Lessons Learnt the Hard Way

by Hombre

Main character: Vin, JD

Notes: Not sure if anyone else has written on a similar topic. Yeah, I know I should read more! Anyway if anyone has, hope mine is not too alike. I know I say that every time. The fic is mostly dialogue and not much description for some reason, hope you don't mind. There seem to be inconsistencies in the information I have gleaned on this topic so I have gone with the details I found on www.mothernature.com. Apologies Vin, your turn again, my boy but then you have been let off recently, haven't you?

Vin drove into the yard and parked his jeep outside the ranch house. He wandered through to the kitchen and sat down silently at the table opposite Chris. The blond smiled in welcome but the smile faded when Vin remained unusually silent, not even saying hello.

"Vin? You okay?" Chris asked in concern as he studied the man's face carefully.

The sharpshooter shrugged and stayed silent as he wiggled his fingers nervously and began fidgeting.

Chris moved his eyes and watched his friend's restless digits for a while before transferring his gaze back to Vin's face. He frowned and then urged, "Cowboy? Tell me what's wrong. Are ya sick?"

Vin didn't answer straightaway but looked out the window and Chris thought he seemed ashamed. After a while the sharpshooter lowered his gaze back to where his hands were folded on top of the table.

"I think I've been sleepwalkin'," he finally admitted quietly.

Chris moved seats so he was now next to his friend. "Tell me why you think that," he instructed as he reached out a hand and rubbed Vin's back reassuringly.

Vin shrugged again but to Chris it almost seemed like an embarrassed squirm. "Twice recently I'm sure I've gone to bed but one time I woke up on the couch and the other time I was actually sitting in the jeep. Dressed, shaved, everythin'. Just don't recall how I got there, Chris."

"Have a word with Nathan. He can probably help," Chris advised. "You've never sleepwalked before?"

"Not that I remember. Coulda done I s'pose and gotten back into bed so I wouldn't have known, would I? Anyway, it's really unsettled me so I went to the library last week and looked it up in one of those medical dictionaries. My computer ain't working and I felt I needed to find out somethin' about what's been happening to me and why. It said you don't usually remember if you've been sleepwalking anyway but I don't know how else to explain what's been happening."

"Maybe you're one of the unusual ones who does occasionally remember. Look, why don't you stay with me tonight if yer feelin' bad? JD's staying too so you won't be alone. You never know, a change of scene may help and Nate's back tomorrow so we can ask his advice then. Okay?"

"Yeah thanks, Chris. Just don't wanna be on my own and I feel kinda stupid," the long-haired man admitted quietly as he twisted his hair distractedly between the fingers of his left hand.

The blond frowned. "Why would you feel that?"

Vin shrugged once more. "Don't know really. S'pose it's 'cause it's somethin' that's usually laughed at, ain't it? I just can't imagine myself wandering about while I'm asleep. It's weird and I can't help feelin' stupid." Vin sighed as he stopped talking. He couldn't quite put into words exactly how he was feeling.

"You ain't stupid, Vin. You can't help it but I'm sure there ain't nothing to worry about." Chris patted his friend's back before continuing, "JD can sleep on the couch and you can have the spare room so yer near me, okay?"

Chris was pleased but surprised that Vin had confided in him. The man usually tried to sort out his own problems no matter how bad they were. Things must be really worrying Vin for him to seek help.

+ + + + + + +

That night Vin went to bed early after an evening of playing cards and other games. Chris had arranged several activities in an attempt to tire Vin out so that he would sleep. He didn't know whether his strategy was of any use but he had to try something. After the sharpshooter had gone Chris kept JD back and told the youngster about Vin's problem. The blond then sat at his computer and searched the net for as much detail as he could on the condition. He wanted to know what to do if Vin should get up in the night. He found conflicting reports on several aspects but felt a bit happier when he'd finished his investigation.

Chris wandered toward the stairs at mid-night and was just in time to see Vin start coming down them from the top. The blond watched his friend silently, sensing that he was asleep. He waited until Vin reached the bottom and then said very quietly, "Come on, Vin. You should be in bed."

He reached out and took Vin's hand and the sharpshooter turned round without resistance and followed along behind. Chris took him back to his room and sat him on the bed. He put a hand on Vin's calf to move his legs onto the bed but the long-haired man subconsciously knew what was required and swung his legs back onto the mattress. Chris pulled the covers up over his friend and waited until he was sure he was truly asleep. He quietly walked out of the room but left the door slightly ajar and also decided to leave the light on in the hallway. Chris had never encountered a sleepwalker before and he'd been amazed at the confidence with which Vin had moved down the stairs. The blond had imagined the man falling headfirst when negotiating them but he had been as foot-sure as if he'd been fully awake. Although he'd read of the things sleepwalkers were capable of, he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes.

Chris went to his own room and lay in bed listening for any movement from Vin's room. He heard nothing and couldn't help falling asleep after an uninterrupted hour. He hoped that with Vin's sleepwalk done early that would be it for the night, although he knew from his computer search that sufferers could get up several times a night.

Downstairs in the living room a couple of hours later, JD shifted on the couch and woke up. He wandered to the bathroom and then along to the kitchen to get a drink when he realized he was thirsty. He saw Vin standing by the table fully dressed and with his shoulder holster on. The sharpshooter had his back to the youngster and didn't acknowledge JD's presence at all.

"Hey Vin. What ya doin'?" JD asked with a loud yawn as he reached out and slapped Vin's back hard, not checking on the man's conscious state. The kid was still drowsy and had forgotten Chris's warning from the previous evening.

The youngster was unaware that Vin held a gun in his hand and was in the process of moving it back to the holster. At the feel of the blow on his back Vin snapped out of his trance-like state and his finger tightened on the trigger in reaction. JD flinched as he heard a gunshot and watched in horror as Vin fell at his feet with a red patch blossoming on the front of his shirt.

JD jumped back in surprise and gasped with a trembling voice, "Shit! You were asleep, weren't ya? Oh, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ." JD looked round as he heard the sound of pounding feet and Chris finally hurried into the room in pajama pants and bare feet.

The blond dropped to his knees beside the long-haired man and flicked a look up at JD. "How did this happen?"

JD didn't answer. Chris stared hard at him and JD shrugged awkwardly and said, "He musta been asleep. I slapped his back and the gun went off."

"Fucking hell! What the hell were you thinking of? You never ever wake a sleepwalker like that, JD. Hell, it's best to leave them alone period unless they're real distressed. How would you like to be suddenly woken up by being hit? Jesus, you oughta know better than that," Chris shouted angrily as he turned back to treat Vin's stomach wound. The wound was at an angle from ribcage to pelvis although the bullet was actually still in the sharpshooter's body.

"He had his back to me and I forgot what you'd told me earlier. I didn't realize 'cause he looked normal," JD stuttered as he came out in a cold sweat while trying to justify his actions.

"Godammit, they can act perfectly normal, kid. Sleepwalkers don't go round with their arms outstretched and doin' the goose-step like you see in cartoons, JD. They've even been known to do real complicated things while sleepin' and I think Vin's just proved that. What's the point of me telling you something important if you just ignore it? He coulda killed himself. May have," the blond ranted. "You shoulda just guided him back to bed when you found him. Listen to what I tell ya for once in yer life, will ya?" Chris talked as he continued trying to stem the flow of blood from his friend's body. "Do somethin' useful for a change and call an ambulance," he ordered angrily.

JD did as he was told and then left the room silently. Chris looked round irritably and scowled when he saw the kid had gone. "That's it. Run away, kid. That's what yer good at," he yelled furiously.

The blond reached out and picked up the phone and punched in Buck's number with a stabbing finger. When it started ringing he put the phone between his ear and shoulder so he could use both hands to continue helping Vin. He heard the call connect and he started speaking before Buck had even said anything. "Buck? Vin accidentally shot himself. It's a gut wound. Can you meet me at the hospital?"

"Sure. How did it happen?" Buck asked sleepily, knowing that Vin was never careless with firearms. He ran a hand through his hair and then rubbed his left eye with the heel of his hand in an effort to try and wake himself up. He always dreaded night-time phone calls because they always meant bad news. Hell of a way to be woken, he thought to himself.

"I'll explain when I see you," Chris said curtly as he disconnected and put the phone to one side. Vin groaned and Chris put out a restraining hand. "Just lay still, Vin. Yer hurt bad but an ambulance is on its way."

Chris was worried and he felt cold and unsettled. Vin was bleeding badly and the blond hadn't been able to stop the flow completely. The sharpshooter tried to rise and Chris put a hand on his chest and kept him down. Vin turned a pair of confused, blue eyes toward him and frowned deeply as he tried to remember what had happened. He had a raging pain in his stomach but he didn't know what had caused it. The man stared at Chris for quite some time before his eyes rolled back in his head as he passed out when the pain became unbearable.

"Yer best out of it, cowboy," Chris said quietly as he patted his friend's shoulder.

The ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and took the two men to the hospital. Buck was waiting outside the entrance of the medical facility for them with Ezra and Josiah.

"Chris, how did it happen?" the ladies' man asked as soon as they sat in the waiting room.

"Vin stayed overnight 'cause he said he'd been sleepwalkin'. He was scared, I think. Said he even found himself sitting in the jeep one morning, fully clothed and everything but didn't remember how he got there. Anyway, he musta sleepwalked twice last night. First time I found him coming down the stairs so I took him back to bed and hoped that would be it for the night. Second time round though, JD found him in the kitchen and the stupid kid forgot what I told him and slapped Vin's back of all things. Vin musta woken up real startled and disorientated. He had the gun in his hand and it went off when he flinched in reaction to being woken in that way," Chris explained.

Buck suddenly realized that JD wasn't with them. He looked around the room in puzzlement. "Where's JD, Chris?"

The blond shrugged angrily. "Don't know and don't care. He went off and I didn't have time to deal with one of his tantrums or sulks."

"Did you yell at him?" Buck shouted as he stood up with hands on hips and hovered in front of his oldest friend.

"What do you think?" Chris asked challengingly as he stood up to face the ladies' man.

"Shit! God, you've gotta learn to keep yer damned temper in check, pard. One day yer gonna regret lettin' rip and I just hope it ain't today. I'm gonna go look for him back at the ranch," Buck said as he headed to the door.

"Don't you care about Vin? He coulda died 'cause of JD's recklessness," Chris shouted after him.

"'Course I care but JD's feeling bad about what happened too. He wasn't reckless and I can't let him cope with this on his own even if you don't give a shit what he's goin' through."

"Fine. Do whatever the hell ya want," Chris barked furiously as he sat down hard on the chair, making it slide back a few inches from the force.

Buck scowled and walked out, not wanting to rile Chris further. Josiah had watched proceedings anxiously from the sidelines. He didn't like it when Chris let things get to him so bad that he didn't give a damn about anyone else.

"Chris? You okay?" the profiler asked quietly.

"No, I'm fucking not. That's a damned stupid question even for you, Josiah," Chris complained as he stood up again and began his customary prowling.

Josiah tried not to let Chris get to him but the profiler's voice hardened noticeably to make sure that the blond understood that he wasn't going to take any sass from him. "Look, it was the middle of the night, Chris. Would you be firing on all cylinders at that time to act accordingly and remember Vin's condition? Don't damn well tell me you would either 'cause I know it ain't true. Just cut the kid some slack, will ya? We ain't all super-humans like you seem to think you are."

Chris didn't answer but stood in front of the window and stared out. Ten minutes of silence passed by and Chris finally moved and sat beside the profiler and patted his knee lightly with outstretched fingers. The blond then put his head in his hands and sighed loudly. Josiah reached out and rubbed the man's back knowing Chris had just apologized in his own inimitable style.

A doctor eventually came and he sat between the group of men.

"Doc? Is he alright?" Chris asked.

"Should be. It's a nasty wound and did quite a bit of damage. We got the bleeding stopped and he seems well, all things considered. The bullet was lodged in his pelvis but we got it out after a bit of a struggle."

"Can we see him?" Josiah asked.

"He's in Recovery at the moment. Why don't you go home and come back this evening?" the doctor suggested with raised eyebrows.

"No, I'm staying," Chris replied shortly.

The doctor nodded and stood up. "Fine. I'll come get you when he's been moved to ICU."

Josiah stood up too and turned to Chris. "I think I'll go and see if Buck found JD. You coming, Ez?"

The undercover agent shook his head as he indicated Chris with his eyes. "No, I don't think so, Mr. Sanchez. I'm rather concerned about Mr. Tanner so I think I will remain here, if you don't mind enduring my company, Mr. Larabee?"

Chris looked up and smiled gratefully. "Na. Be glad of it, Ez. Thanks."

Josiah nodded and said, "I'll come back later on. We're all concerned about Vin too, you know? Even Buck and JD, Chris."

"I know. If Buck's found the kid, try and persuade him to come with ya later, will ya?" Chris requested.

"Sure I will," Josiah said as he patted Chris's shoulder comfortingly.

+ + + + + + +

Buck drove back fast to the ranch, growling continuously under his breath about Chris's behavior. On arrival, he first checked the house quickly although he knew JD wouldn't be there. Next he headed to the barn and checked if all the equine occupants were present. They were.

"I bet I know where you are, kid," he muttered to himself as he set off with long flowing strides across the yard.

He headed in the direction of the creek and sure enough JD was there. The dark-haired kid always seemed to find water comforting when he was upset. Whether it was the sound of it that appealed to him Buck didn't know but he could always be found near it in times of crisis. The ladies' man stood leaning against a tree and watched the younger man for a while to see how he was acting. The kid was throwing stones in the water angrily and then began trying to skim them on the surface. Buck was glad his body wasn't going to be on the receiving end of the stones. The strength with which JD was hurling the projectiles would have caused major damage to anyone they hit.

The kid finally stopped his activity and stood with hands on hips as he stared across to the other bank. He then raised a hand to his face and wiped his eyes as he bowed his head.

Buck moved out of the shadows and was sure he made a lot of noise as he approached the youngster from behind. JD spun round to meet him and visibly relaxed when he saw it was Buck and not Chris who was stalking toward him.

"Hey, kid. How ya doin'?" Buck asked as he reached his friend.

JD bowed his head again and studied his shoes without speaking so Buck put his arm round the boy's shoulders and pulled him close. JD's body trembled continuously as he tried not to cry again.

"Let it out, kid. No good pretending you ain't hurtin'. Just 'cause yer male don't mean ya can't cry once in a while when things don't go right."

"Shit Buck. I didn't mean for this to happen," the youngster whispered.

"'Course ya didn't. I know that and deep down Chris does too. You were half asleep yerself at the time, I s'pect."

JD grimaced as he thought of the mood the blond had been in. "Is Chris still mad?"

Buck screwed up his mouth. "Mad don't quite cover it, kid. He's monumentally enraged. We had a bit of a set-to at the hospital as well."

JD sighed and looked down at the ground as he wiped a hand round the back of his neck wearily. "Think I'll stay out of his way until he's calmed down. How's Vin?"

"He was still in surgery when I left."

Two big hazel eyes looked up at Buck in anguish before the youngster turned away. "Dammit, is he gonna be alright?"

"Hope so but I really don't know, pard."

"How could I have been so stupid, Buck? Vin looked so natural when I saw him." The kid shrugged. "Don't know what I really expected someone to look like when they're sleepwalkin' though."

"Na, I wouldn't know either, kid."

"Help me, Buck," JD pleaded. "What do I do?"

Buck turned the youngster toward him. "Look, kid. I don't have the answer to every problem and I ain't always gonna be around to stand between you and Chris. You gotta learn to stand on yer own two feet at times like this. I can't make the hurt go away either but let's start the healing process by goin' to the hospital."

"No....no. I can't," JD said as he backed away from Buck apprehensively.

Josiah stepped out into the open from where he'd been listening since he'd arrived. He wandered toward the two men and caught JD's eye when his friends turned toward him.

"Chris asked me to get you to go, JD," the profiler said quietly. "He's feelin' bad about how he treated you, I reckon."

"I can't."

"Come on, kid. You gotta face him some time," Buck cajoled. "If he wants to see ya it's best you go. I'll be there and what's the worst he can do?"

"Kill me?"

"Na, he won't. He's more of a hang 'em up by the balls until they surrender type of a guy. He'll probably yell a bit but you've been yelled at before, ain't ya? Hell, we've all been yelled at," Buck admitted with a shrug and a grimace. "Chris and yelling sorta live side by side. You know that, kid."

"Yeah, I know. I've been yelled at already today and that was enough, Bucklin," JD admitted wryly.

"Come on. He's offering an olive branch. Best not to refuse it so you'd better make an effort and meet him halfway," the ladies' man said persuasively as he started the smaller man walking toward the house.

+ + + + + + +

Back at the hospital, Chris and Ezra were finally allowed to see Vin.

"Would you rather visit our injured comrade alone?" Ezra asked. "After his somnambulistic escapades he may be a trifle upset."

Chris looked at the undercover agent gratefully but shook his head. "No, it's okay, Ez. Be glad if you'd come too. I appreciate that you waited with me. The other rats deserted the sinking ship, didn't they?" Chris put out a hand and pulled Ezra along with him.

"It wasn't that our colleagues didn't want to wait for news of Mr. Tanner. It seems Mr. Dunne was rather distressed at the circumstances he inadvertently created. Bucklin would naturally be concerned for his welfare and rush off to his aid," Ezra said as he ran to try and keep up with the hurrying blond.

"I know but I did have good reason to be riled with him, Ez."

"No doubt but you do rather over-egg the pudding in your reactions sometimes."

Chris stopped dead and turned to face the man he had been nearly dragging along the hallway in his haste to get to Vin. "You saying I acted excessively?" Chris asked with a raised eyebrow and a harsh tone.

"Well......," Ezra said thoughtfully as he stared back at the blond. "Yes, as it happens. Mr. Dunne is a sensitive soul and I'm convinced that he will be chastising himself enough without any help from you. He knows he acted incorrectly and there seems no benefit in anyone else adding to his sorrows. You do sometimes seem to believe that you are the only one with feelings and tend to disregard how others may be suffering. It can be a rather arrogant, heartless and uncaring attitude." Ezra looked at his boss and hoped that he hadn't overstepped the line. He held his breath and waited for Chris's reaction.

Chris remained silent for a while as he studied the man before him. Perhaps Ezra was correct after all. The blond's anger had dissipated and he realized he wasn't actually mad at the undercover agent's words at all. He was now thinking clearly enough to know he acted rashly and not to take offense at being told so. "Yeah, yeah alright, Ez. I did wrong. I hear ya."

Chris sighed and patted Ezra's back as the undercover agent also let out the breath he'd been holding. Chris had never heard Ezra be quite so forthright in his opinions about him before and it had momentarily stopped him in his tracks. Yes, Ezra spoke his mind on a regular basis but never quite so personally about the blond. He guessed he deserved it too.

The black-clad man turned away and entered Vin's room first and took the seat nearest the bed automatically. Ezra smiled and sat in the corner of the room by the window and crossed his legs as he waited for Vin to wake.

The sharpshooter stirred an hour later and let out a loud groan.

Chris was instantly alert and got to his feet rapidly. "Vin?"

"Cowboy? I've gotten a real bad gut ache," the sharpshooter mumbled through clenched teeth as he raised a hand to touch his stomach.

Chris caught it easily and said, "Not surprised, buddy. Just don't touch yer stomach, okay?"

"What happened? I don't remember."

Chris took a deep breath and opened his mouth to answer but was forestalled by Ezra who had spotted someone's arrival. "Mr. Larabee? Perhaps our youngest friend would like to explain how Mr. Tanner ended up in his current predicament instead."

Chris looked to the door and saw JD standing awkwardly on one leg outside. He met the kid's eyes and stared for a minute before beckoning him in.

"Kid?" Vin asked in confusion as he turned to face him.

JD kept his gaze downward and his hands folded in front of him as he began his explanation. "It was my fault. I woke you up while you were sleepwalking. You had a gun in yer hand but I didn't know that until it went off and the bullet hit you in the guts. Chris told me about yer sleepwalkin' but I forgot. I'm sorry, Vin," the kid said haltingly.

Vin stared at the youngest agent and sighed. He could see JD was very upset and looked embarrassed at admitting his guilt in front of everyone.

"You probably did me a favor, kid," Vin said quietly. "Who's to say I wouldn't have shot someone while I was asleep? I read that sleepwalkers can hurt people while they're sleepin'. Better me injured than someone else."

Chris looked at Vin quickly, not understanding how forgiving the man could be. He could see, though, that the sharpshooter felt embarrassed at being the center of attention. Although Vin couldn't control his affliction, Chris knew that Vin felt responsible for what had happened and thought it was his own fault. The blond didn't want to cause any more upset to his friend so he looked back at JD and said, "Well, you've gotten off lightly, kid. You've already had a tongue-lashing from me so let's leave it at that, shall we? Think yerself lucky that Vin weren't killed."

The youngster stood just inside the door and fiddled with the string that controlled the opening and closing of the blinds as he said, "Don't feel lucky. Won't ever feel right about what happened, I reckon. Don't worry, I learnt my lesson good, Chris. Learnt it the hard way but maybe that's how it had to be. I gotta grow up and take responsibility for what I do. I can't hide behind Buck all the time as he pointed out to me earlier. It's just that yer a bit formidable when yer riled and I don't know how to deal with ya. I s'pose I feel like a horse when it's scared, you know, fight or flight. I know I always go for the flight option but I'll try to stay put and not run in the future." JD shrugged as he looked anywhere but at Chris.

Chris looked at him and grimaced as he decided to divulge what had happened between him and Ezra. He thought JD might not feel so bad if he knew Chris'd been reprimanded too. "Well, I've been warned as to my future conduct too, kid."

"Who by?" Buck asked in amazement. It was unheard of that Chris would actually admit to being told off.

Chris grinned. "Ez. He gave it to me straight between the eyes. Both barrels." He then realized what he'd just said. "Sorry Vin that was tactless of me."

Vin smiled and patted Chris's arm before turning his gaze back to Buck.

The ladies' man was still reeling at Ezra's courage in giving Chris a piece of his mind. Especially given the current circumstances and remembering the mood Chris had been in when he'd left. The mustached agent looked the smaller man up and down and even reached out a hand to touch the man's shoulder to make sure he was real. He inhaled a deep breath and said, "Jeez, Ez. That was real brave, pard. You still look in one piece so I assume he didn't retaliate then?"

Ezra smiled, knowing he had been lucky when talking to the blond. He'd seen both Buck and Josiah's attempts at making Chris see the error of his ways but he'd still needed to say his piece too. Third time lucky, he thought to himself, and so it had proved. The undercover agent looked into Buck's eyes and said, "No, he didn't lay a finger on me and he was almost human for a change. I admit, as young Mr. Dunne has just said, that Mr. Larabee is a formidable man when angry and I wouldn't usually be so candid. On this occasion, however, I just felt I needed to alert him to some of his more unfortunate personality traits."

"Yeah and you succeeded in getting yer message across, Ez," Chris admitted wryly as he patted Ezra's back.

Josiah appeared in the doorway at that moment and interrupted the conversation by saying, "Chris? I just called Nate. He's on his way."

"Thanks, Josiah. I'd forgotten to do that."

+ + + + + + +

Half an hour later the medic arrived and hurried along to Vin's room to see how the wounded man was getting on. He found Chris alone with the injured, sleeping sharpshooter because Buck had decided to take JD home to catch up on some sleep. Josiah and Ezra had also left at the same time to go to the office to deal with things there.

Nathan walked over to the bed immediately and looked down at Vin anxiously. "Hey Chris. How's he doin'?"

"In pain obviously." Chris then explained exactly what had happened. "What do you think can have caused him to start sleepwalking? It's more of a childhood thing, ain't it?"

"Yeah but it's certainly not unheard of in adults. Any number of things could be responsible. Sleep deprivation or other sleep disorder, fever, reaction to a new medication, stress or nocturnal epilepsy."

"Epilepsy?" Chris said worriedly.

"Yeah but there's no point jumpin' to conclusions. I'll ask them to do some tests to rule it out if they ain't done 'em already," Nathan replied calmly.

"Is he taking any pills that you know of?" Chris asked.

"No but I know he ain't been sleeping well for a while. I should think that's the most likely explanation but we'll know for sure later."

"What do we do?"

"Well, when we find out the cause we try and solve that and the other problem may go away all by itself. If not, hypnosis works well," Nathan informed the blond.

"Great. Least we can reassure him. He's probably been getting more and more anxious about it and that ain't helped him."

Vin woke as he heard the two men discussing his situation and he turned to look at Chris.

"Hey cowboy. Nate's here," the blond informed his friend.

The medic took a seat beside Vin and talked for quite a long time. When he'd finished, Chris could tell that Vin was much happier.

"Okay Vin?" the blond asked.

"Yeah, I s'pose I just needed a bit of reassurance. Relieved I ain't mad."

"Why would you think you were mad?" Chris asked with a frown as he patted his friend's arm.

"Read that sleepwalking was sometimes down to psychiatric disorders."

"Best not to believe all you read, cowboy. I'm sure that ain't true."

Nathan shook his head. "No, it's an old wives' tale. You ain't got nothing to worry about, Vin. There are things we can do to keep you safe until we've sorted yer problem out."

Vin accepted what he'd been told and moved on to other concerns. "Is JD alright?"

Chris nodded. "Yeah, Buck took him home. He was a bit quiet but then he usually is when he's received a Larabee broadside."

"You weren't too rough on him, were ya?"

Chris squirmed and grimaced while Vin sighed and shook his head.

"Alright, cowboy. I don't need telling off again. Ezra's already done that as you know," Chris said with a wry smile as Vin went back to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

Vin was finally released and he went back to stay with Chris. The man still sleepwalked on occasion and Nathan finally arranged for him to be hypnotized when all else failed.

Vin was nervous and not overly happy about it. "It won't start me off doin' something else instead, will it? Don't like the idea of someone messing with my mind. I might end up like that guy in the film Stir of Echoes."

"No, you'll be fine. Your brain will just be told to make you rest when it is alerted that yer gonna sleepwalk," Nathan replied reassuringly. "You'll have to have a few sessions but after that we'll see what happens."

Vin reluctantly agreed and attended a hypnotist once a week for a month. After his final session was completed he went to bed that evening wondering what would happen during the night. The next morning he met Chris for breakfast and looked at him questioningly.

"Well?" he asked in trepidation.

"You stayed in yer bed all night, cowboy. Looks like it may have worked," Chris smiled.

"Great but you will tell me if I start barking like a dog instead, won't ya? I just keep thinking of those shows where hypnotists make the audience do stupid things. I know the guy I saw was a medical professional but I still worry."

"Well, if I give ya a bone for breakfast you'll know something's gone wrong," Chris smiled as he patted Vin's back.

The End

Comments to: hombre55@hotmail.com