"So that was Captain Sisko," Buck said. " I've heard a lot about him."
"That's him," Chris said. "I hear he's a good man."
"I'm going to sick bay to get Vin ready for cryosleep" Nathan said. "Then I'll transfer the information to Dr. Bashir."
"Can we talk to him before you put him under?" Chris asked.
"Sure," Nathan agreed. "I was going to wake him to explain what is going to happen."
Chris called Engineer Chanu to come take over the bridge. When he arrived, the others left with Nathan. The ride down on the turbo lift was a subdued one. When they arrived at sick bay, Buck walked over to JD's bed.
"How is he?" Buck asked.
"He'll be fine, "Nathan assured him. "The claw marks have been healed and the infection is gone. I just gave him something so he'd sleep."
The others walked over to Vin's bed and stood around it. Chris noticed Lila had taken a guard position just under his bed. Buck joined them and Nathan placed a hypospray on Vin's neck and pressed the button.
"He's going to be disoriented, "Nathan warned. "So none of your big words Ezra."
"I'm sorry to be a disappointment my good doctor but that's all I know," Ezra said with a smile.
Vin's eyelids began to flutter and he opened his eyes. He looked at each of them and tried to focus but was having trouble. Chris took his hand and Vin turned towards him.
"Chris" Vin asked confused.
"Yeah it's me," Chris answered.
Vin looked at them again and began to focus more. Suddenly his blue eyes went wide and he tried to sit up.
"JD!" he yelled.
"He's OK," Nathan said grabbing his shoulders. "He's over there."
Nathan moved so that Vin could see JD sleeping across the room. When he realized JD was safe he relaxed. He looked towards Ezra and frowned.
"I remember you being there," Vin said. "What happened?"
"The short version is I came looking for you," Ezra began. "I borrowed Lila and she tracked you. Then I'm afraid I got careless and was caught along with our and Mr. Dunne."
"Oh," Vin said as he glanced towards Buck. "I'm sorry Commander."
"For what?" Buck asked startled.
"I didn't protect JD," Vin said, becoming agitated. "He was hurt because of me."
"Easy Vin," Buck said, touching his arm. "You did fine, JD's alright."
"He is?" Vin said confused. "You're not mad?"
"No I'm not mad," Buck smiled as the Vulcan calmed down.
"I have to get him ready," Nathan said.
"Nathan, let me explain what's going on," Chris said.
"Alright," Nathan agreed sensing the Captain needed some time with Vin.
"See ya later Vin," Buck said forcing a smile. He just hoped he would.
"You'll be OK Vin," Josiah said with confidence.
"Yes you'll be fine," Ezra said with his poker face in place. "I look forward to winning against you at our weekly poker match this Friday."
"You only win because you cheat," Vin smiled.
Ezra gave Vin a two-fingered salute and followed the others out the door. Chris sat on the bed next to Vin. Vin was looking across sick bay at JD. He turned back to Chris and saw he was worried.
"There's something you're not telling me about JD," Vin accused.
"It's not JD, "Chris sighed. "It's you."
Chris grabbed the blanket and pulled it down. He figured it would be easier if he showed him. Vin looked down at the wound on his side. He remembered being hit saving JD. What surprised him was the black surrounding it.
"What is it?" Vin asked as he went to touch the black.
"Leave it," Chris said capturing his hand. "Nathan isn't sure but it's changing your DNA. We have to get you to DS9 as fast as we can."
Vin was curious about what was happening but he could hear the anguish in Chris's voice. The Vulcan looked into Chris's eyes and knew.
"It's killing me isn't it?" Vin stated.
"No," Chris lied.
"You can't lie to me Chris," Vin smiled "I know."
"It's killing you," Chris said. He should have known he couldn't lie to Vin. "But Nathan's positive he can reverse it. We have to get you to DS9 as soon as possible."
"How much time do I have?" Vin asked.
"Twenty-four hours," Chris told him.
"DS9 is over thirty hours from our present location," Vin said. "And that's at warp 10."
"We know," Chris smiled. Leave it to Vin to know that exact information. "If Nathan puts you in cryosleep you have forty-eight."
"I can't," Vin cried pulling away from Chris.
"Vin I don't understand," Chris said grabbing his shoulder. "Tell me what's the matter."
"When they found me on Tasco, I had been buried under the rubble of my home," Vin said in a frightened voice. "I don't remember how long I was under there, but I can't stand closed in places."
"Vin, you'll be asleep," Chris said trying to reassure him. "You'll never know."
"Please don't make me," Vin pleaded.
"Sorry Vin, I'm not going to lose my best pilot," Chris said. "Everything will be alright, I promise."
"You can't keep that promise," Vin cried throwing off his hands.
"You're right, I can't," Chris sighed. "But it's the only chance you have. I don't want you to die."
"I'm not afraid of death," Vin lied.
"Now who's lying?" Chris asked with a smile.
"I just can't do it Chris," Vin said shutting his eyes.
"Then do it for JD," Chris said. "How do you think the kid will feel if you die?"
"Will you stay until it's over?" Vin asked.
"You bet," Chris agreed.
Nathan returned and walked over to them. Chris explained about Vin's fear of enclosed places and said he would stay until it was over. Nathan prepared the cryochamber while Chris sat with Vin. No words passed between them but Nathan was pretty sure they knew what the other was thinking. Chris could feel Vin tensing up and starting to breathe faster. He crushed Chris hand in his own. Nathan rolled the chamber over.
"Ready?" he asked.
Vin didn't trust his voice and just nodded. Chris moved away so Nathan could secure the chamber to the bed. When it was in place Chris moved quickly back to the bed so Vin could see him through the glass. Chris could see he was shaking and had his eyes tightly closed. Chris knew the freezing process would taking only a short time but it would feel like an eternity to Vin. He could sense that Vin was almost at his limit of control
"Hurry Nathan," Chris advised.
"Ready," Nathan said and pushed some buttons.
The process was almost instantaneous. Ice crystals formed on the glass signaling completion of the process. Chris looked down at Vin and saw that tears had frozen at the corners of his eyes. The captain glanced across at Nathan.
"Everything's fine," Nathan assured him. "Vitals are strong."
"He's going to panic when he wakes up," Chris said absently.
Nathan smiled sadly at the comment. Chris was confident Vin would recover and Nathan just hoped it was true. He moved off to check on something, leaving the captain alone with the navigator. Chris sat staring down at Vin getting madder and madder. He wanted to go down to the brig and beat the Cardassian to a pulp. He knew that wasn't an option so he sat there until he could rein in is temper. When he was in control again he walked over to check on JD. The young Ensign was sleeping peacefully and Chris laid his hand on his arm for a few minutes then left. He stalked back to the bridge still in a foul mood. As the turbo doors opened he barked out an order.
"Commander Standish ,get me Captain Richards on the Redeemer," Chris said.
"Aye Captain," Ezra said in a shaky voice.
"Damn it Ezra," Josiah said rushing over to him.
The security officer would have fallen to the floor if Josiah hadn't caught him.
"Josiah take him to his cabin," Chris said.
Josiah nodded and led an unsteady Ezra towards the turbo lift. Chris just shook his head. Ezra could be as bad as Vin when it came to admitting he was hurt.
"Chris," Buck called, "Captain Richards."
"Thanks, Buck," he said. "On screen."
"Chris you old war dog what can I do for you?" Richards asked.
"Joe push that bucket of bolts you call a starship to warp ten," Chris replied. "If you get here in two hours I'll get you a bottle of that Regallian whiskey you're so fond of."
"What's up Chris?" he asked suspiciously. "That stuff's hard to come by."
"My pilot was injured in that run-in with the Cardassians," Chris explained. "We need to get him to DS9 as soon as possible."
"How bad is he?" Joe asked.
"He's dying," Chris answered truthfully.
Captain Richards turned from the screen and looked at his pilot.
"Ensign," he called. "You heard Captain Larabee. Push this bucket of bolts to warp ten."
"Aye sir," was the reply.
"Chris we'll see you in under two hours," Joe said.
"Anytime," he replied. "Oh, and you owe me a bottle."
With that last statement the screen went blank.
"Chris, where the heck are you going to get a bottle of Regallian whiskey?" Buck asked.
"Ezra has a case, "Chris smiled.
"Why that sneaky little Ferengi," Buck smiled. "But will he part with a bottle?"
"He will if he knows what's good for him," Chris laughed. "Now all we have to do is wait."
+ + + + + + +
Captain Sisko was wandering around the habitation ring when he noticed the Captain of the P'lor heading in his direction. Captain S'lar was your typical Vulcan. Tall and imposing with black hair cut square above his ears.
"Captain I wish to speak with you," he said as he stopped next to Sisko.
"Of course Captain S'lar what can I do for you?" Sisko asked.
"I understand the only Vulcan survivor from Tasco will be coming to DS9," he said.
'That's correct," Sisko agreed. "But he's very sick"
"Yes' I know. That's why I offered Dr. Bashir the help of our medical officer. I would like to meet with the lieutenant when he is able."
"If he survives, I'm sure something can be arragned," Sisko said.
"Thank you Captain," he said. "Good day."
Sisko continued around the habitat ring greeting people as he went. When he finished he headed for the infirmary. When he arrived he walked in to find Dr. Bashir talking with a female Vulcan.
"Ah Captain," Julian said when he walked in "I was just going to call you. Dr. Jackson says the Maverick is on the way. They should be here in thirty-two hours."
"Were you able to find a match?" he asked.
"There are two Vulcan's in the crew that fit the parameters," said the female Vulcan.
"Captain may I introduce Dr. Amara," Julian said. "She is the medical officer of the P'lor."
"Pleased to meet you," Sisko said. "Will Dr. Jackson's idea work?"
"It should. We'll know more when they get here," Julian answered.
Sisko let them get back to work. He continued back to his office to finish the day's reports. He didn't envy the crew of the Maverick; it was going to be a long thirty-two hours.
+ + + + + + +
As soon as the Redeemer took the Cardassians into custody the Maverick sped at warp ten towards DS9. Nathan had checked on Ezra and said he was fine, just exhausted. He gave Ezra something to make him sleep for a few hours. Buck and Chris were off duty and sitting in ten forward. Buck knew Chris wasn't in the mood to talk so they sat in companionable silence drinking. He was on his fourth ale when Nathan called.
"Buck, can you come down to sick bay? JD's awake."
"Be right down," he said. "You going to be OK?"
"Yeah, go on," Chris said.
After Buck left, Chrise ordered a bottle of real whiskey from Inez. Not that synthahol that gave you a buzz but didn't make you drunk. He took the bottle and headed for his cabin. When the doors closed behind him Inez let Josiah know what was going on.
Buck walked into sick bay to find JD standing by Vin's cryochamber. Nathan looked up when Buck walked in and motioned him over.
"I told him what's going on," Nathan said. "He's blaming himself for everything."
"What for?" Buck asked.
"Vin pushed JD out of the line of fire," Nathan explained. "And was hit."
"Damn," Buck cursed. "I'll talk to him."
Buck walked over to JD. He could see JD was running he hand back and forth over the opening starring down at Vin. He placed his arm around the kid and looked down also.
"It's not your fault JD." Buck said.
"Yes it is," JD said running his finger over the glass. "He got hit protecting me."
"I know it wasn't your fault," Buck insisted.
"How do you know Buck!" JD shouted. "You weren't even there!"
JD was so angry he punched Buck on the jaw. Buck wasn't prepared for the first punch but he grabbed the kid in a headlock to prevent him from landing another one. JD cursed and grumbled something he couldn't understand.
"Calm down JD," Buck said. "I can't understand you."
"Why didn't you wake me!!!!" JD yelled then stopped struggling and began to cry. "You didn't give me a chance to say good-bye."
Buck turned the kid so he could look him in the eyes. He could see he fear and anger in JD's large hazel eyes.
"Listen to me, JD," Buck said. "Vin ain't going to die. I...."
"Don't say it, Buck," JD said as tears fell from his eyes. "This time you might not be able to keep your word."
Buck knew he was right and pulled the kid into an embrace. The first officer held him as he cried.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah walked towards the captain's cabin. He had decided to let Chris get drunk. It wouldn't help what he was feeling but it also couldn't hurt. He arrived at the door and pressed the call button.
"Go away," came the muffled reply.
"It's Josiah, Chris, Let me in."
Josiah heard the door lock disengage and he walked in. Chris was sprawled on the couch with the bottle in his hand. He could see it was almost empty. Josiah walked over and took a seat.
"Mind if I have some of that?" he asked.
Chris handed him the bottle and he took a swig.
"Woo! that's good stuff," he said. "What's bothering you Chris?"
"Nothing," he said and took a drink.
"I know you're afraid for Vin. You can't deny it."
"Alright I can't," Chris shouted. "You happy!"
"Yup," Josiah smiled. "You finally admit you care."
"Never wanted to again," Chris said. "Not after Sarah and Adam were killed. "
"But Vin didn't leave you much of a choice did he?" Josiah asked.
"Why him, Josiah?" Chris asked confused. "Why this cocky pilot that thinks he's human but is really a Vulcan?"
"Maybe because you feel a connection to him," Josiah stated. "We all know the two of you don't have to say a damned thing to hold a conversation."
Chris laughed and took another drink then handed the bottle to Josiah.
"I guess if I'm admitting tocaring about Vin, I have to admit to care for all of you," Chris sighed leaning back on the couch.
"Even Ezra?" Josiah asked with a smile.
"Even Ezra," Chris laughed. "But you want to know something Josiah."
"It scares the shit out of me," Chris admitted. "I didn't want to care again just for this reason."
"That you could lose that person again," Josiah said. "Look Chris we all know that Vin is special to you. None of us minds that you show him more attention then the rest of us."
"Not even JD?" Chris asked looking at Josiah.
"Maybe JD a little," Josiah said. "But he has Buck to watch over him."
"So I get to play guardian to Vin," Chris said.
"Well, with his parents dead you're all he has," Josiah said. "Don't sell him short. He's a fighter. You'll see. He'll be fine."
"Your gods tell you that?" Chris asked with a smirk.
"Nah, my heart tells me this," Josiah said. "Why don't you listen to your own."
Josiah took one more sip, then handed the bottle back to Chris. He got up and headed for the door and walked out. Deep down Chris knew Vin would be alright, he could feel it. He wanted to believe but he wasn't sure if he could. Chris fell asleep on the couch holding the empty bottle.
Sisko was going over the morning reports with Kira when Dax called from her station.
"Benjamin, the Maverick requests permission to dock," she said. "I was going to send them to docking ring six. It's closest to the infirmary."
"That's fine," he agreed, "Inform Dr. Bashir they've arrived."
"Already did," she smiled.
"Well, old man, shall we go meet the legendary seven?" Sisko asked.
"I thought you'd never ask."
"Major Kira you have command," he ordered.
"Aye Captain," she answered.
Sisko and Dax made their way to the docking ring. When they arrived they saw Dr. Bashir and Dr. Amara waiting by the hatch. The hatch opened and they saw six men surrounding an antigrav sled. On the sled was the cryochamber containing Lieutenant Tanner. The men's faces were grim as they pulled the sled into the corridor. Commander Wilmington and Counselor Sanchez were in the lead. Dr. Bashir walked up to them and stopped when he heard a growl. They all looked down to see a large cat standing next to the Commander. Julian stood his ground and looked at the first officer.
"We'll take the Lieutenant from here," he said.
"That's alright," Buck said. "We've got him. You just show us the way"
"Of course," he said. "This way."
Julian led them down to the infirmary. The six officers from the Maverick only relinquished the seventh when they were finally in the sick bay. Sisko could see they were all worried. Lieutenant Jackson turned back to them before he followed Julian and Amara. JD grabbed Lila so she couldn't follow Vin.
"This is going to take a few hours," Nathan said. "I'll let you know something as soon as I can."
"We know Nathan," Chris said.
Sisko watched the officers as the doors closed. The Captain stood staring at the door. The young Ensign remained next to the cat petting it. Not looking up at anyone. The others looked lost.
"Captain Larabee," Sisko said.
"Yes," Chris said looking towards him.
"Can I show you to a place you can wait?" Sisko asked.
"I'm sorry Captain," Chris said holding out his hand. "Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise," Sisko said shaking his hand. "I'd like to introduce my science officer, Lieutenant Jadzia Dax."
Chris introduced his officers but Sisko could see they weren't up to small talk. Sisko sowed them to a waiting area then left them to return to the control center. Dax stayed behind in case they had any questions. Sisko wasn't surprised by how close the seven officers were. It happened on front line ships. He finished the reports with Major Kira and realized they had been at it for over four hours. He decided to go down to the infirmary and see how everything was going. On his way down he was met by Captain S'kar.
"Ah Captain Sisko," S'kar said. "Has there been any word?"
"Nothing yet," he said. "I was just heading there to see what was going on."
"I will accompany you," S'kar said. "I wish to speak with Captain Larabee about something."
They reached the infirmary to find the five officers scattered around the waiting area. Dax had found chairs for everyone but only three were occupied. Lieutenant Standish sat in one shuffling a deck of cards. Josiah was in another dozing. Ensign Dunne was lying on the floor next to the cat with his feet up on the wall. Chris and Buck were both pacing. Jadzia was in one of the chairs watching.
"How's everything going?" Sisko asked.
"No word yet," she answered.
"Captain Larabee," S'kar said. "I am Captain S'kar of the Science Vessel P'lor."
"I want to thank your crew for helping Vin," Chris replied.
"It was the logical thing to do," he said. "I would like to make a request."
"Alright," Chris said warily.
"I wish to meet the Lieutenant."
"That's up to Vin," Chris stated.
"I'm sure he will wish to meet with me," S'kar said. "I'm sure he would welcome Vulcan company after spending so much time with humans."
"And what's wrong with our company?" Buck demanded getting angry. Lila began to growl at the tone of Buck's voice.
"Buck!" Chris reprimanded. "Like I said, it's up to Vin."
"Of course," S'kar said. "Good day."
"Is there a problem?" Sisko inquired.
"Vin's not comfortable around other Vulcans," Chris answered.
"I see," Sisko said.
"He's never had contact with other Vulcans?" Dax asked.
"Not much," Chris replied but wouldn't elaborate.
"Mr. Tanner may as well be human," Ezra supplied. "His behavior is rather unique, and we prefer him that way."
"Yeah, Vin acts like a big kid," JD laughed.
"Look who's talking," Buck said as he ruffled JD's hair as he sat down.
"Quit it!" JD said swatting Buck.
Buck pushed back and they ended up in a wrestling match on the floor. Sisko smiled as he watched Chris ignore the antics of his officers. Buck looked like he would win until Lila joined in on JD's side. Soon the first officer was crying "Uncle." Dax's brows went up as Ezra held out his hand and Josiah placed a piece of gold pressed latnum into his hand. Buck hauled JD to his feet as Nathan walked through the door. Their faces fell when they saw the look on his face. When Nathan smiled they all relaxed.
"He's fine," Nathan announced.
"Woohoo!!!!" Buck yelled lifting JD off his feet.
"Can we see him?" Chris asked.
"For a few minutes," Nathan agreed.
He led them into the infirmary and over to a small cubicle. Vin was unconscious on the bed in the center of the room. Lila bounded in and jumped on the bed and settled between Vin's legs.
"Is that a good idea?" Bashir asked.
"She seems to think so," Josiah smiled.
"It's not logical," Amara said. "What can the feline offer medically?"
"Absolutely nothing," Buck answered. "But I'd like to see you move her."
Buck laughed when the Vulcan doctor wisely left Lila where she was. Chris walked to Vin's side and lifted the blankets. Where the black had been was Vin's pale flesh was covered with a transparent bandage. They all released the breath they were holding and smiled at each other.
"How long will he be unconscious?" Josiah asked.
"Knowing Vin, not long enough," Nathan predicted.
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you but I'm starving," JD announced.
"You're always hungry, kid," Buck said shaking his shoulders.
Chris thanked Julian and Amara before they walked out. Julian assured them he would call if Vin woke up. Dax agreed to show them around the habitation ring and the different restaurants. Sisko excused himself saying his son Jake was probably holding dinner for him. Amara also left to return to her ship. Julian went over to the medical console to study what they had done. He was running various experiments for a few hours when he heard a noise coming from the Vulcan. When he went to check on him he found Vin thrashing in his sleep. Julian didn't want Vin to disturb the bandages so decided to secure him to the bed. He pressed a button on the side and cuffs came up and secured Vin's wrists and feet to the bed. Lila had jumped down when Vin had started moving. As soon as he was secured Vin's eyes opened.
"Easy Lieutenant," Julian said. "You're ok."
Vin tried to move his arms and panicked. He pulled hard on the restraints and looked around in confusion. When he realized he couldn't get out he screamed and pulled harder.
"I have to get out!!!" Vin yelled.
Julian tried reasoning with him but Vin was too disoriented and upset. Vin's behavior surprised Julian since Vulcans didn't get aggressive or upset. Vin started cursing and continued to struggle. Julian knew that if he didn't do something the Vulcan would hurt himself trying to get out.
"Infirmary to Captain Larabee," Julian called.
"This is Larabee."
"Come to the infirmary immediately."
"We're on our way."
They arrived to hear Vin screaming to let him out. Captain Sisko also came down to Julian's summons. When Chris saw that Vin was restrained he was furious.
"Release him!" Chris commanded. "Now!"
As soon as Julian hit the release Vin rolled off the bed and moved to the corner of the room. When he reached the wall he slid down it to sit on the floor with his knees pulled tight to his chest. Vin wrapped his arms around his legs and put his head down on his arms. Lila paced back and forth in front of him on guard.
"I don't understand what happened," Julian said.
"My fault," Nathan said. "Vin doesn't like to be restrained."
Chris walked slowly towards Vin. Lila growled at him but let him pass when he glared at her. The Captain crouched down on his heels in front of Vin.
"Hey, cowboy," Chris said softly.
"I'm sorry, Chris," came the muffled reply.
"For what?" Chris asked.
"The last thing I remember was being put into the cryochamber," Vin said raising his head. "When I woke up and couldn't move I panicked."
"That explains it," Chris smiled. "But you're OK now."
"It worked?" Vin asked looking down at his side. The blackened area was gone and Vin went to touch the new skin.
"Don't touch it!" Nathan called. "Give it a few days."
"Come on let's get you back in the bed," Chris said grabbing his arm.
Chris pulled Vin to his feet and he began to sway. He took a tighter hold on Vin and led him back to the bed. Once he was settled, the others moved next to the bed. Vin smiled when he saw JD. Julian glanced at Sisko and whispered.
"They're right, he acts nothing like a Vulcan," Julian observed.
"Are you alright JD?" Vin asked in concern.
"I'm fine," JD said.
"It was my fault," they said in unison.
"No it wasn't" said JD.
"Yes it was," Vin disagreed.
"I believe this course of discussion will lead nowhere," Ezra stated in his rich southern drawl.
"Yeah, Elf, it wasn't anybody's fault," Buck said and turned to JD. "Got that Kid?"
"Yes Dad," JD answered and rolled his eyes.
Chris smiled at the familiar banter between his officers. He looked up to see Captain Sisko standing with Dr. Bashir.
"Vin, I'd like you to meet Dr. Bashir and Captain Sisko," Chris said.
Sisko watched a subtle change in the Vulcan. He could see the Lieutenant wasn't comfortable around new people and made sure his hair was covering his ears before he looked up. He also became quieter trying not to draw attention to himself.
"Howdy," Vin said in greeting.
"I'm glad to see you're feeling better," Sisko said.
"Thank you sir," Vin said.
"I must apologize," Julian said. "You were dreaming and I was afraid you would pull off the bandages."
"No harm done," Vin replied. "At least I don't think so."
"That's why I want to check you out," Nathan said. Then you're going back to sleep or whatever it is you do."
"I am tired," Vin admitted reluctantly.
"I would wager you would be," Ezra commented.
"You'd wager on anything," JD said.
"Ah but that is where you are wrong Ensign," Ezra said.
"Huh?" JD asked.
"He only bets on sure things," Josiah added.
"You wound me, sir," Ezra said.
Nathan shooed them out the door so he could check Vin. Once outside Sisko turned to Buck.
"Elf?" he asked.
"Yup," Buck laughed. "Most Vulcan's look sinister with their dark hair and pointed ears. But Vin with his light hair and blue eyes looks more like an elf."
"That's OK, Vin has a nickname for Buck also," JD said. "Right Stud?"
Buck lunged for JD but missed. He tried again to grab the young Ensign but he hid behind Josiah.
"Captain, could you use a new first officer?" Chris asked. "And maybe an Ensign?"
"I don't think so," Sisko laughed. "I should be getting back to my cabin."
"Thank you for everything Captain," Chris said. "We'll see you in the morning."
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