Apologies and Truths

by Wgang

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

Warnings: Bad language, hurt/comfort.

Summary: Picks up when the Seven leave Chanu’s village. I thought they ended that episode way to soon.

Characters: Mainly Chris and Vin of course, but Buck and Ez and the others are all present and accounted for.

The seven men headed out leaving Chanu’s village with heavy hearts, yet also happy that justice had been done.

Buck and Ezra were mortified when it came to light that her father, not Chanu ,had killed Claire. It turned out the two young people were married and expecting their first child. They were also very upset because a man they had respected had murdered Claire, not the heathen they suspected of the deed.

Perhaps even more upsetting than that was the fact that they had accused one of their friends of not being the right person for the job when it came to tracking and finding the supposed killer. When the two men had their own fears and prejudices come to the forefront, they had turned on the one person who saw the truth. Vin Tanner had become the enemy, a man who would stick up for those murdering savages, even one who would attack a defenseless white girl.

Vin had not said a word when they had verbally voiced their lack of trust in him. Now that they thought about Vin’s lack of anger to their comments they felt guiltier if that were possible.

Had Vin been so betrayed so many times in the past that it didn’t come as a surprise when two of his supposed friends turned on him. That was a very sobering thought.

The young tracker had just gone out and with Nathan to back him up he had captured Chanu and figured out the truth.

Buck remembered sitting down next to Vin and pretty much telling him that they didn’t trust him to do his job, to back them in finding the Indian who they were sure had attacked an innocent girl.

Then later Chris had informed Buck that his lack of faith in Vin sounded personal to him, an accusation that Buck denied. But now that he thought about it he had to wonder if it was true. Did he resent Vin for taking his place by Chris’s side? Buck didn’t like to think he was that petty, but hell maybe he was. It was a notion that left a very bad taste in his mouth.

Vin was a good man, an honest, loyal though stubborn as hell man. Tanner was an even better friend to the volatile blond gunslinger, keeping Chris in line and controlling his hair trigger temper. Buck had given up on keeping Chris out of shit a long time ago.

Maybe that was it. Maybe it was because Vin was able to be that close to Chris, like a brother more than a friend. Maybe it was because Vin’s ability to pull Chris out of his self imposed hell made him feel ashamed and inadequate that he had been unable for years to do what Vin had done in a matter of days, hell a matter of minutes. From what he heard, the two men had exchanged glances and then worked together to save Nathan like a well oiled machine. After all he and Chris had been friends for years and he had not been able to keep his friend from the bottle, but Vin could. A simple look or a soft calming word and Chris would smile affectionately at the younger man, tease the tracker and totally forget about getting drunk or shooting somebody. It was as though Vin just had to look at the blond or speak to him and everything and everyone around the blond ceased to exist.

Buck figured Vin was like the sun, he had brought light back into Chris’s desolate dismal life. Nothing seemed to shake Tanner and Chris thrived in that calmness, that tranquility.

Chris treated Vin like a kid brother much like Buck treated JD, but it was closer than what he and JD had. Josiah said it best when he stated that they were two bodies, with one soul. Damned if the preacher didn’t have it right.

But that was beside the point; the point being that Buck had been a bastard to Vin. There was no getting around it; he had been a lousy friend.

Looking across at Ezra, the scoundrel knew that Ez was feeling just as bad. The two of them had ganged up on Vin knowing perfectly well that the younger man would be blindsided by their accusation and not say a word in his defense. Because while Vin may have been betrayed in the past and it wouldn’t surprise him to be betrayed again, he would still be shocked. After all, how could he fathom that two of his friends would even think that he would protect a man who would harm an innocent girl?

Buck was right, Ezra was feeling guilty, an emotion that he was not used to feeling, but one he was becoming familiar with after teaming up with the six men he called friends. Six men who forced him to admit to himself that he did have a conscience and a deep seeded willingness to do the right thing.

Glancing up to where Vin was riding next to Chris, the gambler had to admit that he had been anything but a friend lately. He had hoped that he had gotten over his prejudices and would treat people the way he would want to be treated, but let an Indian be accused of a crime and he fell back on his preconceived ideas.

When he initially met Nathan that was the way he had reacted and then he saw past the color of the skin. Nathan was now a very good friend. Oh, they still had their arguments, but they were friends. Hell Ezra didn’t even see the color of Nathan’s skin, he saw the caring, compassionate, gentle healer that could become deadly when someone he cared about was in danger.

Then came Chanu and Claire, and Ezra fell back on his old ways. Chanu was guilty, had to be, he was an Indian, a heathen, a murderer of white women and children.

What a crock of shit. It was that poor girl's own father who was the murderer. Chanu was just a husband trying to protect his wife and now he had lost her and their unborn baby.

Maybe if he and Buck had kept their heads and listened to Vin that poor girl would be alive. But no, in their eyes Vin had become a traitor, the man who defended the Indian, who had the audacity to say that the Indian deserved a fair trial.

Ezra felt himself flush with mortification as he remembered Vin walking into the saloon to get a quick beer and the scene that had ensued.

Several of the patrons had called him names, names like half-breed, Indian lover, and savage. Ezra had even heard a couple of men comment that Vin was not fit to be around decent people and ought to be run out of town.

Vin had ignored them and quietly finished his beer. Turning to leave he had nodded to the corner table where Chris and Josiah were sitting. The tracker had not been worried about the comments. He had known that the two men had his back.

Then Vin’s expressive blue eyes had landed on Ezra and Buck who sat together. The blue gaze clearly stated that he wasn’t sure that he could trust Ez and Buck to watch his back anymore. Ez had felt his heart stutter at that look and looking at Buck he had known that the big man felt the same way. Then Rafe had stormed into the saloon and the reason they were mad at Vin came back and their resolve hardened. Yeah, their resolve of let's hang the Indian and be done with it. God when he fucked up he really did a good job of it.

Ez glanced at Buck just as the scoundrel glanced at him. Without saying a word they both agreed that they needed to make up to Vin for their horrible behavior towards him. There was no doubt that Vin’s trust in them had been damaged. Vin did not trust easily and now they would have to work to regain it.

JD rode next to Josiah and was talking in low tones to the preacher. JD was worried because he knew about the rift between the three men, really four men, because without a doubt Chris would defend Vin to the death.

Josiah had patiently explained that it would all turn out okay. He firmly believed that once the men sat down and talked it out then the seven would be well on the way back to normal.

Josiah did tell JD that Buck and Ezra were wrong in jumping to conclusions and they would have to apologize, which he was sure they would do. The preacher was also sure that Vin being the man he was would accept their apology.

While Josiah was talking to JD, Nathan had ridden up to and was riding on the other side of Vin. Nathan stared at the younger man, the concern evident on his face. Vin had been on the go for days, hunting for Chanu and Claire, finally bringing Chanu in and then nearly getting strangled to death in the jail. Instead of resting he went out and found Claire’s body. After sending Claire’s father back to town with her body he headed off after Chanu, then to top it off he had to fight off Chanu’s brother. It certainly didn’t help that he had to watch his back not only on the trail but also in town, a place where he should have been safe.

Nathan turned to glare back at the two men bringing up the rear. He was satisfied when the two men looked down. clearly feeling guilty over their actions; good he hoped they felt guilty for a long time.

Of course there were very few who knew that Vin almost died in the jail. Besides Chanu who did the deed and Vin who was the victim, there was Chris, JD, Josiah and himself. When JD said he would let the other two know about it Chris had told him not to bother, the way they were acting they wouldn’t give a shit anyway. Thankfully, Vin was not around to hear what the blond said about the other two men.

Nathan noticed that Vin was flushed and he had a death grip on the reins. Flashing a look at Chris, Nathan saw that the blond was worried about his friend.

Nathan reached out and tried to touch Vin’s forehead to check for a fever, which he just knew would be present.

Vin jerked back and glared at the healer, not noticing that Chris had put a hand on his shoulder to steady him as he swayed in the saddle. The blond felt the heat and knew that Vin was sick.

“Vin, we need to stop for a bit. You need to let Nathan check you. You have a fever,” Chris said worry lacing his voice.

“I’m fine, Chris. Just a little tired that’s all,” Vin said, his voice raspy from almost being strangled.

Vin didn’t want to stop. He was afraid if they did he wouldn’t be able to climb back on Peso. Besides, if Nathan got his hands on him the healer would go ballistic and Chris would be livid.

No one knew that before he left town to hunt Chanu after the man had escaped, he had been attacked at his wagon. Not thinking real clear after being strangled Vin did not hear the man come up behind him. The first time he knew that he was in trouble was when the knife slid along his side. The pain had seared through him and he had fallen to the ground. Thankfully the assailant had just kicked him a couple of times and then disappeared. Vin had dragged himself to his feet and bandaged it without telling anyone about it. If he had told Nathan or Chris he had been stabbed there was no way they would have let him leave town. So he kept his mouth shut. He needed to find Chanu. It was his fault that the man had escaped. Now his side was burning and aching, not to mention his throat was killing him, and he was exhausted. Yeah, Chris and Nathan both were going to kill him.

That was why he needed to get to town and to his wagon. He could be by himself, fixing his side and no one would know he was hurt.

Buck saw Vin sway in the saddle and the concerned looks on Nathan and Chris’s face. Something was wrong with Vin and both men were worried.

Buck looked at Ez and cocked his head indicating that he wanted to go to the front.

Chris reached over and grabbed Peso’s reins stopping the big horse. Vin snapped a blue-eyed glare at his friend.

“You are sick and Nathan needs to look you over,” Chris said his tone clearly indicating that he expected no argument from the tracker.

When Buck overheard the blond he pulled up behind Vin and got down off his horse. Maybe if he told Vin he really needed to talk to him right now he could get the tracker off the horse and Nathan could look at him.

At least that might put him back in the good graces of some of his friends.

Just as he walked between Chris and Vin’s horse Nathan reached over and grabbed Vin’s belt to stop him. As he wrapped his hand around Vin’s belt he inadvertently rubbed the wounded side.

The reaction was immediate; Vin lost all color in his face as he gasped jerking to the side away from Nathan’s grasp.

Chris grabbed Vin’s shoulder trying to keep him in the saddle as the tracker passed out, but it was too late as Vin’s eyes rolled back and he fainted.

Buck reached up and caught Vin, pulling him the rest of the way out of the saddle into his arms.

“My God, Nathan he’s burning up,” Buck said.

Thankfully they were close to a stream and a perfect spot to camp.

Buck carried the unconscious man and held him until Chris and Ezra had a bed of blankets lying on the ground. Gently Vin was lowered down.

JD took care of the horses, while Josiah started a fire. Nathan sent Ezra to start up some water.

Chris and Nathan removed the buckskin coat and unbuttoned Vin’s shirt. Buck gasped when he saw the ugly marks on Vin’s throat.

Chris glanced up and said, “Chanu did it when he escaped from jail. JD found him unconscious on the floor, Chanu nearly killed him.”

“Why didn’t you tell Ez and I what had happened to Vin?” Buck demanded getting angry.

Ezra had come up and stood on Buck's other side looking at the blood red ligature marks on his friend’s throat.

“I didn’t figure you would care, after all he’s just an Indian lover, not fit to be around decent people,” Chris commented not bothering to look at the two men. His total focus now and in the near future would be on Vin. That was just the way of his world now, centered on Vin and he wouldn’t change it.

“That’s not fair, Mr. Larabee. We would never want Vin hurt and we were wrong in our comments to him. We plan on making it right with him as soon as we can,” Ezra stated.

Buck just glared at his old friend, the guilt in his gut now churning making him feel sick to his stomach.

Before anything more could be said, Nathan found the knife wound and the bruises on the thin chest.

“Damn stubborn son of a bitch of a tracker,” he fumed as he took off Vin’s shirt and undershirt. The wound was about four inches in length and while not deep it had bled a lot and was starting to get infected. The bruises were vivid against the tanned skin.

“I need some clean bandages, they’re in my saddlebags, and some hot water. I’m going to need some cool water for the fever. Get some of my tea going, stubborn fool is going to drink it whether he wants it or not,” Nathan issued his orders.

Chris felt fury rise up as he looked at the helpless man. It was obvious that someone had gotten to the tracker and Vin had kept quiet about it. Well after Nathan got Vin to feeling better he would just have to shoot the tracker to teach him a lesson about letting others know when he was hurt.

Buck hurried to the saddlebags while Ezra tended the fire and got the water boiling.

“Nathan, he’s going to be okay?” Chris said, his statement sounding like a question.

“Should be, Chris. Vin shouldn’t even be lying here. If he’d told me he was hurt I’d have taken care of it before it got infected.”

“Maybe he didn’t think there was time. After all, the entire town was going crazy wanting Chanu’s death and he was afraid a lot of innocent people would get hurt. You know Vin, he worries about everyone but himself,” Chris said calmly even though he felt anything but calm.

Any time Vin was hurt he was edgy, worried, his world was just not right without his blue eyed soul brother next to him teasing him, calming him. The world was just a darker place without Vin Tanner, especially his world.

Ezra and Buck brought the bandages and water over and overheard Chris’s comments. If it was possible they both felt worse than they did before.

Chris was right; Vin always put others first over his own safety and comfort. How many times had the tracker put himself in danger to take out someone who was about to shoot one of his friends?

Buck heard something that Ezra didn’t. Chris needed Vin like he needed air to breathe. The blond was worried, his entire world was lying on the ground unconscious and hurt, he had not been able to protect Vin from Chanu in the jail, from getting knifed, from the nasty comments of the townspeople and worse of all from two men who professed to be friends.

Two men whose behavior Buck was sure hurt Vin worse than all the comments and the knife wound put together.

Buck knew that Nathan would not be budged from Vin’s side until the tracker woke up.

As far as Chris, the blond was not moving in the near future. Buck was sure that if a stampede were to suddenly appear Chris would calmly pick Vin up and carry him to safety and to hell with everything else.

“Ez and I will be right over by the fire making the tea, if Vin needs anything, anything at all just yell,” Buck said.

“Yes, we will procure anything you need,” Ez, added.

Chris never bothered to look up at the two men; Nathan glanced up and just nodded his head.

Over the next hour Nathan cleaned up and bandaged the knife wound, and with Chris’s help used cool wet cloths to get Vin’s temperature down. It helped that the pus had been cleaned from the wound and he had not been injured that long ago.

Vin moaned and rolled his head to the side, blearily opening his eyes. He was not surprised to see Chris; he would have been very surprised if the dark clad gunslinger had not been by his side.

“How are you feeling, cowboy?” Chris softly asked. Anyone hearing his gentle tone of voice would have been shocked to know that it was the deadly Chris Larabee who was talking.

Buck heard the tone of voice, though, and he knew that tone. Chris only used it with those people he loved, people he had let in past his walls. Sarah and Adam were the last two people he had talked to like that, now it looked like Vin had joined that special group.

Vin had always been in that group, Buck had to admit...from day one; the blond had gravitated to the younger man. Chris had listened to Vin, teased the younger man and worried over him. Vin could pull Chris out of a towering temper just with a look or a crooked smile or a smart-ass comment, a comment that would have had Larabee pulling his gun on anyone else.

Buck had to muse what the hell did Vin get out of his close friendship with Larabee, it wasn’t like his old buddy was easy to get along with. Hell half the time he would swear Chris would just as soon shoot most people as look at them.

Buck watched as Chris fussed over the now conscious man. Vin’s hair was brushed back off his forehead; the blanket was tucked in around the slim body to keep out the chill of the night. Chris let his hand rest on Vin’s shoulder and talked to him in a low voice never taking his eyes off the blue ones of his brother.

Brother…yeah it was like he figured earlier; Vin was Chris’s kid brother. While Chris got someone to take care of, Vin got what he had never had, at least since he was a child. Vin got a family, a big brother, someone who accepted him just like he was, just like he accepted people. While Vin would never admit it he enjoyed being hovered over especially by Chris. The others he would only tolerate for a little while, with Chris he seemed to thrive on the attention.

Nathan got up to get some tea for Vin despite his objections and arguing that he felt fine.

Chris just smiled and told him he would drink Nathan’s tea and enjoy it. If Nathan said he needed it then that was final.

Vin just glared at Chris, his searing blue eyes promising retribution at a future date.

Buck and Ezra walked up just in time to hear Chris laugh.

“You’re going to have to practice that glare, Vin. It still doesn’t have the same impact mine does.”

Chris was sliding behind Vin so the slim body could rest between his legs and Vin could lean back against him. It would be easier to drink the tea if he was sitting up and it would take some pressure off the bruised chest. Besides, if Vin were resting against Chris then the blond would be able to keep a very close eye on the tracker and know that he was alive and safe.

Chris was well aware that Vin was weaker than he let on as well as being totally exhausted from no sleep and blood loss.

As he pulled Vin back against him, Buck knelt down and helped Vin to shift back until his back rested against Chris’s chest.

Chris rested one arm around Vin’s waist splaying his hand on the flat stomach.

Ez knelt on the other side of the two men.

Chris just stared at them. Vin was not looking at them, and he was plucking nervously at the blanket.

Vin really did not want to have this conversation. He would prefer that both men just forget it and they could go back to being friends, but he knew that Chris would never let it lie. In fact, he knew that the other men fully expected Buck and Ez to apologize.

“Mr. Tanner I want to extend my sincerest apologies for my comments concerning your ability to bring in Chanu. I was totally in the wrong and it will never happen again. I behaved like a Neanderthal, which are not the actions of a true friend. You, my dear sir, were the only one with the foresight and the instincts to figure out the true perpetuator of the dastardly deed,” Ez said his green eyes fixed determinedly on Vin.

Vin looked up at Ez and with a twinkle in his eyes he replied, “I only understood half of what you said, but I think you just apologized for being a jackass and said it would never happen again.”

Ezra stared at his friend, a friend he had been so worried he had lost due to his own actions.

A friend who had just called him a jackass, whom he had to admit, was extremely accurate.

Ez cleared his throat as he replied, “That is very true, Mr…ah…Vin. I was behaving like a jackass. I am truly…truly sorry. I let my feelings; my previous dealings with Indians color what was going with that young lady. In the saloon when…”

Vin raised his good hand and then frowned at Chris when he grabbed the hand and laid it back down.

“I’m fine, Larabee, quit being a mother hen,” Vin said with just a touch of heat in his voice.

Chris just glared back and kept his hand over Vin’s arm.

“Ez, I accept your apology. I know that…that a person’s feeling can get the best of them. How about you let me win a few poker games and we’ll call it even,” Vin said slyly watching the color leech from the gamblers face.

Ez swallowed and manfully said, “It would be my pleasure to assist you in winning, Vin. Thank you for being so forgiving. Now I best go help Josiah and JD or heaven knows what kind of swill we will all be eating tonight.”

Ez gave his familiar two-fingered salute to Vin and Chris. He was gratified to see Vin smile and Chris nodded to him. It was obvious that if Vin were going to forgive him then Chris would do the same. But Ez was not stupid, if he hurt Vin again then the blond would not hold back and quite frankly he wouldn’t deserve the same consideration if he hurt the tracker again.

Buck licked his lips and waited until Vin’s emotive blue eyes rested on his face.

“I don’t have all the fancy words that Ez does, Vin. So I’ll just say it. I am so sorry for saying that to you, acting like you weren’t going to do what was right and thinking the worse about you. Chris…Chris said he thought it sounded personal and I denied it, but hell maybe he was right.”

Vin went to interrupt the man, but Chris patted his stomach for silence. Vin had a feeling that Buck had a lot more to say than Ez had.

Chris knew his old friend and figured it was time for Buck to get it out of his system. Time for some square talking, Vin did not deserve to be caught in the middle, he would not allow the young man to be the scapegoat for his behavior and Buck’s insecurities.

“I’ve been friends with Chris a long time, through good times and bad. I have to say that I have never been able to turn Chris away from anything that he was bound and determined to go through with. You have that ability, Vin. Chris listens to you. Hell, if you rode out tomorrow he would go with you without thinking twice.”

Buck looked up to see Chris nodding his head in agreement. Vin felt the blond shift behind him and knew that Chris was agreeing with Buck. Hell if Chris left tomorrow Vin would go with him without thinking about it, it was just the way they were, the way their friendship worked, the way brothers were.

“I saw that, Vin and I was jealous. Hell, I’m not proud of it, and to be honest I refused to admit it to myself until I saw you were right, I was wrong and you paid the price for not having all your friends at your back. Don’t interrupt…I’m on a roll. I wasn’t strong enough to control Chris’s demons so I just left him, another thing I’m not proud of, so I guess you could say that when you handled him so well, I was a little angry. After all, here was this scruffy mule-headed barely more than a kid sharpshooter that with one glance could calm Chris Larabee’s volatile temper. Besides you took my place, a place I really hadn’t earned lately, but you took it…that of Chris’s best friend and I…”

Chris sighed heavily; he cradled Vin more securely in his arms feeling the slim body shiver just a little.

The blond held back his smile as Buck covered Vin up with a spare blanket. Mother hen, hell Buck could the biggest mother hen on the planet.

Vin just glowered at the scoundrel. Shit now there were two of them hovering over him. Well, come tomorrow he was riding out whether they wanted him to or not. He wanted his wagon and he wanted some peace and quiet. All this turmoil and talking was wearing on a body.

“I forgive you, Bucklin, now leave me the hell alone, you can buy me a damn beer in town.”

With that thought Vin shut his eyes secure in the knowledge that Chris had his back, literally, and that Buck and the rest of his friends were there to protect him.

Buck gaped at the sleeping man.

“Little shit went to sleep. I’m baring my soul and the scrawny assed mule went to sleep.”

Chris chuckled, “I think you should take it as a compliment. Vin trusts you enough to go to sleep with you right next to him, to protect him. He did forgive you, Buck. Besides he knows that you and I need to talk. I want to apologize.”

Buck sat abruptly sat down. Chris Larabee apologize? This was a fucking first.

“I should have talked to you before now, but when it comes to…to Sarah and Adam I am still a coward.”

“You don’t have to say anything, Chris,” Buck said seeing his friend’s eyes cloud over with remembered grief.

“Yes, Buck, I do, it’s been too long since I should have cleared the air. I don’t blame you for their deaths. At the time you were just a convenient target and you never fought back. I pushed you away Buck. You took shit from me over and over again until I nearly beat you to death. I never blamed you for leaving; I wanted no…I needed you to leave then. I guess I had to wallow in my own hell, my self pity and self hatred until I was ready to heal.

“You are right in that Vin pulled me into the light, but if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have been alive for him to help. You are wrong big guy, Vin is not my best friend, he is my brother. You are my best friend and I am sorry for not telling you that earlier.”

As Buck just sat there with his mouth open, Chris said, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at a loss for words.”

Buck glanced down as he felt tears prick the back of his eyes.

“You don’t know how long I’ve needed to hear you say that you don’t blame me for their deaths. They were my family to and I miss them every day. Thanks Chris for helping clear the air.”

There was silence, a good silence, for a few minutes.

Buck looked at Vin sleeping peacefully in the arms of the man who scared most people shitless.

“You know, he brought us back together and I treated him awful. I just don’t know how…”

“Buck, let it go. He forgave you. Knowing Vin, he won’t want it brought up again. Vin is the most forgiving person I know,” Chris interrupted.

Buck nodded and brushed the back of his hand down Vin’s cheek, he let his fingertips rest on the bruised throat and felt his chest clench when he realized just how close they came to losing this special person.

“Okay, but I plan on buying him beer for the next month and hell, I’ll even fix him up with Miss Sondra. She’ll teach him a thing or two and I guarantee...” Buck caught sight of Chris’s green-eyed glare and added, “Well, not until he’s fully healed and only if it is what he wants.”

Chris nodded his head.

“Only if it is what he wants.”

Buck and Chris shook hands holding the grip a little longer than necessary.

“Buck, we have to find out who stabbed him and beat him up. When we get back to town, we start searching. No one is getting away with hurting my brother,” Chris said the green eyes turning deadly.

“You got it stud. It will be out pleasure to take this guy down,” Buck agreed.

Buck then got up and headed over to JD. After all, he’d all but ignored the boy and he had to make sure JD was taking care of the horses correctly and well, all sorts of things that a big brother taught a younger brother.

Chris just shook his head as he heard Buck playfully arguing with their youngest member.

Glancing over at the fire, his eyes met Ezra’s. Chris smiled letting his affection for the gambler show through. In that instant Ez knew that Chris forgave him completely for his treatment of Vin.

Ez sighed and went back to berating Josiah for his choice of food and how it was downright nauseating the smells that were coming out of the pot.

“I know you’re awake, Vin.”

“Smart ass know it all gunslinger,” Vin commented good-naturedly.

“Buck and I settled things of which I am sure you heard every word.”

“I’m glad, Chris. Good friends are hard to find, and you have to take care of the ones you have,” Vin said grimacing when he saw Nathan heading his way with a mug of tea.

“I know. Thanks by the way, I know you pretended to sleep so we could talk. Looks like Nathan has some tea for you,” Chris said amusement in his voice.

“If you were a good friend you’d let me escape before he got here,” Vin grumbled.

“I am a good friend, but a better brother. That is why you are going to drink the tea and get better.”

“Thanks Chris, for being there for me and never doubting me,” Vin whispered.

“You’re welcome cowboy. I will always be there for you…always.”

Then as Nathan crouched down, Chris took the mug from the healer and held it to Vin’s mouth.

Nathan watched in surprise as Vin calmly swallowed the whole mug only making a few faces as the nasty brew went down.

Vin sighed and nestled back into the blonde’s arms, getting comfortable for the night.

Nathan rested his hand on Vin’s forehead and nodded to Chris.

“Fever’s almost gone, we got to the wound in time. I figure we can leave tomorrow, and just take it easy.”

“Good, and on the way home, Vin can tell us who the bastard was who hurt him. I need to have a little chat with him, that is, if I can beat the rest of you to him,” Chris said the green eyes glinting dangerously.

“Thanks, Nathan,” Vin said his eyes getting heavy as he began to get sleepy. He had decided that there was no way he was tangling with Chris about who stabbed him. When the green-eyed cougar had his eyes set on taking someone down he did it and the man who hurt his kid brother was going to pay the ultimate price. It just wasn’t worth arguing over. Besides, he did feel like shit.

“Chris we can lay him down, now. He’ll be fine, and you are going to get uncomfortable sitting there holding him all night.”

Chris felt Vin tense slightly and gently rubbed his arm.

“I am fine, Nathan. After all it’s what brothers do.”

Vin looked up at Chris and a whole conversation took place, one that lasted until sleepy blue eyes closed and one tired tracker fell asleep held securely in the fail safe arms of his big brother.

The End