Vin could feel someone poking and prodding him but he resisted waking up completely. The last time it had turned out badly so he was determined to stay asleep.

A voice sounded beside him but this one was feminine and sounded kind, even though he couldn't understand what she was saying. He felt a hand gently pat the side of his face and involuntarily, his eyelids fluttered. As his eyes settled open, he took a slow, deep breath and let it out. He noticed he was lying down and circled his eyes around the room.

"Sir, can you hear me? Do you know where you are?" a nurse asked.

Vin stared at the woman, trying to make his brain sort out what she had said but could make no sense of it. He couldn't even make sense of his own thoughts. He wrinkled his brow as he felt his heart starting to race and took a deep breath trying to calm it.

"Can you tell me your name?" she asked.

After getting no reply, the nurse turned away for a moment and when she turned back, Vin could see a man step up to the other side of his bed.

"Sir, you're at Amarillo Medical Center. Do you remember what happened to you?"

Vin narrowed his eyes at the man, obviously not understanding what was said.

"Habla espanol?" the doctor asked, but got the same blank stare in response. He kept his eyes on Vin as he spoke to the nurse. "Make a noise over there, see if he hears it."

She nodded silently and raised her hand to the side of Vin's head where she snapped her fingers sharply several times. Vin turned his head to the sound, his eyes looking for its source.

"He's not deaf. Where was he found?"

"Sheriffs found him alongside highway 767 near Channing. No ID on him. They're checking their missing persons files to see if they can match him up."

"Probably the victim of something rather than an indigent. He looks in too good a shape to be homeless." He leaned forward and inspected a small cut on Vin's forehead. "He seems alert enough but better run a CAT scan, make sure we aren't missing something. We'll need x-rays of both hands and arms up to the elbows. Probably ought to run a toxicology report, too. See if we can get a few translators in here, find out if speaks some other language." He stepped away from the bed, picking up the patient's chart and writing some notes on it as he walked.

"Yes, doctor," the nurse replied. She smiled kindly down at Vin who weakly twitched the corners of his mouth up. "Don't worry, sir. We'll take good care of you." She patted his upper arm gently a few times then moved off to carry out the doctor's instructions.

After the nurse had gotten Vin prepped and sent on to other departments for his tests, she stepped up beside the doctor who was standing at the nurses' station, finishing his paperwork.

"What do you think about that one?" she asked him.

"I don't know. Doesn't look like there's a head injury but we'll wait for the CAT scan."

"What about all those scrapes and cuts on his arms and legs?"

He faced her and said with a disgusted sigh, "It looks to me like someone threw him out of a moving car." He closed and re-filed the chart he had been updating and moved away to continue his rounds.

"Thrown out of a car," she muttered in disbelief. "Who would do such a thing?"

******* ******* *******

Russell Chassen stood in front of a full length mirror and adjusted his tie. His attire was important to him. He felt it reflected his position in life. Right now, he felt very good about his position. That pesky trial brought on by those onerous ATF agents would soon be a thing of the past and he could go about his business as usual. And business had been good of late. He was looking forward to resuming the profitable exchange of his guns for others' money. He did so love money.

******* ******* *******

Vin woke up later that day in a hospital room. He remembered having the x-rays done and the CAT scan. There were all familiar procedures so they hadn't unnerved him. What bothered him was that he couldn't understand anybody. Not what they said, not what they wrote. His own mind refused to function to any form of language. He had thoughts but no words to describe those thoughts, no words to relay to others what was wrong or who he was.

Once they had run their tests, he was returned to emergency where the wounds on his hands, arms and legs were treated. They covered a large area and there was so much gravel and other road debris embedded in his skin that they thought it best to sedate him while they cleaned the wounds and bandaged them. The worst of the injuries were on his hands and forearms. His heavy jeans had protected his legs to some degree and the scrapes there were much less severe.

The x-rays had shown he had four broken bones in his left hand and wrist and three in his right. Because of the skin lacerations, they couldn't put a cast on the breaks so they put both his hands in splints held in place by elastic bandages, which could be removed when the other wounds needed to be cleaned and redressed.

Vin looked around the room he was in. Half of the room was separated by a curtain. There was a door which stood open and he could see the hallway through it. Once in a while, someone walked by, but no one came in.

Suddenly, Vin felt eyes upon him and turned back towards the curtain. He saw a young man peering around the edge of the cloth, watching him. When he saw Vin look at him, he smiled and stepped awkwardly around the drape.

"Hi. I was wondering if you were going to wake up. They brought you dinner a while ago," he said, pointing to a tray set on a table beside the bed.

Vin glanced in the direction the man was pointing but didn't know what he was supposed to be seeing. He turned back to the young man.

"My name's Andy," he said, thrusting his hand forward in greeting. Vin began to raise his hand to shake when he saw the splint on his arm. The movement made him immediately aware of why the splint was there and he gritted his teeth as he squeezed his eyes shut and gently lowered his arm back down to the bed.

"Oh. Oh. Hey mister. I'm sorry." Andy looked panicked as Vin was trying to control his pain. Andy then began slapping himself on the forehead. "Stupid! I'm so stupid!" he repeated as he continued to hit his head with his hand.

By taking deep breaths, the pain in Vin's arm finally subsided and he opened his eyes, only to open them wide as he watched Andy hit himself. Vin was about to get his attention by touching his arm but realized he shouldn't move his hands so he shifted his leg out till his thigh bumped the upset young man. Andy jumped at he contact, then looked at Vin. He saw concern in his eyes.

"You okay now, mister?" Andy asked calmly as if he had never been hitting himself. Vin continued to stare at him but his expression relaxed. "So, what's your name?" Andy stood patiently by waiting for an answer that was not going to come. Eventually, he shrugged and limped around the end of the bed. "Not a talker, huh?" He approached the other side of the bed and pulled the cover off of Vin's dinner tray. "You gonna eat?"

Vin raised up slightly in the bed to see the contents of the tray. Food. He didn't feel the least bit hungry. He dropped back down and looked over at Andy.

"You don't want it? It's actually not too bad tonight." Andy pushed the table towards the bed and raised his eyebrows questioningly.

Vin wrinkled his nose and shook his head. Andy pointed to the tray and then to himself. Vin half smiled to himself as he realized he was communicating with this young man. He nodded and Andy dug into the food.

Andy wasn't halfway through with the food on Vin's tray when a nurse entered the room. She stopped and put her hands on her hips in mock anger as she addressed Andy.

"What are you doing, Andy? That is supposed to be John's dinner." She stepped up beside the young man.

"He said he didn't want it." Andy turned to Vin. "Tell her you told me it was okay," he whined.

"He told you? He said it out loud?" The nurse seemed unconvinced.

"Well, no... he didn't say it but when I asked if I could have it, he nodded."

Vin stayed still in the bed watching the two with wide eyes.

"You're not hungry, John?" the nurse asked as she came to stand beside the head of the bed. Vin's eyes met hers. "Does your stomach hurt?" She gently patted the side of his face. Vin's expression never changed. He didn't know what she was saying.

"That his name? John?" Andy asked as he finished off the dessert portion of the meal.

"We don't know his real name. When we don't know someone's name, we give them the name 'John Doe' until we can find out their real one."

Andy put his hand over his mouth as he tried to hide his snicker. "Even girls?" he asked after a moment.

"Well, no. Girls we call 'Jane Doe'."

The nurse turned her attention back to Vin. "I guess it won't hurt for you to skip a meal. Just don't do it too often or they feed you by sticking a tube down your throat." She glanced down to his arms and gently brushed her hand down one. "Are your wrists hurting?" she asked, though she was trying get her answer by reading his eyes.

"They were hurting him a little while ago. He was practically crying, they were hurting so bad," Andy offered.

She had learned to take the things Andy said with a grain of salt but she also knew there was usually a little truth in them.

"I'll get you something to take the pain away and help you sleep, okay?" she asked Vin. His expression told her nothing except that he didn't understand.

She left the room and returned a few minutes later with a small cup containing two pills. She poured Vin a glass of water and indicated what he was supposed to do. He didn't have to know what she was saying to know what she meant he had been in the hospital too many times not to know this drill. He allowed her to drop the pills on his tongue and swallowed them with a mouthful of water. When she was satisfied that he had indeed swallowed the medication, she turned and, after a smile at Andy, she left.

Andy settled himself on the foot of Vin's bed and began telling Vin the story of how he broke his leg and came to be a patient here at the hospital. Vin didn't understand a single word and halfway through Andy's tale, he fell asleep not that Andy noticed as he kept on talking. As he came to the end of his story, he finally looked over at Vin and saw that he was asleep. He shrugged his shoulders in a brief expression of irritation before he slid off the bed, turned off the light over Vin's head and quietly went to his own bed.

******* ******* *******

Vin rolled over and stretched in his bed, blinking his eyes open. It took him a moment of looking around the room to remember where he was. This was the second morning he had awakened in this room and he was beginning to wonder if there would ever be a way to get home.

As an image of home flashed through his mind, so did images of his friends. He wanted to get back to them. He knew they were trying to find him, it's what he would do for them, but even he didn't know where he was or how long he'd been gone.

His thoughts were distracted by the entrance of one of the nursing staff carrying in breakfast trays for him and Andy. She placed Vin's tray first and then took Andy his. Vin watched as she completed her task and left silently, then looked over at the covered tray sitting on his table. He hadn't been terribly hungry since he had been here so it seemed little worth the effort to even find out what had been served.

Vin could hear Andy digging in to his morning meal but he hadn't yet spoken. That seemed to be what the young man enjoyed doing most, even though he knew Vin didn't understand him.

A nurse walked in a few minutes later. Vin recognized her as the one who fed him the previous morning and it seemed she was back to repeat the punishment. She smiled kindly and helped Vin shift his position and the position of the bed, then pushed the table in front of him. After taking the cover off of the food and unwrapping the silverware, she eased Vin's hand up onto the table.

"Let's see if you can hold this today," she said as she slid the spoon in between Vin's thumb and forefinger. His hand shook slightly but he was able to apply enough pressure with his thumb to hold the utensil in place. The nurse slid his plate towards him a bit and nodded her head. He looked down and gently guided the spoon into the bowl of oatmeal in front of him. After a little trial and error, he found he could manage to feed himself if he didn't try to hold too much in the spoon at one time.

The nurse smiled and moved around to the other side of the bed where she grabbed the curtain hanging between the two beds and slid it open.

"Morning, Andy. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, Karen," he replied through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.

"Do you think you could do me a favor?"

Andy lowered his fork and smiled widely at her, honored that she would ask him for something... anything. "Sure."

"We're a little understaffed this morning. Do you think you could help John here if he needs it so I can go check on some other patients?"

Andy glanced to the bed beside his. The curtain hadn't been pulled back far enough that he could see his roommate's face but he was able to see his hand move slowly from the table and back. "Don't worry about a thing. I'll take care of him," Andy beamed.

The nurse smiled at him, thanked him and left to carry on her duties.

After only half a dozen bites of his meal, Vin's hand began to throb from use. He knew he was due for some pain killers -- it was last night when he'd gotten his last dose -- and he wondered if they had forgotten. Maybe they were going to make him ask for them now, somehow. He put the spoon down and leaned his head back against the bed. He closed his eyes as he tried to will the pain in his wrist and hand away but he only succeeded in focusing on it more, and the fact that his left hand and wrist hurt as much as his right. He clenched his jaw tight as he tried to think of anything else.

Vin didn't know how long he had laid there but he opened his eyes and turned his head when he felt a gently prodding on his shoulder. Andy was standing beside his bed.

"Do you need help?" he asked, taking his assignment seriously. Vin just stared at him so Andy picked up the spoon, dug a hefty amount out of the bowl and held the spoon for Vin to take. Vin closed his eyes and turned his head away. The constant pain had started to make him feel nauseous so the last thing he wanted was more food.

Andy sighed frustratedly and poked Vin's shoulder again. When Vin cracked his eyes and turned back towards Andy, he held the spoon out for him again. Vin pulled away and refused to open his mouth.

"C'mon, John. You gotta eat. And Karen told me I should help you. She'll be mad at me if I don't."

"Who'll be mad at you?" asked another nurse, Tammy, who had just entered the room. Andy looked up at her.

"Karen. She said you were shorthanded and I should help John eat but he won't." Andy dropped the spoon in the bowl and put his hands on his hips. "I just want to help."

"I know you do, Andy, but maybe John doesn't like oatmeal, or maybe he's had enough." She glanced into the bowl and saw that not much was gone so she figured that he was probably still hungry. "I need to change his bandages. Why don't I do that and have them bring something else for him to eat and you can try feeding him that? Okay?"

Andy seemed agitated but he agreed.

Tammy turned to Vin and held out the familiar little cup. Vin nearly bolted upright in bed to get them. Tammy smiled understandingly.

"I think this may be the problem, Andy. He probably hurts too much to eat. Would you open that orange juice for him?" Andy complied as she got the pills into Vin's mouth. Andy held the juice container for Vin and he drank most of it without taking a breath.

Tammy started cleaning and re-bandaging the scrapes on Vin's knees and hips while the pain pills took affect. She knew the scrapes on his hands and arms were worse than the ones on his legs and with the added pain of having to move the body parts with broken bones associated, it would only hurt him more.

By the time she finished with the legs, the pain in Vin's hands had subsided quite a bit. She unwound the elastic bandage and pulled the splint off his right hand, then unwound the gauze bandages covering the scrapes and cuts he'd gotten falling against the pavement.

"Ewwww, they look bad," Andy mumbled over Tammy's shoulder. She had almost forgotten he was there.

"These are the worst of them. His other scrapes should be pretty well healed in a week. His hands apparently took the worst of the fall, but most of them aren't too bad, really. They shouldn't leave too much scarring, but they are probably pretty painful for him, especially with the broken bones he has too."

Andy nodded thoughtfully, agreeing with her observation.

Tammy finished with both hands and had replaced the splints on his arms. After one last inspection, she was satisfied and gathered up her supplies. She looked at Vin a moment and noticed that he appeared to have fallen back asleep.

"Andy," she whispered. "Why don't we let him sleep and you can help him eat lunch, okay?"

Andy seemed disappointed but agreed and, as Tammy left the room, he stepped back to his bed and grabbed a book off his night stand to read.