Hidden Enemy

by Wgang

Disclaimers: Mag7 does not belong to me. This is for fun.

Notes: I had such wonderful feedback on my first general Mag7 story that I decided to try it again. Thanks to Mog for creating the ATF universe.

Warning: Language, violence, angst and hurt/comfort.

Characters: Vin, Chris mainly, but the rest of the guys are there and helping.

Sequel: Follows Hasty Actions and Words, but could stand on its own.

The bar was not real crowded that night. Vin and Chris were playing pool while Josiah and Buck watched them.

Ez was in Las Vegas with his mother for a visit. JD and Casey were out on a date and Nathan was enjoying a quiet evening alone with his wife Rain.

Buck watched fondly as Vin teased his boss and chosen brother until the older man smiled and threatened to put Vin into a headlock.

Vin just laughed and slipped away commenting on how it took older people so long to make a move. After all he could have sunk the ball several times over by now.

Chris mock glared at the younger man knowing that even if it were a serious glare it would have no effect on the sharpshooter.

“Treading on thin ice, Tanner. They do have a back alley here,” Chris stated.

“You planning on shooting me, cowboy?” Vin teased right back.

“Thinking seriously about it. Just don’t want all the paperwork I’d have to fill out if I shot your mangy hide,” Chris said perfectly seriously although his mouth twitched.

The men harassed and teased each other mercilessly.

Buck was enjoying watching his friends go at it. It had been six months since Vin had moved out to the blonde’s ranch.

Buck had to admit that he had been totally wrong about the former bounty hunter. Thankfully he had figured it out before permanent damage could be done to the friendship of the two men playing pool, but that wasn’t true either. Chris would have let him go before he would have lost Vin to the team and in his personal life.

Now the team was closer than ever. Buck looked at Vin like a brother. Of course JD was his first concern, but Vin ran a close second.

Now Buck wasn’t dumb so he made sure Vin never knew that Buck was looking at him like a kid brother, after all the way Chris fretted over him was enough to make Vin want to shoot the blond. Buck valued his hide enough to keep those thoughts to himself.

Vin was the center of Chris’s universe, if Vin hurt then Chris hurt. Chris would willingly take on any threat towards the young man he had chosen as his kid brother, his family the only person that he knew better than himself.

At work Chris tried very hard not to treat Vin any differently and for the most part succeeded. The only time the blond worried over the young man was when Vin was hurt or was not feeling well, and then there was no stopping the ATF leader from hovering over his brother.

Chris was so afraid that fate would intercede and yank the Texan away from him. As the months went by he was getting better about his hovering and Vin only had to threaten him once every couple of weeks instead of everyday or once a week.

“Nice to see Chris so relaxed and Vin having so much fun,” Josiah commented.

“Yes it is. Best thing that ever happened was the two of them getting together,” Buck agreed.

Just then Vin sunk the final ball and to the enjoyment of his friends stuck his tongue out at his irritated friend.

This was the third game of pool that Vin had beaten the blond at tonight.

While the four men were enjoying themselves a blond woman across the bar watched and grew angrier and angrier.

As she watched the blond set up another game of pool, her hungry blue eyes traveled up and down the lean body settling on the handsome face.

The laser sharp green eyes were filled with laughter and affection as they rested on the blue-eyed Texan who was bowing down to their two friends in response to their clapping for his prowess at the game of pool.

The blond woman then overheard two men talking behind her.

“That blue eyed long haired guy playing pool is one hot piece of ass. I wonder if he’d like to play with my balls.”

The woman turned and faced the two men. Looking them over she knew that they had been drinking steadily all night and they were very big men. In fact they could rival Josiah Sanchez in size.

“Don’t know, but if we could get him away from the others we could ask, we might get lucky and he would want to play,” the one man said laughing harshly.

The scar running down one cheek made him look very vicious and the look he was sending across the room at the object of his lust made the woman tremble as an idea hit her.

Moving a little closer to the two men she whispered, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. From what I’ve been told the man you are looking at likes men and the rougher the better. In fact he likes to be taken hard. So why bother to ask why not just take what you want, it would really turn him on.”

“Three reasons. The men with him, the two guys watching are big men, but that blond looks like he could kill a person with one look.”

The woman smiled, “Oh so you’re too scared to take what you want. I understand, to bad for you though. I have heard he is a fine lover, I think it has been said he is very tight and very hot. And when he struggles it just makes it that much sweeter for everyone.”

The two men looked at each other their jeans getting real tight just thinking about sinking into that ass.

Just then Vin walked around the pool table to make a shot. With his back to the two men he bent over the table.

“Fuck, I have to have a taste of that and he is so fine we’ll make sure he enjoys it to,” the scar faced man hissed.

The woman smiled and moved down to the end of bar by the door. Now she just had to wait and watch, if everything went the way she was hoping, Chris would be disgusted with his so called brother and toss him out on his ear, then she could gain the upper hand.

Chris was hers, yet since Tanner had been around the ATF leader spent most of his spare time at the ranch with his newfound brother.

Brother, what bullshit - that low-born, scruffy, practically illiterate man would never be a brother to Chris, she thought.

Yes the two men she had set up would take Tanner down and Chris would think that the man he had taken into his home liked men.

Chris had been married and she just knew that if he thought Tanner was gay the younger man would be long gone and she would be free to move to the ranch and take care of the lean blond.

Gleefully the woman watched as Vin laid his pool cue down and headed for the bathroom.

The two men at the bar swallowed the rest of their beer and headed after him.

It was all she could do not to clap; this was going to be so good. It was past time Tanner was taught his place and his place was not at Chris’s side or even with polite society.

Vin finished up and zipped his pants up, not paying close attention to the two men who had followed him inside. After all it was a busy bar and there had never been any problems before. Besides, Chris and the other guys were right outside.

As Vin finished washing his hands he reached for the paper towel and found his wrist grabbed.

Startled he looked up at the large man who was standing way to close to him.

Vin tried to yank his arm away bringing his other hand around in fist aimed at the scarred faced man's jaw.

Before the fist could land he was grabbed from behind and lifted off his feet, then shoved face first into the wall?

Vin turned his head so his nose wouldn’t get broken; he was dazed as the side of his head bounced off the wall.

A heavy body pressed against his pinning him in place.

“We heard you like cock up your ass boy and since we like your looks we’ll be more than happy to oblige.”

“Yeah, and we like it rough to so everyone should be real happy.”

Vin struggled against the two men, his head pounding from connecting with the wall, but they were too big and had the advantage. Vin had no way of knowing that his very struggles were turning the two men on.

As he felt them struggling with his shirt buttons, he whispered, “Chris help.”

He hoped that the connection with his brother would work as well this time as it had in the past.

Rough hands grasped his pants and began to unzip them.

A loud noise barely registered with him when suddenly the weight pinning him was gone and he started to slump to the floor.

Strong hands grasped him under his arms and held him close.

Vin started to struggle when the man who held him just pulled him closer soothing his fear.

Vin sighed and relaxed as he realized it was Chris who held him; he was safe in his brother’s arms.




Chris watched as Vin crossed the floor to the bathroom smiling as the young man carefully skirted the crowd, not getting to close to anyone.

“Vin is kicking your ass, stud,” Buck teased.

“Now, Buck. I’m just letting him think he has me against the ropes.

Josiah opened his mouth to tease his boss when a funny look crossed the blond's face.

Chris glanced across the bar like he was expecting to see Vin, when there was no sign of the sharpshooter Chris took a step in the direction of the bathroom.

Buck and Josiah stood up, warning signals starting to go off in their heads as they watched Chris start to walk rapidly across the bar.

Chris pushed a couple of guys out of his way when they didn’t move fast enough. Reaching the bathroom he found it locked.

Glancing at Josiah he said it all in one look.

The big profiler took a step forward and with one kick took the bathroom door down.

Chris surged past his teammate and saw Vin pinned against the wall two guys all over him, their hands roaming over the slender body. Catching a glimpse of hands grasping at the young man's pants zipper Chris shot across the room and threw one man off the struggling body. Buck was right behind him and grabbed the other man.

While his two men were grappling with Vin’s attackers Chris snatched a slumping Vin into his arms.

It took a few minutes to calm the struggling dazed man, convince him that he was no longer in danger.

Chris knew when Vin realized who it was that held him, he heard the young man sigh and relax in his arms the tousled head coming to rest on his shoulder.

Chris glanced over his shoulder and saw that both attackers were on the floor Josiah had his gun out covering both men.

A crowd was gathering at the door and with one glance from his boss Buck went to the door and told everyone to go back and mind their own business.

Chris cupped the back of Vin’s head and cradled him close, the tousled hair a tangled mess.

Chris looked down and sighed in relief when he saw that Vin’s jeans had not been unzipped but the button was undone.

Chris reached out and despite Vin flinching a little he tucked the shirt back into the jeans and buttoned them up.

“Vin, we’re going out back to the alley. Come on now,” Chris softly said as he urged his friend towards the door.

Josiah held his gun on the men as they got to their feet, waving them to follow the two slow walking men.

As Vin walked by Buck with Chris’s arm still around him the big scoundrel patted his arm then shot a glare at the two men cowering in front of a furious Josiah Sanchez.

There was nothing scarier than a furious Josiah, not even the Larabee glare could compete with a pissed off profiler.

Buck went back to the bar and picked up their jackets, he tossed a few bills down and told the bartender that it would be enough to pay for the broken door.

The big man never noticed the angry blond woman leaving the bar as he approached.

As he got to the back alley he saw Vin sitting on a wooden crate while the two men who had assaulted him were facing the alley wall and had assumed the position.

Chris held his gun on them while Josiah was taking great joy in patting them down. Needless to say as he did the crotch check it was rough enough to bring both men to their knees.

“Why did you two assault my brother?” Chris snarled.

“We were told he liked guys, had a tight ass and liked it rough, so we obliged the pretty little thing,” scar face said smirking out of his bloody lips.

Chris let out a roar and planted his fist right in the man's face, knocking him against the wall. He fell unconscious to the ground.

The other man whimpered and cowered down.

“Who told you that?” Chris roared.

The man whined and pissed his pants.

“I would suggest you answer the man or we can beat it out of you,” Buck said advancing on the man.

“It would be no hardship to pound you into the ground and I would suggest you make no personal comments concerning our young brother who you have so wronged tonight,” Josiah advised.

“A...a blond lady heard us saying he...looked...well nice.”

The four ATF agents looked at each other, it was very apparent that was not what the two men had said about Vin, but right now they wanted to know about the blond woman.

Chris moved closer to Vin and put his hand on the slim shoulder.

“She...she well like my friend said that the guy would like it rough and so we followed him into the bathroom and well tried it rough, she said he would enjoy it,” the man finished lamely.

Buck yanked the guy to his feet and took him back into the bar to see if the blond woman was still there.

But the blond woman was long gone.

When Buck got back, Chris just looked at his teammates and said, “Buck, I want you and Josiah to take care of them. I’m taking Vin to the doctor then home.”

As Chris helped Vin to his feet, the man on the ground said, “Didn’t know he belonged to you mister or we wouldn’t have touched him.”

Buck choked back a laugh while Josiah just shook his head and looked up at the sky.

Some people are just too dumb to live.

Chris turned incredulous eyes to the man while Vin gasped and turned a bright red.

Vin ducked his head moaning under his breath, “I will never fucking live this down.”

However in the quiet night his voice carried.

Buck said “Sure you will Junior. This stays here between us.”

Josiah replied, “I am sure we can persuade these two men to forget tonight ever happened and forget they ever saw your face.”

Chris glared at the hapless man and hissed, “He is my brother like I said before. He is not my lover and does not prefer men to women. The woman lied to you. Do you understand me?”

“Sure...sure mister. Sorry, we won’t ever say anything to anybody and tonight never happened.”

Looking at Vin the man continued, “Sorry for getting all over you in the bathroom. But well just so you know you are one mighty fine looking man.”

Looking at Chris the man then said, “Since he’s your brother you ought to keep him on a short leash, looking like that is just going to continue to get him unwanted attention.”

Buck couldn’t help it he had to laugh. Vin just turned even redder and ducked his head again. Josiah made a comment about incredibly stupid people and Chris actually took a step towards the man.

Vin reached out and touched Chris’s arm, “I want to go home, cowboy.”

Chris stopped and turned, Vin’s wishes paramount in his thoughts.

“Take care of them guys.”

Chris kept his arm around Vin’s waist as he urged his friend out of the alley.

The blond knew that the two men would get what information they could from the two attackers. It would be a long time before these two idiots approached another person for sex.

Reaching the SUV Chris got Vin into the passenger side and then climbed in and drove away. They had compromised; a visit to Nathan would suffice instead of the emergency room.

Chris had been so intent on Vin’s needs that he never noticed the figure sitting in the car down the street.

As he drove by the car headed to Nathan’s a blue-eyed glare watched.

The blond woman turned on the car and pulled out headed in the opposite direction.

“I will get you out of Chris’s life, Vin Tanner ,if it’s the last thing I do,” Mary Travis hissed as she drove towards home.

 + + + + + + +

Two weeks passed, two uneventful weeks.

The weather turned warmer and it was decided to have a BBQ out at the Larabee/Tanner ranch as it was beginning to be called.

Vin was embarrassed by the new name and insisted that it was Chris’s ranch and he just lived there.

To Chris’s irritation Vin insisted on paying him rent. They compromised and Vin only paid what he had paid for his apartment in Purgatory, Chris said that since Vin did just as much around the ranch as he did then he didn’t need to pay anymore rent.

Unbeknownst to Vin, the money he paid Chris was being put into an account as a nest egg for the younger man. Chris’s elderly neighbor had mentioned to the blond that he was planning on selling in a few years and was going to give the ATF leader first crack at his ranch. Chris wanted Vin to buy it, that way if either one of them got serious about a lady they could still live close to each other.

The team had exhausted themselves trying to find the blond woman that had set Vin up. The two men that had accosted the young man in the bathroom had been let go by the team.

Vin did not want to press charges especially since while they were obviously the dregs of society they had been mislead by the blond woman into thinking that Vin was a swinger and liked to have rough sex with men.

Buck and Josiah had gotten their names and numbers telling them that they would be called in to identify the woman.

To Vin’s disgust Chris had insisted that Vin ride back and forth to work with him. To Chris’s way of thinking Vin had been the target and he would make sure that nothing happened to his family again.

Vin was glad when the BBQ idea came up. It gave Chris a focus other than his safety.

Besides the whole team, Nettie Wells and her niece Casey, Nathan’s wife Rain, Judge Travis and his wife were invited. Chris also invited Mary Travis and her son Billy.

Chris had mixed feelings about inviting Mary. While he adored her little boy, she had become too grasping and needy in their casual relationship. Chris was not going to settle down in the near future and he had told her that.

Mary said that she was willing to give Chris the time he needed before committing to her. Chris figured she still didn’t get it and tried to minimize their time together. When Vin came to live with him he had even less time for others. Billy still saw him at his baseball games, but Mary saw little of him as Vin even accompanied Chris to some of Billy’s games. Billy adored Vin and drove his mother crazy talking about the sharpshooter.

So Mary seethed and her hatred grew out of proportion. She conveniently forgot that Chris had broken it off with her before Vin had moved to the ranch and therefore she blamed Vin for her losing the blond man.

In all her spare time she plotted and planned on how to get the sharpshooter out of her man's life, never realizing that she had turned into another Ella Gaines.

The first time at the bar had failed, but her second chance came faster than she thought. It was the day of the BBQ.

Arriving at the ranch Mary was all smiles and even kissed Vin on the cheek. To her pleasure the young man had a very bad cold. After all, she hated him, and the more he suffered the better she liked it.

Chris commented that if Vin had blood in his veins instead of that thin Texas water he wouldn’t get a cold at the drop of the hat.

To which Vin responded that if Larabee kept the damn house warm he wouldn’t be getting a cold all the time.

Everyone laughed because the house was kept warmer than it had in been in years. Chris was well aware that the younger man felt the cold more than he did and was determined to watch out for Vin. Even as Vin argued about the higher gas bill, he appreciated his brother’s thoughtfulness.

No, Vin had come down with the cold during a cold snap the previous week when he had been exercising the horses. He had been riding his own horse Peso and had stopped by a stream because the horse had pulled up. Peso had thrown a shoe so Vin knew he was going to have to walk back to the ranch which would not have been a big deal except Peso was pissed. A pissed Peso was not a horse to be around, Vin forgot that until he found himself landing in the stream after the horse butted him with his head.

Chris had become worried and headed out after the two. When he saw Vin trudging towards him leading Peso, the young man was cussing up a storm.

Chris did his own fair share of cussing when he saw Vin was drenched. Chris had dismounted and wrapped his own coat around the shivering man and urged Vin up on Pony. Mounting behind the shaking body Chris wrapped his arms around Vin and galloped back to the ranch. At Vin’s worry over Peso Chris had snapped that the devil horse would find his own way home . No self-respecting wolf pack would even think about attacking that hellacious animal.

Vin had been blue by the time Chris had bundled him into the bathroom and ushered him into the hot shower. Stripping the cold, frozen clothes off the slender body, Chris had stripped down to his own boxers and had vigorously scrubbed at his brother until the skin was red and not blue. Then the blond man had dried Vin off and dumped him on the sofa under a pile of blankets, and then he stoked up the fireplace.

Only after he had gotten a couple of glasses of whiskey into his brother did Chris relax.

By the time he had gone to the barn and taken care of the two horses, Peso standing very quietly obviously figuring out that it wouldn’t take much for his life to suddenly end, Chris had stopped shaking.

As cold as Vin had been Chris knew that hypothermia had been a real fear and if Vin was not feeling better when he got back to the house then they were going to the hospital if he had to hogtie the younger man.

To his relief Vin was better and after being assured that his devil horse was fine Vin had eaten some soup and had settled in for the rest of day on the sofa under the watchful green eyes of his brother.

Then Vin came down with the cold. Nathan immediately and to Vin’s irritation began giving him antibiotics. According to Nathan once you get bronchitis you have a tendency to get it again. Antibiotics do not work on the average cold and Vin was coughing, sneezing and had a congested head.

Mary was very happy to see him suffering although as she watched during the afternoon she noticed Chris hovering over him, making sure he took it easy and wasn’t too cold.

Vin just shook his head but allowed the hovering, blushing when Buck teased him about having a mother hen of a brother.

Nathan took Vin back to the house at one point and Mary followed standing in the hallway listening.

To her pleasure Nathan gave the younger man a cold pill and told him he would need to take one later. Vin told his friend that he wanted to get over the cold fast because Chris was worrying too much and he didn’t want to worry the blond man.

Mary knew enough to know that medication affected the young man. Vin was not one to take meds and they hit him stronger than most people.

The blond woman waited a couple of hours then cornered Vin in the house.

Now was a good time, JD had taken Nettie and Casey home. The judge had taken his wife and grandson home so she didn’t need to worry about Billy seeing anything.

“Vin, I have some medication that the doctor gave me that last time I had cold. It worked wonders. I noticed that Chris is hovering over you so I thought I would help out.”

Vin paused, but he had no reason not to trust the woman. After all she was the judges daughter-in-law and Chris was kind of dating her off and on.

“I guess it couldn’t hurt. I sure would like to get rid of this cold,” Vin said as he accepted the pill from the woman.

Mary smiled as she watched Vin swallow the pill. Now she just had to wait and bide her time.

The pill were ones the doctor had given her for depression, they were strong ones and for Vin, who never used meds, they would send him for a loop, especially as he already had cold medicine in his system.

Sure enough Mary watched as the medicine started working on Vin. When Vin went into the house she followed hearing him getting sick in the bathroom.

Vin appeared in the doorway pale and sweating, his blue eyes dilated and unsteady on his feet.

“Vin, Chris needs you in the barn, he has some animal cornered in the hayloft and needs your help,” Mary said her voice oozing with sincerity.

Vin nodded his head and almost fell. Mary quickly put her arm around is waist and got him to the barn. She held her breath until he was in the hayloft then shoved the ladder over so there was no way down.

“Vin,” she called sweetly.

Vin peered over the edge wavering unsteadily on his feet.

“Chris isn’t here, Mary.”

“Oh, I guess he left already. The ladder fell over, Vin. How are you going to get down? “ Mary asked.

“Get Chris,” Vin said his speech slurring just a little.

“Oh, but Chris is having so much fun. You don’t want to bother him do you? It’s just a shame that you don’t have wings you could just fly down. I bet you could fly real well,” Mary suggested.

In Vin’s muddled brain that made sense, after all the team always said he was part bird when he took to the high perches he needed to do his job.

“I could try that, Mary,” Vin said smiling happily as he headed for the large loading window in the barn.

As he reached the window he looked out and saw Chris, Buck and Nathan headed in his direction.

Chris had missed Vin and had gone searching for him and when he had not been in the house he had pushed the panic button.

“Hi, cowboy,” Vin shouted wavering on the edge.

“My God, he’s going to fall,” Chris murmured his face paling.

“Vin! Back up Junior, you’re going to fall,” Buck yelled.

“Nope I can fly, Bucklin.”

Mary slipped out the back of the barn and listened to the conversation. Vin had been found too fast. She had planned on him being dead on the ground before anyone found him. Now her plans could be ruined and she would be found out.

“Why do you think you can fly, cowboy?” Chris asked keeping his voice even.

“Because Mary told me I could,” Vin confided, then he added, “Ya know Chris she’s real nice, gave me some of her...her pills to make me feel better and ya know what? I feel great.”

Mary turned to get to her car and drive away and ran right into Josiah and Ezra.

Spitting and screaming she was dragged around to the other men, where Chris slapped her hard enough to knock her silent.

“What the fuck did you give him?” he snarled.

Mary just glared refusing to speak. Rain had seen the confrontation from the front porch and had grabbed Mary’s purse and now handed it to her husband.

Nathan pulled out the bottle of pills and showed Chris.

“Are these what you gave Vin?”

Vin yelled down in a singsong voice, “That’s what she gave me, cowboy and it worked. I feellllll real good.”

Before anyone could say anything Mary looked up and yelled, “Fly Vin, Fly!”

Ezra clapped his hand over her mouth and held onto her tight, his green eyes sparkling with hatred and fear.

Chris and Josiah dashed into the barn and frantically got the ladder up to the hayloft.

Meanwhile Buck and Nathan talked to Vin trying to get him to sit down.

The sharpshooter was bound and determined he was going to show his friends he could fly.

Finally Nathan very uncharacteristically screamed, “Vin Tanner sit your fucking ass down this very second.”

That effectively shut everyone up. Buck, Ez and Rain looked at the man in shock. No one could remember the last time they had heard the mild mannered Nathan scream, let alone cuss.

When Chris heard Nathan scream his blood ran cold and he really thought his heart had stopped.

Getting the ladder in place Chris scrambled up it as Josiah urged him to be cautious.

Vin had paused when Nathan had screamed. He put his hands on his hips and said, “Now...now Nathan...shouldn’t cuss. After...after all we got ladies in atten...atten...here.”

Vin then shook his finger down at his friend and said, “We are…are going to have to wash your mouth out with soap.”

Buck groaned and thought My God if this wasn’t so fucking damn scary, I’d be laughing my head off.

Everyone on the ground with the exception of the glaring Mary gasped as Vin suddenly whirled around balancing on the edge.

“That boy is going to be the death of me,” Nathan hissed.

Buck and Ez had to nod in agreement. Rain held her hand to her mouth as she watched Vin take a step away from the opening.

Chris stood by the ladder and took a deep breath calming himself when all he wanted to do was rush over and grab Vin up in his arms holding him tight and safe.

Keeping his voice light he said, “Hey, cowboy. Why don’t you come over here with me, then we can get down and continue the party.”

“NO! Nathan yelled at me and everyone is glaring at me. I took Mary’s pill so I’d feel better and you’d quit worr...worrying,” Vin replied crossing his arms over his chest.

Buck and Nathan heard Vin and turned twin glares on the blond woman. Ez tightened his grip and was happy when she yelped at the pain.

Rain leaned in and hissed, “If Vin is hurt I’m going to tell Ezra to let you go and I’ll take you down.”

Buck and Ez looked at her in surprise.

Ez said, “I do believe there are facets of your personality that we are just now seeing Rain.”

“I have a lot of moods you guys haven’t seen yet and if Vin gets hurt this bitch will get to see them all.”

Buck raised his eyebrows but didn’t make a comment, he knew women well enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Chris ground his teeth together. That fucking bitch used his worrying over Vin to get to the younger man. Vin never wanted anyone to worry over him.

“Vin, Nathan yelled because he doesn’t want you to fall and the rest of us just want you to come down the ladder with me.”

“Don’t feel like it,” Vin insisted the blue eyes were glazed with the drugs but very determined.

Chris watched and moaned in frustration as Vin’s lower lip came out and his brother went into Tanner stubborn mode.

Josiah’s voice wafted up, “Vin, Chris hurt his hand and needs help getting down. Only you can help him.”

Chris immediately held his hand close to his body and rubbed it. The reaction was instant.

Vin’s eyes zeroed in on his brother, his ‘hurt’ brother.

“I’ll help you Chris,” he said as he headed towards Chris.

Mary saw her plans go up in smoke, but wanted everyone to suffer. She bit down on Ezra’s hand causing him to cry out and let go.

The blond woman screamed, “You can get down faster if you fly, Vin. Just fly for help.”

Rain reacted with the speed of a rattlesnake raising her hand, forming a fist and hitting Mary so hard the woman fell to the ground unconscious.

Rain rubbed her hand and smiled.

“That felt real good.”

Vin paused and turned at Mary’s scream, that was all Chris needed.

The blond lunged across the hayloft and tackled the smaller man to tumble into the sweet smelling hay.

Chris lay on top of the slender body shaking with fear, his arms wrapped tightly around Vin like a vise grip.

“Get off me, cowboy. You...you weigh a ton,” Vin complained, shoving at the body covering his.

Chris sat up but brought Vin with him. Chris leaned back against the wall and tugged until he had Vin cradled in his arms sitting between his long legs. If he could have gotten Vin any closer he would have.

Chris closed his eyes and thanked God Vin was safe. He sat quietly just enjoying the feel of a live, breathing Vin Tanner in his arms.

The next thing he knew Buck and Nathan were kneeling next to him.

As Nathan went to pull Vin away, Chris literally growled at him and tightened his grip on the now sleeping body.

“Chris, we need to get him down and into the house. I think she was counting on the medicine disorienting him and then letting him fall to his death. If we get some fluids in him and then let him sleep it off, he should be fine. I checked the bottle and there were not enough gone to cause a fatal overdose.”

Chris let Vin lay back against his arm, the tousled head resting on his shoulder, the face pale. Chris felt tears prick his eyes as he leaned down and gently kissed Vin’s forehead.

“You are going to be the death of me yet, cowboy,” he whispered.

Working swiftly they had Vin roped securely to Buck's back. Chris led the way down the ladder where Josiah was holding it secure. Nathan steadied the ladder from above.

Once on the ground Vin was untied and Josiah strode rapidly to the house. Nathan right behind him.

While Chris wanted to be with Vin he had one unfinished piece of business.

Rain hurried after Nathan after patting Chris on the arm and telling him that Vin would be fine.

Mary had awakened and Ez was once again holding her, his hand wrapped up where he had been bitten.

Buck stood next to Chris ready to grab his old friend if Chris went for her throat. Not that he cared if the bitch died, but he didn’t want Chris to pay the price.

“Why?” Chris hissed.

“Because you belong to me, and he took you away. I wanted to destroy him for ruining my life,” she screeched, her blond hair in a disarray her face bruised.

“You ruined your own life by being too aggressive. I told you I wasn’t ready for a relationship and that was before Vin ever moved out here. Furthermore, any woman who cannot accept my brother as an important part of my life isn’t going to be in MY LIFE,” Chris yelled.

“That piece of Texas shit does...” Mary found her mouth covered by an old rag that Buck shoved in her mouth. He knew if he didn’t shut her up then Chris was liable to kill her...hell he or Ez might even kill her.

“Buck will you and Ez take her and book her. Have those two guys from the bar identify her. She is going down for the attempted murder of a federal agent. Call Travis and tell him what happened. I’m going to see to Vin and stay with him.”

Chris turned and without a backward look went to his house.

Mary was handcuffed and kept gagged and then tossed into the car. Buck and Ez knew it was going to be a long ride back to town. Buck got on the phone and arranged for the two men to be at the station to identify Mary Travis. Then he placed the call to Judge Travis who was horrified by what he was told. The judge said he would meet them at the station.

By the time Chris got to the house Nathan and Josiah had stripped Vin to his boxers and got him to bed.

Nathan was happy he had gotten a full glass of water down the young man's throat. Of course that was because Rain was holding the glass and coaxed Vin into drinking it all.

Josiah was cleaning up from the BBQ and putting the food away and getting rid of the trash. Rain went to help when Chris entered the room.

As the beautiful black woman passed him Chris gave her hug.

At her surprised look he simply said, “That’s for the bruise you gave her. Thanks.”

Rain smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

“Believe me Chris it was my pleasure. Vin is special to us, too.”

Chris walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed.

Brushing Vin’s hair back, he rested his hand on one pale cheek.

Nathan put his hand on Chris’s shoulder.

“He’s going to be fine, Chris. Breathing is fine, and his heart rate is fine. He woke up as we were undressing him and drank some water. He knew who we were, but didn’t remember what happened with Mary. It might always be fuzzy for him; you know that medication doesn’t sit well with him.”

“Good, I really would prefer he not remember it. I wish I could forget it. My God, Nathan when we came around the corner of the house and I saw him just inches from falling to his death, I swear my heart stopped. I don’t think I took a breath until I grabbed him and had him safe in my arms.”

Nathan patted his boss’ shoulder. He could feel fine tremors running through the lean body as reaction finally set in.

“He’s going to sleep for several hours. Let's go in the other room...come on Chris. I think a stiff drink is in order, then let’s call Buck.”

Several hours later found six men sitting in Larabee's family room. JD had arrived back at the ranch and had been appalled when he had found out that Mary Travis was the blond woman they had been looking for.

Buck and Ez arrived and told their teammates that Judge Travis had arrived at the station and watched while Mary was booked for the attempted murder of a federal agent.

The woman was crazed. It was very apparent that she had lost her mind and would never stand trial. As she was being booked she alternated from screaming obscenities, to hitting the police, to crying hysterically. When that didn’t work she tried begging and then making up wild stories about everyone from Team 7 to her own family.

Mary Travis had been transferred to the nearest mental facility where she would remain until it was determined if she was competent to stand trial.

It was Buck’s and Ezra’s opinion that she would never stand trial.

After discussing it the six men decided that would be best. They did not want Billy to suffer for his mothers actions.

Chris felt a stab of guilt because while he didn’t want Billy to suffer, he didn’t want Vin to have to get on the stand and have to talk about the assault at the bar which was bound to come up. He was just thankful that the threat to the young man was gone and they could put it behind them and go on.

Vin had woke up a couple of times and was sick to his stomach, being helped to the bathroom by his blond protector each time.

Vin was still out of it, but did manage to drink the water that Nathan forced on him.

Since the next day was Sunday, there was no work so the team stayed until about midnight then Chris sent them home.

Nathan wanted to stay in case he was needed but had to admit to Chris that there was no reason to think that Vin wouldn’t be fine when he woke up the next morning.

As soon as the team left Chris set the security house alarm and headed down the hallway. Seeing that Vin was still sound asleep he took a shower and put on some sweats, then being careful not to wake his brother he crawled into bed with Vin.

He had to remain close to the young man in case Vin woke up and needed something. Besides he was still to shaken by the fact that he had almost lost his brother to be very far from him.

Propping pillows behind him he turned on the TV keeping the volume low so he didn’t wake the sleeping man.

When morning arrived Vin woke up before Chris. The team sharpshooter looked over and was surprised to see the blond sleeping in bed with him supported by a pile of pillows. Glancing down he saw the remote in the blonds hand and the TV was on. Looking at the clock he was shocked to see it was almost noon. He never slept this late.

Puzzled, Vin tried to remember why Chris would be in bed with him and couldn’t think of a reason.

Carefully Vin climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom where he took care of his morning business. Sighing after he brushed his teeth, because his mouth had tasted like something had died in it, he opened the bathroom door and found Chris standing there waiting for him.

The worried blond ran his eyes over Vin then transferred his gaze to the confused blue eyes.

“How are you feeling, cowboy?”

“Better now that I brushed my teeth. Ah...Chris why were you sleeping next to me? I mean I’ve been trying to remember if something happened and I...I just don’t remember much of anything,” Vin said blushing as he worried that he had done something stupid or embarrassing. Maybe he had gotten drunk but that had never happened to him before.

Chris threw his arm around Vin and said, “I’ll fill you in on what happened while we eat. Don’t worry Vin, you were a total innocent. Now get dressed and I’ll start breakfast.”

Vin heard the phone ring as he was dressing.

By the time Vin reached the kitchen Chris had their breakfast cooking on the stove and was just hanging up the phone.

Vin sat down and frowned at the milk that Chris handed him, but one look at the determined face that stared at him made him swallow his comment on the drink he hated.

While the eggs and bacon cooked Chris filled his brother in on everything that had happened.

“It was Mary...what did I ever do to her to make her want me dead?” Vin asked, upset that a woman he had admired hated him.

“You didn’t do anything to her, cowboy. She is mentally unbalanced; right now she is in a mental hospital and will probably remain there for a long time. Mary thought I was going to marry her and I never was. She just couldn’t accept that and zeroed in on you as the cause, not her own lack of ability to see reality. I don’t want you blaming yourself, Vin. You hear me?”

Vin looked down hiding his guilty eyes from his brother.

Chris took hold of the chin and raised it until he could stare Vin right in the eyes.

“I mean it Tanner. This is in no way your fault. That was Travis on the phone a few minutes ago. He wanted me to apologize to you. It seems that he noticed Mary acting a little strange the last few months but ignored it. Unfortunately she was able to act normal enough to fool people for a long time. Now, are you going to let it go?”

Vin slowly nodded his head.

“I’ll try. It’s just unsettling that I can’t remember anything yesterday from the time Mary handed me that pill. It’s all fuzzy, everything in shadows, no real memories. It’s a shame. She had a lot going for her.”

Chris smiled and shook his head. Leave it to Vin to think of the woman who had tried to kill him. That was just like the sensitive young man he was lucky enough to call brother.

Vin stood up and helped Chris put the food on the table. The phone rang again and Chris answered.

Hanging up he sat down and laughed.

“That was Buck. He wanted to know how you were and said that the team will be out this afternoon. It seems that they want to check on you themselves. Almost losing you scared all of us badly and they just need to see you awake and in one piece.”

Vin smiled and turned red. It was real nice to be worried over.

“That’s okay; since most of yesterday afternoon is a black void for me I will enjoy having them around.”

Finishing up the dishes Vin turned to leave the kitchen.

Chris stopped him and pulled him into his arms holding him tight.

“I almost lost you Vin. I need...need to tell you that I love you. You are the brother I always wanted and the other half of my soul.”

Vin held Chris just as tight.

“I love you to Chris. You are the big brother I always wanted and more than I could I ever hope for.”

The two men stood still for several minutes until they heard the front door slam open and a boisterous voice yell, “We’re home, guys.”

Vin pulled back and looked into green eyes that held the same tears as his.

“Looks like Bucklin called on his way here,” he said dryly.

Chris smiled, “I guess so. You okay?”

“I am now,” was Vin’s heartfelt reply just before Buck and JD ran into the room.

For the rest of the day it was laughter, jokes and family enjoying being together.

Team 7 wouldn’t have it any other way.

The End