by Ronnie

January 19, 10:45am
"Just what do you think you're doing?"

Scowling as he completed tying his boot, Vin dropped his foot from the end of the bed and turned to look up at Mary Sue.

"Geez Sue, you must have some rep for yourself, don't even recognize what a man looks like in clothes."

"Very funny Tanner. You know exactly what I'm talking about. What makes you think you're getting out of here today?" Eyebrows arched mischievously, Mary Sue glanced around the room. "By the way, where are your two bloodhounds? I'd have figured Larabee and Wilmington would both be here, personally buttoning your jeans and tying your boots."

"You're just jealous."

"Oh please." Shaking her head as she rolled her eyes, Mary Sue leaned against the windowsill and thrust her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. "Now look... I told you plainly as I could, so even you could understand it. You MIGHT go home today. Might doesn't mean would...doesn't mean will...might means MAYBE. Even you should be able to comprehend that."

"Come on Sue, I wanna go home...I'm ready...feels like I've been in here for years."

"I know...feels like you've been here a long time to me too," Mary Sue responded gently, "but I hear you're running a low grade temp today."

With a shrug of his shoulder, Vin sighed and looked down at the floor.

Sitting on the bed beside Vin, Mary Sue placed a hand on his back and the other on his knee.

"Listen, I know you were too sick to realize it, but you came pretty damn close to buying it this time. I'm not letting you out of here if there's a chance you're gonna end up relapsing as soon as you leave. You know how hard I am to get along with, it will just make me more cranky, and I might have to hurt Larabee if he glares at me one more time.

Letting out a short snort, Vin smiled as he glanced sideways at Mary Sue with raised eyebrows.

"I'll tell you what. This morning's labs actually came back okay. Let me check you out. If everything looks okay, you can go." Pulling an otoscope from her pocket, Mary Sue turned and raised it to Vin's ear. "You know...this would be the time for me to make a crack about being able to see through to the other side, but that would probably go right over your head. Oh...nice manners you got yourself there Tanner...flipping the bird at a lady." Mary Sue scowled as she continued to peer into Vin's ear.

Pulling away, Vin frowned at Mary Sue.

"Oh for God's sake, don't be so gullible. I didn't see your hand. It was just a hunch that you'd be doing that." Mary Sue smiled as she stretched to dispose of the ear tip before placing the otoscope back in her pocket. "Okay, your ears look good. Let me listen to your lungs." Pulling the stethoscope from her neck, Mary Sue placed the tips in her ears and the cold diaphragm under Vin's shirt and on his back. After a few moments of silence, she scowled without looking up. "So help me Tanner, you don't take a breath, and take it now, I swear I'll pronounce you and do the post here and now myself."

"Real nice bedside manner ya got. Now I know why you decided to become a doctor and not a nurse. Y'ain't nice enough ta be a nurse."

"Oh please." Mary Sue blew out an annoyed breath and shook her head. "Drop the St. Vin the Martyr act. You started it." Arms crossed, she walked over to the window and again leaned against it. Pulling a prescription pad from her pocket, she plucked a pen from her ponytail and began writing. "Thank God none of my other patients are as difficult as you," she muttered as she wrote.

+ + + + + + +

Leaning casually against the wall, Buck smiled at Chris when he joined him.

"Hey, where've you been? Expected you to beat me here."

"Got held up downstairs in patient accounts," Chris shook his head, "and then Travis paged. So, what are you doing out here? Isn't he ready to go yet?"

"Getting there. Seaver was going in just as I got here. Sounds like she's giving him some prescriptions now."

+ + + + + + +

"Now listen. You be sure to get this filled." Mary Sue scowled and placed her hands on her hips as she stared at Vin. Sighing, she tore a sheet from the pad and passed it to Vin. "You take one of these big white pills. Twice a day. Every day. Until they're ALL gone. All of them. Do you understand me? Not one pill now and then. Not take them until you don't feel like it anymore. Not take one unless you forget and just don't bother. One pill twice a day until they are ALL gone. Is that clear enough? Do you need me to draw you pictures? Not too many big words for you to understand, were there?"

+ + + + + + +

"Now hold on... she doesn't need to talk to him like he's a moron." Chris huffed and started to enter the room.

"Whoa...take it easy Chris." Smiling easily, Buck placed a restraining hand on Chris's chest. "I've been out here waiting for a little bit. From what I've heard, he's giving as good as he's getting. He don't need you in there fighting his battles, he's doing a damn good job on his own."

Hands on his hips, Chris stood in the doorway, glaring at Mary Sue's unsuspecting back.

"Come on, let's go on in there, before you bore a hole in that poor girl's back." Buck smiled as he prodded Chris forward in to the room.

"Hey there, 'bout ready to blow this joint?" Buck smiled easily as he entered the room. "How ya doin' there? Need any help gettin' those boots tied? Got them jeans buttoned up good?"

Glancing sideways at Buck, Chris's eyebrows raised inquiringly as Mary Sue flushed and looked away.

"So, are you? Ready to go, I mean. I figured, after we stop and get those prescriptions filled, we can swing by the video store, and pick up a few movies before we head out to the ranch."

"Naw, I'm fine. Don't need ta put you out any. You don't mind, you can just drop me off at my place."

Scowling, Chris pursed his lips and looked at Mary Sue as she silently shook her head.

"I do mind. I thought we already had this settled."

Frowning, Vin silently looked up at Chris. The tense silence was broken by the shrill alarm of Mary Sue's beeper.

"Damn, just when it looked like it was getting good," she muttered as she scowled at the device and silenced it. "I've got to go answer that. Listen, you call Roxanne this afternoon, I want to see you in the office next week. Don't force me to do a house call...I will hunt you down."

Grinning slightly, Vin shook his head and sighed.

"Oh, and one more thing before I go...when are you coming home for a visit?"


"Don't 'Sue' me...when? I want to"

"Sue...I can't," Vin whispered.

"Oh, yes you can...and you will. You've been running long enough."

Shaking his head wordlessly, Vin stared at the floor.


"Look, I'll give you some medical release to return to active duty until I get an answer."

"You are a bi..."

"Ah ah ah..." Mary Sue raised her finger and wagged it. "Don't say anything I'll make you regret later."

Standing side by side, Chris and Buck silently witnessed the exchange. Taking a seat on the bed again, Mary Sue put her arm around Vin's shoulder and leaned closer.

"Look, I know there are some hard memories for you there, but you've gotta remember, there are two people there who still love you...always have, always will, no matter what's happened to make you think differently. Tell you what, when you go, I'll take some time off and go'll be okay."

Shrugging his shoulders, Vin sighed and pulled at a loose thread on the seam of his jeans.

"You know Vin, whenever I think about Jimmy...all the good times...they all include you. I sorta consider you a little brother too. Nothing there is ever gonna hurt you again....I won't let it...I promise. Should Mom and Dad have noticed what was going on over there? Probably. But they didn't, and they will never be able to apologize enough to you to make up for it....and that's killing them. Please don't push them away anymore Vin. They love you Vin. Let are worth it. Look around spite of it have so many people who care about you have any idea how lucky you are?"

Taking a deep breath, Vin raised his head, nodded slightly, and stared at Mary Sue.

Giving Vin's shoulder a slight squeeze, Mary Sue stood and smiled. "Good. How about Easter then? There's plenty of room, you can bring your whole entourage for backup. That's a few months away, gives you more than enough time to get back on your feet."

"Yeah...sure...guess so..."

From his spot against the wall, Chris's eyes widened in shock as he watched the doctor raise Vin's chin and lean over to place a kiss on his forehead.

"Okay, I've really gotta go. You behave and take care of yourself. I'll see you next week. I'll call you out at Larabee's in a few days."

"Sue..." Vin protested to the doctor's back as she left the room.

"Tanner, when I call Larabee's house, it better be you that answers."

"That bi..."

"You know, I CAN still hear you..."

Shoulders shaking, Buck tried vainly to conceal his laughter. "Let me see if I can go snag a wheelchair," he chuckled as he left the room.

Alone with Vin, Chris sat beside him on the bed and sighed.


"No Chris...I'm fine...really. No need to be putting you out any."

"Vin, you won't be putting me out. It'd actually be a lot easier for me, not to have to worry about you. Look, you are my friend, I consider you one of my best friends... I hoped you felt the same way too. Where I come from, friendship runs two ways. You need a hand now, and I'm here to offer it--- just like I know when I need your help, you'll be there."

Letting out a long breath, Vin stared at his feet and nodded his head.

"But there's one thing we need to set straight. I know right now it seems like everyone's picking on you, but this has been bugging me for a few weeks , and we need to clear this up."

Raising his head quickly, Vin stared at Chris.

"I want your word...that next time...and I guarantee, there WILL be a next time, I say, or do anything, anything at all that hurts you, or bothers you in any way...I want your word, you'll tell me."

After a few moments of silence, Chris cleared his throat.

"Vin...I mean it. Like Buck says, sometimes I think the sun shines outta my ass, and I know I've got a temper. If I say or do something that pisses you off, you gotta tell me. I'll try not to do it again. I won't get mad and stop being friends with you---but I can't pussy foot around, always wondering if I've hurt your feelings. Hell, that's no friendship, that was my first girlfriend in junior high. I want your word that you'll respect yourself to make sure I remember to give you the respect you deserve. Can you give me that?"

"Yeah...I guess...I'll try..."

"Well, that's a start."

Locking forearms, the two men smiled at each other. Interrupted by Buck's return with a wheelchair, Chris gathered Vin's belongings as Buck helped him in to the wheelchair.

+ + + + + + +

"Whew...didn't think we were ever gonna get outta there." Chris smiled as he slammed the truck door and buckled his seatbelt. Turning the ignition, Chris grinned and adjusted the defrosters. It had taken over twenty minutes to actually reach the hospital lobby after they had left Vin's room, as they encountered hospital staff wishing Vin well.

"Didn't know you had such a fan club, Tanner."

"Me neither." Pulling his ball cap off his head, Vin brushed his hair back and placed it back on as he slouched down on the seat.

"That Alan fellow, from physical therapy, looked like he was about to cry over your leaving..anything you want to tell me?" Chris smiled as Vin flushed and muttered a hoarse no.

Pulling out in to traffic, Chris glanced at Vin and smiled as the young Texan looked out the side window. It felt good to have Vin riding shotgun again.

"Hey Chris?"


"I uh..never thanked you...for everything."

"Don't worry about was nothing. I'm not just behind you Vin...I'm beside you...every step of the way."

Smiling easily, Vin turned to Chris and nodded his head as the truck headed to the Larabee ranch.

"Vin...did you ever meet someone...and just know...that for the rest of your life...they'd be a part of your life?"

April 13, 2:00pm

Opening the window, Buck rested his elbow on the door and closed his eyes as he leaned back in his seat. Inhaling deeply, he smiled and let out a satisfied sigh. "Aaahh..."

"Oh...good lord....what is that foul odor? Put you window up Mr. Wilmington."

"That there's fresh air Ezra."

"Yes... and only you could think that driving through a cow pasture is invigorating." Ezra grumbled and shook his head as he stared out the window.

"Hey! Would you look at that!" JD exclaimed, leaning over Ezra to look out the window. "Some of the cows are standing, and some are lying down."

"How utterly fascinating. Oddly enough, my guidebook never mentioned the possibility of seeing this phenomenon."

"No Ezra," JD replied, ignoring the sarcasm in Ezra's voice, "cows lying down means it's gonna rain...or is that standing up?" Frowning, JD stroked his chin as he slouched down in his seat. "Hey, Vin," nudging Vin in the side to get his attention, JD continued, "what's it mean when a cow is lying down?"

"Reckon she's tired and wants ta rest a spell."

Glancing up in the rear view mirror, Chris smiled at the Texan seated in the far rear corner of the van.

"JD, just how many cows did you have running around Boston, forecasting the weather?" Nathan smiled, glancing over his shoulder.

"We didn't have any. But one of my mom's sisters, she lived out in the country." Smiling wistfully, JD snorted softly and shook his head. "Well, that's what my mom called it, what did I know? She had a slab ranch, they called them campanelli's, on barely a quarter acre in Whitman."

"Toll House Cookie Whitman?" Vin asked.

"Honestly, Vin...just how did you manage to get through twelve years of schooling and a tour of duty in the military, as an army ranger, no less, with a knowledge of geography limited to your favorite foods?"

"Ain't no different from you knowing where all the casinos are," Vin grumbled good-naturedly.

"WELL ANYWAY..." JD continued, "whenever we'd go down to visit her, Mom would always stop at this ice cream place... Peaceful Meadows...they made ice cream there, and they had all kindsa cows...but now I can't remember what she used to say about them standing and lying."

"Well JD," Josiah smiled, "don't forget these are Texas beef...they may consider ice cream and weather folklore beneath their stature."

"Yeah, I guess so," JD shrugged. Sitting straighter, he glanced out the windows again. "Hey, we almost there yet?"

"JD," Buck scowled and turned around to face the the rear, " so help me, don't make me come back've asked that same question every ten minutes for the last hour and a half."

"Buck, turn back around. Grab me the directions. Are we almost there?" Chris held his hand out without taking his eyes from the road. Taking the brightly lettered paper Buck passed him, he frowned as he glanced at it. "What's this?"

"I had JD run up the directions on MapQuest before we left. Figured, after we left the airport and car rental place, we'd need more than the 'down the road apiece' and 'just beyond' directions Seaver gave ya."

+ + + + + + +

Pulling up in front of the sprawling white ranch, Chris stopped the van and sighed. "Well Vin, here we are." Chris glanced over his shoulder and waited for a response. Staring wide-eyed at the house, Vin nodded wordlessly.

Opening his door, Chris climbed from the van with a groan as the others opened the side doors and awkwardly climbed out of the vehicle.

"Vin, this is nice country," Chris nodded as he glanced speculatively around. Eyes narrowing, he scowled and realized Vin was not standing on this same side with the others. Turning, he looked through the van's windows and saw Vin standing on the opposite side, with his back to the van. Chris sighed and shook his head at the sight of the younger man standing in the middle of the road staring at a gray shingled house.

Awww, Vin

Fear and anger knotted inside Vin as the color drained from his face and his heart began hammering wildly in his chest. Nervously, he bit his bottom lip and closed his eyes. With a shiver of vivid recollection, another round of unwelcome memories flooded back.

You little bastard....I'm gonna teach stupid little shit....little bastard....I'm gonna kill you......little bastard.......little bastard......little bastard.....

A truck horn blared in the distance and sheer black terror swept through him when he opened his eyes and saw the pickup truck headed straight for him. Paralyzed by fear, he gasped. Panting in terror, he stared wide-eyed at the truck.


Without warning, a hand closed over his shoulder and startled him.

"'s okay."

Nostrils flaring as he struggled to control his breathing, Vin turned his head to look at Chris.


Brows furrowed, Vin blinked slowly and swallowed. Looking back down the road, he dragged his hand through his hair and frowned. There was no horn blaring. There was no truck, there hadn't been.

Chris's hand, strong, firm, protective, squeezed the back of his neck.

"It's okay Vin," he said with quiet emphasis. "Anyone or anything that tries to hurt you here, is gonna have to go through me first."

Glancing again at the gray shingled house, Vin nodded slightly.


Feeling Vin involuntarily stiffen, Chris frowned in the direction of the voice. A tall, blonde woman stood on the walkway of the ranch house. With her hands on her hips, and chin raised slightly as she scowled back at him, Chris decided that this had to be a senior version of Mary Sue Seaver.

"You heard me boy. Now get that scrawny behind of yours over here so I can get a better look at you. Sue told me how sick you were."

Taking a deep breath, Vin squared his shoulders and walked around the van. Head down, he stared at the hard packed dirt while keeping a white-knuckled grip on his duffle bag. Standing protectively behind Vin, Chris scowled at the waiting woman. Standing to the side, Buck and the others watched silently as the two patiently waited for a response from the young man between them.

Dropping her hands from her hips, Claire Seaver stretched her arms forward, palms raised.

"Vin...honey," she said gently and nodded.

Dropping the duffle bag to the ground, Vin raised his head and remained absolutely motionless for a moment. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he slowly walked forward, stopping in front of her, his head again lowered.

Deciding this was no time to stand and stare, Claire reached out and caught his hand in hers. Smiling sadly, she placed her other hand on his cheek. "So handsome," she whispered. Moving her hand from his cheek to his jawbone, her fingers traced a path to his chin and stopped. Gently lifting his chin, tears welled within her eyes and she swallowed a lump in her throat. Sighing, she again smiled sadly, tears blinding her eyes and choking her voice.

"Welcome home, Vin."

Pulling the young man before into an embrace, she closed her eyes and smiled as he tentatively returned the gesture.

Buck swallowed hard, and bit back his own tears as a single, hot tear rolled down Vin's cheek.

"Buck, are you crying?" JD whispered as he nudged Buck.

" I'm not...just the damn dust from this dirt road," Buck muttered as he sniffed.

After a few moments, Rob Seaver interrupted and took his own turn welcoming Vin back in to their lives.

Wiping her cheeks, Claire Seaver took a deep breath and smiled. "You must be Mr. Larabee."

"Please, call me Chris."

Nodding, she smiled slightly and glanced back at Vin with her husband.

"Thank you for bringing our boy home. It's nice to finally put a face to the voice, what with all the time we've spent on the phone the last few months."

"Well, I can't thank you enough for all your help. I really appreciate you and your husband letting me have Vin's parents brought here, to your family's grave plots."

"Now where else would they belong? Vin's family after all."

"I guess now we'll just have to wait and see if he feels up to visiting them."

"If he's still the boy I remember, he will." Turning back to Vin, she smiled again. "Now Vin....don't just stand there. Where's your manners boy? Introduce us to your friends."

+ + + + + + +

"Y'okay Vin?" Chris walked forward and stopped at the split rail fence Vin was perched upon. Passing the younger man a mug of coffee, he leaned forward and rested his elbows on the fence rail.

"Reckon so." Vin sighed and stared down into the mug before again raising his head and staring at the gray shingled house across the road.

"You didn't sleep too well last night."

"Neither'd you, if you noticed."

Shaking his head, Chris smiled and cleared his throat. Taking a sip of coffee, he climbed over the fence to sit beside Vin.

Scowling, Vin sighed. "Don't look near as big as I remembered."

"Demons from the past have a way of doing that."

"Ever tell ya 'bout my first car? It was a Mustang. An old red Mustang." Vin's faint smile held a touch of sadness. "First thing of my own I ever really owned. God.....I loved that old car.....thought I'd keep it forever. But it was old, and needed work when I got it. I needed something dependable ta get ta work. After a while, I couldn't keep up with the repairs....."

"That's quite an analogy ya got for yourself there Vin, but I don't know," Chris shook his head and took a sip of coffee. "I've never quite thought of you as a classic car that's outrun its usefulness. Since we're talking cars... you know that old car I got out in the barn?"

"The black Trans-Am?"

"Yep." Chris nodded his head. "Well, that was my first car. I loved that car, Sarah did too...used to joke that the only reason she first went out with me, was because of the car. When Sarah got pregnant, she got sensible. Said we needed to get a dependable, sensible vehicle. By that time, my old car had been through a lot of wear and tear, but I kicked up a fuss, and got my way. We ended up turning her Malibu in for a mini van. And don't look at me that way, someday, when you've got a wedding band cutting off your circulation, you'll understand. Salesman said it was just the thing for a growing family. Well, one frigid, snowy night in February, Sarah decided she was in labor. She was as calm as could be, and I was running in circles trying to find my keys. So, we bundled up and headed for the hospital...and wouldn't you know it....that son-of-a-bitch died right out there in the middle of the road. we were a couple miles from the ranch, and no warning, shiny, brand new mini van was dead in the middle of the road. So, I high tailed it back to the ranch. I don't know what made me do it, but instead of heading for the truck, I went for my car. I hadn't started it in weeks, but that baby turned right over, purring like a kitten. Got us to the hospital on time, and Adam was born that night. That car's never let me down Vin. Even with all the work and money I've put in to it over the years, it's never let me down when I needed it. I can't imagine not ever owning it." Chris sighed and shook his head. "You know Vin, you can sit here and stare at that house all day long, but nothing and no one in that house is ever gonna hurt you again...I promise you that. One of these days, I'll hope you'll believe and trust that. Until then, I'll be here, every day...reminding you. I'm not behind you, I'm right here beside you, every step of the way. All this time, instead of telling you how proud I am to call you a friend, like it's some kind of privilege for you, I should've been saying how grateful I am you consider me one of yours."

Staring down at the mug of coffee in his hands, Vin let out a long breath and swallowed.

"You got no control over where you're from Vin...none of us do...but you are the only one responsible for the man you've become. That house," Chris nodded at the house across the road, "does not define you. Never has...never will. You have to stop letting those four walls put walls between you and everyone else."

"I know, it's just..." Vin nodded, his voice a barely audible whisper.

"I know....I know it's hard for you...but I keep telling you Vin....there's pretty much not anything you could say or do that's gonna drive me off...I consider you a friend for life, not an to think you feel the same way too."

Eyebrows raised, Chris glanced sideways at Vin and waited patiently until the young Texan nodded in agreement.

"Now what do you say we get our backsides off this fence and get back inside before Buck eats all of breakfast? Rob and Claire mentioned we could saddle up a couple of horses so you could show me around this place. Horse people, soon as I heard that, I knew I'd like them...."

Casting a backward glance over his shoulder, Vin stopped and again looked across the road and shuddered.

"Vin, you gotta lighten your load." Chris spoke gently as he clasped Vin's shoulder. "All those memories you've been toting around and holding back, you gotta let 'em go. Believe me, I know better than anyone how much the past can hurt, but you gotta stop running sometime. It's time for you to dig your heels in, face it, and move on. If there's anyone who can do it, it's you."

Shrugging his shoulders, Vin let out a soft snort.

"Now, that being said...Vin you just say the word, and we're outta here. I mean it. You want to get outta here, I'll load that van back up and head right on back to Denver."

"I know," Vin cast a sideways glance at Chris and smiled slightly as he nodded his head, "thanks."

+ + + + + + +

Easter Sunday dawned clear and bright as the sun reflected off the dew on the grass. Clutching a small bouquet of wild flowers, Vin stood before a granite gravestone as the small American flag beside it fluttered gently in the breeze. Silently, he stared at the names of a mother he barely remembered, and a father he never knew. Standing between Chris and Buck, Vin's shoulders slumped and he sighed. Despite the presence of the entire team, as well as Mary Sue and her parents, he felt an overwhelming loneliness.

"Would you like me to say a prayer, Vin?" Josiah asked gently.

"I guess," Vin shrugged.

At the completion of the prayer, Buck glanced at Chris, eyebrows raised and cocked his head.

Shrugging his shoulders, Chris stole a glance at Vin, not knowing what to do next.

Scowling, Buck shook his head. Throwing an arm across Vin's shoulder, Buck gave it a firm squeeze and cleared his throat. With a deep, clear voice, he began to sing.

"Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River..."

"Life is old there, older than the trees..." Vin sniffed, and joined in, his voice a barely audible whisper as Buck was soon joined by the rest to complete the song.

Dragging his hand under his nose, Vin chewed his bottom lip, glanced at Buck, and nodded.

"Listen matter what...don't you ever were are loved." Releasing Vin's shoulder, he stepped away as the younger man took a few steps forward before lowering himself to his knees. Glancing around, he noted that Chris had stepped away from the others.

"John Denver songs at a graveside, Buck?"

"Yeah, well...figured had ta do something, that prayer didn't help him none...I remembered he said once that his momma used to sing that song to him."

"Well, that song seems to have helped him a lot more than I did staring at him."

"Chris, come on, look at all you've done for him....and he knows it too. You never did say, just how did you get this all done?"

"Called in a lot of favors. Promised a lot of heads would roll when I let it be known how much the system screwed up on one boy. You'd be surprised how agreeable they all got."

"Hmm...and the stone? I ain't no stonemason, Chris, but even I know that's a fresh gravestone....that had ta set ya back a few bucks...."

"Yeah, well...I just thought it was the ri.....what? what are you looking at?"

"Over there. Didn't you just see that?" Buck whispered.

Squinting, Chris stared over at the trees Buck had indicated.

"What? Oh...." Shivering slightly, Chris recognized the young woman in the white dress as the sunlight gleamed off her hair.

Swallowing, he glanced over at Vin. The younger man had not moved. He still knelt at his parents grave. Mary Sue and her parents were placing flowers at Jimmy's grave. JD was standing protectively behind Vin. Ezra, Nathan, and Josiah were involved in a quiet conversation. Frowning, he looked again at Buck before wiping his eyes and staring back over at the trees.


"Yeah....I see...." Buck whispered.

Standing under the trees, the young woman was now with a young man in a military dress uniform. Cocking her head, she smiled slightly at the man at her side and gave a nod before they both turned and walked away, hand in hand.

"You two okay?" Josiah frowned as he joined the two men. "Being in a graveyard upsetting you Chris? You two look like you've seen a ghost."

"No. no we're fine...." Chris folded his arms and took a deep breath. "I just hope we did the right thing, coming here this weekend. We practically brow beat him to get him here."

"I know it's been hard for him, but I think it's been good for him, Chris." Josiah insisted.

"I don't know Josiah. I've sat beside Vin at many a stakeout, and I'm telling you, I've never seen the terror I saw in his eyes like I saw the other day."

"He's been carrying a lot of hurt for a long time, Chris."

"I know that. What I'm saying is, I don't think one hometown reunion is gonna fix it...maybe we shouldn't have pushed him. He wasn't a walking basket case, he was managing."

"That's all he was doing Chris....managing," Buck added. "Everyone deserves to have a place. Someplace where they know they belong. He lost that for a long time. But he's getting there. He knows he belongs with us. He can be at peace knowing he still has a place here. You helped give him back that, Chris....he knows it....and so do they." Jerking his head, Buck indicated the trees.

Standing slowly, Vin turned and walked toward Chris. Raising his head, he sighed, and smiled slightly.

"Thanks, Chris."

Reaching out, the two men locked forearms.

"Anytime Vin, anyplace."


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