Counting My Blessings

by Teri

Character Focus: Vin & Chris

Type of story: Gen Fic

Summary: Chris gets introspective and Vin is there to offer support.

The fall colors of red, orange and gold were giving way to the perpetual green of the tall pines as Chris and Vin drove up the long aspen lined lane that led to the Larabee ranch. The two had the truck windows down and were enjoying what was sure to be one of the last nice fall days before the winter winds and snow decided to make an appearance. The pine forest that wrapped its way around the Larabee spread made the ranch seem a private oasis away from prying eyes and the stress and bustle of the city.

As the tires crunched over the leaf-encrusted gavel of the lane Vin thought once again about finding a piece of land for himself. The fresh pine filled air and the scenery alone were enough to make the long drive to and from Denver worthwhile. However, the kids in Purgatorio needed him and so he would continue to live vicariously though his weekend visits with Chris.

Vin looked to his right and realized Chris too was lost in thought as he gazed out the side window through the trees. He knew that the man's mood was not the best, but who could blame him. While their last bust was considered a success, Chris had taken a round to the shoulder before Vin had been able to take the shooter down. The ensuing surgery to remove the bullet and the hospital stay, thought short was not helping. A smile crossed Vin's face as he recalled the intern literally wilting under the infamous Larabee glare when the boy informed Chris that he would need to wear a sling for the next two weeks. Poor kid didn't know what hit him and Vin was sure he had heard laughter as the young doctor was met by the medical staff who had sent the poor boy in unprepared for dealing with the Leader of the 'notorious' Team Seven. The kid had to be younger than J.D. and had pretty much shoved the prescriptions in Chris good hand before beating a hasty retreat.

Pulling his mind back to the matter at hand, Vin maneuvered around a large pothole in the road and made a mental note to repair it before the weekend was over. A slight curve to the right and the wooded archway which made up the lane opened to an expanse of lush grassland and a sprawling ranch style house surrounded by tall oaks and maples now devoid of leaves.

Amazingly the front yard seemed to be leaf free also, which was not the case when Vin had been out to check on the horses earlier in the week. At that time the lawn had been covered with a thick carpet of leaves.

"Looks like we're the last ones here," Vin commented to the still silent Larabee. He pulled the big Ram into its spot in front of the garage along side the other vehicles and turned off the motor. The hum of the truck's engine was replaced by the whirl of a smaller motor and the sound of voices coming from behind the house.

Nathan met the two at the front door. "Chris, how are you feeling? I offered to pick you up so I could talk to your doctor but Vin wouldn't hear of it. You're looking tired. I . . ."

Nathan's words were cut off by a single look from Vin which spoke volumes.

Taking in the tired and sullen look of their leader he changed tactics. "The boys are out back. We've been working on the leaves all morning, even Ezra. Though Lord only knows how Josiah got him to actually help. I was just in to check on my stew."

At a look from both Vin and Chris he was quick to add, "Don't worry, I didn't make it. Raine sent it with me. She said you needed something hearty, healthy, but most importantly tasty after eating hospital food. Said that left my cooking out." Nathan realized he was rambling, but couldn't seem to stop. "Why don't you go sit on the deck, I'm sure they could use some supervision."

Vin nodded his thanks to Nathan and handed him a small bag containing Chris' medication and release instructions.

The two men moved to the back deck. Vin pulled the lounge chairs out where they would catch the full warmth of the afternoon sun, warding off the slight chill in the air. He watched as Chris settled into the lounge before lowering himself into the remaining chair to watch the men out working on the lawn. Chris wasn't ready to say what was bothering him, but when he was Vin planned to be there.


Chris knew Vin sat beside him patiently waiting . . . they were only words. Fall was Sarah's favorite time of year. Such an easy sentence, but Chris couldn't bring himself to say it out loud . . . to share the memory. Memories were all he had now. He looked straight ahead his eyes seeing only the past.

Sarah had loved this place the moment they first saw it. It was fall and the trees in the yard were abloom with color. The soft breeze made a whispering sound as it blew through the pines and the aspen leaves shimmered in the morning sun. Forget that the house was far from perfect and in need of major repairs. All she could see was the possibilities. She had picked out a big oak in the back yard, one with sprawling branches and explained that this was where the tire swing would go. Forget that the roof needed shingles and the house a good coat of paint. Never mind that the back steps consisted of cinder blocks.

They had spent the day looking around both inside and out, Chris listing the flaws, Sarah seeing only the potential. As usual, Chris could never say no to Sarah and they had moved in a month later. When the winter winds blew through the missing window caulking she had never complained, just smiled and said it gave them all the more reason to toss another log on the fire and cuddle. Sarah had a way of finding something good in every situation . . . just like Josiah. A wiry smile crossed Chris face, now where did that thought come from.

Chris jumped as Nathan's hand came to rest on his shoulder and two pills appeared in the man's open palm. Without thought he tossed them into his mouth and then accepted the proffered glass of water. Nathan proceeded to lay a blanket across his outstretched legs and another around his shoulders. Taking the glass of water from Chris he sat it on the table and headed down the steps toward the others. "Stew should be ready in another hour or so."

You would have liked Nathan, Sarah. You always said I didn't know enough to come out of the rain and needed a keeper. Chris wasn't sure Nathan would like being called 'a keeper' anymore than he did 'a mother hen'. He chuckled, thinking of all the times the medic had threatened or cajoled them into following doctors' orders. It did seem a bit colder out and Chris pulled the blanket tighter around his injured shoulder.

Chris felt Vin's eyes on him. He knew the man was worried, but he also knew Vin wouldn't pry. He would stay by Chris side for as long as it took him to work through his problems, offering his silent support. Vin was his rock, a firm foundation, the constant he could always depend on. The man had an uncanny way of reading his emotions and seemed to know just when to let him stew and when to give him that needed kick in the ass. How often had he heard Sarah say, 'Chris Larabee, quit taking yourself so seriously.' Well Sarah, with Vin around you don't need to worry about that.

Buck's booming laugh drew Chris attention to the five men out in the yard. With the aid of a leaf blower and a few rakes they had accumulated a rather impressive pile of leaves which now sat in the vicinity of Sarah's tree. Buck lay in the middle of the pile after having launched himself from Adam's tire swing which still hung from the big oak.

Chris remembered the day Buck had climbed the huge tree and scampered out on the branch to attach the rope just where Sarah pointed. His petit wife, from the beginning, had the ladies man firmly wrapped around her little finger and this had just been the latest of her many requests. Buck spent all of his free time at the ranch those first years helping with the never ending repairs. When Adam was born he had been just as enamored of the little boy as he was the mother. If it hadn't been for Buck, Chris wasn't sure he would have made it through those first days after the accident.

No matter how hard he pushed Buck away, Wilmington always came back for more. It wasn't until J.D. had joined the team that Chris realized Buck had been hurting as much as he. The man had taken J.D. under his wing and could be as protective as a mother bear guarding her cub when it came to the young man. Chris was seeing a side of his old friend that he hadn't realized was missing. Perhaps Sara had been watching out for Buck too. How else could Chris explain going against his better judgment and hiring someone he had felt he was too young and too inexperienced? He had never regretted that decision.

Chris watched as J.D. prepared to launch himself from the swaying swing and into the pile of leaves. As the young man landed the other men appeared to be scoring his form. Well, all except for Standish who sat leaning against the tree distancing himself from the activity. Not for long if Josiah and Nathan have anything to say about it. Chris watched as the two edged ever closer to the unsuspecting man.

A pensive smile touch Chris' face. Ezra reminded him of a little boy with his nose pressed against the window of a candy story. Knowing what he wanted, but on the outside looking in and unwilling to take that first step. The more Standish tried to stay aloof the harder the others worked to pull him in. Though he didn't want to admit it, they needed the self-reliant undercover agent as much as he needed them. Who knew the cynical SOB would be the glue that held this team together?

Chris sat up straight and watched as the men pounced, Josiah grabbing Ezra's feet and Nathan his hands. The man put up the appearance of a fight but Chris knew the Black Belt was capable of far more. They swung Ezra between them as Buck and J.D. counted down.

The satisfying thud could be heard followed by Ezra's sputtering and ranting as he pulled himself from the leaf pile.

Chris leaned back with a satisfied smile, and then grimaced as pain shot through his injured shoulder as it made contact with the hard back of the chair. Once again he felt Vin's gaze on him.

"You okay, Cowboy?"

Chris turned toward his friend, his eyes meeting Vin's for the first time since leaving the hospital. He noted the look of concern in the blue gaze that locked with his.

"Just counting my blessings." This time the smile reached Chris' eyes. "Did I ever tell you that fall was Sarah's favorite time of year?"

The End