye mask covered his upper face and matching gauntleted gloves encased the large hands.
Vin Tanner and the others stood laughing at the duo's antics. The sharpshooter was attired in black pants and ebony leather cuffed knee boots. A white shirt similar to Buck's was worn open at the neck, displaying an attractive expanse of tan skin. The hem was out and came to his hips, topped with a brown leather hip-length vest adorned with gold buckles down the front. A dark red sash encircled the lean waist and a matching kerchief covered his head, sandy locks brushing the broad shoulders underneath. Black gauntleted gloves encased his hands and a dark red eye mask hid his upper face. A curved sword was tucked securely in the red sash and a period pistol occupied the other side.
Ezra Standish stood beside the sniper. Dark red pants were tucked into cuffed black boots and a white open-necked shirt with lace at the wrists covered the well-muscled torso. The shirt was tucked neatly in at the waist, with a dark red sash forming a belt. A long black velvet jacket with gold trim rested over the shirt and a black tri-corner hat with gold braid sat on top of the chestnut hair. A black eye mask encircled the handsome face and black gauntleted gloves covered the dexterous hands, which held a sword in one and a period pistol similar to the sharpshooter's in the other.
Nathan Jackson was simply dressed in tight black pants and tall ebony leather boots worn with a billowy white shirt that had a deep, open V-neck and ruffles down the front and at the wrists. A dark red kerchief covered his head and a matching sash wrapped his waist. A black eye mask like the others' hid his upper face and dark leather gloves encased his hands, one of which held a wicked-looking sword that he manipulated absently.
Josiah Sanchez was attired in black pants cut off raggedly at the knees in a similar style to JD's. Tall ebony leather boots covered his legs underneath and a blue and white striped loose shirt with uneven edges and a lace-up neck worn open showcased the impressive barrel-like chest. A red kerchief and sash encircled his head and waist respectively, the latter holding a curved cutlass on the right for the left-handed figure. He was pulling on black gauntleted gloves, and an ebony eye mask covered his upper face, bright blue gleaming attractively through the openings.
Leader Chris Larabee wore tight black pants, and a semi-sheer black silk shirt fluttered over the powerful torso, full sleeves settling over the strong arms. He left the V neck unlaced, six inches or so of tanned chest showing attractively in the opening. The tail was tucked in and knee-high ebony leather boots emphasized the long legs. Blood red silk was wrapped around the lean waist and a wicked cutlass and period pistol were inserted securely. A black silk half-mask went over the head and was tied in kerchief fashion. A long black jacket with gold trim strained over the broad shoulders and gauntleted ebony leather gloves molded to his hands like a second skin, then flared up over his forearms in impressive fashion. A black tri-corner hat with dark plumes rested on his head over the material of the mask.
Each man wore a clip-on gold hoop on their left ear lobe, adding to the pirate feel and causing the photographer to lick her lips in approval as she waved one hand in front of her face.
"Whew! You boys are hell on a woman's pulse rate! Those pirate outfits do look fine!" she murmured softly.
"Bet the rest don't look as fine as me, Ms. Suzanne!"
Buck moved to get between the pretty photographer and the others, putting his hands on his hips so that his shirt pulled impressively over his broad chest.
The slender woman gave the rogue a teasing grin. "You're in a class by yourself, Buck!"
The ladies' man preened while the others laughed.
"Ya do realize that could be taken several ways, right Bucklin?" asked Vin with a smirk.
The lanky form just waved the other man away.
Suzanne laughed with the others and then looked at her watch. It was a few minutes after 4:00.
"Alright, me hearties. Time to head for the 'ship'. Everybody ready?"
All seven nodded in reply.
The 'ship' the brunette spoke of was located at a playground in the lakeside park they had just pulled into. Chris looked his men over critically, making sure their identities were concealed but that they didn't look too scary if any kids showed up during the photo shoot. Suzanne had brought props with her, including some child-sized pirate hats, skull-and-crossbones bandanas, and small pirate 'chests' filled with candy and trinkets. She and the team leader had agreed to offer some of the goodies to any children who arrived, hopefully mitigating any trepidation that the seven impressive masked men might engender. Satisfied that they looked alright, Larabee nodded and the group headed for the vessel.
It was actually a small simplified and scaled-down wooden pirate ship that stood proudly in a sea of white gravel at one side of the space. An opening occupied the center of the side that faced the parking area and a sturdy mast that reached to about eight feet or so was anchored securely in the middle of the ship. Net-like rigging of gray rope fastened to the pole and cross-pieces formed a place to climb, and a round section of wood with a low railing created a 'crow's nest' just above. A black flag with a white skull and crossbones fluttered at the very top of the mast. A low rail edged the platform at the back of the ship. Overall it was very sturdy and fairly lifelike in a simplistic fashion, providing a perfectly acceptable background for the pirate photos since the scale was large enough to accommodate even the taller and larger of the men.
No one else was present when they arrived, so the group helped carry some of the props to the structure and then arrayed themselves for some pirate action.
Climbing inside, they adopted various poses with the swords and pistols drawn, etc. Vin and JD climbed partway up the net and hung with daggers in their teeth while Buck stood at the prow with one foot up on the side and one hand on his hip while the other held his cutlass. The others ranged around the ship, Ezra appearing ready to fire the two wooden cannon that were bolted to the deck amidships. There were pictures of Chris at the bow and next to the mast, and of the blond leaning on the rail of the platform at the stern with pistol in one hand and sword in the other.
Once the static shots were done, the men did mock swordfights and climbed the rigging, Vin and JD once again going the highest and perching on the crow's nest with their legs dangling through the railing. There were also photos of the men with a wooden treasure chest filled with gilded coins and holding 'gold' bars and gilt goblets. Suzanne even coaxed them into doing a few sexy 'romance novel' poses as well, sighing in pleasure as she took in the intriguing sight of the glistening bare skin visible in the openings of the shirts and the taut backsides enhanced by the tight britches.
It was almost four-thirty and Suzanne was taking a few last group shots when a car drove up. A pleasant-looking redhead got out followed by two boys approximately seven and nine. The kids immediately spotted the adult group and pointed excitedly.
"Mom! Look! Real pirates!"
They both started pulling on their mother's hands.
"I think they're taking pictures boys. We probably shouldn't interrupt."
Suzanne heard the woman and turned with a smile.
"No, it's fine. We're almost done so they can come on over. In fact, how would you two like to be in a couple of shots?"
Two sets of eyes got wide and the youngest bounced up and down in excitement.
"Can we really? With the pirates?"
"If your mom doesn't mind, I think I can arrange that." The brunette turned to look at the redhead. "The men are all federal agents. They volunteered to model for me for a photo shoot. They work undercover, so that's why they're masked. I can promise that your kids will be perfectly safe with them if you're alright with me taking a few pictures."
The woman considered a moment, but when the boys started begging, she smiled and nodded.
"I don't see why not, if you're sure the men don't mind."
Suzanne grinned. "I don't think so, but let's see." She waved to get the dark-garbed Captain's attention and then called out to him when the impressive figure turned to her.
"Ahoy, Captain Chris! How do you feel about adding a couple of recruits to your company?"
Chris' voice carried easily as he answered. The green eyes looked the boys over and then he nodded. "I think we can find room. What do you say mates?" The tall form turned to the rest of his 'crew' to see their reactions.
At the nods of approval and several "Aye, Captain" comments, the ebony figure motioned the youngsters to come to the ship. When they stopped just outside, the lean form lithely jumped through the low opening on the side and knelt next to the boys so that he was more level with them.
"If you're going to be part of my crew, I need to know your names."
"Andy" said the oldest one, while his brother whispered "Toby". Both were obviously impressed by the formidable-looking 'Captain'.
"Alright Andy, Toby…can you follow orders?"
"Aye, aye Sir!" answered both breathlessly.
Chris let one corner of his mouth quirk up, confining his amusement to that at their eager responses.
"Then welcome aboard. Let's go meet the rest of the crew." A gloved hand was held out and each boy shook it solemnly. Chris rose and gestured to the ship, following the kids as they rushed through the low opening. The rest of the 'pirates' gathered around and greeted the boys heartily.
"You ready for a couple of pictures?" Chris asked.
Both nodded animatedly.
"Alright. Let's go over here to the port side. Can you two act like you're firing the cannons?"
The boys nodded eagerly and followed the leader to the rail where the guns sat. Chris and Buck helped the boys climb up next to the cannons and made sure they were holding the rail securely with one hand and the sticks to light the 'fuses' with the other. JD looked at the kids and called "wait" as Suzanne was about to take a photo.
"They need to look like part of the crew." the young lookout said, taking off the hat he wore and placing it on Andy. Buck followed suit and loaned his hat to Toby. The headgear was too large for both, but they pushed the items to the back of their heads and beamed proudly anyway. The rest of the group gathered around and Suzanne snapped a couple of shots.
Before she could take any more, another vehicle pulled in and parked. A lovely brunette got out and went around to roll a wheelchair off of the lift on the passenger side. A thin boy about the same age as Andy sat in the chair. He, too, saw the 'pirates' first thing, gesturing animatedly at his mom.
"Look Mom! Pirates! Can we go over there?"
"Honey, I don't know. They look like they're taking pictures. Plus, they look a little…" the brunette paused, unsure about the masked men.
"Intimidating?" asked the redhead standing nearby with her phone out taking photos of her own.
The other woman nodded.
"I agree, they do. But they actually seem like really nice guys. The photographer said they're federal agents. That's my boys on the 'ship' with them. They're having a blast and the men are being really careful with them. I'm sure they'll let your son join them if he wants to."
Suzanne was walking toward the two women and the boy and heard the last.
"They'll be glad to take your son aboard too, if he's interested. They're off-duty and offered to be my models for one of my photo shoots. They work undercover and that's the reason for their faces being covered, if the masks concern you. They're one of the most decorated law-enforcement teams in the country. I promise your son will be in good hands."
The brunette nodded. "That's good to know. But Bobby just got done with a chemo treatment at the nearby hospital. He has to stay for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. The doctors let me bring him here when he feels up to it, just to get a break from the hospital environment. But I don't think he's up to getting on the ship right now."
"Mom, I can do it. I don't feel sick right now. Please?" Blue eyes looked up at the brunette pleadingly. "This will be so cool!"
"I'm sure they'll be willing to help him." Suzanne offered.
The conversation carried to the men standing at the rail. At Chris' nod, Ezra detached himself and exited the wooden vessel to join the women and boy.
"My dear lady, I realize you don't know us but we are more than willin' to watch over your son and help him if he desires to join us for a few photographs. We're almost finished, so will be departin' in a few minutes. We won't keep your son long if he wishes to participate. We also have a medic among our little troupe who will be most pleased to make sure your son is safe." One gloved hand gestured to Nathan and the healer waved and nodded. Ezra then pulled out his badge and showed it to the hesitant woman.
"Please, Mom!? I won't ask for ice cream this time and I won't grumble when we have to go back to the hospital, I promise. Just let me do this, alright?"
His mother looked back and forth between the men and her son a few times. The 'pirates' did seem agreeable to having Bobby join them for a few minutes, and knowing that they were in law enforcement and had a qualified medical technician with them finally swayed her.
"Alright, you can go. But let the medic know if you get to feeling sick or dizzy."
The sandy-brown head nodded. "I will. Yay! Thanks, Mom…you're the best!"
"And what is your name, my young friend? The captain likes to know his crew personally." Ezra took the handles of the wheelchair and maneuvered it as close to the pirate ship as possible.
"Ah, Master Bobby. A pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Ezra, the Prize Master for our little band of brothers."
The two shook hands and Nathan hopped over the side and came to join the pair. Ezra introduced the medic and the big man shook hands.
"I'll carry you on board. Anything I need to be careful of? Do you have a port I should watch out for?"
Bobby nodded. "I have a port here…" he pointed to the left side of his upper chest "but it's covered right now and there's nothing else to worry about. I'm not sick or anything from the treatment yet, so you don't have to worry about me."
"That's good to hear." beamed Nathan. "You'll make a good addition to the crew." One brown eye winked at the small figure as he carefully picked him up. Ezra preceded them.
"Let's get you introduced to the Captain, Master Bobby."
The two agents approached the 'ship'.
"Permission to bring aboard another new recruit, Captain." The Prize Master addressed the impressive dark-garbed figure above them.
"Permission granted. Come aboard."
Chris moved to meet the trio, standing with his hands behind his back and legs spread apart in perfect nautical stance as if he was indeed on the deck of a ship at sea.
"Captain Chris, this is Bobby."
A gloved hand came around to grasp the small boy's and shake firmly.
"Welcome aboard, Bobby. I'm pleased to have you join us. Let's get you outfitted and in a picture or two." The low voice was as unintimidating as possible, while still being authoritative.
"Thank you, Sir." Bobby snapped a crisp salute, which the Captain returned.
"Your father wouldn't be in the military, would he?" asked the dark figure with a hint of a grin.
Bobby nodded. "Yes, Sir. Marines. You're military too, aren't you?"
Chris nodded. "I'm former Navy."
Ezra looked a bit intrigued.
"How did you know that, my young friend?"
A slender shoulder shrugged. "The way he stands, his voice, the kinda dangerous look…" The blue eyes rose to meet the captain's green ones. "You were an officer too, weren't you?"
The masked head dipped in assent.
"Thought so." said Bobby smugly. "You have authority all over you, Sir."
Buck laughed lightly. "Dang, you ol' war dog. Even the kids can tell you were in charge."
The others grinned when Chris just gave the 'Lieutenant' a familiar look. Ebony-covered fingers brushed the butt of the pistol he wore. "Don't make me shoot ya in front of the kids, Buck." The voice however was mild and a hint of a grin curved one side of the sculpted mouth.
Bobby considered the imposing figure for a minute.
"You know, you should have another name besides Captain Chris, though. Something more scary."
The other boys nodded in agreement.
Green eyes settled on the small form. "What would you suggest?"
"Well, you can't be Blackbeard or Redbeard since you don't have any hair on your face." Toby commented. The other two boys bobbed their heads.
"It should be something like Captain Revenge." suggested Andy. Bobby thought a minute.
"Yeah, something like that." The blue eyes lit up. "I know…Captain Danger! Then your ship could be called Danger, too."
Chris cocked his head in thought and then dipped it once. "Sounds good. Captain Danger it is."
The rest of the men introduced themselves to Bobby and Ezra sacrificed his tri-corner to the young 'pirate' on loan. Nathan deposited the newest 'crew member' on the deck between Chris and Buck. The two men made sure he had a secure hold of the rail and each placed a gloved hand on his shoulder to keep him steady. Andy and Toby kept their places next to the cannon, the rest of the group ranged to the sides. Suzanne snapped a couple more pictures and then the men helped all three boys down. They moved over to the treasure chest and Ezra handed each kid a 'gold' coin on a chain. Each one slipped theirs around their neck and happily posed for a shot.
Three sets of eyes then scanned over the seven men and the weapons they carried.
"Can you do a swordfight before you go?" asked Andy with a pleading look.
"Yeah! Please?" "That would be so cool!" agreed the other two boys.
Captain Danger eyed his men. "What do you say, boys? Reckon we can handle a fight?"
"Oh, I think we can manage that!" chortled Buck.
"Yeah, I love a good fight!" added Vin with a big grin.
"I'm in!" chimed JD as he drew his weapon.
White teeth gleamed as Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan gave huge smiles and pulled their own swords. The captain slid his cutlass out with a wicked smirk and flourished it with menacing grace.
"Alright boys…let's fight!"
At their leader's command, the men began lunging and parrying, their movements as fluid as a pride of big cats. The image was particularly appropriate for Chris and Vin, as the sharpshooter prowled forward and was stalked silently by the lean figure in black. Swords clanged as the two met, the fight even until Chris finally landed a skillful blow that disarmed his opponent after several minutes.
Vin shook his hand to get the feeling back and then drew the dagger he had in his belt, circling the taller figure. Chris pirouetted on the balls of his feet, always keeping his face to the dangerous form. Strong arms blocked the feints of the smaller man, and eventually the leader's longer reach allowed him to once again disarm his attacker.
Vin bowed slightly in acceptance of the outcome and then bent to retrieve his weapons.
"Reckon ya know you're the only one who can do that, Cap'n." blue eyes sparkled up at the icy green ones of his best friend.
"I know. You'd slice an ear off anyone else who tried it." smirked Chris.
"Ya got that right. You're the only one that knows what I'm gonna do 'fore I do."
"That's why I want you watchin' my back. We think alike." A green eye winked at the younger man. They both grinned and clasped forearms, then turned to watch the rest of the fighting come to an end.
The boys clapped and whistled in excitement.
"That was great!" all three said together. Toby looked pleading. "Can we see the swords?"
Chris paused, then nodded. "We'll show them to you, but these are real weapons, not toys. They're blunted to avoid accidents, but they're still dangerous. So hold them the way we tell you and don't touch the blades, alright?" The tone was soft, but the note of authority said plainly that the powerful form wasn't to be disobeyed on this.
The kids nodded in understanding and chorused "Yes, Sir!"
"Thanks" added Andy.
Captain Danger dipped his head and then motioned for the others to show off their weapons. Nathan demonstrated a couple of fighting techniques and Buck, Ezra, and Vin held theirs so that the three boys could take hold of the hilts, but made sure that they kept a firm grip as well. Suzanne snapped a couple of pictures of the smiling group and then the boys all said "Thank you" to the 'pirates'.
The men nodded and replaced their swords.
Suzanne spoke up then.
"I'm sorry, but we have somewhere else we're supposed to be in a few minutes, so we better pack up."
Chris dipped his head and then motioned to the rest of the group.
"Alright, you heard the lady. Let's get our gear and load up."
The tall form then bent to gently lift Bobby and carry him to the wheelchair. Strong arms settled the slight form securely.
"It was an honor having you on my crew, son. You take care of yourself." One hand pointed to the phone number on the photographer's trailer. "Call Ms. Suzanne if you ever need us, alright?"
The sandy head nodded. The eyes were still bright with excitement. "I know you're supposed to be intimidating, but can I give you a hug, Captain Danger?" asked the small voice diffidently.
A green eye winked at him. "I think I can allow that just this once."
Thin arms wrapped as far around the broad shoulders as possible, and the dark-garbed form returned the action, squeezing carefully so he wouldn't hurt the much smaller frame.
"Thank you so much! This has been the best trip to the park ever!"
Chris released the boy and smiled. "I'm glad you enjoyed it. Good luck."
Andy and Toby came up then to say farewell and offer their thanks as well. Chris knelt and gently clasped each one's shoulder as he said good-bye. Suzanne handed all three kids a pirate hat and a small 'treasure chest' filled with foil-wrapped chocolate coins, hard candy shaped like gemstones, bubble-gum pearls, and a gold plastic goblet. A few real metal coins with a skull-and-crossed-swords pirate icon were included, as well as black bandanas with the white skull-and-crossbones symbol.
The boys thanked the photographer politely and sincerely, waving at the rest of the group as they headed for their vehicles. Suzanne got both women's addresses and promised to send them copies of the pictures she took that included the kids.
She then headed for her SUV and told the other drivers to follow her the mile or so to their next destination, which she said was a surprise.
"So what's the surprise, huh? Where are we headed?" asked JD for the fourth or fifth time in three minutes.
Buck shrugged. "I keep tellin' ya I don't know, Kid. Chris and Vin didn't tell me."
The group had their coms in and Vin replied to the big brunet.
"That's cause you'd a folded when he started wheedlin' and ruined the surprise, Bucklin."
"When did I ever blab?" protested Buck indignantly, while JD bristled at the 'wheedling' remark.
"That time we were plannin' his twenty-first birthday party." answered Vin smugly.
"Alright…I had to that time, 'cause he was gonna go out with Casey." conceded the lanky man. "But show me one other time…"
"When we…" "The time that…" "Remember the fishin' trip?" … bombarded the ladies' man both in the SUV and via his earpiece.
"Okay, okay! So I've slipped up a few times…"
"We're not sayin' you can't keep a secret Pard, just that you're not totally trustworthy, so if we want it to BE a secret it's best to keep you in the dark, too." placated Chris with obvious humor in his voice.
"So WHAT is the secret?" huffed JD, almost beside himself. Just then the small line of vehicles turned so that the lake marina was visible. Hazel eyes got wide.
"Oh, wow! Is that it?" asked the kid with awe as he took in the impressive schooner that lay anchored to the side of the boat slips.
Chris' amusement was again audible through the communications devices. "Yeah, JD. That's it. Suzanne knows the owners of the marina and they've agreed to let us go aboard for some pictures. Apparently we'll be some of the first ones on her since she got here."
The younger man practically bounced in his seat. "Way cool!"
The others were calmer, but had to admit that they too were looking forward to the experience.
Suzanne pulled in to a space and parked, followed by the Ram and Suburban.
When they all piled out, the brunette waved her arm expansively at the ebony-hulled schooner. "Well, this is it. What do you think? Wanna go aboard?"
"Hell, Yeah!" "You know it!" "Absolutely" "Most assuredly" and other forms of agreement and enthusiasm met her question almost immediately.
The brunette grinned. "Alright. Let me go check with my friend and make sure the workmen are all done and that it's safe to look around. You can wait here and take some pictures from the dock, if that's okay."
Nods of agreement came from the group and the photographer hurried toward the marina office. In just minutes the seven 'pirates' were ranged along the long dock with their phones and cameras out as they photographed the majestic vessel from different angles. The black hull looked both elegant and mysterious against the blue water and creamy sails hung half-furled on the multiple masts. A couple of people stopped to take snapshots of the impressive figures as they strolled the pier. Suzanne paused herself to take a few photos on her way back. The handsome 'pirates' looked dangerous and yet intriguing, the backdrop of the ship making the effect seem quite realistic.
Once she reached the group, Suzanne smiled at the looks of inquiry she received.
"The ship is all clear and we have permission to explore and take pictures anywhere we want. Using due caution, of course. She's as authentically correct as possible since she was built and used for a documentary on pirates. She was pretty run-down and the owners were just going to scrap her, so my friend put in a bid thinking the ship would make a cool attraction for special occasions and stuff like that. He's spent quite a bit of money having her restored and refitted inside. As a historic reproduction, she's exempt from a lot of the modern safety rules, so there are going to be steep stairs and narrow passages, things like that."
Chris and Buck nodded in understanding. As former Naval officers, they were quite familiar with the confined and possibly hazardous spaces on a ship and both knew that an older sailing vessel would be much more so than even the modern warships, as there was also all the complicated rigging on the top decks, etc.
Suzanne grabbed the rest of the gear and props that she'd left sitting on the dock and led the way.
The ship was located at the far end of the long pier where the water was deep enough to accommodate it's draft. As they came alongside, the tall masts seemed to scrape the sky, the slightly billowing sails graceful against the blue, and the vessel bobbed gently with the movement of the water.
When they reached the gangplank, JD scampered up first, followed by Buck. The kid had to grab the ropes that edged the narrow wooden expanse as he tried to keep his footing on the gently swaying ramp.
"JD, you alright?" called Chris softly as the younger man dipped to the side for a second. Buck put out a big hand to steady the smaller figure.
"Yeah Chris, I'm okay. I just wasn't expecting this much movement since we're on a lake and not the ocean."
Wilmington laughed. "The kid ain't got his sea legs yet, big dog. Takes a while for some people."
Chris nodded. "Alright, just be careful. We don't need anyone breaking a leg when we're supposed to be having fun."
The pirate captain headed up next, Vin came up behind him, Ezra and Nathan ascended behind the sharpshooter, with Josiah bringing up their rear. Suzanne stayed on the dock for a minute to take photos of the group from the lower angle.
JD was still looking a little like a fishing bobber when Chris reached the deck. The lean blond turned to survey their surroundings, easily taking a wide-legged stance as his body immediately acclimated to the slight rolling of the ship.
"How does he do that?" asked JD as he watched his boss begin moving surely across the deck.
Green eyes turned to look at the younger man. "Are you already forgetting what branch of service I was in, Kid? I was in the Navy for 15 years." The low voice matched the hint of a grin that curved the chiseled lips.
"You were in special forces though, so you didn't spent that much time on a ship. Wasn't like you were actually a sailor." protested Dunne.
"Doesn't matter, Chris adjusts almost instantly to whatever his environment is. He can go from land to water and immediately be as comfortable on or in it as he was before. Been that way ever since I've known him. He just adapts easily and quickly to any situation. It's kinda like his shootin'." answered Buck with a shrug. His long legs were braced easily as well, body moving with the motion of the deck.
The younger man looked around in awe.
"Geeze, how did they get around up here? There's stuff everywhere."
Nathan nodded as he tried to take in the multiple masts, sails, rigging, guns, etc.
"Yeah, I've never even been on a sailin' ship before. What is all this?"
Chris stopped his easy movements and pointed to the tallest spar. "That's the Main Mast…" The gloved finger moved on. "And that's the Fore Mast…the one in back is the Mizzen Mast…the slender part at the prow is the Bowsprit. The sails on the Bowsprit are called Head Sails, the top one on the Main Mast is the Royal, the one under it is the Topgallant Sail, and then Top Sail and Main Sail. The sail at the stern on the boom is called a Spanker…"
Buck chuckled and got a glare for his reward. "Shut up, Buck."
"How did you ever learn all that?!" asked JD incredulously. The hazel eyes were wide with amazement. The others looked impressed as well.
Broad, dark-garbed shoulders shrugged. "I spent some time on board the U.S.S. Constitution not too long after I joined the Navy."
Ezra gave the tall 'Captain' a curious glance.
"I am cognizant of the fact that you are highly intelligent and a fast learner Mr. Larabee, but you mean to tell me that you absorbed all this information simply from a tour of a period sailing vessel?" In spite of his faith in the talent of his leader, the undercover agent sounded a bit dubious.
Buck laughed wryly. "When Chris says he 'spent some time' on the Constitution, he means that he served aboard her."
The others turned to the ladies' man in surprise. "What?" chorused all five.
The lanky man nodded, a smile on his lips.
"Yep. Ol' Chris was kinda fascinated by the age of sail, so he volunteered to serve on some week-long training exercises aboard 'Old Ironsides'."
JD looked awed. "So you sailed on a ship like this?"
Chris nodded. "Technically the Constitution is a frigate, but somewhat similar…yeah." The green eyes then met the cobalt ones. "It was an interesting part of the 'History of Naval Warfare' class I took. And you didn't have to come." said the unique voice mildly.
Buck's broad shoulders shrugged negligently.
"Ah, hell. I was between girlfriends that first time anyway. Besides, somebody had to keep an eye on Lieutenant 'Hothead' Larabee…" A blue eye winked through his mask at the rest of the group.
Nathan grinned. "Hothead Larabee?" Sounded like a story there.
Buck laughed out loud. "Yep. Chris was cool as ice under fire and calm and clear-headed in command…an instinctive leader. But if someone pissed 'im off, he tended to deck 'em first and not bother to ask for forgiveness later. Took some fancy talkin' to keep him outta the brig a few times, let me tell ya!"
A hint of a grin curved the tall blond's sculpted lips. "Buck did save my hide occasionally. If it hadn't been for his fast actin', I'd have faced disciplinary action once or twice." admitted the lean figure.
Wilmington beamed proudly. "As it was, he didn't have a single negative write-up in his file to the day he left."
The smile got wider under the mustache. "Did have a few comments about 'creative responses' in regard to some situations, but no 'conduct unbecoming' charges."
The rest of the team chuckled. "Brother Chris- 'creative response'? That I can believe." rumbled Josiah in amusement and understanding.
"Some of 'em were pretty damn unique." laughed Buck in memory. When JD started to open his mouth, the big man held up a hand. "And no, I can't tell you about 'em, Kid. A lot of 'em are still classified."
Nathan, returning to the matter at hand, looked curious.
"So how many of them trainin' cruises did you go on anyway?" he asked Chris. The idea was actually rather appealing.
The blond cocked his head in thought and then shrugged again.
"Seems like five."
"I thought it was six?" said Buck with a frown of concentration.
"Hell, Buck. We can't even agree on how long we've known each other!" said Chris with a quirk of his mouth.
"I still say it was 12 years that time, not 10." averred the brunet.
"I was generalizing Buck, not trying to be exact." answered the low voice in resignation. "The subject was how your brain drops below your belt every time you see a pretty woman, not how long we'd known each other."
"Sure, Stud. Whatever you say."
Ebony-garbed fingers dropped to caress the butt of the period pistol in the red sash. "Buck…"
"Don't make me shoot ya'!" chorused five other voices in unison. Amusement definitely colored the tones.
"Although, reckon it would make a good action shot for Ms. Suzanne. Kinda like the old west gunfights you two do." drawled Vin with a wink.
JD bobbed with excitement instead of the movement of the ship this time.
"Hey, is that where you learned how to wear and use a sword, Chris? On those cruises on the Constitution? You know a lot of cool stuff, but I wondered about that."
The leader nodded.
"Yeah, the crew of the ship wear regulation uniforms from 1813. For the officers, especially on dress occasions, that means swords. The commander thought that since we wore 'em, we should also know how to use 'em."
Nathan looked at the mass of rigging all around them. "So you can climb and work all this?" he asked with interest.
Again, Larabee nodded. "Yeah. Even the officers were expected to learn how the ship functioned."
Buck commented as well. "Besides, Chris' always lived by the 'don't order someone to do somethin' you're not willin' to do yourself' creed. And with his speed and agility, he was a natural. Looked real graceful zippin' up them ropes and jumpin' across up there." The ladies' man pointed overhead.
JD looked even more impressed than he already had been. Just looking up at the maze of rigging was making him dizzy.
Vin wore in interested expression. "I knew ya were a diver and jumped outta planes and stuff, but never thought about ya in this context before, Cowboy."
Buck clapped the smaller form on the shoulder. "He could actually give you a run for your money up there, Junior." commented Wilmington, referring to Tanner's love of high places and climbing. The rogue winked at all of them. "Just 'cause he don't do some things on a regular basis, don't mean the ol' war dog can't do 'em."
Chris shrugged. "He's right. Climbing the rigging wasn't my favorite thing to do, but it's no problem."
JD glanced at his roommate and then back to Chris.
"So how did Buck do?"
White teeth gleamed in a smile. "He did alright once he learned how to keep those long legs from gettin' tangled in the lines. Had to hang upside down by his ankles a time or two before he figured it out, though." responded the blond.
"Now, ya could'a gone all day without mentionin' that, Stud!" groused the brunet good-naturedly. A gloved finger then pointed at the lean form. "And as I recall, even you had to hang on for dear life when that boom almost took your head off in that squall."
Chris winced at the memory. "Yeah, that was a hell of a ride."
Josiah knew a little about sail boats and looked curious.
"Why didn't you just duck?"
"Didn't have time. It was swinging away from me and had already knocked another man down. I was helping him up when we hit a trough and the boom suddenly came back toward us. The other guy dropped back to the deck and rolled into my feet with the motion of the ship. All I could do was grab the damn thing and hang on."
Buck looked a little grim. "Scared the hell outta me. Chris went swingin' right out over the side of the ship in six foot swells. If he hadn't been able to hold on…" the tall figure's voice trailed off and both former SEALs turned to look at the corresponding piece on the ship they were on. Even the non-sailors among them could imagine what would have happened.
Shaking off the sobering thought, JD looked around again.
"So you have experience on a ship like this. You could actually sail her?"
Chris and Buck both shrugged. "Like I said, the Constitution is a frigate, where this is a schooner, but yeah." The kid got an eager look in his eye, so Chris hurried on. "But it takes a lot of man-power to sail a ship like this and it's hard work. It's not like a modern vessel where you can program something in and it's done automatically. Everything on a period sailing ship like this had to be done with manual labor. You can't sail one with just a few experienced hands."
"Manual labor…well, that leaves Ez out." commented Vin with a grin. Everyone chuckled except the gambler, who just dusted his sleeves fastidiously.
"Besides…" added Buck "…she's been restored, but we don't even know if this one is actually sea-worthy."
Suzanne joined them then.
"My friend says she is, but they don't plan to take her out because of the man-power it would take."
Nathan looked around again. "It's cool that they could if they wanted though."
Chris nodded. "Yeah, she looks pretty sturdy for a movie prop. They did a good job. She looks almost as realistic as the Constitution."
The photographer motioned to the lean figure. "So you want to take us around and you and Buck tell us all a little about what we're seeing while I take pictures? This is one thing I've never done before, so I don't know anything about the ship."
Broad shoulders shrugged. "Sure. You want us to just explore?"
"Yeah. I'll get some candid shots of all of you while we go through the ship, and if I see somewhere that I particularly want you to pose, I'll let you know."
"Alright. We can do that."
The 'Captain' started leading the group around, pointing out various items of interest and sharing historical tidbits. He and Buck showed the others how the sails were raised and lowered, how the ship's wheel steered the craft, how to navigate, etc. All seven men tried climbing the rigging, some going considerably higher than others.
Remembering something he'd read, Josiah asked about gun platforms that rested high on the masts of some ships. Chris paused to answer.
"That's where the sharpshooters were placed so that they could fire down on the decks of an enemy ship. Naval vessels and privateers sometimes had contingents of marines on board, and if so they were usually the ones placed up there."
"Did the Constitution carry marines?" asked JD curiously.
Chris dipped his head. "Originally, yes. She could carry a crew of 450, including something like 55 marines. Now she's manned by about 60, officers and sailors combined."
Josiah looked thoughtful. "Didn't I read that the Constitution was commissioned in the late 1700s?"
"Yeah. 1797. They say she still has approximately 10-15% of her original wood."
"So she's like a museum ship?" asked Vin.
"Not exactly. She's open for tours when she's in port, which is most of the time, but she's still a fully commissioned vessel of the United States Navy and is considered in active service."
"Do her guns still work?" asked JD.
Buck answered this time. "Yep. She fired a 17-gun salute in Boston Harbor on the 4th of July in 2014. She's been restored now to her 1812 configuration, which is close to how she was when Chris and I were on her."
"Cool! Can we see the guns on here?"
"Sure, Kid. There are some bolted to the top deck up here. This ship is too small to have a designated gun deck with ports below."
The cluster of figures roamed the ship at will, occasionally splitting up for individuals or pairs to check out something that caught their eye, and then re-grouping for Chris and Buck to continue sharing information. Suzanne got excellent pictures of each of the men, as well as some great group shots. Chris got hot before they left the main deck and removed the ebony jacket he wore. A gloved hand pulled the open neck of the semi-sheer shirt a little wider apart, causing the brunette to wipe drool and sigh at the sight.
"God, you are breath-taking! Those romance novels can't hold a candle to you, Captain Danger."
A smirk curved the expressive mouth and one hazel eye winked at her through his mask in appreciation of the compliment.
The photographer looked at the smiling faces that surrounded her. "Oh…did I say that out loud?"
The men chuckled indulgently. They were all used to the reaction they and their leader caused among the female population. They usually chose to ignore it, except for maybe an occasional smile or nod, and often appeared not to notice, but the effect was always noted on some level.
"Alright, are you ready to head to the lower decks?" asked Suzanne to distract everyone, including herself, from her embarrassment.
The pirate 'captain' nodded with a grin. "Sure." He left the dark jacket hanging near the forward stairs. "Be careful…the ladders and passageways are going to be narrow."
The lean form dipped his head and started down the steps. When he heard a 'thud' and an 'oww!" behind him, he turned to see Nathan rubbing his head.
"Oh yeah…don't forget to duck. The openings are pretty low."
"Now he tells me." mumbled the medic as he gently felt of his forehead to see if a knot was forming under the kerchief and mask he wore. Josiah stifled his chuckle as he tucked his head between his shoulders to avoid the low-hanging piece.
They spent almost an hour touring the inside of the ship. Chris led the way through the labyrinth of passageways, pointing out storerooms, the galley, the crew's berths and the officers' quarters. They paused for pictures in the Captain's wardroom, on the bunks in the cabins, etc. Buck and Chris were effective and entertaining tour guides, as well as excellent photo subjects.
They finished their explorations and headed back toward the main deck when Chris noticed that the confined spaces were beginning to get to Vin.
The sniper shook his head as he looked around. "Wouldn't be too bad when the weather was good and ya could spend most of your time topside, but can't imagine being down here for days at a time in bad weather."
JD agreed. "Yeah, makes me feel a little queasy just thinking about it."
Chris shrugged. "You think this is cramped, Buck and I've been deployed or picked up by submarine a few times. Talk about tight quarters…"
Several sets of shoulders shivered at the mental image.
Once they got to the top, the photographer looked at her watch.
"It's five-thirty. You ready to head to our last surprise?" she asked with a grin.
JD rubbed his stomach. "Does it include food? 'Cause my burger and chili-dog are long gone."
Vin gave the younger man a wide grin. "Yep, it does."
"Do we need to change?" asked Josiah.
Suzanne shook her head. "No, you're fine. In fact, you'll fit right in."
Dunne grinned excitedly. "That means fish or seafood, right?"
Chris dipped his head in assent.
"Yay! Let's go! I'm starving!"
"I could eat, too." agreed the sharpshooter.
Buck swatted both men on the back of the head. "You're both always starvin' and can eat anytime!"
The profiler rubbed his flat abdomen. "Come to think of it, I think I can stand a little nourishment myself. The sound of seafood woke up my stomach."
"As long as it is well-cooked, I would enjoy partaking of some marine delicacies as well."
"Ya mean ya don't want any sushi, Ez?" queried Vin with a grin.
The well-dressed 'pirate' arched one brow behind the dark mask. "While some of it is acceptable in the right circumstances, I am enough a child of the South to prefer to have my fish cooked, not raw. Preferably deep-fried and served with hushpuppies and tartar sauce." said the gambler in his most honeyed drawl.
"Amen!" agreed Nathan and Vin together while JD, Buck, and Chris all nodded vigorously.
"My momma always said raw fish was for bait, not people." said Buck with a shudder at the very thought.
Josiah shook his head. "Now, you should always approach new things with an open mind. Sushi isn't all that bad."
Even Nathan shook his head. "Nah. I'm usually all for not over-cookin' food, but I draw the line at raw fish. Raw seafood and meat can carry diseases. My daddy always said the same thing as Buck's momma. 'Sides, there ain't nothin' can beat a plate of Southern fried catfish with hushpuppies, homemade tartar sauce, and pickled green tomatoes." The brown eyes rolled in bliss at the memory of his own momma's fish dinners when he was a kid.
Vin grabbed Chris' jacket and then pushed the leader toward the gangplank. "Come on, Cap'n! Now I'm even more hungry!"
Grinning, the tall blond obliged, heading lithely down the wooden expanse. Behind him trouped the others laughing and teasing. Suzanne brought up the rear, pausing to take a couple of last shots of the impressive and entertaining group as they left the ship.
It took less than ten minutes to leave the park marina and reach the restaurant. JD was thrilled when he saw the wooden galleon sitting just off shore, and the rest grinned as well.
"Cool! So this is where we're eatin'?"
The vehicles had parked and the occupants were standing outside taking snapshots of the realistic-looking vessel.
"Yeah. It's called 'The Treasure Ship'." Chris answered with a nod.*
"I called and talked to the manager to be sure seven masked pirates wouldn't be a problem and he not only didn't mind, he offered to let us use the Crow's Nest to take a few pictures. They rent it out to small groups for special occasions." Suzanne pointed to the round, railed platform that encircled one of the sturdy masts above the deck amidships.
"Wow! We get to go up there?"
The brunette nodded. "Yes. We can even have a drink up there." She gestured to the ladder that led to the high platform. "But only one!"
Excitement sparkled in Vin's eyes too. "Looks like fun. I'm in."
The others nodded as well, although Josiah did reach down and rub his knees in sympathy for what they were going to have to go through to get up there.
"Can we all get up there at once?" asked Buck thoughtfully as they headed up the walk of white gravel lined with capstans and rope.
"The manager said it will hold up to ten people. It's larger than it looks from here. Larger than a real crow's nest would be."
Several prospective diners and exiting patrons stopped to watch the troupe of impressive and good-looking male pirates walk to the entrance. A couple stepped up to ask if they could take a picture of the group. No one appeared concerned, possibly thinking they were part of the ambiance of the restaurant.
The manager met them as they strolled up the wide gangplank and stepped inside. Suzanne spoke to him a minute and then motioned for the rest to follow the young waiter who was dressed similarly to JD. They paused and gave their drink orders at the bar and then the server led the group through a door to the middle part of the galleon and to the pole that held the platform several feet above. Vin was the first to mount the narrow set of steps that led upward, followed by JD and Buck, Ezra, then Chris, Josiah and Nathan.
When they reached the top, the group spread out around the small space, taking in the view of the lake and nearby shore that was rather impressive.
The platform was just large enough for all of them and ten wooden deck chairs. Holes in the armrests would hold the drinks, and tiny tables between the chairs held brass bowls of pretzels, nuts, and other snacks. A narrow bench ran around the outside rail, providing more seating. A pirate flag bearing crossbones and a white skull with a red kerchief and gold earring fluttered from the top of the spar above their heads.
The waiter left and soon returned with the beers that they'd ordered. He carried them up in an ice filled metal bucket and passed them out, then took his leave. Suzanne took pictures of the others as they stood at the rail, Vin with an antique spyglass to his eye. Then they settled in the seats to drink their beverages and enjoy the view, each snapping shots of the scenery and each other as they laughed and chatted.
After about thirty minutes, the group descended. The same waiter met them when they reached the deck and led them to a large, round private booth on the raised portion of the ship at the stern. Dark planks covered the walls, with small square windows massed behind them, showing blue water. Ships' lanterns hung over the table and pirate flags, crossed swords, flintlock pistols, and nets with shells and treasures hung on the walls, along with other nautical memorabilia. A wooden figurehead of a woman all in white projected majestically from one of the support posts near the steps to the raised area.
The manager came up to speak with them as they were looking over the extensive menu. Diners in the adjacent part of the restaurant were avidly pointing and snapping pictures with their phones. When the manager asked if they would consider doing a walk around the eating area while they waited on their food, allowing the patrons to snap a few pictures, and offered to comp their meals if they agreed, Chris considered for a minute. JD, Buck, and Ezra were all for the idea and the others didn't seem to mind, so the lean form finally nodded in agreement.
Once they placed their orders, the men stood and began making their way leisurely among the tables, stopping to greet people and let them take photos. There were a few kids among the diners and the 'pirates' knelt to let them have pictures made with them. Suzanne hurried out and got some of the pirate hats and 'treasure', bringing it back inside for the group to hand out to the children. The photographer then took shots of her own of the impressive forms interacting with the other patrons. The handsome men attracted several of the ladies as well as the kids, the smiling or fanning women asking to pose with their favorite pirate. Buck, Ezra, Vin, and JD ended up with kisses on the cheek and all of the attractive figures heard several admiring comments about their broad chests or tight butts. Chris, Josiah, and Nathan were just a bit too formidable for the ladies to brave kissing them, though they had plenty of them ask to have a snapshot taken with them.
When they had toured the whole dining area, the group headed back to their table. The whole group teased and laughed together as they sipped on another round of drinks.
Their food arrived about 6:30 and the eight of them spent a leisurely hour and a half eating, chatting and joking as they ate. Suzanne found the men to be interesting and enjoyable companions, understanding when the agents avoided discussing either their work or anything too personal. The food was plentiful and well-prepared and the young man who had waited on them earlier and a collage-age girl were their servers, both proving to be helpful, friendly, and efficient.
Suzanne had promised to give a print of the lake view from the Crow's Nest to the restaurant to hang on their entrance wall in thanks for their cooperation and generosity.
They all had a last drink, then rose to leave, the men leaving generous tips for their servers.
Suzanne thanked them again as they walked outside, promising to show them the photos before she loaned them to the art gallery. The men had to admit that they'd rather enjoyed themselves, somewhat to their surprise. They all said goodbye, Buck leaning in to give the lady a kiss and a wink.
As the agents drove off, the photographer looked after them with a big smile on her face. What else could she come up with to have the handsome figures be pirates for a day?
*Restaurant loosely based on one called The Treasure Ship in Panama City Beach that I visited in the '90s.