Follows the events of And Then There Was Light
Disclaimer: Not mine maybe in my next life
Comment: If you like Mary you should probably skip this one
A month after Vin had moved out to the ranch with Chris, a raid went bad. A fairly routine event, on which they were backup, turned into a shooting match. Vin took out three men before he was hit in the leg. He managed to knock off one more before he was hit again.
Ten minutes later, the ATF teams had the situation under control. Once he was sure everything was secure, Chris began a head count over the radio, as he moved cautiously around the warehouse. Vin? he called after hearing back from Buck, JD and Josiah. Vin! he shouted as a cold feeling hit him.
Chris up here! Nathan yelled. Get the ambulance, hes been hit, twice.
Buck called for the medical team while Chris ran up the ladder and scrambled up to the catwalk, where the sharpshooter had been stationed. Nathan? the leader demanded as he knelt beside him.
Leg isnt too bad lost a lot of blood, but I dont think it hit the bone. Second shot creased his head. Probably looks worse then it is, but we need to get him out of here, now. Nathans eyes left the patient only long enough to impress upon the team leader the need to move.
Chris laid a hand gently on the cold cheek. You hang in there cowboy. Nate and I will take care of everything.
Three hours later Vin was in surgery, and Chris stood in the OR waiting room staring out the window at the star filled sky. Josiah and Ezra were playing a mindless game of cards while Buck and JD left in search of coffee. Stay with me, cowboy, Chris whispered to the stars. It took you a long time to find your way home. Please, dont get lost now.
Shortly after 10 pm, Chris entered the ICU room and laid his hand on Vins shoulder. Hey cowboy, this is going a bit far to get out of fence patrol, he said, his voice shaking slightly. Cmon Vin I need you, dont leave me, please, he finished just above a whisper, as he leaned close to his partner and ran a hand softly down his cheek.
Sixteen hours later, Buck convinced Chris to go take a shower. He was reading the sports page when a movement from the bed caught his eye. Hey junior, you hear me? He broke into a smile when he saw the cloudy blue eyes blinking. Easy now, youve been in here for almost a day, just lazing in bed, he cooed, putting a protective hand on the chest to keep him from moving. Dont worry, hes taking a shower, Buck continued as the blue eyes fought to stay open while searching the room. Just my luck you decided to wake up with him gone. Lets say we dont tell him. He laughed softly, as he gently ran a wet washcloth across the face.
The others? came out as a hoarse, husky whisper.
Thanks to you, everybody is fine. That was some of the most amazing shooting Ive ever seen. Made me glad youre on my side. Buck smiled again, his warm eyes and gentle laugh easing some of the pain in the blue eyes.
Bucks right. Now if we could just convince you to stop wearing that Bulls Eye.
Chris moved to the other side of the bed. The green eyes were warm as they caught and held the blue. He placed a hand on the injured mans shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. How do you feel?
That would be about right. Get some sleep so we can get you home. He received a brief grin, which made both men smile, before the blue eyes closed.
Buck clamped a hand on Chris shoulder. Go to my place and get some sleep. Ez will be here in an hour. Juniors in good hands, and youll need your rest for his recovery.
Chris nodded his thanks to Buck before bending over the sleeping man. Sleep tight partner. Let the stars guide you home.
Buck arrived home two hours later to a dark house, so he was startled when he flipped on the living room lights and found Chris in the black leather recliner drinking Johnnie Walker out of the bottle. I dont think so Chris, Buck said sternly, yanking the bottle away. Not this time.
Chris grabbed for the bottle but missed. Give it back, he growled, his eyes black.
Why? Buck challenged. So you can drink yourself silly? So I can make up excuses why you arent at work? What do you want me to tell Vin? Chris flinched. What if Ezra calls and says Vin needs you? He was in a lot of pain, Chris. How do I explain that you were so lost in your self-pity that you couldnt be there when he needed you?
I almost lost him Buck, Chris said quietly, his eyes softening with pain.
I know, pard, but you didnt. That boy isnt going anywhere if he has a say in it. Hes worried about you, woke up again after you left and asked if you were mad, Buck replied in a gentler tone.
Chris came awkwardly out of the chair, growling, Why in hell would I be mad?
Beats me. I figure its something you need to ask him. Buck grinned. Upstairs now and into the shower with you. Were relieving Ez at 6.
At 5 a.m. Chris woke Ezra up with a cup of fresh coffee. The two exchanged a nod and the con man left. He walked to the bed and laid his hand gently on Vins upper arm and began stroking it. I know it hurts right now cowboy. Doctor says your brain got a little scrambled in the shuffle. But youre going to be out replacing fence posts with me in no time. The patient woke once, smiled at the blonde and went back to sleep.
Later that day, the patient was moved out of ICU and into a private room. Once the nursing staff had settled him, Chris rejoined him. Why did you ask Buck if I was mad?
Usually you are when I get hurt, was the patients reply.
Not mad...upset, maybe . scared .but never mad. I thought for a minute when you didnt respond to the call, I had lost you. Havent been that scared in a long time cowboy. Chris green eyes were glued to the blue ones, as emotions swirled between the two.
Vin reached out a hand and it was caught and held tightly. I just found my way home, and I dont plan on moving out anytime soon. The voice was filled with emotion, as he squeezed the hand that held his.
The doctors continued to have a hard time controlling Vins pain. The doctor explained to Chris and Nathan that the jarring Vins head sustained from the path of the bullet, was the reason, and that it was not unusual. He was kept fairly heavily medicated and as such conversations for the next two days were vague. Saturday afternoon, Chris was watching a ball game while Vin slept. When his cell phone went off, he answered distractedly. Larabee.
Chris, its Mary. I couldnt reach you at the office.
Chris sighed, What can I do for you?
I need Vins phone number. I need a babysitter for Billy and his number is disconnected, she responded, sounding somewhat put out by this fact.
Vins in the hospital, Chris answered, leaving the bedside to stare out the window.
Oh is that where you are now?
Why dont I bring Billy over, cheer him up, she said eagerly.
Not now, Mary, Chris said, the warning clear in his voice, hes in a lot of pain and heavily medicated. He wouldnt want Billy to see him this way." He was bothered by the conversation after he hung up. And he was still pondering why from the window, when he heard his name. Hey cowboy, how do you feel?
Better, I think when can I go home?.
Doc says 24 hours on normal meds.
The next day, the medication had been lowered, but he was still groggy from the headaches that continued to plague him. Buck was in the chair, reading out loud from the sports page, when there was a knock on the door. Hold on junior.
Mary? Billy? What, what are you doing here?
Chris said Vin was here, and we thought we would cheer him up, Mary said, her eyes, refusing to meet Bucks as she pushed past him into the room. Buck followed, trying to get between the patient and the visitors, but Mary was already at the bedside, and he cringed when she placed her hand on Vins bad leg. Vin, meantime, was trying to sort out who was in his room.
Glad you are awake, Mary started, seemingly unaware of the pain she was inflicting, Billy wanted to check up on you. How much longer are you going to be here? She finished, ignoring Bucks glare. Vin started to shake his head, but the pain stopped him.
Chris entered just in time to see the look of confusion and pain on his partners face.
Mary, Billy. He stood stock still, trying to control his anger. Its nice of you to come, but as I told you yesterday, he isnt up for visitors. How bout I buy you both a soda? Mary beamed at the tall blonde and headed for the door, without even saying goodbye to Vin.
Chris was fuming by the time they reached their destination. He suggested Billy go check out the fish tank before joining Mary at a table. I told you not to come.
I dont see how a brief visit could do any harm, she said reaching for Chris hand.
He pulled back before contact was made. Hes in a lot of pain, and he doesnt need to be upset, Chris growled as he began to lose control of his temper.
I wouldnt have had to come if he paid his phone bill," she challenged, unhappy that the patient was still the center of attention.
He moved, was the brief reply.
Then why didnt he have a message left, or keep the same number? Honestly, for a grown man
Chris cut her off. Hes moved to the ranch.
He moved in with you? The anger in her voice was palatable. The nod she received in response set her off. Why didnt you tell me? she demanded.
I wasnt aware I was under any obligation to discuss my life business or private - with you or anyone else for that matter. His green eyes glittered dangerously. I need to get back upstairs. Ill let you know when he can have visitors. By the time he got back upstairs, his anger was in full gear, so he was unprepared for the angry Buck that greeted him outside the door.
What the hell was that all about? Buck demanded, hands on hips.
I dont know, I told her yesterday not to come. Chris growled back. The Larabee glare aimed at his oldest friend.
She upset him. He didnt want Billy to see him like this. Bucks glare matched his.
Damn it Buck, I told you Chris tongue lashing was interrupted by a small voice from behind the door.
You two want to keep it down out there. Theres a sick guy in here trying to sleep.
The two large men entered the room. The sheepish look on both faces brought a smile to the patient.
After Vin went to back sleep, the two friends sat watching a ball game. Mary was furious when I told her about Vin moving in, Chris said quietly, after glancing at the bed.
Never did figure out what claim that woman thought she had on you. Buck responded.
Two days later, Vin lay in his own bed, staring at the ceiling. He was so tired from the ride that all he wanted was to sleep. The team was coming over, and he wanted to be awake, at least to say hello his thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the phone.
Chris came in a few minutes later with a can of ginger ale. Everything okay? Vin was watching his friends left fist as it clenched tightly.
Mary called. She wanted to come out tonight. Got mad when I said no, Chris said, sitting on the bed.
I dont want to come between you and Mary, Vin replied very softly.
You arent Cowboy. I promise. Chris saw the look of momentary loss in the blue eyes. There has never been anything there. She just keeps pushing it. If it werent for Billy, Id tell her to back off.
Vin was up two days later with the help of a cane, when Mary came to the door. Hi, he said quietly, backing up slightly to ward off Billys rush to greet him.
We came to see Chris, Mary stated haughtily.
Hes not here. Vin replied, backing away without thinking.
Well hes not at the office.
And hes not here. Vin restated.
Then why dont you take Billy to look at the horses, while I leave him a note.
Sorry, Im confined to the house for three more days. He stood with a hand on Billys shoulder.
Fine, just fine. Then tell Chris to call me when he gets back, she spat out.
Chris smiled, four hours later, when he found Vin curled up on the couch asleep. He tapped him gently on the cheek. Prince Charming is home and would like his supper. The blue eyes blinked twice before staying open. Whats wrong? Chris was worried by the look of hurt and defeat in those blue eyes. You feel alright?
Mary was here. She wants you to call her. She was really angry, Chris. She wanted me to take Billy to the barn, while she wrote a note. When I told her I couldnt, she got really mad. I dont know what I did
Chris cringed at the hurt in the blue eyes. She has no right to be angry. She never said she was coming. I wouldnt worry about it cowboy. You know how women are! Let me get us both a beer and then I have some video I want you to see. I saw a couple of great colts today.
They looked at film on four colts, and Vin was enthralled by a gray two-year-old, just as Chris had been. He called to cinch the deal while Vin made dinner. Just as they were finishing the dishes, the phone rang. Chris turned from the sink when he heard Vins voice. The blue eyes failed to meet his as he handed him the phone and limped awkwardly out of the room.
Yes he told me. I was out on business. Mary, I had no idea you were coming today. How could I? His response to the harangue on the other end of the phone was abrupt. This is his home now. He was so angry after hanging up the phone he wanted to hit somebody. Mary was angry too, but she took her anger out in her column. She wrote about the need to adhere to certain hiring standards for federal law enforcement personal and how the local ATF team had a member who met none of the standards.
At 7:30 the next morning, Buck called Chris and read him the column. I cant believe Chris roared.
Believe it, the question is what are we going to do about it? Bucks heart was reeling for his friend and teammate.
Itll crush him, Buck, Chris said sadly.
We wont let it. JD is calling the rest of the team right now. Well be out in an hour.
Chris showered and went downstairs. He thought his heart would break when he saw Vin, sitting at the table, the paper open, holding his face in his hands. Vin. He didnt know what else to say.
I dont understand, Chris. What did I ever do? The pain in the voice was more then Chris could take.
Chris pulled the chin up so they were looking eye to eye. You didnt do anything, you hear me? Nothing. And we are going to fix this.
How, she did everything but spell out my name. Im done.
Tanners dont quit. Isnt that what your mother taught you? The team is on the way out here, and we will find a way. We are not going to let you go this easy. Chris started out in a rage, but ended softly, his right hand going to cup the neck of the man at the table. I wont let you go.
The team was seated at the table by 8:30. Six of the seven were livid and the tension in the room was heavy. This unprovoked attack on one of their own would not stand.
We need to fight fire with fire, Ezra said, looking Vin straight in the eye. Find a sympathetic reporter and have them tell the real story the whole story. There was a fire in the green eyes that warmed the sharpshooter.
What about Sandy Tuttle? Buck jumped up from his chair. We dated for a while, and she still likes me. She writes a big column for the Sunday paper, and she does features on individuals who have overcome adversity. This is her kind of story. Ill go call her.
Ezra had slipped from his chair and followed Vin out onto the deck, while Buck was speaking. I know you dont want to do this, he started as he stepped to the rail beside his friend, but it is the only way.
The poor orphaned kid makes good, Vin said, the contempt clear in his voice.
This isnt just about you,. Its about the team. Without you, we dont exist. Chris cant afford to lose you, and neither can I. Good friends are hard to find. Ezras heart was in his throat as he saw the pain and fear in his friends eyes.
Chris had appeared on the deck and Ezra slipped away. You can control this. You are not a helpless six-year old this time around. And you are not alone. You can stop it this time, if you have the guts. He finished with the challenge. You are worth fighting for, Vin. We are worth fighting for, if you dont
I dont want to drag you down with me. I wont do that to you, the sharpshooter whispered painfully, tears in his eyes.
Then fight with me, Vin. Fight for us.
All I have is my story Chris. Its the only thing left that is mine.
I know. But this time we dont have a choice. You told me you were through running, prove it. The two stood inches apart, staring at each other for what seemed like forever to Chris. Finally, Vins right hand shot forward to grab Chris just below the elbow. Chris smiled, before pulling the young man into an embrace. I wont let her win, I promise you, he whispered just before letting go.
The reporter spent four and a half hours at the ranch interviewing Vin and the team. She also talked by phone with Judge Travis and six ATF agents who had called Chris, angry that a reporter had taken a shot at one of their own.
The next morning Vin brought the Sunday paper into Chris room and handed him the column, along with a cup of coffee. He sat at the foot of the bed. Chris took a deep breath before beginning to read it out loud. It was a fair article and told the whole story how markers of achievement had been made and how Vin had surpassed them all; how he worked with a tutor to overcome his dyslexia; how he held every shooting title in the ATF Western division; and how money from his paycheck still went to the orphanage. It also discussed the bullets he had taken protecting both his team and innocent bystanders.
Vin, look at me, Chris said after laying the paper aside. Its over, and we won.
Thank you Chris, for believing in me.
Never doubt it cowboy, never. Now how about breakfast?
Vin spent most of the day on the phone, thanking his teammates and his colleagues for their support. Chris talked to the Judge. I dont understand it, Chris. Vin has been nothing but kind and helpful to Mary, and Billy adores him.
Vin took the next call. Billy, is that you?
My mother helped you, tried to make you more acceptable, but all you did was take Chris from her. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!
Billy, I . Vins pained expression made Chris grab the phone.
Billy, its Chris, put your mother on the phone, now!
Mary how dare you put an eight-year-old up to do your dirty work. Wasnt that pack of lies in your column enough? What did he ever do to you, Mary, what? Until you get some help, dont call here again. He hung up while Mary was still trying to respond.
Vin was on the deck, right hand clenching the railing. Billy is too young to understand what is happening, Chris said as he joined him at the rail.
He understands that I attacked his mother. Hell never forgive me for that.
She set the rules of the game, Vin. You had no choice, but to play by them or youd lose your job. Is that what you wanted?
No, the younger man yelled. I didnt want any of this. I just want to do my job, work on the ranch, raise some horses. Thats all I want Chris, thats it.
Im sorry. I dont know what to tell you. I dont understand this anymore than you do. We can move forward together, or you can let Mary win.
No. I cant let her win. I worked too hard to get here. Much as I want to run, Chris, I wont. I belong here, and no one is going to take that away from me, no one. Vin had turned to his partner and finished in a soft, but determined whisper.
Chris pulled him into an embrace and they held each other for several minutes. When Vin stopped trembling, Chris let go. The team will be here in an hour they are expecting a victory supper.
Vin smiled up at his friend. Then we better get moving. You know how ornery they get when they dont get fed.