by Winter

ATF Alternate Universe


The week went by like a tornado. Vin slowly regained his strength. They all went to visit him at various times. The one that went the most, besides Chris, was Ezra. Vin had been embarrassed when he found out that they knew about his love for poetry. He was surprised to see that Ezra was thrilled. He had shown up one day with a gift. It was a book of poetry. The two of them spent hours reading the poems together and talking about them. Granted he told Ezra he just liked the way they sounded and had no idea what some of them meant. Ezra had explained the deeper meaning of some of them. Ezra introduced him to poems he never heard before and he enjoyed the quiet times with the wily undercover agent. His visits from Buck and JD were just the opposite and he usually fell asleep after they left. Josiah would come and tell him stories about the adventures he had when he traveled with his missionary parents. Nathan came one day with his guns and they spent the afternoon cleaning them. The nurse had not been thrilled when she found them. His best visits were when Chris came. They never said much. They didn't have to because they usually knew what the other was thinking. It drove the rest of the team crazy when they would stare at each other then nod. Buck said it was just too eerie and could they please just talk like normal people. Chris had told Vin that he would be staying with him for a few weeks after they released him. He had been ready for a fight from his independent friend and was surprised when he gave in. Vin wasn't happy when Buck had let it slip that Chris had taken two weeks annual leave to watch him.

Chris was in his office finishing up some paper work before he went to get Vin. The higher ups insisted this had to be done before he could take his leave. He was leaving Josiah in charge of the team while he was gone. Everyone was sure it would be Buck and was surprised when he said he wanted no part of being in charge. Chris was just straightening his desk when there was a knock on his door and Josiah popped his head in.

"You better get going," said Josiah.

"Damn," Chris said as he looked at his watch. "Think you can handle things while I'm gone?"

"Piece of cake," he smiled. "We'll see you at your place tonight."

Chris grabbed his keys and headed out the door. Twenty minutes later he was pulling up in front of the hospital. He walked down the stark white halls to Vin's room. He passed the nurses station and he smiled.

"Mr. Larabee wait a minute," one called and he stopped. "Dr. Allen wanted me to give you his medications. She finally found an antibiotic that doesn't make him sick. She said to be sure he took it this time because she doesn't want to see him back. Except next week sometime to take the staples out."

"I think I can handle that."

"I'll just get Mr. Tanner's papers and you can be on your way."

Chris entered Vin's room to find the younger agent sitting on the bed trying to figure out how to get his shoes on.

"Need some help cowboy?"

"I suppose," he said in defeat.

"Are you alright?" Chris asked. Vin never usually gave in that quickly.

"Tired is all."

"Well you can sleep on the ride out to the ranch."

"I reckon."

"Vin what's wrong?" asked Chris. Something was bothering the younger agent.

"Nothin' " said Vin. He wouldn't look at Chris.

"Talk," he said as he grabbed his chin and made him look at him.

"I hate this Chris and you know it!" he said pulling out of his grasp.

"Fine, you want to go back to your apartment then go!" Chris said angrily.

"Aw hell, Chris, I'm sorry," Vin sighed. "You sure you want me? I'll only get worse."

"I'll take my chances," he smiled. "Besides I locked up my guns."

Chris finished the task of putting on Vin's shoes. Just as he finished the nurse came in pushing a wheel chair and holding some papers. Vin signed his name and they were ready to go. They got him in the chair and they headed for the door. Chris went ahead to get the Dodge. He pulled up as the nurse pushed Vin out the door. Chris came around and they helped him climb into the SUV. The nurse gave Vin a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She smiled when she saw him blush. She handed Chris a pair of crutches and Vin's bag. He threw them in the back seat then climbed in. The ride to the ranch was uneventful. Vin was quiet and Chris looked to see if he had fallen asleep. Vin was just sitting staring out the window. Chris pulled into the long drive that led up to the house. On either side were corrals for the horses. Chris pulled up at the front door and parked. He got out, grabbed the crutches and walked around to help Vin. He had already swung his legs out and waited for Chris to bring the crutches. They went into the house and Vin took a seat on the couch.

"The teams coming over around seven for dinner," said Chris as he went into the kitchen. "Do you want something to drink?"

When he didn't get a response he came back out to find Vin asleep. Chris went over to him and woke him up. Vin blinked a few times and gave him a dirty look.

"You'll be more comfortable in the bed," suggested Chris as he held out the crutches.

Vin pulled himself up and followed him down the hall. Chris put Vin in the room next to his. Vin limped over to the bed and handed Chris the crutches and climbed in. Chris grabbed his shoes and pulled them off. He got Vin out of his shirt also. Vin stretched out on his stomach, sighed in contentment, and fell asleep. Chris walked out and headed to the kitchen for a beer. He picked up the phone and called the office and got no answer. He tried Josiah's cellular.

"Hello," said a familiar baritone.

"You guys might want to make this welcome home party a different night," suggested Chris. "He just fell asleep."

"It's a little late," he laughed. "We just pulled in the drive way."

Chris hung up and heard the cars pull up. He went to the door an opened it. Buck had been about to knock and almost fell.

"Jeez warn a guy next time."

"Sorry Buck," smiled Chris.

"So where's gimpy?" asked Buck.


"Asleep?" said Buck. "How could you let party boy fall asleep?"

"Trust me it was better this way."

"He starting already?" asked Nathan.

"I just think he was tired," Chris said.

"So gentlemen since the aforementioned team member is indisposed can I interest anyone in a game of chance?"

"Damn Ezra can't you speak English?" asked Buck.

"Would y'all be of a mind to play a game of poker?" Ezra sneered

"That's better," smiled Buck. "Now just be prepared to loose your shirt."

"I think not," began Ezra. "You have nothing of value as collateral for the price of this shirt."

Chris just shook his head as he followed them to the living room. They set up the table and they got down to business.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had finally shoed them out around midnight and headed for bed. It felt like his head had just hit the pillow when he was woken up by a shout from Vin.


"Damn!" sighed Chris "I thought we were through with this."

He went next door to find Vin tossing in the bed. Chris moved quickly to grab him. Vin was mumbling something about having to catch the perp that shot Chris.

"Vin, wake up."

Chris had pulled Vin against his chest so he wouldn't move around. Vin finally woke up screaming.


He sat up and looked around. When he saw Chris he cursed.

"God I thought this was over!" he yelled.

"So did I. Want to talk about it?"

"Not much to tell. I see you get shot and I can't stop it."

"It's only a dream."

"I know," Vin shuddered. "But it's so real. I can feel the warm blood as I'm trying to stop the bleeding."

"Why don't you try to go back to sleep," said Chris as he got up to leave.

"Can't you stay?" Vin pleaded.

"Alright, move over," agreed Chris.

Vin moved over and Chris piled the pillows against the headboard and got comfortable. Vin curled up next to Chris and closed his eyes. After a few minutes Vin's breathing became even and he was asleep. Chris leaned his head back and fell asleep.

Chris woke up to find Vin asleep against his chest. He remembered falling asleep next to the younger agent. Vin must have moved in the middle of the night and decided Chris was a comfortable pillow. Chris looked down to see Vin's long hair covering his face. He brushed it away and Vin woke up startled.

"Easy Vin, it's only me."

Vin looked up to find he was asleep on Chris's chest. Chris watched as his eyes got wide and he moved to get off. Chris grabbed his shoulders and prevented him from moving.

"It's alright Vin. I don't mind."

"I feel like an idiot," Vin moaned.

"Why because you're human?"

"No, because I'm lying here sleeping on my boss's chest. I can imagine what Buck would think."

"He probably just laugh and ask if you were comfortable."

"Probably, you gotta promise you won't say anything," Vin begged as he sat up and Chris let him go.

"It will be our little secret," he assured the younger man.

"I've been meaning to ask you something."

"Alright shoot."

"What took you guys so long to find me?" he asked. Chris watched as Vin put his arm behind his back to scratch the healing wounds.

"Leave them," said Chris as he grabbed his hand.

"Damn Chris! They itch! Can't you rub them or something."

"Wait until the leg starts," Chris said as he gently rubbed his back.

"Don't remind me," he sighed. "A little lower."

"We didn't know where you went," Chris answered as he moved his hand lower and Vin leaned into it.

"I left you a note."

"In that apartment. It could be anywhere. Now it's my turn. How did you get out to Nettie's?"

"I called her neighbor, Cora, and asked if she could come and get me. I told her the jeep was in the shop."

"You're just to damned resourceful. You hungry?"

"Starved!" declared Vin as he swung his legs off the bed.

Chris handed him the crutches and they headed for the kitchen. Vin sat at the table while Chris whipped them up some Spanish omelets. He was cooking the omelets when he noticed Vin was being quieter than usual. He tuned around to see Vin staring out the window towards the horses.

"Don't even think it," he warned.

"Aw come on, Chris, give me a break. You're here."

"I said no," as he brought the omelet over to the table. "And if you try going out there I will hog tie you."

"Then why the hell did you bring me out here. You know I can't resist them."

"Because out here we're in the middle of no where and there's only one set of car keys," said Chris with a wicked grin as he ate his eggs.

Vin said something in one of the gang languages and ate his eggs. Chris didn't need a translation. He could tell what Vin called him from the inflection in his voice. Chris just smiled, he'd been called worse.

+ + + + + + +

It was only day three of his captivity and Vin was going nuts. If he watched one more damned talk show he'd kill himself. Chris was down at the barn watering the horses and had warned him if he came down he'd be shot. Vin believed him when he saw Chris clip his revolver to his belt. He got up from the couch and switched off the TV. He hobbled to the sliding glass door, opened it and went out on the porch. He noticed Chris come out of the barn and take aim with his hand. He flipped him the bird and stretched out on one of the lounge chairs. Vin looked up to see Chris smile and go back in the barn. He got comfortable and let the sun soak in. He was dressed in a loose pair of shorts and nothing else.

"Hey pard, go get dressed," said Chris.

Vin had dozed off sleeping in the sun and he hadn't heard Chris approach. He could see Chris's hair was wet. He could also see Chris was not happy and was standing there with the crutches.

"I catch you walking around without these again we're going to tangle," he glared as he handed them to Vin.

"So what's up that I have to get dressed?' " He said angrily as he grabbed the crutches and stood.

"You have a doctors appointment."

"Alright!" Vin yelled. He'd go anywhere to get out of here.

Chris just laughed as he watched him head for his room. Chris couldn't blame him; he'd be going crazy to. Vin came out dressed in sweat pants and a button down shirt. He had one sneaker on and was carrying the other. He still couldn't get the left one on his foot. He sat on the couch and Chris put it on and tied it. Chris grabbed his keys and they headed for the SUV. He pulled onto the road and Chris glanced over at Vin to see a big smile on his face.

"I told the guys to meet us at Mario's for dinner."


They hit some traffic just as they were entering the city. It took them longer to get to the hospital then Chris had anticipated. Chris let Vin out by the door and told him to wait inside and not to go anywhere. Vin growled that he wasn't a baby and walked inside. Chris sighed thinking it was going to be along two weeks. He parked and headed for the automatic doors. He found Vin sitting just inside. They walked down to Dr. Allen's office and entered. She was sitting at the desk and looked up when they came in.

"Sorry we're late," apologized Chris. "We hit traffic."

"Worked out for the best I just got finished with another patient. Mr. Tanner how are you feeling?"

"Fine, I reckon."

"Well let's see how your leg and back are doing. Come this way." She said as she led they out of the office an into an examination room.

"Here you go. Put this on," she said handing him a hospital gown.

"Is that all there is to it?" Vin asked as he saw it had no back.

"Here, put this one on backwards," she said smiling as she handed him another one. She waited but Vin didn't move. "I'll be right back I need to check something."

"I'll be just outside," said Chris.

She smiled to Chris as they went out. He had warned her about how shy Vin was and that he wouldn't be thrilled to come back for an exam. She had been surprised and told him that she had already seen everything. Chris had pointed out that Vin was unconscious at the time and never knew. She just laughed but said she could work around it. The stood by the door and waited about ten minutes then went back in. Vin was sitting on the table.

"Ok first let me check your weight," she said as she came over to the bed. She helped him on the scale and set the gages. She waited for the bar to stop swaying and it read 150. She checked his charts and saw he had lost about five pounds while he was sick. "OK back on the table and I'll check your leg first."

Vin lay on his right side and she pushed up the gown. She smiled when she saw the blush but just kept doing what she started. Chris had gone over and sat in the corner and shook his head at the sharpshooters reaction. The doctor continued to pull off the dressings. Vin jumped when one of them stuck and she apologized. Once they were all off she checked the staples carefully. She was satisfied with the way it was healing and told him so. She went over to the cabinets and got out supplies to clean it and apply new bandages. She checked his blood pressure and it was normal. When she listened with the stethoscope she just smiled when he jumped. She wasn't surprised to hear a fast heart rate. When she was done she threw a sheet over his lower body and made him remove the second gown. She told him to lie on his stomach to make it easier for her. She untied the gown and pushed it off his shoulders. Once all the bandages were off she checked each one and looked up at Vin.

"Mr. Tanner the stitches can come out of these," she announced and went to get a pair of scissors.

When she sat back down and touched his back she felt him tense up. She didn't say anything and began to remove the stitches. Once Vin realized it wasn't going to hurt he relaxed. It took her about an hour to remove them all and during that time Vin had dozed off. They had bled a little and she cleaned them then applied new bandages. When she was done she quietly moved away and motioned Chris to follow her outside.

"He alright?" Chris inquired.

"He's fine," she answered. "His leg is healing nicely. Has he been taking the antibiotics?"


"Good. If I remember right he should have about four days left. Once they're finished he won't need any more. Has he needed the pain killers at all?"


"Alright," she smiled. "I'm done you can take him home. Bring him back a week from today and those staples should be ready to come out. Good day Mr. Larabee."


Chris walked back in to find Vin awake and half way dressed. He was just pulling on his shirt. He sat in the chair and put on his right shoe and sock. He still couldn't reach the left foot because he couldn't bend his leg. Chris came over and finished the task.

"Doc says your legs doing fine," explained Chris. "You have to come back next week and she'll see if the staples can come out. You hungry?"

"Not really," he admitted.

"You haven't eaten since breakfast and its now 5:00pm," commented Chris worried.

"I'm fine Chris. I'm just not hungry is all," Vin growled when he heard the worry in Chris's voice.

"Alright have it your way," said Chris as he handed him the crutches. "You'll change your mind when we get to Mario's."

They walked towards the doors and went out. Chris made Vin wait by the door while he got the Dodge. Vin protested that he could make it to the truck. Chris glared at him and Vin was about to say something he would regret and ground his teeth. Chris stalked off to get the truck and he could feel the daggers Vin was throwing with his eyes. He pulled up next to the younger man but remained in the truck and let Vin climb in on his own. Once he was in Chris pulled off and headed for Mario's. The trip to Mario's had been an icy one and Chris was happy to be able to give Vin to the others for awhile. They walked in to see the team sitting at their regular table in the back. It was a large semi circle booth. When Buck saw them he waved. He pushed JD over to make room for Chris and Vin. Chris sat on the opposite side away from him and Vin sat next to Buck. The others could feel the tension and Buck relieved it by telling them about his disastrous date last night. Chris watched as Vin tried to get comfortable but couldn't. He finally got up and brought over a chair for Vin to prop his leg on. He put it next to Vin and sat down. Buck looked at Chris and he shook his head no. Josiah had been telling a story and kept going as they watched Vin struggle to get his leg on the chair. Chris had grabbed Ezra's arm to keep him from helping. Granted he had to climb over Chris first but he didn't think that would stop the undercover agent. Vin got his leg on the chair and smiled in triumph.

"Well that's a mighty good trick," Buck commented. "So what are you going to do next?"

Vin elbowed him and smiled. Buck exaggerated Vin's blow and fell over on to JD. JD pushed him off and Vin pushed back from the other side so Buck was squished in the middle. Buck finally cried 'Uncle' when he felt Vin weakening. The waiter came over and took their drink order. Vin had ordered a Corona and Chris said no, not with the medication. Vin glared and ordered a coke. Ezra decided to end the Mexican standoff.

"So Mr. Tanner do you know this one?" he asked as he began to recite.

"Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred."
Vin picked up the next stanza.
" 'Forward the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred."
Ezra joined him for the next stanza.
"Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Strom'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell,
Rode the six hundred."

Then Josiah's booming baritone joined them to finish the poem.

"When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!"

They all laughed and Chris was grateful to Ezra. He had pulled Vin out of his mood with the poem. Buck started teasing Vin that he sounded right pretty. Chris was glad to see Vin wasn't upset about Buck's teasing him tonight. The waiter came with their drinks and took their orders. Dinner was wonderful as usually and Ezra asked to see the Chef to tell him so. After accolades were laid on the chef they enjoyed some more drinks. Chris had been talking with Nathan when he glanced over at Vin. He had fallen asleep on Buck's shoulder and looked very content.

"I guess we should call it a night," suggested Chris.

"It's alright pard. I don't mind," disagreed Buck. "You needed this night out as much as Vin. Enjoy yourself."

"I agree Mr. Larabee," confessed Ezra. "When the two of you first came in I thought you were going to kill each other."

"I take it he's feeling better and is chaffing at the bit?" asked Nathan.

"We've had a few words," said Chris. "He's pushing on the boundaries to see where they will give. I can't blame him really. He's just not used to people doing for him. Oh I almost forgot. The doctor took the stitches out of his back tonight."

"That's great!" Nathan declared and the others agreed.

They stayed for awhile and talked. Chris was happy to hear that the office was still standing. Around 10:00pm they decide to call it quits since Chris still had an hour drive home. Buck woke up Vin who looked around confused until he came fully awake. He moaned and complained to Buck that he made a lousy pillow. Buck just growled at him and Vin smiled. They paid the bill and went out to the parking lot. They said good night and went their separate ways. Chris unlocked the door for Vin before walking over to the driver's side. Once they were settled and Vin got his seat belt fastened Chris started the SUV. Chris pulled out of the lot and headed home.




Chris looked at Vin. He knew Vin was telling more than that simple word implied and he smiled at his friend. Vin smiled back and they drove home.