And Then There Was Light

by Ice Bear

Comments: Mog, thank you for bringing the boys into the 21st Century. And to all the authors for sharing their stories.

Disclaimer: Needless-to-say, if I owned them, they would be on every night!

Reviews welcome – this is my first so keep that in mind before pushing the send button

Vin was tired. The last three months had been a jumble of raids, paperwork, stakeouts and more paperwork. He felt empty, and found it hard each morning to get up – a point at least one of his teammates had picked up on since the sharpshooter traditionally was the first one in the office. He wanted to sleep, but more than that he wanted space, and peace – something he knew he had to escape to obtain, but he couldn’t figure out how. They were juggling three cases, which stretched them thin, plus completing work on a major raid. He knew he couldn’t take time now, which only added to his frustration.

It was late Friday afternoon, and he was slowly typing up his notes from the prior night’s stakeout when he realized someone was standing over him.

“Hey cowboy,” his boss said softly after noting the dull look in the normally sparkling blue eyes, “How’s it going?”

“Okay,” was the soft reply as Vin tapped out another word in his report.

“C’mon out to the ranch with me tonight. The horses haven’t been ridden in two weeks, and they need a workout,” Chris said placing his right hand on the tight shoulder. “We could both use a little time away from all this paper,” he finished with a gentle squeeze. He smiled slightly as he felt the shoulder relax. “The guys are coming out Sunday for the game, but otherwise the weekend is ours.”

Vin turned again to face his boss. “That’d be great cowboy,” was the soft response. Chris smiled again, patted him on the shoulder and returned to his office.

“Junior okay?” Buck asked joining his friend in his office.

“Not sure Buck, but he agreed to spend the weekend at the ranch, so maybe I can get him to tell me what is bothering him.”

“That would take a major miracle Chris.” Buck smiled to soften his words. “That wall he hides behind is so tall and so thick I’m not sure even he knows half the time what the problem is.”

Chris sighed as he tiredly rubbed his eyes. “I know Buck, but he needs to tell somebody before it eats him alive.”

“If he’ll tell anybody, it would be you pard,” Buck finished, a hand on his oldest friend’s slumped shoulder.

The ride to the ranch was quiet, but not uncomfortable, Chris decided glancing at his friend. It had been a tough week, and they both were tired so he wasn’t surprised at the silence.

Once at the ranch, they made dinner and ate on the deck, watching the sunset. “Sure is beautiful,” Vin said just above a whisper. “Mother Nature has a way of putting everything into perspective”

“She sure does, cowboy,” Chris said, his smile lost in the growing darkness.

The blonde woke at 8:30 am to the smell of coffee. He showered and made his way slowly to the kitchen, working out the stiffness as he went. ‘Breakfast is in the frig’ the note read ‘meet me at the lake at noon. Bring lunch’

“Damn” Chris swore opening the fridge to find a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, a fruit plate and pancake batter. At 10 a.m. he headed out on Pony. He had to chuckle when he found the horse groomed to the nines. “Guess Vin figured I wouldn’t be too happy with his plan,” he said to the black gelding as he urged him into a ground-eating lope.

He timed his arrival at the lake to noon sharp. As he had ridden in nature’s silence, he realized Vin was simply ensuring they both had some time alone. He started to relax and shook his head, amused that the Texan once again had known just what he needed. As he reached the clearing surrounding the small lake, he saw his friend silhouetted against the clear autumn sky. He stopped for a moment, struck by the beauty of the man, then he dismounted and took care of Pony, glancing occasionally at the still figure. Once he had deposited lunch on the blanket, he walked slowly to the water’s edge. “Hey cowboy,” he called when he was a few yards away. He hesitated half a step, unsure whether to draw closer.

“Glad you’re here Chris, I’m starving," the slim man said, turning to greet his friend with a smile. He stepped up to Chris, put his arm around his shoulders and headed back toward the blanket. Chris was too stunned to speak for a moment. In the year he had known Vin, the younger man had never initiated physical contract. It was only in the last two months that Chris could touch him without Vin flinching, and it was almost comical to watch him try and evade Buck’s bear hugs and Josiah’s bracing back slaps.

“You with me, Chris?” Vin asked for a second time.

“Yeah, let’s eat,” the blond responded with a smile as he sank slowly onto the blanket.

“Find some answers up here cowboy?” Chris asked after they had enjoyed their lunch and were lying on their backs, watching the clouds float lazily by.

“It’s been a year since I met you and the guys. First time I ever really belonged anywhere since I lost my mother. It’s been bothering me lately – felt like I lost something. On the ride up, I finally figured out what it was.” His blue eyes were glued to the sky.

Chris’ green eyes were intent on the slim, still body beside him. “What was it Vin?”

“The urge to run,” he replied after a long pause, before turning to meet the green gaze. “I’ve been running since I was six, always away from something. And over the last year, there were plenty of times I wanted to run…” The two men stared intently at each other.

“But you didn’t,” Chris stated softly as he watched the emotions run through the deep blue eyes before him.

“The last few months, it’s been crazy, but I’ve been so bent on doing my job that it never occurred to me to run. And when I figured that out, I was scared.”

“Vin?” Chris whispered, unsure what to say.

“I’m scared, Chris, that I finally have something – somebody -- worth fighting for, and I don’t know what to do.”

There were tears in the blue eyes, and Chris reached a hand over to gently brush them aside. “Always remember, there are six men who believe in you, who know you are a friend worth fighting for…and you know I would go to Hell and back to keep you with me,” Chris said, barely above a whisper, his green eyes conveying that message and more into the blue ones.

“I know that Chris, I do,” Vin said, a slight smile skittering quickly across his face. He moved a hand to Chris’ shoulder and squeezed in gratitude.

The two men fell asleep, and when Chris woke 40 minutes later, he found himself spooned behind Vin. Grinning to himself with thanks that Buck was not around to witness the event, he started to pull away, but stopped when he felt Vin press closer. He smiled again, slipped an arm around the young man and dozed off. He had to suppress a laugh when he felt Vin pull sharply away.

“You planning on spending the night?” Vin asked as he led the two tacked up horses to the blanket.

Chris grinned up at him. “Nope, just figured you’d do all the work if I lay here long enough.”

Vin laughed, and they headed for home in companionable silence.

After dinner, they watched a basketball game. Just before half time, Chris looked over and realized that Vin was still kneading his left shoulder. “Everything okay cowboy?” he asked, putting his beer bottle on the side table before bringing his recliner upright.

“What?” Vin asked looking up, his eyes startled.

“Your shoulder”

“I…guess it is going to be cold tomorrow – always bothers me when the temperature drops.”

“Old war injury?” Chris asked with a grin.

“You might say that,” Vin’s voice dropped and he looked at the floor. “My third foster father broke my shoulder when I was eight. Guess I wasn’t bringing in the firewood fast enough. When the social worker took me to the hospital, a week later, they had to re-break it so they could set it right.” The voice was soft and lacked all emotion.

Chris sat rooted to his chair, his fists clenching and unclenching, wanting desperately to get his hands on the man that had hurt that small boy. He exhaled slowly. He knew anger wasn’t the answer. “Vin?” he said just above a whisper.

“They didn’t send me back,” Vin said, his dark blue eyes swinging up to look into his friend’s. “One of the nurses made sure of it. She kept making excuses to keep me until they found a new place.” His voice was gentle and soft as he remembered the young brunette who had fought for him. “She was the last person to fight for me…until you. I heard her arguing with the social worker. She wanted me Chris,” the blue eyes begged to be saved. “But they said a single woman couldn’t be a foster mom. She cried when they took me away…guess she saw something in me.” He shook his head slowly in wonder.

“She saw a brave, frightened little boy who needed love and affection. She saw your strength and your courage,” Chris said in the same voice he used on frightened animals. “She saw the Vin Tanner I know.”

The head lowered, the long hair hiding the face. “Never told anyone that before.”

Chris had moved silently to the couch, and he put an arm around the thin shoulders. “You can tell me anything, cowboy, I hope you know that.” He said solemnly as he pulled the younger man to him. They sat quietly for several minutes. Chris waiting for his friend’s heart to stop pounding, before suggesting they heat up the hot tub.

He left to start the water and to have a moment to wipe the tears from his face. He couldn’t get his mind around the fact that anyone would hurt the gentle, kind, loving man he knew Vin to be. And he was depressed by the fact that nothing would ever erase the mental ache of the broken shoulder.

“You coming,” he called ten minutes later as he settled into the soothing water.

Vin joined him, keeping his eyes averted. Once in the warm water he sighed and sank down up to his neck, his long hair flowing gently on top of the water. Chris started telling random stories about Buck. After his third story, which focused on Buck’s harrowing escape from an unhappy husband, he earned a long, hearty laugh, and he sat back with a grin.

They emerged twenty minutes later, and began drying. Chris took an extra towel to Vin for his hair. As he did, he spotted a bullet hole scar on his lower back. He had placed his hand on it before he could stop himself, his rage building. Vin froze at the touch.

“Who,” the blonde demanded, his hand still on the scar.

“Ancient history, cowboy,” Vin said stepping away, only to have the blonde grab his arm and pull him around so they were face to face.

“Rangers,” he said, his eyes, calmly looking into the blonde’s. Chris loosened his hold, the anger being replaced by fear – fear that he would drive this man away. Vin saw the change. “Ancient history cowboy,” he repeated softly catching the green gaze. Chris let go and stepped back.

“Thanks for today, Chris,” Vin said squeezing his arm. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

In his room, Chris hit a speed dial button on the phone. “Buck?”

“Chris! What’s wrong?” he rushed, concerned by the almost panicked tone on the other end of the line.

“My God, Buck…the things he has suffered…”

“He doesn’t have to anymore pard, he has us…he has you,” Buck said softly, his tone implying his implicit understanding.

“Thanks Buck, see you tomorrow,” Chris said and hung up. He slept uneasily for several hours before being awakened suddenly. He sat up trying to retrace what had interrupted his sleep. Then he heard it again and he ran for the guest room. ‘No, no please no.” Vin pleaded as he tossed restlessly about the bed. “No, I’ll be faster, I promise, please, don’t.”

“Vin, easy, it’s alright. You’re safe. C’mon, wake up,” Chris said as he gently cradled the restless body in his arms. “Easy now, it’s okay. Nobody is going to hurt you, I promise,” he said.

“Chris?” The small voice escaped from the middle of the blonde’s chest where his head was hidden.

“That’s right, it’s me. You’re at the ranch…just you and me. Nobody is going to hurt you. You have my word,” Chris continued softly, his left hand gently rubbing the shaking back of the young man in his arms. “You are safe.” He continued to murmer quietly as he felt Vin stop shaking. “You alright?”

The head nodded slowly, still pressed against the blonde’s bare chest. “Ready to go back to bed?”

The head shot up “NO……please.”

“I’ll be right here, you’re safe, I promise,” Chris said sadly, his heart breaking as he saw the small, frightened boy in the blue eyes. “I’ll stay with you.”

Chris moved under the covers and held Vin close, still softly making circles on his back. As he heard the breathing slow, he placed a kiss on the soft hair. At 9 am, Chris woke to find himself alone and sighed deeply. After going back to his own room, showering and getting dressed, he headed for the kitchen.

He found Vin in the kitchen taking a rack of muffins out of the oven. “If you do windows,” Chris said after taking a deep whiff of the fresh baked muffins, “you’re hired.”

A shy smile filtered across the young man’s face. “Figured a bachelor like you eats take out most of the time. Thought a home cooked breakfast would do you some good, and any leftovers we can feed to the guys.”

Chris sat his mug down and headed for the back door. “Chores are done cowboy, thought the horses would like to eat before noon.” Chris couldn’t help but smile back at the grin aimed his way. “ You are spoiling me Vin,” he said as he settled at the table where the paper and fresh squeezed orange juice were waiting.

After breakfast, Vin insisted on cleaning up the kitchen so Chris moved into the den to finish the paper. “What the...Vin!” he bellowed as his eyes roamed the room.

“What is it Chris?” Vin asked, joining him.

“Exactly what time did you get up this morning?” the blonde demanded.

“The usual,” Vin said taking a step back.

“And that would be?”


“I didn’t invite you out here to cook and clean and do the chores you know.” Chris swung his right arm around the room, which had been dusted, the clutter cleared and coasters laid out.

“I know,” Vin said quietly, taking another step away from Chris. “I just thought if we got the lighter chores done, we could maybe fix the corral before the team gets here.” His head was down, and Chris could have kicked himself. He hadn’t meant to scold him.

“Cowboy, it’s great. I really appreciate it, really,” he said as he walked up to his guest. “But I want to make sure you understand that I didn’t invite you out here in order to get my chores done.”

“I know that Chris,” Vin said as he raised his head to face his boss. “It’s just that…I don’t mind helping out…after all you do for me…..I’m sorry," he said finally. The blue eyes held an emotion Chris couldn’t quite figure out. There was a longing he finally decided. Chris put an arm around Vin and pulled him close.

“What do you say we tackle the corral?” It took them almost three hours of back-breaking work. A job Chris would not have been able to do on his own. The sheer strength of the smaller man continued to amaze him, as did the lean muscular figure that glowed in the sun and the sweat as he hefted the 80-pound poles around as though they were two by fours.

Once they had finished, they stepped back to admire their work. "Vin, move out here. Help me start the breeding program I have been talking about for years. We could make a go of it. We could. And when we get too old to play cops and robbers, we would have the ranch. I need a partner Vin, and the two of us, we could make it work.”

The eyes locked. Chris couldn’t read the deep blue but he could feel the waves of emotion rushing through the body facing him.

“It would be my home?”

“Our home.”

“Chris, are you sure?” The blue eyes asked more of the question than the voice.

“I am.”

A smile of delight, the type you see on a child at Christmas, lit both faces as the two arms shot out and locked just below the elbow. They made their way back to the house, discussing local studs and whether they should buy a few two-year-olds to work on over the winter. They were still deep in discussion when the others arrived. It was the usual rowdy time, but both Buck and Ezra noted separately that the two men kept sharing looks whenever they were not together.

Buck followed Chris into the kitchen at half-time. “I don’t know what you did Chris, but it sure worked.”

Chris straightened up from the refrigerator, where he was getting more beer, and turned to face his oldest friend, a broad smile on his face. “He agreed to move out here, help me start a breeding program.”

Buck slapped him across the shoulders. “That’s terrific Chris. The two of you will put this place on the map. I’m happy for ya…Sarah would be so proud.”

“Buck...,” Chris warned, his expression becoming closed.

“She would be Chris. You are finally moving on. She would want you to be happy, and let’s face it – she would have adopted Vin the first time she met him. You two fit, Chris. I can’t explain it, but you two belong together. I’m just glad the two of you finally figured it out. Just take it slow with him. He’s been hurt so many times, he’s not used to being cared for, or having his word count for much. Give him a little space.” Buck said quietly as he wrapped Chris in a bear hug.

“I will Buck, thanks.”

After the game, Chris brought out one more round of beers. “Before you go, Vin and I have some news. Vin has agreed to move out here and help me start that breeding program I am always talking about.”

“To raising the best horses this side of Texas,” Vin said as five faces smiled at the two as they all clinked bottles.

After a long round of good byes, with each teammate needing a few minutes with the two separately, they cleaned up the house and walked out together to check the horses. It was a cold, clear evening and Vin stopped in the middle of the yard, his faced turned toward the star filled sky.

“You know, sailors used the starts to navigate, years before we had all this fancy equipment. When I was a kid, my ma taught me to read the stars. Said everyone needed to know how to find their way home. Took me a lot of years, Chris, but I figure I finally made it. “

“You did Vin, and your ma would be very proud of the man you’ve become. I know I am.” He stole an arm around Vin and they walked together to the barn.