Hidden Enemy Lurking

by Wgang

Chris sent Nathan and Ezra to the ATF lab to see if they could speed the technicians up.

JD was still searching through Vin's old cases; he was amazed at all the dangerous men his teammate had taken down while a bounty hunter. Some of the men had been hunted for years and Vin had finally done what the FBI couldn’t do and brought these dredges of society in.

At one point in the evening Chris had stopped in the middle of the floor and looked at Buck and Josiah.

“We have to find him. He’s hurt and he’s terrified.”

Buck looked at Josiah his expression confused. Hell everyone knew how close Vin and Chris was but could they really feel each others pain.

Buck watched as Josiah seemingly read his mind and nodded his head.

“We’ll find him, Chris,” Josiah soothed.

“Hell Vin will probably get himself out of this and be waiting for us with the bad guys all tied up with bow,” Buck said trying vainly to lighten the atmosphere.

He failed.

Chris turned and glared at him as he hissed, “I can feel him, Buck. Vin is more scared than he has ever been and...and...” here Chris broke off and sat down in the chair holding his head in his hands.

Josiah raised his hand silently telling Buck to remain seated.

The big profiler crossed the room and knelt down next to his despairing boss.

“What Chris. What aren’t you telling us?”

Chris looked up his green eyes finding Josiah's and seeing nothing but concern and worry for his friends in the searching gaze.

“You’ll think I’m crazy,” he laughed bleakly.

“No, I won’t. I have seen you and Vin communicate for years without talking. The two of you are connected in a way I have never seen before but have read about. Whenever Vin has been hurt you have known about it and the same goes for Vin. You have always known when he was in trouble. You yourself said that today on the way home you felt he was in trouble and sure enough in the barn he was. Then on the way back to the house with Buck you knew something was wrong. So whatever you are feeling now, boss...I’d figure it was pretty accurate.”

Chris shut his eyes as tears leaked out the corners.

“I pray I’m wrong now because all I feel is his pain, unrelenting pain and not all of it is physical. I think...I’m afraid my brother is giving up. After me spanking him, I’m sure he thinks I hate him and am glad he is gone. Oh, God I don’t want him to die thinking I hate him,” Chris ended on a sob as he broke down in tears.

Josiah reached out and caught the blond up in his arms.

As Buck bolted off the sofa to hurry to Chris’s side the phone rang.

As Chris went to wrench out of Josiah's arms, the big man tightened his grip. If the news were bad then he wanted to have a very firm grip around Chris.

Buck grabbed up the phone and practically yelled “Larabee residence,” into it.

The ladies man listened intently then hung up the phone.

Chris almost passed out at the pale look on his old friend's face.

“Vin...no,” came the anguished whisper out of the blond's mouth.

Buck hurried across the room as Josiah let Chris go even though he kept his arm around the trembling shoulders.

“No, Chris that was Ezra. The fingerprints came back with two names. Neil Philkins, a two bit criminal that just got out of jail two weeks ago and Arnie Livingston.”

Here Buck paused and looked uneasy.

Chris straightened to his full height and calmly said, “What about Livingston?”

“He has a record because of some forged checks. There were a couple of times he was pulled in for some robberies but there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Livingston’s current place of employment is Saverstan Sanitarium.”

There was utter silence as the name sunk in then Chris exploded.

“God damn it all. That fucking whore is locked up and she still manages to hurt Vin. I swear to God that this time I won’t hold back, I will strangle that bitch with my bare hands and enjoy watching the breath leaving her body,” Chris screamed as he stormed across the room.

JD looked up startled as Chris barreled through the door.

“JD check the names Arnie Livingston and Neil Philkins. I want a list of all their known family and friends. I want to know where they are currently living and property they might own. I want it fast JD. This could mean Vin’s life.”

JD glanced at Buck and getting a ‘it’ll be okay kid’ look from his surrogate big brother he began typing and doing what he did best. Getting all the information that his team needed and this time it was life or death even JD could sense that.

Chris got on the phone with Nathan and Ez and was ordering them to the sanitarium.

Buck and Josiah were surprised to see a brief smile cross the blond's face.

Chris hung up the phone and said, “Nathan and Ez were already on their way to see if Livingston was there and to make sure that psycho whore is still a patient there.”

It seemed like an eternity but JD called out and said he got the information.

Chris snatched up the paper. Neil was living in a halfway house so that was not where Vin would be. Neither man had family living in the area. Arnie had an apartment.

Chris just glanced at Buck who got on the phone and sent the DPD over to check it out.

Then Chris saw the last entry. Livingston had some property that he inherited from his grandfather who had died five years ago, an old house in the mountains.

Chris had been a Navy Seal, then a cop, now a member of the ATF; he had learned to go with his gut. It had always served him well in the past.

The green eyes got a faraway look in them as though he was seeing things that the others could not see. This cabin was where his brother was. His gut was screaming at him that he needed to hurry, he needed to get to the cabin to save Vin.

“JD, I need a helicopter to take me to the closest landing place to this cabin. I want the closest police or sheriffs department waiting there with a car. Buck, Josiah and I are going to go to this cabin. I think that is where Livingston has Vin,” Chris said spitting out the order.

“Are you sure, Chris?” Buck asked worriedly.

Josiah had been watching his boss and had seen the distant look come across his face. Josiah had been around many different religions and many different traditions. The profiler was a firm believer that most people have lived before in another time and place. He also believed that friends and family were connected in some way in all those various lives. In one life your current wife might have been your mother or your best friend, who knows, but Josiah was sure of one thing.

Josiah was sure that Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner had lived before and they had been together in many lifetimes. The two men epitomized the saying ‘soul brothers’. So if Chris said that Vin was at that cabin then Vin Tanner was at that cabin.

Buck glanced at Josiah wondering what he thought.

Josiah calmly said, “Your gut has always been right about Vin before, boss. So lets go get our young brother back.”

Leaving JD to man the phones and coordinate things, the three men headed out. One of Chris’s neighbors had a small landing strip for his private plane and the helicopter was going to pick them up there.

Chris’s phone rang as the helicopter was seen in the distance. Locking the SUV they headed over to their transport.

Chris talked tersely on the phone practically snarling into it.

Climbing on the copter he hissed to his two men.

“That was Nathan. Livingston hasn’t been at work since early today. The staff insisted that Mary Travis was in her room, but Ez threatened them until they were shown to her room. The bed was made up to look like she was asleep, but surprise, she wasn’t in bed, the bitch has escaped.”

There was silence in the helicopter after that as two men wondered about what was happening to their teammate and one man fretted about his brother.

Chris shut his eyes and started thinking of Vin and only Vin as he sent his brother strength.

‘Hang on Vin. We’re coming for you and will be there soon. Don’t let them win, cowboy. Don’t leave me alone, you brought me into the light and if you give up, I won’t survive the darkness again. I love you, brother.”

Miles and miles away Vin Tanner jerked awake, tear tracks dry on his pale cheeks. Groaning he had stood up even though pain flared in his leg, his arms and shoulders were numb, but his discomfort was secondary to the elation that flowed through him.

Where before he had been totally alone in the darkness of his mind, he woke up to the voice of his brother, the man who held his soul close to his heart.

Chris was coming for him...his friends were coming for him. Where previously there had been nothing but pain, anguish, loss and the fear of dying alone and forgotten now there was hope, optimism and the knowledge that if he did die today his death would be avenged and he would not be forgotten.

But Vin quickly qualified that thought. He could not die today, if he did then he would cast his brother back to the hell of his own demons. There was no doubt in his mind that Chris would follow him soon after in death. The blond had survived the loss of his beloved wife and son, but Vin knew that the blond would not survive losing his brother.

It wasn’t arrogance that made him think that it was just God’s honest truth.

Hearing his brothers voice in his head forced Vin to remember that while Chris had been livid about him going to the barn, that had been because he had been so scared of losing his kid brother. Chris had a volatile temper and he had lost it with Vin and really the spanking hadn’t hurt that badly. It had hurt his feelings more than anything.

While Vin was ready to forgive his brother he wasn’t ready to forgive himself for the nasty comment about Chris not being his father. That was just hateful and he needed to make up for that.

Vin resolved that no matter what the bastard did to him, he would hang on for his brother’s sake. After all it was what his mother would expect of her son.

Vin didn’t know how long he stood there, he was just concentrating on staying on his feet and listening for his attacker to come back with this boss whoever that might be.

It might have been just a few minutes or a few hours. All he knew was that Chris was closer and he just needed to concentrate on that.

Vin was right Chris, Buck and Josiah was now speeding his way in the car the sheriff department had provided for them. Chris had ordered the local police to let them take the lead and promised to call them to clean up. Chris had resolved that this time he was going to end it and he didn’t want any extra witnesses around.

Sounds began coming from the back room and to Vin’s ears it sounded like people having sex. As time went on the sounds increased not only in volume but violence.

At one point Vin cringed as he heard someone who sounded like Arnie scream in pain as strange slapping sounds filled the air, then there were just guttural moans and whimpers as whoever it was found their release.

Vin heard the door open behind and tensed up. Fingers combed through his long hair, small hands much smaller than Arnie’s cupped his ass. A tinkling familiar laugh echoed around the room as he tried to shy away from the touch.

Vin moaned and dropped his head. He knew that laugh...he was so fucked.

The person drifted around him touching and stroking until Vin knew they were standing right in front of him.

Vin straightened up and looked into the coldest, hardest blue eyes he had ever seen.

Mary Travis was glaring back at him. She had aged quite a bit in the time she had been in the mental hospital; time had not treated her well.

“Hello, Vin. It’s so good to see you again. Arnie remove Mr. Tanner’s gag. I always thought he had the prettiest mouth,” she purred just like a big cat ready for the kill.

Vin tried to swallow but his mouth was to dry. At Mary’s order Arnie gave him a drink of water.

As Arnie walked away Vin looked at him and was shocked to see that the big man only wore a pair of jeans. The man's back was covered in bloody welts. Some were large and bleeding and could only have been caused by a whip, there were others that were thin and were probably fingernails.

Vin looked at Mary’s hands and saw long fake fingernails painted bright red, fingernails that were filed to a point.

Mary saw where Vin’s eyes were and smiled. Poor pretty baby and Vin really was a very beautiful man. Maybe that was why Chris wanted to keep him around and ignore Mary.

“Been a long time. From the looks of his back you’re still a sick fucking bitch,” Vin growled.

At the back of his mind he could almost hear Chris hiss ‘shut your fucking mouth, Tanner’.

Vin had to agree with the voice in his head as the long red fingernails came up and scratched him down the middle of his chest.

Biting his bottom lip he opened up the cut that Arnie had given him earlier, but was not going to yell and give the bitch any satisfaction.

As blood welled up in the deep scratches she had caused Mary reached out and rubbed the blood around the smooth skin.

“You always did have a smart mouth despite your quiet ways. You know Arnie wants to fuck you, but I don’t think I’ll let him do that. I think what would bother you more is if I forced you to get hard and fuck me. I can that, Vin. I’ve done it with Arnie and many other men. They bow down before me and do whatever I want. A man can be forced to ejaculate and I think I would enjoy forcing you to cum.”

Arnie started to protest, but one look from Mary and he dropped his eyes.

Vin despite his precarious position was just astounded at the change in the man.

It made him fear the vindictive woman in front of him even more.

“I don’t bow down in front of anyone so do your worst,” Vin hissed covering his dread of what the psycho bitch was going to do to him.

“Arnie hold Vin’s pretty mouth open for me.”

Arnie moved to stand behind Vin and viciously pinched the helpless man’s cheeks until the mouth was forced open. Vin struggled but he was to weak and with his arms and legs tied he couldn’t hit back.

Mary pushed a small stool over and stood on it so she was eye level to the sharpshooter.

Vin felt her mouth cover his but was unable to do anything, not only did Arnie have his fingers pressing in on his cheeks but he had his other hand buried in the long hair of his captive holding Vin’s head in place.

Mary stuck her tongue in Vin’s mouth and leisurely tasted the young man. Vin cringed as her small hands roamed over his body, grasping his cock and cupping his balls in her hand. As she withdrew her tongue she bit down hard on Vin’s lower lip tasting blood in her mouth from the cut.

Satisfied that now maybe Vin would see who controlled him, Mary looked into angry eyes.

Arnie let go of Vin and stepped back.

Vin glared at the woman in front of him, he hated her like he had hated no one else.

Gathering blood and saliva in his mouth he spit watching in satisfaction as it dripped down her cheek.

Mary viciously slapped him, scratching long fingernails down one cheek causing him to cry out and jerk backwards.

“I’m tired of messing around with you. As pretty as you are and as much as I used to love Chris I want you both to suffer now and I have the perfect way to do that to both of you.”

Vin watched in horror as Mary and Arnie proceeded to pour gasoline in all the rooms of the house. In the room where he was they poured it around all the walls clearly they wanted the fire to reach him slowly as they did not pour any near him.

“I want you to think on how you stole my lover from me and left me nothing. Then you think how Chris is going to feel when he finds your burned body out here. Burned just like his family died. He couldn’t save them and he couldn’t save you, he will be destroyed while I go on with my life.”

Arnie put the gag back in Vin’s mouth and started to follow Mary, he couldn’t resist hitting Vin in the stomach a couple of more times though.

Mary smiled as she went into the back room and started the fire.

Vin heard the crackling of flames and the smell of smoke filled the air as the old wood caught fire quickly.

Vin was tormented not by the thought of his own death, but by what it was going to do to Chris. Not only would the blond blame himself for Vin’s death, but also the way he died would haunt the man forever.

As Mary walked out the front door she tossed a match inside and through the flames that rose up, Vin saw her blow him a kiss.

Then the door was shut leaving him alone in the burning house.

Vin didn’t know how he and Chris could communicate with other the way they did but he mentally screamed,

‘You better hurry, cowboy or I’m dead’

Chris saw the smoke above the treetops as Vin’s thoughts slammed into him.

The blond pressed down harder on the gas pedal and the car literally surged forward.

Buck and Josiah had also seen the smoke and had a nightmarish thought of what they might find when they reached the house.

The house was in view; gravel flew everywhere as the three men dove out of the car.

Mary and Arnie had been arguing in the front yard not realizing that they were about to be caught.

Arnie launched himself at Josiah who met him head on. The two men were well matched in size and strength.

Mary threw herself at Chris who slapped her hard enough to knock her to the ground.

Buck yanked her to her feet as he watched Chris kick the door in. Buck held his breath as the blond disappeared into the flames.

The ladies man knew better than to try to stop his old friend. There was one thing that was perfectly clear to him. Chris would come back out that door with Vin or both men were going to perish in the fire.

Vin weakly raised his head, the smoke making it very difficult to breathe.

Green sharp eyes drilled into his across the flames that separated them. Green eyes that promised safety, love and vengeance on those who hurt his brother. Green eyes that ordered him to stay calm, he would soon be safe in his brother’s arms.

Chris hurtled through the flames, thanking God that the flames had not reached the half naked man hanging by his arms.

Chris had felt the blue eyes rest on him the moment the door had crashed open. Blue eyes that said I waited for you, I need you.

Chris didn’t stop to remove the gag or untie Vin’s wrists and legs. Pulling his knife out of his pocket, a knife that thank God he kept razor sharp the blond cut the rope holding Vin's arms over his head.

Vin’s arms were numb and when they were untied they fell like a rock and landed on Chris’s shoulder.

Vin heard Chris hiss as he saw the leather strap. It took longer than the rope to saw through the leather but finally Chris was done and hefted Vin over his shoulder.

Meanwhile Mary was livid. Buck was eyeing the house and wondering if he shouldn’t just knock the bitch out and go in after Chris. Josiah was taking his time beating on Livingston.

Josiah was enjoying himself, taking his worry, anger and frustration out on the hapless man.

Mary took advantage of Buck’s lack of attention. Men were all the same, they underestimated women, thinking by using their strength they could control the female.

Mary made her hands into claws and raked them down one side of Buck’s face and neck.

The sheer shock and pain made him let of her, grabbing at his face.

Mary darted for the door and was through it before Buck could stop her.

Chris looked up as a screaming woman, a woman who hardly resembled the woman he had last seen so long ago descended upon him and his precious package.

As Mary reached him, Chris calmly picked up his foot, keeping a tight grip on Vin and kicked out catching her on the leg sending her crashing to the floor.

“You want to live, bitch then follow me. I don’t give a shit, you can burn to death for all I care,” Chris growled then turned to leave the death trap.

Mary reached out and grabbed Vin’s dangling tied wrists, trying to pull him off Chris’s shoulder.

Chris snarled as he whirled around kicking her shoulder forcing her to let go and fall backwards.

Buck was heading into the house. Chris met him at the door carrying an all but unconscious Vin.

Buck flickered his eyes behind Chris and the blond hissed, “Leave her ass. You are not going to risk your life for that piece of shit.”

At that moment Vin moaned and Buck like Chris focused his whole attention on the injured innocent in all this.

Chris carried Vin over to the car and laid him on the ground, Buck putting a blanket he found in the backseat down first.

As Buck untied Vin’s legs, Chris got the leather strap off his brother’s neck and the gag out of his mouth.

Chris let Buck untied Vin’s wrists as he sat behind Vin and pulled him into his arms. Vin was coughing and gasping for breath as he had swallowed a lot of smoke and the gag had not helped with his breathing.

Chris stroked back Vin’s hair, talking softly in soothing tones assuring Vin he was safe now, they would take care of him.

Chris saw Buck’s eyes slit dangerously, and while he finally noticed the scratches on his old friend’s face he looked to see what Buck was staring at.

Vin had scratch marks down his face and chest, obviously that bitch had dug her claws into the vulnerable man. Vin’s lower lip was cut, bruised and swollen. The young man's jaw was bruised and there was a vivid red ligature mark around his throat.

Vin’s stomach was covered in bruises mottling the smooth skin. But what was really scary was Vin’s leg. It had been healing nicely but now was swollen, red streaks covering the thigh and bruised.

Chris carefully turned Vin's face to side until he could feel the soft panting breath against his neck.

“You’re okay, cowboy. You’re okay. I’m here...shhhh...we’re going to get you to a hospital then we’re going home as soon as we can.”

Chris felt tears as Vin broke down.

Chris wrapped his arms around his brother holding him tight even kissing the top of Vin's head.

Josiah had Arnie pinned on the ground, but the man didn’t know when to shut up.

Arnie sneered, “Guess the boss was right. You didn’t want her because you’re fucking pretty boy there. Got to admit his ass is the tightest one I’ve ever been in.”

Arnie yelped as Josiah planted one big fist in his side then Josiah grabbed a handful of Arnie’s hair and slammed his face into the ground.

Chris’s eyes met his two teammates. He had felt Vin flinch when Arnie had spoke up.

My God had Vin been raped.

Before Chris could formulate the question, a small voice whispered, “He...he didn’t ra...rape me, but he...he touched me so did...did she.”

If Chris had not held the fragile soul in his arms he would have killed Arnie with his bare hands.

As it was Chris met Josiah’s eyes and the two men knew what needed to be done. Justice would be served.

Buck missed the communication between his two friends he was checking Vin’s leg out and was getting more worried.

“Chris we got to get him to the hospital.”

Chris nodded and with Buck’s help he climbed into the back seat holding Vin in his arms. There was no way he was letting Vin out of his failsafe grasp until they reached the hospital. And even then he would not allow his brother out of his sight.

Buck got on his phone and called the local authorities. They would be there in fifteen minutes.

Chris yelled, “Josiah, you’ll have backup in fifteen minutes. Take care of things here.”

Again that long look passed between the two men.

By now the house was almost completely engulfed in flames, Mary Travis was dead, finally the bitch was dead.

Buck drove away from the house as fast as he could while being careful of the fragile precious person he had in the back seat.

Chris was cradling Vin like he was a child murmuring in a low voice as Vin rested his head on the blonde’s shoulder.

As soon as they were out of sight, Josiah stood up, dragging Arnie with him.

“Time to meet your maker…want to repent and admit your sins first,” Josiah calmly said.

Arnie was screeching and begging but it did him no good.

Josiah heard the sirens in the distance and knew he needed to act now. This animal had touched Vin. He had terrorized the young man and if he weren’t put down like the rabid dog he was then he would continue to do it to others and probably come back after his young teammate.

Arnie gave one scream as Josiah literally shoved him right into the inferno.

Josiah stood back and felt nothing but satisfaction as the house then collapsed on top of the wretched man.

Josiah smiled; he loved going Old Testament on the dredges of society. Especially on those who would harm someone he loved, someone who couldn’t fight back.

Josiah turned putting his had to his head as the authorities showed up.

The profiler told them that the perpetuators were in the burning building or what was left of it.

The male suspect had hit him to get into the house for the woman who had dashed inside earlier.

Since they could not put out the fire until the fire department showed up the authorities just watched it burn.

Josiah was put in a patrol car and taken to the hospital not just to be checked out but because he felt the need to be close to his teammates.

Ez and Nathan had stopped by the ranch to pick up JD. Buck had contacted them and told them that they had Vin and where they would be. He also requested that they bring Chris and Vin a change of clothes. Buck told them that Mary was likely dead in the fire and that Livingston was being held by Josiah until the local authorities could show up at the house.

Speeding to join up with the rest of the team, JD’s phone rang.

It was the DPD and Vin’s Tahoe had been found at the bottom of a ravine with a dead body in it.

JD informed them that the body was likely that of Neil Philkins, Livingston’s accomplice.

The three men mused that the good thing was that the man was already dead. At least his death was fast unlike how it would have been if they had gotten hold of him. Of course Vin would probably not be happy that his new Tahoe was totaled.

Right then Vin did not care about his Tahoe, the only thing he cared about was the fact that he was in pain, constant pain, but his lifeline was sitting next to him holding on tight to his hand.

Chris was sitting next to Vin in the ER. The nursing personnel had tried to get the blond to stay in the waiting room.

In no uncertain terms they were informed that there was nothing they could say or do that would move him from Vin’s side.

Vin’s leg felt like it was on fire, but the young man was coherent enough to know that someone was trying to get his brother to leave him.

Vin had hold of Chris’s hand but now he cried out his brother’s name and turned trying to get a grip on Chris’s shirt.

The nurses with Chris’s help got Vin to lie back down. When Vin was assured that Chris was not going anywhere he calmed down.

Now Chris was sitting next to Vin’s bed as the medical personal worked around him.

The blond leaned down whispering to Vin the whole time. He had one arm laying above Vin’s head the fingers stroking through the long hair. Chris’s other hand had never left Vin’s grasp.

Vin kept his blue eyes on Chris, it wasn’t so much that he heard everything the blond said, but that his brother was here, he had come for him. Vin felt a little guilty about the brief time when he was with Arnie and the man had played with him making him think that Chris and the others had forsaken him.

While Chris watched Vin was given a sedative to put him out for a few hours. The oxygen mask was helping him breath.

“Agent Larabee, your brother will be asleep for several hours. During that time we are going to run some lab tests, x-rays and an MRI. I am concerned about deep muscle trauma on his leg where he was shot less than a month ago. Also, his stomach has taken a beating; it looks like someone kicked him several times. I want to rule out internal damage in that area,” Dr. Kastle stated.

“Thanks, Doctor. Could I talk to you in private for a minute?” Chris asked.

Chris stood up and leaning down whispered to the unconscious man that he would be back, not to worry.

The hard-nosed ATF leader didn’t care who saw him as he kissed Vin on the forehead then followed the doctor to the hallway.

Buck walked over when he saw Chris and the doctor. When the doctor went to tell Buck that they needed some privacy Chris forestalled him.

“It’s okay, Doctor Kastle, Buck is one of my agents and a close friend to Vin and I. Whatever I am about to tell you or you are about to tell me, it is okay for him to hear it all.”

Dr. Kastle just smiled and nodded his head. On the fax from the Denver hospital Chris was listed, as Vin’s next of kin so whatever he said was fine as far as Vin’s health was concerned.

“The animal that had my brother made some statements that sounded like he might have sexually assaulted him. Vin managed to say that he was not raped, but that he was touched. Vin was already partially out of it at the time. I would appreciate it if you could check my brother for rape or any indication that he was hurt sexually.”

Dr. Kastle looked into green eyes that held worry for his brother and hell borne retribution for those who hurt his family.

“I will check Vin, Agent Larabee. If it eases your mind at all he has not exhibited the signs of rape. Generally when someone is raped they flinch from others, jump at any sound and curl into themselves. Your brother only flinches due to the pain of his injuries not from any person. However to set your mind at rest and to make sure my patient is taken care of I will check him and I will do so when he gets settled into his room and while he is heavily sedated. If you would like to be present and hold him that would be fine. That way I would not need another doctor or nurse to assist me.”

Chris sighed in relief.

“I would like to help you. Thanks for asking.”

“I would suggest that you go get something to eat and be back here in about an hour and a half. Vin will be done with tests and in his room by then. I assure you he will not wake up before then.”

Chris hesitated but saw the wisdom of the doctor’s words.

If he ate then once Vin was awake there would not be a reason for him to have to leave his brothers bedside.

Buck and Chris met up with Josiah and all three men headed for the cafeteria.

When they were seated and eating, Josiah filled them in on what had happened to Livingston.

Buck intercepted the look that passed between his two teammates this time. There was no doubt in his mind that Josiah had assisted Livingston to his death and that Chris had known before hand what the profiler was going to do.

Buck thought quietly for minute and realized that it didn’t bother him. While he did not ordinarily condone taking the law into your own hands there were times he felt it was necessary, kind of like they did it in the old west.

It was so easy in the old west. Good guy catches bad guy, bad guy pays the price, and justice is done. Quick and fast unlike court trials that take forever to get before a jury, then the guy gets out with a slap on his wrist so he can go out and terrorize or kill someone else. Sometimes it made law enforcement people wonder if the job was worth it when the courts don’t always hold up their end of the job.

Josiah and Chris were looking at him. It was clear that they wondering how he was going to react to the unspoken fact that a man was tossed into a fire to die...tossed there by an ATF agent with the approval of an ATF leader.

“Well, looks like Livingston is going to burn in hell right along with the bitch,” Buck stated very calmly.

Buck then added “I called JD while you were in with Vin. The rest of the team is on there way here. Livingston’s accomplice was found dead in Vin’s Tahoe at the bottom of a ravine. The Tahoe is totaled which won’t please Junior. I told them that Mary was probably dead and that Josiah had Livingston in custody. When they get here we just tell them like the authorities were told, the guy got away from Josiah and ran into the house to try to save Mary. He failed and died in the attempt. There is no need for them to agitate over anything else.”

“I concur, brother. A real shame to die that way, but since where he is currently residing is particularly hot I don’t have any sympathy,” Josiah stated.

Chris smiled at his friends. He was sure that what they had done would come back to haunt them one day even if it was when they met St. Peter on the day of their death. But he could not regret putting down a rabid dog. Now Vin would not have to look at his face or listen to his foul mouth spewing his filth in a courtroom.

Glancing at his watch Chris stood up. He told his friends that he would be in Vin’s room and would let them know when they could see the young sharpshooter.

Chris looked at Buck and without saying a word he made sure his old friend would tell Josiah that Chris was having Vin checked for rape. After all Josiah heard the man’s comments about Vin and they owed it to the older man to let him know about Vin. Josiah cared for Vin like a son and he deserved to know. The other three men had no need to know the full story unless Vin wished it.

Almost two hours later found five men sitting, pacing or sleeping in the waiting room waiting for word of Vin.

To Chris’s relief Vin had not been raped. There were finger sized bruises on the buttocks with indentations of fingernails, but there was no evidence of any penetration and Vin’s genitals showed no signs of abuse. Dr. Kastle mentioned that Vin’s butt was red and remarked on it. When Chris said that had happened at home and was not caused by the criminal, the doctor let it go. After all with all Vin’s other injuries a red butt was very minor.

It was the doctor’s guess that Vin had been threatened with rape and he had been grabbed that way so as to scare him half to death.

Doctor Kastle did mention the fingernail scratches that they had been coated with antibiotic ointment and bandaged. The ligature mark around Vin’s throat and the rope burns around the slender wrists and ankles had also been taken care of. The bite on the lower lip had been coated with some lotion that needed to be reapplied every four hours. Since Chris planned on being there by Vin’s beside until he was ready to go home, he said that he would take care of applying the lotion on the bite and other marks.

There was no internal damage due to the hits to the stomach though he would be sore for several weeks.

Chris knew how shy Vin was and wanted to save him as much embarrassment as possible. His brother was going to be upset enough that they had to put a catheter in so he did not have to put any weight on the leg to go to the restroom.

Dr. Kastle made it plain that the leg was not in good shape. The muscles were bruised down to the bone. Blood vessels had burst with the hit from the baseball bat. In other words Vin’s recovery from the gunshot wound had been set back by at least two to three months and he would need more therapy.

Chris assured the doctor that Vin would get all the therapy he needed and he would be cared for until he was back on his feet.

Looking at the grim blond sitting by his patient, the doctor noticed how Chris never let his anger project itself on the injured man.

Chris never stopped touching Vin so that although he was unconscious the young man knew his brother was near. Chris brushed his fingers through Vin’s hair, held his hand, whispered to him when he became restless and otherwise was just there.

In fact Dr. Kastle was so touched by Chris’s care for his kid brother that he went back to his office and called his own younger brother who he hadn’t talked to in several months what with life getting in the way. By the time he hung up the phone they had made arrangements to meet and spend several days together in a couple of weeks.

So from then on until Vin was well enough to go home Dr. Kastle paid particular attention to the two brothers and made sure the nursing staff knew that Vin was by far his most favorite patient ensuring that he would be pampered.

Not that it was necessary; the nurses had already fallen hard for the gorgeous young man and his big brother.

Vin was so happy to be alive that he was much better behaved than he was when he was shot. Now he realized just exactly what he almost lost.

In fact when the grouchy man in room 104 saw the extra care that the pleasant young man was getting he immediately improved his lousy attitude and was surprised that instead of getting just excellent polite care he got some genuine smiles, conversation with the staff and even some extra treats from the kitchen. With his more positive attitude he recovered quicker and even stopped by Vin’s room to wish the young man a speedy recovery.

So Vin made everyone’s life a little easier just by being Vin Tanner.

A little over a week later Vin went home. Vin left the hospital early in the morning anxious to get home. Dr. Kastle made sure he was sedated so that it was not too uncomfortable a trip. Nathan drove Chris’s SUV to the neighbors to pick the two men up from the helicopter that Travis had sent to pick up the two men.

Chris had put Buck in charge of the team while he was gone. The blond had told Buck to let Travis know that he would be taking off until Vin was back on his feet, and that would probably be around two to three months. Since Chris had accumulated over six months worth of vacation time since he never took off he did not think that would be a problem. If Travis wanted him to do some work at home at times that would be fine, but his focus would be on his brother and getting Vin back up to speed.

Travis had no problem with Larabee’s request. Partly because he had a feeling if he didn’t go along with it Chris would just quit and partly because he felt guilty. Granted it was not his fault that his daughter in law was crazy but he still felt guilty.

Nathan had made a comfortable nest in the back of the SUV so Vin could lie down. Blankets, pillows and quilts were arranged to give him the maximum amount of comfort. Granted he would not be in a seat belt but there was no way that Vin could tolerate one around his waist, his stomach still very painful.

Besides it was less than ten minutes from the Larabee-Tanner ranch and that was driving slowly so his teammate was not bounced around.

The rest of the team would be out that night; they would have to be satisfied until then with Nathan’s report when he got back to the office.

Nathan easily picked Vin up in his arms like a child and carried him inside where Vin was put to bed in Chris’s room. The blond had told his brother that they would be sharing a bed until he was sure that Vin would be okay by himself. There was no way he wanted Vin trying to go to the bathroom by himself and falling down. The bed was plenty big enough for the two of them.

Nathan went over Chris the directions and medications that the doctor had given him and then went to work after telling his boss to call if he had any questions or needed anything.

Chris had assured his friend that everything he needed was lying in that bed, standing in front of him or in an ATF office in Denver.

Nathan had been caught off guard by Chris’s comments but had grabbed the blond up in a fierce hug telling him that they all felt that way.

Nathan then earned a frown from a drowsy Vin when he automatically checked the man for fever though he had never ran one in the last week. Nathan then ruffled Vin’s hair laughing when the young man growled at him.

Vin napped during the morning and by lunch was starved. Chris brought him a light lunch and ate his own meal sitting next to the bed in a chair while they watched TV.

When Vin finished eating he turned the TV off and turned to face Chris.

It was almost time for his pain meds but since they made him sleep he didn’t want them until he had talked to Chris.

They had not talked about what had happened on the day Vin had been kidnapped. Vin had been in too much pain, or heavily sedated to talk before now.

Now though Vin felt it was time to clear the air. He had not talked in detail about what had happened. The authorities had been given the information they needed to close their books and that was all.

Chris heard Vin clear his throat and looked up to see vivid blue eyes looking right at him.

Swallowing nervously he realized that the time to talk was now and while he was relieved to get it over it he was a little nervous.

“Chris, I just want you to know that I don’t blame you for...for spanking me that day. I was furious when you did it, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had scared you to death by getting hurt in the barn and you just reacted. If Livingston had not grabbed me I was going to apologize to you when you got back with dinner. I had behaved like a kid and you were right I needed to be treated like one.”

“No, Vin. I had no right to do that to you. I was so shocked when I looked down and saw what I had done to you. You’re right I was so pissed I couldn’t see straight, but I should have controlled my temper...now what the hell is so funny?” Chris demanded though his green eyes were twinkling as Vin chuckled.

“You controlling your temper when you’re that mad. Come on Chris you were scared and worried and that makes a volatile combination in you. I know you and I should have kept my own temper.”

There was silence for a minute.

Then Vin got choked up as he said, “I...I should never have said what I did about you not being my father. That was mean and vicious...I guess my temper got the best of me and I am so very sorry.”

Chris got up and sat on the bed, gathered Vin into his arms and hugged him tightly.

“It’s okay, Vin. Just as you know all about my temper I know all about yours. You get mad so seldom, but when you do look out. I know that and I kept pushing. Tell you what lets look at it like a learning experience. Next time we both feel like flying off the handle like that at each other we just take a deep breath and back off. How’s that?”

Vin sighed wrapping his arms around Chris’s waist.

“Okay, I still feel guilty and I know you do to, but if you can get by it so can I. After all that’s what brother’s do. Right?”

“Right. What else? I know there is something else bothering you.”

“When...when Livingston had me, it wasn’t so much that he scared me or even touched me although that was bad even though I know it could have been a hell of a lot worse. I...there was few minutes when I started to believe his lies. That you had forsaken me thought I was trash and was glad to be rid of me. He said my mother was happy to die just to get away from me. You know...know Chris, I hurt so badly and I was so scared that I believed him for a while. I’m sorry, I feel like I betrayed you and the guys and...and my mom.”

Chris silently seethed at what Vin had suffered. It looked like the mental and emotional trauma was worse than the physical tortures his brother had been through.

“You didn’t betray us, Vin. What you felt was only natural. He attacked you where you were the most vulnerable...your trust and love. He was trying to take away your belief that we were coming after you and that you were worthless. But you knew better and you fought back. You told him off and then hell you told the cops that you spit in the bitches face. Good for you even though you suffered for it. Anyone in your place would have had doubts, Vin...anyone. So get that thought that you betrayed anyone out of your head. Okay?”

Vin was silent as he mulled over Chris’s words. The blond was right he had fought back as best as he could and while he had started to buy Livingston’s lies he had not ultimately believed them.

“Okay, Chris. I’m not going to say that I still won’t think about what I did or should have done, but I think I’m going to be fine. With you and the guys helping me, it’s going to be fine.”

Chris again marveled at Vin’s ability to bounce back from everything that life had tossed at him. It was Vin’s strength that kept Chris grounded when he was tempted to fly off the handle. Now though it was Chris’s strength that Vin needed and the blond vowed to be there for his brother.

Chris also worried about Vin’s reaction when in the next couple of days he had to tell Vin the news...the bad news. He wanted to wait for a couple of days until Vin was settled back in at home and relaxed knowing that he was not going to be alone. Chris was going to be with him until he was ready to go back to work.

Vin was not going to take the news well. Hell Chris had gone ballistic and actually shattered the TV in his hotel room when Buck had told him the news. Ezra had immediately paid the hotel owner double the amount for the cost of the TV to forget about the damage. At the time Josiah, and JD had been with Vin. The team had wanted Chris to get good nights sleep before they headed home leaving the blond with Vin.

But there was no way they could keep this news away from Chris.

During the investigation at the burned out house only one body had been found, that of a man. No woman’s body had been found, but a trapdoor to the cellar was found. Leading out from that cellar was a tunnel. Since Livingston’s grandfather was a known felon it was guessed that he kept stolen goods or guns down there and used the tunnel as a getaway.

The tunnel had been recently used and the other entrance had been left opened by whoever had used the tunnel.

It was determined that since Mary Travis’s body was not found and the tunnel had been used that the woman had escaped and was on the loose. An APB had been put out, but she had disappeared.

This was the news that Chris had to tell Vin, but right now he was content to just hold the younger man safe in his arms. Just like in the future he would keep Vin close and do a better job of protecting him no matter how irritated Vin became of the mother hen attitude.

Yes Chris would do his best, but sometimes a person’s best is just not good enough. Life has a way of throwing curve balls and they can be nasty sometimes.

So as Chris held Vin close as his brother drifted into a healing sleep he tried to think of how he was going to say those five words.


The End for now