by Winnie Power

Chris Larabee rested his head against the back of the seat. He didn’t hate flying but he didn’t exactly enjoy it either. He turned to see his partner sleeping in the seat next to him and wished he could sleep as easily as his friend.

The two men worked for an agency based in central Montana called The Firm. Their boss had finally gotten tired of them and had sent them on a two week camping trip. Vin had jumped at the chance to get away from the city and Chris didn’t have the heart to disappoint him. Now, a short two days later, they were on their way in a small twin engine Cessna to Cooke City where they’d drive the final leg of their journey.

He looked out at the darkening sky as a bolt of lightening streaked across the sky. He loved thunderstorms because they mirrored the way he sometimes felt in his heart. Since the day he discovered that his wife and son had been murdered, he’d been unable to stop the volatile storms that sometimes raged inside him. He shook his head, trying to dissolve the horror of his family’s death.

"You ok, Cowboy?"

Chris turned to see the younger man looking at him worriedly.

"I’m fine, Vin. Just been thinking of Sarah and Adam a lot lately."

"I’m sorry, Chris," Tanner’s expressive blue eyes showed the truth in his words.

"I keep thinking things will get better but they never seem to. I keep seeing them the morning I left. Did I tell you she begged me not to go?"

Vin shook his head.

"Said she thought something bad would happen to me in Denver. If only she’d been right and it was me that was in danger. I came home to find the house burned and my family dead. God, Vin, will it ever go away?" Chris said as he turned back to the window.

"It’ll never go away but it does get easier. It’s only been six months, Chris. You’ve been burying yourself in work and haven’t given yourself time to get over it."

"Now you sound like Josiah," Chris said softly.

"I’ll take that as a compliment, Cowboy." Vin said.

There was a loud crash and suddenly they felt the plane shift as the pilot lost control. "Get your seatbelts on!" the pilot screamed from the front. "We’re goin down! Mayday! Mayday!" The pilot yelled into his mic and hoped someone would hear him. "Cessna, flight one-five-six out of Billings, Montana enroute to Cooke City. Hit by lightening! Instruments malfunctioning! We’re going down somewhere North of Cooke City!" he dropped the mic and tried to regain control of the small plane. "Hold on boys, this is gonna be a rough landing!"

Chris could see nothing as the plane descended over the forest. He knew they were in trouble and turned in his seat to see the same terrified look on his partner's face. As the plane skimmed over the tops of the trees, the men were thrown wildly about.

Vin gripped the armrests as he tried to stay in his seat. He knew they had little chance of surviving a plane crash so he waited for the inevitable.

The plane continued its trip, sheering off the tops of the tall deciduous trees until it finally came to a crumbling halt against the side of a mountain. The noise that had preceded the crash ceased as the plane completed its ill-fated journey. Nothing moved as the lonesome call of an owl interrupted the still night.

+ + + + + + +

"Think they got there yet, Buck?" JD Dunne, the youngest member of Chris Larabee’s handpicked Firm team asked.

"Probably not. Travis arranged for them to be far away from us," Buck Wilmington answered from his seat perched on the corner of JD’s desk.

"I am unsure about Mr. Larabee but I’m sure Mr. Tanner will enjoy the chance to commune with nature," Ezra Standish replied from his own desk.

"I think Brother Chris will enjoy the time with his friend. They’ve both been through a lot in the past month and need to relax," Josiah Sanchez, the oldest member of the group, and one time preacher added.

"You’re right there, Josiah. Chris and Vin need time to let their mental and physical wounds from the last job heal properly. I’ve never seen two men so dead set on hiding their pain," Nathan Jackson the handsome dark skinned medic replied.

"Chris was always like that," Buck said as he remembered his friend's recent tragedy.

He’d been with Chris the day he found out his family had been murdered and he’d seen him through the trying time. He’d thought he’d lost him after the funeral until a young longhaired man had stepped in and suddenly Buck knew that he’d been replaced as Chris Larabee’s best friend. The hurt he’d felt had dissolved once he’d seen Vin pull Chris back from the deep pit he’d resided in. Buck looked at the youngest member of the team and realized he’d found his own replacement for Chris Larabee. Maybe not replacement but definitely a close friend and brother.

"How come you didn’t go, Buck?" JD asked. He knew Buck had suffered on the last job, maybe not as much as Chris and Vin but he’d been hurt.

"You know me, JD, I won’t go anywhere unless there’s ladies present and I don’t think there’s any where Chris and Vin are going. Can’t let my animal magnetism go to waste where there’s only real animals now can I?"

"Guess not," JD laughed.

+ + + + + + +

"C...Chris," Vin Tanner called the name through clenched teeth. He’d been calling his friends name without success for what seemed like an eternity. His leg was pinned under a piece of the wrecked plane but he didn’t know what piece. He couldn’t see anything and had almost convinced himself it was because it was still dark. The warmth of the sun on his face made him realize this was not the case. He reached up with his left arm and wiped away the small trace of blood.

"C...Chris,’ he called again.

Chris Larabee heard his name being called as if through a thick layer of fog. He tensed his body against the onslaught of pain that invaded him and jerked fully awake. "V...Vin," he called.

Vin breathed a sigh of relief as his friend's pain-filled voice reached him. "How ya doin’ Cowboy?" he asked.

"I’m fine. You?" Chris asked as he assessed his own injuries.

He was lying on the ground ten feet from the wrecked Cessna. He felt a sticky wetness on his forehead and knew he’d struck his head. His left wrist was swollen and useless, a small painful gash still oozed blood at his right elbow. But the pain in his side told him that he’d suffered the worst injury there. He used his right arm to tentatively touch his side and bit back a cry of pain as his hand touched a metal protuberance.

"My leg is caught under something," Vin told him.

"Can you get free?" Chris asked as he tried to move and felt the object move with him. He was impaled on a piece of metal from the plane.

"Damn thing won’t move," Vin told his friend.

"Is that the only injury?" Chris asked as waves of nauseating pain caressed his senses.

"Can’t see, Pard," Vin answered quietly.

"Damn," Chris said as he gripped the metal and tried to pull it out.

"How about you, Cowboy? Don’t tell me you’re fine cause I can hear it in your voice."

"Broke my wrist and cut my elbow and head," Chris told him, deliberately leaving out the injury to his side.

Tanner sensed there was more but decided not to push it. "Are you able to move?" he asked.

Chris gripped the metal again, fresh blood making the shiny surface sticky and hard to grasp, "Be right with you, Cowboy," Chris said through gritted teeth as he once more pulled on the stubborn metal. Suddenly it came out with a wet, sucking sound of protest and Chris Larabee was unable to hold back the scream of pain.

"Chris," Vin called his friend's name and tried to pull his leg from under the metal. "Chris, Damnit Cowboy, answer me."

Chris held his right hand to his bleeding side and waited for the newest tide of pain-filled agony to recede. He fought to control his breathing before answering. "It’s ok, Vin, I j...just fell on my wrist," he explained.

"Sure you did," Vin said sarcastically. "How bad?" he asked.

Chris smiled at his friend's perceptiveness, "B... bad," he said.

"What is it?"

"Had t... to pull some metal out," Chris said as he fought to stay conscious.

"From where?"

"My right side."

"Damn. Hang on. I’ll see if I can get this thing off my leg," Tanner ordered.

"It’s ok, Vin, I’m free of it now. It wasn’t very big just didn’t want to come out. I’m coming over to you now," Chris explained as he pulled his bone weary body off the ground.

"Take it slow, Cowboy," Vin said worriedly.

Chris could see his best friend lying next to the remnants of the plane. He held his side against the tidal wave of nausea and forced himself to move. He staggered to his friend's prone body and placed his hand on his shoulder. "So much for a vacation," he laughed weakly.

"Can you get this thing off my leg?"

"Think so," Chris said, his voice coming in hiccupping breaths.

"You sure you’re ok, Chris?" Tanner asked as his worry for his friend forced back his own pain.

"Yeah," Chris willed the pain from his voice as he attempted to pull the jagged piece of metal from his friend's leg. By the time he removed it, his own body was drenched in sweat and his side was a mass of white-hot, lancing pain.

Vin reached out until he touched his friend and could feel the tremors that shook the mans body. "Easy, Cowboy," he said as he pulled himself to a sitting position. "Damn," he said as the pain in his leg told him it was probably broken.


Chris’s voice sounded weak to his friend's ears and Vin Tanner was suddenly terrified of losing him. He reached out and ran his hand down his friend's prone body until he felt the blood soaked injury. "Stay with me, Chris," Tanner said as he heard his friend's moan.

"Ain’t goin’ nowhere," Chris told him.

"Can you see the pilot?" Tanner asked as he tore part of his shirt and felt around till he could cover Chris’s injury. He pressed down firmly on the injury causing Larabee to cry out against the intrusion.

"Pilot’s dead," Chris said as he spotted the man's decapitated body sitting inside the cockpit.

"You sure?"

"Yeah," Chris told him.

"Chris, can you see the first aid kit?" Tanner asked.

"No, but I think it’s under the pilot’s seat."

"Hang on I’ll see if I can find it," Tanner said and was surprised when he heard his friend laugh. "What’s so funny?"

"How you gonna find it if you can’t see, Tanner?"

"I’ll just have to feel my way around," Vin told him.

"Too many sharp edges and with that leg you’d best stay real still. Give me a sec and I’ll get the kit."

"All right, Pard," Vin said. He kept pressure on Chris’s side until he felt his friend push his hand away.

"It may take a while," Chris said as he looked at his right hand. The metal piece he’d pulled off Tanner’s legs had left two jagged cuts on the palm of his hand. He was amazed that they didn’t hurt but realized they probably did but paled in comparison to the constant agony in his side.

"Go slow, Pard," Tanner told him.

"D...don’t have m...much choice," Chris told him as he cautiously gained his feet. Keeping his eyes away from the grisly site of the pilot’s body he made his way to the front of the plane. He felt around under the seat until he found a small white kit marked with a red cross. He was about to turn away when his eyes fell on a flare gun. He pulled it loose and slowly made his way back to his friend.

Vin heard him returning and tried to hide the pain he knew was evident on his face. "Did you find it?" he asked.

"Yeah. Found a flare gun too," he said as he looked at the awkward angle of his friend’s ankle. "Looks like you’ve broken your ankle, Cowboy. Think you can stand it if I tried to set it."

"Think so," Vin said. The throbbing pain grew worse as the numbed foot began to come to life. "Got anything to use as splints?" he asked.

"There’s a couple of good sized branches I can use. Just try not to move, Ok?"

"Just do it," Vin grated out.

"On three," Chris said as he gripped the ankle in his hands. He ignored the pain of his own wrist as he counted. "One," he felt Vin’s fight to relax his trembling body. "Two," the tension in his friend’s body doubled in expectation. "THREE," he heard the scream of pain from his friend and realized his own scream had been nearly as loud. He felt the perspiration rolling down his face and was glad when he saw the younger man had succumbed to unconsciousness. He awkwardly set Vin’s ankle and sat back against the mangled body of the plane.

Chris felt a burning sensation in his side as sweat ran down his body and into the open wound. He reached for the first aid kit and fumbled it open. He grabbed a pressure bandage and ripped it from its protective covering. With shaking hands, he placed the bandage tightly against his side and used the tape to hold it in place. He looked at his damaged wrist and wondered what he could do with it. There was no way he could set it himself and Vin Tanner could not see to help him. He checked the first aid kit and found a bottle of extra strength aspirin. There were only twenty four tablets and he put them aside for later use. Breathing slowly against the pain, he closed his eyes and joined his friend in the pain free world of unconsciousness.

+ + + + + + +

"What do you mean they never made it?" Orrin Travis asked the terrified man on the other end of the line.

"The plane went down somewhere north of Cooke City. That’s all I can tell you right now, Sir," James Lock repeated.

"Have you sent out search parties?" Travis asked.

"Yes, Sir, search and rescue teams have been scouring the area since the weather cleared. We have two choppers searching the area where they pinpointed the mayday call. Unfortunately there’s not much to go on. We have over two hundred square miles of unexplored wilderness to search. A small plane will be hard to spot in the dense forest.," Lock explained.

"I have a charter flight out of here in two hours. There’ll be six of us coming. Make arrangements for all of us to connect with the rescue operations."

"Certainly, Mr. Travis, we can use all the help we can get. I’ll have a team sent to the airport in Cooke City to pick you and your team up."

Travis slammed the phone into its cradle and faced the hostile glares from Larabee’s team. "That was James Lock head of search and rescue operations in Cooke City."

"Did they find them?" Buck asked worriedly.

"Nothing yet. They’ve only been searching since the weather cleared. You guys grab your gear and let’s get to the airport," Travis ordered and reached into his closet to grab a fully stocked suitcase. Larabee had insisted that each man keep a suitcase packed and ready to go in case of an emergency. Five minutes later six worried men were on their way to the airport.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner opened his eyes to darkness. He wondered why he couldn’t see the sky and then reality hit with a bang as he remembered he couldn’t see. Pain flowed through his body as he tried to sit up. He reached out his hand and felt the body lying next to him. "Chris," he called as nausea invaded his senses. His only answer was a moan as the injured man reacted to his touch. Vin realized that he’d touched the man’s damaged side.

"Sorry, Cowboy," he said softly.

Vin knew Chris hadn’t told him the true extent of his own injuries and he took advantage of his friend's unconscious state to feel around. With deft fingers, he found the bandage covering the injury to Larabee’s side and knew they were in trouble. The wound must have continued to ooze blood and the bandage was now soaked.

Tanner cursed his blindness in the wake of his friend's injury and set his mind to finding the first aid kit Chris had found. His leg throbbed unmercifully as he forced his body to move. Finally his hands came to rest on the tiny square box. Vin felt around until he found another bandage and pulled it from the package. His hands shook as he pulled the blood soaked one from Chris’s side and he pressed firmly with the new one.

Chris felt the new pain as if he’d been stabbed. He tried to pull away from the hands that held him but was too weak to do so. He gasped and forced his eyes to open. He stared into the intense blue eyes of his friend.

"Damn that h...hurts, Vin," he said.

"Why didn’t you tell me how bad it was?" Tanner asked angrily.

"Didn’t w...want to worry y...you, Pard," Chris said, smiling until he remembered his friend couldn’t see him.

"You’re a stubborn bull ya know that, Chris," Tanner told him seriously.

"Ta...takes one t...to know o...one," Chris said and was glad to see his friend's face relax.

"We are a lot alike, Larabee," he said. "Can you see if your side's stopped bleeding?" Tanner asked.

Chris groaned as he sat up. "Looks like it’s stopped," he said through tightly clenched teeth.

Vin heard the sharp intake of breath and wondered just how serious Larabee’s condition was. "Chris."

"Yeah, Vin."

"We’re in deep."

"Real deep, Pard. Don’t even know if the mayday got out."

"You in a lot of pain?"

"Not too bad, yet. You?" Chris answered as he felt Vin press a clean bandage to the wound.

"Not too bad."

"Liar," Chris laughed.

"Takes one to know one, Larabee," Vin said and joined his friend in laughter. A few minutes of uncomfortable silence followed as the two men recognized the impact of their circumstances. "That side needs stitches, Cowboy," he said.

"I know," Chris said simply.

"I can’t do it. Can’t see nothin’," Tanner said frustration and anger mingling to make his voice sound harsh.

"I know, Vin," Chris said as he reached his hand out and touched his friend's tensed shoulder.

"Can you do it yourself?" Vin asked.

"I’m no Rambo, Pard," Chris told him.

"Rambo was just a movie, Chris, this is real life. If that wound stays open, you’ll bleed to death before they find us. You have to do it, Cowboy."

"Can’t, Vin. My left hand is useless and my right arm ain’t much use either. Think I cut my elbow and the damn things ceased up on me. I’ll just stay still till Nathan finds us."

"You’re a real sorry cuss you know that, Chris. Why didn’t you tell me about the wrist and the elbow?"

"I did, Pard, but you were in too much pain to hear me. I...I’m sorry, V...Vin, t...think I’ll s...sleep f...for..."

Vin listened as his friend once again lost the fight to stay awake. He reached out and felt for his friend's neck. He found a pulse and breathed a sigh of relief as he felt the steady rhythm.

"Stay with me, Cowboy," he said as he closed his eyes and joined his friend.

+ + + + + + +

"We’ve finished the search of the south and east quadrants from here to here," rescue officer Brian Taylor explained to the newcomers. He knew the missing men were close friends to the men standing next to him and he welcomed their help. His own team leader had explained that these men had special training in all areas of search and rescue and would be an asset instead of a hindrance.

Buck indicated an area marked by dense foliage, "Have you started searching this area?" he asked.

"No, from all indications and the last mayday signal the plane was in the lower mountain area. There’s no way it could be that far north," Taylor told him.

"I’d like to take a chopper and check that area. If there’s one thing I learned in my business, it’s that things are not always as they should be. The plane could have been off course and the signals distorted because of that storm. You did say it was one of the worst storms to hit the area in twenty years or more," Buck told him.

"Mr. Wilmington," Taylor said as he again passed his hands over the charts, "We only have two choppers and we need to concentrate our efforts in this area. There’s no real indication that the plane was off course."

"Brian," Travis interrupted, "Is there any way we can hire a chopper of our own?"

He’d learned to listen to his men and knew Buck was like a dog worrying a bone. The man had instincts when it came to Chris Larabee and Travis did not want to ignore those instincts.

"Not in this city," Taylor told them. "We’re lucky we have two choppers available, cutbacks are a bitch. Look, it’ll take us another three hours to finish the search through the west quadrant. If nothing shows, I’ll let you have one of the choppers to search the North ridge."

"Do they have three hours?" JD asked.

"They’ve been missing for nearly eighteen hours already. It’ll soon be to dark to do anything else today but we’ll be out again as soon as dawn breaks," Taylor explained.

"Can they survive another night?" Nathan voiced what the others were thinking.

"If they’re not injured and can keep warm they should be fine," Taylor said. "I just hope they stay with the plane."

"How come there’s been no indicator signal? Isn’t it law that all planes carry transponders?" Ezra asked.

"It is but it could have been damaged in the crash," Travis answered for Taylor.

"Three hours and you can have a chopper," Taylor said.

"By then it’ll be too dark to do anything," Josiah said. "Is there any way we can convince you to let us have the chopper now?"

Taylor looked at the worried faces of the six men in the tiny, chart-cluttered room. He knew what it was like to lose a friend. His eyes came to rest on the youngest member of the group and he realized there was something more going on with these men. "All right," he said at last. "But you have to take responsibility if you’re wrong."

"We’re not wrong," Buck said confidently.

"How soon will the chopper be here?" Nathan asked.

"I’ll radio it and have it back here in one hour. You guys just make sure you’re ready to go," Taylor said as he hurried from the room.

"You sure about this, Buck?" Travis asked.

"I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life," Buck said as they rolled up the charts to take them along.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his unseeing eyes and tried to remember where he was. He felt something warm next to him and wondered what could be giving off the heat. A moan from beside him brought him slamming back to reality, "Shit!" he cried as he realized the heat emanated from the body of his best friend. "Chris, can you hear me, Cowboy?" he asked as his friend continued to moan softly.

Chris lay in the throes of fever-induced nightmares where the body of the decapitated pilot suddenly became his best friend. Vin’s laughing face was grisly on the body of the dead man and the harsh laughter from the ruined face terrified Chris Larabee.

"No! Please, Vin, no!" he cried and opened his eyes to reality.

"Easy, Chris, I’m here, Pard," Vin told his friend.


"Yeah, it’s me, Cowboy. That must have been some nightmare."

"It was," Chris said as he pulled his body to a sitting position.

Vin heard his friend's movements and reached out to help him up. "How ya feelin’?" he asked worriedly.


"Truth," Vin replied.

"Like shit," Chris told him.

"Is that all?" Vin asked and they both laughed. "You’ve got a fever, Pard," Vin said as the pain filled laughter died down.

"Is that why I feel like I’m burning up?"

"Yep. Is there anything in the kit you can take?"

Chris looked at the tiny bottle of aspirin still held in his hand. "A couple of aspirin," he told his friend.

"Think you’d better take some. Aspirin’s good for fever," Vin told him.

"You need to take a couple yourself, Pard. Your cheeks are a bit flushed."

"I’m fine," Vin told him.

"Tell you what you take two and I’ll take two," Chris told his partner.

"You need them more than I do," Vin told him.

"Vin, give me your hand," Chris said as he struggled to get the bottle open. His left wrist was all but useless and the tears in his right arm made it seem like he was fighting a losing cause. Finally the top popped off the bottle and he poured two tablets in Vin Tanner’s outstretched hand. "Take em," he said and was relieved to see his partner swallow the pills.

"Your turn and don’t try to fool me Larabee. I’ll know if you’ve really taken 'em," Tanner told his stubborn friend.

Chris dry swallowed the two pills and looked around at the encroaching darkness. "Think I’d better find something for a fire and I think I’d better find some water as well," he said as he struggled to shaky legs.

Vin wanted to make his friend sit down but knew he was right. If they were to survive the cold mountain night they’d need a fire. He also knew it was useless to try and stop Chris Larabee.

Chris stumbled around until he found some dry pieces of wood. He made a few trips back and forth to the plane and soon had a fair size pile of wood. He knew there were matches in the first aid kit and wondered if there were any sort of emergency rations in the body of the plane. "I’ll start the fire in a minute, Vin. I’m gonna check the plane for emergency supplies."

"Check for a transponder as well," Vin reminded him.

"I will," Chris said as he made his way back into the cockpit. He felt under the seats until he found a small compartment under the seat Vin had occupied. He found a small box filled with envelopes of dried vegetables and a dozen bottles of mineral water. He also found a tiny box that he recognized as a transponder. He pushed a tiny button and immediately a green light started flashing.

+ + + + + + +

"Commander we have a signal," the excited operator called.

"Where?" Taylor asked.

"Looks like it’s in the north east quadrant."

"They’re alive," Buck said unbelievingly.

"Let’s go," Josiah called as he hurried out to the waiting chopper.

"Looks like your instincts were right, Mr Wilmington," Taylor said as he followed the others to the chopper. Ten minutes later the chopper was airborne with six worried men onboard.

+ + + + + + +

Chris carried the pack back to his friend and sat beside him, "How’d you manage this?" Chris asked as he saw the tiny fire burning beside his friend.

"It wasn’t easy, Pard," Vin told him.

"You never cease to amaze me, Cowboy," Chris said as he pulled the tiny banged up pot from the pack. His left hand throbbed as he forced himself to use it. His right hand burned from the reopened wounds on his palm but he couldn’t let that stop him. They needed nourishment and Vin could not see to do it.

"Did you find the transponder?" Vin asked, forcing himself to ignore his friend's suppressed cries of pain.

"Yep, the light came on as soon as I pushed the button so I’m guessing it’s working," Chris said as he poured some water into the pot. He added the dried vegetables to the mix and set it next to the fire. He then held the bottle to Vin’s lips and waited for his partner to drink from it.

"Your turn," Vin ordered and Chris took a tiny swallow of the precious liquid. His stomach rebelled against the liquid and he fought to get himself under control. He coughed and held his hand to his side as once again he was reminded of the painful injury.


"I’m ok, Vin."

"Sure you are. You coughing up blood?"

Chris wiped his mouth and was relieved to find no blood evident, "No," he said.

"You sure?"

"I wouldn’t lie to you, Tanner, not about that," Chris told him and was soon hit with another bout of coughing. His chest constricted in pain and he fought to stay conscious.

"Chris," Vin said and worriedly reached out to touch his friend.

The coughing finally stopped but Chris felt what little strength he had waning. He listened to his friend's worried voice but couldn’t answer him as the waves of pain washed over his body. Finally the tide ebbed and he was able to answer.

"S...sorry Vin," he said in a weak voice.

"You don’t need to be, Chris," Vin said as he held his friend's trembling body.

"I’m ok now," Chris said as he pulled out of Vin’s arms. He had no idea how long he’d been in the throes of agony but it had been long enough for the tiny pot of vegetables to warm up.

"I’m the one who should be sorry, Chris," Vin said softly.

"For what?" Chris asked as he turned back to his friend.

"For not being able to help," Vin told him.

"Vin, you can’t see and your ankle is broken. Just how were you supposed to help any more than you already have," Chris tried to reassure his friend.

"What about you, Chris? You’ve got a broken wrist, numerous cuts, especially that one in your side yet you’re able to get around."

"I can see what I’m doing, Vin, and I have two healthy legs," Chris said as he poured the liquid broth and vegetables in the two metal cups he’d found tucked into the bottom of the backpack.

"Still hate being helpless," Vin said softly berating himself.

"You’re far from helpless, Pard. There’s not to many people who can start a fire without being able to see. I have something for you to drink," Chris said as he passed Vin the warm liquid.

"Smells good," Vin said as he lifted the cup to his lips.

"There’s more if you want it," Chris told him.

"You drink some as well, Pard."

"I am, Vin," Chris said as he sipped the tiny amount of broth. The soothing liquid burned as it flowed down his throat. His chest constricted painfully and the coughing began again. The cup dropped from his useless hands and he lay back against the side of the plane.

Vin dropped his own cup and forced his body to move towards his friend. He reached out and pulled the trembling man into his arms and waited for the coughing to stop. ‘Pneumonia,’ he thought as he listened to his friend's breathing. Suddenly Chris’s body went limp in his arms and Vin waited to make sure he was still breathing.

Vin shifted until he found a more comfortable spot leaning against the plane. He held his friend, only moving to add fuel to the fire, as darkness that he couldn’t see took over the sky.


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