by Megan

Chapter 1-2 | Chapter 3-4 | Chapter 5-7 | Chapter 8-10 | Chapter 11-13

Chapter 3

Everyone but Chris and Buck sat at their desks in Team Seven's office. They were all busy trying to follow up on yesterday's sniper attack on Buck. All five were so focused on the phones that they didn't notice the intruders, at first, but slowly they all stopped and almost as one, glared, eyeing the intruders like they were prey. The two individuals shifted uneasily. They both felt like they had entered into a lion's den and that they were the snack.

The older agent of the pair cleared his throat and started to speak. " I am Agent Rob and my partner is Agent Domingo, we are with the FBI. We are looking for a Buck Wilmington."

The team looked at each other; slowly smirks appeared on their faces. The FBI agents started to feel even more unsettled. They both felt like chickens left with the foxes. Sweat started to break out on their faces. Just about the time Agent Rob was ready to break the silence, Vin asked in cool, indifferent voice, "Really?"

"Err, yes. It is an order from the top," Agent Domingo stated firmly, trying to gain some ground with the Seven.

Ezra spoke up. "You gentlemen - and I use the term loosely - should be able to see that Buck Wilmington is not here. Nor do we know where he is. So you can go back to your boss and tell him you have failed."

Rob and Domingo looked at each other. They didn't know what to do. They weren't supposed to leave without Buck. Their boss would not be happy with them.

Agent Rob looked at the five members of the team. "Well, we will wait here for him. I am sure he will show up sooner or later."

The five men glared at the two agents, none of the five wanted the fibies to stay around and get Buck. Josiah decided to take matter into his own hands. Getting up from his desk he stood up before the two agents. Glaring at them, he spoke his voice low and booming. "Now, it seems you two don't understand. Buck isn't here. We don't know where he is. I suggest you leave now, before I answer a burning question I have. I have wanted to find an answer for it for years. You see my question is, How many limbs can be torn from a human before they die. I am sure you two would like to help with the experiment..."

Agent Rob and Domingo looked at each other. They slowly backed out of the room, scared to death that if they turned their backs, they would be torn apart limb from limb. Once they had gotten out of the door, they turned and ran. They neither paid attention nor stopped as the elevator doors opened. They just ran past them to the stairs. They slammed open the stairway's door and rushed down the flights of stairs without looking back.

Chris and Buck stepped out of the elevator. Buck was holding several notebooks and folders. They both looked down the hallway after the fleeing agents. The two men looked at each other. Shrugging their shoulders at the questions they saw in each other's eyes, they took a step out of the elevator. Buck brought up the argument they had been having since the bank. "Chris, I don't see why you don't just let me go to a corner and type up my notes? Then I could just pass them out and I wouldn't have to talk about it. I mean, I wouldn't want to bore you or anything. All that I could remember would be in my notes."

"Buck! No. I want to hear it all from your mouth, not from your notes. We can't ask questions of your notes. Besides, you said you would."

This debate continued until the two of them had entered into Team Seven's office. The two of them paid no attention to the other team members, their argument taking all of their attention. Finally, they stopped in the middle of the room. Looking around, they noticed how quiet the rest of the team were and also how the rest of the team was staring at them. Chris glared at the group. Buck just stood there, shifting from foot to foot, feeling very uncomfortable under the stares of the team. Looking up, he smirked at everyone and headed to his desk, where he sat down, placing his notebooks and folders on to his desk. Turning on his computer, he tried to ignore the stares of his teammates. He started to transcribe his short hand. The rest of the team, including Chris, found it difficult not to watch Buck.

Chris shook his head, then growled, "Who were the two people leaving the office?"

"The two men - and I loosely call them men - claimed that they were from the FBI and that they were here to pick up Buck and place him into protected custody," Ezra replied with a sight smirk on his face.

Only Josiah saw the slight flinch Buck gave when the FBI was mentioned. Josiah added the flinch to the list of things he was going to talk to Buck about when he got the chance. Shaking his head, he slowly turned his attention back to the conversation just in time to hear Chris ask a question. "So, did anyone learn anything new about the sniper?"

"Yeah, some, not a lot. The police didn't recover that much from the scene. They barely figured out where the bullet was shot from. They said they may have some more later today," Nathan piped up, from his desk.

Chris nodded. Looking around, he cleared his throat. Before he could say anything though, a loud noise made him turn his head. Buck hadn't paid attention to the others talking. It was probably about him, and he didn't want to hear it. He just wanted this case to be over. If he was honest with himself, he never even wanted this case to be started. Now he just wished the team would forget about it. Sighing to himself, he shook his head and entered his password into his computer. As he waited for the computer to finishing loading, he flipped open the first notebook, shaking at what he had written there. He absent-mindedly reached into his top drawer to grab one of his notepads. As his hand reached for the notepad, Buck paused. There was an item in the drawer… a box. Looking around quickly to make sure that the rest of the team wasn't paying attention, he slowly drew out the package. Placing the package on his desk, he looked at it. There was no card or note to tell him who it was from. Buck picked up the small package again. He stared at each side, wondering if it would explode. Shaking his head slowly, he dismissed that idea. If it was going to explode it would have already done that. Slowly he grasped the box and pulled the lid, gazing at what lay beneath the lid.

Sitting on a mound of black tissues paper, almost blending in, was a figurine… a black one. It looked to be made out of Obsidian. He carefully picked it up. Holding it in the palm of his hand he had his first clear look of it. He paused. Staring at it. Swallowing, he quickly dropped the figurine as if it had burned his hand, jumping up from his chair so fast that it fell with a loud bang to the floor.

The other members of the team turned to look at him. Buck paid no attention to them. His eyes never left the fallen figurine. His ears didn't hear his teammates call out to him asking him what was wrong. His eyes didn't notice them coming closer. His whole mind was focused on the figurine. The black piece of stone that could only have been left by the man who terrorized him in his sleep. Buck ignored everyone - the cries asking what was wrong, the hand on his shoulder - his whole being was focused on the one item.

He could only stare at the black dragon that now sat on his desk, taunting him, showing him that wherever Buck was, the Dragon would be close behind able to strike him whenever the villain wished.

Buck closed his eyes. Finally, he could look at it no more. As his eyes closed, the world seemed to snap back into place. It seemed to speed up from the almost frozen pace it had been. Buck opened his eyes. He jerked back a little as he saw himself looking into a pair of brown eyes. "Nate, you think you could back up a little?" Buck asked.

"Umm, sure, Buck, you okay? You looked like you were going to faint for a minute?"

"I'm fine. Just got up too quickly."

"What exactly made you get up too quickly?" Chris asked.

"Just a present, Chris… nothing more. You can go back to discussing whatever you were talking about."

Chris looked at Buck, not believing that it was nothing. "What was the present and why don't you want to share it?"

"Nothing. Just talking to myself."

"Buck I don't think so. What is going on?" Chris growled.

"Yeah, Buck. What's wrong? You look like you saw a ghost," JD stated with concern lacing his voice.

Buck just shook his head. "Nothing is wrong. Nothing, I just had a shock when I touched the desk. That is all."

The six looked at each other, not believing for one second that Buck was telling the truth. Vin walked over to Buck's desk and picked up the stone dragon. As he held it in his hand he could feel the anger boil up. Fighting to maintain control, Vin looked at Buck. Catching Buck's eye, he held up the figurine. Buck's eyes gave him away as he looked quickly away from the Dragon. Vin was about to speak, when Chris spoke up seeing the interaction between the two. Striding over to Vin, he grabbed the Dragon out of Vin's hand. Gripping it tightly in his fist, he turned to Buck. "Is this what had you startled?"

Buck didn't answered. He looked everywhere but at Chris and the rest of the team. Finally though, the silence bothered him too much. Sighing to himself he spoke, "Yes."

"Yes? It is from the Dragon isn't it?"

Buck nodded again. Chris growled in frustration. "That is it. We are going to the conference room and you will tell us everything you remember about this Dragon person and the task force. Right now!"

Buck look up startled. He was about to open his mouth to protest when Chris glared at him. As usual, Chris's glare didn't affect him, but having the rest of the team glare at him the exact same way stopped him from saying anything. Sighing to himself, he hung his head, gathered his notebooks, and then walked out towards the conference room.

JD, not waiting to see if anyone followed, bounded out of the door after Buck to follow him. The rest of the group looked at each other for a second before following him. Chris was the last one to leave, slamming his hand holding the dragon onto the desk. Leaving it there, he turned and left the room, never noticing that the head of the Dragon slowly fell off into the trash.
Across town in a penthouse suite, dark brown eyes, filled with hate and malice, glanced at a grandfather clock that had been ticking in the corner of the room. A smile graced the lips of the person staring at the clock. The person almost wanted to laugh at the thought of Buck Wilmington finding the little gift. Stretching slightly, the eyes turned back to the paper. Soon Buck Wilmington would join his former teammates in death.

Buck entered into the conference room first. He was not looking forward to this conference. He had tried to delay it, but after the incident with the desk drawer and the present, Chris wasn't going to let him avoid it. Buck shuddered slightly. He didn't want to talk about it, especially having seen how easy Dragon could get to him. Sighing, he slumped into his chair. Fiddling with the notes he brought in, he ignored the rest of the team as they enter the room and took their seats.

As the rest of the Seven entered and sat, they looked at Chris waiting for him to start the meeting, but they were glancing out of their corner of their eyes to check on Buck. Each hoping that Buck would not notice the worried looks.

Chris, entering the room last, sat down. Clearing his throat, he looked at Buck. Buck didn't bother looking back at him. Shaking his head slightly, Chris cleared his throat again, "Buck, you should start." Buck looked at Chris for a long moment. He debated whether or not he could talk the group out of this. One look at everyone's faces told him he wasn't going to have any luck. Sighing slightly, eyes firmly fixed on the table in front of him, he started to speak. "We were formed. We tried. We failed. I spent some lovely time in a hospital. The end."

The six other members of Team Seven stared at each other. Chris finally turned and growled softly at Buck. "We want to know what happened, not the cliff-note version of the case."

Buck looked up at him, trying to play innocent, then replied, "what do you mean cliff-notes? I told you everything, nice, short and complete."

Vin slowly shook his head, "That ain't what you promised. You said you would tell us everything."

Buck sighed. He had a faint hope that they would have taken the cliff-note version of the story. Now that they hadn't, he had to find a way to tell them about the incident. Looking down at his hands, he tried to think how he would tell the team. Finally deciding on a way while protecting himself from the memories, he started to talk. "Month before the final mission, the team received intelligence about Dragon. We learned that one of his top lieutenants was poking around some old warehouses. When we learned this, we put surveillance on the lieutenant hoping he would give us a clue on Dragon's plan. It paid off. We learned that at a certain warehouse on a certain day, Dragon would be on hand to solidify his base in Denver. We spent the next two weeks planning for this bust. We got the blue prints for the warehouse and made several visits to the site to get the layout of the place. We planned out the bust to the last detail. We kept the plans to ourselves, as we didn't know whom we could trust. The day of the bust, we all got to our places on time, ready to take down Dragon. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and the team died and as I told you before, I spent some lovely time in a hospital."

Vin shook his head, and spoke up before anyone could say anything. "That isn't what you promised, you said you would tell us everything, including what happened at the bust."

Buck glared at Vin, he didn't want to talk about the bust. What he could remember of what had happened wasn't something he wanted to talk about or even think about. Buck shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Nodding to himself, he cleared his throat. "Well I can't tell you much about the that day. As I said before, I was in the hospital for awhile. One of the injuries I had was a bad concussion. When I woke up, I didn't remember what had happen that day at the warehouse. The doc didn't think my memory of that day would come back."

The group shared looks. They didn't know whether to believe that his memory was gone or if he just didn't want to share what happen with them. Ezra cleared his throat and spoke up. "Buck, if you do not remember the day, then why would this Dragon want to kill you? You would not pose enough of a risk to try and kill."

"I don't know, Ezra, maybe he thinks I would remember but I haven't."

Chris stared at Buck; there was something Buck wasn't saying. Buck was hiding something from them. He wasn't being completely honest. Buck remembered something. What it was, Chris couldn't say but he had a feeling Buck wouldn't part with it unless it was forced out of him.

Vin wasn't having any of it, he knew Buck remembered something, but what he didn't know was how to make Buck talk. Taking a deep breath, he was about to say something when Nathan's cell phone went off.

Nathan looked down in surprise. He had forgotten that he had brought the cell phone in with him. Looking at the group sheepishly, he answered it. The group listened to the one sided conversation.

"Hello… Yes, I was waiting for those results. What do you mean? They found him where? Did they… They know where he lived? Yes, I will meet you there. Shortly… Yes, I will be there shortly."

Nathan hung up the phone then looked at the group. "That was the police. They found the sniper from yesterday - dead. Apparently, Dragon didn't like that he failed. The cops found out where he lived. They're heading over there to see if they can find out anything about the sniper and a connection to Dragon. They asked if I wished to join them at the apartment."

"Nathan, go, and take Vin with you. See what you can find out about the sniper and his connection to the Dragon."

Nathan and Vin both nodded and got up to head out the door. Chris looked at the group that was left and was about to say something when the door opened before Nate could open it. Everyone tensed, waiting, but all that appeared was an administrative person. The person was startled and for a second, said nothing. Finally, when Chris turned and glared, the person talked. "Judge Travis would like to talk to you, Mr. Larabee. He said it was important."

Chris growled. He didn't want to have Buck leave his sight. Torn for a moment, he shook his head. Glancing back at the administrative person, Chris growled out, "I will be up shortly."

The admin person nodded and left, heading back towards Travis.

Chris looked at the team after watching the admin leave. Meeting each of their gazes, Chris spoke. "Nate, Vin, head out towards the sniper. Ezra, work with Buck on getting those case notes typed out. JD, see what you can find on the Internet about this Dragon. Josiah, finish up this character profile."

The group nodded and the team started to leave the conference room. Buck stayed sat at the table, not paying any attention as Chris, Vin, Nathan, and Ezra left the room. JD ignored the rest of the group and sat by Buck, waiting for him to say something. Josiah, seeing this, walked over, laid his hand on JD's shoulder, and whispered something into JD's ear. At first, JD just shook his head, then Josiah whispered more urgently in JD's ear. Finally, JD nodded and got up from the table. Josiah took JD's seat. With one last glance, JD left the room closing the door behind him.

Buck felt Josiah's eyes on him. Instead of turning and looking at his friend, Buck got up and started to pace in the small confines of the conference room. He really didn't want to talk to Josiah. The Profiler just seemed to know how to make him say stuff he didn't want to say. Buck kept pacing, trying to decide what his chances were of escaping. Unfortunately, Josiah was between him and the door.

Buck finally stopped pacing and leaned against one of the walls of the conference room staring at Josiah. "Yes, Josiah?"

"Brother Buck, there seems to be some things that we need to talk about."

"No, I don't think so. I'm fine. You're fine. Everything is right as rain."

Josiah just stared. If this is what Buck thought fine was, he needed some help. "Buck, you aren't fine. You haven't been yourself since you learned that Dragon was after you. Now what is going on?"

Buck looked around the room, he didn't want to talk about Dragon or anything related to it. "Nothing is going on, Josiah."

Josiah didn't believe it. Buck wouldn't even look at him. Sighing slightly, Josiah tried a different tactic. "Buck, why are you flinching any time any one says FBI or Dragon?"

After flinching at both those words, Buck looked at Josiah, "I don't flinch."

"You just did."

"No I didn't. It was your imagination."

"No. You did flinch. Watch… Dragon."

Buck flinched again.

"See, I told you."

"It doesn't mean anything. It's just a nervous tic."

Josiah shook his head. Finally getting up from his seat, he walked over to Buck. Standing in front of him, so Buck couldn't go anywhere, he grasped Buck chin so he could look into Buck's eyes. "What is going on?"

Buck wanted to escape. He didn't want to have this conversation. He didn't even want to talk about the situation. If he could, he would almost wish he had missed the whole case from the beginning. Finally, in one last hopeful idea of getting out of this conversation without saying anything, he said, "Josiah, I don't know what you think is going on but nothing is going on."

Josiah wasn't buying it. Deciding a new, clearly stated sentence of what he wanted to know from Buck was needed, he asked, "What happened during the bust of the Dragon that has you acting so strangely?"

Buck just stared, he didn't want to answer. He wasn't going to answer. But the sleepless night, the shock of the stone Dragon, the stress of trying to say too little or nothing, just seemed to crashed on him for a moment of weakness. He whispered as he slid to the floor, "I don't remember."

Josiah stared in shock. He didn't expect to get a confession from Buck. When Buck hit the floor, it snapped Josiah out of his daze state. "What do you mean you don't remember?" Josiah asked as he crouched down to look at Buck.

Buck, lost in thought, started to ramble. "I spent time in the hospital due to injuries. Getting out of the van, I hit my head. When I woke up, I was calling for my teammates. A nurse... I overheard a nurse tell me they were all dead. Before I could say anything, people were around me asking questions about the bust. They wanted to know why the rest of the team was dead and I wasn't. They tried to tell me it wasn't my fault, but I was the only survivor. They had to be wrong. I had to be the one that they should blame. I was alive and they were dead. I was supposed to watch their backs. I failed."

As Buck's voice trailed off, Josiah remained crouched there in shock. He didn't know what to say. He had never seen Buck like this, so... so... guilt ridden. He couldn't tell him it would be better. Telling him that he wasn't guilty wouldn't work with Buck, he wouldn't believe it. Finally, taking a deep breath, Josiah tried to snap Buck out of it. "You didn't fail. If it had been humanly possible to save them, you would have. From the sounds of it, you barely survived. The only way for you to honor your dead teammates is to take Dragon down. You need help. You aren't St. George. You do not need to slay the Dragon by yourself or protect us from him. Unlike St. George, you have six brothers who are willing to fight for you - willing to fight with yourself. We can't do this without you helping us and telling us about the Dragon. Don't try to slay this dragon by yourself." Josiah's voice petered out. Josiah just stared at Buck, hoping his voice reached Buck, his words were listened to.

Buck, for his part, just stayed silent. He didn't know how to respond. He understood the words, understood what Josiah was trying to tell him. But, this was different. He had failed. He lived. He couldn't save those he was trusted to guard. How could he ask for anyone else to solve his mistake, his failure? The rest of the Seven were like family to him. How could one ask his family to go into danger?

Buck finally refocused his gaze onto Josiah. He searched Josiah gaze for the answer to the problem, praying he would see his answers in Josiah's eyes. Josiah held Buck's stare for a long moment. When Buck looked away, Josiah wondered if Buck found what he had sought. Before Josiah could ask Buck what he saw, Buck rose.

Leaning against the wall for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts, he finally spoke. "Thank you, Josiah. I know I don't have to fight against the Dragon by myself, but it doesn't mean that I don't want to. I can't let what happen to the other team happen to you guys. I wouldn't be able to deal with it. I can't let the Dragon hurt any of you. I will protect everyone on the team before I allow Dragon to harm anyone."

Before Josiah could say anything, Buck got up and headed for the door. Opening the door, he almost plowed into JD who had been trying to listen to the goings on in the conference room through the thick door. Buck stopping himself before running into JD and grabbed the younger man to help him get his balance back. "You okay, JD?"

"Yeah, Buck, I am. Are you okay?"

"Fine. What are doing out here?"

"Wanted to make sure you were okay."

Buck smiled, "Okay. What are you going to tell Chris when he asks if you finished your search?"

JD smiled slightly, "He will understand. I'll tell him I was worried about you."

Buck shook his head. Grabbing JD in a headlock, he started to drag JD towards his computer.

Josiah, reaching the door of the conference room and seeing the antics, shook his head. He knew that this was going to be a very long and draining case, and Buck still had a lot of issues to address. Shaking his head again, he turned, closed the door to the conference room, and then headed after Buck and JD to get started on his profile of the Dragon.

Nathan and Vin arrived at the dead sniper's hotel, The Brown Palace. They entered the posh hotel room. Looking around the expensive hotel room, they made their way over to Nathan's contact, Chip.

"Hey, Chip, how's your wife?" Nathan called out.

Chip looked over and nodded at Nathan, "Dale? She's fine."

Nathan glared at Vin, whispering to him, "Vin, not a word"

Vin glanced over at Nathan raising his hands in defense, "I wasn't going to say anything."

Nathan gave Vin a sidelong glance, then turning back to Chip, "So, Chip, what do you have?"

"Not much, Nate, we do have a couple of items of interest though. The hotel has the room registered to a Greg Station."

Vin's eyes widened at that name. Nathan seeing this, turned to Vin, "You know this guy?"

Vin absently nodded with a puzzled look on his face. "Yea, Buck got lucky, Stubbs never misses."

Nathan stopped and looked at Vin for a moment, shaking his head. "Vin, do you memorize assassins for a hobby?"

Vin glared at Nathan, shaking his head, he replied, "no, he was in the military, he was a pretty good sniper."

Nathan was about to say something, then, thinking better of it, he just shook his head and muttered to himself, "I don't want to know." Turning back to Chip, Nathan asked "What else?"

"Greg used a security box in the hotel, when we opened it we found this." Chip brought up from behind the desk a sniper gun.

Nathan's eyes widened when he saw the rare gun. Vin, on the other hand, moved forward, slapping on a spare pair of gloves, Vin took the rifle from Chip. He slowly examined the gun from all angles. Lifting the gun up, he settled it into his hands. Looking over to Nathan, he said, "this gun has one purpose, it isn't a toy, it is a gun for killing."

Slowly, Vin put the gun down, and handing it back to Chip. "That is an expensive gun. He wouldn't have left it behind to go to a meeting."

"He didn't, he was forced out of the room. He was found dead earlier this morning, a note was pinned on him, giving us this hotel and room number. When we arrived we found this note taped to the inside of the door."

Chip reached and grabbed a note that was covered by plastic. Handing the type-written note to Vin and Nathan. The note read:

Dear officers of the Law,

Gray Station. aka Snubbs, is very sorry for any inconvenience that he might have caused you. He was shown the errors of his way. We took it upon ourselves to reprehend him. He is now very sorry for taking the initiative of trying to kill Buck Wilmington. He has learned his lesson about hurting people before it is asked of him to hurt them. We hope that his trying to kill Buck Wilmington doesn't upset anyone… least of all, Buck Wilmington. We would like to make sure you know that Snubbs will not bother you ever again.

Yours truly


After the signature there was a stamp of a black dragon's head. Nathan, after reading the note out loud, handed it to Vin. As Vin looked at the note, Nate was wondering around the room, checking to see if there was anything else that they might have missed. As he reached the corner, his foot got caught on some loose carpet. Taking a step back, he knelt down, and lifted the edge of the carpet. Seeing a CD laying on the floor, he looked up and called for Vin to come over.

Vin walked over and crouched next to Nathan. "What's up?"

"Do you know of a reason why Stubbs would hide a CD under the carpet?"


Reaching down, Nathan went to pick up the CD. Just as he reached the CD, he quickly drew back his hand. Cradling his hand to his chest, he sucked in a lung full of air.

Vin turned and looked at Nathan. "You okay, Nate?"

Nathan shook his head, "nothing, I am fine."

Vin frowned, "Nathan, what's wrong."

"Nothing, I'm fine."

Nathan looked at Vin, as he cradled his hand next to his chest. Vin glared. "What happened to your hand?"

"Nothing, Vin. I just need a band-aid, it is just a scratch. I'm fine."

"Nathan, if is just a scratch then why are you bleeding all over yourself?"

"It is nothing, it is a small cut. I am fine."

"Nathan, give me your hand, it can't be that bad."

Nathan shook his head, reaching out with his other hand, he carefully picked up the CD, and started to get up from the floor.

Vin sighed, reached out and grasp Nathan's wrist. "Nate, this isn't a scratch."

"Sure it is, it is just a scratch."

"Nate its a six inch cut, still bleeding, you are going to need stitches."

Vin crouched down and scanned the floor. "Here it is, Nate. Looks like you struck a nail, that was put in the floor. It looks like a rusted nail. You are going to need shots." As Vin was saying this, he started to smile. Just the thought of Nathan having to endured stitches and a shot for some reason it just made him feel happy.

Vin, standing up, reached out and helped Nathan standing. Looking around the room, he spotted Chip. "Hey, Chip, I need to take Nathan to the hospital, he hurt himself, nothing serious. We'll talk to you later."

Chip nodded and waved as Vin practically dragged Nathan from the room, ignoring the medic's protest that he was fine.

Dragon watched the video of Vin and Nathan leaving the dead sniper's hotel room. A small smile graced Dragon's face. One of the Seven hurt themselves, "Good," Dragon mumbled, "one more thing going the way I planned. Soon Buck will be alone again, I then will be able to attack and extract my revenge. No one escapes the Dragon."

Chris stomped into team Seven's offices. The meeting with Judge Travis wasn't a happy thing. Stopping in the middle of the room, he looked around. The room was almost empty. The only people in the room were JD and Josiah, both of them working on their different jobs. Turning around, he glared at JD and Josiah. "Where are Buck and Ezra?"

JD and Josiah looked up. "Hi, Chris, Vin and Nathan called, Nathan gashed his hand on a nail, and Vin had to take him to the hospital to get some stitches. They'll come back here to give you a report on what they found." JD finished as he looked back down to his computer.

"Where is Buck?"

Josiah looked up from where he was calling people. "Buck and Ezra went to a conference room to work on deciphering Buck's notes."

"Which conference room?"

"Chris, don't worry, Buck is fine. Ezra and Buck just went to a conference room so they wouldn't bother us. They should be back soon," Josiah stated then went back to calling on his phone.

Chris growled softly, he was about to head out and look for Buck, but just as he was about to leave, his cell phone rang. Growling even more, he opened the phone and answered it. "Yes!" he barked into the phone.

"Good to hear your voice, cowboy. I was just calling you, to let you know that Nate and I stopped and picked up a late lunch for the team. We will be back in about 15 minutes. See ya then, Cowboy."

Chris shut down the phone and then glared at Josiah and JD. Mumbling to himself, he headed into his office.

Several minutes later Buck and Ezra came into the room. "We have the most pertinent facts done. They should finish printing out shortly."

JD and Josiah nodded. Buck headed towards his desk to check his e-mails and phone messages. Ezra continued to his desk also. "So, has any one heard anything from Nate and Vin?"

JD looked up from his computer. "Yea, Vin called in. Nate gashed his hand on a nail, when he was reaching for something. So Vin had to drag Nathan to the hospital so he could get some stitches and a shot."

Ezra's eyebrow rose up hearing that. "So, how did Nathan hurt himself?"

JD continued "He reached for a CD and ripped his hand up on a nail. They had to go to the hospital, Nathan didn't want to go."

Ezra snicker, the entrapped healer hurting himself. Then Vin, who usually gets hurts, had to drag Nathan to hospital. Chuckling slightly, he settled down into his desk chair to work on some reports.

Buck had half listen to the conversation. Shaking his head, he turned to his computer and started to check his e-mails. Seeing if there was anything of interested in his inbox.

Several minutes later, the group in the bullpen could hear Nathan protesting down the hall. "Vin, I'm fine, you don't have to carry everything, the doctor said I just couldn't get the wrappings wet. You don't have to open everything for me, or push every button. Also, you don't have to remind me about taking my pills, or sitting down and resting. I'm fine," Nathan replied.

"Sure, Nate, I don't think you're fine. You're protesting too much."

Nathan stomped into the bullpen, glaring at all of them. Muttering underneath his breath, Nathan slumped into his chair, glaring at the group of men, just waiting for them to say something about his injury. No one said anything. Well for at least a whole five minutes. Then JD spoke up, "So, Nate, how did you get injured?"

"I just cut my hand on a sharp nail, nothing serious," Nathan replied.

JD nodded, then staring at the huge bandage that was on Nathan's hand, JD asked another question. "So, how big was the nail?"

Nathan just growled. Which didn't deter the rest the team from making comments. "So, what day is it? It must be a first when the person who doesn't get injured on assignments wasn't Vin. Instead it was a Nathan. Wonder what the odds are of it."

Nathan just glared at Ezra. He wasn't appreciating the jokes, at his expense. It just wasn't fair, he wasn't supposed to get injured. Sighing, Nathan looked around the room to check to see if there was anyway for him to distract the rest of the team from his injury. His gaze stopping at Buck, Nathan suddenly got worried. Buck didn't look okay. He was very pale. Getting up quickly from his desk, he headed towards Buck, calling out as he did "Buck, you okay?"

Buck didn't pay attention when Vin or Nathan came in, he heard the rest of the team commenting on the fact that Nathan got hurt. Buck thought it was funny, but he needed to think about what Josiah said in the conference room. He understood that Josiah felt that he shouldn't try and protect the group from Dragon, that they could take care of themselves. But they didn't know Dragon, they didn't know what Dragon could do, or was able to dish out to those who were against him. Buck don't know if he could deal with anything happening to the team, his brothers, his family. Shaking his head to clear it slightly, he looked up when he heard another snicker at Nathan.

Shaking his head, he turned back to his computer to check through his email. Quickly going through and deleting the 52 spam messages he had out of 54, Buck just sighed. JD was going to have to set up new spam blocker soon. Closing his eyes for a moment, he tried to clear his head. He could feel a headache starting to blossom. The lack of food, sleep, and the dousing he had yesterday was starting to take a toll on him. Hearing laughter, Buck opened his eyes. Looking over at the group, he noticed Nathan shaking his head and muttering something. Closing his eyes again as the room started to spin slightly. He brought up his hand and wiped away some sweat. He was tired. He could also feel a slight cold coming on. Wiping his hands across his face, he tried to wipe away how he felt. He shook his head, trying to clear it. It didn't work. Buck felt worse.

Buck was so focused on trying to clear up his sight, he didn't hear when Nathan called out his name. Nor when the group from the office surrounded him, asking if he was okay. He didn't react to the group until JD placed a hand on his shoulder. Jumping up slightly, Buck tried to turn around but the room swayed in front of his eyes. If it wasn't for Josiah and JD, Buck would have fallen.

Josiah maneuvered Buck back into his chair. Nathan crouched in front of Buck, trying to get Buck to focus in on him. Buck just shut his eyes, Nathan rested his hands on Buck's knee. Nathan cursed silently his bandaged hand. After several minutes, Buck finally opened his eyes. Looking at down at Nathan, Buck blinked. After a slight cough and clearing his throat, Buck spoke. "Hey, Nate, what are you doing."

"Nothing, how are you feeling, Buck?"


"Sure, when was the last time you ate."

"Ummm, Breakfast?"

"Buck, you didn't eat anything at breakfast."

Nathan looked at the rest of the guys. "Josiah could you go and grab something Buck could eat."

Josiah nodded. Getting up, he quickly left the room to the break room hoping to find some soup or something.

Nathan didn't pay attention to Josiah's leaving. He focused in on Buck. "Buck, what is the problem, you have a headache?"

"Nothing, I 'm fine Nate."

"Buck, you aren't fine, you aren't fine at all. Tell me what is wrong. If you don't, I will get Chris."

Buck mumbled to himself. "It is just a headache, I just need some aspirin, then I'll be fine."

Nathan shook his head. "I don't think so, Buck, you need to lay down and eat something."

Buck frowned, "no, Nate, I will feel better shortly."

“Yea right.” Nathan replied.

Josiah came back from the break room with a cup of soup. Nathan was about to reach for the cup when he realized he was reaching with his bandaged hand. Sighing, Nathan looked up at Josiah, "could you hand the cup to Buck."

Josiah nodded and waved the cup of soup in front of Buck's face. Buck blinked for a couple of minutes. Reaching up, he grabbed the soup, holding it in his hands he stared at it. Nathan shook his head. "Buck, I need you to drink the soup."

Buck looked down at Nathan. "I'm not hungry, Nate."

Nathan sighed. "Buck, drink the soup now."

Buck stared down at Nathan.

After Nathan stared at him for a couple of minutes, Buck shrugged his shoulders, then lifted the cup of soup, and drank it. Nathan smiled when Buck finished the soup. Josiah grabbed the cup and set it down onto the desk. Then the group all turned to look at Buck. The soup helped revive him but he was still a little dizzy and his headache was still pounding. Closing his eyes, he tried to control the pounding in his head. Nathan looked at the Ezra, Vin, JD and Josiah, "guys, could you give him some room."

The other members nodded and slowly and quietly back away from Buck.

Nathan nodded his thanks. Nathan rose up from his crouch, standing over Buck, Nathan leaned closer to Buck. "Buck, how bad is your headache?"

Buck cracked open his eyes. "I am fine, just give me a minute."

"Buck you aren't feeling well, are you feeling sick?"

"Nate, I feel fine, I am just tired. Just give me some time."

" Are you sure?"

Buck rolled his eyes, " I'm fine. Look I just needed to eat something and I'll be fine shortly."

Nathan just shook his head. "Look, Buck, why don't you go to the break room couch and try and get some rest for a while."

"I'm fine."

"If Nathan wants you to take a nap, then take a nap Buck," Chris growled.

The rest of the team turned and look at Chris who had come out of his office. Buck raised his head and glared at Chris. "I am Fine."

Nathan shook his head, "No, you aren't. You need to relax and get some sleep."

Buck started to shake his head. He didn't need to be treated like a four-year-old. He didn't need a nap. He was about to protest when his eyes fell on JD. JD looked up at Buck. Showing Buck big puppy dogs eyes. Buck closed his eyes. JD knew that he couldn't stand against the puppy dogs eyes. Shaking his head, Buck sighed. "Fine. I'll take a short nap. Alright?"

Nathan and Chris nodded. Buck slowly got up from his chair. Glaring at Chris and Nathan, Buck headed to the couch to lay down. Muttering about overbearing friend and medics.

Chris watched Buck until he got to the break room and got out of sight. Then, turning towards Nathan, he asked, "Is he alright?"

Nathan glanced back at where Buck had disappeared. "Yea, he just needs some rest. He should feel better after some sleep."

Chris nodded, looking over at Vin and he glared. "So what did you find out at the hotel."

Vin swirled his chair a bit. "Not much, we found a note written by Dragon."

Nathan nodded and took up the story. "The letter showed that Stubbs was killed by Dragon. Apparently Dragon didn't approve the shot Stubbs took at Buck. We found his rifle in the room. We also found a CD. Vin, do you still have it?"

Vin nodded and grabbed his jacket and started to go through it, looking for the CD, finding it, he tossed it to JD. "Don't know what's on it."

JD placed the CD into his hard drive. Opening the CD, he checked at the file menu. Clicking on one file, he frowned. Looking up at the group, he spoke, "He encrypted the CD, it's going to take me awhile to decrypt."

Chris nodded. Turning back to Vin and Nathan, he waited to see if they found out anything else. "Anything else?"

Vin and Nathan looked at each other. Nathan spoke up. "We're still waiting for some reports from the CSI's about what they found in the room."

Chris nodded. "Alright, JD work on the CD and try to get some information from it. Josiah how are you coming on the profile?"

"Working on it. Dragon is out to finish what was started when Buck's team died. Buck is a loose end. Dragon wants to play with Buck. He wants him to regret living through the case. He has a detailed plan on how to get Buck back for ruining his plans. The rest of us aren't important. As long as we don't wreck his plans we aren't in his equation as a threat, just a obstacle to be moved or work around."

Chris nodded. "Anything else?"

"I need to get some more information before I comment more about him. Whatever we do, we have to be aware that he is after Buck, he wants to get Buck alone so he can exact his revenge."

The team nodded. Almost as one they looked over towards the break room where Buck was trying to take a nap.

Buck lay down on the couch, he was tired, but he didn't want to sleep. He didn't want to fall asleep. He didn't want the team to know that he was having nightmares. Also, he wanted to know how the investigation was going. He wished he could remember more about Dragon. Buck wished he could remember Dragon's face, or voice or something. Instead, all he had was the fear and the guilt that the name brought up. Leaning back against the couch, Buck wished if he could to start this whole week over again, he would of missed the meeting totally, maybe even taken the day off. Anything to not have known that Dragon was back.

Sighing, he listened to the bullpen, he wished the team would be a little less protective… Chris especially. He understood that the team was concerned. Dragon though, wasn't their problem. Dragon wanted only him… no one else. He didn't want the team to get hurt because of him. Buck sighed, shifting on the couch, he looked up at the ceiling. Closing his eyes, he allowed his mind to drift.

Some time later, Buck felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking it. Opening his eyes, Buck's blue eyes stared into a pair of large hazel eyes. Sitting up, Buck looked over at JD, "Yes?"

"How are you feeling?"

"Alright, what's going on?"

"Nothing much, I've been trying to decrypt a disc that Nathan found. The rest of the guys have been working on trying to figure out what the Dragon is up to. So far though they hadn't found anything. Chris called it a day. He wants us to meet up at the ranch."

Buck nodded. Getting up from the couch, he stretched. Turning, he headed into the bullpen. Getting to his desk, he shut down the computer. Waiting for his computer to shut down, Buck started to put away his stuff. Grabbing his jacket, he started to head to the door. Before he could take a step, he heard Chris bellow. "Buck!"

Buck sighed, he had almost made it to the door. "Yes, Chris?"

"Where do you think you are going?"

"To my truck?"

The rest of the team looked up from their desks, waiting to see what would happen.

"By yourself?"

"Yes, last time I looked I could drive my truck."

Chris glared, marching over to were Buck was, he grabbed Buck's keys. "You aren't going by yourself, someone will go with you to the ranch."

Buck looked at Chris. "Give me my keys, I am perfectly able to drive myself to the ranch."

Chris glared at Buck, shaking his head, he headed towards his office with Buck's key. Buck stared at Chris for a second, before finally following Chris into the office, shutting the door behind him.

The other Seven looked at each other. They shook their heads and settled down into their chairs for a show.

Inside the office, Buck and Chris were glaring at each other. Buck spoke first, "Chris, what are you doing?"

"Protecting you, since you don't seem to care."

"Driving my truck isn't going to kill me."

"It might, if you insist on going out there and driving it yourself."

"Chris, I'll be fine, would you feel better if I take one of the others with me?"

Chris nodded. "It would be even better if you allowed one of us to take you to the ranch."

Buck shook his head. "I don't want to hide behind one of you. You could get hurt. One of the others could get hurt. I don't want the team hurt because of me."

Chris shook his head. "Buck you don't want to get them hurt, we don't want to see you get hurt by this mad man. You shouldn't have to face him alone."

"I'm not facing him alone, but I don't have to hide behind one of you constantly. How will I deal with the Dragon?"

"With our help."

Buck threw himself onto the couch in Chris's office. Leaning back on the couch, he refused to stare at Chris. Chris waited for Buck to come back. Buck didn't say anything though. Didn't even acknowledge that Chris was staring at him or the time was passing. Chris started to fidget. A silent Buck made him nervous. Finally, not able to take the silence, Chris asked a question. "Buck, are you okay."

Buck didn't move, he just stared at the ceiling. Chris got even more nervous. Chris went over to Buck and sat down on the couch next to him. Looking at Buck, Chris placed a hand on Buck shoulder, squeezing gently. Chris looked at Buck. "What's wrong?"


Chris shook his head. "There has to be something."

Buck just stared at the ceiling for a minute. Finally, he sighed. " I don't need a baby-sitter. I can look after myself, I don't need someone following me around every second of the day."

"We aren't trying to be your baby-sitters. We want to make sure Dragon doesn't get to you. We... I can't lose you."

Buck looked at Chris for a minute and then walked over to the window and looked out. Staring out at the city for a couple of minutes, Buck finally turned towards Chris. "I understand why you want to protect me, but I don't need it. If all of you keep trying to protect me from Dragon, he'll go after you to get to me. I can't allow him that. I can't allow him to hurt any of you."

"I can't promise that we won't get hurt. I don't know what Dragon will do. But we will not let you sacrifice yourself because you are worried about us getting hurt."

Buck stiffen up. "You don't know what he'll do. He'll kill you, you'll be dead. He'll enjoy killing you. He'll kill you and make me watch then kill me. You don't understand. I can't let him get to any of you. I can't let any of you get hurt because of me."

Chris walked over to Buck and grasped his shoulder. Looking into Buck's eyes, Chris spoke. "No matter what you think of this Dragon, or how much danger you think we're in. We aren't going to leave you. We won't let you face the fear of Dragon alone. Even if you try to lose us we'll follow you, you can't lose us. No matter what you think Dragon is going to do."

Buck stared at Chris for several long moments. Buck nodded his head. Chris nodded back, headed to his desk chair to grab his jacket. Grabbing it, he turned and joined a much calmer and relaxed Buck.

As Chris's office door open, the rest of the team turned and looked towards the door. Both Chris and Buck shared a smile as they heard a sigh of relief from the rest of the team. Shaking their heads, Chris looked at the team. "Finish up what you are doing then meet us at the ranch."

The rest of the team nodded as Buck and Chris walked out the door of the offices. JD moved to follow them out the door but Vin stopped him. JD stopped and stared at Vin for a moment. Vin just shook his head. JD got a puzzled look. "Why? Why shouldn't I follow them?"

"Right now, Buck needs to spend some time with Chris."

"But, why?"

"Because, Mr. Dunne, Chris has a long history with Buck. Chris feels he must help Buck like Buck has helped him in the past. Well, if that is enough discussion gentlemen, I am going to head to our leader's ranch." With that, Ezra got up and headed toward the door. The rest of the team grabbed their coats and followed Ezra.

Chapter 4

Chris pulled into the ranch, turned off the Jeep, and sat there, listening to the engine cool. Buck hadn't said a word the entire time. Chris didn't know where to start. Buck was never this quiet. Chris cleared his throat and looked over at Buck. "You do know the rest of the team will be here soon."

Buck said nothing; he just kept staring out the window. Finally, after several long uncomfortable seconds, he spoke. "Why are we at your place, and not the CDC?"

Chris blinked. Clearing his throat, he looked over at Buck. "We're here because Dragon probably has your place watched."

"So, he doesn't want to kill me yet. He wants me to suffer first," Buck replied without looking at Chris.

"Why would he want you to suffer?"

Buck ignored the question. Chris sighed. He wanted to grab Buck and shake some sense into him. Chris ran his hand through his hair, mussing it slightly. Looking out the window for a little bit, Chris finally spoke. "Buck, why are you making it so difficult to help. The team just wants to protect you. They don't want to see Dragon hurt you."

"It's too late," Buck mumbled.

"What do you mean it's too late?"

Buck looked up quickly, that wasn't supposed to slip out. "Nothing, so what's for dinner?"

Chris blinked. Growling softly, he asked again. "What did you mean by, it's too late?"

Buck closed his eyes; his tired brain was working slowly. He couldn't come up with a good cover for the comment. He decided to ignore the question. Chris waited for Buck to answer. When no answer was forth coming, he looked over at Buck. Chris, getting the feeling he was being ignored, seeing that Buck was looking through the window of the jeep, Chris shook his head. "Buck!"

Buck's head jerked, turning to look over at Chris, "What?"

"You haven't answer the question."

"What question?"

Chris clenched his jaw. "What did you mean when you said it was too late?"

"Nothing, I meant nothing about it being too late. Just my mouth running away."

"Nothing, Buck, nothing with you is always something."

Buck turned and look at Chris for a moment. Shaking his head, he turned back to the window. "I don't know what you mean, Chris, it's nothing. "

Chris was about to say something, when a beam of headlights could be seen coming up the drive. Chris sighed. "This isn't over you know. We will continued with this later."

Buck shrugged his shoulders, he reached over and opened his door and headed towards Chris's front door. Chris joined Buck in walking towards the front door. Opening the door, they both went into the ranch. Chris watched as Buck headed for the den. Shaking his head, Chris turned and watched as the rest of the team snake there way up the driveway. Staring out at the headlights, Chris wonder how he was going to get Buck to open up. Hearing several doors slam, Chris shook himself out of his stumper, he waited for the rest of the team come in the house.

The rest of the Seven looked at Chris as they walked into the ranch; Chris just shrugged his shoulders. Vin, seeing this, shook his head. JD looked at Chris for a second, then, hearing the noise from the den, he headed towards there, not bothering to look at Chris. Chris headed towards the kitchen to see what he had to feed 7 people with. Vin followed Chris into the kitchen and the rest of the team followed JD into the Den.

"So, find anything out?"

Chris shook his head. "No, he isn't talking, except to say he is fine. Which he clearly is not."

Vin smirked, "He is clearly not fine."

Opening the cupboards and staring at what he was seeing, Chris wanted to scream. "Why won't he talk about this?"

"Cause that isn't Buck."

Chris turned and glared at Vin. "What do you mean?"

Leaning against the counter, Vin shook his head. "He's like the rest of us. He isn't going to tell us stuff unless he is sure it won't hurt us."

Chris glared at Vin, the truth of the words hurt. "So what are we supposed to do, watch Buck self destruct."

Vin shook his head, "Make sure everyone spends time with him, including JD."

"What do you mean?"

"JD needs to spend some time with Buck without the rest of us around."

"What do you mean?"

"JD needs to spend time with Buck."

Chris glared. "Why?"

"JD needs to protect Buck. He sees it as his job."

Chris straightened up suddenly, growling softly. "What do you mean, his job?"

Vin sighed. "Buck protects him, he's supposed to protect Buck."

"What do you mean, he is supposed to protect Buck."

Vin shook his head, "Yes, protect Buck."

Chris growled out, "No, it isn't his job."

Vin rubbed his hand over his face, hoping some divine inspiration would come. What he got was Nathan coming into the room.

Nathan glaring at Vin for a second then walked towards a cupboard to grab a glass. Vin, spotting this, slid over in front of Nathan and grabbed a glass and filled it with water for Nathan. Nathan glared at Vin. Vin bowed slightly and handed the full glass of water to Nathan. "I could have done that."

"Aww, Nate, you have to take it easy. I was just trying to be helpful like."

Nathan glared, turning; he started to walk out of the room. Stopping, he turned. "Just so you know, the natives are getting hungry."

With that, Nathan left the room. Chris sighed, looking at the cupboards once more; Chris grabbed the phone, "Chinese or pizza. "

Vin smiled, "Pizza."

Later that night, after the last piece of pizza had been killed, and the evidence of the massacre had been cleaned up, the group had split up the nights watches again and all of them watched as Buck got up from the table, and isolated himself from the team in his room. Now the only people who were up were the two who were watching the ranch. Ezra was wandering around the house. Chris was wandering around outside, doing one of the last turns on a bed with twisted and knotted sheets pushed down to the bottom of the bed, the lone occupant of the bed lay on his back. He had tossed and turned for the last hour, finally stopping as he fell into a deeper sleep.

The quiet of the room was interrupted as the occupant of the bed started muttering, "no, no, no!"

He bolted up from the bed, sweat pouring from his face. He took several deep breaths. Untangling his feet from the twisted blankets, he ran his hands over his face and hair, trying to wipe away the last visage of the dream. Staring at the dark, the quiet of the room started to get to him. Shrugging his shoulders, he grabbed his clothes. He couldn't stay in the small dark, quiet room any longer. Grabbing his shoes, he forced his feet into them. Getting up from the bed, he grabbed his jacket, and slowly opened the door. Looking out from the small slit of the open door, he checked to make sure no one was in the hallway. Seeing all the doors shut, he quietly sneaked through the hallway, making it to the back door. He quietly opened the door, and slowly sneaked out of the house.

Carefully, he walked through the late night frost. Crushing the grass underfoot, he reached the door of the barn. He opened the door, and quietly made his way to Beau's stall. Beau snorted as Buck enter his stall. Buck dug into his pockets and pulled out a couple of dried apple pieces, which he gave to Beau as he patted his neck.

As the horse finished the treat, Buck moved closer, allowing Beau to hang his head over his shoulder so Buck could pet more of the horse's neck. Buck leaned in seeking the warmth after the nightmare. Wanted to scream. Why was the memory coming back now? He was happy not remembering. He'd kept that year hidden in a dark corner of his mind, but now it was coming back in bits and pieces. This nightmare was worse than the first one.
He had been stuck in the van again, sweat had been pooling at the base of his neck. The earphones and mic he was wearing started to itch. The team had been in place for several hours. Dragon should have arrived. The team had been tense since the beginning of the bust. All their months of hard work would accumulate in the takedown of the Dragon. Buck blinked his eyes, and as in all dreams the view suddenly changed. The monitors went static for a second. Buck frantically went into action. He started calling on the radios, hoping to raise someone. No one answered his calls; the airwaves had been silent. All of the electronics suddenly went dark in the van. Buck was left in the dark. The silence of the van crept up on him, making cold sweat break out on his body. Buck went to the doors but they wouldn't open. Someone jammed the doors from the outside. Buck was trapped in the truck. The TV monitors suddenly came back on. His team, instead of being in their assigned places, were kneeling on the floor. The team members were gagged and bound, Buck could see the fear in their eyes, the horror of what might happen. Buck went closer to the monitors. He couldn't move his eyes of the monitors.

He watched as a pair of hands reached around the first team member. One of the black glove-covered hands held a knife. The knife, in one swift movement, cut across the first team member throat. Bright red blood gushed out. A wordless scream of denial escaped from Buck's throat. Dragon killed each of the team members, laughing the whole way. The evil deed was done. Then Dragon turned and smiled at the camera. The shadows of the warehouse hid his face. Dragon then said,, "You will soon join your friends."

Buck blinked, bringing himself back the present, petting his horse. He sighed. Moving silently, he grabbed a brush and started to brush his horse, hoping the motion would help him.

Sighing, he let his thoughts roam randomly. These last few days had been a nightmare, and it looked like it would continue, putting his friends in danger. Danger that he didn't know if we could protect them from Dragon. Buck shuddered slightly.

Josiah's talked about him not having to face the dragon by himself and even Chris claimed he wouldn't be left to fend for himself. It just made him more nervous. They couldn't understand Dragon. Even if Buck told them everything, the team still wouldn't understand. Dragon didn't care. He wasn't out to make the rest of the team suffer first. Dragon just wants him… him alone. He was a loose end. A loose end that Dragon didn't like.

His horse snorted and Buck stopped brushing for a minute. Putting down the brush, Buck petted Beau's neck. "Sorry, girl, didn't mean to be that lost in thought. Maybe it would be better if I was St. George. That way the rest of the Team would be safe. Instead, the team keeps throwing themselves in the way of the Dragon, to save me. What are they thinking Beau? I lost one team already… I can't lose another. I just can't."

Buck fell quiet for awhile and a shiver ran up his spine. He moved closer to the horse, trying to share the horse's warmth. Leaning against Beau, Buck wished the team understood that protecting him wasn't as important as protecting the team. The team already wasn't at 100 %. Nathan was hurt, even if it was only his hand and a slight cut. He still wasn't going to be at 100% with only one hand. What if another team member got hurt? Hurt worse than a cut hand. What if, what if… Buck wanted to scream. If he just knew how this was going to end. Or if the whole situation with Dragon would be done… finished. Even better, if it had never happen.

If he could wish everything better, then he would be a millionaire. Smirking slightly at that thought of being richer than Ezra, the smirk quickly fell off his face. This wasn't a movie or a book. Happy endings weren't assured. That was one thing that worried Buck. Life rarely followed a book. Feeling a headache starting to show itself, Buck closed his eyes and leaned into the horse.

After a while Beau snorted. Buck open his eyes, stretching a little. He patted the horse. "Sorry, Beau, didn't mean to unload this all on you but the team already thinks that I am weak. I can't do anything without one of them following me, telling me what to do… just because I reacted badly. But, I feel like I'm a toy that they have to protect. I'm waiting for Chris and JD to comes to blows, each of them wants to protect me but they don't understand it is too late. Dragon already has us playing his game."

Buck suddenly straighten up, he had heard a noise. Looking around, he noticed a shadow moving in the barn. Clearing his throat, he called out, "who's there?"

A lone shadow moved and a man with his hand on his gun stepped out from wall of the barn. Buck glared at the person. "What are you doing here."

Vin smiled as Buck glared at him. "Figured since you talked to your horse last night, you would do it again. Didn't want to see your horse kill ya."

Buck glared at Vin even harder. "Beau wouldn't hurt me. Hurt you on the other hand…." Buck let the rest of the sentence trail off, as he still glared at Vin.

Vin just shrugged. Removing his hand from his gun, he walked over to Beau's stall. "See that you are wearing your jacket this time. "

Buck smirked at Vin, "Can't tattle now, can you?"

Vin just smiled. "I'm sure I will find something. So, why are you out here with the horse?"

Buck shrugged and turned back to the Beau.

Vin shook his head. "You know you're going to have to tell me sooner or later."

Buck ignored Vin, he continued to pay attention to the horse.

Vin sighed. Moving into the stall, he patted Buck's horse. "You know you're going to spoiled her"

Buck shrugged his shoulders again.

Vin smirk slightly. "Ya know, I'm not the talkative one of the team."

Buck looked at Vin for a moment and then just shrugged his shoulders again.

Vin rolled his eyes. "You going to say anything?"

Buck smirked.

Vin looked at Buck. Noticing the lines around the eyes and the way Buck's eyes squinted every once and a while, Vin fought to keep the smile off his face. "You got a headache?"

"No, I don't have a headache."

Vin shook his head. "Yes you do."

"No I do not."

Vin just shook his head. "Yes, you do, I know the look. You had the same look that week that Chris left you in charge of all of us."

Buck sighed and turned away from Vin, "I feel fine, there is nothing you have to tell Nate about."

"But, Buck, Nate would kill me if I didn't tell him."

He just looked at Vin. "Kill you?"

"Well there are those teas of his."

Buck just shook his head. "Not worried about Nate."

"Who are you worried about? What? Are you having issues with Chris and JD."

Buck nodded. Vin looked puzzled for a second, "Why do you have issues with those two?"

Buck just looked at Vin for moment, sighing, he spoke. "I can't go to the bathroom without one of those two standing behind me. I can't even make a noise without one of them wondering if I am going to break down."

Vin nodded, "Those two mother-henning you a little too much?"

"I can't breath without one of them following me around. I know they're concerned but I feel like they're treating me like a five year old."

"We're just worried Buck."

Buck nodded.

Vin thought for a moment. "You tell me what you were thinking about and I'll get Chris and JD to lay off you."

Buck thought for a long moment. Finally, after several long minutes, Buck nodded. "You goin' to shake on it."

Vin nodded. Vin reached out his hand to shake, before their hands met, Buck stopped. "You promise not to tell the rest of the team?"

Vin stopped, thinking about the promise. Finally, he nodded. The two of them shook.

Buck then moved away from Vin. He moved towards the front of the stall. Not looking at Vin, he started. "I had another nightmare. This one felt more real than the last one. I was in the surveillance van. The screens went fuzzy the same time the radios went out. As I tried to get back with the team, the monitor came back on. My team was on their knees, bound and gagged. As I watched, I heard an evil laugh. Cold sweat broke out on my back. Then, the hands... the hands…"

Buck trailed off, not willing to share the final part of the dream.

Vin was silent for a second, hoping that Buck would continue. When Buck didn't continue, Vin cleared his throat. "What happened with the hands?"

Buck sighed. "The hand slit their throats. There was nothing I could do. Nothing." Buck turned away from Vin.

Vin, for his part, was silent for a long moment. Finally, he moved towards Buck. Getting in front of Buck, he looked Buck in the eye. "Buck, there wasn't anything you could do. From all the reports we read, you were lucky to get out of the van alive. It isn't your fault that they died, and you won't lose us."

Buck looked back into Vin's eyes. "Are you sure?"

Vin nodded.

Buck started walking out of the stall and barn.

Vin followed.

Just as they reached the back porch of Chris's ranch, Buck turned. "Remember your promise."

Vin nodded. "I'll remember."

Buck nodded and opened the door to the kitchen. Vin followed Buck into the ranch.

Josiah and Nathan, who both were up, turned their heads when the door opened. "Hey, guys. You're up early aren't you, Buck?"

Buck nodded and headed for the table.

Josiah and Nathan looked at Vin. Vin just shrugged his shoulders and headed for the table. Josiah and Nathan just looked at each other, each seeing the confusion in each other's eyes. Shrugging their shoulders at each other, they finished getting coffee and headed to the table, wondering what Vin and Buck had been talking about.

Twenty minutes later, Chris walked into the kitchen and stalked over to the coffee machine. Pouring a mug, he quickly drank the coffee then proceeded to spew it back into the sink. Dumping out the rest of the coffee, he turned and looked at Josiah and Nathan who were sitting at the table. "Who made the coffee?"

Josiah smiled. "I did, it is a little weak. Can't quite have a spoon stand in it."

Chris sighed. Grabbing the coffeepot, he dumped the contents into the sink. He started a new pot of coffee, then turned back to Nathan and Josiah. "Have you guys seen Buck and Vin this morning?"

Josiah and Nathan looked at each other, then shrugged their shoulders.

Chris growled. "What does the shrug mean?"

Josiah and Nathan looked at each other. Both of them looked at Chris with big innocent eyes. "We don't know what you mean."

Chris marched over to the both of them. "Don't play games, have you seen them or not?"

Nathan looked at Josiah and Josiah shrugged. Nathan sighed. "Vin and Buck headed to the office early. They wanted to check something out. They said they would be there when we got in."

Chris started to shake with anger. "What do you mean?"

Josiah and Nathan looked at each other. This wasn't good. Vin and Buck had said that Chris wouldn't be that angry. Josiah cleared his throat. "Vin said that they were going to stop for breakfast. They were tired of cereal."

Chris growled.

Josiah and Nathan looked at each other. Buck and Vin were in so much trouble when they saw them again.

Chris plopped down into a chair; the quiet dripping of the coffee was the only noise. Nathan and Josiah sat quietly, not wanting to bother Chris. Chris for his part wanted to know why Vin and Buck felt like they needed to get away from the rest of them. What did Vin know that he didn't, and what was Buck hiding.

Before Chris could say anything or ask another question, JD came bouncing down into the kitchen. JD headed towards the coffee first. Before he started to pour his own cup, Chris spoke up. "JD, if you are going to pour yourself some coffee, pour me some too."

JD looked at Chris for a second and sighed. Pouring Chris a cup of coffee, he then poured one for himself. Placing the coffeepot back into its place, he brought the coffee to the table. JD placed his cup at the table, then handed Chris his. With his back turned, handing Chris his mug, he failed to notice that Ezra had wandered into the kitchen and swiped his coffee. JD sat back into his chair and reached for his coffee. His hand met with empty air. With a puzzled expression, he looked down where he remembered putting his mug. Not seeing it there, he looked around the table. He finally spotted Ezra who was hunkered down at the end of the table, huddled over JD's coffee mug. JD just stared as Ezra drank his coffee. Finally, after several minutes of watching Ezra, JD spoke up. "Ezra, that was my coffee."

Ezra raised his bleary eyes. "What was that, Mr. Dunne?"

"Never mind, Ezra," JD sighed and got up and headed back to the coffeepot. The rest of the group that were sitting at the table snickered at each other. JD came back and sat down, trying to glare at the rest of the group. It only made the team snicker more. JD tried to ignore them while he drank the coffee.

JD looked around, getting a puzzled look on his face. He turned and faced Chris. "Where are Buck and Vin? Shouldn't they be up by now?"

Ezra raised his head and looked around. Focusing his bleary gaze on Nathan, he raised an eyebrow.

Nathan sighed. "Vin and Buck decided that they wanted to eat out."

JD looked up. "They're by themselves? Is that safe?"

Josiah and Nathan looked at each other. Josiah shook his head. "It is fine. Vin and Buck can take care themselves."

JD finished drinking the coffee and got up from the table. "I'm done, I'm heading into the office."

The rest of the group looked at each other. Sudden realization dawned on all of their faces. Vin and Buck left alone. They could get into a lot of trouble. Swallowing the last of the coffee, the rest of the group around the table, finished their coffee and left.