Power Play

by Silverwolf

Alternate Universe

For Larabee’s PoohBear

Rating: PG-13: Contact Sport! and mild cussing.

Disclaimer: The characters of the Magnificent Seven are the property of someone else - unfortunately not me. Likewise for the cast of "Emergency" - but I am allowed to borrow them right? So long as I return them how I found them?

Feedback: Yes, please!

"The Firm" universe belongs to myself and PoohBear and it is open to anyone who would like to write in it - just contact us first, either at muffco@xtra.co.nz or poohbear-29@home.com

"Yes!" Cheered Vin Tanner and JD Dunne in unison as they ‘high-fived’ each other in support of their team’s victory.

"See, Buck, we told you that our team would win," an elated JD continued, the expression of pure joy firmly etched on his face.

Vin walked over to where Ezra Standish was still seated and stood in front of him, blocking his view of the St Louis team leaving the arena. "Yeah, y’shoulda known better than t’bet against the Av’s. But seein’ as ya’ll did, me and JD will be takin’ our winnin’s."

"Every dawg has its day, Mister Tanner," Ezra replied, mimicking the Texan’s accent. He pulled his wallet out of his breast pocket and opened it, stopping half way through the action when Vin jumped back a bit. With a bewildered expression he looked up at the blue-eyed sniper and ex-fighter pilot. "Is something amiss, Mister Tanner?"

"Nah, just standin’ back a bit so them moths y’got in yer wallet don’t attack me when they fly out."

The ringing of Chris’ cellphone interrupted the post-game celebrations and commiserations.

"Larabee." Chris answered in a brusque manner, hoping that the call wasn’t for another one of ‘The Firms’ simple assignments.

The rest of the team tried not to listen in as Chris answered in one worded sentences and instead focused their attention on Moushka and Ryker, Vin’s two Alaskan Malamutes who stretched lazily as they picked themselves up off the floor.

"Come ‘ere, Moushka," Vin called and patted the side of his left leg.

Obediently the big dog walked to its owner and waited for the next command. Not wanting to be left out Ryker followed suit and waited at Vin’s right hand.

"Y’hungry?" Vin asked both the dogs.

"Do those dogs ever stop eating?" Josiah Sanchez asked, shuddering at the thought of what the food bill for both the dogs was each week.

"They earn their keep," Vin smiled in return and led the dogs out to the deck while JD got their food.

Vin’s profound statement was quite true – the malamutes did earn their keep. A few weeks ago they had alerted Vin to a couple of horse thieves who had been trying to take his prize brood mare. By the time the local Sheriff’s department had despatched two officers to Vin’s ranch, Moushka and Ryker had the incompetent thieves bailed up against the corral fence – eyeing them up as though they were a snack. Not only were the dogs fiercely protective of Vin they were wonderful companions for him.

The rest of the specialized unit listened to each of Chris’ yeah’s, uh huh’s occasionally interspersed with one syllable words and finally a "I’ll make sure that they are there."

"What do you make of it?" Buck Wilmington asked.

Nathan Jackson shrugged his shoulders and held his hands out, palms face-up. "Not sure, but he didn’t sound too upset about anything. Think his main concern is that we are all going to show up somewhere."

"In that case it sounds promising," grinned Josiah as he headed out to Vin’s kitchen to start the evening meal. He pulled back the lid on a dish that Buck had brought and tentatively sniffed at it. "This thing safe enough to eat?"

"Course it’s safe enough to eat – I made it." Buck defended.

"Oh," Sanchez gulped and pushed the dish aside.

"Damn, I thought it was one of JD’s science experiments gone wrong," chuckled Vin, giving both the men a fright from his silent approach.

"Would you cut that out!" Buck growled, annoyed at having been crept up on. "Where’s the kid?" he added when he didn’t see JD. "Moushka and Ryker didn’t eat him did they?"

"Eat who?" Chris Larabee asked as he entered the kitchen, finding everyone but JD in it. "Where’s JD?"

"Accordin’ t’Buck, he’s been eaten by the dogs." Vin interned.

When JD finally did make an appearance he explained that he had been to visit the two horses that Vin was boarding until the owner could make the trip from Los Angeles to collect them.

Over dinner Chris revealed what the phone conversation had been about. He was greeted by a variety of responses from ‘cool’ through to ‘what’s the limit on medical expenses for this’, with the Southerner’s objectionable reply thrown in for good measure.

"Well the short answer is this, Travis has agreed to this ‘project’ and expects full participation." Larabee reasoned and looked at each man seated around the large wooden table. "What’s to be afraid of? There are no terrorists, no bomb threats, no guns, or bad guys to worry about – so what’s left?"

"The opposition?" Vin asked as he cleared his throat.

Chris shook his head and chuckled lightly. "Well okay, they might have one or two big players."

"Cowboy, them one or two big players you are talkin’ about, would they be the ones on the bench or on the ice?" Vin asked recalling a previous encounter with the ‘Vipers’.

"The game is to raise money for charity and set for next Saturday. You are all expected to be there." Larabee stated. "And I mean all of you," he added forestalling the objection he knew would come from Ezra.

"What time next Saturday?" Vin asked, reaching for his diary.

"6 PM. Why? You got plans cowboy?" Chris asked, raising an eyebrow as he spoke.

"Sort of… the guy that owns the two horses I’m boardin’ will be here next Friday to pick ‘em up. He was gonna stay here and bring some of his friends he works with here, t’make a weekend of it."

"Do any of them play hockey?" Ezra asked, a hopeful expression to his voice.

Vin slapped Ezra on the back and shook his head. "‘Fraid not, but their pretty good at patchin’ folk up."

"Good. Bring them along to the game," motioned Nathan. "How many are you expecting?"

"Five, maybe six."


For some Saturday couldn’t arrive soon enough while for other members of Travis’ team it came too fast.

Chris Larabee had arrived at Vin’s ranch just after six a.m. not surprised to see Vin and Johnny already up and looking over the small remuda of horses.

With the profits earned from his days as a bounty hunter, after leaving the service, Vin had purchased a small ranch that was in need of some repairs and had decided to fulfill his dream of breeding cutting horses. He’d started with a small block of land consisting of twenty acres and had gradually added to it as he could afford to and has amassed a land size of just over seventy acres, encompassing several acres of native forest, a lake and a small cabin.

His interest in breeding horses was also shared by Chris Larabee, who like Vin had his own moderately sized ranch where he also raised quality horses.

Having been introduced to Vin’s guests the previous night, Chris walked up to the corral and greeted each man in turn. "Vin, Johnny. Nice morning."

"Sure is, cowboy. Y’set for the game tonight?"

"Sure am. Oh, hey, I forgot to give this to you last night," said Chris and handed the team jersey to Vin. "Travis’ idea, not mine," the older man added before his best friend could object. "And he does expect them to be worn."

Vin looked at the jersey and shrugged. "Don’t worry me none. Colours are okay." The jersey was predominantly white with black writing and sported an upside down horseshoe with the number seven centred in it. "Saves my own getting’ wrecked." Vin smiled and flung the jersey over his shoulder.

"The rest of your crew not up yet Johnny?" Larabee asked and looked towards the house.

"Give ‘em another hour or so and there should be some signs of life. Reckon they’re taking advantage of being able to sleep in, been a busy few weeks with all the fires we’ve been dealing with."

"You two up for some coffee?" Vin asked, giving Peso one last pat.

"Who’s making it?" Chris asked with a smile.

While the three men sat on the deck enjoying their coffee, noises indicating movement within the house could be heard.

"Sounds like they’re up," sighed Johnny as he savored the strong coffee that Vin had made. "Coffee’s on the bench if you want it." He called out to his friends.

"Junior, did you make this coffee?" A voice called out.



Both Johnny and Vin answered simultaneously and then looked at each other.

"Sorry, Bucklin calls me ‘junior’ a lot," explained Vin. "You ain’t met him yet, but when he calls out junior y’can answer him."

"Which one of you made the coffee? I heard a yes and a no. Coffee tastes like Johnny made it," the sandy-haired man said, trying to stifle a yawn.

"I made the coffee, Roy. And I reckon ya did hear a yes ‘n a no." Vin said and continued to clear up the confusion.

Roy DeSoto caught the nod of confirmation that Chris Larabee gave him and thought of the reaction that Vin’s friend Buck would get when Gage answered him. "Well, Jun… Johnny looks like this Montana weather is everything it’s cracked up to be."

Johnny took another mouthful of coffee and looked out across the dew-covered fields. "Yeah, it is. I haven’t been back here in a while. Not since my dad passed on. Sure is a nice place you’ve got here, Vin. Better than that shack you had in Texas."

"Hell, anythin’ is better than that place. Then again all we needed was somewhere t’bed down at night – me ‘n that big old bad-tempered, ball bustin’ sonofabitch horse ALF," Vin laughed at the memories of the times that he and Gage had spent repairing every fence rail the ill tempered horse had broken.

"Alf?" Larabee asked and wondered if the horse had acquired the name the same way the CAG’s (Commander of the Air Group) nephew had.

Vin’s eyes mirrored the amusement he felt. "Yup, the one and the same."

"Hey, whatever did happen to ‘ALF’? Did you sell him?" Gage asked, handing his empty cup to Roy indicating that he’d like a refill.

"He died a couple a years back," Vin’s voice lowered a little as he recalled the animal’s passing. "But Peso is one if his offspring. He’s a good horse, got a few more manners than Alf had. I said he had a few manners, Larabee." Tanner defended when he heard Chris’ barely audible grunt.

"So how did you two hook up?" Chris asked.

"Rodeo, women and a bar fight." Gage answered.

"What woman would be so desperate to go out with you?" Chet Kelly asked, finally making an appearance.

"One slightly less desperate than the one you’re taking out," countered Johnny.

As the morning wore on Chris garnered a little more knowledge about his best friend. Vin at times was rather reluctant to share much about himself and it was only encounters with friends from his past that any information was forthcoming.

He liked each of Johnny’s friends, although he found Chet’s constant ribbing of the younger man a little hard to take. When Gage did have a comeback for one of Kelly’s comments, Chris would give him a small smile.

Chris had learned that the team that made up ‘A Shift’ of Station 51 were as close as his own specially formed team.

Reluctantly Chris knew that time was starting to get away on them and tapped Vin on his shoulder. "C’mon, cowboy, I told the rest of the guys that we’d have a practice session before the game tonight. Sorry to cut this short guys."

"Y’wanna come down ‘n watch? Maybe play a game?" Vin asked.

A chorus of yes’s was met followed by Hank’s assurance that they would clean up the breakfast dishes and meet Larabee’s team at the arena.


Larabee’s team had been practicing for thirty minutes by the time the others arrived.

They watched as Vin and JD got through the defense of Josiah and Buck only to have JD’s shot at goal stopped by Larabee’s skilled play. The next time round Vin and JD used the same play, fooling Buck and Josiah who thought that they would try and alternate play. Getting through the defense had been slightly easier this time, Chris was faced with two attacking players and no back up. He could almost hear the small laugh that Vin was giving him.

Vin passed the puck to JD and skated around the back of the net, feigning escape from Buck’s massive form bearing down on him.

With Buck distracted JD made his play in front of the net. Chris watched as JD moved his stick back and forth covering the puck, keeping it guarded from Josiah. He raised his head to look up at the goal and slapped the puck to the left-hand corner, just out of Chris’ reach.

The timing could not have been better – a move that JD and Vin had practiced countless times when they played in the league.

Sweeping around the far side of the goal, Vin turned on his skates and with a reverse shot nailed the puck into the top right hand corner of the net.

Unable to stop himself from going to the left to stop JD’s shot, Chris never had time to recover to intercept the scoring goal delivered by Tanner. From his position on the ice he could only look in wonder as the two youngest players congratulated each other on a well executed play.

"Just remember to do that in the game tonight," marveled Chris.

They practiced a series of moves for another ten minutes before inviting Johnny’s team to join them on the ice.

With more than a few spills taken Chet and Mike Stoker were relieved to be able to give up their positions on the team and watched from the seats while a short game ensued. When Larabee’s team was up six nil, Hank decided to call it quits and preserve what dignity that his team had left.

"Okay, boys," Larabee said as he removed his helmet and gloves, "we meet back here this afternoon no later than four-thirty, and Ezra, try and be on time."

"When have I ever been late for anything?" Ezra asked in a wounded tone.

"Chris’ birthday celebration." Vin said.

"Turning up to work on time." Josiah added.

Before JD could get his response past his lips, Ezra raised his hands in surrender. "So there may have been one or two times." He looked at the bemused expressions on each the team members’ faces and changed what he’d said. "Maybe more than a couple, but I will be here on time this afternoon."

Chris shook his head and grinned. "Just make sure you’re all on time."

As it turned out, Ezra was the first to arrive back at the arena later that day and patiently waited for the others to arrive. He didn’t have to wait long when Vin and JD walked in together closely followed by some members of the opposing team.

"So, Tanner, where’s the rest of your team? Not men enough to face us huh," taunted Tank Morgan. He pulled his shoulders back making his chest rise, in a cocky display of arrogance.

Tanner shook off the insult and stepped around the massive form before him. "Settle down, Morgan, it’s not the Stanley Cup play offs, it is only a charity game, nothing more." He stopped walking when he felt Morgan’s hand clamp down on his right shoulder in a vice-like grip. "Morgan what’s your problem?"

"You are," Morgan replied, his voice low and deadly. "So you’d best keep outta my way on the ice." He spun on his right heel and rammed his left shoulder into Tanner causing him to fall awkwardly.

"Vin?" called JD, picking his fallen friend up off the floor. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I’m fine," Vin replied trying to shrug off Morgan’s unprovoked attack. He cradled his right hand close to his body and flexed the fingers when neither JD nor Ezra was watching.

"What would Mister Morgan’s problem be?" questioned Ezra as they walked towards their designated dressing area.

Vin shrugged his shoulders and looked back in the direction Morgan had gone. "He’s always had an attitude problem. Just forget it."

In the dressing room Vin sat facing his locker and pulled the door open to block JD and Ezra’s view. Certain that no one could see him he looked down at his rapidly swelling hand. "Damn!" he quietly cursed and winced as he tried to move his fingers.

"Let me have a look." A voice from behind Vin said.

"Johnny," breathed Vin in relief. "I thoguht for a moment you was Larabee."

"Yeah, well lucky for you I’m not." Gage shook his head as he took Vin’s right hand in his own and palpitated it. "Could be broken," he finally said when Vin flinched at his wrist being touched. "Should get it x-rayed, cowboy."

"After the game," replied Vin, annoyance registering in his voice. He saw the look on Johnny’s face and rubbed his left hand across his own. "Think you can wrap it or something just to get me through the game?"

"I shouldn’t, but I will," sympathized Gage. "Where’s the first aid kit kept?"

The stadium was filled near to capacity when game time finally approached. Spectators who seemed equally divided in their support greeted both teams. The crowd knew a few of the players but the rest were nameless faces.

Chris’ team took the ice with Vin, JD and Ezra as the forwards, Buck and Josiah

as the defenders and Chris in the position of goalkeeper. Nathan had opted to be the team’s medic if needed with help from Johnny and Roy, while Hank Stanley and Marco Lopez donned the extra uniforms as reserves for the team.

The game started with Vin and Morgan facing off on centre ice. What followed was a fast and furious battle for possession and domination of the puck. JD Dunne was sent sprawling to the ice after a body-check which resulted in one of the opposing players being sent to the penalty bench for two minutes.

The ‘Sevens’ took advantage of their counterparts being a player short and capitalized on it by scoring the first goal of the game. Vin and JD played the same move that they had used in practice, drawing Tank Morgan and Mike ‘Hammer’ Jones away from the goalmouth.

After Vin had scored the first goal Morgan charged him and drove him into the boards. Tanner never heard the penalty call that followed, instead tried in vain to keep the noise that reverberated in his head down to a dull roar. The pain in his right hand flared driving spikes of fire into every part of his arm. Righting himself against the boards he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply until he felt the agony subside.

"You alright to continue?" one of the officials asked.

Tanner nodded his head and picked up his stick that had fallen to his feet. "Yeah, I’m fine," he finally answered trying not to only convince the referee but also himself.

Taking Vin’s word that he was okay, the referee ordered Morgan to the penalty box.

JD skated over to where Vin was, checking for his own benefit that his friend was able to continue. Before he could ask, Vin skated forward ready to continue play.

If the spectators thought that they had witnessed some fast play what followed left them gasping in their seats. The Vipers were once again at full strength and deliberately worked at weakening the ‘Sevens’ front line. The end of the second period was drawing to a close when all hell broke loose for Larabee’s team.

Ezra Standish was the first to fall to the brute force of the Vipers. His pass had gone deep into the Vipers end zone when he was knocked from his feet when he was tripped. Unable to bear any pressure on his right leg he was escorted from the ice.

He looked at his replacement and wished him luck as Johnny and Nathan attended to him.

"Thanks, I think I’ll need it," Marco Lopez grinned as he took the ice and positioned himself next to JD.

Buck and Josiah worked hard at keeping the Vipers from scoring and were assisted by JD who managed to get himself between the goal and the puck. He never saw what hit him let alone the puck. Sprawled on the ice between the net and the boards he was unaware of the hands that lifted him onto his feet.

"JD how many fingers do you see?" Nathan asked as he held two fingers in front of the young man.

"Hmmmmm lotsa people, whatta they doing here?" JD asked, his head tilted to one side, a drunken expression plastered on his face, while blood streamed from his nose.

"He’s out of it, Chris," Nathan said in answer to Chris’ look of concern. "I’ll get him off the ice and clean him up. Want me to send Hank on?" he asked and looked over to the team bench.

"Yeah and tell Chet and Mike to be ready just in case we need them. Take care of the kid." Chris returned to his position in front of the goal and glared angrily at Morgan and Jones. The two players from the Vipers team had been body checking and cross checking with monotonous regularity throughout the game yet managed to do it in such a way it was not deemed as a serious penalty.

The end of the second period drew to a close with the scores locked at two each. Vin was ready to take a make the next shot at goal number three when Morgan and Jones came at him from either side. Reading the situation and looking ahead, Tanner skated backwards and avoided what would have been a painful collision. Instead he laughed as the two teams members crashed into each other and slid across the ice on their bellies like seals.

With no one in his way he slapped the puck high into the back of the net just before the buzzer sounded ending what was a vicious second period. Cheers of adulation ascended as the ‘Sevens’ made their way off the ice.


Johnny Gage approached Vin and checked the bandaging on his hand. "When are you going to tell Chris?" he asked, intimating the damaged hand.

"Not yet," Vin winced when Gage gently touched his fingers and wrist. "We’ve only got one more period left to go. It can wait till then."

Larabee had seen Vin and Gage talking to each other in what appeared to be hushed tones and caught the occasional glance that came his way. ‘Damn you cowboy, you’re hurt and you didn’t tell me.’ He blew out a pent up breath and waited for Vin to join the rest of the team.

"Marco, you’re swapping with me," Larabee said at the end of the second period rest break. "Buck and Josiah will cover the goal to help you out."

Lopez nodded in agreement and accepted the padding and full-face mask that Chris gave him. "Madre de Dios," he said and looked heavenwards. His nervousness showed as his breathing became quick and laboured.

"Don’t worry about a thing," Wilmington smiled in effort to assure the new goalkeeper.

"Vin, move to centre, Hank you take left and I’ll go right." Larabee informed the team. "C’mon lets do this."

As they moved back to the ice, Larabee pulled Vin aside. "How bad?" he asked and looked at Vin’s right hand.

"Not sure, but not bad enough to stop playing."

"You’ll let me know if it gets any worse?"

"Yup. You’ll be second to know," Tanner smiled sheepishly.


"Yeah, I’m figurin’ on bein’ the first. C’mon, cowboy, we gotta game to win."

At the start of the third period Larabee’s team took the ice in their new positions and faced off against the Vipers. Third period began with the same ferocity with which the second period had ended.

While the ‘Sevens’ advanced into scoring position the Vipers played as they had been instructed – hard, fast and punishing. Their targets were the forwards.

Hank Stanley felt a stick slash him across the back of his legs, sending him forward as the ice floor raced up to meet him. Signaling to the referee that he was okay to play on the referee called for a five-minute penalty against Carl Jacques.

The referee never saw the smile of satisfaction that danced on Morgan’s lips or the look that he cast Tanner indicating that he would be next.

A man short and a goal down, Morgan’s team played like the fires of hell was lapping at their feet. For the full five minutes of power play they circled the opposition as if they were hunting for a kill.

Vin found himself separated from the front line and being forced into the boards when Larabee’s tall frame intercepted the move. "No!" he cried as he watched the scene before him slowly unfold.

Morgan slammed Chris high into the boards with his powerful body check. Unable to stop the forward momentum, Larabee’s head smashed into the glass. For a moment it looked like he was able to keep his feet from going under him. Gravity won out as Larabee fell to the ice.

Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto looked on from where they were seated with the rest of the Seven’s team and waited for Larabee to move.

Vin dropped his stick and skated to Chris’ side and dropped to his knees. Undoing the chinstrap on the helmet he noticed the blood streaming from a gash above his left eye. "Chris?" he urged, trying to get his best friend and brother to open his eyes. When no response was offered, Vin raised his head and searched for Nathan. The team EMT was no where to be found. It was then that Vin remembered Nathan had escorted JD to the first aid room to attend to his bloodied nose.

Vin caught sight of the two paramedics from California rising to their feet. "Johnny! Roy! I need some help here – Chris ain’t movin’!"


Tanner glared at Morgan, but held his temper somehow. Chris needed his help, not for Tanner to violently display his frustrations. A feeling of bitter resentment well within Vin – caught between wanting to met out some of his own ‘justice’ to Morgan who epitomized bad sportsmanship and Chris Larabee who had intervened as his protector once again. "The game’s not finished yet, Morgan," Tanner growled his eyes growing as cold as the tone of his voice.

Morgan skated to stop in front of Vin, dropped to one knee and whispered in his ear. "Will be as soon as you’re back on the ice, Tanner." He gave Vin a smirk and mouthed to him that he didn’t have long to wait.

Ignoring the taunts, Vin was more concerned with Chris and pleased to see Johnny and Roy on the ice beside him. "How is he?" Vin asked after the two paramedics had assessed his best friend.

"A concussion and he’s gonna need some stitches on the top of his ear where it clipped the boards," Johnny answered and prepared Larabee to get him on the stretcher. "How’s your hand?" he quickly asked seeing Vin wince when his hand made contact with Chris’ shoulder.

"It’ll be okay, nothing that a pain killer won’t take care of after the game." Vin winked at Johnny and watched as Larabee was taken to the medical room.

"Stoker," Hank Stanley called, "you’re on." Out of the two remaining men on the bench Stoker was the logical choice. Although unsteady on his feet he was considerably better than Chet who seemed to spend more time keeping himself upright with the aid of his stick rather than skating.

Once again the ‘Sevens’ repositioned themselves with Buck coming forward and Stoker going on defense.

Buck could tell that Vin was unsettled and pulled him off to one side. "Eight minutes to go, Vin. Hold it together until then. After that I don’t care what you do to that arrogant sonofabitch, hell I’ll even hold him down for you."

Vin gave Buck a wry smile and took his position ready to face off against Morgan. A passionate hatred of Tank Morgan slowly but inexorably tightened its grip on Tanner. He wished that they were anywhere but here on the ice and in front of a packed stadium. He paused for a moment and inhaled slowly. His eyes narrowed a hot wrath blazed from them.

Tank Morgan unconsciously moved back a pace before the suppressed fury that he read in Tanner’s look.

With lightning speed Tanner’s stick met the puck as it was dropped to the ice. He deflected it back to Buck and skated to the far right side of the ice, ready to pick up Buck’s pass.

The next few minutes seemed to pass in a blur of fast paced action with several unsuccessful attempts being made at each goal. Marco spent more time on his knees than standing, stopping the puck time after time.

Three minutes to go and the game was stopped once more. Morgan and Jones had caught Tanner unguarded and maneuvered him into the boards. Trapped between two players Vin tried to turn the right side of his body away from the unforgiving boards.

A smile flickered over Morgan’s face he leaned in close and elbowed Vin in his side. A sadistic laugh played on Morgan’s lips as he heard Vin gasp in pain when his right hand hit the wooded sides.

"Minor penalty, number twenty-three, Morgan, elbowing." The referee informed the officials.

"You’re lucky it wasn’t more, Tanner," the penalized Vipers play sneered and took his seat on the penalty bench.

Tanner ignored the offers of help given by Josiah and Buck and instead resumed the game. During Morgan’s absence the ‘Sevens’ managed to score again with a shot at goal rewarded in Mike Stoker’s favour, just as Morgan’s time in the penalty box was up.

"Damn! Those two minutes up already?" Josiah asked when he saw Morgan make his way out to centre ice.

Buck looked up at Josiah’s comment and instinctively moved in front of Vin. "Hold up, pard." Buck jerked his head in Morgan’s direction.

Understanding what Buck meant, Vin stayed behind Buck and Josiah. Slowly the seconds ticked down until the final whistle went. The crowd cheered and whistled at the ‘Sevens’ victory much to the annoyance of the ‘Vipers’.

Morgan skated to where the ‘Sevens’ were leaving the ice and turned in a hard stop. "What’s the matter, Tex? Had to hide behind your big brothers for the rest of the game."

"Leave it be, Morgan and go back and play in the little leagues," Josiah said and ushered Vin off the ice.

"C’mon, Tank, it ain’t worth it. Not here," Jones added and pulled on Morgan’s sleeve to stop him following Tanner.

"Best listen t’what you’re bein’ told, this ain’t the place t’settle anything." Vin pushed passed and sighed heavily. "C’mon, Buck, Josiah, I wanna go ‘n check on Chris." He gave Morgan a final look and shook his head. "It’ll be my pleasure t’take ya down. There’ll be a day and a place, best watch your ‘six’," he smiled and tilted his head slightly. "Whaddya reckon, Buck, Josiah… feel like kickin’ some unlisted butt?"

"Hoo-yah," replied the two bigger men and slapped each others raised hands.

"Haven’t done that in a long time," Josiah said and flashed a wide smile.

Morgan’s face paled noticeably at the challenge that was issued. "Y-y-y-you all in the army or something?"

"Somethin’ like that," replied Vin. "You’re not backin’ out of a fight are ya?"

"Look, man, I’m sorry, you know for everything that happened out there," Morgan stammered and pointed to the rink. "I didn’t mean anything by it." He was backpedaling fast, no longer wanting to take on the men he had been intimidating. "You know me Vin, my ego gets in the way at times."

Vin nodded his head and grunted. "Yeah, I know ya. Y’isn’t nothin’ but a coward. Next time ya start somethin’ ya make sure you can finish it." He waited for Morgan and Jones to leave before turning back to his team members. "Get me outta here ‘fore I pass out," Vin shuddered, no longer able to fight the pain in his arm.


The waiting room at Billings General Hospital was packed with concerned friends as they waited for news on both Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner. Forty minutes later Vin was escorted back to the waiting room by Dr. Stacy Midland.

"Returned, a little sore and gift wrapped," Stacy said indicating to the cast on Vin’s arm, "one Texan tumbleweed otherwise known as Vin ‘it wasn’t my fault’ Tanner. One of you want to be responsible for him?" When no one volunteered their services, she smiled and added, "the drugs he was given will make him easier to handle."

Immediately she was set upon by the men gathered in the room as they laughed at Vin’s expense.

"C’mon, cowboy, we’ll take you up to see Chris and JD as soon as Stace says it’s okay," cajoled Josiah.

"I think Doctor Lewis is back from Chris and JD’s room so I’ll go and check for you. Back in a few minutes."

True to her word she returned with news that Chris and JD were resting comfortably and were able to have visitors for a few minutes if they were quiet.

"Hey, Nate," Buck greeted their missing team member. "How are they?"

"JD’s got a broken nose and took a good knock to the head but should be able to go home tomorrow some time," said Nathan and then turned his attention to Chris. "He’s been awake a couple of times seems to be coming out of it. They’ll keep him in an extra day just to make sure everything’s okay."

"That’s good news," Ezra smiled and looked at Vin. "Is something wrong Mister Tanner?"

"It’s my fault that he’s here," Tanner said dejectedly and sat down heavily on the chair next to Larabee’s bed. "It was my fight not his."

"As far as Mister Larabee is concerned every fight is his fight if one of us are involved." Ezra stated and rested a hand on Vin’s left shoulder.

"You better believe it, cowboy." A voice from the bed called.

"Chris," Vin said in relief, "how are you feelin’?"

Chris didn’t answer straight away; instead he looked at the white cling that supported Vin’s right arm. "Thought you said I’d be the second to know," he grinned.

"Yeah, well there were a few others who jumped in line and took your place. Before y’ask broken wrist ‘n four weeks stuck in this cast." Vin answered a little disheartened at the prospect of spending the next four weeks with his arm in a cast.

Buck moved to the other side of the room when he heard JD start to stir. "Couldn’t be left out of the party huh?"

"Nope, wanted to find out what the final score was."

"Yeah, what was the final score?" Larabee asked, seconding JD’s request.

Four – two to us," Josiah smiled. "But we couldn’t have done it without the help of Hank’s squad. Any time you boys want to come back and play again you let us know."

"Josiah, thanks for the offer, but I think we’ll pass." Hank smiled. "Well I think we’ll leave you boys in peace and go and find a nice hot tub to ease these old bones. Goodnight."

"You heading back to Vin’s?" Chris asked.

Roy spoke up, stifling a yawn. "Yeah, we’ve got a long trip back tomorrow. It was nice meeting you all."

"It was nice to meet you all too, next time we’ll find something a little less strenuous for you to do." Chris shook Roy’s proffered hand and added, "mind taking him back to his ranch, looks like he’s about ready to crash."

Vin stood to leave and clasped Larabee’s arm. "Thanks, for everything," he quietly said before leaving.

"No worries, cowboy. I’ll see you in the morning."


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