ATF Universe

Vin was cold and his muscles were stiff as he slowly cracked his eyes open. He remained absolutely still as he focused his eyes and his brain on what was in front of him. It took him several minutes to realize that he was lying on the floor and his face was pressed towards the wall. It took him a lot longer to remember why.

Perkins. The madman was back in his life. He had brought him here and drugged him again. Vin concentrated and was relieved when he could understand his own thoughts. At least he hadn't taken that away again. He tried to think back to what had happened this time and when an image from his hallucinations flashed through his mind, he shuddered violently.

"Vin!" a voice called from behind him.

Vin recognized the voice but couldn't pinpoint the reason why it was there.

"Vin, come on, wake up! Before he comes back!"

JD. Vin knew it was JD. If JD was there, why didn't he come help him? Vin had to really focus his concentration on the most recent events and in a flood, they replayed for his mind's eye. Perkins had strapped JD in that chair. He was probably still there and needed his help.

Vin forced himself to roll over onto his back and turn his head towards the room. Though the room wasn't bright, he squinted into it for a moment.

"Come on, Vin," JD encouraged.

Vin blinked the young man and the chair into focus and stared for a long time. It looked real, solid. Not part of a hallucination, though if it were, this was without a doubt the best thing he had seen. Finally, he continued rolling until he got balanced onto his side and using his hand, he pushed himself up to a sitting position. It wasn't until he was fully sitting up that the pain in his wrist registered and he stared down at his hand in confusion. He saw the splint and then slowly remembered the previous injury.

"Come untie me, Vin," JD coaxed. Vin slowly raised his head and looked towards the chair. He saw JD sitting there and started to scoot along the floor over to him. "That's it. You can do it," JD went on. Vin's mind started to clear a little as he moved but he had only gotten a couple of feet when the bolt on the door clanked loudly and the door came open.

"Finally awake I see, Mr. Tanner." Perkins smiled as he stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. Both Vin and JD turned to look at the man. "You were asleep for quite a while. Your friend here was terribly worried," he told Vin.

Vin remained silent as his eyes darted between Perkins and JD.

"But, now that you are awake, we come to the next part of our little game." Perkins pulled two syringes out of his pocket and held them up for both men to see. Vin's eyes grew wide and he slid backwards involuntarily. "Not eager to play this round?" Perkins asked with a smile. "Maybe your friend would like to join in."

Vin looked fearfully at the two syringes. What were they this time? Why did this man insist on torturing him?

Vin moved his eyes to the door and his body actually made a jerking motion in its direction. He wanted to get away but then he looked to JD and knew he couldn't leave his friend behind. Maybe there was a way for him to lure Perkins away and somehow get help for JD. He straightened his body up and looked at Perkins but before he could make any move or say anything, Perkins began speaking.

"I give you the choice again, Mr. Tanner. One of these contains the same thing you were given hours ago. The other, well, the other is a bit more insidious. It will mean death to the recipient. Not entirely instantaneous but quick none-the-less. And painful. More painful than anything you have yet experienced." Perkins pulled his chin back and looked down on Vin. "So, tell me, Mr. Tanner, which one and who? You pick which syringe and you decide who receives it."

Vin stared wide-eyed at the man.

"Give it to me!" JD cried from his place in the chair.

Perkins looked over at him, a bored expression clouding his face. "That is for Mr. Tanner to decide."

"Me, Vin, me!" JD called to his friend.

Vin's eyes filled slightly as he looked over at his friend. There was no doubt in his mind that he would be the one to take the shot but he didn't know whether he would get the one that would kill him or not. A lot of thoughts flooded his mind, things he had never told his friends, always thinking there would be time.

"Tell him to give it to me, Vin," JD said softly. "You can't... " his voice drifted away as he looked into Vin's eyes. He knew Vin would never do that and there was nothing he could say that would convince him to.

Vin turned his eyes back to Perkins. Slowly, he pushed himself up onto his knees and walked a few shaky steps on them towards the man. "Me," his voice choked out.

Perkins smiled. He had known as well that the man wouldn't subject his friend to the drug. It was just fun watching the decision being made. He intended to make future decisions just as entertaining. He took a step towards Vin and held out the hand holding the two options.

"Which one would you like?" he asked genially, as if he was asking Vin to select his favorite amongst a choice of desserts.

Vin looked at the two syringes. They looked identical. Both filled to the same level. Both the same color. His eyes shifted from one to the other. He knew he didn't want to die but a part of him would rather do that then go through the hallucinations again. He kept looking between the two.

"Choose now, Mr. Tanner," Perkins insisted.

Vin turned his eyes to JD briefly then back to the choices. He slowly raised a hand and it hovered a moment before he brought it down to gently tap on one.

"An excellent choice, Mr. Tanner." Perkins slid the second syringe into a pocket and then took the protective covering off the needle. He stepped in a circle around Vin and Vin tensed when the man got behind him, out of sight. He expected to feel the needle stabbed into him from behind but it didn't happen. Perkins continued around until he was once again in front. "Give me your arm," he said as he pulled a thick rubber strip out of a pocket. Vin saw the strip and knew what he was supposed to do. He raised one arm up with the veins of his inner elbow pointed towards the man.

Perkins quickly wrapped the rubber strip around Vin's upper arm and poked around on his elbow looking for a suitable vein. All this was not necessary for the drug to be introduced into his system but Perkins did like the show it made. He found one that satisfied him and rapidly pierced Vin's skin with the needle.

Vin sucked in a breath at the sensation. He didn't watch as Perkins depressed the plunger and the liquid was forced into him. He let his arm fall when he felt the needle withdrawn and the rubber strip being pulled free and a moment after that he sat back onto his heels.

"Should be just a few moments. Enjoy, Mr. Tanner." Perkins patted Vin's cheek before he rose up and went to the door. One glance back and he was gone, the loud click of the bolt echoing again through the room.

Vin stared sadly at the floor while he waited. There was so much he wanted to do yet in his life. He couldn't believe that this was the way it was going to end.

"Vin," JD called softly from a few feet away. "Try again to untie me before... " He didn't want to say it, whichever outcome it would be.

Vin slowly raised his head to look at JD, his eyes brimming with tears. "JD," he choked out, "tell, Buck, team...friends I ever..." He stopped and swallowed hard as he twitched his head once to the side. He could feel the start of something happening inside. "Tell Chris..." he continued as a few tears trickled down his cheeks. He wasn't able to say any more as he ground his teeth together and squeezed his eyes shut tight. He knew at that moment which drug he'd gotten as the horrible images returned to terrorize him. He tried to convince himself that they weren't real, that they were only mental images conjured up by the drug affecting his mind but they consumed his consciousness so fast that it was only a matter of seconds before he couldn't tell what was real and what was not. He threw himself back against the wall and screamed, pounding his fists against the hard surface trying to beat off the images.

JD watched horrified as Vin started nearly convulsing on the floor. He wasn't able to see what Vin was seeing and couldn't tell from his screams that it wasn't excruciating pain that he was experiencing. JD thought Vin was dying and his own tears started falling as he watched.

+ + + + + + +

Buck slammed the phone down in frustration. Nobody was talking. None of his usual contacts and none of his police detective friends' contacts. No one had any word on where JD and Vin might be. Buck buried his face in his hands and rubbed fiercely. Damn!

Nathan and Josiah looked up from their desks at the sound. Nathan felt his heart sink as another possibility fell through. He dropped his chin to his chest.

"Nathan," Josiah warned in a low tone from across his desk. "I know that look."

Nathan glanced up at his friend. "Yeah, well, until those two are back with us, you just better get used to seeing it."

"You can't foresee everything, my friend."

Nathan nodded his head. "I know, I know. There was no way for me to possibly guess that the man had drugged us all but," Nathan paused as he took a deep breath and regrouped. "They were counting on me to look out for them, Josiah. I let 'em down."

Josiah opened his mouth to speak but stopped before any sound emerged. There wasn't anything he could say that hadn't already been said and Nathan wouldn't believe it any more this time than any previous time. "We will find them," he finally said.

Nathan looked up skeptically for a moment then nodded his agreement.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat alone in his office, the blinds lowered and shut, the door closed and locked. He had heard the muffled sound of Buck slamming the phone down and he felt his own heart sink some more. Vin had been through so much already and now, who knew what that maniac was putting him through. And JD too this time. Chris shook his head and, not for the first time, wished Ezra's bullet had killed the man.

+ + + + + + +

JD slowly opened his eyes and eased his chin off his chest. He gradually rolled his head backwards partly to stretch out the stiff muscles of his neck and partly to get a look out the window to try to judge what time of day it was by how bright the sky was. It appeared to be overcast so there was no way to pin down the time, not that he knew what day it was anyway.

He began raising and lowering his eyebrows rapidly as the tape from the bandage still covering the cut on his forehead began itching. Once that was irritating him sufficiently, the stitches from the cut on his arm began annoying him too. He leaned over as much as he could and rubbed at his arm with his chin. He wasn't anywhere near the cut but he tried to convince himself that he was soothing the itch. Finally, he forced himself to ignore them and focus on something else.

"I wonder if the guys are close," he pondered softly to himself. He knew they were looking for him and Vin but how close were they to finding them? He supposed that might depend on how long the two of them had been there. He didn't have his watch on and the only way he'd had to gauge the time was the light and dark from the window.

He didn't know how long time-wise he'd been there but he did know it had been four visits by Perkins. Four times he'd had to watch Vin beg to be the one to receive the shot. JD knew as long as Vin had enough wits about him to know where he was, he wasn't going to let JD get the shot instead of him. Perkins loved to see him grovel. He loved to see the fear in both men's eyes as he injected the drug into Vin's system.

The last time the man had been in the room, he'd had Vin in tears begging him not to give the shot to JD but rather to give it to him. JD had been in tears as well, begging Vin not to take it again. It tore at JD's heart to watch what his friend had to suffer through in the name of protecting him.

JD looked across the room at the heap Vin had fallen into when the last dose had worn off enough that he could either fall asleep or pass out. Pass out was probably more right. JD was exhausted and very thirsty and he'd just been sitting there. Vin had expended so much energy during the bouts with the hallucinations that JD wondered how he managed to wake up at all.

JD was pretty sure that during Vin's last experience with the new drug, the old one still roaming around in his system had caused another relapse. Vin had abruptly gone silent though JD could see he was still awake and still terrified, breathing frantically as he weakly clutched at his stomach with one hand while he slapped the floor spasmodically with the other.

JD looked around the room, squinting into the dark corners. He knew there had to be some kind of monitoring device. Perkins's arrivals every time just as Vin was coming around was too much to be coincidence. He had to be watching.

As if the thought brought the man, JD heard the familiar click of the bolt on the door. A moment later, it was slowly pushed open and Perkins appeared just inside, closing the door silently behind him. JD watched him enter, then spun his head around to Vin. The man did not appear to be waking up. JD wondered why the madman was there.

Perkins smiled at JD as he stepped further into the room. He walked slowly around to the spot where Vin was crumpled on the floor, reaching down and feeling his throat for a pulse. When he straightened back up, he curled his lips up as he looked again at JD.

"Still with us," he informed him. JD flicked concerned eyes down to his friend then glared back at the man standing.

Perkins walked away from Vin and circled the chair causing JD to twist around to keep him in view. He sauntered over to the wall directly in front of JD and leaned back against it, folding his arms across his chest. Then, he stared.

JD tried not to squirm under the scrutiny but it was difficult. The man before him was insane, of that JD was sure, and that made him totally unpredictable. He stiffened his backbone and tried to stare evenly back at the man, waiting.

"You know, don't you?" Perkins asked quietly after a long, long silence.

JD narrowed his eyes but said nothing.

"About the syringes. You know they are both the same, don't you? You know that each time he's been made to choose between the hallucinations and death, there never was any choice. It's far too soon to chance killing him. He hasn't suffered nearly enough."

"Bastard," JD grumbled through clenched teeth.

"That isn't to say he won't die eventually." Perkins slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out yet another syringe. JD could tell immediately that this one was different. The liquid contained inside it was almost black.

JD shivered as he looked at the item in the man's hand. He had no doubt as to what it would do. It would kill Vin. The madman may like his games but he was out to ultimately kill him. Not for the first time, JD wondered what his fate would be. He hated that he thought about himself when Vin was the one suffering all the pain but the thought of what was going to happen to him kept creeping into his consciousness.

"Why are you doing this?" JD blurted out, though he was pretty sure he knew.

Perkins looked at him incredulously. "That man ruined my life!" he bellowed as he pointed an angry finger towards Vin. "All he had to do was stay away for ten days. I had it perfectly planned out. But he showed up again. And then the judge granted the delay in his testifying. If Tanner hadn't shown up at all he wouldn't have done that. He would have thrown out the case." Perkins shook his head angrily from side to side. "So he was able to testify against Chassen and we both know that Chassen won't hesitate to repay me for my failure. I had a good life up until Tanner came along."

"You dumped Vin out in the middle of nowhere in Texas. You didn't mean for him to come back," JD argued.

Perkins shook his head. "No. I knew quite well that eventually he would be found. The whole operation was very well planned out. He wasn't meant to die, just disappear for a while." He slowly shifted his gaze to the body on the floor. "He came back too soon."

"You can't blame Vin because your drug wore off," JD objected.

Perkins narrowed his eyes and slowly turned his head back to JD. "No, that I blame you for." He smiled when JD's expression turned first questioning then frightened. "You were the hacker that got into those files. You were the one who told him how to speed up his recovery." He scowled at JD for several seconds and then his expression softened. "I suppose I shouldn't have expected less. You and your team are formidable opponents. You were probably doing only what you were ordered to do. Perhaps it should be your leader that should be bound to that chair." Perkins tipped his head back and eyed the ceiling as he thought. "Hmmmm. Something to consider."

JD tried to think of something that would raise some doubt in the man's mind, something that would make him rethink what he was doing, but his mind froze.

Finally, Perkins shrugged and turned his attention back to JD. "Well, I suppose that it's a moot point at this stage of the game. He is not here, you are." He stared for a moment. "So, what should I do with you?"

JD's mouth spoke before he could stop it. "You should untie me and let me and Vin get out of here!"

Perkins scoffed. "That's not likely. What would be your second choice?"

JD was about to respond but instead he clamped his mouth closed. The man was taunting him, baiting him. JD knew the whole situation would only get worse if he let the man get to him. He stared back at him and remained silent.

"Killing you does seem a little extreme considering you were only following orders." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Maybe I'll just let you watch your friend die, that will be your punishment." He glanced briefly over to Vin. "He has given us quite a show so far, hasn't he?" Perkins abruptly turned and started towards the door. He was snickering at first but by the time he had the door open, the room was reverberating with the sound of his cackling laugh. The sound was punctuated with the bolt snapping closed as the door was secured shut.

That laugh! Vin's eyes shot open as the sound of that laugh arrowed through his senses to his unconscious brain and forced him awake. He dared not move as he waited and listened. The sound died away quickly and then he was surrounded by silence. He moved his eyes slowly around as he started to get his bearings. He remembered where he was and the memory sent a shiver through his body. Then he remembered JD was with him. He strained his ears but couldn't hear any sound and the thought that maybe JD was dead petrified him.

The wall in front of him looked like the same one he'd woken up against several times already. Dirty gray and musty. He knew he'd have to move to check on JD but he wasn't sure he could. His whole body ached. He looked down at his hands lying on the floor in front of him and saw they were bruised and swollen. As he looked at them, the dull throb they were generating seemed to crawl up his arms. He closed his eyes as a wave of nausea followed the pain.

Vin tried to focus his mind as he reopened his eyes. He looked around as much as he could without moving and could judge by the direction the light from the window was coming from where he was in the room. If he twisted his head just a little, he'd be able to see the chair and JD. Slowly, he turned to look over his shoulder and was rewarded with the sight of his friend still in the chair. He watched for several moments before he saw any movement, movement that told him JD was still alive.

Vin then scanned the room, looking for Perkins. He saw no sign of him and briefly wondered if he had imagined the laugh. That laugh had haunted his dreams and it wasn't inconceivable that he had conjured it up. Deciding it was safe, he began to push himself up to a sitting position. He was practically all the way up before JD noticed the movement and called to him.

"Vin!" His voice was hoarse with emotion. "Hurry. Untie me, please!"

Vin heard the pleading quality in JD's tone and pushed himself to move faster. He turned himself around and began crawling on his hands and knees over to the side of the chair. He never looked into JD's eyes as he leaned back onto his heels and took several deep breaths, gathering strength. Reaching up a shaking hand, he focused on the stiff leather strap that held his friend's wrist in place and began tugging gingerly on it, trying to pull it free. It held tight and Vin bit down on his lower lip and he concentrated on getting it loose.

Both men jumped at the sound of a voice in the room and turned to look at the door. Neither man had heard it open.

"So, you've decided to join us once more, I see. Your young friend has been quite concerned about you."

Vin sank down closer to the floor and let his hand fall away from the strap on JD's arm. He felt a lump form in his throat and tried to swallow it as he and JD watched the man step closer.

"It's that time again, Mr. Tanner," Perkins said as he reached into his pocket.

Vin squeezed his eyes shut tight and willed the man to go away but when he opened them again, he was still there, with the two syringes in his hand.


JD squinted at the syringes and when he saw that they were identical, he told Vin, "Don't worry, Vin. Neither one will kill you. They both have the same thing in them."

It took several moments for JD's words to sink in and Vin turned his eyes to look at his friend.

"He told me. All along, they've been the same thing. They won't kill you."

Vin squinted slightly as he thought about what JD was saying to him. 'They won't kill you.' Was that a good thing, Vin wondered. At this point, he thought he would almost rather die than suffer through another bout with the horror that the syringe introduced. He didn't think he could do it again and tears formed in his eyes as he tried to come to grips with what was going to happen.

Perkins hummed in the background. "You believed all that, did you?" He looked curiously at JD as JD gaped back at him. It hadn't occurred to the young man that Perkins had been lying to him.

"Oh god," JD moaned, fearing he had just given Vin bogus information. He tried to read Perkins's face to tell if he was lying now.

'No!' Vin's mind screamed. He didn't want to die. He had to stay alive. He rolled his eyes back to Perkins and to the syringes still held in his hand. He slowly raised his hand up to indicate which syringe but instead he brought it down hard on both of them. They popped out of the man's hand and after flipping in the air a few times, fell to the floor. Both broke open and the three men watched the liquid inside spread out over the floor.

Vin hesitated only a second before he lunged forward at Perkins. If he could take him out, then he could take his time working on the straps holding JD in place and the two of them could get out of there. He tried to wrap his fingers around the man's neck with the intention of squeezing the life out of him but his fingers were thick and unresponsive. His momentum did carry him forward and force the other man to fall backwards.

The fall onto his back caused pain in his wound and Perkins was momentarily stunned, allowing Vin to land several weak swats at the man's face. It wasn't long however before Perkins regained himself and fought back. He knocked Vin on the side of the head hard enough to topple him to the floor. Once Perkins got back on his feet, he began kicking Vin to the tops of his legs, making sure he was weakened and stayed down but not hurt so seriously that his fun would come to an end. Vin tried to roll away from the attack but his battered body refused to respond quickly enough.

Perkins continued the assault until it seemed to him that Vin would remain on the floor for some time. He sneered at the man as he leaned forward and put his mouth close to Vin's ear. "You will regret that, Mr. Tanner." He straightened up quickly and stormed out of the room, not even bothering to close the door.

"Vin?!" JD's eyes were wide as he watched his friend. Vin squirmed painfully on the floor and JD knew urging him over to untie him was useless. The man couldn't respond. He looked longingly at the door standing open, a small amount of light shining in from down the hallway beyond it.

Vin groaned as he tried to regain his balance and get to his feet. Most of the kicks aimed at him were to his legs but one or two landed in his lower back. He couldn't focus clearly enough yet to tell whether there was any more serious damage than a few bruises. He tried taking several deep breaths and though they helped clear his head, they also brought to the pain a new intensity. He stilled his body as he waited for the fresh agony to subside.

"Vin?" JD called plaintively.

Vin slowly rolled his head over so he could look towards JD. He didn't see Perkins in the room and he thought this might be his last chance to try and get his friend free. He moaned as he forced his weary body to move again and after several long moments, was able to get to his hands and knees. With painfully slow movements, Vin headed forward.

"Give them a little hope," Perkins mumbled to himself in a room down the hall as he adjusted the angle of the camera. He watched on the monitor as Vin drug his beaten body towards his restrained friend in the chair. "Make them think they have a chance," he added as he pushed the record button on a VCR that was hooked up to the monitoring equipment. He'd already replayed the parts he had recorded earlier of Tanner begging for his friend's life, begging to have the needle pierce his own skin once more. It had brought him an intense pleasure to watch what he had reduced the man to.

He continued watching until Vin reached JD's side then he stood up and grabbed two more syringes. "Show time," he announced as he headed out the door.

Vin's fingers were almost completely unresponsive as he began picking at the leather straps holding JD's wrist down. He could hear his friend's words of encouragement but it took all his concentration to get his fingers to move.

"Uh, uh, uh. None of that, Mr. Tanner," the voice taunted from the doorway. Both Vin and JD looked that way and saw Perkins standing just inside the room, his hand on the doorknob as he was swinging it closed.

Vin seemed frozen to his spot as Perkins ambled further into the room towards him. His eyes were glued to the hands that hovered around the pockets that always supplied the pain and sure enough, one hand slipped into one pocket and pulled out two syringes.

JD gasped and it took Vin a moment of concentration to realize that this time the syringes contained obviously different liquids. One was very dark. He stared at them, his body beginning to tremble.

Perkins stiffened his spine as he looked down at Vin. "The game has changed, Mr. Tanner." He grabbed one syringe in each hand and put his two hands behind his back. "Right or left... pick a hand," he stated, obviously shifting the two items between his hands behind his back.

Vin looked lost. He didn't think he could make a choice. He tried to think of alternatives, tried to come up with a way out of this situation but all he saw in his future was pain and death. He looked over at JD, hoping he could provide some guidance but all the young man did was open and close his mouth a couple of times, unable to come up with anything to say.

"Mr. Tanner?" Perkins growled.

Vin dropped his eyes to the floor. "Left," he choked out hoarsely. It didn't really matter which one.

Perkins smiled. He slowly brought his right hand around and slipped that syringe into his pocket without letting the two men see which one it was. Then, he brought the left hand around and rolled open his fingers showing the syringe filled with the darker liquid.

JD's eyes fell closed and his shoulders sagged in a moment of defeat and despair.

Without looking up, Vin extended one arm to allow the injection.

Perkins grinned again as he slipped the cover off the needle. "Oh, you have it wrong this time. I'm going to let your friend experience this one."

Vin's head shot up and he looked at his captor with shocked eyes. Not JD! He pushed himself onto his knees and leaned forward. "No. It's me you want," his voice cracked out.

Perkins shook his head sadly. "But you broke the rules of the game. You have to be punished and I think an appropriate punishment for you is to watch your friend die."

Vin began frantically shaking his head no. He lifted his arms up and dropped them across JD's lap, dangling his limp hands over JD's arm in an attempt to block the shot.

"No, please. I'm sorry. Do whatever you want to me but don't hurt him," Vin begged, his voice cracking more.

"Vin, don't," JD said softly, his voice equally thick with emotion.

Perkins leaned back and smiled down at the scene before him. "Now, why should I believe you?"

Vin opened his mouth to reply but no words came out. He slowly shook his head. There was nothing he could say that would convince the man. "Please." Tears began to slowly roll down his cheeks. "Please," he begged.

Perkins stood over the men and looked down on them both for several long moments before he spoke again. "That's more like it," he said as he recapped the syringe and slipped it into his pocket. JD could tell by the man's expression that this was exactly what he wanted to see.

Perkins saw Vin relax slightly and in an instant, he whipped his arm around and brought the back of his hand hard across the side of Vin's face. Vin was thrown to the floor and remained there, dazed. Perkins pulled the other syringe out of his pocket and uncapped it as he knelt down on one knee. He grabbed a handful of Vin's hair and yanked his head back. Through tightly clenched teeth, he warned, "I'll kill your friend and you if you try that again." He released his hold on Vin's hair and before his head fell to the floor, he had the needle stuck in Vin's hip and was depressing the plunger.

Vin squirmed under the injection but more out of surprise than any attempt at escape. He squeezed his eyes closed as he felt the needle pull free and rested his forehead on the floor as he waited for the inevitable.

"God, Vin..." JD muttered sadly. He tugged absently on the straps holding him in the chair. His conscious mind knew it was a useless gesture but his sub-conscious mind had to keep testing them.

Perkins turned at JD's words and looked at him curiously. He stepped up in front of the young man and looked down on him. "Your friend is either very loyal or very stupid."

JD looked back at him incredulously. He knew he should remain silent but a thousand snide remarks leapt into his brain. "What would you know about friends or loyalty?" JD let a slow smile curl his lips. "You do know about stupid though, don't you?"

Perkins patted his coat pocket where the remaining syringe was. "Careful, young man. I could end your life right here, right now."

JD scoffed. "You must really be stupid if you think that I think you're planning on letting me out of here."

Perkins growled under his breath as he leaned over and rested both his hands on the arms of the chair, arching his fingers over JD's arms, and got into JD's face. "I'm warning you..."

JD couldn't resist. He collected as much saliva on his tongue as he could and spit it all into the man's face.

"rrrrrrrrr..." Perkins growled again as he angrily wiped the spittle away then drove his hand into his pocket, withdrawing the syringe.

JD's mind raced. He had known this was a possible outcome but now with the reality of it, he was scared. He knew he wouldn't be able to help Vin while he was strapped down and Perkins was making a game of slowly killing him. He hated watching, knowing he couldn't get his friend out of this and he had no idea how long it would take the rest of the team to find them.

JD didn't want to die but if that was to be his fate, he would accept it bravely. He squared his shoulders and tightened his jaw as Perkins slipped the cover off the needle.

Momentarily forgotten on the other side of the room, Vin slowly pushed himself to a sitting position. He could feel the drug in him starting to take hold but it worked slower when it wasn't injected directly into a vein. He shook his head groggily, trying to clear it.

Looking up across the room, he saw Perkins standing over JD in the chair. He wrinkled his brow at the sight. Perkins had never remained in the room before. Maybe he was imagining him. But then the hallucination pulled out the syringe and drew off the cover. He looked like he was going to inject JD. Vin couldn't let that happen, whether it was an illusion or not. He had to stop it.

Digging down inside to his very soul, he found the strength to push himself to his feet and step shakily towards the other two men. He managed to move quietly enough until he saw the man lean in and get the needle too close to JD's arm. Vin launched himself at Perkins and knocked him to the floor a second before the needle reached its target.

Perkins was stunned as he landed on his back and Vin landed on his chest. He tried to throw Vin off as he had before but his own drug had provided Vin with the strength to fight back. Vin slapped at him with his hands, the metal of the banged up splints cutting slits across his face.

It took a few moments for Perkins to remember that he still held the syringe in his hand. He protected it as much as he could from Vin's assault until he could get it into a position to use it.

JD sat still, horrified at the scene before him. Vin's back was to him and blocked much of the fight so JD had no idea what was happening. He wanted to call to his friend but was afraid of distracting him and giving Perkins an opportunity to finish him.

A tiny glint of light caught Vin's eye and he raised his hand to deflect the coming attack. A scream climbed out of his belly and he gave it voice as he swung wildly at the man. He aimed for the hand with the needle and forced it to the man beneath him.

Perkins responded with a scream of his own as he felt the needle embed itself into his body just below his collar bone. He thought if he could pull it out before the plunger was pushed, he may survive it. Clawing frantically at the syringe, he only managed to attract Vin's attention to the area. Vin swatted at the man's hands and without really intending to, his hand came down on the plunger and forced the liquid into Perkins's body.

Perkins screamed out his terror and his pain.

Vin screamed as his mind fell completely under the drug's influence and was once again assaulted with the unwanted images.

JD screamed out his anger, frustration and fear.

+ + + + + + +

"Defense rested. Case has gone to the jury," Josiah reported as he wearily lowered himself into one of the chairs around the conference table.

"Any sign?" Buck asked.

Sadly, Josiah shook his head. "Not of Perkins. And no one got to Chassen to talk to him except his lawyer."

Chris shook his head and stood up. He was far too anxious to remain sitting. He began pacing.

"We went through everything the last time with Vin. We know it's Perkins, we just don't know where," Nathan said.

Chris stopped pacing as he locked his elbows and rested his palms on the table. Leaning forward, he dropped his head low between his arms and squeezed his eyes shut tight as he tried to think of something they hadn't thought of yet. "They have to be somewhere," he grumbled through gritted teeth.

"But that somewhere could be anywhere," Ezra pointed out, remembering that Vin had turned up last time in Texas.

Buck leaned forward and grabbed one of the file folders that littered the table top. "Gotta keep trying," he said absently as he flipped open the folder and began re-re-reading.

+ + + + + + +

Vin had finally moved off from on top of Perkins as the drug he was given had taken hold of his mind. As had happened before, the room was filled with his cries as horrible images filled his mind. From the number of times he called out one of the team member's names, JD could tell that Vin's hallucinations had more to do with things happening to his friends rather than to himself.

With Vin off of him, JD now had a clear view of Perkins and could see the syringe still sticking out of his chest. The prone man's cries of agony bounced around the room as his own drug ravaged his body and it was nearly half an hour before the painful spasms stopped and JD saw his chest rise and fall for the last time. He shuddered as he realized he had been just moments away from that fate.

JD twisted in the chair to see Vin huddled in the corner whimpering at something only he could see. JD knew trying to talk to him while he was under the drug's influence was useless. He had never been able to get a response before. It occurred to him that with Perkins in the room with them, the door was unlocked. He thought about trying to get Vin to go for help, just in case Perkins had helpers but he was afraid that, even if he could get Vin to understand, that he may go off in the wrong direction or end up in a worse situation than they were in. No, he would just have to wait it out.

+ + + + + + +

"Not much open this time of the morning," Josiah reported as he dropped several bags on the table. Coffee, they had plenty of but after pulling an all-niter, they were sorely lacking in food. The men were hungry but didn't have much enthusiasm for eating so only slowly began picking at the bagged items. They all knew they had to eat to keep up their stamina, not to mention keep their brains functioning until they figured this out, but with two of their ranks missing, they just didn't have the heart.


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