The Circle


Rating: PG 13

Disclaimer:  I  do not own or profit from the use of the Magnificent Seven characters. Thank you to MOG for the creation of the ATF.

Comments:  I should begin by saying this is not an original idea, and there will be astute people who know where I got the idea.  Thank you to MOG for betaing and being 'picky.' Thank you to my friends who kept prompting me to finish this. This is my strange holiday gift to all.

Archivist's Note:   This fic was previously hosted on another website and was moved to blackraptor in September 2006.

He was fucked, plain and simple.  He stretched out, trying to focus on each muscle-first the calves, the quads, back and arms. He still felt like shit. Eli and his crew had given him a room for the night.  A cot set up in a room, probably a broom closet, and someone to keep an eye on him the whole time. Tanner attempted to relax his body as his mind tried to formulate plans of escape. They all ended the same. The bad guys had guns and he didn't. The best course of action meant he had to stick around and fight. Vin stood up and swayed slightly forgetting about the bruises he accumulated yesterday. "I gotta take a piss." He said crudely to the guard.

"Boss is coming."  The man replied gruffly.

Vin rolled his eyes and sat back down.  He only waited a few minutes for Eli Joe. "Here you go, the breakfast of champions."  Eli waved a donut in front of him and a styrofoam cup of coffee. "Know how much your kind enjoys a good donut."

Tanner accepted the food, with his mouth full he spoke, "Yeah the kind who used to live on the street and never says no to a free meal?" He swallowed. "You used to be one of them too." Vin didn't know why he was trying to invoke sympathy in Eli Joe. He wanted to believe if the man remembered his past then he would stop preying on the street kids.

"I was always better than that. . ." Eli Joe replied as Vin opened the plastic cover on the coffee.

The sharpshooter wrapped his hands around the warm cup. Tanner sneered at the man before him who'd forgot his roots. "That's right. It wasn't just your father that used to beat you but your mama too. . ." The ATF agent recalled the rumors he heard about Eli's childhood.  The evil done to him had not stopped. He continued the cycle by hurting other teens.

"Get up!" Eli grabbed Vin's shirt and lifted him. The cup in the sharpshooter's hand buckled, but Tanner made sure he did not lose any of the hot liquid.  With a glare, Eli dropped his hands and gestured to the agent to follow him.

As Vin followed, he finished his coffee. He wasn't so sure he was glad to have the meager meal in his body once he saw the boys. Eli Joe had placed them in cages.  There were three kids. They sat huddled together although they had blankets. Their heads were so close together it was had to make out where one started and the other left off.  They were talking quietly. Tanner knew they were trying to give each other hope and solace in a time of fearfulness.

Vin swallowed as the donut and coffee burned in his throat. "You get your kicks out of this?"  Tanner tried to go forward to tell the boys he was there for them. They needed to know they were not forgotten.

He was stopped by one of the henchmen and a cackling Eli Joe. "I make a lot of money."

Vin closed his eyes and turned on his heel. It came back to him. He could see Matt so clearly. He didn't want to die. What kid thinks about dying? He remembered in the end Matt's final plea, 'Mama?'

Tanner took a few deep breaths to squelch the consuming sorrow. He knew what he had to do. Those kids would live, Vin hoped, long enough to make their lives better.

When Vin was a few feet away he was able to think more clearly and focus. "Let 'em walk outta here, now." He turned to face Eli who had gained another man. "There's nothing around here. The nearest phone is miles away? Plenty of time for this fight to be done and over with."

"I've killed men in 5 minutes." The new man taunted. He was the current champion. Up close, Vin could see he was rippling with muscles.  Over 6 feet tall, the man's hair was shaved off. He was an intimidating Mister Clean.  This was the man he would meet in the ring in a few hours.

Tanner gave a slow forming grin, appraising the man before him. "Tough talk for someone fighting boys."

The evil Mister Clean's eyes glowed. "You little punk-wise-ass. . ."  Vin's only response was to laugh, infuriating the champion even more, until Eli Joe stepped between the two opponents.

"Save it for the match." He directed this comment to his man.  The champion walked away muttering under his breath. "Once you walk into the ring with Dean, they can walk out."

Vin nodded. It wasn't good enough. At least if the kids got out earlier he would have a chance of them calling the cops.  Tanner sighed. He had to have some hope too and he still needed to use the bathroom

Ezra placed his phone in the car seat pocket. It was becoming warm from over use.  Standish clasped his hands and rubbed them together. He tried to dry his sweaty palms.  God willing, everything would work out. The southerner nodded to Josiah and Nathan. They were seated in the backseat of a Ford Excursion following the two police cars, leading them to their friend.

"Get your vest on, Ezra." Chris said from the driver's seat.

The vest lay on his lap.  Standish knew Larabee hadn't looked back, which meant the team leader had exceptional peripheral vision or knew each of his men too well.  The southerner shook his head. He was philosophical for a moment as one thought went through his mind, 'how well do you really know someone?'

"So what did you promise them?"  Buck was fiddling with wires from his microphone.  Everyone was trying to expel their nervous energy.

Ezra mind was still waxing philosophical as he shrugged into his vest assisted by Josiah. "As usual Agent Wilmington you are being vague. I am not a mind reader."

Wilmington turned around. "The Seattle PD?"

Nathan tapped on the window. He wiped the window off since he had been obviously been caught writing on the glass with his fingers. "The two squad cars?"

Standish rubbed his chin.  "It was really ingenious. . ." It was a use of power, which left the southerner himself in awe.

Josiah reached over and patted Ezra's chest. "Puff up anymore we'll have to get you a larger vest."

The undercover operative diverted his attention to the passing landscape.  He felt the eyes of the other on him. Standish licked his lips. "It wasn't my idea." He mumbled.

"What was that?" Josiah replied, squinting his eyes as if it were going to assist his hearing capabilities.

Ezra cleared his throat. "I," he stressed, not wanting to limit his role, "contacted Orin Travis who recommended a judge for the warrant." Standish paused.
Buck raised his hands in frustration so the southerner continued.

 Standish finished rapidly. "He noted that the particular judge's teen was a runaway who died from a drug overdose. . ."

Nathan gave a low whistle.

Wilmington shook his head. "Damn, he carries a lot of ammunition."

For a minute there was silence. In times before a battle, Standish did not enjoy the quietness. He liked to know the others were around. He would never admit it, but he enjoyed the inane chatter. Finally, it was Ezra who voiced the question echoing in each of their minds. "Do you believe he has acquired information on us that can perhaps 'push our buttons'?"

"You're creeping me out." Wilmington shivered in the front seat, then wiped down his arms. "What do you think he has on us?"

"On me-nothing." Larabee answered, shifting from driving with two hands to one. "On you?" Chris snorted and shook his head.

"You've got a lot of buttons," Josiah replied thoughtfully as he rubbed the stubble of his ever present beard.

Buck turned around, stretching the seatbelt. "I don't."

Nathan rolled his eyes and glanced at Ezra. With a wink Standish answered. "I can see it now. Orin calls you up to inform you there is a damsel in distress…"

The southerner didn't even have to finish.  The mustached agent smiled. "Well, that's different."

The team laughed heartily, maybe too heartily as if letting off steam of the unfolding events.

"What about the rest of you?" Buck fiddled with the ends of his mustache.  "I know Ez is a slippery snake. . ."

Standish was not insulted by the remark.  He was proud of the fact he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve. "I'm supposed to be. It is the position I was hired for..undercover operative."

A discussion of their so-called weaknesses ensued. This is the way they past the time-with a sense of camaraderie pushing away the doom of the situation. Together there was a sense they could be strong. "

"And for JD it would be a one-legged dog," Nathan gasped out through chuckling. The young agent told everyone the same joke.

Standish cleared his throat. "What's our ETA?" The comment sobered the congenial crew.

"We should be there in an hour."  Chris replied. The leader then proceeded to lean on the horn and wave the vehicle ahead who was trying to get into the traffic.

"Damn, there's a lot of traffic." Wilmington added as he smoothed down the seatbelt.

Ezra stared at his Piaget watch. The second hand ticket by at a steady rhythm. "We still have time." Thirty seconds had elapsed.

Vin wished he could wrap his ribs. They pulled and ached. A bruise had formed. As long as someone didn't look too closely it seemed to blend in to his tanned skin.  A bandage would make the ribs a target-a weakness.

Eli Joe had given him a half an hour to get dressed.  The choice in clothing made Vin smile. Black bike shorts and a black tank top.  The clothing couldn't be loose as it would be an unfair disadvantage-just one more thing that could be twisted and pulled.

Tanner jogged in place to bring up his heart rate and began to stretch out. He needed to loosen up.  The ATF agent wished someone was in his corner, inspiring him-a coach, Chris or the rest of the team. It was enough to know the kids  had gotten away. They had been let go before Vin was escorted to the changing room. At lease there was some honor still left in Eli Joe. He had kept his word, and now Tanner would keep his.

There was a rapid knock at the door. "Get out here."

Vin took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "I'm ready." He yelled out and the door was opened.

Tanner's chaperones escorted him to the cage. The crowd was beginning to settle into their seats. Vin stepped into the steel fenced area, virtually unnoticed. He was a non-person to these people.  He had to be since in all likelihood, according to the gathered group, he was a dead man.

Tanner looked down at the matted floor.  The white flooring was covered with washed away bloodstains.  The area twenty feet by thirty feet was enclosed by a ten foot high chain link fence.  There was no padding on the fencing, so Vin reminded himself it could be used to slow down an opponent-especially the corners.

The ATF agent began to jog in place. The wait was supposed to unnerve him instead  he focused. The crowd began cheering as the Champion walked in.

Vin ignored it. He took in deep calming breaths. He allowed the exhalation to relax him.

Guthrie tried to taunt Tanner with crude words and gestures.  The assembly roared with pleasure of an upcoming battle.

Vin looked past them, past the room to a place beyond where he was calm, still and entered.

When the punch came at him. Vin caught it an inch away from his face. Tanner smiled as  did the Champion.  These were two well-matched individuals fighting to the finish.

JD squeezed the cellphone. He wanted them to call him. The young agent wanted to call them. Dunne let the phone drop into the blankets.   So when it rang he frantically threw back the layers to find it. "Hello?" He answered on the fourth ring and was rewarded with Buck's voice. Dunne exhaled softly, thankful his partner hadn't disconnected too soon. Simply the idea of having to wait any longer for information would have driven the young agent out of his hospital bed on sheer will. Although, JD believed the medical personnel attending him wouldn't necessarily have thought that was a bad idea. When he snapped at them in a request to hold off poking and prodding him for the next four hours they readily agreed. Dunne realized he must have acted like an ass. But at that moment, he wasn't sure how much he cared. He focused on what Buck had to offer.

"We see the warehouse." Wilmington said after rushing through pleasantries. "We'll be going in . . ."

Dunne swallowed and licked his lips.  "Great, okay." JD pictured the team suited up, readying themselves to go in.  Chris would check then double check, maybe even triple check before they slowly made their way to the target.

"When it's over we'll let you know."

JD wanted his roommate to understand how important this was. How he needed to know since he couldn't be there to make right his wrongs. "Don't forget." He added urgently before the mustached agent hung up his phone.

"I won't, Kid." Wilmington replied. "Stay cool, JD. Don't worry."

It was easy enough for Buck to say; at least he was able to do something.  "Do something!" JD let his head fall back into the pillow and looked up at the ceiling tiles. Vin would be fine and they would catch the bad guys. Dunne blinked as his eyes watered with emotion. "That's the way it always ends." He whispered in a husky voice trying not to think of the kid who died in front of him.

Vin had him. Okay, that is what his inner Mister Miyagi said at least. Any moment there would be a turning of the tide, the adrenaline would kick in and the pain would be pushed away. Vin threw a roundhouse, which was deflected by Guthrie's paws. Tanner tried to follow it up with a spinning backfist, but backed off.

Everything hurt. Tanner opened his eyes wide to clear the shadows he kept seeing just in time to duck a right cross.  He bent his knees ready to bounce back up, but Vin didn't react as quickly as the Champion. Guthrie brought an elbow smashing down on the ATF agent's shoulder.  Tanner grunted in surprise and went down on his knees feeling the full impact of the blow.

"Get up!" Vin said through gritted teeth. Even his voice was betraying him-hoarse and no more than a whisper. Tanner grabbed his opponent's leg and tried to bring him down in a sweep. It was a mistake.  Guthrie grabbed his hair, like Samson it was Vin's weakness, something that could betray him.

Tanner was forced to stand and be at the mercy of the Champion.  The ATF agent tried to send a palm strike into the larger man's solar plexus. He completed the strike and Guthrie stepped back, but he did not let go of Vin's hair.  Tanner tried to use the moment to bend down and strike again, but he was easily picked up and slammed onto the cement floor.

Stunned he took in gulping breaths and willed himself to move. It was too late. The Champion wrapped a bicep around Vin's neck.  Tanner tapped the arm holding him. Sweat made it difficult for him to get a grip.  He scratched, trying to claw his way out of the grip until the chokehold brought with it a tinge of blackness.

Guthrie was standing holding his head up as he choked the life from Vin. "I'm the last face you'll see." The Champion grinned.

Tanner wasn't supposed to die surrounded by strangers, looking at this asshole.  It wasn't his destiny.  Maybe he was a romantic, but he thought he would ride into the sunset with his friends.

He blinked, and the ugly face before him was gone. When the end was near there was only one longing in his heart. "Mama?"

The team easily took out the two guards in the front of the warehouse. "Rear entrance is secure."  Josiah announced into the microphone. He and Nathan along with the officers on loan from the Seattle PD were going through the back door.

Larabee gave a nod to Ezra and Buck. "We are good to go in three, two, one…GO, GO, GO!" Chris kicked open the door.

"ATF!" Buck yelled out immediately.

An officer on the other side replied,  "Seattle PD!"

"No one move!" And "Hands up!" Were yelled out to the crowd, who at first seemed stunned. Then one woman started screaming, and everyone joined in the panic stampeding to the door.

Chris and the rest of the team couldn't look for Vin among the rampaging group. They had to restore some order and make arrests. In the throng there were some true criminals that needed to be apprehended.

"Don't move!" The ATF team leader yelled out.  The crowd came forward. If they were going to act like a herd then they would be corralled like a herd. There were officers waiting outside to stop them from leaving in the fancy cars. They would leave in the van from the local correctional facility.  Larabee began to push forward, shoving the people aside. He had to get to Vin.

Larabee thought back to a short while before. As they made their way to the warehouse they saw a ragtag bunch of kids, walking with their heads down.

They pulled over. The teens were skittish, but noticing there was no where to run, they decided to be forthcoming with information.  It was then they learned Vin was in a fighting match usually ended by death of one of the opponents.

"What are the odds?" Standish asked handing out blankets to the young men as the police called for someone to pick them up.

"Ezra, damn it." Chris reprimanded the undercover agent. He stalked over to Standish, but Wilmington stepped in between.

"I don't know the other guy is a big dude." One of the teens replied, and the others bobbed their heads up in down with relief since they were not facing him.

Standish opened the car door. "Time is running out, gentlemen."  Larabee had also sensed it.  Chris had the vehicle started before the doors were shut.

Sometimes a body has to give in. And Vin just planned on slipping away. His job was done. The kids were safe. Mama was waiting. Someone would take care of Eli Joe. Chris would.

Chris? Yeah, he would do it. Tanner thought to himself. He would get Eli in the end and make sure he fried.  Chris . . .It was like the blond man was right there with him. The others too-Buck, Ezra, Josiah and Nate.

Tanner was startled from his reverie by the noise of the crowd, screaming and running. It was hearing, "ATF" and "Police," which made hope kindle in his tired body.

His friends had made it. In time for what? His f**kin' funeral?  He was better than this. They expected more from him. Tanner had to fight.

Guthrie was distracted by the action beyond the cage. The grip loosened, enough so the sharpshooter could take in a gulp of air and feed his starved brain. Vin had to make a decision.

The large man was caught by surprise as Vin gripped the arm choking him and pulled Guthrie over his shoulder. Tanner didn't have enough strength to send the Champion far, but the throw did stun him. Vin sat back and stretched out his leg, axe-kicking Guthrie viciously in the solar plexus. The sharpshooter felt a little satisfied seeing the large man's body spasm under the blow.

The ATF agent yelled, surprised at the powerful guttural scream. Breathing heavily he reached Guthrie's body. The man was blinking and trying to remember how to take in a gulp of air. Weak, Vin was still able to connect a backfist then an uppercut to the large man's bloodied face.  Tanner took in ravaging breaths and poised his hand above Guthrie's face in a palm strike.

"Vin, Vin!"

The sharpshooter heard someone calling out to him. He shook his head, then heard his name being called from another direction.


Tanner looked over and saw the team and Chris glaring at him.

Vin sighed and dropped his hand. "You're not worth it." He said to Guthrie.

Crawling, then stumbling he stood up as Josiah shot the lock off of the entrance to the cage. "One foot in front of the other." Tanner staggered as his friends met him half way.

"Did you  catch Eli?" Vin grabbed Ezra's shoulder so he would stay upright. His question was met with silence.  The sharpshooter looked up to Joe's office. There was a glow of flames biting the windows. "Damnit! He's getting away!" Tanner shuffled away toward the opening.  "The back door-"

Standish had seen his friend look worse. Vin's face was red, streaked with sweat intermingled with blood from cuts above his eye. The sharpshooter was already showing bruises on his torso and protecting his right side unconsciously.  The southerner had been beaten many times since being involved with Team 7; Ezra knew how painful it was. Vin was not going to get very far in his condition. The undercover agent also smelled the smoke. "Contact fire department." He said into the microphone to the one of the policemen assisting the ATF agents.

"Where the hell does he think he's going?" Buck asked as he put his hands out in exasperation.

"All you white boys think you're some sort of superman." Nathan mumbled under his breath. Ezra heard the little diatribe and lifted an eyebrow.  Jackson, seeing he had been caught cleared his throat. "We need to get him to a hospital."

The leader was not answering.  Even Standish was staring, waiting to see Larabee's reaction to the stubborn sharpshooter, who limped further away.

"Chris?" Josiah interrupted the silence and he turned to point to Tanner, who had made it to an exit. "Vin's leaving on a sightseeing trip without us. . ."

Larabee shook his head, looked up then answered by sighing. The blond man began walking in long strides after Tanner.

"Gentleman, I believe we were just insulted." Ezra said to the others as they followed Chris.

The team caught up quickly to the sharpshooter. Vin had found his foe.  "Eli!" The criminal mastermind looked back but kept running for an opening in the fence. "Eli!" Tanner sprinted, his bare feet scraping against the pavement. "You're not getting away, not this time. . ."

"Should we interfere?" Standish had his  *** aimed to shoot at the escaping Eli Joe. The others also had their weapons at the ready.

Chris pushed the gun down. "Not just yet."

"We can make a deal. . ." Standish head the shrill words from Joe as Tanner  reached him and spun the criminal around.

"Beggin' for your life?" Vin rasped, his breath coming out in heavy gasps. The sharpshooter placed his hands around the scared man's neck.

Ezra was shocked at the face of determination. The longhaired agent wanted to kill this man with his bare hands.  If a weapon had been in Vin's grasp then the matter would have been finished.  The southerner knew how the sharpshooter felt.  To see all the evil embodied in one person. . .It was too tempting.  Standish felt Larabee's arm brush against him as he stepped forward.

"Vin, back off." Chris said calmly. The blond pointed his gun and gestured to the men behind him, all with their weapons raised. "We got him covered."

Tanner shook his head, and kept his hands around Eli's neck.  The man was turning purple, his eyes were bulging. "No! You don't know him."

Larabee moved closer to Tanner so he was shoulder to shoulder with the sharpshooter. "Don't do this . . ."

"We know you, Vin." Ezra licked his lips. Josiah gave the undercover agent a slow nod to continue.  "And right now you have a  f***ing sick look in your eyes." Ezra grinned, recalling the same words Tanner had said to him when he wanted to kill Chaz.

Chris placed a hand on Vin's arm. The sharpshooter closed his eyes then grunted, letting go of the chokehold. Eli Joe crumpled to the ground in a coughing fit. Tanner turned, but seemed to trip over his feet, falling forward. Larabee caught him. "I gotcha, I gotcha." Chris repeated and the tapped him on the back.

"I do detest taking care of the trash." Ezra said to Eli Joe as he picked him off the ground and handcuffed him.  They were able to end the terror of another demon. Funny, the criminals always seemed so small once they were captured. Insurmountable odds evened out then eventually turned to Team 7's favor. "Everything is going to be all right."  Standish announced to the team.

"We can't leave this place fast enough for me." JD paced by the window, having been released two days earlier. Vin was lounging in the hospital bed; wearing jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt while his discharge papers were being signed.  Tanner wanted to be out of looking for Trey the minute he regained consciousness, but the hospital refused to let him leave until he stopped urinating blood. Josiah promised to ask around.

Unconsciously, the sharpshooter rubbed his kidneys where Guthrie had gotten in a few good shots. "I know what you mean, Kid." Vin wanted to leave all the memories behind him.

Dunne nodded, glad to be leaving his own pain in the Pacific Northwest city. They both heard the footsteps. "Colorado here we come!"  JD clapped his hands together in anticipation of fleeing the rainy place.

It wasn't the friendly nurse who promised to be back shortly. It was Trey. He knocked softly on the open door. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah, sure," the sharpshooter answered. The young agent glanced between the teenager and his friend.

"I'm gonna see what's taking so long." Dunne pointed to the door.

"Thanks, close it." Tanner replied.  Trey stayed at a distance away from the longhaired agent.

Just yesterday Chris 'talked' to him. "You involved a f**kin' kid but not the team? I'll give in that you didn't know what you were walking into, but using a teenager as a tail? What the hell were you thinking?"

"That I went to the people I knew would help." Vin started to raise his voice in irritation, then settled back to his normal softness. "Hell, Chris, kids that live on the street know more than the PD, FBI and ATF."

Larabee frowned then ran a hand through his blond hair. "What if he had gotten hurt?"

Tanner pushed himself so he sat straighter in the bed.  He wasn't going to cower, but meet the leader head on to defend himself. "Trey can take care of himself."

Chris shook his head and gave a hollow chuckle. "Like you did?"

"Didn't say that." Vin rubbed his sore jaw gingerly.

"You didn’t have to." The team leader replied flippantly. He pulled a chair over, taking his time to sit down before launching in to what the sharpshooter knew would be a some sort of guilt trip. "You should have come to us, to me. We would have figured something out, and it wouldn't have led to this."

Tanner didn't want to admit he was hurting-from the beating and facing Eli Joe again. "I didn't want to believe he was here. I hadn't thought about Eli Joe and Matt in a long time." Vin looked up to the ceiling tiles.     "I was going to come to you, once I made sure. . ." The sharpshooter turned to face his friend. "Ya think I wanted to be beaten up?" Tanner added a smirk.

Chris tipped back on his chair, and didn't answer right away. He thoughtfully rubbed his chin in contemplation. "I'm thinking about it." Larabee brought seat back into place with a thud.  "The lot of you forget to duck and take cover."

"That hurts, Larabee." Vin placed his hand on his chest in mock offense. "You're talkin' to a champion."

"More like idiot." Chris glared at the patient. "I don't want you pulling a stunt like this again."

Tanner fidgeted under the scrutiny.  He knew he was lucky-to have friends, to only get a warning, for Trey and to be alive. "Yeah, I'll never go to a warehouse when I think there's an asshole from my past there."

Larabee shook his head. "Get some rest, champ."

Last night he tossed and turned. He kept thinking of Trey and was determined to find him before the team left Seattle. Vin didn't want to just abandon the kid, who had now found him. "I know I look bad, but ya can come a little closer." Vin's face was colorfully bruised, and there were a few cuts on his face.

The teen looked down at his feet, willing them to move. Finally, he took a few steps forward to stand at the top of Tanner's bed with his arms crossed. "Heard what happened."

The sharpshooter turned his body so his feet dangled from the bed. "He won't be hurting anyone again." Carefully, Vin let his feet hit the floor and stood up.

"Yeah," Trey answered, gripping the bed and rocking back and forth.

"You okay?" Tanner slowly edged along the bed, keeping a distance between himself and the youth. He could see the teen was skittish, on the edge of something, which could change his life. Vin didn't want to spook him.

Trey stopped rocking "I want. . .I want. . ." He stuttered at first the teen's voice hoarse with emotion. "I want to get off the streets." The youth lifted his face and looked straight into Tanner's eyes.

Vin placed his hands in his jean pockets and leaned against the bed. "Where are you from?" The sharpshooter knew he wasn't going to get an answer, but it was worth a try. Sometimes life at home began to look much better after time.

Trey wiped away the tears that threatened to fall with the back of his sleeve. "Doesn't matter cause I'm not going back."

Vin made it to the end of the bed and sat down so he looked up to Trey. "I hear ya." Tanner wondered if he was this hollow and empty one time.  Was this what he looked like when hit rock bottom?

The teen still gripped the bed rail. Minutes elapsed and the youth's breathing grew harsher, then calmed again.  "Can you help?"

"Me?" Vin closed his eyed and nodded.  "Yeah, me and my friends we're gonna help you out." The longhaired agent reached out his hand, Trey grasped it firmly and Vin tightened the grip. "You're gonna be fine."

The End