Hidden Enemy Lurking

by Wgang

Disclaimer: I do not own Magnificent Seven or any of the characters.

Warnings: Bad language, hurt/comfort, and violence.

Summary: Vin and Chris clash. Their words and actions come back to haunt them as Mary Travis again enters their lives.

Characters: Mainly Chris and Vin of course, Josiah, Mary Travis, OMC and the rest of the guys.

Sequel:to Hasty Actions and Words, and Hidden Enemy.

It was a hot windy August day in Colorado. It had been an unseasonably hot summer. There had been several deaths of the elderly due to the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning in the victim’s homes.

Vin Tanner had been off work for three weeks ever since a gunrunner had shot him during a bust. Needless to say the gunrunner was no longer among the living because when Chris Larabee saw Vin flung back to slam hard into the concrete wall he had emptied his gun into the guy.

Vin had taken the bullet in the upper thigh, not a life threatening injury but it had bled a lot. The sharpshooter had also been knocked unconscious when he had hit his head on the wall.

Chris reached the young man he considered his brother in everything but blood just before Nathan reached him.

Chris had pulled Vin into his arms cradling him close urging him to open his eyes. Just then a gunshot had echoed around the building. Chris bent over the helpless man and covered him with his own body.

Nathan dove to the other side his eyes glancing over Vin’s body immediately spotting the blood on the thigh and the fact that blood was staining the floor a definite indication that his teammate was losing blood way to fast.

Nathan finally got Chris to lay Vin down and had put pressure on the wound until the young man was loaded into an ambulance. Chris had insisted on riding with Vin and one look at the green-eyed devil made the EMT’s agree with him.

Vin had been in the hospital for several days. Besides the bullet wound he had a concussion that left him with a pounding headache, double vision and with the temper of a riled up rattlesnake.

Vin Tanner hated hospitals, hated people hovering over him, especially people he didn’t even know. And why in the hell did they always have to put a catheter in and the only one who seemed to be able to take it out was a young cute nurse.

Chris didn’t have the heart to tell the already mortified man that the nurses drew straws as to who would get the pleasure of taking out the catheter. Vin would die of embarrassment and the next time he got shot he would probably just crawl off somewhere and bleed to death before he went to the hospital. Chris had threatened Buck with a very painful death if he ever breathed a word of the nurse’s actions to Vin.

Buck was the one who had overheard the nurses talking about drawing straws to see who had got to remove the gorgeous Mr. Tanner’s catheter. Buck couldn’t wait to tell his old friend about the conversation and laughed about it.

Buck swore he would never tell Vin or any of the others what he heard and he meant it. Vin was just to damn shy and the young man would truly be horrified if he knew the truth. Hell the boy blushed if a girl looked at him and tried to talk to him.

So Buck kept his mouth shut and was just there for his friends. Chris remained at the hospital until Vin was awake and he had talked to the younger man. It was for his peace of mind as well as Vin’s. He needed to see those big blue eyes, he needed to hear that raspy Texas accent before he left and he wanted Vin to know that he was there and that everything was going to be okay.

Then and only then did he go home and get some rest and cleanup and that was only after he had gotten Buck’s promise that someone would be with Vin every minute.

Buck had assured the blond that Vin would not be left alone.

It had been almost one year since Mary Travis had tried to kill the sharpshooter in the misguided notion that if Vin were no longer around then Chris would marry her and they could live happily ever after.

What the deranged woman didn’t seem to comprehend was that Vin Tanner would always be first in Larabee’s life. It was apparent to the whole team and anyone with eyes in their head that if a woman wanted a place in Larabee or Tanner’s heart they would have to accept the basic fact that the men were soul brothers and no one would tear them apart.

Mary was to crazy to know that and she paid the price. Buck was sure that if Vin had not needed Chris’s attention at time and if there had not been so many witnesses the blond might have killed the woman for making an attempt on Vin’s life. Buck was also sure that Chris would not feel a bit of remorse for her death. At least not for her, Billy and his grandparents yes but not her. She had done the one thing he would never forgive or forget, she had hurt the most important and precious person in Chris’s world and that was an unforgivable sin.

Thankfully Mary now resided in a local mental institution and from what Judge Travis said she probably would never get out.

While Vin had no memory of the incident when she tried to kill him the rest of team had vivid memories of it. Chris would never forget it.

In fact Chris still tended to be very over protective of his brother at least until Vin had a little chat with him and the blond chilled out for a while.

Buck and Josiah took Vin aside and reminded him that Chris had lost his whole family and he was just worried that Vin was going to be lost to him. So just humor him, it will make him feel better and Vin wouldn’t have to listen to interminable lectures about where he had been, whom he had been with and to be careful.

Vin had sighed and agreed, but then smiled as he had informed his teammates that they really wanted him to humor Chris because they were tired of the blond pacing, cussing and otherwise being a pain in the ass if Vin was so much as ten minutes late.

Josiah had frowned at him informing him in a low tone that someone his age shouldn’t be such a smart ass, while Buck had lightly cuffed him on the back of the head telling him if he didn’t behave he would tell Chris that he heard Vin saying he was going to buy a motorcycle.

Vin had blanched at the threat. Hell Chris had hounded him until he had sold his beat up jeep and bought something more...lets see how did that irritating overbearing cowboy say it...oh yeah...reliable and with a lot of metal between Vin and the crazy people on the road. Vin had just shaken his head, but it was worthwhile even though he would never tell the blond that.

The new Chevy Tahoe was dark blue and came fully loaded. The heater worked great unlike his jeeps and he had been a lot more comfortable in the winter driving. Chris didn’t worry about him quite so much and if all it took was to get a new vehicle when he needed one anyway then it was worth it.

Vin had quickly agreed that he would be more vigilant about letting Chris know when he was going to be late, but if Bucklin told Chris that he was going to buy a motorcycle then the ladies man was going to find out just how much Vin did know about skinning animals.

It was then Buck’s turn to pale and he assured Vin that he had no intention of telling Chris such a lie.

As Buck had hurried away Josiah had laughed and clapped Vin on the back. It wasn’t often that someone got the best of Buck, but if anyone was going to accomplish it, Vin Tanner was that man.

Now though Vin was totally bored out of his mind and a bored Vin was a dangerous Vin. It had been three weeks and he wanted to go to work...or do something. He was so tired of court shows and soap operas he was ready to scream.

Chris and Nathan had given him a list of things he was not allowed to do and he was chaffing at the bit. One of the things he was not allowed to do yet was ride his beloved horse Peso. While the wound was healing, it was still very tender and they did not want him to do anything to aggravate it.

Chris had stayed with him the first week he was home and wouldn’t let him walk alone and made him keep his leg up. It was a good thing when Chris went to work or Vin was afraid that he was going to explode and he didn’t want to do that, his brother only had his best interests at heart as did the rest of the guys.

But today, Vin was going outside and tend to the horses. He would use his cane to keep some of the pressure off his leg but he was going outside regardless of whether he was supposed to or not.

When he stepped out the back door the heat and wind slammed into him. It was so hot he caught his breath. Chris had the central air on, and since Vin only went out in the evening when it was cooler he had no idea that it was so hot and humid.

But he figured he was from Texas and he could handle the heat.

So Vin hobbled to the barn. The sharpshooter was concentrating on watching his step that he never noticed the large man watching him from the nearby woods using binoculars.

The man watched intently as Vin entered the barn. The door was a little hard to open because the wind was so strong. Vin left the door open hooking it to the side of the barn to keep it open and let some air circulate through the building. Glancing to the corral the man noticed the stallion. A smile crossed his rugged face as a thought occurred to him. Time to start putting things into motion and the stallion would be the perfect first weapon and if it worked then great, if not then on to plan B.

Pegasus was pure white and generally a very peaceful horse for a stallion, but now one of the mares was in heat and he wanted to get to her. The mare was out in the field and Pegasus was pissed off, snorting and galloping around the corral.

Vin heard Pegasus but knew that there was no way he was up to taking care of the stallion so he just ignored the angry horse.

Peso looked up and nickered softly in greeting. The big black had missed his master, no matter how contrary Peso was he loved Vin and knew he was loved back.

Vin let Peso out of his stall and sat down on a stool then began brushing his horse feeling peace steal over his soul as he absorbed the feeling of being outside and doing something he loved to do.

Meanwhile Chris had left a couple of hours early. It was only Thursday, but they had just wrapped a case and he decided to take a long weekend off. Maybe take Vin for a drive into the mountains, get him outside a little and take care of some of that cabin fever.

He had stoically ignored the smirks on his team’s faces as he had told them he was leaving. It didn’t matter that they knew he wanted to be around Vin and be there to help his brother through this frustrating time.

Chris was about twenty minutes from home when a feeling of unease swept over him. That generally meant only one thing Vin was in trouble. At times Chris thought Vin’s middle name was trouble.

Using his cell phone he cursed when there was no answer tossing the phone across the truck cab. The blond ATF leader stepped on the gas determined to get home in record time. If he had to he would use lights and sirens to get home.

Vin had no idea that a blond green-eyed whirlwind was heading his way or he might have hightailed it back to the house. As it was he figured he had another hour before he needed to head back, shower and be on the sofa before mother hen got home.

Vin looked around and spied the type of brush he needed for Peso’s mane. Moving slowly he walked across the barn, hearing a noise he paused and looked over at the door leading out to the corral.

To his horror it was wide open and a big, white very angry and horny stallion was filling the doorway.

Vin froze in place, he was caught out in the open and with his bum leg he wasn’t moving very fast.

Pegasus snorted stamping his feet then entered the barn. Peso snorted back, the black horse taking a couple of steps towards his master.

Peso could sense that Vin was not feeling up to his usual self and he’d be damned if that uppity stallion was going to hurt his master.

Unfortunately Peso wasn’t fast enough as Pegasus abruptly charged the man intending on getting by him and to the yard and finding the mare he wanted to mate with.

Vin tried to lunge to the side, but he was just to slow the leg refusing to cooperate. Pegasus flew by him the shoulder of the white horse knocking Vin to the ground. As his head connected with the floor, Vin felt his hold on consciousness begin to leave. Before the darkness completely took over all he could think of was that Chris was definitely going to shoot him this time.

Vin lay unmoving on the ground and never saw the man shut the door and latch it from the outside. Pegasus whirled around as his means of escape was cut off.

Peso meanwhile had moved over to Vin and now stood over the vulnerable man. Vin was lying between his legs and there was no way the black horse was budging. He would protect his master with his last breath.

Peso would have been relieved to learn that his masters blond protector was close and would be there soon.

Chris was ten minutes from the ranch when he felt like the breath was knocked out of him. The feeling that Vin was hurt and needed him desperately almost caused him to panic. Swearing under his breath he put the red light on the truck and with sirens blaring he cleared a path for his mad dash home.

Pegasus paused and glared at the black upstart. Who did Peso think he was? Of course then the white stallion did remember that Peso had a worst temper than his and would give him a fight.

Pegasus tossed his head and wondered if the man were worth the trouble it would take to fight Peso.

Chris sped up his driveway and came to a screeching stop. As he dove out of the SUV he heard Peso in the barn.

Turning around he ran for the barn noticing that the stallion was not in the corral.

There was no doubt in his mind that Vin was in the barn and so was the stallion. In the back of his mind he noticed that the barn door was shut and latched. Vin liked to leave the door open, have fresh air moving about the barn.

Even while Chris noticed the door was shut he was opening it and latched it open.

Stepping into the barn it only took a second to access the situation. The green eyes zeroed in on his brother lying on the ground beneath Peso. It was clear that the big black was protecting his master.

Pegasus had spun around and stood snorting at the man between him and the now open door. An open door that would let him get to the mare in heat, Peso and his master were forgotten.

Chris drew his gun and as Pegasus made a move towards him, he fired into the air.

The white horse pulled back in shock. Peso took that moment to charge the stallion nipping him sharply on the ass.

As the stallion whirled around to bite back Chris fired his gun again. Peso tossed his head as though saying ‘get your ass back to the corral, he’ll shoot you next.’

Pegasus showed his teeth but ran through the door and into the corral. Chris quickly shut the door and then ran to Vin who was moaning and trying to sit up.

Peso was standing next to his master nuzzling the long hair and nickering softly.

Chris slid to a stop by Vin and knelt next to the young man.

Vin looked at the blond, confusion in the blue eyes.

Chris helped Vin sit up and then began checking the man for new injuries. Vin hissed as the gentle hands ran through his hair.

“You took a knock to the head, Vin. Just what you didn’t need after the last concussion,” Chris said. While the worry and fear were still the paramount emotions he was feeling, anger was now making itself known.

Vin should not have been in the fucking barn. The stubborn fool should have been in the house out of the heat, at least sitting down if not lying down.

Running still gentle hands down over the neck and the chest.

Chris watched Vin closely, knowing that he would never admit if anything hurt.

Vin flinched when Chris pressed on his ribs. Chris made note of the soreness, but would wait until they got into the house to make the mule headed fool strip.

Chris helped Vin to his feet, but the shaken man insisted that Peso had to be taken care of first.

Chris growled but made Vin sit on a hay bale while he put Peso back into his stall. The blond gave the contrary, but brave and loyal horse food and patted him on the head.

Man and horse looked at each other. While neither one cared a whole lot for the other, both cared for the man currently in a lot of pain.

Chris whispered, “Thanks, Peso.”

Peso actually nodded his head as though saying ‘anytime, just take care of him.’

Chris shook his head and then helped Vin to his feet; he kept his arm around the slender waist and helped Vin into the house.

So intent on getting Vin to the ranch house the blond never noticed the man standing in the woods watching.

The man cursed and hissed under his breath, “You have nine lives, Tanner, but I will take you out. You have to pay for what the hurt that you caused.”

The man left walking to his truck and climbed inside, he had to pick up his accomplice and then come back. If all went well Tanner would be in his possession before the night was over.

Chris got Vin into the bathroom and helped him to undress then forced the younger man into the shower.

Fifteen minutes later Vin was sitting on the sofa in a pair of loose shorts. The shorts were actually cut off sweat pants and the t-shirt was also a little loose. Vin was barefoot. He had lost weight during his hospital stay and as yet had not put it back on.

Vin stared at the floor; he knew he was in deep shit. Chris was radiating absolute fury and he knew if he looked up green sparks would aim right at him.

Chris had checked Vin out and sure enough the ribs were bruised, they didn’t feel broke but Chris was not a doctor. The problem was Vin flat refused to go to the hospital and didn’t want Nathan called.

Chris was grinding his teeth together he was so pissed off at his brother.

“What in the fucking hell did you think you were doing in the barn? You were told to stay in the house and stay off your feet,” Chris all but yelled as his temper got the best of him.

Vin did not like the tone of voice and jerked his head up his blue eyes sharpening in irritation

“I was fucking bored. I used the damn cane; I sat down on a stool. I would have been fine if Pegasus hadn’t got into the barn,” Vin tried to explain despite that fact that he was getting more mad as time went on. He was not a fucking kid.

Chris exploded, the fear, worry and anger becoming too much.

“Fine...fine. You really looked fine lying unconscious on the barn floor with two pissed off horses squaring off for possession of your scrawny ass. Damn it Tanner; get it through your thick head that when the doctor gives you orders you HAVE TO FOLLOW THEM. Tell me what is so fucking hard about that?”

“Quit treating me like a fucking kid, Larabee. You are not my father,” Vin screamed back.

Stricken blue eyes shot to furious and wounded green ones as he realized what he had said. As Vin went to back off and apologize for the nasty comment, Chris took matters into his own hands...literally.

In a voice that was so calm it was scary Chris stalked over to the sofa and in one quick move sat down and flipped Vin over his knees. The blond was so pissed he forgot all about the bruised ribs.

“If you are going to behave like a child, then I’ll treat you like one.”

Vin groaned as his hurt ribs hit his brother’s thighs. Sheer utter shock and the pain of his injuries kept him from struggling. There was also a small part of him that said he deserved the punishment because of his comment about Chris not being his father. What a low down vicious thing to say to a man who had lost his little boy.

Chris was like a robot, all he knew was that Vin could have died in the barn and the stubborn bastard refused to admit he was in the wrong. So Chris was going to set him straight.

Vin gasped as he felt his sweats being pulled down and the air hit his bare ass.

Vin used his hands and tried to push away from Chris but a strong arm came down on his back holding him firmly in place.

“Chris...don’t do this,” Vin pleaded wincing at the break in his voice,

Coldly Chris replied, “You never listen, Vin. I need to make you understand that you cannot put your life in danger. Maybe this will shock you enough for that to sink in.”

Chris raised his hand and brought it down sharply on Vin’s pale ass.

Vin wiggled but couldn’t get away, as Chris rained hard slaps down on his butt.

Vin’s butt was red, but Chris kept spanking him until he heard his brother yell out in real pain.

Chris shut his eyes and then opened them almost like he had been asleep.

Looking down he was aghast at what he had done.

Vin’s butt was bright red and on one red cheek was a dark bruise and spot of blood.

The ring that he wore on his right hand, a ring given to him by Vin for Christmas had turned on his finger and had hit Vin causing the bruise and breaking the skin slightly.

Chris trembled with self-loathing; he hated himself at that moment. Vin needed to be shown he was in the wrong, but not this. What the hell had gotten into him to be spanking his brother, a grown man not a child?

The blond knew what it was. Seeing Vin lying there on the barn floor he had been scared shitless. If he had been any later, Vin could very easily been trampled by the stallion or even by Peso in trying to protect his master.

The thought of finding Vin’s mangled bloody body had scared him badly. The only thought racing through his mind was the fact that if Vin died he would be alone and he would have failed another member of his family, failed someone else he loved.

Chris pulled the sweats back up over the red ass and released the silent man.

Vin with Chris’s help stood up. Chris stood in front of Vin just in case he needed help.

With tears in his angry blue eyes, Vin stared at his brother.

“Vin...I,” Chris started to say right before Vin hit him.

Chris fell backwards and landed on his ass holding his jaw.

“You fucking bastard. Who the hell do you think you are?”

Vin turned and headed for his bedroom.

Chris noticed that Vin was limping and didn’t know if it was because of the leg wound, because the stallion had knocked him down or the fact that his brother had beaten his ass red.

Chris scrambled to his feet, but as he reached Vin’s bedroom door, the door was slammed shut and locked.

Chris stopped and rested his forehead on the door.

Swallowing past the lump of emotion that clogged his throat, Chris said, “Vin, I’m sorry. I...I was so worried and...and God Vin I am just so sorry.”

When there was no answer, Chris sighed.

“Vin, I’m going to run down to that BBQ place you love and pick up something for dinner. When I get back we’ll eat and talk. Come on, cowboy. Give me a chance to make this up to you.”

Still no response to his plea, Chris finally left the house heading to Vin’s favorite place to eat. It should only take about forty-five minutes to get back to the ranch and then they would talk. Clear the air and everything would be back to normal.

If Chris had known that it was going to be many hours before he would be able to talk to Vin he would never have left the ranch and Vin would not have been out of his sight.

As Chris drove to get their dinner, Vin was in the bathroom washing his face and getting control of himself.

‘How dare Larabee spank him like child...who the hell did he think he was?’ was his thoughts.

Then that little voice in his head whispered, ‘he is the man who is your brother. He is the man who adores you...who is the other half of your soul. The man who was scared to death when he saw you lying so still in the barn.’

Out loud Vin hissed, “Fuck that, he spanked me. I’m not a stupid kid.”

Again that annoying little voice said, ‘you deserved it. You disobeyed not only the doctor, but also Nathan and Chris told you to stay off your feet. Besides, which hurt worse your spanking or your hateful comment about him not being your father.’

Vin sobbed once as he sat gingerly on the end of the bed. While his ass burned he ignored it as he kept remembering the look on his brother’s face when he had made his comment.

“Hell, I might as well have just shoved a knife in his heart. What kind of brother are you. You don’t follow directions and then you make hateful comments to hurt Chris and then you hit him,” Vin whispered.

Vin sighed, well when Chris got back they would talk and clear the air. It would all be okay.

Just then the doorbell rang. Vin got up thinking maybe Chris was back for something and had forgotten his key.

Vin opened the door and saw a huge man standing there.

“Hi, My car broke down and I was wondering if I could use your phone?”

It was a testament to Vin’s state of mind that without thinking he said yes and turned his back to the man.

Arnie Livingston smiled at the mental lapse of the normally smart ATF sharpshooter.

Vin knew he had made a big mistake when large arms went around him and his arms were pinned against his body.

The arms tightened until he whimpered, his bruised ribs making themselves known. On a good day he could have gotten away, but this was not a good day.

Not only did his ribs hurt, his head had started to hurt and his leg was throbbing.

Blue eyes grew wide as another man entered the house, a chloroform soaked rag in his hand.

With chloroform dripping on the carpet the man walked right up to Vin.

Without saying a word the rag was shoved over Vin’s nose and mouth and held there until he was forced to breath in the noxious fumes.

When he felt the slim body go limp Livingston let the man drop to the floor.

Moving quickly Vin was blindfolded, gagged, his hands tied tightly behind his back. Then he not only tied the ankles together but also tied the knees together. Then the unconscious man was dumped in the backseat of a car parked to the side of ranch house, an old dirty blanket was tossed over him.

For the next ten minutes Livingston followed through with his plan. Since he had failed with the horse a circumstance that had just fallen in his lap he went with the plan he had come up with.

Vin Tanner was going to disappear forever. But before he died he was going to suffer, payment for the anguish he had caused to an innocent.

Larabee would think Tanner had just left and wouldn’t search for him. The guy just worked for him, it wasn't like he was family.

If only Livingston had known just how close the two men were he might have hesitated in taking the sharpshooter.

But he didn’t so he continued. Rummaging through Vin’s belongings he tossed clothes into a suitcase and then left, making it look like Vin had left the ranch of his own free will.

While Livingston was in the bedroom his buddy was in the kitchen rummaging through the refrigerator. Grabbing a beer and a granola bar he quickly shoved them down his throat. Then setting the empty bottle on the table he tossed the granola bar wrapper next to the bottle. Grabbing a couple of other bars he shoved them in his pocket and headed out to front door.

As Livingston shut the front door the phone began to ring, hearing Larabee’s voice he just smiled and shut the door.

His accomplice left first was driving Vin’s Tahoe in front of his own car.

After driving for a while the accomplice found out just how little Livingston thought of him.

The Tahoe was forced off the road and tumbled down the side of deep ravine to land upside down.

Livingston stopped and looked over the edge. Satisfied that it would not be found for a long time he got back into his automobile and drove on.

He was anxious to get to his grandpa’s mountain hideaway. It was time for Tanner to pay and the boss would be happy that he had accomplished his job. He could see his goal in sight. Tonight and tomorrow would be the culmination of months of planning and scheming. Tanner would be dead and he would have his prize and live happy for once in his pitiful life.

Meanwhile Chris was broken down on the side of the road. Not wanting to call Vin because he didn’t want Vin on the road with his leg, and new injuries. And yes he had to admit to himself that Vin was not finding it easy to sit down right now and that was his entire fault. Besides he wasn’t sure that Vin would come pick him up even if he was healthy. In the next minute Chris knew that his brother would be there for him, and if he knew Vin the younger man would be blaming himself for the whole fiasco. Well Chris would straighten him out and take the blame or at least the biggest share of it.

Chris called Buck. Buck would know just by looking at him that something had happened and would give him the third degree until he got the whole story. After all the ladies man had a big soft spot in his heart for Vin, right next to the one he had for JD. In fact Chris would be lucky if he didn’t have a matching bruise on the other side of his jaw when his old friend found out he had raised his hand to Vin.

As Chris waited for his old buddy he began to worry about Vin. After what happened with his worrying earlier he sternly told himself to get a grip. Vin was fine; he was home and safe even if he was fuming about their argument.

The feeling of something not quite right just wouldn’t go away. It continued to get worse until he finally called the ranch.

Getting no answer he left a message letting Vin know that he would be home soon and explaining why he was running late. At the end of the message he whispered again how sorry he was.

Chris paused before hanging up hoping Vin would pick up the phone, but he didn’t.

Finally Buck got there, Chris didn’t even wait for Buck to look at the SUV to see if he could fix it. The blond jumped in Buck's front seat and told him to hurry back to the ranch.

While Buck was driving back to the ranch Chris got on the phone and called a nearby garage and gave them instructions on taking care of his SUV.

Buck took one look at the blond's face and whistled.

“Damn, stud. Who gave you the bruise?”

Chris sighed and leaned his head back on the headrest.

“A pissed off Texas mule did,” he replied.

Buck raised one eyebrow.

“Vin hit you. Why did he do that? Junior must have had a good reason.”

“He did. I flipped him over my knees and spanked his bare ass until it was blood red.”

Buck pulled to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks sending them both flying forward.

“You fucking did what? As I recall Vin was still hurting and you’re telling me you spanked him.”

“Buck just drive. I will tell you what happened,” Chris ordered.

So as they drove back to the ranch Chris told the story of how he found Vin and what had ensued.

“I don’t blame him for hitting you. He’s not a kid. Sure he shouldn’t’ have gone to the barn, but hell Chris, Vin doesn’t like to be cooped up and you sure as hell know that. I’m surprised he’s been good this long.”

“I know Buck. I let him down by just leaving him on his won too much with nothing to do. I should have thought of something to keep him occupied and I know I overreacted, but my God when I saw him lying there under Peso, my heart just stopped. Thank God for that contrary horse, if he hadn’t been there I think Pegasus would have killed Vin.”

Buck heard the slight quaver in Chris’s voice. Only someone who knew the blond as well as he did would have heard it.

“You just need to sit down and the two of you hash this out. It’ll be okay Chris. You know Vin won’t hold this against you.”

Chris nodded his head; right now he just wanted to get back to the ranch, that sick feeling in his gut had not gone away in fact it had just gotten worse. Vin needed him and he needed him now. He needed to see Vin, he needed to hug Vin and make sure he was fine.

As soon as they pulled up in front of the ranch house Chris had jumped out and hurried inside. Buck just shook his head picked up the BBQ and followed his friend.

Reaching the kitchen Buck looked at the kitchen table in surprise. Now that was confusing. Vin had not had a beer for a couple of weeks. It had reacted badly with his pain meds causing him to throw up several times. It had made the sharpshooter shy away from liquor at least while he was on his meds and Buck knew that Vin was still on them for a few more days. There was no way that granola bar was his young friends, Vin stayed away from anything that might be good for him like the plague. The way Chris had talked the blond had not been home long enough to drink a beer. Besides Chris was a very neat person and just did not leave things like this setting out. This was very weird and he was starting to get butterflies in his stomach.

Putting the food down on the cabinet he jumped when an anguished cry came from the back of the house.

Buck dashed down the hallway to find Chris sitting on the edge of Vin’s bed, the sharpshooter nowhere to be seen.

Chris raised his head and Buck caught his breath at the agonized look on his friend's face.

“He’s gone. Vin left, I ran him off, me and my temper,” Chris whispered.

Buck scanned the room, taking in the open drawers, the open closet and the bedside table. That sick feeling began to get worse in his stomach as he remembered the beer bottle and the wrapper in the kitchen. Things were adding up and it didn’t look good.

“Chris, what is Vin’s most prized possession?”

Chris looked blankly at his friend, his mind not working with its usual efficiency.

Buck just looked at him, Chris finally turned and looked on the table. There sat a picture of Vin’s mother. She was sitting in a chair with a young Vin on her lap.

Reaching out a shaky hand Chris picked up the picture. Hope began to bloom in his broken heart followed quickly by dread.

Chris held the picture to his chest and looked up at Buck. Buck the man who had stood by him through the wild teenage and college years, then became an uncle to his beloved son and then held him together when his little family died.

Chris sighed, Buck was still here and in that moment the blond knew that it would be all right. Buck would make sure of it.

“Think Chris. Vin Tanner would never leave that picture here. Furthermore, I know that boy and if you’ll set aside your guilt and fear you’ll remember that Vin doesn’t run from shit. He faces it head on, and the argument the two of you had is nothing compared to the horrors he faced growing up. Yeah he was pissed, you were pissed, and not like it’s the first time the two of you stubborn mules have butted heads and it won’t be the last. So cut out the fucking bullshit and pull yourself together.”

Chris had to chuckle, despite the situation he had to laugh.

“Buck you have a strange way of making me feel better, but why change something that works. You’re right, Vin would not leave this picture and he would not run off. He might meet me at the door with another right hook, but never take off. Call the boys and get them out here, and get one of the lab guys out here. I want to know how Vin was taken out of here and I want to know as fast as possible. Because that sick feeling I have in my gut is getting worse.”

“I have that same feeling, stud. I found an empty beer bottle in the kitchen with a granola wrapper. Junior won’t touch beer right now and you’d have to force feed him one of those bars. I think we’re on the right track, Vin was taken out of here and we just need to find out how.”

Within an hour the house was filled with Team 7 and two lab technicians. The lab guys were happy to come out, Vin was a good friend of theirs and they wanted to help in anyway they could. In fact the evidence they collected would take top priority back at the lab.

Multiple fingerprints were found in Vin’s bedroom and the kitchen. The beer bottle and granola wrapper was put in an evidence bag. The six ATF agents brainstormed. Ezra and JD headed to the barn since that was where Chris had found Vin hurt. Tanner was to smart to let the stallion get the drop on him. Their instincts told them that something else had happened.

Not one of the team condemned Chris when he told them what had happened. They didn’t need to when it was obvious Chris was doing a bang up job blaming himself and their comments were not necessary or helpful.

Chris was on the phone and was having an APB put out on Vin’s Tahoe and on Vin himself. He made it clear that Vin was a victim and was to be treated as such. If he weren’t then Chris Larabee would take the person apart. Buck sat on the sofa and kept an eye on his friend.

Nathan and Josiah were checking out the front room when Nathan suddenly paused and sniffed the air.

Josiah watched as his teammate dropped to the floor.

“Chris, come here,” Nathan, yelled.

When the blond arrived at a run, Nathan stood up and held out his hand.

Chris stepped forward and sniffed, his face paling.

“Chloroform. The bastards chloroformed him.”

The lab techs came in and informed Team 7 that they would get right to work on the evidence they had collected and call Larabee immediately with their results.

It was just getting dark when Ezra and JD got back to the house.

Ezra promptly informed his teammates that there was no way the wind opened the door to let Pegasus into the barn and the wind most did not shut and lock the door that Vin had left open.

Chris sat down his green eyes filled with shock.

“Someone kidnapped Vin. Who in the hell would do that?”

“I don’t know, but whoever has taken Brother Vin will pay dearly,” Josiah vowed clenching his huge hands. Vin held a special spot in Josiah’s heart since the younger man went with him once a month to visit his sister. Hannah felt at ease with Vin and she wasn’t that way around a lot of people.

The six men then went and did what they could to keep busy. They had to play the waiting game now. The lab techs would call if they found anything helpful. If the APB came up with a hit on the Tahoe or Vin then Chris would get the call.

JD stayed on the computer looking at old cases that Vin had been involved in not just with Team 7 but also in his days as a bounty hunter and US Marshall.

Josiah rounded up Ez and despite the con man's objections they headed to the barn to feed and water the horses.

Nathan began throwing together something for everyone to eat, but how they were going to get Chris to eat was beyond him.

Buck stuck to his friend like glue. Where Chris paced was where Buck sat, when Chris needed to vent Buck was there to listen and reassure the blond that Vin would be found safe and sound.

Buck prayed quietly that he would be found and he would be okay. If Vin wasn’t then Chris would never survive the loss, Buck knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Vin had to okay, please God let the boy be found and be alive.

Well part of Buck’s prayer was good. Vin was alive, but he was far from okay.

Livingston pulled up in front of the old house that had belonged to his grandfather. It was isolated and was perfect for his plans. It was after dark as he arrived.

Opening the back door he hauled a semi-conscious Vin out. He tossed the non-resisting body over his shoulder and went inside the five room one level house.

Arnie tossed Vin on the floor enjoying the gasp of pain that made it past the gag. The man then attached one end of long leather strap tightly around Vin’s throat, the other end he threw over a beam in the ceiling. Grabbing the dangling end he tied it to a hook in the wall.

Stalking back over to Vin, he noticed that the ATF agent was moving around a little, at least as far as he could while being tied up.

Arnie yanked the blindfold off tossing it to the side. The big man grabbed a handful of Vin’s hair and yanked the tousled head up.

Glaring down into confused pain filled eyes he hissed, “Now you just be real quiet for a few hours pretty boy. You can’t get away; I’ve made damn sure of that. I‘ve got to take care of some pleasurable business, then get some rest. After that you will begin to make payment on the hurt you’ve inflicted on innocent people. Make no mistake Tanner you won’t be getting out of this alive and if you think your friend is coming after you forget it.”

Vin’s eyes widened in panic, what had happened to Chris had he been hurt.

“I have it on good authority that he’s washed his hands of you. Thinks you just took off and is glad to be rid of you. In fact he said that it was a relief to finally be free of the street trash he’d pretended to like,” Arnie lied then he laughed as he saw denial cross the expressive face, but there was also a tinge of doubt that filled the blue eyes.

Damn if there was one thing he liked almost as much as killing, beating and fucking someone it was screwing with their head.

Since he had it on good authority that the two men were close he knew that would also be Tanner’s weak point and it looked like he was right.

Arnie swung his hand and slapped Vin hard rocking the head back and splitting the agents lip open.

Vin saw stars and almost blacked out.

Arnie stood up and stared down at the helpless man. He had to admit that Tanner was the best looking man he’d seen in a long time and in jail he had gotten a taste for male meat. Oh well, it just depended how it went. He wasn’t the real boss in this whole little game, but maybe he’d be able to at least fuck the fed a little before he died.

“Now just in case you’re thinking of trying to get away, I’ll leave you with a reminder of how futile it would be.”

Arnie walked over to the leather strap and pulled on it laughing as Vin was pulled to his feet by the strap around his throat. By the time the young agent was on his feet although unsteady because of being tied and nearly choked to death, he was gasping and turning blue.

Arnie tied the strap tight around the hook and then walked back over. He removed the gag letting Vin get some much-needed air into his lungs.

After all he wasn’t ready to kill the man yet, had to have his fun and the boss would be pissed if the man died to quick.

Roughly Vin’s hands were untied and then raised over his head where the wrists were again tied together and then the rope was thrown over the ceiling beam and tied to the same hook the leather strap was attached to.

Vin shivered in revulsion as Arnie licked the side of his neck, then gasped as big hands grabbed his ass pulling him tight against the big man's smelly body.

Vin could feel the man's erection pressing against him and felt total terror. This fucking could not be happening to him.

Frantically he thought Chris wouldn’t leave me, he wouldn’t be glad to get rid of me...he didn’t...didn’t think I was trash.

But then Vin remembered how mad Chris was at him. The blond had been so mad he had treated Vin like he was an idiot, had humiliated him by turning him over his knee and spanking him. Were those the actions of a man who cared about Vin?

Vin was so confused by now. The pain was so bad, he couldn’t think straight.

“Don’t have time to do you right now, maybe later when the boss is done with you, I’ll split you wide open with my cock. Pretty boy like you probably likes to take it up the ass or in the mouth.”

Arnie smiled at the fear he saw in the blue eyes as he slid his big hands inside the loose sweat pants and cupped the firm ass gripping it hard, enjoying the feel of the skin in his hands. The big man dug in his fingernails enjoying the flash of pain in the blue eyes, as he knew he was leaving bruises on the smooth skin.

Vin flinched then looked Arnie right in the eye. The bastard’s fingernails were digging into his already sore ass, but fuck if he would ask for mercy. He was a Tanner after all.

Hoarsely he said, “Fuck off asshole. The only street trash I see in this room is you.”

Then as Arnie released him and picked up the gag, Vin caught sight of the sheer fury in the man's eyes.

Vin figured he really should have kept his mouth shut as the gag was shoved back in his mouth and tied tightly. A huge hand grasped the top of his t-shirt and yanked ripping it down the front until the torn shirt just hung off his shoulders leaving his chest bare.

Then he saw Arnie pick up a baseball bat and knew that he really...really should have kept his smart mouth shut.

As Arnie swung the bat, Vin shut his eyes waiting for a killing blow.

Sheer horrific pain roared through his body as the bat made contact with his leg on the exact spot where he had been shot. Damn fucking prick had seen the healing wound and picked his spot to cause maximum pain without killing.

Vin screamed in agony, the sound muffled by the gag. The slim body jerked, the injured leg gave way and he fell only to be held up by the strap around his throat and his tied wrists.

Arnie had tied the leather strap that was around his throat tighter than the rope around Vin’s wrists so that the strap tightened first.

As his air was cut off, he tried to get by the pain and get to his feet, but it was futile. Just when he thought he was going to die by hanging, Arnie grabbed a handful of hair and jerked him to his feet.

When Vin was gasping for breath, tears of pain running down his cheeks, Arnie tied the strap back to the hook making sure it was not as tight as before. Now the boy wouldn’t strangle if he passed out, his arms would take the full brunt of his weight.

Standing in front of the young man he smiled as Vin automatically flinched away from him the tear filled eyes full of fear even though the agent tried to hide his fear.

Reaching out Arnie pinched both nipples between his fingers and kept applying pressure until a strangled scream filled the air.

Satisfied with his success in tormenting the man, Arnie smiled and stood up.

“Now you know whose boss. Just remember you’re all alone, pretty boy. NO friends no one riding in on a white horse to save your ass, because no one cares what happens to you. All alone just like when you were five years old and your mom croaked off. You know if she really loved you she would have fought harder and lived, you just aren’t that special a person. You just take up space and air like...well hell like a dog. But at least a dog is considered man's best friend, you have no friends.”

Arnie laughed as Vin turned his face away the words like bullets hitting his heart ripping away at his self-confidence, his feeling of belonging, his feeling of worth. A sick feeling filled the pit of his stomach as he began to question everything, finding a soul mate in Chris, his brother in everything but blood. The other men he considered his friends, men who would watch his back. Was it all a lie? Were they glad to be rid of him? Did Chris really think he was street trash?

With those dark thoughts Vin just shut his eyes and when the fist hit him again and again in the stomach he just accepted that this was his fate.

He never heard the man laughing as heavy footsteps crossed the room; a door was opened and then shut as he was left alone.

His last thought before he passed out was that he was going to die alone and would be forgotten in no time, hell maybe they had already forgotten him.

As Vin slumped his arms protested the strain of holding his body up, his shoulder muscles were aching but he never noticed as the darkness took over.

If Vin could only see his friends and especially his blond brother he would know that he was loved and that they were worried sick about him. Vin would know that if he didn’t come back, Chris Larabee would soon join him in the afterlife. The blond would not be able to live after losing another member of his family, his soul brother, the man who kept him together and sane.

Chris had paced, he had cussed, thrown things and prayed to God to protect Vin and bring him home safe.

Buck stayed by his side just like he had when the blond had fallen apart after the deaths of his family. Buck was under no illusions about what would happen if Vin didn’t come home safe. Chris would self-destruct; the blond would either put a gun to his head or just let himself get killed while on the job.

Buck was sure of that and he knew that he would be unable to stop it, Chris would just wait for the perfect time and let it happen.