by Carla Stinson

ATF Universe

This follows Secrets and Secrets Revealed

The Magnificent Seven Belong to MGM/Trilogy/Mirisch. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made

Chapter One

"Do you think Vin will be here today, Buck?" JD Dunne asked.

Buck only hoped he was telling the truth, as he answered, "No, kid. He'll be back in a few days."

The other three-team members heard the brief exchange and looked at Buck expectantly.

Nathan Jackson asked, "What's wrong with Vin? Did something happen to him over the weekend?"

Buck sighed and tried to explain the best he could. "I guess everyone needs to know. I can't go into any details but Chris and Vin are having a pretty serious problem. There are some issues that need to be worked out but I don't think either of them is up to doing that right now. Vin will be taking some time off and I'm not sure whether or not Chris will show up."

"Perhaps this problem they are experiencing stems from Mr. Tanner's mood of last week?" asked Ezra Standish.

"Sort of..." answered Buck, "not really with Vin's mood. Uh.... I just can't seem to get it together on Monday mornings." He left his desk and headed for the lounge. "I need coffee. JD's colored water didn't do a thing for me this morning."

"Obviously, Mr. Wilmington does not have the inclination to enlighten us," said Ezra.

"Has Buck told you anything, JD?" asked Nathan.

"No. I told him that Chris acted funny yesterday when he and Vin came by the apartment to pick up Vin's jeep. Really, neither of them looked very happy. Buck went out to the ranch to check on Chris last night but didn't get home 'til early this morning. I got up when I didn't see the lights go out. He was sitting on the couch looking real depressed. He told me pretty much the same as he said this morning."

Josiah had been listening silently. Finally, he said, "Obviously, Buck is privy to this problem and is choosing to keep it confidential. It's possible he's been asked to do so by both Chris and Vin. We need to respect that confidence."

"Thank you, Josiah," said Buck as he entered the office. "I'm only going to say one more thing. I don't know where this is going. We need to be there for our friends whether it means getting involved or staying out of it."

+ + + + + + +

 Chris arrived an hour later. The dark circles framing his green eyes and pinched expression on his face told everyone how their leader was faring. He barely mumbled a greeting as he strode passed his teammates desks and headed for his own office. Once inside, he shut the door then sat down at his desk and tried to get his mind on his work. He hoped that there would be no surprise raids or a need to assist another team, as he knew his preoccupation could prove dangerous to anyone he was around.

A few minutes later, he heard a soft knock on his door. "Come in," he said.

Buck entered and handed Chris a cup of coffee. "Thought you could use this. You look like hell, Chris. You didn't get any sleep at all, did you?"

Chris rubbed his eyes tiredly. "No. Every time I closed my eyes I could see Vin's face and hear the pain in his voice. This morning I went over to his apartment and just sat outside in my truck. It was all I could do not to go up."

Buck sat down in the chair opposite Chris' desk. "Maybe you should have," he said.

When Chris did not answer, he continued, "He's confused. He doesn't understand how or why things happened the way they did any more than you do. Chris, he was already hurting before last night and this added to it. We both know how Vin clams up whenever he's hurt or upset. You may need to make the first move toward him."

Buck stood up to go back to his desk. He turned back and looked at Chris. "I know your private life is your own. It always has been. However, I think you owe him an explanation. He needs to hear more from you than he heard last night."

Chris shook his head and sighed. "No. As much as I want to go to him, I have to give him time. Vin doesn't want to talk to me right now. If I force the issue before he's had a chance to work it out in his own mind, I could push him away for good. I think the only hope I have of salvaging our friendship is to stay away until he's ready."

Chapter 2

Buck glanced at his watch for the third time in the past ten minutes. 'You better not stand me up, Tanner,' he thought to himself.

Three days had passed since the incident at the ranch. Buck knew Chris wanted to play it safe and he himself had told their co-workers that the best way to help might be to stay out of it. But he was worried. Besides, Vin did not call him in a day or two as promised so Buck was able to rationalize calling him for lunch as just a follow-up. Buck was relieved when Vin agreed to meet, albeit reluctantly. Buck suggested a place a distance away from the federal building so that Vin could feel comfortable and not worry about who may show up.

He looked at his watch then once again engrossed himself in thoughts of how to help his friends. He failed to see Vin walk in the door and make his way to the table.

"Hi, Buck."

Buck looked up startled, then stood to grip the other man's hand warmly. Smiling at the sharpshooter, he said, "Geez, Vin. Sneaking up on me like that is gonna make me lose a few years. Let's sit down. How're you doing?"

"Okay. How about you?" Vin asked.

"Doing good. Got a full time job keeping JD outta trouble and Ezra honest."

Vin chuckled, "Yeah, that's enough to keep you busy."

Buck intently studied the younger man. Vin did not look any better than Chris did. His eyes were shadowed with darkness and his face pale. There was a slight shake in his hand as he lifted a glass of water to his lips.

Vin shifted uncomfortably under the other man's scrutiny. "Buck, you don't have to check up on me. I'm fine."

"Yeah, you look it. Actually, I asked you to lunch for two reasons. One, I get to kick your butt for not calling me like you promised. Two, I'm tired of Chris asking me every time I turn around if I've heard from you."

The sharpshooter's voice was quiet. "How is he?"

Buck shrugged one shoulder and stared into Vin's eyes. "If moping around like he's lost his best friend is acceptable, then I guess he's fine."

Vin blinked hard and shifted his eyes away from Buck. He tried to change the subject. "What's going on at work? Ezra called, but I didn't want to talk to anyone and didn't pick up, so he left a message on the machine."

"It's fine. Chris approved a leave of absence for you. So, you don't have to worry about work. We want you back. Any idea when?"

"No. Look, Buck, I'm sorry but I'm not good company right now." Vin stood, preparing to leave. "I'm gonna head home. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Buck grabbed Vin's arm and forced the younger man to look at him. "Vin, listen to me for just a minute. Neither of you is going to get passed this if you continue to go on this way. He wants to see you. He says he's staying away because that's what you want. Truth is, he can't face you. He can't face you because he thinks he's betrayed you and because he's so afraid that the next time you two meet, your friendship will be over." Hell, Vin, he sits outside your apartment building in the mornings."

Vin pulled his arm away. He glanced at Buck then turned to leave. Before leaving, he said very softly, "I know he does."

+ + + + + + +

The next morning, Chris arrived at the office early. He had been neglecting his responsibilities and was determined to catch up. His plan was to work most of the morning then he was going to Vin's in the afternoon. He couldn't stand it anymore. They were going to work this out even if it meant killing each other in the process.

He flipped on the light in his office and saw a white piece of paper lying on his desk. He didn't want to read it; didn't want to touch it, as he knew instinctively what it was. Finally, he picked it up and began reading:


It seems as though I'm sorry for a lot of things in my life, but my friendship with you is not one of them. You are not to blame for what happened. They way I'm feeling has nothing to do with you. It's me. I have to work this out in my own mind but I can't do it here. I want you to accept this as my resignation. I've already packed and will be heading out after I deliver this to your office. Please, talk to the guys for me. Tell them I'll miss them. You are and will always be my very best friend.

Take care my friend,


Full Circle

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