Hurtful Words Lead to Rash Actions

by Wgang

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

Notes: Thanks to Mog for creating the ATF universe.

Summary: Chris is acting like an ass and Vin takes exception to the blond's attitude.

Warning: Language, angst and hurt/comfort.

Mainly a Chris and Vin story although Josiah and Buck are present and the others are mentioned.

Buck had been watching Chris for the last couple of weeks and to his sorrow he saw the yearly signs of depression appearing.

The blond was more prone to lose his temper, had stopped going to lunch with the guys and what was most unsettling was the fact that he was pushing Vin away.

The ladies' man had hoped that this year with Vin on the team Chris would forgo his yearly bout with depression, and unfounded guilt.

The scrawny Texas sharpshooter seemed to bring out the best in the moody blond ATF leader. When Chris did have one of his black moods, Vin was the only one able to tease the blond, coax him out of the black mindset he had let himself be pulled into.

The rest of the team tended to avoid Chris or excuse his moods when they happened, but not Vin.

Vin would cajole, tease, and even get in Chris's face until the blond acknowledged him even if it was to threaten his sharpshooter with a quick death.

Then one time not long after Vin had started with the team Chris had said something curt and abrupt to the younger man, Vin had just looked at Chris with those damn big blue eyes filled with hurt. Vin had smiled his crooked smile and told Chris to get his head out of his ass and then had walked away.

It wasn't an hour later that Buck had watched Vin walk by Chris's office and heard the blond call out.

Vin had gone into his boss's office and through the mini blinds Buck had watched as Chris had approached the younger man putting his hands on Vin's shoulders and earnestly talking keeping eye contact the whole time

Buck could tell Vin was still pissed, as the lithe body was stiff, but as Chris talked Vin relaxed and a small smile crossed the handsome face.

As Buck watched he was amazed when Chris smiled and shocked when Vin was pulled forward into a hug. Chris had not hugged anyone for so long, preferring to keep a distance from everyone, even Buck.

Vin walked out the office door and then had turned and with that shit eating smile had told Chris to remember what time the team went to lunch and then had called Chris cowboy. To the surprise of everyone the blond had laughed even as he sent the Larabee glare right at the sharpshooter who just cocked his head to side and laughed as he walked away. The glare had never bothered him and to this day it didn't faze him in the least.

Buck had felt tears prick his eyes as he thanked God it looked like Chris might finally be recovering from his family's death after three long years. Glancing around the office he saw that the other four members of the team had noticed the interaction in their boss's office also.

Ez smiled and gave his two-fingered salute, JD jabbed his fist into the air, Nathan smiled and sighed with relief, and Josiah bowed his head to give thanks. The whole team felt that things were now going to be different and for the better.

Buck should have felt jealous for the way Vin had slid right into Chris's life, right into his soul and smashed his way through the wall around the blond's heart. Vin became Chris's best friend; no it was more than that.

Josiah said it best when he compared the two men and said they had two minds but one soul, Buck thought that perfectly explained the connection the two men had.

Buck had to admit he felt a tinge of resentment that Vin had been able to help Chris and he hadn't but then common sense came to the rescue. It didn't matter who did it as long as Chris got better.

For the last several months things had been better for the most part. Oh whenever some of the anniversaries came around, like Sarah and Adam's birthdays, or a holiday, Chris still got quiet and dejected. But now Vin was there and if nothing else he was just a calming soothing presence for the blond.

But now was the big date, the day that Sarah and Adam had died, burned to death, and a day that was imprinted permanently on Buck's mind as well.

Chris would never forgive himself for not being there, thinking that if he had been at home maybe they would still be alive. Buck wrestled with his own guilt and maybe that is why he could never pull his old friend out of the dark pit of despair the blond had slid into.

Chris had absolved Buck of any guilt in his family's death. Buck was not to blame for the fact that Chris had not returned home that night. Chris explained that he was an adult and he could have come home, but he didn't and his family died.

Buck sighed. Yeah, Chris was better, but the date of their death was in a week and it looked like even with Vin around it was not going to be any better than last year.

Vin and Chris were supposed to go up into the mountains and do some hiking and camping. Buck had been thrilled figuring that Chris would have his mind on planning his trip with Vin and getting away for the first time in a long time just to have fun.

Vin was walking on cloud nine. The thought of four days in the mountains he loved with the man he loved like a brother was heaven to him. No people, no noise just nature the way it was meant to be and sharing it with the man who made his life so much better than he thought it could ever be.

Now though, Buck thought sadly, the trip was off. Vin was dejected and for the last few days the team watched as their sharpshooter and boss hardly looked or spoke to each other.

Chris had flatly told Vin that he couldn't go on their trip; something had come up, although he refused to say what that something was.

Vin had only argued a few minutes until Chris had snapped at him and told him to grow up, it was only a camping trip, not like it was any big deal.

Vin had flinched at Chris's tone of voice, the words that were said and from the look the blond had given him. It was not a look he was used to getting from his self-proclaimed brother. If the look hurt, the words devastated him. It was much more than just a trip to him. It would have been his first real vacation in his whole life and now Chris acted like it was nothing.

Josiah being a profiler had been watching the two men and doing a lot of thinking and he thought the fact that the date of Chris's family's death was fast approaching was not the only problem, but it had brought the situation to a head.

In fact Josiah planned on cornering Buck later and telling him what he thought the issue might be that was making Chris behave like a real bastard.

Thankfully Ez, and Nathan were in LA for a conference and JD had taken a couple of weeks off. He had gone to Boston with Casey to show her around his hometown.

It was easy to get Buck alone. Lunch rolled around and the men left. Vin said he had to get a report finished before Larabee jumped down his throat again. Chris didn't bother to answer when asked about going to lunch.

Buck told Vin that he would bring him something back to eat, an offer he did not extend to his old friend.

While the guys were at lunch Vin finished his report and took it into Chris's office. He made sure to knock on the door before he walked in. The last time he had just sauntered into the office the blond had read him the riot act about office protocol.

Office protocol that none of the guys really adhered to and most especially when it was Vin who wanted to talk to his brother. The blistering put down he had endured had hurt Vin because he was always very careful to keep their friendship and brotherly connection out of the office and not put himself before the rest of the team.

Chris tersely ordered him into the office and made him wait while he finished an entry on his computer.

Looking up at Vin, Chris noticed that the younger man seemed ill at ease and with a sinking heart he knew it was his entire fault, but that was the way it had to be.

Better that he sever the connection between them now rather than would hurt far less when one of them died if there was a distance between them. It was time to build his walls back around his heart, walls that Vin had smashed through.

“Finally done, Vin?” Chris asked as he took the report.

“Yes. I did spell check and I think it is okay,” Vin replied standing straight in front of the desk his hands behind his back. Just a couple of weeks ago he would have flopped down in the chair and the two of them would have talked and laughed together until the lunch break was over, now it was just business.

Chris sighed making Vin wince. He knew that sigh, and he had done something wrong.

“Damn it, Vin. I think I need to enroll you in English 101. Spell check only does so much. You used ant instead of aunt, two different words meaning two different things. I doubt the perp's Aunt Louise would want to be called a bug. Got it?” Chris began circling mistakes in red.

Chris was astounded as the furious man ripped the report out of his hand, there was a second that he wondered if he was going to get a fist in the face and knew deep down that he deserved it.

“I got it, Mr. Larabee. I can't do a damn thing to please you anymore, but what do you expect from a dumb fuck and that is spelled F-U-C-K. I don't know what bee is up your ass, but I am tired of being the recipient of your shit attitude. The rest of the guys might want to put up with it, but I don't. As soon as I come back from the mountains I am putting in for a transfer, so shove that up your ass which is spelled A-S-S.”

As Vin turned to storm out of the office Chris jumped to his feet and yelled, “You are not going to the mountains by yourself, I forbid it. You know better than to hike alone, it is too dangerous. My God Vin that is a stupid idea. Furthermore you are not going to transfer anywhere, you have to get my approval and I won't give it.”

Vin turned around his eyes blazing with fury, hurt and resentment.

“Oh so now you call me stupid, not only am I illiterate, but I am stupid on top of that. You don't have the authority to forbid me to do anything in my off hours. Screw you, and as far as the transfer goes Travis will approve it.”

Vin stormed out of the office and headed for his desk.

Buck and Josiah had walked in and heard part of the screaming match.

Chris looked at the two of them then walked over to his office door and slammed it shut.

Vin had tears of fury in his eyes but refused to allow them to fall as he continued to work on his report. Unfortunately a few did fall but he angrily wiped his cheeks, sternly telling himself that it didn't matter what the uptight bastard said.

Buck walked over leaned against the desk while Josiah stood behind Vin his big hand on one slim shoulder.

“It isn't you, Junior. I told you a month ago about the anniversary of Sarah and Adams deaths, Chris always gets like this. I had hoped with you here he wouldn't be so bad. You've gotten him over the other bad dates and I hoped this one would be better.”

Josiah added, “I told Buck at lunch I think Chris is pulling away from you to protect you both, especially him. Our boss is running scared.”

Vin glanced up at the older man confusion in his gaze.

The profiler explained, “Chris was starting to get edgy as it got closer to the anniversary date but no where near like we have seen before NOT until the last sting we had. You shouted at him to get down because he was about to get shot. The gunner then turned and shot at you almost hitting you because you left cover to warn Chris. I saw the look on Chris's face when you hit the floor, it was total terror. He thought you had been shot, maybe killed and he would have lost another member of his family.”

“What does that have to do with him treating me like shit?” Vin said, the bitterness and hurt clear in his voice.

“I think Chris is protecting himself from further hurt. By pushing you away he thinks he won't care as much so if something does happen to you. He is trying to insulate himself from the grief of such a tragedy.”

“That's bullshit,” was Vin's only comment.

“Yes, it is, but Chris never does think real clear this time of year,” Buck further explained.

Vin was thinking about what he had been told and everything might have turned out differently if Chris had not stepped out of his office.

Glaring at all three men, he snarled, “Leave him alone or I will never get that damned report today. I want to talk to you before you leave for the day, Tanner. We are not finished with our discussion concerning you going off alone to the mountains.”

Now Vin Tanner had a temper he just seldom lost it. He had lost it earlier in Chris's office and he lost it now.

Vin stood up so rapidly Josiah and Buck jumped back out of his way.

Vin snatched up the report and wadded it up in a ball. Grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair he headed for the elevator.

“Where the hell do you think you are going? Get your ass back here and get to work,” Chris yelled.

Vin turned and threw the wadded up report right in Chris's face, causing utter silence in the room, he wasn't the best sharpshooter in the ATF for nothing.

Vin stepped on the elevator and turned around, looking right at his boss he raised his middle finger and kept it there until the doors shut.

Chris was like a statue, he couldn't believe what Vin had just done, hell he couldn't believe what he had just done. He wanted to put distance between them not run the man off.

Buck yanked a piece of paper off the printer and approached the blond.

Chris took the paper from Buck who quietly said, “Here is Junior's report. Good job, stud, you just ran off the best thing in your life, I hope you got what you wanted.”

Chris glared at the man and snarled “I will deal with him tomorrow. He WILL be here because I forbid him to go into the mountains alone. He knows better than to cross me.”

Chris walked towards his office.

Buck said, “I don't think Junior is feeling like listening to you right now. Besides, you forbid Junior and he'll just go for it especially if he's pissed and I think it's a good bet that he is pissed.”

Josiah added, “Vin is the only man more stubborn than you, boss, by forbidding him to do something he was looking forward to is like waving a red flag at a bull.”

As Chris shut his door he calmly replied, “Vin will be in this office at his desk tomorrow. He knows I was very serious when we were talking. Get back to work.”

Chris shut the mini blinds so no one could see into his office.

Buck look at Josiah and they both headed for their desks. It seemed that at that instant in time they knew Vin better than their boss. Vin was going hiking alone and to hell with what Chris said. Once Vin was set on a course of action and he was mad there would be no stopping him.

Chris sat down at his desk, the paper that Vin had thrown at him still held in his fist. He put the paper on the desk and smoothed it out, wincing when he saw all the red marks on it. Shit, he had treated Vin like a kid rubbing his nose in his mistakes.

But, Chris told himself it was for the good for both of them. It hurt to be to close to someone and have them die. But a little voice commented that it hurt like hell now with Vin so upset and how would he feel if Vin Tanner left the team.

Chris saw where the paper was smudged and rubbed at it. It was a little damp and he knew then just how upset Vin was. It was tears, tears that the younger man had refused to shed in his office, tears that he had refused to shed when he had stalked off, tears that Chris Larabee had caused with his cruelty.

Chris reached for the phone to call Vin, but then he pulled his hand back. No, this was what he wanted. Vin was mad and would keep his distance, they could work together, but no more spending a lot of off hours together as best friends. No, he would put Vin in that spot where he had put Buck a long time ago and it would be best for everyone.

The rest of the day the offices of Team 7 were very quiet.

Buck had tried to call Vin and finally got an answer. The young man had told him not to worry he was fine. Buck hung up the phone with a worried feeling but knowing there was nothing he could do. The two men would have to settle it between them.

Chris left the office at 6:00 that night well after the other two men had left.

As he waited for the elevator he looked over at Vin's desk a feeling of remorse swept over him, a feeling he ruthlessly pushed back. He honestly thought he was doing what was best for the two of them. Tomorrow he would apologize for going overboard about the report. That should smooth things over and then the team could function, things would be much better for everyone.

Again Chris resolutely ignored the little voice in his head that said better for whom...not the team, for sure not Vin and no matter how much he thought he wanted this no better for Chris.

Chris told himself that he was just being a good boss by running by Vin's apartment. After all the young man had been upset when he had left. To his relief Vin's jeep was parked outside the apartment building, which meant Vin heeded his order, and would be at work tomorrow.

Chris drove off deciding everything was going to work out after all.

Chris would not have been so blasé about Vin if he had known that the sharpshooter was finishing packing and twenty minutes after Chris had stopped by Vin was on the road out of town. Stops at the grocery store and hardware store had put his trip a little behind but now he was on his way and determined to have a good time without his so called 'brother' by his side.

If Vin had not been so preoccupied with the blond and their argument he might have heard the weather broadcast. Storms and heavy rain was due in the area he was going to hike in. The storms could pop up at any time and without a lot of warning.

Vin reached the small hotel at the foot of the hiking trail he was going on and spent the night. Early the next morning he put on his backpack and took off. If only he had waited another hour the owner of the hotel could have warned him about the storms moving their way, but finding Vin already gone, the guy hoped the friendly young man would be back as soon as he realized the weather was taking a turn for the worst. Of course the man was reassured because he knew that nowadays everyone had a cell phone so it wasn't like the young man was without access to help.

The hotel owner didn't know Vin Tanner though and Vin's tendency to not recharge the phone. The phone would not last long, but hopefully long enough.

The next day Chris was at the office bright and early. Vin always came in before anyone else and he wanted to be there so they could talk. While he wanted to put space between the two of them Chris knew that his comments about the report were cruel and unnecessary. Vin was self conscious about his dyslexia and he should never have come down on him about a stupid report like that.

An hour went by then two; Buck and Josiah came into work. The two men didn't bring up the fact that Vin was nowhere to be seen.

Finally at 10:00 Chris slammed out of the office without saying a word to them. They didn't have to read minds; they knew their boss was going to check on the wayward sharpshooter. But they knew it was a lost cause because this time Vin had meant it when he had flipped Chris off, the young man had gone on vacation alone into the mountains.

Chris Larabee was going to be livid and that was putting it mildly.

Sure enough Chris came storming back into the office and slammed his office door shut so hard the glass rattled.

At one point in the afternoon Josiah pulled up on the web the current weather radar. What he saw did not make for calm nerves.

The night before Josiah had listened to the news and heard that bad weather might be the norm for the next day. It looked like that the weatherman was right for once.

Josiah hissed at Buck who came over and peered over the profilers shoulder.

“Damn, that storm is going to hit right where Junior is. I hope that boy is lying low at some hotel out of the storm,” Buck whispered.

The two men had been so intent on the computer screen that their boss had snuck up on them.

“What the hell are the two of you doing?” Chris snarled.

The blond had spent the day hidden in his office. One minute he was fuming about Vin disobeying him, the next minute he was worried sick about the younger man.

Buck whirled around and snapped right back.

“Looking at the weather radar. There is a bad storm getting ready to hit right where we think Vin is. If you hadn't been such a prick to the boy he wouldn't be there alone.”

Chris flinched at the words but he paled when he caught sight of the computer screen.

The whole screen seemed to be filled with bright red and lavender colors indicating massive and strong storms.

The blond snatched up the nearest phone and dialed Vin's cell phone. The phone rang and rang with no answer.

Chris cursed and hurried into his office with his two teammates following.

Getting into his top drawer he grabbed up a piece of paper. Dialing the phone he waited then said, “Do you have a Vin Tanner there? You do, I need his room...what the fuck do you mean he left early this morning. Didn't you warn him about the incoming storm...He left before you woke up? Isn't that convenient for you. If you see him you tell him to call Chris immediately and keep his stubborn ass in his room.”

Chris grabbed up his phone, gun and jacket and headed for the door.

“Vin left the hotel we were going to stay at early this morning. The bastard didn't get up early enough to warn him about the incoming weather. I doubt Vin even thought about it because it was supposed to be clear all week, but with weather...fuck whom am I kidding. Vin was mad and he was upset which is all my fault, he didn't even think about the weather he just wanted to get away,” Chris said as he all but ran to the elevator followed closely by Buck and Josiah.

Buck clearly heard the words Chris didn't say, Vin wanted to get away from the blond. Maybe this would force his old friend to realize just how much Vin meant to him and not to throw away a friendship that was like a gift from God. He just prayed it wasn't to late.

Buck and Josiah held on tight as Chris sped out of the city straight for the mountains and the ominous black cloud that was covering a big part of the sky.

Meanwhile Vin knew he was in trouble. Cursing under his breath he berated himself for not paying more attention to the weather and for letting Chris get under his skin.

Wind whipped through the woods, leaves and sticks blowing through the air. Vin had noticed that the temperature had dropped dramatically in the last few minutes.

At least Vin thought as he hurried down the trail headed back to his car he had been alone long enough to do some heavy-duty thinking. He had always thought better when he was alone and away from the annoying city.

The one thing he realized was that his best friend was hurting real bad and while taking it out on Vin wasn't right, well what were friends for, what was family for. Vin figured that Josiah was right. Chris was pushing him away so he wouldn't care too much, but it was to late and he would just have to let Chris know that even if he had to sit on the blond to make him listen.

As soon as they had laid eyes on each other a connection had been born. They couldn't be any closer even if they had been born blood brothers. Vin thought that sounded real nice when it was said that they shared a soul.

Vin had decided that he would go back to work and even if he had to tie Chris down they were going to talk. Hell if he had to he'd shoot him well just wound him a little just enough to make the blond pay attention to him.

Just then Vin heard a voice yelling behind him, he turned around to see two bikes heading right for him at a fast speed.

Vin tried to move aside but he wasn't fast enough as the first bike brushed him and sent him staggering the next one actually bumped him.

Vin yelped as he stumbled and then hit a soft spot on the trail and went tumbling down the hill.

The bicyclist paused and watched the man until he ended up slamming into a tree where he lay not moving.

“Maybe we should go check on him?” one guy said.

“Hell no. That storm is close and besides he was just a long haired hippie guy, no one will care about him, we got to get off the mountain before that storm really hits.”

The two men rode off leaving a hurt bleeding unconscious Vin Tanner at the bottom of the hill.

Meanwhile the three ATF agents reached the hotel and found out that Vin had not returned.

When they reached the beginning of the trail that their teammate had taken they found a park ranger hurrying people along trying to get them to safety.

Chris had to show him their badges to gain access to the trail, which was being put off limits to everyone due to the approaching line of very strong storms.

The ranger handed Chris a set of keys and told him that there was a small cabin that was just off the main trail that the rangers used for an emergency stops. It had everything they would need to get through the storm if they had to seek shelter.

Chris thanked him and the three men hurried off. The trail was easy to follow and the only people they met were two guys on bikes who pedaled by them without a second look.

Vin slowly regained consciousness and then wished he hadn't as his body protested every move he made and his head pounded like a jackhammer.

Slowly sitting up he leaned against the tree and took stock of his injuries.

His head was bleeding from a cut on the left side, although the bleeding seemed to be slowing down, his left wrist was broken and it felt like his right ankle was either broken or sprained. On top of that his whole body hurt.

In other words Vin thought he was truly fucked up and it was his own fault. Chris had warned him not to go alone, but oh no he was pissed at the blond so he was going no matter what.

Of course he would have probably been fine if those asshole bicyclist hadn't run him down and just left him.

Vin saw his backpack lying a few feet from him and crawled over to get the first aid kit out of it.

Working slowly but methodically he got a bandage on his head and put a crude but effective splint on his wrist. Using the tree for a brace he stood up and carefully put some weight on his hurt ankle.

Groaning at the pain that shot through his leg he persevered and after a few minutes realized that it was just badly sprained; he had broken his ankle before and knew how it felt.

Glancing around he found a branch the right height and used it as a crutch as he made his way back up the hill. It took a long time as he had put his backpack back on thinking he might need it again.

Sweating profusely he finally reached the top and paused on the trail getting his breath back as he fought to get into the mind set that would allow him to focus on getting off the mountain and ignore the pain.

It was then that he heard his cell phone ringing. He had totally forgotten about it not figuring it would work all the way out here.

As quickly has he could he flipped it open and hoarsely answered it.

Chris nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Vin's voice, but his joy was tempered by the fact that he could tell something was wrong with his best friend. He could hear it in Vin's voice.

“Vin are you alright? Where are you? Josiah, Buck and I are on the trail coming for you,” Chris rapidly said his pace picking up as the wind was now screaming around them, the sky was black and it was starting to sprinkle.

Vin felt utter relief flood his body. Chris and the boys had come for him. Chris still cared about him and was worried.

“Chris, I knocked down a hill and broke my wrist and well...I feel like shit, cowboy,” Vin muttered wincing when he realized his voice sounded like a lost little boy. Great that would send Larabee into protective mother hen mode real fast and it was sure to ignite the Larabee temper that had been close to the surface for a while now.

Sure enough Chris growled, “What the hell do you mean you got knocked down and broke your wrist? Who the fuck knocked you down?”

Buck and Josiah exchanged a look as the worry, anger and guilt permeated the blond's voice. They couldn't help but think it served their boss right for being such a jerk to the younger man.

But while Chris was worried and upset he felt warmth steal through him when he heard Vin call him cowboy. That gave him hope that the younger man would forgive him for being such an ass.

Vin sighed his breath hitching a little, “Chris, please. Not now. Just...I just want to go home. I feel so bad, I just need you here.”

“Vin, exactly where are you?” Chris snapped his voice taking on a frantic edge as a picture of hurt pain filled blue eyes filled his vision.

“On the trail, I don't know exa...” Vin started to say when his phone died. Looking down he saw that the battery was dead.

Vin just shook his head, Chris was going to shoot him, but hell he might feel better after that. Could this day get any worse, he thought, and then it did.

Just then the sky opened up and it started pouring down rain, the thunder echoing around the woods as the lightning lit up the sky.

Mumbling under his breath about God's sense of humor Vin hobbled along as fast as he could flinching every time the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. He hated storms had for a long time and with good reason, but now was not the time to give into his fear. It was too dangerous and the fact that the guys were out in it hunting for him made him press forward despite his fear.

Meanwhile Chris was so worried and pissed off he was almost at a run down the trail not caring that the trail was not the safest place to be running.

Buck and Josiah were right behind him and were just as worried.

Chris cussed as the rain came down and then he saw Vin ahead.

Thank God!

Before Chris could reach him Vin stumbled and went to his knees a cry of pain escaping his mouth.

Strong hands were on his shoulders holding him up.

Vin looked up into green concerned eyes as Chris tightly held onto him.

Vin whispered Chris's name.

To hell with appearances Chris thought as he pulled Vin into his arms and held him against his body.

The lithe body tensed then suddenly went limp as Vin let go knowing that he was now safe in his brother's arms. He let the darkness take over as the pain became too much.

Reluctantly Chris allowed Josiah to take Vin from him. The big profiler cradled the younger man, Buck took Vin's backpack and Chris led the way until they made their way to the cabin they had passed earlier.

Once inside Vin was laid on the floor and carefully stripped of his clothes, then dried and put on the cot, blankets covering his bruised body.

All four men were drenched, the wet clothes sticking to them and the cold starting to seep into their bodies.

The three men hurriedly got out of their own wet clothes and found some dry ones to put on just like the ranger had said. The clothes were on the large size so they hung on Chris and would literally fall off Vin but at least they were warm and dry. The temperature was dropping as the storm intensified. It was only early May and it still got cold in the mountains and the rain was making it worse.

Buck found the generator and started it up while Josiah started a fire in the fireplace.

While Buck got on the phone and let the authorities know where they were and that they were going to hole up there until the storm abated Josiah found some food and started some soup on the camping stove.

Buck finished talking on the phone.

“The ranger said that the storms are going to be around until late tomorrow morning. As soon as it clears they will be up here to help get Vin down.”

Chris nodded his head, his whole attention on the unconscious man lying so still on the cot.

Buck sent Josiah in to check Vin out while he watched the food. Chris was not going to be budged from the sharpshooter's side.

Josiah found Chris sitting next to Vin gently rubbing a towel through the long hair trying to get it as dry as he could.

Josiah knew better than to ask Chris to move so he just got on the other side of injured man and began to check him out.

When Chris was not watching Vin for any sign of waking up he watched Josiah check the battered body out.

Vin flinched and cried out when Josiah checked the gash on his head out.

Chris hissed when he heard the weak cry glaring at the big man.

Josiah calmly said, “I have to check him out, boss. I'm being as careful as I can, but he's in a lot of pain.”

Chris sighed deeply as he lay the towel down. Reaching out he brushed the back of his hand down Vin's cheek hating the cold clammy skin he felt.

“Sorry, Josiah. I'm not really mad at you, I'm mad at myself. I pushed him into coming here alone. I know how he gets his back up when he's told not to do something that he really wants to do. It's my fault he's hurt.”

“No, it's not all your fault. Sure you pushed his buttons, but he pushed back. Vin isn't stupid but he sure wasn't thinking straight this time. He knows better than to start out on a hike without checking the weather and he knows better than to go alone.”

Chris was shaking his head. It WAS his entire fault no matter what anyone said.

Buck walked into the room just then and said, “Besides it wasn't you pushed him down that hill. It wasn't you who busted his wrist or put that gash in his head. You said and did some stupid things that you need to answer for but I have a feeling that Vin will quickly forgive you. He needs you just as much as you need him and it's about time you remembered that.”

Buck was putting the soup on a small table when the whole cabin seemed to be rocked by loud thunder, the wind whistling around the small building, lightning lit up the sky.

Vin whimpered then yelled sitting straight up his blue eyes wide with fear.

Josiah had been unwrapping the broke wrist in preparation of checking it out then wrapping it up again.

Vin struck out with his good hand knocking the profiler away from him.

Chris grasped Vin's shoulders pushing him down to lay flat on the cot.

Vin struggled vainly against the stronger man screaming to be let go; he'd be a good boy.

Josiah got up and grasped Vin's arm holding it down so the wrist would not be further damaged. It was very apparent the sharpshooter was not aware of where he was or who was with him.

As Buck rushed over Chris got his hands wrapped around Vin's face forcing Vin to look right at him.

“'s Chris. Come on cowboy calm down. It's okay,” Chris yelled getting the struggling man's attention.

Vin slowly calmed down.

The three men saw him mouth the blonde's name and then the blue eyes darted around the room.

Chris stroked the tangled hair and whispered, “You're safe. We're in a cabin on the mountain. Come tomorrow morning we'll get out of here.”

Vin turned confused eyes back to the blond.

“Not locked in the gardener's shed?”

Chris knew that Vin was still not completely in the present he was remembering something in his past.

“Where are you at cowboy?”

Vin swallowed but the confused look didn't leave his face.

“Orphanage. Headmaster got mad and locked me in the shed. Said...said if he was lucky the storm would drown me or lightning would burn the place the down,” Vin replied in a dazed soft little boy voice.

Buck made a strangled sound and turned his back as tears filled his eyes, his big heart breaking for his young teammate.

Josiah gritted his teeth and vowed he would hunt that headmaster down and kill him.

Chris just gathered Vin up in his arms and held him tightly in his arms. At that moment nothing was going to get Vin out of his arms, nothing and no one was going to hurt the man he held close to his chest.

Chris felt Vin's head come to rest on his shoulder. The blond began to slowly rock the younger man whispering soothingly to the hurt man.

Chris held Vin until he felt the slim body grow heavy, then he carefully lay the sleeping man down on the cot.

Josiah and Buck watched as Chris brushed the long hair back off Vin's face.

Chris cupped one cheek and rubbed his thumb gently across Vin's cheekbone.

“When he wakes up, there will be no mention of what he said unless he brings it up.”

“You got it, Chris. I knew that boy didn't have a happy life but I never knew it was that bad,” Buck replied.

Josiah started rewrapping the broken wrist.

“I have a feeling that was just the tip of the iceberg. Our young brother has a lot of demons lurking in his head.”

“Then we will just have to make sure that we are there when he needs us,” Chris firmly said.

Josiah and Buck nodded in agreement.

Covering Vin up with the blankets the three men sat down and ate the hot soup.

After stoking the fire up and cleaning up their dirty dishes Buck and Josiah settled in to sleep. There wasn't much else to do until morning and it was obvious that Chris was not leaving Vin's side anytime soon.

During the night Vin stirred and moaned as he slowly woke up.

The first thing he noticed was the pain his body was in and the second thing was the blessed warmth that surrounded him.

Blinking his eyes he turned his head and gazed around an unfamiliar room.

He looked in confusion at Buck and Josiah snoring away, damn...he couldn't remember meeting up with the guys.

Just then a warm hand rested on his forehead testing for temperature. Vin turned his head to the other side and saw Chris sitting on the cot.

Memories came crashing back as he remembered the argument with Chris, the hike, the storm, the bikers, and his fall. But the last realization he had was of an anxious blond whirlwind heading right for him on the trail, concern blazing out of piercing green eyes.

Now looking up at Chris, Vin knew that they both had some apologizing to do, after all they were two of the most stubborn men on the planet at least that's what Nathan always said.

“You want some soup? It's not too bad,” Chris whispered not wanting to wake up the two sleeping men.

Vin smiled, relieved that Chris wasn't going to read him the riot act for hiking alone.

“That sounds good,” he replied wincing as his throat hurt.

Chris propped him up and despite Vin's assertions that he could go to the table and eat, Chris held the bowl while Vin spooned the soup into his mouth.

Vin glowered his brother, his cheeks red with embarrassment.

Chris just smiled and said, “I don't want you up and about. Your ankle is swollen to twice its normal size, your wrist is broken, you probably have a concussion and you sure as hell don't need to come down with pneumonia. Nathan is already going to kill me for letting you get hurt.”

Vin paled at the mention of their friend. Nathan was notorious for getting very put out when one of them got hurt, hell he acted like they did it on purpose. Of course this time Vin only had his own stupidity to blame for his injuries.

“Wasn't your fault, Chris? I knew better than to hike on my own. I was just...well.”

Vin's voice trailed off as he finished the soup and watched as Chris calmly put the bowl on the floor.

“You were just pissed off and your mule headedness kicked in.”

When Vin blushed and looked down at the blanket picking at the threads, Chris reached over and put his hand over Vin's.

Vin looked up his blue eyes startled, Chris was not known for being touchy feely. In fact he seemed to be the one person that Chris hugged and hovered over the most and while it made Vin feel good it was also at times a little confusing.

“The reason I know this Vin is that I'm the same way. I don't like to be ordered about especially concerning my time off. I knew which of your buttons to push and I pushed them on purpose. I didn't want you to go alone and sure as hell didn't want you go get hurt, I just needed some distance between us, a distance that I now realize neither one of us can tolerate. We are just to close and aren't whole without the other one.”

“You mean you don't want me around anymore,' Vin said his voice filled with hurt.

Chris hurriedly replied, “No! Shit I'm saying this all wrong and making everything worse. I don't want you going anywhere. I want you on the team, I want you as my best friend and I want you as my brother. I thought if I pushed you away then if something happened to you, it wouldn't hurt so much. I figured out that was bullshit when I knew you were in trouble, hell I knew it before then. As soon as you walked out of the office I knew I had gone to far, but my fucking pride wouldn't let me admit it. I am sorry about the stupid report and the hurtful things I said. I just hope you can forgive me.”

Vin stared at Chris shocked. No one had ever really apologized to him before and no one had ever admitted that they wanted him as a brother. Oh he knew that was how he felt about the blond and Chris had acted like it was what he wanted but this was the first time he had actually said it.

“I'll make you a deal. I'll forgive you for being a pain in the ass if you'll forgive me for being a pain in the ass.”

Chris smiled the relief he felt clearly seen in the bright green eyes.

Vin lowered his eyes as another thought hit him.

“Also, one other thing.”

Chris tensed up, the relief leaving him in a rush, was Vin going to tell him that while all was forgiven he was still leaving the team.

Vin raised mischievous blue eyes and teased, “We have to hide my injuries from Nathan or he will never leave me alone.”

Chris smiled, “I don't think we'll be able to do that. The cast that will be on your wrist, the gash on your head and the fact that you can't walk real good right now will be a dead giveaway.”

Vin sighed feeling really put upon.

Just then thunder crashed overhead and a tree could be heard falling to the ground as the rain came down even harder.

Vin flinched, his face paling as he jerked back in fear.

Chris without thinking grabbed him close and held on tight just like he had with his son. Whenever Adam would have a bad dream, Chris would hold his son tight in his arms until the trembling stopped.

Vin breathing came in pants as the storm snarled and growled outside. The sharpshooter had shut his eyes and clung to the lean blond tightly. A part of him was embarrassed but another greater part said to hell with it, he was scared and it had been so long since anyone had cared enough to comfort him.

Finally the storm moved away leaving only torrential rain hitting the cabin.

Josiah and Buck had woken up but at Chris's look they had laid back down without Vin noticing that they were awake. It was apparent that Chris did not want his brother to be embarrassed by his fear.

When he knew that Vin had calmed down Chris helped the younger man lay back down. Vin kept a grip on the blonde's arm.

“It's okay, cowboy. I'm not fond of storms either. I'm not going anywhere,” Chris soothed.

Vin smiled even though he still blushed at so blatantly letting the other man know about his childish fears.

Vin licked his lips and softly said, “I know it's dumb, but...well I was only eight when I was at the orphanage. The headmaster hated us kids. There was this one little boy who was even skinnier than me. He...well one time one of the bigger boys took his food and I shared mine. That wasn't allowed; don't know why, it was my food. Anyway the headmaster drug me to his office and used the ruler on me so hard I didn't think I was going to be able to sit down again.”

Vin was looking at the blanket again refusing to look the blond in the eye. He had never talked about this incident to anyone before.

“The guy got off on telling us how worthless we were, how we'd never amount to anything and how no one gave a damn if we lived or died. I believed him for a long time. Anyway he threw me into an old gardeners shed out back of the orphanage. It was dark, the wind was blowing, the lightning in the sky and it started to rain. There was a creek that ran down the side of the property and whenever it rained really hard the creek flooded the whole back yard. That old bastard told me that if he was lucky I'd either drown or the lightning would catch the shed on fire and I'd die that way. I never hated anyone more than I hated him.”

Josiah and Buck lay on their sides facing away from their two friends. If that old headmaster had been within reaching distance then he would have died a slow painful death.

Chris put his hand on Vin's shoulder encouraging him to go on. Something told him that it was important that Vin get this out and it was important that Vin know that he could tell Chris anything.

“When he locked the door and I knew I couldn't get out I started screaming and I guess he got pissed or scared. He came storming back and gagged me then tied my wrists and ankles and left lying on the floor. God, Chris I never been so scared in my life. The creek flooded and the water came in, but you know what was even scarier was all the noise. The thunder was horrible like it was going to knock the shed down and wind just whistled and howled. He left me there all night hoping I'd drown I guess. I had managed to wiggle on top of a crate and the water only got to about six inches. The old bastard came and untied me the next morning, all he said was that he guessed the devil didn't want me in hell so he was still stuck with me. Because of that night I've always hated storms and dark closed places.”

There was utter silence in the room. Buck and Josiah never uttered a peep. Vin would never know that they had heard every word, but in both men's souls they vowed to hunt that old bastard down and make him pay.

“You think that makes me a coward?” Vin hesitantly asked.

Chris leaned forward and to the astonishment of them both he kissed Vin on the forehead.

“I think that makes you one of the strongest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. You survived everything that old bastard threw at you, helped out someone else despite knowing it was going to get you into trouble, and you turned into one of the nicest men I have ever known. A man I am proud to say is a member of my team, my best friend and my brother of choice.”

Vin was speechless. This whole lousy day was turning out to be the best one of his life.

Chris knew that he had caught Vin off guard with his comments and gesture of affection, so he changed the subject and mentioned how Vin got hurt in the first place.

Vin explained what happened and was able to give a rough description of the people and of the bikes. Chris vowed that he would find the people and make them pay for hurting his brother.

Chris stayed with Vin until he drifted back to sleep then he stretched out and went to sleep. The chair was not the most comfortable but he was not leaving Vin's side.

The storms continued to pass through and the next morning was sunny and clear. The trail was a muddy cluttered mess so it took a while for the rangers to get to the cabin and even longer to get Vin down the mountain. The stretcher was not easy to navigate but with Chris supervising and Josiah and Buck's help they made it without causing Vin more injury.

Chris found out that two bicyclist had been stopped the day before at the bottom of the trail because bicycles were not allowed on the trail. They had knocked down a woman and a teenager and had been arrested. It sounded like the same guys who had hit Vin. Chris made it plain that they were pressing charges and the men were to be held in jail.

Chris rode with Vin in the ambulance while Buck and Josiah picked up Vin's stuff at the hotel. Buck drove Vin's jeep while Josiah drove Chris's truck. At the hospital not surprisingly they found Vin and Chris arguing in the ER treatment room.

The doctor wanted Vin to remain overnight for observation and the young man was refusing. The wrist was already in a working cast, the break was not a bad one, the ankle was sprained but the knock on the head was why the doctor wanted him to stay overnight just as a precaution.

From the set of his jaw the look in the determined blue eyes it was apparent that Vin was not staying no matter what anyone said.

Chris was glaring down at the stubborn man. He had tried reasoning with the mule headed Texan and Vin was refusing to budge.

“I can get better at home. I am going home,” Vin asserted for the hundredth time.

Finally Chris threw up his hands.

“Fine you want to leave I won't stop you. But I don't want to hear anything when you collapse because you have a concussion.”

Vin watched as Chris stormed out of the room.

Buck watched the emotive blue eyes cloud with hurt and silently cursed the blond.

Before Buck or Josiah could say anything Chris was back with a wheelchair.

Vin looked at the blond in surprise, he really thought that Chris had left him to his own devices.

Chris saw the look on Vin's face and realized how he had sounded earlier, but he was worried about the stubborn shit.

“Come on Vin. Let's get you home and I mean the ranch not that apartment you live in. I'm keeping you where I can watch you and make sure you do what you're told,” Chris said but his voice was calm.

Vin smiled slightly his relief clear for all to see.

The injured man was helped into the wheelchair and then carefully settled into Chris's truck.

Buck promised to deliver the jeep out to the ranch that evening. Buck and Josiah were headed back to the office to finish things up since the three men had left in such a hurry the day before.

Pulling Buck to one side after getting Vin inside, Chris told his friend to leave Vin's jeep at work that way the sharpshooter couldn't leave the ranch.

Chris also told Buck to let Travis know that he was taking the rest of the week off to spend it with Vin and keep an eye on him. In case of an emergency he could be called on his cell phone.

After a few days, Vin was getting around well, his ankle was much better as Chris made him stay off of it, take his meds and use ice packs. The wrist still bothered him, but his headaches were not as bad and less frequent.

Early one morning Chris came in and found Vin finishing up breakfast. The blond had to admit it was nice to have someone else in the house and Vin was so easy to be around.

A thought had crossed the blonde's mind and he planned on bringing it up later that day to his brother.

“How about a horseback ride, cowboy?” Chris asked.

Vin's eyes lit up in excitement.

“Now I will saddle the horses and we take it slow. Okay?”

“Okay, Chris,” Vin would have agreed to almost anything to get to go for a ride.

Chris hid his smile. Vin sounded just like a little kid being given a treat.

Vin went to change and Chris packed up what he was going to need and headed out to the barn.

By the time Vin got to the barn the horses were saddled and ready to go.

Peso held perfectly still while Vin mounted him, he could sense that his master was not a hundred percent so had decided that he would be very good on this trip. Chris stood by Vin until he was safely in the saddle.

After a couple of hours of riding they arrived at a secluded little pond surrounded by trees and fed by an underground stream. It was a spot that Vin loved to visit, it was peaceful and he had shown Chris that it was nice to just get away and enjoy nature.

Chris helped Vin off the horse ignoring the younger man's glare. Sure enough Vin stumbled a bit as muscles not used in a while had stiffened up a bit.

Vin thankfully sat down on the blanket that Chris had spread out murmuring a thank you to the blond while his cheeks became red.

Chris let his hand rest on Vin's shoulder until the younger man looked up.

“It's okay, Vin. All of us need help now and then. One day you can return the favor.”

As Chris unsaddled the horses, Vin teasingly said, “Probably return that favor real soon cowboy. A man your age will need help getting around.”

Chris looked up and shot his middle finger at the laughing man.

“Now Chris, that wasn't nice at all. Here I am all injured and can't defend myself,” Vin replied pure innocence and hurt feelings in the tone.

“You are so full of shit, Tanner. Just last night you were hounding me to let you help with the corral. You're about as defenseless as a pissed off cougar,” Chris shot back.

The day was perfect. The sun was out but a light breeze was blowing and the temperature was in the seventies. The two men spent a leisurely day just enjoying each other's company. Chris had brought along a couple of fishing poles and they tried their luck at catching dinner.

Chris had packed a lunch and they ate heartily then tried their luck at fishing again.

After catching several large fish Vin fell asleep, the quiet and being out in the fresh air had worked their magic on him.

Chris smiled at the younger man, he could not get over how young Vin looked when he was asleep.

While Vin was asleep Chris set about putting up the tent and putting together the camping gear. It was a surprise for his brother; since Vin's hiking trip had been ruined Chris decided to give him a treat.

Vin woke up, yawned and rubbed his eyes. Slowly he sat up and looked around his eyes getting wide as he took in the tent and the campfire.

Chris watched in delight as the surprise on the expressive face gave way to excitement and happiness. He resolved right then to do what he could to make Vin look so happy as often as possible.

When the blue eyes rested on him, Chris smiled.

“Surprise, cowboy. I figured since your hiking trip was a disaster I would try to make it up to you with an overnight campout.”

Vin blushed. No one had ever cared enough in his past to do anything like this for him before.

“You don't have to make it up to me. It wasn't your fault I was dumb and went hiking in a storm or got hurt,” he mumbled.

Chris started to say it WAS his fault but they had already had this conversation and both men had decided to drop the subject and consider it closed. The blond did not want to ruin the day by having a useless argument.

“I wanted to camp out to. After all it is so peaceful out here and I'm with my brother and best friend. It couldn't get any better,” Chris said.

Vin smiled.

“I agree although you could have brought a couple of women with you,” Vin slyly said.

“No, too many of the women I know would just expect all my attention to be on them or they would talk to much. This is much better.”

Vin looked straight into Chris's eyes, the love he held for his brother clear to see.

“Thanks, Chris. This is perfect.”

Chris nodded his head then changed the subject. After all it was getting a little heavy emotionally and they were men not real comfortable with a lot of emotion.

“The fish will be ready in a few minutes and I brought the stuff to make smores later. Since you are officially off the meds you can have some beer later.”

“Damn Chris. I know all this stuff was not on Pony when we rode out here.”

“I brought everything down real early this morning. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“You know Chris, we could sleep out under the stars and not use the tent.”

“Sorry, Vin. No can do. Nathan said you had to sleep in the tent, it was going to get cool and he didn't want a Tanner cold to have to handle.”

Vin flinched when Nathan's name was mentioned. He still felt raw when he thought about everything his teammate had said when he had cornered Vin at the ranch.

Nathan had been livid when he had found out about Vin's hike, the fight between the two men and how Vin had been injured.

Chris had not been left unscathed either. Nathan had informed him just what he thought about Chris backing Vin into a corner, something that was guaranteed to get the Texan's back up.

The man had appropriately cowed Chris and Vin and both had promised to behave.

Nathan had just raised his eyebrow at that declaration clearly not believing them.

“Then I guess we use the tent. Sure as hell don't Nathan pissed off at me again,” Vin said.

“Hell no. If you get sick he'll kill us both,” Chris agreed.

There were times Nathan was downright scary.

Chris watched as Vin ate his dinner clearly enjoying the food. The smores he made later was a real treat for the younger man, as Vin had never had them before.

Chris smiled as Vin savored every bite of the chocolate gooey dessert.

To soon it was time to time to turn in. Chris built the fire up wanting to keep it as warm as he could.

As the two men climbed into their sleeping bags Chris remembered his question.

“Vin, I been thinking, how about you move out here with me. It's been nice having someone else in the house and we could camp out whenever we wanted to. We get along and don't get on each others nerves and...”

Vin interrupted Chris's nervous ramblings, “I'd love to Chris. I always thought it would be wonderful to live out here but I wasn't going to ask. You're right we get along just fine, better than a lot of blood brothers.”

Chris smiled in relief.

“Tell you what this weekend we'll get the guys to help and get you all moved out here. Okay?”

“Okay, cowboy, but I chip in on the groceries, utilities and things like that,” Vin insisted.

Chris started to argue but he bit his tongue. Vin was independent and he didn't want Vin to think he wasn't pulling his fair share.

“Okay, Vin. Sounds fair.”

“Thanks for everything, Chris. It's been the best day I've had for a long time.”

Chris reached out and patted Vin on his shoulder.

“Been the best day I've had in long time to and there are going to be many more of them,” Chris asserted.

Then all was quiet as the two men, brought together by chance, and with one look became brothers and soul mates went to sleep.

The End