Brothers Chosen, Brothers by Blood
Part II

by Wgang

Part of the Larabee Family series.

It was later that night after a good dinner and good company that Chris decided it was time. The horses were down for the night and nothing should interfere with his confession.

Chris and his dad sat on the sofa with Vin sitting in the chair across the coffee table.

Vin was feeling good; it had been a wonderful evening. James had been great, teasing Chris, then turning to tell Vin about something Chris had done as a kid. Vin had enjoyed the attention, he couldn’t remember being around an older man who actually acted like he was important enough to talk to. The team didn’t count they were his friends.

James for his part was delighted with Vin Tanner. Chris had been singing the young man's praises for months. James had already loved Vin before he even got to meet him, the young man who had pulled his son back into life would always have a special place in his heart. James enjoyed his meal, teasing his son and watching as Vin lapped up the stories. Chris had briefly told him that Vin had a bad childhood and that he had been parentless since he was five. That news had rung his heart, it was apparent that even though Vin was the deadliest sharpshooter in the country the boy was a gentle loving soul, no wonder Chris adored the boy and tended to hover over him.

James had to admit that when Vin laughed a tingling sensation rippled across his back, a fleeting memory flitted across his brain. Vin reminded him of someone he just couldn’t remember whom.

Chris reached under the sofa where he had put the photo album that his dad had sent him to store and put it on the coffee table.

James looked at his son in surprise why on earth had Chris pulled out his old picture album.

Chris was afraid of how his father was going to react but he was terrified of how Vin was going to react. God forgive him, but he could live if his father turned his back on him, but not if Vin did it.

"Vin I have something to tell you and dad. I need you to come over here and sit in between us. I have something I need to show you both and I have some things I need to talk to you both about," Chris said his voice very soft.

Vin looked at his friend worried and then glanced at James who just shrugged his shoulders as though to say I don’t know what is going on.

Vin came over and sat down between the two men, Chris wanted Vin effectively pinned between the two of them. He knew that no matter how upset Vin got he would never hurt James not only was the man a lot older but he was innocent of any wrongdoing. If Vin tried to get by him...well he would cross that road when he got to it.

"Vin, do you remember when you had your open house and you showed me that picture of your mother. I left with Buck not long after that and told you that I was afraid that I had left the hose in the hot tub and had to check it out?"

Vin nodded his head wondering why in the heck Chris was bringing that up now.

"I lied to you and I’m sorry but it was necessary until I could find out if my suspicions were correct. I didn’t want to disrupt your life if I was wrong and quite frankly I was terrified of your reaction."

Vin put his hand on Chris’s arm.

"Hey cowboy, you know I couldn’t ever stay mad at you long and I doubt what you have to tell me is that bad."

Chris smiled sadly at the young man; he patted Vin’s hand and then opened the photo album.

Vin and James both gasped at the picture, Vin because he couldn’t figure out why Chris had a picture of his mother and she was standing with a much younger James Larabee. James because now he knew why Vin’s laugh reminded him of someone, the boy belonged to Julie, only the second woman he had ever loved, the first of course being Chris’s mom.

James then processed things lightning fast while Vin was looking at Chris and asking why he had a picture of his mother.

James reached out and touched Vin’s arm, which caused the young man to turn to look at him confusion in the blue eyes.

Very gently James asked, "Vin how old are you son?"

Vin clearly wondered why he was being asked this question but he wasn’t about to be disrespectful.

"I’m twenty-five, I’ll be twenty-six in a few months," Vin replied.

James caught his breath; he reached out with a shaking hand and took hold of Vin’s chin. With searching blue eyes he stared at Vin closely.

Why in God’s name hadn’t he seen it before? Vin had his eyes; his stubborn chin but the boy had Julie’s hair and high cheekbones.

Vin was beginning to get a little scared.

James looked at Chris whose green eyes were shining with unshed tears, it must have torn his son...his oldest son’s heart out to realize what his teenage actions had caused. Chris had undoubtedly been in agony since he suspected that Vin was his brother.

James let go of Vin’s chin and placed it on Vin’s arm, he needed to keep contact with this precious gift he had just been given and he had no idea how the boy was going to react when he finally figured out what was going on.

Vin swung his head around to ask Chris what the hell was going on when the blond began to speak.

"I see that you figured it out dad. I’m sorry for what I cost you and Vin. Vin...cowboy I beg you hear me out."

Vin nodded his head, he stared intently at Chris as his stomach did flip flops, he had a feeling his life was about to change and he didn’t know if it was for the better or not. Chris hardly ever said please and he certainly never had used the word beg before, that alone was enough to make him listen to what the blond had to say.

"When I was a teenager my mother died and then a year later dad found a woman he fell in love with. A very beautiful gentle sweet woman though it wasn’t until I was older and I had met Sarah that I realized what my childish tantrums had caused dad. At the time I just knew I had lost my mother and that my dad had someone else in his life when to my selfish mind he should only concentrate on me. Dad gave this woman up when I told him that I would hate him forever and I would leave home as soon as I could. I was fifteen when this happened, almost twenty-six years ago but when you showed me that picture of you and your mom the other day it was like it had just happened."

Vin felt cold all over as what Chris was telling him started to sink in.

Chris took a deep breath and continued.

"When you showed me that picture I saw the woman dad fell in love with, the woman I ran off, the woman who unbeknownst to dad would give birth to his son nine months later. The woman who died tragically at to young an age and left her beloved son alone which would never have happened if it hadn’t been for me. The woman my dad loved was named Julie Tanner, I didn’t know until I saw that picture that your mother was the woman dad fell in love with. Tanner isn’t an unusual name and quite frankly it was so long ago that it wasn’t until I saw the picture that I remembered her name, and you of course always called her mama."

Taking a deep breath Chris finished up, "I gave the lab some of my hair and I got some of yours for DNA testing and...well I got the results back today, but I already knew what they were going to be. Vin...Vin, my father is your father, we are half brothers."

There was utter silence in the room, all the color in Vin’s face drained away.

Finally Vin whispered, " can’t be right."

James tightened his grip on his newly found son’s arm, he felt it trembling and was worried about how Vin was going to react when the news sunk in.

Chris laid some papers on the coffee table and said, "Here is the results from the lab. It is 99.9 % accurate and it states that we are half brothers. I swear Vin I only figured it out when you showed me that picture. Dad had no idea Julie was pregnant or he would never have let her go. I am so sorry for the hell that you went through and..."

Chris never finished his sentence as Vin jumped up, jerked his arm out of James grasp and threw a punch that sent Chris tumbling off the sofa to land on the floor.

Vin yelled as he stood over the blond who wisely stayed on the floor.

"Sorry, you fucking bastard. Who gives a shit how sorry you are. My life was a living hell after mama died, moved from foster home to foster home. I was beaten, locked in closets and treated like a fucking slave until I ran away and then...THEN I lived on the streets until Nettie helped me. You’re sorry, those two little words are a little to late. I had a family all those years and never knew it...all I ever wanted was a family to love me," here Vin’s voice broke.

Chris scrambled to his face and took a step towards his devastated brother. James was approaching Vin from the other side.

Suddenly Vin felt cornered a feeling he didn’t like at all.

Vin backed up towards the front door; Chris paused and held his hand up to stop his father.

"Vin, please...just stop and let’s talk. I know this is a shock, it was to me and I know it was to you and dad. Come on, cowboy you rode out here with me, where do you think you can go?" Chris tried to placate the upset man the devastation he felt clear to see on his face, but Vin didn’t care to see it, he was to upset.

Vin still refused to look at James, deep down he knew that James was innocent but it was all too new and he needed time and he needed to be alone.

"I’m taking Peso and going to the cabin. Don’t fucking follow me, I need to be alone," Vin hissed then whirled and stormed out of the ranch house.

Chris raised a trembling hand to his head and slowly rubbed his forehead.

Chris slumped down in a chair as he covered his face with his shaking hands.

"I have ruined everything. Vin will never speak to me again, I have destroyed the best thing to come into my life in years and it was something I did when I was a teenager."

James rubbed his oldest sons shoulder, he was torn did he stay and comfort Chris or try to stop Vin from leaving.

"The boy is in shock, Chris. Vin will come around, I am sure of it, he just needs some time to let the news sink in," James soothed his son.

"Vin is one of the most forgiving men I have ever known Dad, but some things are just unforgivable," Chris replied.

"Not when you love someone and the two of you were as close as any two brothers could be before this," James commented.

Chris just shook his head and didn’t comment.

James then said, "I’m going to check on the boy, I’ll be right back."

When James got to the barn, Vin was just finishing saddling Peso.

Peso could sense his young master was upset so for once was being a very good horse.

Vin was aware of the man entering the barn but didn’t stop his work; he was frantic to get away.

James walked over and put his hand in the middle of Vin’s back.

Vin paused, he wanted to lash out at everyone but there was a little voice reminding him that this was his father, the father he never knew and had always wondered about. James had never known about him and therefore couldn’t save him from the horrors of a life lived all alone.

"Vin...son, I know you’re hurting right now. Hell, I’m in shock to, but Chris...damn that man adores you. I have listened to him sing your praises since you started working at the ATF. Chris was just fifteen when I met Julie, he had lost him mom just a year before and was afraid he was losing me to her. If you hate him for breaking us up then you have to hate me for not fighting hard enough to keep her," James reasoned.

Vin licked his lips, he was torn, and he felt like he was bleeding from a dozen wounds.

Like all wounded animals he needed to go to ground, he need to hide, to lick his wounds in private and decide on the next course of action.

Slowly Vin turned around and stared into blue eyes exactly like his.

"I have to be alone and think...just...I have to be alone right now. I don’t hate you. I am so confused right now. Tell Chris...tell him that I don’t, I couldn’t hate him. I just...I have to leave," Vin ended his stammering dialogue by getting on Peso.

"When will you be home?" James asked deliberately using the word home.

Vin flinched at the word and the question; he knew that this weekend was Fathers Day.

"I...I’m not sure, but I will be back," Vin replied then he turned Peso and galloped out of the barn towards the hills.

James walked into the house in time to see Chris turn from the window where he had been watching his brother ride away.

"What did he say?" Chris asked dully.

"Vin said he didn’t hate you and that he would be back," James replied.


"He didn’t say. Vin will be back, he just needs time to think. If he is anything like his mother he will understand what happened and why and he won’t condemn the actions of a fifteen year old boy," James soothed.

"What about you, dad?" Chris asked.

"I love you Chris. I don’t hold you accountable; you were fighting for the only parent you had left the only way you knew how. Hindsight is 20/20 son. If we could all see in the future most of our actions would be different, but that isn’t reality. Right is the beginning of the rest of our lives. We started the day as a family of two and now we have become three. When Vin comes home to his dad and his brother we will celebrate, I firmly believe that," James said.

Chris smiled a little, "I hope you’re right dad...I pray you are right."

The rest of evening passed in silence, the phone rang once and Chris dove for it hoping it was Vin on his cell phone. But it was Buck wanting to know how things were going.

Chris somberly told him what had happened and that Vin had taken off but said he would be back.

From the half of the conversation that James overheard Buck wanted to come out and go after his wayward friend but Chris turned him down, saying that they were going to resolve this between the three of them and he would contact him later in the weekend.

The weekend went by slowly, Chris lost count the number of times he started for the barn with every intention of saddling up Pony and heading out after his brother.

James was a silent supportive shadow to his upset son. Most of the time Chris was quiet, introspective but when he did talk James listened giving his opinion when asked or just staying close to his son.

Sunday morning rolled around and still there was no sign of Vin. Chris became more restless as the weather service was calling for a Tornado Watch in the area that would extend through most of the day.

Chris had handed his dad a father’s day card with a gift card attached for an electronics store that his dad liked.

Meanwhile Vin was at the cabin and looking at the sky, he didn’t like what he saw and what he sensed. Vin had always had an uncanny understanding of the weather and of nature in general. Vin remembered Chris teasing him saying it must be something he inherited from an ancestor.

A pang of remorse hit the young man; he really should not have hit Chris. Vin remembered the look of loss and desolation on the face of his long time best friend and now his brother.

Vin had sat for a long time last night on the front porch staring at the star filled sky. It had always made him feel closer to his mother; she had loved the night saying that the stars were God's gift, little jewels in the darkness of the night.

Vin knew Chris had been just a kid when his mother died, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was easier or harder for his brother than it had been for him. After all at five Vin didn’t have many memories of his mother while Chris had a lot of his mother. He wondered if that meant the loss was worse for Chris because he had more memories, more love that was lost to him.

Vin at no time blamed James; he knew the man had loved his mother. Besides Chris had told him that James was unaware of Vin’s existence.

And Chris didn’t lie to him.

Vin knew that, no matter what else he knew that Chris didn’t lie to him. Well there was the day of his open house but Vin dismissed that after all Chris had just received the shock of a lifetime when he had realized who Vin’s mom was.

So Vin had decided it was time to go back, they would talk, get things cleared up. The bottom line was he wasn’t willing to let Chris disappear from his life and he wanted to get to know the man who was his father.

He didn’t know how work would go after all they were now brothers for real and the ATF didn’t allow family members to work for the same team.

Maybe James and Chris would like to go to Texas and visit mama’s grave with him, it had been many years since he had been down there to visit her.

Just then the wind whipped up and the sky darkened even more, Vin locked up the cabin and mounted Peso, it was time to go home.

Time to go home to his family.

Chris was sitting talking to his dad when the wind whipped up and the first splatters of rain hit the house.

Chris jumped up and stalked to the window and stared outside, as the sky became more and more ominous looking.

James took in his son’s tense stance and the hands that were balled into fists.

"He’ll be fine Chris," James soothed from his seat on the sofa.

"I’m going after him. The weather is getting worse and he is the most stubborn person I have ever met," Chris retorted as he slammed out the front door.

James shook his head, smiled a little as under his breath he said, "Well, I know someone who is just as stubborn as Vin and he just walked out the door."

Chris tore out of the barn and headed for the cabin as the rain picked up.

Vin was heading for the ranch one eye on the sky while he tried to figure out if he could beat the worst of the storm.

The storm answered the question for him as a bolt of lightning hit a nearby tree splitting it in half. Peso screamed at the sound and the bright light rearing up tossing a shocked Vin to the ground.

Vin slammed into the ground hard, his vision graying as his head hit a rock. The ATF agent heard Peso galloping away and tried to get to his feet, a sharp pain in his lower back caused him to moan and fall back.

Damn fucking back, it had bothered him his whole life, Nathan had told him his spine curved slightly Vin only knew that at times it hurt like hell.

Vin took a deep breath then gasped as rain suddenly pelted him. Well if he was going to get back to the ranch he better get in gear.

Vin struggled to his feet and began walking cursing his horse although he knew that Peso had only reacted like any animal would have.

Vin began glancing around to see if he could see any shelter just in case he needed to find some real fast, he did not like the looks of some of those clouds.

At the back of his mind was the comforting thought that Chris would soon be looking for him. Once Peso reached the ranch without him, Chris would be heading his direction that was one fact he was positive of.

In the meantime Chris was galloping as fast as he could towards his brother. Peso had tore by him just a few minutes earlier and the fact that Vin wasn’t on the contrary animals back scared him to death.

Chris crested a hill and saw Vin in the distance slowly walking his way, to his horror he watched as Vin fell to the ground.

Before Pony had stopped Chris was out of the saddle and kneeling by his brother who was struggling to get up.

"Lay down. Where are you hurt?" Chris demanded getting his arm around Vin’s shoulders and trying to lower his brother back to the ground.

Vin fought him so Chris just sat close holding Vin by the arms. At the back of his mind he noticed it had stopped raining and the wind had died down. Silently he thanked God for small favors.

Vin blinked at the blond man wondering if he was real or wishful thinking.

Vin reached out a shaking hand and patted solid flesh.

Chris was starting to get real alarmed as Vin didn’t respond to his question and he saw a trickle of blood running down the side of his brother’s head.

"Chris, I don’t feel so good," Vin whispered leaning into his brother’s embrace.

Chris sighed in relief, despite the fact that Vin was injured, they were both wet and the weather sucked Vin was turning to him for support and aid.

At least Vin didn’t hate him.

"Yeah, well you look like shit, Vin. That flea bitten bag of bones you call a horse is probably back at the barn now so lets get on Pony and head back home. Dad is probably a nervous wreck by now," Chris insisted as he got to his feet pulling Vin up with him and supporting the man with an arm around his waist.

Suddenly they heard the wind pick back up and the rain began again, then marble size hail came down to add to their misery.

Chris reached for Pony’s reins when the horse danced nervously away and then ran off.

Chris cursed under his breath and then he heard Vin chuckle.

"Guess...guess your horse doesn’t have any better manners than Peso."

Chris had to smile at the jab then he glanced over his shoulder and saw a sight that filled him with fear.

A tornado was forming and was just starting to touch the ground, as it picked up more and more debris from the ground it grew and became darker.

Vin found himself suddenly propelled across the ground.

"We need to get down in that gully, there is a tornado headed this way," Chris explained.

They reached the gully and Chris got Vin lying flat on his stomach up against the side of the gully.

Vin started to raise his head to make sure Chris was lying down when he felt a weight settle on top of him.

Chris had lain down on top of him covering him from head to toe with his own body.

When Vin went to protest Chris simply wrapped his arms over and around Vin’s head and held him down.

"Stay down, cowboy. It’s close and the shit is flying everywhere," Chris yelled urgently in Vin’s ear.

The sound was horrible, it sounded like a freight train was heading right for them. The wind howled, the thunder crashed, lightning streaked across the sky and the rain and hail continued to pelt the men.

Thankfully Chris had put on his black duster that doubled as his raincoat, it protected both men from the worst of the elements.

Chris felt the wind pull at him threatening to yank him right off of Vin. Vin reached out and gripped his brother’s arms to give him a little support.

Chris was afraid that this might be the end so he prayed Vin would survive.

Leaning in close to Vin’s ear he yelled so he could be heard over the noise.

"I love you little brother, remember that."

Chris felt Vin grip him even tighter as any words that Vin was saying were blown away on the wind as the tornado jumped the gully and headed off northeast, thankfully away from the ranch.

When Chris deemed it was safe he got to his feet and helped Vin up checking the younger man over.

They were covered in mud, sticks and leaves, Vin was bleeding from the head wound and Chris didn’t miss the wince his brother gave whenever he moved his back.

Chris figured his dad would be out hunting for them if they didn’t arrive home pretty quick, and it looked like they were going to have to walk, he just wasn’t sure how far Vin would be able to go.

Chris again put his arm around Vin and turned him so they could get out of the gully and head back to the ranch. Thankfully the rain and hail had stopped.

Vin refused to take a step, Chris looked at him wondering why Vin wasn’t moving.

Vin reached up and placed his hand on Chris’s cheek over the bruise that he had caused by his fist. Just now he had come so close to loosing his brother, more than a brother by choice, a brother by blood now. Chris had covered him with his own body to protect him and the words I love you had actually come out of the tough man's mouth.

Vin couldn’t remember the last time anyone had directed those words at him.

"I love you big brother, remember that," Vin whispered his blue eyes telling Chris just how heartfelt that sentiment was.

Chris smiled, in that second his world became bright again, the future shone like the sun in the sky and his universe was reflected in the soul deep blue eyes of his kid brother.

Chris gathered Vin close and they clung to each other, two men not given to big displays of emotion but needing to express themselves...let the other man know just how much he was loved and cherished.

They still needed to talk but everything important that needed to be said was said in those words and that hug.

As they struggled to get back to the ranch Vin suddenly chuckled and pointed to the black horse that was trotting their way.

"Looks like my horse is smart enough to know to come back for us."

Chris snorted, "Smart, highly doubtful. Pony is probably nice and dry in the barn. Besides that tornado probably saw Peso and decided it better not take on that rattlesnake of a horse on because it would lose."

Vin just frowned and told his brother he was just jealous because Peso loved him more than Pony loved Chris.

Chris just shook his head secretly thankful that Peso was just ornery enough to come looking for his master despite the weather.

Chris boosted Vin into the saddle then climbed on behind him. Chris wrapped his arm around Vin’s waist and pulled him up flush against him despite it being warm Vin’s skin was cold and he was shivering which was why he was wearing the black duster not Chris.

"Lean back against me, cowboy. We’ll be home before you know it and let me warn you dad likes to hover so be prepared," Chris teased.

"Great an older version of you and Bucklin," Vin groaned but he was looking forward to some tender loving care because he really didn’t feel good.

Vin rested back against the solid form of his brother, his head on Chris’s shoulder, both his hands resting on top of the steel arm around his waist.

As they approached the ranch Chris saw Buck’s truck out in front of the house then he noticed Buck and dad heading for the barn. Clearly they were going to mount up and begin hunting for the two men.

Chris glanced down to tell Vin that Buck was at the house but Vin’s eyes were shut, his forehead was wrinkled as though his head was killing him which it probably was.

Slowly they rode into the barn effectively stopping the two men from saddling their horses. Buck and James rushed over to Peso.

Vin roused up when he heard the three men start talking all at once.

Vin sat up straighter making note of the fact that Chris didn’t let go of his waist.

Chris quickly filled the men in on what had happened and that they needed to get Vin to the hospital.

Vin was quick to put a stop to that thought.

"NO! I won’t go to the hospital. I’ve had concussions before and this one isn’t bad. I hate hospitals," Vin protested.

Chris was worried he wanted Vin to see a doctor but he knew how much his brother hated them.

Then Vin played his trump card, one that never failed to work.

Vin turned his pleading blue eyes to fixate on his brother.

"Please Chris, no hospital...Please," Vin whispered a little catch in his voice.

James watched with astonishment, Buck with amused resignation as Chris immediately capitulated.

"Alright no hospital, but I am going to keep an eagle eye on you and if I think you need a hospital that is where you are going," the blond said trying not to make it to obvious that he had lost not only the battle but the war.

Vin smiled sweetly and thanked his brother then ruined it by shivering.

Buck immediately put his arms up to get Vin off the horse. Vin thought about insisting he could get off by himself but he really wasn’t sure he could.

Vin swung his leg over; Chris kept a tight hold on his waist until Buck had hold of him then Vin slid into Buck’s arms.

Before Buck could swing Vin up in his arms James was there gathering Vin into his embrace.

"I was so scared that I had lost you before I even got a chance to know you," he whispered his hand cradling the back of Vin’s head as he pressed his youngest son close to his chest.

Vin looked sheepish when he finally looked his dad in the face.

"I shouldn’t have run off the way I did, but I just needed to get away to think."

James smiled and to Vin’s surprise pressed a quick kiss to his forehead.

"We understand, it’s a Larabee trait, don’t let Chris fool you he has done it plenty of times."

Chris groaned even as they all laughed. Great their dad was already telling stories on him.

As Vin turned to head to the house he winced and reached for his back, Buck had enough as he gently swung his friend up in his arms.

Vin gasped then glared at his friend.

"Damn it Bucklin put me down," he hissed.

"Nope, I going to carry you into the house so you just settle back and relax," the big man said as he stalked towards the house.

Chris got off Peso and was immediately hugged by his father.

"I was worried sick about both of you," James said.

Chris grinned, "That tornado didn’t stand a chance against the Larabee brothers."

Peso tossed his head and shoved Chris in the back as though to wasn’t you it was me who scared off that tornado.

James laughed as Chris turned to glare at the big black horse.

Chris sighed as he stroked Peso’s nose.

"Okay you were the hero, you came back for us."

James insisted his son go into the house and help with Vin and get cleaned up, he would take care of Peso and also Pony who was standing in the barn.

As Chris reached the barn door James said, "Chris, what did your brother say? Is everything okay?"

"Didn’t have a chance to really talk, but yeah everything is okay."

James nodded in relief then went about taking care of the horses.

Chris entered the house and walked down the hallway where he heard Vin and Buck arguing.

"Buck, I can take my own clothes off and can shower by myself. You get out of the bathroom," Vin argued.

Chris walked into the bathroom to find Vin slapping at Buck's hands as he tried to get the sharpshooters shirt off.

Chris laughed as Vin his face red with embarrassment backed up trying to evade his friend’s hands.

Vin bumped into the counter and winced as his sore back was jarred.

Chris caught Buck’s eye and nodded his head towards the door.

Vin was clearly feeling cornered and a cornered Vin was not a good thing especially when he was hurt and didn’t want to ask for help.

Buck reached out and ruffled Vin’s hair much to his annoyance.

"I’ll let Chris handle you. I’ll start something to eat."

Vin frowned at Chris as soon as Buck shut the door leaving it slightly ajar in case they needed something.

"So you think you’re going to handle me?" he demanded as he slowly removed his shirt.

Chris walked over and gently removed Vin’s fingers and took the shirt off easing it off the injured man.

Chris glanced at Vin’s back and winced at the array of bruises already adorning the slim back.

Damn but Vin was going to be moving slowly for a while. Despite Vin’s grumbling Chris got him stripped down to his briefs, that was when Vin halted the proceedings.

"I can finish, you can leave now," Vin insisted turning his back and turning on the shower.

When he heard the bathroom door shut he sighed and stiffly removed his boxers. Rising up he gasped and put his hand out for support.

Instead of the wall his hand was grasped in Chris’s hand.

Vin felt a warm calloused hand come to rest on his hip giving him some more support.

"Damn it Larabee, I told you I can take my own damn shower. You don’t need to be looking at my ass," Vin complained.

"I’ve seen your scrawny ass plenty of times," Chris retorted amused as he watched Vin blush.

"What the hell does that mean? You make it a point to look at my ass?"

"No, but we do go to the gym together and the showers are communal not private. Remember those hospital gowns don’t cover everything and I lost count how many times your skinny butt has been flying in the wind," Chris reminded the younger man.

Chris then felt bad as Vin dropped his eyes, he should have remembered how embarrassed Vin got in the hospital when he felt he had no privacy.

"Come on Vin, let me help. You’re not alone anymore and haven’t been for a long time," Chris softly said.

Vin glanced at his brother through his long lashes and smiled a little.

"Okay, just don’t stare."

"I wouldn’t stare at your skinny body and what the hell does that mean?" Chris demanded as they fell back into teasing each other.

"Well, damn cowboy. You should be so lucky so have a body like mine."

"Lucky, I’ll have you know..."

The teasing argument went on as Chris finally maneuvered Vin into the shower.

James and Buck were listening outside the door smiling at the easy banter.

"Do they always harass each other like this?" James asked.

"Oh yeah. Vin is the only person I know who can give it back to Chris just as good as he gets it. Chris has said that Vin is the only person who is not only immune to the Larabee glare but has a glare that rivals it," Buck said.

The two men choked back laughs as the bantering in the bathroom continued.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing getting in the shower with me? Get your ass out of here, go take your own shower, this one is mine."

Chris loudly replied, "I don’t want you to fall and crack open what is left of that hard head of yours. Besides I am filthy and why mess up two bathrooms. For God's sake Vin we are brothers, I don’t have designs on your virtue."

"Better not because you are NOT my type," Vin haughtily replied.

"Well you are NOT my type so I guess we’re even," Chris said.

James and Buck hurried to the kitchen to fix something to eat and so they could laugh in private.

Chris made sure to help Vin only when necessary keeping his touches to a minimum though he made sure to clean the head way did he want Vin to get an infection and then try to explain it to Nathan.

For the sake of Vin’s modesty Chris had left his boxers on and only when Vin was out of the shower and seated on the toilet seat drying off did Chris strip and finish washing.

A knock on the door revealed Buck with two sets of sweats and the fact that there was some food ready in the kitchen.

Chris grabbed up a pair of socks for Vin knowing that his brother was still feeling the effect of the soaking rain.

Making their way down the hallway Vin said, "Do you think your dad is mad at me because I took off?"

"No he’s not and remember he is your dad to. When you feel comfortable calling him dad he will be thrilled, he loves you Vin," Chris soothed the nervous man.

Vin scoffed, "He doesn’t know me, how can he love me."

James stepped out of the bedroom he was staying in and overheard his youngest son.

"Vin, I loved you the moment Chris told me about the sharpshooter he had hired and how that young man was making a difference in his life, helping him to live again. I love you because you are a part of your mother and me and I loved her dearly."

Shyly Vin replied, "I...ah...I remember mama saying that my father was a good man and he would be proud to call me son."

James smiled, "She was right, you are a son any man would be proud of having."

Vin clearly didn’t know how to respond so James just hugged him and they all went into the kitchen.

After Vin had eaten and drank a glass of milk much to his disgust and he had only done it because James said it was good for him.

Chris went to his study and called Nathan filling him in on what had happened. Nathan wanted to come out but Chris told him to wait until later that afternoon.

Chris handed Vin a couple of extra-strength Tylenol and watched as he reluctantly took them.

"I want you to lie down for a while, the guys will be here later this afternoon and Nathan will take a look at you so don’t give him a hard time. I also have some lotion I am going to rub on your back hopefully that will prevent you from stiffening up to bad," Chris said his look informing his brother that he wouldn’t put up with any arguments.

Vin opened his mouth, his blue eyes flashing with irritation but he caught the fleeting look of worry in the green gaze and kept quiet.

As they made their way back down the hallway Vin paused and looked back at James, a thought had just occurred to him.

"Happy Fathers Day...I don’t have anything for you and well I mean I didn’t know that..." Vin trailed off not sure what to say.

James came forward and framed Vin’s face with his hands.

"You gave me the best present a father could ever have, I have a new son, one that I already love and cherish," James said.

Vin smiled quite pleased with his fathers comment.

"," Vin replied watching as joy flooded his fathers face.

"You’re welcome son," James replied kissing Vin’s forehead and patting him on the shoulder.

Chris made sure Vin was comfortable and then left leaving the bedroom door slightly open in case Vin needed them.

James met Chris in the hallway and insisted he lay down. James pointed out that he knew Chris had not slept at all the last two nights before fretting over Vin and he had been caught out in the weather to.

Chris wanted to protest but he was tired, so he went and lay down.

Buck and James cleaned the kitchen and then sat down for some TV, James fell asleep much to Buck's amused affection. Buck tossed the blanket over the elder Larabee and went out to see to the horses making sure they had everything they needed.

Later that afternoon the rest of the team showed up. To the astonishment of the team Chris told them that Vin was his half brother. As Chris began to go into the back-story of his dad and Vin’s mother, Vin stopped him.

Vin figured it was no ones business even their friends as to what had happened so he just told everyone that Chris recognized his mother from a picture. From there DNA was done to prove they were brothers.

Vin left it at that when JD opened his mouth to ask a question Buck jabbed him in the ribs, which shut him up immediately.

Congratulations were passed around and then everyone settled down for some good BBQ and good company.

Later that night Vin and Chris were standing on the back deck looking up into the night sky.

"Nathan said I could go to work tomorrow if I felt like it," Vin commented.

"Let’s see how you feel when you wake up," Chris replied.

"Is it this easy, Vin? I mean I at least had a couple of weeks to get used to the idea that we could be brothers."

Vin turned around and looked at his brother.

"It wasn’t easy at first, I was angry and upset...and I guess a little shocked, but a part of me was thrilled. We had already chosen each other as brothers now we really were. I just needed to get away and center myself. I realized that no one was guilty because no one had acted with malicious and evil intent, it just happened and I wasn’t willing to give you up or my new found father. The two of you are far more important than something that happened twenty-five years ago," Vin explained.

Chris smiled as relief filled his eyes.

"You are one special person Vin...Tanner or..." Chris’s voice faded away as he looked at his brother a question in his eyes.

"I don’t know what I will do about my name, Chris. Tanner was mama’s but I am proud of the name Larabee, I just have to think on it and do you think the two of you would like to come to Texas with me and visit my mother?" Vin asked.

"We would be honored," Chris replied and he knew he was speaking for the dad also.

A month later the three Larabee men entered the small Texas cemetery and approached a grave that lay beside a large lilac bush. Vin explained that his mother loved lilacs and he planted one several years ago for her.

Each man took a private moment talking with Julie Tanner either expressing their love or their deep regret, each man left with a much lighter step and peace in their souls.

During that month there were other changes. James decided to stay on and moved into the ranch house with Chris. He kept his RV for those times he went on trips with his buddies but now he had a home to come back to and two sons to love and watch over.

Vin and Chris talked long and hard about the job. Chris admitted that there was no way he could handle sending Vin out undercover or watch him high on the catwalks of some warehouse. It had been hard before it would be impossible now. Since the idea of starting a horse ranch had been bounced about between the two men they decided to go for it and pooled their money and even James became a partner in the venture. Chris really enjoyed his job but Vin could take it or leave it so he left it.

Vin sold his house to JD and Casey who announced they were getting married and moved to the Larabee ranch. Construction was began to make the bedrooms larger, put in a pool and a small gym/rec room.

Vin soon found himself busy with the stallion and five mares they bought, life settled into a routine.

One Friday Chris bustled out of his office and called out good-byes to his men including Will his new sharpshooter, a man recommended by Vin Tanner Larabee.

Vin had kept the name Tanner as his middle name and added Larabee.

Chris and James were thrilled; in fact tonight they were going out to eat at Vin’s favorite restaurant to celebrate. Actually Chris called it a greasy spoon but in reality they served great food and the middle-aged lady who owned it doted on Vin.

After Chris had left Ezra told Buck, "I noticed that Mr. Larabee said he was going home not just to the ranch house."

Buck smiled and replied, "Yeah, I noticed that also. It was a day to celebrate when that scrawny Texan joined our team."

Ezra followed his friend onto the elevator and as the doors shut he could be heard saying.

"I do agree Mr. Wilmington, I do agree."

Brothers Can be a Pain