by Winter

ATF Alternate Universe


At 11:00am the nurses at ICU looked up as the loud voices of Buck and JD announced their approach.

"Your so full of crap Buck!" exclaimed JD

"What you don't believe me?"

"Do I ever?"

Buck grabbed JD around the neck and rubbed his knuckles hard into the kid's head. JD elbowed him hard and Buck let go. The nurses were glad to see that the two agents were enjoying the morning. They were headed for Vin's room when one of the nurses stopped them.

"Hold on you two," she said as she stood in their way. "Mr. Tanner only fell asleep at seven this morning. So don't you going waking everyone up."

"Yes ma'am," said JD.

Buck slowly opened the door and entered. The nurses had dimmed the lights but Buck could see Ezra asleep next to Vin. Buck knew he was going to be stiff when he woke up because of the way he was sprawled in the chair. Buck glanced over and saw Chris sleeping on a cot. JD quietly placed the bag he was carrying on the chair and walked over to Vin. Buck grabbed his arm and warned him off.

"I just want to make sure he's OK," whispered JD.

"He's fine JD. Just leave him be," whispered a familiar voice.

Chris slowly sat up and faced them. JD just stared. Chris looked terrible. He had two days worth of beard on his haggard face and JD thought it made him look old. There were also black circles under his blood shot eyes.

"You look like shit," observed Buck.

"Thanks," said Chris sarcastically.

"Have you gotten any sleep?" asked JD.

"A few hours."

"Has he been that bad?" asked Buck.

"Yeah he has," sighed Chris. "I just wish his fever would break."

"How's his leg?"

"No change. They cleaned it earlier this morning. So don't worry JD."

"Ah hell Chris," said JD lowering his eyes. "You think it wouldn't bother me. That I should be used to it. Maybe because its Vin and I just can't see him in so much pain."

"You don't have to explain it to me, son. Believe me I wanted to run out that first time also."

"Well guess what?" stated Buck. "In that bag yonder is a change of clothes and a razor. Why don't you go beg those pretty nurses for a shower to use. It will make you feel a whole lot better."

"I can't leave."

"You don't have a choice," said Buck as he grabbed Chris's arm and pulled him to the door.

"What if he wakes?" said Chris not fighting Buck all that hard. "You won't be able to handle him."

"We'll manage. Besides Ezra's here."

Chris didn't protest very hard. He really could use a shower. A nice long hot one. He grabbed the bag JD was holding out and opened the door. He stopped and turned back. Buck pushed him out the rest of the way. The nurses smiled when they saw Chris.

"My friends have informed me that I need a shower," he said.

"Not a problem Mr. Larabee right this way," said the nurse and he followed her down the hall.

"Can I assume you gentlemen have afforded me the same courtesy?" asked Ezra as he tried to sit up and moaned.

"Huh?' asked JD.

"Clothes. Did you bring me clothes!" demanded Ezra.

"Sure," said JD. "But you'll have to wait till Chris gets back."

Strange voices again. What were they doing in his house? Mama always said not to let strange people in. He runs to her room to find a stranger leaning over his mother. He watches as the man stands and pulls the covers over her face. What's he doing? Is mama playing hide and seek. The strange man approaches him and kneels down. He says mama has gone to heaven. She can't go with out me. He tries to run to her and the man grabs him. The man hands him to another stranger and they walk towards the door. Where are they taking me?


"Aw hell, not again," said Ezra as he turned back to Vin.

"I can't go with you you're strangers!" cried Vin.

"Shhhhh Vin everything is OK."

"What have you done to my mama?" Vin demands in his delirium.

"Nothing Vin everything's OK," soothed Ezra as he wiped Vin's face with a damp clothe. JD and Buck had moved closer in case he decided to move they could grab him.

"Where are you taking me?" Vin asks in a childish voice and Ezra watched as tears formed on the younger man's lashes. This tactic had worked before and Ezra began to recite a poem.

"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Buck and JD watched in amazement as Vin quieted and listened to Ezra.
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?"

They were all surprised at what happened next. Vin started to recite the poem with Ezra. The Texas and southern drawl complimented each other.

"What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

When they stopped Ezra could see that Vin had calmed down. Buck and JD just looked at him.

"When did Vin learn poetry?" asked JD.

"I don't know but he certainly says it pretty," smiled Buck. "Did you teach him that one Ezra?"

"Mr. Tanner never ceases to amaze me," said Ezra as he bathed Vin's face with a damp towel.

He remembered that poem. It was one of Marieta's favorites. He couldn't believe she was gone. If only he had been there she wouldn't be dead now. They had lived in a condemned building down by the warehouses. She taught him to read and write and insisted he go school. They had enrolled him, with a false address, in the public school closest to their neighborhood. He learned to fight in that school but also how important it was to have a high school diploma. He barely made it through math but he loved biology Even if he didn't understand all the words. He remembered his English teacher in 10th grade making him stay after because he hadn't handed in a homework assignment. He admitted to her that he couldn't afford to buy paper. After that she made him stay after everyday so she could give him school supplies without the others kids knowing. In 11th grade English they had to learn poetry. Vin had surprised the teacher when he was able to recite Willaim Blake's The Tyger. They even had to write a poem for homework and he wrote one called A Hero's Heart. The teacher had been so impressed she had it publish in the school paper. Marieta had been so proud. She was even prouder when he graduated. Granted he was ranked almost last but that didn't matter. He remembered her telling him to go have fun at the graduation party. He remembered coming back and heard a strange noise. He raced up the stairs just in time to watch one of the local gang members hit Marieta in the head with a bat.

"Marieta!!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!!!" Vin screamed.

Buck and JD weren't ready for the out burst and jumped. Ezra knew whenever Vin dreamed it ended like this. He couldn't believe the hard life the young agent had lived through. He wasn't prepared for the heart wrenching sobs and didn't know what to do for him.

"I can't leave you guys alone for a second," said a newly shaven Chris as he walked over to Vin.

"Jesus Chris has he been like this all night?" asked Buck as he stroked Vin's head to try and calm him.

"For the most part," he answered. "What happened?"

"I'm not exactly sure," said Ezra. "I was entertaining him with The Tyger and he burst into tears."

"Go get cleaned up," suggested Chris. "Looks like it's my turn."

Chris tried to reassure the sharpshooter but he was so upset even Chris couldn't console him. Sometimes he wondered how Vin had survived his childhood. A background investigation was conducted when he joined the ATF and Chris was surprised to see the long list of foster homes in Texas. When Vin was 14 he was enrolled in High School, here in CO., and Marieta La Salle had been listed as guardian. Vin was still crying hysterically and Chris lifted him up and held him in his arms. Buck helped him to rearrange all the tubes for the oxygen and the IV's. Vin finally stopped crying when he fell into an exhausted sleep. Chris kept him in his arms and rocked him.

"Damn Chris isn't there anything else we can do for him?" asked Buck as he wiped the tears from Vin's face.

"I wonder who Marieta is?" asked JD.

"I don't know kid and you won't ask him," warned Buck.

"Another long night my friend?" asked Josiah as he and Nathan entered.

"You could say that," sighed Chris. He was getting hot holding the younger man but he was willing to remain where he was if it kept Vin quiet.

"Where's Ezra?" asked Nathan.

"Right here Mr. Jackson," said a disgusted Ezra as he walked in dressed in Army fatigues. "I take it this was your idea of a joke?"

"Actually it was JD's idea," said Buck smiling.

"It was not," he denied.

"Just remember, gentlemen. I never forget."

"Is anybody else hungry?" asked JD.

"You just ate," said Buck as he cuffed him in the back of the head. "Besides we came to give Chris a break."

"Go," said Chris. "There is nothing you can do here anyway."

"We'll stay," said Nathan.

"Come on JD we'll go get some food for everyone and bring it back," said Josiah.

Chris looked down at Vin and ran his finger though his hair. He could feel his heart beat against his arms and cringed at the fast beat. He didn't know how much more Vin's body could take. He wasn't normally a praying man but he figured it couldn't hurt.

+ + + + + + +

It had been another long day of Vin dreaming. If he wasn't running from gangs he was chasing bounties. Dr. Allen had come in to check on him and was pleased with his progress. She said his leg and back were doing fine and they just had to wait for the fever to run its course. Chris looked at Vin and was relieved to see the young agent sleeping peacefully. The others had tried to convince him to go home but he had refused. He had let Vin out of his sight once and wasn't about to repeat that mistake. Chris had sent Ezra home with the others. He didn't want to go but Chris assured him he knew a few poems that would keep Vin occupied. He glanced at his watch and it read 1:00am. He took Vin's hand and dozed off.

Chris was woken by a touch on his cheek. He had fallen asleep with his head on the bed. He brushed it away thinking it was a fly. The light touch came again and Chris sat up and opened his eyes.

"Hey cowboy," croaked a tired but familiar voice.

"Hey yourself," he replied as he felt Vin's forehead. He smiled in relief when he felt the cooler temperature.

"How...." Vin's voice cracked.

"Hold on," Chris reached over to the table and filled a glass with water. He placed a straw in the cup and held it for him to drink. Vin drank greedily and Chris pulled it away. "That's enough. Don't want you getting sick."

"I reckon, I've been sick."

"That's an understatement."

"How long?"

"Almost four days since you pulled this crazy stunt," Chris scolded. He immediately regretted the comment when Vin looked away. "I'm not mad."

"Hell yeah you are," Vin laughed. "I don't rightly blame you."

Chris just smiled. When Vin was tired his Texas drawl was more pronounced. One of the nurses came in to check on them. She had heard two voices and knew agent Larabee was the only one here. When she saw Mr. Tanner's eyes open she smiled.

"Welcome back," she said as she checked the monitors.

"Thank you ma'am."

She checked his leg to make sure everything was in order. When she went to check the catheter Vin jumped a mile and yelled.

"Aw hell!"

Chris could see Vin was blushing and looked like he wanted to hide his head under the pillow.

"That shouldn't hurt," she said in concern. "I better check it"

"CHRIS!" he squealed.

"It's all right," said Chris coming to his rescue.

"But Mr. Larabee I really should...."

"Trust me," he smiled.

"All right," she agreed and left them alone.

"Oh God Chris," Vin whispered. "What the hell else happened while I've been asleep."

"You don't want to know," he smiled evilly.

"You are truly evil," Vin said sleepily.

"You've just figured that out?" he laughed. "Why don't you go back to sleep."

"Chris," he said in a small voice. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I lied about taking the pills."

"I know."

"I'm sorry," Vin said again

Chris watched as his blue eyes filled with tears. He knew Vin still wasn't feeling well from the reaction. Chris took his hand and brushed the hair off his face.

"It's alright Vin. Go back to sleep."

Vin closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he let it out Chris could see him relax and he was asleep. Chris leaned his head back until it touched the wall. He was glad the others weren't here to see the tears run down his face.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra walked into the ICU dressed in a pair of tan Armani slacks and a green silk sweater. The nurses smiled and complimented him on his attire. They had seen him leave last night in Army fatigues. As he was talking with the nurses a ruckus could be heard announcing JD and Buck.

"Can't you two ever arrive in a civilized manner?" he asked.

"Why?" asked JD innocently. "You usually do it for us."

"Besides we get more looks from the pretty girls," Buck winked at one of the nurses.

"You're incorrigible," Ezra said.

"Well I know I got courage," Buck agreed causing the nurses to laugh. Ezra just smiled. He started walking towards Vin's room.

"You might want to wait," suggested the nurse. "Dr. Allen's in there replacing the staples."

"Then he's OK?" asked an excited JD.

"His fever broke last night and the Dr. said the infection was almost gone. She decided it was time to close back up the wound."

"WOOHOO!" hollered Buck as he grabbed the nurse and swung her around.

"Can we assume Brother Buck found a women crazy enough to marry him?" asked Josiah as he and Nathan walked up.

"Yeah right," said JD. "No this is something better. Vin's fever broke last night. He's going to be OK."

"YES!" declared Nathan as he walked to the room.

He opened the door to see the Dr. Allen sealing the wound. She had about three inches more to go. He looked at Chris who was watching Vin and smiling. Vin was talking up a storm and Nathan knew he was drugged. When he saw him he picked up his hand and waved. Chris grabbed his hand and brought it back down. This made Vin laugh. They had all seen and laughed also.

"Hey Doc how ya doing?" Vin slurred.

"I'm Ok Vin," smiled Nathan.

"Buck, JD where have you been?" continued Vin. "Haven't seen you in awhile."

"We've been here, pard" answered Buck.

"Hey Ez!"

"Hello Mr. Tanner."

"Josiah! Josiah!" he got excited when he saw the older agent. "I saw the crows!"

He pulled his hand from Chris's grasp and waved Josiah over to him. Josiah caught his hand as he came closer. Chris gave Josiah the seat and went to stand with the others. Chris watched as the doctor finished with Vin's leg. They all listened to his wild story about the crows. He was explaining to Josiah that they were all different colors. The gold crow was being courted by the red one but she secretly like the blue one. Chris saw Josiah didn't even try to hide his smile from the sharpshooter. He did keep a tight hold on Vin's hands because he kept trying to gesture. Dr. Allen laughed with them when Vin said that the gold crow was really the black one and that it was a boy. Chris just shook his head. Vin wasn't making any sense but at least he was with them.

"All done," Dr. Allen announced.

"So how long is the talking Vin going to last?" asked Buck.

"Not very long. He should crash in a short while. I'll leave you with him. Once he falls asleep we're going to move him out of ICU."

Chris could see Vin was winding down and he went over and stood behind Josiah.

"How you doing cowboy?"

"Sleepy," Vin said blinking owlishly at him. He sighed then closed his eyes. In no time he was asleep.

"Why didn't you call us last night?" Buck accused punching Chris in the arm.

"Because it was 3:00am and there was no reason to wake you."

"You could have called us this morning," said JD.

"I only just woke up."

"Ah I see the nurses let you get at least nine hours huh," smiled Nathan.

"Yeah they're worse then you guys are," said Chris sarcastically.

"Well I think this calls for a celebration," announced Josiah. "Lets go get some lunch and have a good time."

"Sounds good to me," agreed JD.

"I would be most appreciative of a fancy lunch," seconded Ezra.

"Oh please none of your fancy places Ezra," argued Buck.

"I think I should stay with Vin." said Chris trying to get out of going.

"You will go Mr. Larabee," stated one of the nurses. They had come to move Vin to his new room.

"We'll watch Mr Tanner while your gone," said the other.

Chris looked at the determined faces of his team and the concerned nurses and knew he was out numbered. Once Josiah saw he had given in he grabbed Chris by the arm and they all walked down the hall.