by mcat

December 31, 2002

Author’s Note: First, Linda Chapple gets big thanks for this one, for providing the spark. Next, this story makes references to incidents and characters from my other stories, Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire and Father’s Day. It’s not absolutely necessary to read them first, but if you want to, go ahead!

Size: Approx 140K

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"Oh, shit. Vin? Vin can you hear me?"

Chris waved his hand in front of his friend’s face, trying to distract him; break him from the trance-like state he was in.


He shook Vin’s shoulder, hoping that would work. Again, nothing. If anything, the action seemed to make matters worse, as Vin’s breathing quickened and sweat began to pour off his brow.

"Chris?" Buck whispered.

"It’s happening again. Goddamnit! It’s happening again."

Six months earlier

"This is gonna be short and sweet, JD," Vin said, checking his weapon again. "All we’re gonna do is meet up with LaSalle, check out samples of the merchandise and okay the deal. He’ll call us tomorrow with the date, time and location of the actual buy."

"Got it. Check the merchandise and okay the deal," JD repeated, his voice betraying his nervousness.

"Don’t be so jumpy, Kid. Just ‘cause Chris and Buck didn’t okay to the meet don’t mean you’re gonna get into trouble. Trust me."

"You, I trust, Vin," JD answered. "It’s Chris and Buck’s reaction when we tell them we went ahead with the meet that I don’t trust."

"We left a message. And you know Chris gives me carte blanche on stuff. What are ya worried about?"


Vin just rolled his eyes. Rookie, he thought. Give the kid time and he’ll come around. He continued driving towards their destination, The Red Dragon, a combination bar and pizza joint on the West Side of Denver. They were to meet up with Jared LaSalle there and, in the back room of the place, check out a sample of the weapons LaSalle had for sale.

Half an hour later, they were sitting at a table in The Red Dragon, awaiting LaSalle. JD looked up as two men entered the establishment and headed for the back room. One of the men was carrying a large suitcase. The other nodded to Vin. Vin nodded back and he and JD followed the men.

Vin and JD stood on one side of a table while LaSalle and his man stood on the other.

"Glad to see you made it," LaSalle said. "I’ve been looking forward to doing business with you."

"Ain’t agreed to nothin’ yet," Vin replied. "Let’s see whatcha got, first."

LaSalle nodded to his man, who then opened the suitcase.

"As you can see, we have several items to choose from. Take a look. Try them out," LaSalle said, gesturing to the weapons.

Vin picked up one of the Glock pistols first. He dropped the magazine out and then pulled back and removed the slide before checking the inner workings of the gun. He put the pieces back together before dry-firing it a few times. He did similar checks to the other weapons as well.

"Well?" LaSalle asked after Vin closed the case.

"I’ll take twenty of each," Vin replied.

"Excellent. Why don’t we make it an even fifty thousand, then?"




"I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon with the details," LaSalle said, dismissing Vin and JD.

The two ATF agents left the restaurant and got into Vin’s Jeep.

"See, Kid? Short and sweet."

"So why do I still feel like crap?" JD asked.

"Don’t know, JD. Don’t know."

As they were driving, Vin felt as if he were starting to feel like JD – like crap. Nausea and dizziness were creeping around him, and it felt as if a jackhammer had started on his brain. When he closed his eyes for a moment at a red light, he knew he didn’t want to open them again.

He was startled awake by JD’s voice and a car horn blowing behind them. His heart felt as if it was going to beat out of his chest.

"Vin? Come on, the light’s green," JD said. "You okay?"

Vin looked over to JD. "Yeah, Steve, I’m fine. Sorry." He put the Jeep into gear and started driving again.

JD’s eyebrows drew together in confusion. Steve? He didn’t have too much time to ponder on the name before he was shouting a warning to Vin as the Jeep crossed over the double yellow line of the road and they just missed hitting an oncoming car.

"Vin! Come on, pull over!" JD shouted, grabbing at the wheel.

"NO!" Vin shouted back, slapping JD’s hands away. "We’ve got to get back! Charlie’s waiting for us!"

JD fought for control of the Jeep and finally wound up pulling the keys out of the ignition. When the Jeep stopped in the middle of the road, with cars blowing their horns as they drove around them, Vin began cursing some more.

"Damnit, Steve! Give me the fuckin’ keys!"

"Who the hell is Steve? I’m JD!" JD yelled back, beginning to worry. "What the hell is wrong with you, Vin?"

Then JD really began to worry, when in response to his question, Vin pulled out his gun and pointed it at him. "Ain’t nothin’ wrong with me, Steve. You’re the one with the problem. Now give me the fuckin’ keys!!!"

When a police car pulled up behind them and an officer began to shout at Vin to put down the gun, and Vin reholstered, JD thought this ordeal, whatever it was, was over. But before he could do anything more, Vin jumped out of the Jeep and ran away.

"Vin!!" he shouted, getting out and starting to run after him. He was stopped by one of the police officers.

"Freeze!" the officer shouted. "Get your hands in the air!"

"I’m ATF!" JD shouted, needing to go after Vin. "My ID is in my wallet," he said, slowly pulling it out of his back pocket. As soon as the officer nodded his acceptance of the credential, JD began to explain. "That other man is an ATF agent, too. Something’s wrong with him, though. I think he’s sick or something. I’ve got to go after him." And then he did, heading down the same alley Vin did.

+ + + + + + +

After half an hour of searching the streets and alleys, JD finally realized that he was going to need some more help. He didn’t know if the police officer he’d spoken to had put out an APB or anything, so he figured he’d need to do it himself. His worry for Vin easily overrode any fear he now had of talking to Chris or Buck as he dialed the office.


"JD, where the hell are you? Chris has been waiting to hear from you and Vin for almost an hour, now."

"Something happened to Vin."

"What? Where are you? What happened? Where’s Vin?"

"I’m on the West Side, near Carroll Street. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know where Vin is."

"JD? You’re not making any sense. What happened?"

"We made the deal with LaSalle, just like we said we would. Went down short and sweet, just like Vin said. Then, as we were driving, he started acting funny. Started calling me Steve. Next thing I know we’re fighting for control of the Jeep and he’s got a gun on me!"

"Where’s Vin now?"

"I don’t know, Buck! The police showed up and it spooked him. He ran off and now I can’t find him!"

"Okay, calm down, JD. Stay put and we’ll be right there. I’ll give DPD a call and see if we can’t get an APB out on him in the meantime. Okay?"

"Buck? What’s wrong with him? Why’d he do that?"

"I don’t know, JD. But we’ll find him and then find out."

JD turned off his phone with a sigh. He headed back toward the street where they’d left the Jeep and looked for Vin along the way.

+ + + + + + +

"Get away from me!" Vin shouted, pushing aside the man that he had just bumped into.

He continued on his way, his steps uneven as he stumbled again on the sidewalk. He tried to ignore the looks of the people he passed, but the disgust on their faces only angered him.

"Don’t look at me!" he yelled at an elderly woman, scaring her.

He wiped the sweat off his brow and looked around. He didn’t know where he was. He tried to remember where Charlie had said to meet him. He looked at his watch, knowing he was late, but when the numbers were just a small blur on his wrist, he took the timepiece off and threw it to the ground in frustration. Turning around, he bumped into another person. Looking around and finding himself surrounded, he broke through the crowd and ran down an alley, fear for his life hurtling him along.

+ + + + + + +

Chris and Buck met JD at the corner of Court and Carroll Streets.

"What happened, JD?"

"Like I told Buck on the phone, Chris, everything had gone alright with LaSalle," he began. "Then, as we’re driving back, he just started acting all crazy! He pulled his gun on me when I took the car keys! Something is seriously wrong with him, Chris."

Chris ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He couldn’t think of any reason why Vin would go off like this.

"You guys have anything to eat or drink at The Red Dragon? Any chance someone coulda slipped him a mickey or something?" Buck asked.

"No. Nothing," JD replied, shaking his head. "We were only there for about five minutes before LaSalle and his guy showed up. We went into the back room, checked the weapons and agreed to deal. Didn’t have time for anything else."

"Which way did he go when he ran from you, JD?" Chris asked, looking around the city streets, seeing all and none of the possible places Vin could have gone.

"I followed him down that alley there," he said, pointing across the street. "It led to Francis Street. I tried going in a couple of different directions, but I lost him."

"Buck, you gave DPD all the info and Vin’s description?"

"Yeah. Talked to Bill Green, heard him put the APB out while I was on the phone with him."

"Alright, let’s spread out and start looking. Keep your phones on."

+ + + + + + +

Vin leaned against the brick wall with a sigh. His body was beginning to betray him and he cursed as he felt himself start sliding toward the ground. All around him the crowd just laughed at him, jeering at his form, sending their insults to him, through him.

"Look at him!"


"Get back in the dumpster!"

And then Charlie was there.

"Come on, Vin. I waited for you. Why didn’t you show up?"

"I tried! I tried! But you were gone!"

"Where were you?!"

"Leave me alone! You’re dead!"

"I waited for you!"


+ + + + + + +

Chris was on the south side of Francis Street when his cell phone rang.

"Larabee," he answered, his eyes never stopping the search for his friend.

"Chris, it’s Buck. I’m with Officer Brooks from DPD; we might have found him. Someone called, reporting a disorderly male meeting Vin’s description on LeRoy. We’re almost there."

"I’ll be right there. Keep the line open."

+ + + + + + +

"Mister? Mister, you okay?"

Vin heard the voice echoing in his head. He opened his eyes, expecting to see a small child to match the voice, but instead found his worst nightmare.

"NO!" he shouted at the monster before him, pulling his gun out of its holster. "You stay away from me! I swear; I’ll shoot you!"

+ + + + + + +

Buck and Officer Brooks ran when they heard the gunshot, pulling their own weapons as they did.

"Two-fourteen to Denver. Shots fired near LeRoy!" Brooks shouted into his radio mike.

The two men came to a halt at the entrance to a church.

"Leave me alone!" Buck heard Vin shout from inside.

"Two-fourteen to Denver. Subject’s inside St. Rita’s on LeRoy," Brooks reported.

"Chris, you hear that? St. Rita’s, on LeRoy," Buck told Chris quickly, before putting his cell phone back onto his belt. "Vin?!" he then called inside. "Vin! It’s me, Buck! You alright?" he called as he inched his way into the church. Trying to adjust his vision as he left the bright sunlit street and entered the stained glass-lit church, he peered in, looking for Vin. "Vin? You alone? Or you got some bad guys with you?"

"You’re killing him! You’re killing him!" Vin shouted and fired his weapon again.

Buck was about to say something to Officer Brooks when he caught sight of Vin, crouched down between two church pews, his gun thrust out before him. He tried to follow the aim of the weapon, to see who Vin was shooting at, but saw no one. He crept closer.

"Vin? Pard’? Where’s the bad guy, Vin?" he whispered. He was unprepared then, when Vin turned his weapon toward him. "Vin?"

"Get away from me!"

"Easy now, Pard’" Buck soothed, putting his gun away and putting his hands out. "Just ol’ Buck, here."

Buck couldn’t believe how bad Vin looked. His clothing disheveled, his hair a sweaty mess, the young man was breathing heavily. He was shaking so much that Buck didn’t think he’d be able to stand on his own. But worst of all, worst of all, Buck thought, was the fear he saw in Vin’s eyes. He didn’t think he’d ever seen Vin look so afraid.

"Vin?" he whispered, taking a step closer. "What’s goin’ on, Pard’?"

"You killed him!" Vin shouted, firing his weapon.

Buck didn’t have time to get out of the way and cried out as he felt the bullet slam into his leg. His only thought was to try to stop the DPD officer from reacting. But he was too late and as he fell to the floor, heard a second shot sound.

+ + + + + + +

"Buck!" Chris shouted, hearing the gunshots on the cell phone and in the air as turned the corner onto LeRoy Street.

When he finally got inside the church, he found a DPD officer struggling with Buck, trying to keep him down as he pressed a hand to Buck’s wounded leg.

"Leave me alone! I gotta check on him!" Buck shouted at Officer Brooks, finally shoving him off.

"Stay, Buck," Chris ordered as he leapt over the pew to get to Vin.

He found Vin near the side aisle, hands cuffed behind his back, struggling to get free, his movements making the gunshot wound to his right shoulder bleed even more.


Chris’s concerned gaze was met with a defiant one as Vin continued to struggle against his bonds.

"Vin, stop. You’re making it worse," Chris said, grabbing onto Vin.

"NOOO!!!" Vin shouted, head butting Chris and scrambling away. "You’re dead!! You can’t be here!"

Getting up off the floor, even more confused than before, Chris tried again to reach Vin. "Vin? It’s me, Chris. What’s going on, Cowboy?"

Vin had backed up some more, heading down the aisle, toward the front of the church. His eyes were roaming wildly, his fear increasing with his breaths as he found himself being surrounded. By now, there were about a dozen DPD officers inside. Chris gestured to them, telling them to keep their distance.

"You’re hurt, Vin," Chris continued. "Let me help you. No one here wants to hurt you, Vin. Come on," he coaxed, inching his way closer to Vin.

Vin looked around again and found himself surrounded by colors, the sun shining through the stained glass window above him. He stopped then and stared, suddenly mesmerized by the rainbow. Chris saw his chance and grabbed Vin again, covering Vin’s body with his own. Vin reacted immediately and fought the hold, screaming at Chris to let him go as he did. Soon, two DPD officers were there, helping Chris keep Vin down.

"Get a stretcher in here!" one shouted.

A few minutes later, a stretcher was there, waiting. With a coordinated effort, the three men managed to get Vin onto the stretcher and strapped down.

"You bastard!!" Vin shouted at Chris. "You fuckin’ bastard! You didn’t have to die!"

Chris tried to block out Vin’s shouted words. He didn’t understand them anyway. Bent over, his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath, he watched the paramedics add more straps to the stretcher and medical tape around Vin’s head to try to control his movements even further, and had to look away. Back toward the rear of the church, he met JD and Buck’s just as confused gazes as JD helped another set of paramedics get Buck onto their stretcher.

"Man, what the hell is he tripping on?"

Chris looked up to see a DPD officer standing next to him. He barely heard the man’s words over Vin’s screams and shouts.

"What?" Chris asked.

"He work narc for you guys or something? Get into some evidence maybe?" the officer continued.

The words were barely out of the officer’s mouth before Chris had him up against the wall. "You say anything like that about my agent again, and I’ll kill you," Chris whispered, the dangerous tone in his voice easily evident to the officer. "Vin Tanner is one of the best lawmen you’ll ever meet. Don’t you even think anything different."

"Yeah. Sure," the officer replied with a sigh as Chris released him.


He turned toward Josiah’s familiar voice then, and let out a sigh of his own. At Josiah’s questioning look, Chris just shrugged his shoulders.

"I don’t know what happened, Josiah. I don’t know what’s wrong with him," he said, looking back towards Vin, watching as they started to wheel him out of the church. "He didn’t know us. Hell, he shot Buck!"

"Agent Larabee? You coming with us?" Officer Brooks called.

Chris didn’t think he could handle seeing Vin’s struggles or hearing his shouts anymore.

"We’ll meet you there," Josiah answered for him, motioning them to go on ahead. He put his hand on Chris’s shoulder and steered him toward the rear of the church. "Come on. My truck’s outside."

+ + + + + + +

Vin struggled against the demons. He was surrounded by them… held down by them... He screamed at them to let him go.

"Somebody hold him!"

They were shouting at him, yelling at him, telling him lies… and yet despite hearing their words, he couldn’t understand what they wanted of him.

"Anybody know what he’s on? Get me a full tox screen!"

He just wanted to get out of there. He just wanted to be left alone. Why were these people torturing him so?

"Pressure’s dropping!"

Time to leave. Time to get out.


He was tired. There were too many of them. Maybe if he just gave in…

"He’s crashing!"

It was getting quieter. Yeah. Give in. Let go.


+ + + + + + +

Josiah sat in the waiting room and watched the other two men there. They were complete opposites of one another, as appearances went. While Chris sat quietly on the edge of one of the couches, his head hung low as his arms rested on his knees, JD was busy wearing a hole through the floor with his pacing. But they were both worried about their friends. Just as Josiah was.

Despite his insistence that he was fine back at the church, Buck still sustained a serious gunshot wound. By the time he’d gotten to the hospital, the blood loss had weakened him considerably and he’d lost consciousness. But at least they knew what was wrong with Buck. Vin…

Josiah had tried to discuss the possibilities with Chris on the ride to the hospital. A head injury, drug interactions and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had all come into his side of the conversation – the only side of the conversation. None of the options looked good. He didn’t even want to think of any long-term consequences Vin might have. All they wanted was their old, normal, sane friend back.

Long-term consequences. Josiah guessed that they had to think of them, now. No matter what the cause of Vin’s current condition, there would be consequences, both personal and professional. The first being Vin’s having to deal with the fact that he lost control – and that that loss of control resulting in him shooting one of his friends. Josiah sighed. He knew Buck wouldn’t blame Vin for his actions. He knew there was something wrong, that Vin didn’t shoot him on purpose. But knowing Vin, if…when he came out of this, he’d think differently.

Josiah was sure that there would be an inquiry of some sort from the ATF brass, too. One of their agents went…crazy… and shot another one. But why? That was the question. There had to be some logical explanation. But they’d have to wait for the doctors to tell them that, if they could.

Josiah checked his watch. Not that he needed to, as JD had just lamented again about what time it was and wondered what was taking the doctors so long to get back to them. They’d been there for a little over an hour, now.

"Anyone here for Buck Wilmington?"

"How is he?!" JD immediately replied, rushing to the doctor’s side.

"We were able to get him stabilized and he’s headed for surgery right now," the doctor answered. "When the bullet entered his leg, it hit the femur. There are several small bone fragments that need to be removed, along with the bullet. One of our orthopedists will be handling his case from now on."

"But is he gonna be okay?"

"Yes, he will." And after seeing the relieved look on JD’s face, he added, "If you’d like to wait in the surgical waiting room, you’ll be able to talk with the orthopedist when she’s done and ask her any other questions you have."

"What about Vin Tanner?" This question from Chris, the first words he’d spoken since leaving St. Rita’s church.

"I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about him. You’ll have to wait for Dr. Morris. He’s handling Mr. Tanner’s case."

Chris just nodded and went back to the couch, sitting down and waiting as he had before.

"Thanks, doctor," Josiah said for all of them, before the doctor headed back toward the ER. "You gonna head upstairs, JD?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I’ll stay here and wait for news on Vin."

About fifteen minutes went by before the ER doors opened again. A tall black man in a lab coat approached the trio.

"You’re here with Vin Tanner?" he asked.

Hearing the tired tone in the voice, Chris immediately thought the worst. But since neither JD nor Josiah would ask the question, he did. "Is he alright?"

The doctor sighed as he sat down on the coffee table. "I wish I could say yes to that, but I can’t," he began. He put his hand up when he saw the dread in Chris and JD’s eyes and added, "But he’s still with us. Still very much alive and kickin’."

"Were you able to find out what’s wrong with him?" Josiah asked.

"Blood tests revealed levels of stimulants and an hallucinogen in his system. The lab’s trying to narrow it down further. They think it might have been a combination of cocaine and LSD," he replied. "Nasty stuff."

"Wait a minute," JD balked. "Vin does not do drugs! He’d never touch the stuff!"

"Of course not, JD," Josiah soothed. "The doctor didn’t say Vin did. Just that the drugs were in his system."

"A lot of drug overdoses are accidental," the doctor put in. "And we did notice that the skin on his hands and face did appear to be red and irritated. Is it possible that he was handling some evidence or something?"

"No, we usually don’t deal with that stuff," JD replied.

"JD? Tell us again about the deal today," Josiah suggested. "Did you get seated at the restaurant or did you seat yourselves? Did you have anything to eat or drink? Did Vin shake hands with LaSalle? Did they exchange money or business cards or anything?"

"No. Like I told you guys before, we got to the restaurant about five minutes before LaSalle. We didn’t order anything. We went to the back room and talked while Vin checked…the…guns…"

"Did anyone else touch those guns?" Josiah asked.

"No. And LaSalle and his henchman both had leather gloves on!"

"Son of a bitch!" Chris swore, getting to his feet. "Josiah, get Ezra on the phone. Tell him to pull out, now!" he ordered, beginning to pace the room. "And I want LaSalle’s ass in a jail cell before midnight!"

"Gentlemen?" the doctor spoke up, getting their attention back to Vin’s condition. When he had it, he continued. "Okay, now that we seem to have solved how Mr. Tanner got the drugs in his system, we now need to deal with treating him."

"Go on," Chris responded, taking a seat once again, nodding as Josiah placed a quick call to Ezra, telling him to pull out and that he’d explain later.

"We’re looking at a couple of things," the doctor began. "First and foremost, obviously, are the effects of the drugs. As you may well know, hallucinogens have different effects on different people. For Mr. Tanner, they’ve brought about feelings of extreme distress, paranoia and hallucinations. With the dosage he received and the trauma to his systems, he’s likely to have continued effects, possibly lasting three to four days."

"What about flashbacks?" Josiah asked, already knowing the answer.

"A definite possibility," the doctor replied, nodding his head. "With drugs like LSD and PCP, flashbacks are very common, and they’re usually similar to the original trip. Most flashbacks are brought on by times of stress or specific stimuli."

"You said you’re looking at a couple of things. What else?" Chris asked.

"The bullet wound he received will require surgery, eventually."


"There’s muscle and tendon damage," the doctor explained. "But right now, I’m reluctant to go ahead with the surgery. Between the drugs he was dosed with, the sedative we had to give him to calm him down and the antibiotics and fluids… well, I’d rather not add any other stress to his system right now."

"So where does he go from here?" Josiah asked.

"Up to ICU."

"When can I see him?" Chris asked.

"I’d rather you held off for a bit," the doctor replied. "In cases like this, it’s best to limit the stimuli, and the number of people. He’s very confused and probably won’t know you’re a friend."

"Maybe tomorrow?"

"Maybe tomorrow."

+ + + + + + +

JD moved closer to the bed after he saw Buck’s eyes start to flutter.

"Buck?" he called.

Buck moaned a bit, moved his head to the side and groaned as he opened his eyes, taking in the blurry sight of JD’s face. "Back off, JD," he murmured, trying to get his eyes to focus.

"Sorry, Buck," JD replied, doing as asked. "Just glad to see you awake."

"What the hell happened? Last thing I remember Vin!" Buck would have sat up as he recalled what happened, if he’d had the energy and strength to do so. "JD! Where’s Vin? Is he alright?"

"He’s here at the hospital, Buck," JD answered. "And they say he’ll be okay."

But Buck, even as weak as he was, heard the uncertainty in JD’s voice.

"JD? What happened? What happened to him?"

"We think there were some drugs on the guns he checked out when we met up with LaSalle," JD began. "The doctor said they found traces of cocaine and LSD in his system. That there must have been some on the guns and Vin might’ve had some cuts on his hands or touched his mouth or nose with them afterwards…"

"Shit," Buck cursed quietly, closing his eyes as he let his head fall back onto his pillow.

"Chris had Ezra pull out and then Josiah and Nathan went to bring in LaSalle. Chris thinks that somehow our covers got blown and this was LaSalle’s way of getting rid of us."

"He don’t know us very well, does he?" Buck added. He moved to try to get more comfortable and then bit back a yelp as his leg protested. "Damn, JD, what the hell did they do to me?" he asked, looking down at his leg, and the device that kept it immobile.

"Bullet hit the bone. Surgeons had to remove some fragments," JD explained. "Said you’ll be out of commission for a couple of months... Damn, I just can’t believe it, Buck! I mean, Vin shot you! How could he do that?"

"He didn’t, JD," Buck replied softly. "The drugs did. I’ve seen too many people on drugs... I know how it messes up their thinking, what they’re seeing. He thought I was someone else, JD – someone that had hurt him. Or was going to."

"He kept calling for Charlie and he called me, and then you, Steve. Chris said he knew who Charlie was, an old friend of Vin’s, but we don’t know who Steve is," JD responded. Looking at Buck’s tired form, he stopped his thoughts and pushed away from the bed. "Look, you need your rest, Buck. I’ll come back later to visit you."

"Thanks, JD," Buck replied. "But don’t you worry none about ol’ Buck. I’ll be fine." I just hope Vin will be, he added to himself.

+ + + + + + +

Vin opened his eyes and moaned. His shoulder felt as if it was on fire, his head was pounding in time with his heartbeat and he couldn’t move.

"Got you strapped down good, don’t they?"

"Leave me alone!" he cried, struggling against the straps that held him to the bed. "Go back to hell where you belong!"

"Aw, Vin, you don’t want me to do that, do you?"

Vin struggled against the restraints, not feeling any pain, not caring that he was making his shoulder worse. Frustrated, he began to bang his head, the only thing he could move, down onto the mattress, over and over and over.

Seeing the action, the duty nurse went over to the bed and began talking to Vin. "Vin? Vin you need to stop that," she told him, putting her hands on his head to try to hold it down. "Come on, you’re going to rip out those stitches we put in your shoulder."

"Ma? Ma, make them go away! Please! I don’t like this! Let me go, Ma!"

"Sssh, Vin. Calm down, calm down."

"Ma, don’t leave me! Don’t leave me with them! Ma!"

+ + + + + + +

"‘They’re gone?!’ What do you mean, ‘they’re gone,’ Ezra?" Chris demanded, pacing the bullpen.

"When we arrived back at LaSalle’s headquarters, we found the place empty."

"They bugged out," Josiah added.

"We had fucking surveillance on the place! How could they get out without us knowing?! Who the hell was in charge down there?!"

"Apparently there was some miscommunication," Ezra began to explain. "When you ordered me to pull out, and I notified Team Four, they thought that meant they were to pull out, as well."

"Are they fucking nuts? Didn’t they know why I pulled you out? Shit."

"Chris, we’re gonna keep looking," Nathan spoke up. "And for starters we’re gonna find out who tipped him off, find out if there’s a leak somewhere."

"You do that."

+ + + + + + +


"No, Vin, it’s Chris."


"Yeah," Chris said with a grateful sigh. "It’s me."

"I don’t feel too good," Vin said, trying to adjust his vision, reduce the number of Chris Larabees he saw.

"I know, Vin," Chris replied. "But don’t you worry, the docs here say you’re on the mend. You’ll be feeling like your old self in no time."

"Who you callin’ old, Larabee?" Vin rasped. He let out a painful groan as he tried to get more comfortable. "Why can’t I move?" He began to panic then, as he realized that he had straps going across his body. "Chris?!"

"Easy, Vin. Easy," he soothed, putting his hand on Vin’s uninjured shoulder, exerting a small amount of pressure. "If you calm down, I’ll tell you all about it and then see if we can get the doctor to agree to get these off. Okay?"

Vin struggled for another minute or so before Chris grabbed his chin and forced him to look him in the eyes. Chris said his name once and Vin stilled.

"What happened to me?"

"You got dosed," Chris began. "We think LaSalle had the guns coated with coke and LSD. You ran off away from JD."

Vin closed his eyes as visions of people and places assaulted his memory. His breathing quickened and became labored as his nightmares returned. Then Chris shouted his name and they all disappeared.

"What did I do? Why am I tied down?"

"You just lost a little control, Vin," Chris answered. "You’re tied down so you won’t hurt yourself."

"Or anyone else," Vin added.

"Or anyone else," Chris agreed.

"But I did hurt someone," Vin spoke up again after a few minutes, meeting Chris’s gaze. "I shot Steve…"

"No, Vin. You didn’t hurt anyone. Everyone’s okay."

"No, I remember. I had to go meet Charlie. And Steve was there instead."

"No, Vin," Chris quickly responded. "That’s just the drugs. Charlie’s gone, remember? He’s been gone for five years now. Remember?"


Chris could see that this was going to be difficult. Vin was having trouble separating reality from his hallucinations.

"No, Vin," he asserted. "This is two thousand and two. Charlie’s been gone since ninety-seven. Remember? He left you the Vinnebago."

"Steve killed him. He was gonna kill me. I had to shoot him."

Seeing Vin become agitated again, slipping back into the effects of the drug, Chris pulled back. He knew that trying to reason with his best friend right now wasn’t going to work. Vin never even noticed it when he walked away from the bed and headed for the door. He called the nurse in to let her know that Vin was getting agitated, that it looked like he might start pulling at his stitches again. She nodded to him and stepped aside as he exited the room.

+ + + + + + +

Buck regarded the man sitting in the chair next to the window. Chris had been silent, just staring out the window. He figured it was about twenty minutes since he’d woken up and found Chris sitting there and he knew Chris knew he was awake. Buck also knew that things weren’t good just by Chris’s posture, but he hesitated to say anything just yet. Chris would talk when he was ready, and Buck would wait.

"We lost the bastard, Buck," Chris said, still looking out the window. "LaSalle bugged out and took the entire operation with him."

Buck rubbed his hand down his face, just as frustrated as Chris. "What about his place in Dallas? We checkin’ that?"

"Yeah," Chris sighed, rising from the chair by the window, crossing the room to slump down in the chair next to Buck’s bed. "Dallas ATF and DEA have that covered."

"But there’s more. Vin’s still not too good, right?"

Chris shook his head. "I was just down there with him. He was lucid for a few minutes but then slipped back into wherever the hell he’s been." He closed his eyes and rolled his head around, stretching his neck muscles a bit. "He’s back with the Marshals’ and Charlie Flint."

"You guys figure out who that Steve fella is yet?" Buck asked.

"No. I don’t even know if we need to," Chris replied tiredly. "The doctors keep telling us not to feed into the hallucinations, to try and keep him here in the present. Say it’ll help him to distinguish reality better and come around sooner."

"It’s true. It’s tough to do, but it’s true. What about his shoulder? Any news on that?"

"They said they’re gonna try to do the surgery in a couple of days, when he’s got a better grasp on things. Then you and he will get to do some physical therapy sessions together."

"I think I heard about a pair of twin therapists somewhere… blonde…built…" Buck mused.

Chris smiled – he couldn’t help it. "Only you, Buck. Only you."

+ + + + + + +

Vin groaned as he opened his eyes to the morning sun. He was tired and his body ached. "Hell of a hangover, Tanner," he whispered to himself.

"Guess you could call it that," Chris said with a chuckle.

"Jesus," he said with a sigh, closing his eyes. "I thought we told JD not to buy that cheap tequila anymore."

"Vin? Do you remember what happened?"

"Yeah, I remember," he replied quietly, looking away from Chris, his joke about JD forgotten. "But I don’t know how it happened."

Chris sighed in relief. It was now the third day since Vin had been dosed with the hallucinogen. Chris had had many conversations with Vin since then, but they all had ended quickly as Vin regressed back into the memories of his hallucinations. It seemed that Vin was back in the here and now again.

"Tell me what you remember," Chris said, moving his chair closer to Vin’s bed, getting into his line of sight again.

"Me and JD made the deal with LaSalle," Vin began, closing his eyes, letting the memories come to him. "I remember not feeling good. I remember running from Steve, but I know it couldn’t be him, ‘cause he’s…he’s…" Vin stopped and shook his head.

"He’s what, Vin?" Chris asked, confused.

"He ain’t real."

"You said he killed Charlie, Vin."

"Charlie died of cancer, Chris," Vin said, looking at Chris, reminding him. "Steve… Steve is just a name I had for everything bad. That’s what I called Charlie’s cancer. Read a book about a man that had cancer when Charlie was sick. The man talked all about death and his anger and stuff. He named his tumor. I named Charlie’s Steve. Charlie got a big kick out of it. I think it helped us deal with it."

Chris just nodded his head in understanding. He recalled the stories Vin had told about his old friend and benefactor. He just didn’t understand why the drugs Vin had been exposed to would bring up the memories.

As if in answer to his question, Vin continued, saying, "Me and Charlie used to hang out at The Red Dragon a lot. Guess that’s why I did what I did; brought up Steve."

"Makes sense to me," Chris replied. "You remember anything else?"

"I shot someone, didn’t I?" It was more a statement than a question.

Chris knew he couldn’t lie to Vin. He never could. Vin would see it in a heartbeat.

"Yeah, but he’s okay and he understands," he asserted. "So don’t worry."


"Don’t worry on that now, Vin. You’ve gotta rest up some now-,"

"Who?" Vin demanded.

Chris knew he wouldn’t get out of this one, either. "Buck."

"We were in a church," Vin recalled.


"God," Vin whispered. "He was only tryin’ to help and I shot him."

"You didn’t know what you were doing, Vin," Chris responded, placing his hand on Vin’s. "LaSalle had the guns you checked covered in coke and LSD. Buck knows this and he doesn’t blame you."

"LaSalle’s the one to blame," Vin said, interrupting. "I want him, Chris. Tell me you got him."

"Well, there’s the bad news," Chris began. "He bugged out. Took everything with him."

"Shit!" Vin cursed and then bit back a moan as he inadvertently moved his shoulder.

"Easy there, Vin. Just relax," Chris soothed, helping Vin to lie back onto the bed. "Gotta keep you in good enough shape so they can fix that shoulder up."

"Somebody had to shoot me, too."

"Someone from DPD," Chris replied.

"Don’t let ‘em get in trouble, Chris. Whoever did it had just cause. I’d already shot Buck," Vin spoke up, feeling bad for the officer and for Buck again.

"Not to worry, Vin. Buck already gave his statement. No one’s getting into trouble. And that includes you," Chris asserted.

"How bad is Buck?"

"You got him in the leg. He’ll be out of commission for a few months."

"A few months? Shit. God."

"Buck’s taking it all in stride," Chris assured him. "Hell, he’s already got plans to have joint physical therapy sessions with you and a set of twin therapists."

"The Johannsens?"

"You’ve heard of them?"

"Hell, Cowboy, anybody’s who’s ever been in the ortho wing here’s heard of ‘em!" Vin replied with a smile.

"God, Buck’s gotten to you, too…"