ATF Universe

Vin stopped his signaling for a minute as he rubbed one weak hand with the other. He didn't know how long he had been sending out his distress signal but it seemed like hours. He had alternated hands pressing on the horn and now both wrists were swollen and sore. They were both covered with blood too, as he used the hand he wasn't signaling with to try and stop the still bleeding cut on JD's arm. It had slowed significantly but hadn't stopped completely. And JD had showed no signs of waking up other than an occasional groan. Vin reached up and felt for JD's pulse again. It was noticeably weaker.

Vin was getting scared.

He took a deep breath and tried to will himself to remain in control. JD was depending on him. He took another breath and lifted his hand to resume his signaling. Just as he was about to press on the horn for the zillionth time, he heard, far off in the distance, the wailing sound of a siren. He paused and held his breath as he waited. The sound got louder. It was coming closer.

Frantically, Vin began signaling again. They had to hear him! They had to help! As he pushed the horn, he strained to look out the windows to see if he could see any sign of someone there to help them.

The siren got closer and soon Vin was surrounded by the sound. The growth around the truck began flickering in alternating colors of blue and red. Vin leaned over again and looked up the ravine. He could see the tops of three cars up on the road level and he slowly closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Help had finally arrived.

Vin tried once more to rouse JD but again nothing happened. He turned and saw two men carefully climbing down the ravine and willed them to hurry. He waved frantically to them before they were even at the truck. He pointed towards JD and waved for them to hurry.

One man worked his way to the driver's side and up along as far as the tree would let him. He looked into the interior of the truck and saw the injured man. He also saw the passenger urging him to hurry.

"Is he alive?" the man called. Vin's response was to wave more frantically and point to JD again.

The truck began rocking and Vin swung his head around to look out the passenger side. The second man who had come down the slope was tugging on the door handle.

"This one's stuck," he complained to his companion.

"You need help?" the first man replied, starting to make his way around the truck.

"Uh..." the man rubbed his chin for a moment as he looked around. "This guy has a tool box in back here," he began as he took a step back towards the bed of the truck. "Maybe he has a crowbar in here." The man struggled with the lid of the box and finally it pulled free. Buck never carried expensive stuff in his truck so thankfully did not feel the need to lock it. The man pulled a thick metal bar out and stepped back to the door.

Vin watched anxiously as the man worked outside the mangled metal of the passenger door. He maneuvered the crowbar into a gap between the door and the frame and yanked. He continued pulling and tugging, adjusted the placement of the crowbar and tugged some more.

The other man waited a few steps away. There wasn't a lot of working room around the truck so he thought it best to stay out of the way unless his muscle was needed.

"How's it look down there?" a voice called from the road.

"Two men. One unconscious, one alert. Barry's trying to get the door open," the man by the side called back.

"You need power?" the voice called again.

Before the man could reply, the door was wrenched open. Vin immediately started sliding towards the opening door.

"Barry's got it. Better bring down the gear and the stokes. Looks like we'll have to carry at least one of them out."

Barry held out his hand to try and stop Vin from moving but Vin batted it away and tried to push passed the man. He needed to get them to help JD.

"Hold it, mister. Let us have a look at you," Barry spoke calmly as he looked over the color of Vin's chest. His professional eye told him it wasn't blood. "What's your name?" he asked, trying to distract his patient.

Vin pressed on harder, determined to get out of the truck.

"Barry, why don't you let him get out and I'll check him over while you check his friend, okay?"

"Yeah, I don't think this guy is gonna let me touch him." Barry stepped out of the way and let Vin climb out. Once out, Vin pushed the man's back towards the interior of the truck, towards JD.

"Come on, fella," the other man coaxed as he held out his arm. Vin remained still until Barry was fully inside the cab of the truck and examining JD. "My name's Kyle. What's yours?" the man beside him asked, trying to gain his attention. Finally, Vin turned towards him.

Kyle guided Vin to a spot away from the truck and had him sit down. By this time, a third man had appeared carrying several large equipment boxes. Kyle opened one and pulled a couple of items out.

Vin was oblivious to what the man was doing to him, his eyes staying focused on the two figures in the truck, trying to read in the man's expression JD's condition.

"How is he?" the third man asked as he squatted beside Kyle and Vin.

"Don't know for sure, Benny. He ain't said a word." Kyle flicked a small light in and out of Vin's eye. The pupil was responding the way it was supposed to.

"What's that crap all over him?" Benny asked, reaching out to feel the stiff fabric.

"Don't know. Some kind of fruity thing, strawberry or cherry something-or-other. It's sticky," Kyle replied.

Vin remained vaguely aware that there was a conversation going on around him but he didn't pay any attention to it, not that he would have understood it anyway. His concern now was knowing JD was okay.

"Why don't you go see if Barry needs any help," Kyle suggested to his partner as he continued checking Vin over.

"Okay," the man agreed and pushed himself up to his feet. Stepping carefully through the scrub, he made his way to the truck.

Kyle moved his hands expertly around Vin's skull, feeling for signs of injury. He found none but knew that there could still be an injury to this man's head. The victim did not verbally reply to any questions though Kyle could tell his main concern was the man still inside the truck.

"I'm gonna check your wallet, okay mister? Need to know your name." Kyle felt down around Vin's backside but didn't find a wallet in the traditional location. Next, he felt the jacket's inside pocket and finally reached down to the side pockets. "Here we go," he mumbled as he pulled the wallet out. He flipped open the leather billfold and read the driver's license. "Vin Tanner." He looked up into Vin's eyes. "You recognize your name…Vin?" he spoke slowly and clearly but Vin stared blankly back. Kyle shook his head and further checked the contents of the wallet. He saw Vin's badge. "Hmmmm…ATF," he muttered.

Kyle closed the wallet and slipped it back inside Vin's pocket. He continued his examination, noticing the blood covering Vin's hands. He pushed the sleeves up on one of Vin's arms and finally saw the splint that the too-long jacket sleeve had been hiding.

"Man, you came pre-banged-up to this one, didn't you?" Kyle tried joking, seeing if he'd get a response from Vin but Vin continued to be focused on JD. Kyle repeated his check of Vin's other arm. "Wow, both of them. Had a rough time of it lately, huh, pal? ATF life must be brutal." He checked closely but found no signs of any bleeding wounds on Vin's arms.

Another man appeared nearby with a basket litter to carry the injured up to the road. There were ropes attached at both ends of it so that it could be hauled up to the road. An ambulance had been called for and the siren could be heard approaching in the distance. Kyle couldn't find any injuries on Vin but was concerned that he couldn't get a response out of him. He wondered briefly if he were deaf but thought again when he remembered the ATF badge. He didn't think the government agency would hire deaf agents but then, who knows.

Kyle and the new arrival started to move Vin into the stokes but he resisted. Kyle, through furious hand motions, tried to let Vin know that they were just getting him back up to the street, that his friend would be well taken care of and that they needed to get him out of there. Finally, Vin relented, though Kyle didn't know if he understood anything, and let himself be eased into the basket litter. He was strapped in place and with Kyle guiding it from below and several men pulling from above, he was moved up to the road. Kyle then scrambled up the incline after it.

Up on the road, Kyle paused before he began undoing the straps that held Vin in place. He had a feeling that the man wouldn't stay lying down and he wanted to keep him still, but they needed the stokes to bring the other victim up the incline. As the ambulance pulled to a stop nearby, Kyle decided that he'd let them handle this patient and he'd go help with the other one.

Vin sprang up to his feet as soon as the straps were removed. Kyle relayed the information he'd gathered from his limited examination and moved to climb back down the ravine.

Vin pulled away from the ambulance attendant, trying to get to the side of the road, wanting to find out about JD. They took his resistance as a refusal for treatment and didn't press it, knowing they were just agitating him. They did manage to get him to the back of the ambulance and had him sit on the bumper to wait.

The men tending to JD were working hard to get the man in a stable enough condition to move him. They spoke minimally to each other and used jargon that a layman who watched a modicum of television could pick up a word or two of. They put a cervical collar around his neck and pressure bandages on the cuts. When they were satisfied that he could be moved safely, they began shifting him carefully towards the passenger side door.

Vin watched the activity of the people on the road, nervously bouncing his knee and twisting his aching fingers together. One of the police officers on the scene had tried to question him about the accident but Vin barely even acknowledged his presence. The officer marked that in his notebook and moved away. He would have the emergency room staff check his blood alcohol level.

Finally, the litter was returned to the road with JD strapped inside. Vin jumped to his feet and tried to go over to it but he was held back by one of the ambulance attendants.

"They need room to work on him. He'll be okay. Just relax." Vin didn't understand but he didn't fight. He watched with pain filled eyes as his friend was moved to the ambulance gurney and all matter of medical paraphernalia was attached to him. The men worked fast and it wasn't long before they were moving him to the back of the ambulance. The gurney was loaded in and Vin helped in beside it. Kyle jumped in back too and showed Vin where he could sit. The rest of the men moved away as the back doors of the ambulance were slammed shut and the vehicle drove away.

Vin sat motionless pressed against the wall of the ambulance, his eyes locked on JD. His friend looked so pale and still. Vin was afraid that he wasn't going to live and it tore at his gut that he couldn't even ask the paramedic working on him how he was doing. He felt a tear escape his eye and roll down his cheek. He lifted a hand and wiped it away, leaving a streak of blood in its place.

It was a long ride to the hospital, almost forty minutes, and it seemed like forever to Vin. He looked around finally when he felt the ambulance screech to a halt and someone jerked open the back doors. The person immediately reached for the gurney and pulled it out, seemingly not even noticing Vin sitting there. Kyle tapped him on the shoulder and indicated he should climb out then, he led him into the emergency room.

A nurse took one look at Vin and stopped him from following the gurney with his friend. She directed him into a separate trauma room and tried to get Vin to lie down but he fought her. He would sit but that was all. As she tried to convince him they needed him lying down to examine him, a call came from the hallway for assistance. The already busy emergency room was getting busier by the moment. She made sure Vin was settled and went to see if she could help. That was the nature of emergency rooms, the more severely injured had to be tended to first.

Vin remained sitting on the examination table, knowing JD was just a door or two away. He knew his friend was getting cared for so he curbed his desire to check and stayed where the nurse had put him. The door to the room was open and he could see several more gurneys being rushed passed. Something bad must have happened.

It was half an hour before anyone came back into the room.

"Whew, what a madhouse out there," a perky young nurse said as she entered the room and pushed the door partway closed. "I need to get a little information from you sir," she said to Vin as she pulled a pen out from behind her ear and poised it over a clipboard. "What's your name?" she asked. After several moments of silence, she looked up at Vin. "Sir? Your name?"

Vin stared at her, confusion clouding his face.

She turned the clipboard around and tapped the end of her pen on it. "I gotta have it for our records, sir." Her tone was gentle and reassuring.

Vin glanced at the clipboard. He couldn't read a word of what was written there but he'd been in emergency rooms enough to know what she wanted. He sat still, frowning for a moment, then remembered his wallet was in his pocket. He reached in and pulled it out, handing it to her.

Her breath caught in her throat as she saw the blood covered hand. She grabbed it gently and turned it over, looking for the source of the blood. Not finding any wounds, she took the wallet, though she kept looking him over. The paramedic had said that he wasn't hurt but he sure didn't look all that well.

She opened the wallet and found his driver's license and got his name and address from that. She found other items in his wallet that told her his phone number, his social security number, his insurance carrier and who to contact in case of emergency. She copied down all the information she needed that she could find then returned the wallet to Vin.

"I'll see if we can find Mr. Larabee, let him know you're here, okay?" she asked. Still, there was no reply though he looked at her expectantly. "The doctor will be with you soon." She smiled and then she was gone.

+ + + + + + +

Chris walked briskly into the team offices and frowned slightly at the near silence that met his ears. The only sound he did hear was the soft tapping of fingers on a computer keyboard. Chris zeroed in on its source.

"Ezra, where the hell is everyone?" he asked, his tone a little shorter than he had intended.

Ezra looked up questioningly. "Well, Mr. Larabee, it is after five in the afternoon. The peons are allowed to leave on occasion."

Chris looked down at his wristwatch. It was after five. It was well after five. He shook his head as he ran a weary hand down his face. "Sorry," he grumbled softly.

"I take it things did not progress well in court today?"

Chris shook his head. "No, things definitely did not." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Vin's had a relapse. Happened on the witness stand. One minute he was answering their questions, the next he wasn't, he couldn't."

Ezra dropped his mouth open in stunned silence for a moment, then asked, "Is he all right?"

"Yeah, just not talking again, feeling a little sick to his stomach…" Chris began and shrugged, "…we think. I had JD take him out to the ranch…which reminds me…" Chris picked the receiver up off the phone on Ezra's desk and dialed his home number. He waited impatiently and groaned when the answering machine clicked on. He absently wondered if he really sounded as bad in real life as he sounded on his answering machine greeting. "Hey, JD! Vin! Anybody there? Come on guys, pick up!" Chris waited until the machine clicked itself off. "Damn," he swore under his breath as he forcefully replaced the receiver. Ezra cringed and made a mental note to check the instrument for damage.

"Is there a problem?" he asked, knowing there had to be by Chris's action.

"They should have gotten there a long time ago. I can't believe they'd be fooling around somewhere." He scrubbed his hand through his hair.

"JD was driving Buck's truck as I recall. That rolling pile of wreckage could have developed any number of malfunctions," Ezra stated calmly as he began shutting down his computer and straightening up his desk before he left for the evening.

"Yeah, you're probably right. Flat tire, blown gasket, something like that. I'll probably pass them on the way home."

"I'm certain it is nothing more than that," Ezra agreed. He turned off his desk lamp and stood up. "I shall be home all evening if there is anything I can do to help," he offered.

Chris smiled appreciatively at his agent. "Thanks, Ezra. I'll keep that in mind." Chris slapped a hand on Ezra's shoulder and the two parted, Ezra heading for the elevator and Chris for his office.

The room was dark as Chris slowly found his way to his desk. He didn't feel like having the bright overhead lights glaring down on him right now and opted instead for the subdued light of his small desk lamp. He only intended to be here a few minutes anyway and it would take the overheads that long to come up to full strength. He shuffled through several of the stacks of papers covering the top of his desk until he found the file folder he wanted. He had case reports and expense reports and every other kind of report to sign off on and the folder was thicker than he had ever let it get before. He knew he needed to start dealing with this paperwork or the higher ups were going to let him know, in no uncertain terms, that any further delay would not be tolerated.

With the folder in hand, he was about to reach over and turn off the desk lamp when his phone rang.


"Chris. Travis. Got a minute?"

Hell no "Yeah, what do you need?"

"Come on up to my office. I need some clarification of this report before I send it on."

"On my way." Shit What report could Travis be talking about? He gripped the folder that held all his overdue reports. He didn't know of one that had been turned in that hadn't yet been approved. "Only one way to find out," he grumbled as he set down his folder and headed out the door.

As the elevator doors began sliding closed, he heard a distant phone ringing. He couldn't tell from where he was if it was his or not so he made no attempt to go answer it.

+ + + + + + +

Vin sat dejectedly in a chair off to the side of the nurses' station. The emergency room was incredibly busy, though currently they were dealing with a rash of minor illnesses and injuries…minor in severity though of the utmost importance to the sufferer. They had needed the room Vin had occupied and since the staff had finished their examination of him, he had been moved. He had been officially released from the emergency room but with his lack of response to them, they weren't totally convinced he wasn't a psych patient. They had checked his hospital file - and a rather impressive file it was – and found only vague notations regarding his inability, or unwillingness, to speak. Since it was only mentioned in his file on his last admittance, just three days before, they assumed it was a new condition. He was sitting where the nurses could keep an eye on him until they learned more or found someone to come take him home.

Vin watched the activity around him sadly. He didn't know where they had taken JD, whether he was still in the trauma area or if he was even still alive. He tightened his fingers as much as he could around the jacket and shirt he'd had on. They had taken them off of him for his exam and he only let them put his undershirt back on. It was covered in front with a large red stain that had dried stiff and crusty.

They hadn't been able to find any injuries on him other than a bruise in the center of his chest, probably from where the shoulder strap of the seatbelt had grabbed hold when the truck had rolled over. They had washed most of the blood off of his hands but there was still enough of it there that Vin hated to look at them. If they hadn't been so busy, they would have been able to do a more thorough job.

A sudden blaring alarm started sounding through the area and several of the staff members rushed towards one of the trauma rooms. Vin felt his heart clench as he wondered if it was JD. As he watched the flurry of activity, a tear began slowly rolling down his cheek.

+ + + + + + +

Chris stalked back into the ATF offices, his irritation apparent. He was grumbling to himself as he went to his private office. "Man's a college graduate, been a director in the ATF for who knows how many years now. Think he'd be able to tell a typo when he saw one," he fumed. He wasn't actually mad at Travis. He'd rather they raised the question rather than submit something that may not be accurate but he just wasn't in the mood for it right now. And the 'got a minute' turned into nearly an hour.

The light on his desk was still on and he found the folder he'd come for earlier sitting on the corner. He picked it up, turned off the light and headed out the door. He was just getting to the edge of the outer offices when he heard his phone start ringing. He debated a moment about not answering it but even as he toyed with the idea of just walking away, he reached down to the nearest phone, hit the appropriate button to make the connection and lifted the receiver to his ear.


"Mr. Larabee, this is the emergency room at Four Corners General. You are listed as the contact for Vin Tanner. He was involved in a motor vehicle accident this afternoon. He wasn't hurt but he needs a ride home."

Chris felt his emotions go from panic to relief faster than he thought possible. He thought a moment then panicked again. "What about JD? John Dunne? They were in the truck together."

There was a moment of silence followed by muffled voices. A minute later the woman's voice returned. "John Dunne's examination is incomplete," she told him. "Are you able to come down for Mr. Tanner?" She hated the idea of letting Vin just walk out of there alone but if no one came for him, she would have to.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm leaving now. I'll be there as soon as I can." Chris dropped the receiver into its cradle and bolted for the elevator.

The nurse squatted down in front of Vin and tapped his shoulder. When he looked up at her, she spoke, "I've gotten a hold of Chris Larabee. He said he'd be down here soon. Okay?" She didn't really expect him to answer. She patted his shoulder lightly. "Do you need anything? Some water maybe?"

Vin, of course, made no reply.

She smiled sadly and went back to work.

+ + + + + + +

Chris made it down to the parking garage before he thought to call Buck. With JD in the hospital, he knew his old friend would want to know about it. He dug his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed as he walked. Buck answered just as Chris reached his truck.

"WHAT!!" Buck bellowed as Chris relayed the information the hospital had told him.

"I don't know any more than that," Chris apologized as he started his truck, shifted it into gear and headed out.

"When did it happen?" Buck asked distractedly as he tried to remember the last time he'd spoken to JD and what the young man had said to him.

"I sent him and Vin out to the ranch at around two so sometime after that," Chris explained, trying to concentrate on the traffic.

Buck looked at his watch. It was after seven. "We're just hearing about this now?"

"Buck, I don't know anything. Just get to the hospital!" Chris told him sharply and hit the button to end the call. He was not in the mood to hash out things he knew nothing about. He scowled, knowing Buck would let him know he didn't appreciate the treatment he'd just given him but, damn it, he was upset too.

Buck angrily jabbed at the button to turn his phone off. "Don't get mad at me Larabee. I'm just trying to find out what's going on," he grumbled to himself as he started reaching for his jacket.

"What's up?" Kelly asked. The two men were just finishing up their inventory in the armory.

"JD's been in a wreck. I gotta get to the hospital." Buck stopped in his tracks as he realized he didn't have a way to the hospital. "Damn, JD had my truck."

"Hey, I was gonna take you home anyway so I can drop you off," Kelly offered. "Just let me lock up here."

"Thanks," Buck sighed.

+ + + + + + +

The roads were surprisingly clear of traffic and Chris made it to the emergency room in record time. He even found a parking place near the entrance. He rushed through the doors and up to the information desk. The nurse there had a phone up to her ear so Chris waited impatiently for her to finish. Before she even got the receiver back to its cradle, he was on her.

"Vin Tanner. I got a call he was here."

The nurse rolled her chair to the files and leafed through until she found his chart. She read the notes there and looked up at Chris. "He's been released."

"Released?" he asked.

"Have you checked the waiting area?" she inquired kindly. "If he was waiting for you, he might have gone there." She pointed down the hall.

Chris thanked her and walked rapidly towards the waiting area, dodging people and equipment along the way. He got to the end of the hall and looked the area over but saw no sign of his friend. He was about to panic, thinking of all the things that could happen to Vin in his condition, and turned to go back to the nurses' station. He was nearly there when a figure huddled in a chair by the wall caught his attention.

"Vin!" he nearly shouted as he rushed to the chair and squatted down. He put his hand gently on Vin's knee and shook.

Vin saw the body appear in front of him and heard the familiar sounding voice but took his time raising his head. When their eyes met, Vin's expression turned to one of relief, briefly, then to one of expectation. He wanted to know about JD but couldn't ask. It aggravated him because he knew the man's name, had tried to force his mouth to say the name but nothing would come. Chris could practically see the frustration bubble out of him.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly, raising his hand and sliding it softly down the side of Vin's head. He rested it on his neck and squeezed lightly as he put his other hand on top of Vin's.

"Are you Chris?" a female voice asked from off to the side. Chris looked over to see one of the nurses approaching.

"Yes, I am," he replied as he stood up to face her. "Is Vin okay?"

"A few bruises, nothing serious." She smiled down at the man in the chair. "Has he always been mute?"

Chris smiled a sad smile. If it were only as simple as being mute. "No, it's a recent development." Chris saw the confused expression. "He's under a doctor's care," he lied, not wanting to go into it at that moment. "What about JD?" he changed the subject. When she wrinkled her brow, he explained. "John Dunne. He and Vin were together," he reminded her, assuming this was the nurse who had called him.

"Oh, yes. He's still in the trauma room. Still unconscious, I'm afraid."

"Any way I could get to talk to his doctor?" Chris asked. Before the woman could answer, both she and Chris had to flatten themselves against the wall to allow passage of a gurney surrounded by five people. "Is it okay if I move him down to the waiting room?" he asked, indicating Vin.

"Sure. He's free to leave anytime. I'll tell Dr. Connelly that you'd like to see him." She smiled as she pointed down to the end of the hall and turned to go.

Chris guided Vin to his feet and, after checking to make sure they wouldn't be run over, started slowly leading him down to the waiting area.

Buck's arrival at the emergency room was mere minutes after Chris's. While Chris was looking for Vin, Buck was talking with a police officer who had by chance mentioned JD's name as Buck was walking by and turned out to be one of the officers who was on the scene of the wreck. After Buck identified himself as both JD's 'family' and an ATF officer, he began asking about some of the details of the accident. The police officer told him where it happen, when they estimated it happened and, what Buck really wanted to know, that JD was alive. Buck nodded a quick thanks and moved off to find his friend.

Stopping at the nurses' station, he forcefully requested information. When no one immediately responded to him, he lost his temper. "Damn it, I want to know about JD and I want to know now!"

"Sir, if you'll wait in the waiting room, the doctor will be with you as soon as he can," one nurse said patiently. They were used to emotional people losing control trying to find out about loved ones.

"I ain't waitin'. I want to know now!" he insisted.

The nurse who had spoken with Chris stepped up to face Buck. "Sir, Mr. Dunne is still being examined. If you'll go to the waiting room, I'll have the doctor find you."


Chris was just getting Vin to the waiting area when he heard Buck's voice bellow through the halls. He knew his friend could let his raging emotions take control of his actions and wanted to keep the staff from being subjected to it. He stopped Vin and held up both his hands.

"Wait here," he told him as he turned and rushed down the hall. "Buck!" he called when he got within earshot. The taller man turned to face him.

"Don't start in with me, Chris. I ain't gonna 'go sit and wait'. I wanna see JD."

"Buck, we go through this time and time again," Chris lamented. "Let these people do their jobs."

"Chris..." Buck's tone was warning.

Chris shook his head. He was tired. "Listen, Buck. You go cool your heels in the waiting room and I'll see what I can find out. I'll let the doctor know we are eager for news. Okay?"

Buck stood defiantly still for several long moments. He hated being bossed around and Chris was at the top of his shit list right now so he wasn't eager to obey but after a few deep breaths, he grumbled and turned towards the end of the hall.

Chris sighed, relieved, and then went to see if he could find the doctor.

Buck walked angrily up to the waiting area, still fuming at Chris and at the whole situation. He stopped short when he looked in the room and saw Vin standing by the window.

"And where in the hell were you during all this, huh?" Buck shouted as he stormed up to Vin. "The man was trying to help you. Think maybe you could try a little harder for him?"

Vin stood dumbfoundedly in front of Buck, his mouth open, his eyes wide.

Buck began pacing a few steps up and back in front of Vin. "I mean, would it have been so hard to reach over and grab his cell phone and call for help? You had to sit there for hours with him hurt?! What...afraid it'd hurt your poor hands?!!" Buck swung his arm up and though he hadn't meant to clip Vin's hand, he wasn't the least bit sorry when he did.

Vin yanked his arm back protectively to his chest as he winced at the contact and the tone of Buck's voice. His eyes opened wider and the only reason he could come up with why Buck was so angry was that JD had died. The thought caused his eyes to well up with tears.

Buck stopped in his tracks and started an exaggerated nod of his head. "Oh, you start the 'lost puppy' look. Well, it ain't gonna work on me, Vin. You blew it this time." Buck accented his words with a pointed finger to Vin's chest.

"Buck!" Chris called from the doorway to the waiting room. He rushed up to the taller man and roughly grabbed him by the arm and pushed him back towards a corner of the room, away from the shocked eyes of the others in the room, and away from Vin. "Stop it, Buck," he began in a low, menacing voice. "Vin couldn't help it..."

"JD could have died, Chris, died, and he didn't..."

"Buck, he's had a relapse. He can't talk. He couldn't call for help."

Vin stared helplessly at his two friends arguing in the corner. Chris was trying to protect him, he knew, but if JD was dead, he knew Buck would never forgive him. He lowered his head and backed out of the room as the tears fell from his eyes.

Buck froze and looked disbelievingly at Chris, his mouth open as Chris's words sank in. "Relapse?" he finally choked out.

Chris nodded, the look of menace still on his face.

Buck rubbed his hand roughly down his face. "Oh, man..."

"Mr. Larabee?" a voice said from the doorway. Both Chris and Buck looked that way and the man who had spoken walked up to them. "I'm Dr. Connelly. I've been taking care of Mr. Dunne," he introduced himself and the men shook hands in greeting. The doctor directed the pair further away from the other people in the waiting area before he spoke.

"So, how's JD?" Buck asked quickly, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"He's going to be just fine. He came around a little bit ago. Appears to be coherent. We've run a CAT scan and there was no sign of any problem. We'd like to keep him overnight, though, just to be sure."

Buck nodded his agreement. "Of course."

"He's got a concussion, lost a little more blood than we like to see from a nasty laceration on his left arm. We've stitched it up along with a small cut on his forehead. His left hip and thigh are bruised pretty badly too. We've iced down some of the worst of them. He'll be a little stiff for a while but he should be fine in a few days. As soon as he have a room ready, we'll be moving him."

"Can I see him?" Buck asked, taking a step forward in anticipation.

"Absolutely. Follow me." The doctor led the way out of the waiting room with Buck following on his heels. Chris ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath, then turned back to deal with Vin.

Only Vin wasn't there.

Chris scanned the room but didn't see a sign of his friend. He walked around, making sure there wasn't an alcove or some other place he could be. He was about to call Vin's name but realized it wouldn't help. A movement at the edge of his vision caught his eye and he looked towards it.

A small, older woman was sitting in a chair waving her hand. When Chris looked her way, she smiled and pointed shyly at the waiting room door.

"He went that way?" Chris asked her, pointing towards the door himself. She nodded apologetically. Chris was halfway to the entrance when he called back his thanks to the woman.


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