by Winter

ATF Alternate Universe


Chris stared out the window at the rain. He watched the lightening dance on the horizon and waited for the thunder. He didn't have to wait long when a loud rumble was heard. Chris ran his fingers through his short blonde hair and sighed. It had been eight days since he brought Vin to the ranch to recuperate. Vin was starting to act more and more like a cage animal as he regained his strength. Vin had woken up in a foul mood when he saw it was raining. Chris understood his mood because he was not only stuck here but inside as well. He was concerned that the younger man wasn't eating that much and pointed it out at breakfast. It was the wrong thing to do. Vin exploded about treating him like a kid and if he wasn't hungry he wasn't hungry. He had stormed off to his room two hours ago. Chris wanted to check on him but he curbed the impulse. He didn't want to provoke another fight that might lead them to say something they would both regret. He took a sip of the coffee he was holding and went back to watching the storm when there was a knock at the door. Chris put the mug on the counter and went to answer it.

"Nathan?" Chris said in surprise. "What are you doing out here?"

"The others sent me to check if you were both alive," he smiled in answer.

"For now, but I don't know for how much longer," admitted Chris.

"Is he getting bad?"

"Bad is not the word for it," sighed Chris. "I don't know what's wrong with him. I've never seen this side of him. Usually he's so in control."

"He's a loner Chris," explained Nathan. "He's just not used to all this caring. I was surprised he was able to fit into a group setting so well. Granted he's really easy going, which helps."

"Except when he's hurt."

"True. Where is he?"

"Sulking in his room."

"What happened?" Nathan asked in concern.

"He woke up in a foul mood because of the rain. Then I mentioned he wasn't eating enough and he exploded."

"What do you mean he's not eating? That's not good Chris."

"Tell me something I don't know!" he snapped angrily and Nathan stepped back. "Damn, Nathan I'm sorry. His moods are starting to get to me. I try to give him space but then he pulls some stupid stunts and I say something."

"What has he done?"

"Walking around without the crutches. Climbing the step stool to change a light bulb. I found him in the damned apple tree yesterday putting a baby bird back in its nest. He damned near gave me a heart attack. Needless to say we had a heated argument about that one! Especially when he wouldn't let me check his leg. Granted he used his arms to climb and it wasn't that high up but I wanted to kill him!"

"I can imagine," sympathized Nathan. "I probably would have killed him myself. He's just lucky I wasn't out here."

"I was just about to make lunch. Want anything?"

"Sounds good. What about Vin?"

"I'm going to let him cool down some more before I go check on him."

Chris made sandwiches and some lemonade and they sat down to lunch. Nathan told him everything was the usual at the office. He told Chris that JD was checking up on the suspects for their next case. Buck was pumping their usual snitches for info. Ezra was out checking on a way in and Josiah was having fun telling everyone what to do. Chris laughed. He didn't realize how much he needed to talk with someone else and not worry about Vin. They were just finishing their lunch when a loud crash was heard from Vin's room. They both jumped up and raced down the hall. Chris pushed open the door to find Vin lying on his back on the floor with the broken lamp next to him. Chris rushed in to help.

"Leave me the HELL alone!!" Vin yelled as he sat up and glared at them.

Nathan was shocked at his appearance and the anger evident in Vin's eyes. Vin's hair was a mess and he hadn't shaved in a couple of days. Nathan looked at Chris in concern. He wasn't prepared to see Chris just as angry as Vin. He was about to say something when Chris spoke up.

"Nathan, wait outside," Chris said in his trade mark deadly voice. "Me and junior are going to have a talk."

"Chris I don't think that's....." he never finished because Chris turned the glare on him. Nathan did as he was told but stayed right by the door in case they killed each other.

Chris marched over to Vin and grabbed him under the arms and stood him up. Once he was on his feet Vin faced Chris and took a swing at the older man. Chris easily avoided the blow but he noticed Vin was about to fall and grabbed him. Vin struggled in his grasp. When he realized Chris wasn't letting go he howled like a mad man and started fighting. Chris was not ready for this reaction and Vin cracked him in the nose with his elbow. Chris saw stars but wouldn't let go. He could feel the blood trickling down his lip. Suddenly Vin stopped struggling and Chris dragged him over to the bed and sat down. When he sat down he realized Vin was crying. Chris was totally confused.

"What's wrong Vin?"

"Just leave me alone, Chris, Please!!" Vin said as he put his face in his hands.

"I can't do that. Now talk to me."

"Don't you get it!!!" he screamed. "I don't want you getting close to me!! I don't ever want anyone to get close to me!"

"Why Vin?" Chris asked in a soothing voice.

"I don't want you to die!!! That's why!!!" Vin said hysterically and pulled out of Chris embrace.

"I don't understand Vin. What's my dying got to do with you not wanting to get close."

"Don't you see?" Vin pleaded with him. "Everyone I ever got close to has died. My ma, Marieta, everyone."

Vin curled up on the bed and cried. Chris punched the bed in frustration. He knew Vin was alone in life but never realized how alone. Chris also knew Vin still wasn't feeling well if he was acting like this. None of this would ever have come to light if Vin hadn't gotten hurt. He came to a startling conclusion and pulled Vin into his lap. Vin struggled but he wouldn't let go.

"Vin is that why you've been acting the way you have? Trying to get me mad so I would back off?"

Chris felt him nod. "Well sorry to disappoint you, cowboy, but I'm not going anywhere. You're stuck with me. Don't worry I won't die on you."

"Promise?" asked a small voice.

"Promise," Chris vowed.

"Why do you put up with me?" asked Vin as he sat up and wiped the tears from his eyes. That's when he noticed Chris's bloody nose. "Oh Jesus, Chris, I'm sorry."

"Don't worry I've had worse," he said. "To answer your question, I don't have all that many friends. I'd like to keep the ones I do have."

"Even when I act like a total asshole?" Vin smiled.

"Even then," Chris agreed. "Why don't you go take a shower. The hot water will feel good."

Chris got up and handed him the crutches. He watched as Vin went into the bathroom and closed the door. He waited until he heard the water running then went out to Nathan.

"Damn, Chris!" exclaimed Nathan. "I'm surprised Vin has turned out to be such a decent guy after all the things that have happened to him. He could have turned into a real bastard."

"I doubt it," disagreed Chris. "Vin has too big a heart to ever turn mean. Doesn't mean he can't get nasty if you push him or someone he loves."

"Well I better head back to the office," stated Nathan.

"Nathan, not a word about this to the others," Chris warned.

"Don't worry Chris, it's not my story to tell."

Chris walked Nathan to the door and waved as he started down the drive. He headed to his room and into the bathroom. He grabbed a towel and placed it under his nose. Chris just shook his head thinking it was a good thing Vin hadn't backed that elbow with all his strength or he'd have a broken nose. Once the bleeding stopped and he got cleaned up he headed for the kitchen. He made some lunch for Vin and waited for him to come out of the shower. When he heard Vin turn off the water he walked back to the room. Vin came out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist and sat on the bed. Chris came over and checked his leg.

"Damn you're sneaky," sighed Vin. "You wanted me to take a shower so you could check that."

"That's why I get paid the GS11 salary" smiled Chris. "Feeling better?"

"Chris .." Vin looked into his eyes.

"I know." He said with a smile. Vin smiled back.

"Was that Nathan standing in the door?" asked Vin worried.

"It was, but you don't have to worry. He promised he wouldn't say anything," Chris assured him. "You hungry?"

"Starved!" Vin exclaimed.

"Come on," Chris said as they headed to the kitchen. "Oh one more thing. You ever try to hit me again and I'm going to take you down. Got that?"

"You can try," Vin said with a mischievous grin and continued on to the kitchen.