It didn't take long for the three peacekeepers to get the two tents set up on the warm afternoon. The larger of them had two cots in it and a couple empty crates with some chairs. The smaller one housed the rest of the supplies and two thick bedrolls. Nathan watched his three friends work in silence, pausing only long enough to get a drink. Chris's eyes were never long off his suffering friend. Nathan sighed and kept his creekside vigil over the restless patient. Vin was lying on a blanket, and his injured foot was in the cold creek. Nathan was careful only to leave it in there for twenty minutes or so. He bathed Vin's face, neck and chest with cool water, careful that it wasn't too cold and shocking to him.
"Come on, Vin..." The healer eased the damp head up as soon as the blue slits appeared. The confusion that they were riddled with told the older man that his patient had no idea where he was. He lifted the tin mug to the thirsty lips and Vin took several good sips of Ming's herbal tea.
"How's he doing?" Chris squatted down and saw the flushed face furrow and the cautious, heavy lidded eyes regarding him. "Hey Vin..." He leaned in, but Vin blinked and slipped back into his restless slumber.
"His fever's going up..." Nate fretted, "With the stuff Ming sent and what I brought, I don't have enough medicine to get him to sun up tomorrow. I'm gonna leave as soon as you're set up. Josiah can tend to him."
"What do you need?" Chris asked, placing a hand on Vin's shoulder and shushing him as he cried out in his dream.
"White Willow, Goldenseal , chuchupate and some comfrey..."
"Oh," Chris sighed, "Where do find that stuff?"
"I can get most of it at the Seminole Camp," He replied, taking Vin's foot out of the creek and gently sponging if off. "...and on the way there. "Hand me that, Chris," He pointed to a brown crock. "It's a poultice for his chest...from the comfrey...helps break up that congestion."
"I'll do it..." Chris offered, dipping two fingers into the mixture and gently applying it to Vin's chest. "How long?"
"If I get started soon, I can be back by late afternoon tomorrow. I hate to leave him...but I got no choice. Josiah knows how to make the teas for his fever and the tincture to drop in those foot wounds. Soak his foot about twenty minutes every couple hours."
"All set..." Josiah boomed, his large form casting a shadow over the fallen man.
With every stroke on the mottled chest, Chris Larabee's anger rose. How many more people close to him would Ella harm? Vin wasn't out of danger yet. He watched the chest rise and fall and heard the harsh wheezing. He'd lost weight...How long had she kept him prisoner? His anger grew as his guilt ate away at him. If only he'd shot her when he had the chance...
Finally free of the animal trap, Vin stumbled through the dark forest, alone and in pain. He heard the gurgling of a stream nearby and crawled towards it. He eased his injured foot in the water and wondered where his brother was. The cold water gave him relief and he slumped back on the riverbed, closing his eyes. A gentle voice drew him back; he opened his eyes and stared at the dark fox looking down at him. He blinked rapidly, and opened his mouth as the fox held a pouch of water in its mouth. The water was good and he drank with greed. As he was finishing, a harsher voice joined them. He stared aghast at the large black wolf, eyes glowing green that hovered over him. He backed away, and looked for the fox, but his heavy eyes protested and he fell asleep. A large booming voice jerked his eyes open again. A huge white owl, its feathers like snow with piercing blue eyes loomed above him. He reached a hand up and the velvet wings surrounded him. The owl carried him from the riverbank to a soft bed. He sighed in relief and gave his thanks.
"Just like the Grand Hotel in San Francisco, Vin." Josiah soothed, having placed the fevered man in his cot. He pulled a sheet up to Vin's chest and a hand snagged his wrist. The dry lips moved and the preacher had to lean way down to hear the raspy whisper. "Your Welcome, Son." He soothed, pulling the sweat-soaked hair from the trapper's eyes. "Chris, keep an eye on him for a minute. I want to ask Nate about his bandages. Buck heading out?"
"Yeah...he's gonna catch up to Ezra and J.D..." Chris managed his voice tense and gritty.
"Let it go, Chris. She ain't here and getting riled up at her now isn't doing you any good."
He advised, but the blond only tensed up more. Josiah shook his head and went to speak with Nathan.
Chris paced around the cot, rubbing the back of his neck and trying to ease the tension out of his muscles. Every time he heard Vin whimper or moan, every time the body moved in frantic, fevered motions, it only added fuel to his fire. He kept seeing her face, laughing at him...taunting him.
"Son-of-a-bitch..." He cursed, banging a fist on the makeshift-crate-table at Vin's head.
Vin's eyes jerked open. He gazed frantically around the strange cave. His heart hammered so hard it was coming through his chestwall. Where was the owl? What happened to the fox? Where was his brother?
"Vin?" Chris winced as the harsh tone caused the younger man to flinch. He picked up a compress soaking in cold water and bent over Vin. He saw the blue eyes widen in fear and the weak body trying desperately to flee.
"NO!" Vin screamed, as the black wolf's large head dropped in front of him. He heard the angry snarling and growling as it entered the cave. He couldn't move and backed away, as the yellow teeth snapped at him, coming closer and closer. "...no...no...."
"Vin...take it easy. It's me...I'm not gonna...Vin...calm down." His voice grew sterner as he battled the thrashing arms and his heart wrenched at the fear in the darting blue eyes.
Nate's figure dipped below the crest in the hill and Josiah turned back to the fire. He had a mug with Ming's herbal tea and another with some strong broth. He was about to enter the tent, when he heard Vin screaming. Dropping his head inside the flap, he saw Chris pushing Vin's shoulders down. The sharpshooter's eyes were wide with terror and more importantly, his injured foot was not immobile, as healer Jackson ordered. "Chris...steady his foot...Nate said it can't be moved." He issued, placing the mugs on a crate away from the flailing limbs. He knelt by the cot and grabbed the panting, frantic form. "Easy Brother Vin...relax...you're safe here..."
The ten-year-old boy turned his head away from the predator and gasped in relief when the large owl returned. The white feathers spread in a protective shield and he let out a sigh of relief.
"Here, I got some water for you." Josiah said quietly, already feeling Tanner relax. The large blue eyes regarded him with trust as the water quickly disappeared. He reached a long arm over and got the herbal tea. He managed to get almost the full mug in Vin, before the eyes started to fade.
"Don't go away...please..." He pleaded, eyeing the owl's kind eyes and desperate for the soothing voice. His eyes grew heavy, but he waited, fighting the curtain until the owl's feathers covered him.
"You get some sleep, Vin. We'll be right here." Josiah eased, covering Vin with a clean sheet. He waited the tension left and the body seemed to be somewhat relaxed. He heard Chris leave and stuck his head outside. The man in black was down by the creek bed, lost in thought. He was about to turn back, when he noticed Chris squat at the water's edge. He seemed to be scrubbing something. With a shrug, he returned to his charge.
Chris soaked the dark shirt and carefully laid it on a flat rock near the water's edge. He couldn't explain why he grabbed the torn, bloody shirt when they left Josiah's. But here it was, and he bashed at it with a smaller rock. He repeated the motion, taking out his frustrations on the helpless black fabric. First Sarah and Adam, now Vin...who else would Ella claim in his name? With a final grunt, he was satisfied and laid the shirt out to dry. He gazed at the horizon and wondered if he'd ever fill the hole inside that the she-devil created.
The same pattern was repeated throughout the day. Josiah felt bad for Chris Larabee, so desperate to help his best friend, who was lost in a nightmare world. They bathed his foot and dressed it; Josiah spoon fed Vin broth and tea as often as the fevered man was semi-alert. As evening fell, Vin stopped fighting. The thrashing point had passed and the victim was too weak to battle. He lay unnaturally still, his labored breathing accented by weak coughs. They took turns sleeping and tending to him. Daybreak brought no relief and although Vin was no worse, he was no better. Josiah thought his foot looked like it improved a bit, not a discolored or swollen. As he made some eggs and ham for breakfast, he said some silent prayers for his fallen friend.
+ + + + + + +
Like steam rising into the air, she evaporated once again. Despite the efforts of the three stalwart gunslingers, Ella Gaines and a handful of her hired guns had disappeared. Buck caught up to Ezra and J.D. and they pursued the path of the fleeing group late into the night. The trail turned a cold shoulder on them, and forced the reluctant trio to head back to Four Corners. It was well past noon when they arrived in town.
"She's like some evil demon who can disappear at will." Buck sighed, heading for the Saloon and some lunch.
"Yeah...but at least we know her gang's been cut short." J.D. relayed, having studied the tracks they'd followed. "Three, maybe four men with her. Maybe Vin can tell us where she's headed."
"I hope Vin's still with us..." Buck quietly replied, dropping into a chair and nodding at Inez. The coffee was strong and laced with whiskey. "Thanks Darlin'..."
"No Luck?" She guessed, seeing the three despondent faces.
"We lost her." J.D. sounded dejected.
Ezra found a weak grin at the string of Spanish curses that followed Inez back to the kitchen. "Perhaps after our midday meal, we should hasten to the camp, to check on Mr. Tanner."
"Yeah...we best bring grub." Buck agreed, "Maybe Mary had luck with those wires she was sending."
The Clarion's editor had decided to wire some of the towns in the territory to see if someone had hired on a large number of men. The three ate in near silence, and decided to meet at the livery.
Buck and J.D. went to get changed into clean clothes. After picking up some supplies from Mrs. Potter, they were going to meet Ezra. The Southerner was going to meet with Mary Travis.
J.D. and Buck were in the barn, preparing for their trip. Buck had a burlap bag with food, coffee and other necessities inside it. He was tying it to his saddlehorn and saw J.D. grooming Diablo, Vin Tanner's fine horse. The black steed with a white blaze was fast and strong. Other than Vin, J.D. was the only one who he allowed close enough to handle.
"You might as well toss the blanket on 'im." Buck broke the silence, reading the youth's mind. The sheriff's horse had a hot tendon and he'd need to use another one. "You're the only other fool he'll tolerate. Vin won't mind..."
"He's smart...," J.D. said softly, gazing at the horse's dark eyes. "You ever see that way he responds to Vin...it's like he can understand him." "Four-footed furry things take to him..." the older gunslinger replied of the tracker's ability to commune with nature and animals so easily.
"Two-footed ones do too..." J.D. mused, missing his friend. As the two youngest, they often found themselves on the same side, defending themselves against their 'older' brothers. He missed Vin. He'd give anything to hear that familiar drawl of "Hey Kid..." that greeted him every morning when Vin brought him coffee and a sweetroll to the sheriff's office. He'd learned so much from the quiet Texan. Vin had a lot of patience with him, teaching him about tracking, reading the weather, land, animals...even improved his accuracy in shooting distance. But most of all he missed the feeling. Without Vin sprawled in a chair nearby, peeking out from under that floppy hat...no keen eyes on the rooftop to protect their back...no contagious laughter in the darkness when he pulled a prank on them and disappeared.
As Buck finished, he eyed the youth carefully; easily reading the emotions so openly displayed. He picked up Vin's saddle and walked over to the stall. J.D. looked up and nodded, placing the saddle on the fine horse.
"I missed him too, Kid..." Buck said, patting J.D.'s back as Ezra entered. He turned and saw the glint of gold in the late afternoon sun. "You eat a canary on the way over, Ace?"
"Perhaps..." Ezra came closer. "The sheriff in Santa Fe reported that a large amount of dynamite was stolen from the freight office. Also, several of the river towns reported a large outdoorsman recruiting guns for hire. They're in this area." He pointed to the towns near White Rock Canyon.
"Hey, that ties into the area we were staked out before..." J.D. recalled the maps Ezra made, "Chris figured Vin headed north..."
"A most astute calculation," The Gambler nodded, "If Mr. Tanner was indeed returning from his sojourn, he would have been passing through this area."
"...And if that bitch put a stinger on his tail..."
"That would give her the illusion of luring Mr. Larabee by using Vin as bait." Ezra finished. "Undoubtedly, when her last plan went up in smoke, she found out about his unfortunate flight."
"I bet she hired the best bounty hunter in the area to find Vin." J.D. swung a leg onto Diablo, and eyed his two friends. "So, what's the plan?"
"I'll ride out and update Chris and them. " Buck decided. "You and Ezra get going, I'll grab either Josiah or Chris and catch up."
"We'll follow our original plan?" Ezra inquired of the discussion that took place several days before.
"Yeah, that'll work." Buck nodded, "Chris has his map in his saddlebags. We'll meet in Santa Fe."
"Good enough." J.D. hollered and hooted as he charged out of the livery. "Oh that youth is wasted on the young." Ezra lamented, climbing on Deuce.
"Get going, Old Timer..." Buck laughed, "and watch your back...watch the Kid's too."
With a nod and grin, Ezra rode after the young lawman and Buck headed the other way, towards Bitter Creek.
Josiah stood in the doorway of the tent and wondered what Chris Larabee was thinking. The brooding man in black was sitting in a chair by Vin's cot. He was hunched over, arms resting on his knees, eyes studying the floor. The same position he'd been in last time he popped his head in.
Chris shook his head without looking up. He wasn't hungry. Outwardly, his stoic positioning would indicate to an observer someone who was in control. The pensive face and solid stance was a front. Inwardly, he was a mess. His tangled nerves and jarred senses were battling a fierce war. He wanted to...needed to vent his anger. He wanted to escape from this canvas cave...he felt trapped, and swore the tent sides were closing in. Vin was slipping away, he could feel it. At least when he was battling demons in his nightmares, there was some life in him. Now, the near waxen pallor on the stilled face and the barely audible wheeze had him frightened. He saw Josiah put a cup of broth on the table. He nodded, acknowledging the change of shifts.
He stood and stretched as Josiah took a seat. He walked behind the cot and lifted the weak tracker. Josiah slid several pillows on the end and Chris eased Vin back, leaving the semi-conscious man sitting higher. The movement caused the slits to open, then an eye appeared.
The change of position exposed the brutal marks on the sharpshooter's chest and Chris felt the dormant anger lash out.
Vin blinked and coughed, his eyes darting above the large white-feathered wing. He saw the wolf lurking and backed away, leaning inside the owl's strong wing. The reassuring voice was back and he relaxed. He heard the command to eat and he opened his lips. The warm, rich flavored liquid caused him to moan.
"I'm glad somebody appreciates my cookin', Vin." Josiah smiled at the soft, grateful grunt that slid past the slack lips. Vin's mouth worked, taking in the rich broth, but his eyes darted to Chris. Everytime Chris got closer, Vin panicked, and Josiah cringed inwardly. He knew it was eating away at the leader, not being able to care for his best friend. He saw Chris draw closer and Vin moved back, displacing his foot. It banged against the floor, causing the fevered patient to scream and buckle his weak body.
"Chris...his foot." Josiah boomed, grabbing Vin's thrashing upper body.
Buck was tying his gray bay's reins to the tree, when he heard the scream. He bolted for the tent and saw Josiah desperately trying to keep flushed, damp Vin Tanner on the cot. Chris was hovering at Vin's feet, trying to get the bandaged foot secure. The infirmed man was fighting hard and both his legs were moving.
Vin looked up from his place in the cave. Where was Matowa? Why hadn't he returned? The wolf was back and the owl was restless. He felt fear and sensed the owl was afraid of the wolf too. His large eyes saw the predator's black head bend over his foot. "No...No..." He screamed, shoving the owl aside and trying to get at the wolf.
"Josiah, get his legs." Buck commanded of the figure now sprawled in the dirt. Vin's strength suprised him and he sat on the cot and grabbed the frantic form, pinning the wayward arms against his chest. He wrapped Vin in a bearhug, the bobbing, wet head banged against his neck and collarbone.
"Calm down Vin...you're gonna hurt yourself..." Buck tried, but the body still struggled. "Come on Slick, that's an order," he said louder and felt Vin pull back. Two bright blue eyes stared at him hard. The clouds of confusion left and a weak hand pulled at his shirt.
Vin looked up startled as Buck Wilmington appeared in the cave, just in time. His ten-year old eyes wondered how he knew who this man was and why he felt such relief. "Bucklin...yer here... "
"Looks like I got here just in time. You gonna calm down now?"
Vin stared past the strong arms that held him and saw the wolf throw off the wing of the owl. The beast's head dipped over his injured foot, the fangs were bared. "No..." he screamed, trying to pull free.
"Vin, CUT THAT OUT!" Buck hollered, grabbing the sweat-slicked shoulders and staring hard into the fearful blue eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Shoot him..." Vin answered. Couldn't Buck see the wolf? "Hurry...he's gonna eat m'foot..." Vin pleaded, hands fumbling for the holster pressed into his hip."
"Hey, gimme that." Buck's hand shot out as Vin's deft fingers tried to lift his gun. "Who you aimin' to shoot?"
"The wolf..." Vin screamed, and saw the predator's large head turn, eyes glowing a feral green and yellow fangs dripping blood. "Buck...kill him..."
"What wolf?" Buck shook his head and clutched Vin's jaw with his hand. "There's no wolf here, Vin. Look at me..."
"He's right behind ya..." Vin insisted, trying to break free of the strong hand. "Shoot him...Buck...kill him...he's hurtin' me..."
Buck spun around and saw the lethal combination of fear; shock, hurt and grief all painted in one horrific look on Chris Larabee's face. The tortured green eyes were frozen, as were his limbs. Blood ran down his chin from where either Josiah's wayward hand on Vin's foot, caught his lip.
With a clenched cry of anguish, he watched painfully as Chris fled the tent.
"Get after him, Josiah, I got Vin." Buck relayed. Josiah eyed the now dormant feet back in place and the exhausted tracker, who lay against Buck. With a sigh and a nod, he followed the torn gunslinger.
Chris didn't stop until he was at the edge of the creek. His fists were clenched at his sides and his jaw was in an iron-like grip. He needed to purge this poison that was turning his best friend against him. Every time Vin shied away against Josiah, it was like a nail in his chest. To see fear in those lost blue eyes...that Vin was afraid of him. He wanted to find this venomous bullet that was inside his injured brother and pull it out with his bare hands. He wanted to shake Vin hard and make him come back. He wanted this pain inside to go away. He couldn't live with it anymore.
Buck felt all the fight leave the battle-fatigued patient and relaxed his vise-like grip. He pulled a sheet up around the shivering body and felt the head flop against his shoulder. "That's it, Vin. You get some sleep. You're wetter than a wayward otter...Old Buck can fix that." He soothed and ran a hand down the cotton-clad back. His dark blue eyes looked around for a damp cloth. As he prepared to ease Vin back against the mountain of pillows, he heard the defeated voice. The words struck like bullets, leaving the older man dumbfounded and afraid.
Vin opened his eyes and looked around. His head hurt...his leg throbbed...everything ached. He saw dirty canvas walls and a pile of bandages, bottles and a mug on a small table. He sighed and heard a voice in his ear. Like moths against the flame, images pestered his fevered brain. Bits and pieces of Four Corners...dynamite under the church. Chris tied up in the wagon and Ella Gaines face. He took a long, painful breath as the rest flew into his head. Leaping from his hiding place...shots whizzing by...Chris's painful eyes looking at him. The raw agony on his best friend's face made his heart clench. He was so weak; he couldn't lift a finger. Even blinking was an effort. He recalled the dream of his youth and the battle with the wolf. The pain coursed through him, building to a white-hot crescendo. He was dying. The voice was back...he relaxed and his lips parted.
"Take care of him, Bucklin..."
Buck's hand froze, midway to the cloth floating in cool water in a basin nearby. Defeat hung in the air, it's vaporous clouds of noxious fumes choking the mustached cowboy. Muted in shock, his mouth gaped. Like a fish on the shore, his jaw worked, seeking oxygen and an answer. Did Vin know? He'd heard that all men sense the end, when their time comes. Was this his final stance? Had Ella won after all? He held Vin closer, feeling the labored breaths fighting to be born. His anger overtook his numbness.
"You're a Tanner, Boy, and don't you forget it." He said loud and hard, not hiding the threat. "You fight...." He paused as the soggy head lifted. He pulled back and gripped the drowsy man's shoulders. He saw the eyes fading, and the life gone from them. "You hear me...." He growled, shaking Vin slightly. "You fight like hell..." He held his breath and waited. Then he felt the slack muscles stiffen and the shoulder's square away. The brows furrowed and pale eyes darted back and forth. He felt a tug of hope returning as a glimmer appeared in the blue orbs before him. The head lifted and tortured gaze met his.
"I'm tryin' Buck...s'hard..." Vin hissed. He didn't want to disappoint Buck. He heard it clearly in Buck's threat. He didn't want to leave Chris...but he was so tired. He took a deep breath and gained what little strength he had. He nodded and opened his mouth. "...fight like hell...will...fight...will..." He promised and let his eyes slide shut.
"That's my boy..." Buck beamed, letting the body rest against the pillows. He stood and pulled the sheet up.
"Chris..." Josiah called out, seeing the explosion ready to happen. "He's delirious. He don't know where he is..."
"He's not afraid of you...Hell, he recognized Buck." Chris shot back, turning to face the well-intentioned Preacher. "Me? I scare the shit out of him. I'm supposed to be his goddamn best friend. Fuck..." He pounded both fists against the unlucky tree that had the misfortune to grow near the creek.
Josiah sighed and waited several minutes for the frustration-jerking limbs to end their discourse. The tree was pummeled, several rocks were kicked and finally Chris Larabee turned to face him. He moved closer and leveled his blue-gray eyes at the pain-filled green ones. "Then maybe it's time you become his best friend. That's who he has been searching for...he's been calling you all night."
"Me? He's been calling Matowa," Chris referred to Vin's adopted Indian brother.
"No, Matowa was a figurehead...he's lost in a nightmare world. When the fever came on, he escaped to the last real family and home he had, those five years with the Kiowa's. You're the only brother he's looking for...his mind's all mixed up...he's reaching out to you...through a ten-year old's heart. He needs you, Chris. I don't think he can make it without you."
"What the hell do you think I've been doing?" Chris retorted angrily. "Everytime I get near him..." He paused and winced, seeing the terrified wide blue eyes. "He's scared to death of me...thinks I'm some goddamn wolf."
"Aren't you?" Josiah answered, causing the head to jerk up.
"You better explain that, Preacher." He seethed, fists just itching or a ready, ripe jaw.
"Take a look..." Josiah waved to the small shaving mirror tied to the tree by the tent. Chris frowned and hesitated, but moved cautiously over and gazed into the small glass. "Look deep...you tell me what you see." Josiah paused, "I see anger, hatred, loathing, vengeance, lust for a kill...." He heard Chris's breath draw in sharply.
Chris blinked in astonishment as the gray-haired Prophet's words. Was that what Vin saw? Was that was terrified him? "Hungry like a wolf..." He stammered and felt Josiah's hand on his shoulder. He turned to meet the concerned face. "I didn't realize...God, no wonder I scared the shit out of him."
"He only sees what you want him to..." Josiah agreed. "So how about you leave that hungry wolf out here. That Boy's been missing Chris Larabee something fierce. He's been fighting hard...he needs this..." Josiah's tapped the black clothed chest. "...So how about putting that compassion to work, okay?"
"Yeah..." Chris breathed.
"I'm gonna get some dinner." Josiah left the solitary figure and made his way to the fire.
Chris was about to enter the tent when Buck slid through the flap and outside.
Buck stood next to the crestfallen leader and hid a smile. Chris looked as scared as a kid at his first church dance. He waited inside the tent, until Josiah was finished. He couldn't agree more and now understood why Vin had given up. Without the other half of his soul, he was too weak to fight. "His fever's down some, he's sleeping. He's trying hard, Chris, but he can't do it alone." He left he invite open and dangling.
Chris snorted and kicked a rock by his toe. "...thought I was some goddamn wolf chompin' on his foot."
"I can see that." Buck teased and rested a hand on Chris's shoulder. "Go on...he's gonna have the fight of his life tonight. He could use a hand in the dark...." He paused as Chris nodded and put a shaky hand on the canvas flap. "...just don't bite, okay?"
Chris chuckled weakly and tossed his oldest friend a grateful nod before entering the tent. He pulled the chair closer and rested a hand on the pale face. He did feel a little cooler. He eyed the tangled, damp hair and used the cold cloth to wipe Vin's neck and face.
"You're a mess, Tanner." He warned, reaching to soak the cloth again. He paused as the head turned. Vin's eyes didn't open but he saw the brow's furrow and the lips parting.
"Yeah, Cowboy...I'm right here." He said thickly, swallowing the lump in his throat and clutching the offered hand. The pain sailed out of him with the long sigh of relief. Vin nodded and tugged weakly.
Vin blinked in confusion at the hills surrounding him. He wasn't in the cave anymore...but he was alone and hurt. His body screamed from the wounds left by the demons that lurked behind every clap of lightning and burst of thunder. Without a horse or weapon, he felt naked. They'd be back, armed and primed for the kill. His heart sank and he felt every wound they'd already inflicted. The dark skies opened and the rain pelted him, causing him to shiver. More thunder and then the sky illuminated with a huge bolt of lightning. He heard the voice and his heart soared. Turning, he saw Caesar approaching and the bold, fearless body that arrived with it. He tossed his long hair back and felt a wave of relief wash over him. He took the offered hand and felt a surge of strength course through him. He inhaled deeply and smiled as he was pulled to safety. He settled in behind Chris Larabee, ready to fight all comers.
"...took ya so long...been waitin'...need ya..."
Chris heard the contented sigh and gripped the hand harder. He saw the weak smile and the sigh of relief. Vin wasn't lost anymore. He leaned closer, so his words would be heard. "Let's ride..."
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