by Deirdre

ATF Universe

Part 5

Buck rubbed his eyes, trying to stem the pain from the pounding headache. He glanced at the clock on the wall and was surprised to see it was nearly five p.m. Seemed like three days ago that Vin's frantic call came in, instead of just that morning. He stood up and stretched, rubbing the small of his back and unleashing a low growl.

J.D. Dunne was dreaming. He was in a boxing arena and there were life size scorpion insects in each corner of the ring. J.D was trying to fight his way past the horrific beasts, but felt their stingers bit into his tender flesh over and over. He saw Vin lying on the floor, not moving, his blue eyes were unfocused and fixed. He was too late. Vin was dead. J.D. thrashed silently in the bed, and his eyes flew open. His face was bathed in sweat and his dark hair hung in his eyes. Running a shaking hand over his face, he brushed the hair back and looked around the strange room. Every breath was painful, there wasn't an inch left on him not screaming. He spotted a familiar western style jacket draped over his feet. Glancing left, he saw the tall man's back, as he looked out the window. He was about to call out, when the vision returned. He was here, busted up a little, but safe. Vin was dead. "Oh God, Buck...he's dead....he's dead...Vin's dead...I'm so stupid...oldest trick..." J.D. gasped, "They laid him out like bait and I jumped...God..."

"J.D?" Buck wheeled and his long strides covered the short expanse of floor in seconds, "Easy, Kid, calm down." Buck soothed, encouraging the boy to drink the glass of water he held, "There now, you got to settle down. You got a concussion and some bruised ribs, not to mention a shitload of other bruises. You're gonna be fine."

"But he's dead, Buck...I saw...they did something bad to him...he was so sick and they tortured him. Buck, they're were rats crawling on him...I couldn't help him...I tried...Vin's dead...Oh God..."

"J.D....Settle down!" Buck's loud voice and firm arms on his shoulders, stopped the boy's rambling, "Vin's fine, he's down the hall. He managed to call us this morning. He was in poor shape when we found him, but the doctor's think he'll be fine. He ain't all together awake yet and when he is, he's real sick. Hasn't been able to tell us a whole lot about what happened."

Buck watched as the boy sank back into the pillows and closed his eyes. Buck felt his heart grip in a vise as he watched the single tear roll down the youth's cheek. He brushed it away and J.D. opened his eyes, giving his best friend a wary look.

"You ain't lying to me, are you Buck? Vin's really okay? If I hadn't been so stupid...Adams and those animals would have never caught us."Buck's head flew up and his eyes nearly burned a hole through J.D. sheets. Adams...that cretin had spent his last day breathing free air. Buck would have a go at him, then let Chris finish him off. Like to leave him tied up in that rat-infested dump. "Buck?....Buck?" J.D. saw the angry look on Buck's face and mistook the rage, "I knew it...he is dead...I'm sorry, Vin...God, I'm sorry..."

"What?" Buck blinked, spotting J.D.'s welled up eyes, "A fine pair the two of you make, each carrying a cross up the hill to Calvary."

"Huh?" J.D. hiccuped, cocking his head in confusion.

"All he done, the little bit he was coherent, was blame himself...thought it was his fault...thought you were dead," Buck smiled, sitting on the edge of the bed and tapped J.D.'s leg lightly, "Sure is good to see you, Kid."

"You ain't kidding...I was having an awful nightmare...woke up and saw the stupid jacket...." J.D. sighed, "then I knew I was safe." J.D.'s voice trailed off and his eyes slid shut.

Buck brushed the hair off his forehead and noticed how pale Dunne was, beneath the multiple bruises. Buck had seen the blue and purple blotches, when the orderly returned him from the X-ray department. He looked at the stitches over J.D.'s eye and the swollen, bruised face and the taped ribs. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the vision of Vin, lying sick and helpless, with a rat on his throat. No punishment would ever take that pain away, but Scott Adams would be sorry he ever messed with the Seven. J.D.'s eyes struggled to open and he started to sit up, the painful ribs cut his trip short.

"What do think you doing?" Buck boomed, squeezing the shoulder of the boy gasping in pain.

"...need to see him. You better not be lying, Buck."

"First of all, you're in no condition to be travelling. Second, Vin won't be waking up for sometime yet and Third, I'm older and bigger and you're staying put."

"I really fell for it Buck. Oldest trick in the book," he panted, still wincing.

"J.D., ain't you got any sense? You don't gonna talk all the time, especially when you got a couple cracked ribs. You get some sleep, we'll talk later."

"Actually, I'm kinda hungry." J.D. eyed the older man, "How about getting us a pizza?"

"Do I look like I just fell off the turnip truck?" Buck laughed, reading the boy's mind, "You ain't getting rid of me so as you can go fall flat on your face. Vin is fine, you can see him later."

"Dammit, Buck!" J.D. scowled, angry that his roommate could read him so easily, "I really am hungry. Think you can find my dinner tray?"

Before Buck could reply, the door opened and a tall, well built black policeman entered, wincing at the sight of J.D. He made his way over to the bed and nodded to Buck.

"How you feeling, Son?"

"Uh...a little chest hurts some..." J.D. squinted and then relaxed, "I remember you...from last night?" J.D. guessed incorrectly.

"I'm surprised you can remember anything. Didn't make a bit sense when I found you."

"I'm Buck Wilmington, J.D.'s friend," Buck extended his hand, "Thank you, for finding him. Maybe you can fill me in?"

"Pleasure, Mr. Wilmington," The handsome policeman gripped the hand tight, "I'm Marcus Taylor, I was on patrol this morning and encountered this young man being accosted. I apprehended the two men who were assaulting him."

"Where was this? When?" Buck inquired.

"Oh not far from Garvey Park," he said of the area where Vin was found, "About six a.m. or so, I came across two men, in masks, struggling with Mr. Dunne, here. I cuffed them and called for an ambulance. He was really out of it, he wanted to tell me something, but passed out before he could say anything. I left word for the hospital to call me, when he could give a full statement."

"So you got Adams in lockup then?" Wilmington asked, with a bittersweet tongue.

"Adams? No." The lawman frowned, "Two Caucasians, one named Grier and the other Stolski. We got a APB out on Adams."

"Grier's on the team with Adams," Dunne supplied, "But I don't know the other guy. He was the dumb one."

"Can you remember what happened J.D.?" Buck eyed him with concern.

"Most of it, I guess..."

"You up to giving a statement?"

"Yeah, Buck..."

"Can you give me a minute Officer," Buck asked, "I'd like the rest of the team to hear what happened. We've had ourselves quite a day."

"Team?" The policeman asked.

"ATF," Buck replied, "Most of them are around somewhere. Larabee's our team leader, he's down the hall with Vin Tanner."

"The other victim? I heard what they did to him. Stolski couldn't spill his guts fast enough," Taylor glanced over at Buck, "I must say I admire your restraint, all things considered."Buck exchanged a wry smile with the other man, knowing he too, knew the feeling of revenge that coursed through his veins. Most cops understood...about a fallen partner. Buck punched the numbers on his cell phone and got Ezra.

"ATF, Standish."

"It's me, Ezra," Buck chirped, "Get the guys up to J.D.'s room. I'll get Chris. I got some news."

"My pleasure, Mr. Wilmington," Standish signed off.

"He sets one toe off that bed, Officer," Buck threatened, "You got my permission to arrest him."

"Aw, Buck," J.D. complained, ducking as Buck ruffled his hair, "Cut it out."

"Mind if I walk down with you," Taylor asked, "I'm sure Mr. Dunne will comply, won't you."the tall policeman issued sternly.

"Yes Sir..." J.D. stammered, "I'll stay right here."

The door opened and Ezra and Nathan came in, both grinning when they saw J.D. Buck make the introductions and explained they'd be right back. He turned at the foot of the bed and gave Ezra a job.

"Make sure he stays put, even if you gotta use a rope."

"Buck!" J.D. winced, as the pain coursed through him.

Chris waited alone with his pale best friend. He sat next to the bed, resting his pounding head on his drawn up arms, next to the silent man's chest. Vin's head was turned and Chris could feel his soft breath tiptoe across his cheek. He was a little frightened of the hate that filled him. He had an idea of who was behind the torture session and clenched his fist, struggling to control his rage. He wanted the satisfaction of feeling his fists pound their flesh. Something a bullet couldn't accomplish. Vin moaned as yet another nightmare try to surface. Chris spoke low, letting the familiar sound of his voice, calm the younger man. Vin quieted, and Chris rose, walking to the window.

Vin stared silently for several minutes at the profile of his best friend. If you took the stains out of the dark gray dress shirt and tie and dark trousers, the well-built blonde could be posing for an ad in G.Q. or one of them fancy magazines Ezra read. The grim line of his mouth, clenched chin and steely eyes were cover material. He glanced around the quiet room, darkened to prevent the pain slamming in his head from getting worse. He wasn't quite sure what happened, but moving his arms and legs, was glad to find out nothing was broken. He felt the bandage on his throbbing head and his face furrowed in confusion. What the hell happened? His full bladder greeted him and he sat up, crying out in pain.

"I don't think so..." The determined voice matched the strong hands that forced him back.

"I gotta take a piss," Vin tried again to rise, but grabbed at Larabee as the whole room began to move, "Uh...Oh...Chris...Chris..."

"I know, Vin," Chris held his back forward over a basin, "Go on..."

Chris felt the tension in the slight frame as the infirmed man lost the little bit of water he'd consumed during the afternoon. Finally the motion stopped and Chris hand steadied the glass of water, allowing Vin to rinse. He eased him back onto the pillows, noticing that a little color as returning to the ghostlike pallor. He took a second glass, with a straw and let Vin drink.

"Catheter..." the blonde said, sitting on the edge of the bed, answering Vin's lingering question.

"Aw, hell...I don't..."

"You do and it stays..."

Vin settled back, his face reflecting the feisty side, fighting to emerge. It was a good sign and Chris relaxed a bit, as he studied him.

"How you feeling, Cowboy?"

"Like stir-fried shit..."

"Crude, but effective," Chris grinned.

"What happened, Chris?" Vin asked, the muddled blue-eyes went right through the older man.

Chris's face became dark and he ran a hand threw his fair hair. Vin watched the storm settle on Larabee's face...the eye of the hurricane, in the glint in his eyes. He saw the older man get up, fists clenched and expelled a painful breath. Vin's mind raced...that look could usually meant...

He lay back on the pillows and closed his eyes, mind reeling. He hand came across the small bandage on this throat.

"One of guys get it?" his voice wavered with fear, as Chris turned back, shaking his head.

"Leave it be," he ordered, pulling Vin's hand away from one of the small bandage.

"Your friend is right," a middle aged doctor said, stepping up the rail, "I'm Doctor Upshaw, Mr. Tanner, and with some rest and medication, you'll be fine. Some noxious fumes you inhaled only added to the concussion you suffered, and are causing the severe headache and vomiting. That should subside over the next few days. The I.V. is a precaution, in case the nasty scratch on your neck leads to Streptobacill..." he paused seeing Vin's scrunch his face, "Uh... Rat Bite Fever, however..."

"RAT BITES..." Vin hollered, wincing in pain, "What the hell's going on, Chris?"

"Mr. Tanner, please..." the doctor warned, a hand to Vin's heaving chest, "Calm's just a precaution. You're not exhibiting any symptoms yet...your slight fever is an excellent sign. RBF victim's usually run an extremely high fever, but sometimes the symptoms don't surface for forty-eight hours, so you'll need to stay here as a precaution. That IV is full of penicillin and tetracycline, combined with rest, fluids and some painkillers for that headache, you'll feel fine in no time. How's the stomach?"

Vin didn't answer right away, and Chris knew by the unblinking gaze, he wouldn't. Nudging the stuperous man's shoulder, he gained a response.

"Huh...Oh...sore on the outside, a mite queasy on the inside..."

"Yes, well that soreness is from the abdominal muscle spasms, that'll go away. Do you think you can handle a light dinner tray? Clear fluids, maybe?"Vin nodded and the doctor patted his leg, "Good then, I'll stop in tomorrow. The nurse will be keeping a close eye on you."

"Thanks, Doc," Vin nodded, as the physician left.

"You don't remember anything?" Chris finally said, spotting the blue-eyes searching silently.

"No..." Vin's voice trailed off as he cocked his head and furrowed his eyebrows, concentrating.

Chris's mouth turned up slightly at the sight, it always reminded him of Adam when he was thinking about something. Vin was lost in thought and sank back against the pillows. His eyes were crossed in pain and Chris sat on the bed facing him. Rubbing the bewildered shoulder, he encouraged the younger man.

"Don't force it, it'll come back. You had yourself a helluva day."

Buck stood in the doorway with the Denver Policeman. They'd entered just as Vin discovered the bandages. He winced at the white gauze patch, pausing to collect himself. Vin's head sank back onto the pillow and he shut his eyes. Buck cleared his throat and motioned for Chris to join them.

"Buck, How's J.D.?" The leader asked, leaning against the door."Talkin' his fool head off," Buck complained, "worried about Junior. There's not an inch on him that isn't bruised. He's gonna be awfully sore for a couple weeks. How's Vin?"Chris held a small smile, casting his eyes to the bed, "And I quote "like stir-fried shit"..."

"The Boy does have a way with words," Buck grinned, "Uh...Chris, this is Marcus Taylor, he found J.D. this morning."

"I'm beholdin'," Chris said, shaking the lawman's hand.

"He one of yours too?" Taylor nodded at the slumbering sniper.

"He is. They don't come better." Chris stated.

"Damn, he's only a kid...don't look much older than Dunne." The policeman noted."Chris, I got the guys down in J.D.'s room. J.D.'s gonna give his statement. Hurts him to talk...figured it'd be best to have us all there."

"Good idea. I'll get a nurse to stay with Vin. You catch the bastards that did this?"

Marcus Taylor was as tough as they came, but he saw the lethal stare of Chris Larabee and was glad they fought on the same side. Buck saw Taylor start to answer and tried to buff the explosion.

"I spotted Dunne struggling with two men early this morning. They're in custody; names are Grier and Stolski. Stolski's the one who spilled his guts, eventually. We put that together with the report on that young man," he nodded at Vin, "and tied them together. We got an APB out on the third guy..."

"Uh...Chris..." Buck eyed Vin's resting form, "This ain't the place. Don't go blowin' up and upsetting Vin."Chris frowned and eyed Buck with caution as the officer continued.

"Scott Adams..."

"I'm gonna fuckin' kill him! I'll squeeze the last breathe out of that animal."

"You're a law officer, Larabee, you know better than to play vigilante." Taylor warned.

Chris glared at the tall policeman and paced, running his hand through his hair. His muscles rippled in rage against the form-fitting designer shirt.

"Dammit!" he pounded the wall, "That slap on the wrist...a short jail term...for what he did to Vin and J.D."

Buck knew the rage Chris felt but could have punched him. He watched Vin's face color with horror as the nightmare came rolling back. The soulful blue eyes followed Larabee's frantic motions and he winced with every word, as if bullets struck him. He sat up, sweat pouring down his face, breathing rapidly, struggling to escape.

"Whoa, there Pard," Buck forced him back down, "Calm down. You got yourself all worked up into a lather," Buck wiped the sweaty face, feeling Vin's heart beating rapidly against his forearm.

"I'll do it, " Larabee said, wincing as Buck grabbed the water glass Chris offered.

"I'd say you done enough," Buck growled, eye's burning, "You happy now?"

"Buck?" Vin blinked, touching the arm that held him, "Where's J.D.? I couldn't find him...they kept hitting him...blood on his shirt..."

"If you two weren't already laid up, I'd shoot you myself." Buck exasperated, grasping the smaller man's trembling shoulders, "I'm getting real tired of this conversation. J.D. is fine, cracked a couple ribs, sportin' some pretty colors.. but fine. Wastin' the little breath he can produce, worryin' on you."

Both men watched for several minutes, until Vin's breathing regulated. They saw him stare hard at both of them and the flint in his eyes. He struggled to sit up, pushing weakly against Buck's strong arms.

"Let me outta this bed..." He hollered, pulling the sheet back, trying to get at the catheter, "Get his damn thing outta me...I ain't in a nursing home."

"Knock it off, Vin. You're acting like a child. You're staying in that bed. You ain't in any shape to be moving around yet."

"Go to hell, Larabee."

"Alright then, have it your way. Let him up, Buck."

Buck started to protest, until he realized where Chris was headed. He stood up, next to Chris and watched the confusion rain on Tanner's face. He pulled his legs over the side of the bed and eyed the I.V pole and the Catheter bag. His face scrunched up and he knew he was beaten.

"Aw, hell..." he rasped.

The brief exertion left him dizzy and panting. He started to slide forward and Chris blocked him, grabbing him. He felt one weak hand pushing off his chest and grinned. He sat down on the bed and spoke quietly.

"You gonna behave now?"

"I need to see him, Chris, please?"

Buck chuckled to himself, seeing the forlorn, "little-boy-lost" look that Vin knew was Chris's undoing. "Can I make a suggestion?" Taylor said, "I spoke with the nurse and she's agreed to a wheelchair visit. For exactly thirty minutes or she promised someone's head will role. I'll head back there, nice meeting you both."

Chris saw Buck's devilish grin and eyebrows wiggling.

"That boy plays you like a fiddle, Chris."

"Shut up, Buck" Chris retorted, as he tried to control his own grin.

"What's that for?" Vin cringed, watching a pretty redheaded nurse, filling a syringe.

"It's your pain medicine, Mr. Tanner," she quipped, "Now if you'll just roll over..."

"That ain't where the pain is," Vin argued, pulling the sheet up to his neck and blushing.

"Nevertheless, that's where the shot's going," she noted, winking at Chris, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way, right guys?"

"Right!" Chris and Buck said in unison, grinning.

"What are y'all grinning at?" Vin complained, "Fine lot a friends y'all turned out to be...Seen snakes with more compassion...Iffen ya ain't gonna help...get goin'...this ain't a train station."

"I'll bring him to Mr. Dunne's room in a few minutes..." She smiled.

"You know what they say, Junior," Buck's eyebrows danced, "Turn the other cheek." Guffawing, he slapped Chris on the back and exited, knowing Vin wouldn't issue his standard retort in front of the pretty nurse.

"Watch you back, Buck..." Chris grinned, knowing Vin way already planning revenge.

Part 6

"How you doin', Son?" Chris asked, approaching J.D.'s bed.

"Hey, Chris," J.D.'s eye's brightened at the leader's entrance, "I'm okay...well actually I'm a little sore. How's Vin?"

"The doctor thinks he'll be fine...if he doesn't contract ...uh...any complications." Chris hedged, not wanting to upset J.D. any further.

"What kind of complications?" J.D.'s brow furrowed.

"Nothing for you to worry about, Kid," Buck warned, "You might as well get started."

Chris took the boy's chin in his hand and turned the battered face, wincing outwardly and raging inwardly. Buck was on the other side of the bed, and as the brooding leader's oldest friend, he knew all to well what was lurking beneath. They eyes met briefly, and J.D. saw the exchange.

"I'm okay...really, Chris." J.D. gave Chris his best wide-eyed grin.

Chris moved over to where Nathan and Ezra stood on the far side of the room. Nathan saw the question written on his face and pressed. Leaning closer, he was about to inquire when a familiar twang filled the air.

"Hey y'all..."


The slight man was surrounded by his teammates. He ducked as his hand was grabbed, shoulders were squeezed and some ribald comments were made about his attachments. Josiah saw the Texan's smile drop away at the sight of J.D.'s stitched, bruised face and bandaged chest. Swallowing hard, he dropped his head, Josiah pushed the chair forward. Buck and Josiah noticed J.D. also seemed upset. The teams two youngest finally locked eyes.

"I'm sorry..." Both said simultaneously, giving the rest of those gathered in the room, a good laugh.

Nathan returned to his spot in the corner and motioned for Chris, and Ezra came as well. "Well?" the healer asked, "I know you got something else in there," he nodded at Chris's eyes, "...about the complications?"

"RBF?" Chris said, eyeing Nathan.

"Damn..." Nathan scratched his chin, "I guess that's a possibility...all them hours he was laying there. Hell, we saw them skittering offa him."

"RBF? Gentlemen?" Ezra pondered.

"Rat Bite Fever" Nathan replied, watching Ezra wince.

"Worst case scenario..." Chris directed, hands folded across his chest.

"Death..." Nathan replied without thinking, then saw Chris's face pale, "But that's extremely rare and the wounds, or point of entry would be more severe. It'll show up in his bloodwork. He's not running a high fever, that's good. They'll know for sure in a couple days. Usually runs it's course in a week or so, with a good antibiotic."

"Yeah, he mentioned that," Chris murmured, eyeing Vin and J.D., "They got him rigged with an antibiotic cocktail. If nothing else shows up, he can probably go home on Monday."

Twenty minutes later, Officer Taylor reviewed the notes he'd written and looked up.

"Okay, let me run through this," he paused, spotting Vin's eyes starting to droop, "After Mr. Tanner and Dunne were accosted at the ice arena, they were transported by the three individuals to an abandoned warehouse. Mr. Tanner was bound and forced to watch the other three, take turns beating Mr. Dunne." He paused again as Vin's head dropped and his fists clenched. Josiah placed both hands on the downcast shoulders from behind the wheelchair.

"Easy, Brother. It's over now. You and J.D. got that taken care of."

"Then, Mr. Dunne..." He eyed the boy for confirmation, "You maintain that at some point, Mr. Tanner became agitated and despite his condition, tried to break loose. This upset the felons and the shortest of the three men, threw the remainder of the chemical onto Mr. Tanner." He paused as J.D. nodded, his face paling in recollection, "This caused the man known as 'Adams' to become enraged and the three started to argue."

"Yessir," J.D. screwed his face up, remembering, "I faked like I was knocked out, so as I could hear more. Adams got real mad, 'cause that ain't what he had planned. He was afraid Vin would breathe too much of that stuff and..." He stopped dropping his head and eyed Buck; "Vin stopped moving...I thought he was dead. It was kinda hard, they took so long, and I almost did pass out. I was really starting to hurt..." Buck's mouth made a grim line as he clutched the bed rail and rattled it.

"Then Adams and Grier left to get some food, leaving Stolski in charge."

"Yeah, that sure was dumb...he wasn't the brightest bulb in the lamp." Dunne grunted.

"So you waited several minutes until you felt they cleared the place. This Stolski thought both you and Mr. Tanner were unconscious, and left his guard down."

"Yeah, he kept coming over and checking on me. I knew the pipe was loose, so I figured I'd kick em and bust loose."

"At this point, Stolski checked your bindings and you kicked him, bringing the pipe down?" The officer paused, watching J.D. nod.

"Yessir, But it took all I had...I needed a few minutes to rest. He hauled me over next to Vin. He was gonna hit me again, so I told him about all the Federal crimes he the other two weren't coming back...that he was gonna take the fall alone. He started to panic and pulled away, turned his back. Guess he thought I was out of steam. He left the room for awhile."

"You looked a wreck J.D. Hell, I thought you was dead..." Vin's voice trailed off.

"I guess that was it, he figured I wasn't in any shape to tangle with him. But I showed him."

"Damn right you did, Kid," Buck boasted, slapping J.D.'s outreaching palm.

"Oww!" J.D. winced.

"So you kicked Stolski and that sent the cell phone that was in his hand, to the floor. He pulled his gun and started firing. You managed to elude him, crawling out in the darkened passageway of the fourth floor."

"Yessir, I got all turned around and couldn't figure out how to get back. He was right behind me, so I kept running. I don't remember much else."

"When I found you, you were several blocks from there. Stolski and Grier were trying to subdue you. Apparently, Adams spotted the patrol car and took off."

At this point the nurse reappeared to claim Vin, who was nearly asleep. He managed to wave weakly as they called wished him a goodnight. The officer left, thanking J.D. for his time and commending him on his actions. "Chris, you look awful," Nathan said, grabbing the dark gray shoulder, "Why don't you go home and rest? Josiah and me will stay with the younguns'."

"I concur completely, Mr. Larabee," Ezra added, wrinkling his nose, "I might add a bath would not hurt."

"You saying I stink, Ez?" Chris scowled, raising a sandy eyebrow.

"Man's got a point," Josiah added solemnly, giving Chris a slight grin.

"Guess I am a little ripe," he agreed, eyeing the remains of vomit, urine and other unknown commodities on his person.

"Hey J.D.," Nathan asked, "Nice work. You're quick thinking saved both you're lives. In Vin's condition, he couldn't have survived a beating."

"They weren't gonna beat him," J.D. replied, without hesitation.

"How can you be so sure?" Chris asked, moving forward.

"Something Adams said..." J.D.'s face furrowed, "It's on the tip of my tongue..."

"Something about you or Vin?" Josiah inquired.

"Vin..." Dunne answered, still concentrating.

"Maybe he was still pissed off about the game last week." Buck suggested.

"No, it had nothing to do with the team...or the was from before..."

"Before what, Mr. Dunne?" Ezra asked, handing J.D. the soft drink from his newly arrived dinner tray."Thanks, Ez," J.D. said, before taking a long sip, "I'm not sure. I can't believe I forgot!" He pounded the sheet.

"Hey, one beating is enough for today," Chris said gently, smiling at J.D., "It'll come back don't force it. You finish your dinner and get a good night's sleep. I'll see you tomorrow," Chris said, patting the boy's shoulder.

"...boy and me will be fine," Josiah said, pulling up a chair, "Go on, you're crowding us," he urged the others to leave.


"Yeah," Chris turned at the door, "What is it, J.D.?"

"Revenge...from...a long time ago...I think...He knew..." J.D.'s bright eyes met the blond leaders, "He knew Chris..."

"Knew what?" Josiah leaned in.

"Knew just how to hurt Vin the worst." J.D. lay back, shaking his head.

"By making him watch somebody he cared about suffer...Guilt..." Chris nodded, eyes icy."Despicable, loathsome creature..." Ezra seethed.

"Thanks, J.D., that's a big clue. We'll get him. He's gonna pay." Larabee said, striding away.

Ezra and Nathan took the first elevator down, planning on getting some sandwiches from the shop down the street and bringing them back. Buck and Chris agreed to wait, Chris feared Vin might have a nightmare and didn't want him to be alone. They stood at the foot of Vin's bed, watching the younger man's chest rise and fall. Chris glanced at the empty bowl of broth, two empty juice containers and untouched jello. Resting a hand on the slumbering man's forehead, he left out a sigh.


"Yeah..." He paused, running a hand through his short blonde hair, "I swear to God Buck...."

"I hear ya..." The tall man echoed.

"The Kid is one tough ombre. It took a lot of guts, what he did," Chris lauded of J.D., checking Vin's water pitcher.

"Jesus...Vin of all people. Junior's heart's the size of Texas. Watching J.D. must have damn near killed him." Buck seethed, resting a hand on the rage-tightened muscles on Larabee's back.

Vin started moaning, twisting and mumbling, then gagging. Chris drew him forward and Buck got the water glass.

"Easy, Pard, here ya go," Buck soothed, brushing the straw against his lips.

Vin drank without opening his eyes. Chris waiting a minute and gently lowered him back down.

"I gotta a feeling it's gonna be a long night," Chris strained, rubbing his eyes, "Maybe I should..."

"...get going now before I get mad." Nathan finished, physically forcing Chris to the door; "You leave Vin, me and my dinner in peace."

They watched the numbers light on the panel above the elevator.

"Feel like hunting bear?" Buck asked, eyes fixed to the ascending numbers.

"Loaded and ready..." Chris replied, as the doors opened.


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