by Mary Ann

Main Characters: Vin, JD

Alternate Universe: One Soul

Follows One Soul & The Gift

Author's Notes: Some Violence and mention of rape -- it is marked

Beta -- Rosalee, Thanks very much!

Not my guys, I just borrowed everyone for this little story

** ** Is their bond/connection thoughts -- in this universe, it is a common occurrence

Chapter 1

March came in like a lion. Heavy snow, wind and sleet. The county workers were working overtime to keep roads and highways open. There were reports daily of roofs collapsing from the weight of the snow, and trees snapping and coming down like icicles. While power outages were short in duration in the cities, country residents were sometimes without power for days.

Vin Tanner pulled his coat tighter as he exited the warm barn. He waved at Buck Wilmington as he passed, pushing snow with one of the large tractors with a snow blade on it. Several yards behind and to his left was the other tractor with JD Dunne at the wheel, a large grin on his face. They'd been pushing snow for an hour, clearing it from around the buildings and opening the driveway.

Vin moved to a huge double door to his left and was opening it when he heard another tractor coming his way. With the doors rolled back he waited as Josiah Sanchez maneuvered his tractor into position for a clear shot of the opening. The forks on the front of the tractor held a stack of baled hay. Within minutes he'd dropped the hay and was backing out of the barn to go after another load. While Josiah was gone, Vin helped Chris Larabee, Nathan Jackson, and Ezra Standish pile the hay into a corner.

Two more times Josiah made the short trip to bring hay from the hay shed to the barn. Pulling the tractor into the barn for the last time, he parked it out of the way. Jumping from the tractor, he helped stack the last load of hay, making short work of it. A short time later the double doors were closed and the five men headed for the house.

Buck and JD joined them several minutes later, the driveways and paved areas around house, barns and outbuildings cleared of snow once again.

Lunch was quickly prepared and eaten before several of the men headed back out to the barn to work and exercise horses in the indoor arena. Nathan helped Ezra and JD clean up before he headed to work. He was hoping the county had the road cleared enough to get to the hospital. Rain, his wife, was there, and had stayed all night as the roads were too dangerous to travel when her shift had ended.

In the inside arena, Buck, Chris, and Vin were riding horses, working them through different patterns. Josiah was working with one of the young foals in the wide aisle, teaching it to lead and pick up its feet on command.

After working the horses for a half hour, they were groomed and returned to their stalls and another three were tacked and rode. The three men slowly made their way through the twelve performance horses and when they finished with the last ones, they turned the four mares and foals into the arena to exercise themselves for awhile. On command the mares would canter around the arena, their gangly foals bucking and kicking beside them. The four men watched them closely to be sure there were no problems with any of them, smiling at the antics of the foals. Vin watched the black foal that he and Chris had watched as it was born a month ago. He exchanged a smile with Chris when their eyes connected for a moment, both of them thinking of that night.

Once the horses were returned to their stalls, the men fed them and called it a day. Outside it was almost dark, snow was still coming down.

"Are we ever going to see the end of this snow?"; Buck grumbled as they made their way to the beckoning lights of the house.

"Brother Buck, the Lord has a plan and we have to wait it out to see what it is. So for now, we accept what He gives us. But we can ask Him to give us nice weather after this mess."; Josiah grinned as he clapped his large hand on Buck's shoulder.

"Yeah, we could. I'm tired of all this snow; seems this winter all I've done was push snow around.";

"Better'n rain,"; Vin put in with a grin.

Buck groaned out loud as the others laughed and lobbed snowballs at him.

Stomping their boots and brushing snow off their coats the four men paused in the mud room to remove their coats and boots before entering the warm kitchen. Josiah headed for the coffee pot and was pouring them cups of coffee, when JD walked into the room. He was bundled in his coat and stocking hat, boots in one hand. He laid a fat bundle of mail on the table.

"Hey guys, look at this! The mail came today, really late, but it's here. First time in days!";

Buck looked at JD and for a moment they exchanged a few words between them before Buck grinned and grabbed JD's hat, tossing it to Josiah.

JD stopped, hands on hips and looked at the big man.

"Please Josiah?";

"Of course JD. Asking like that works for me,"; Josiah smiled and handed the damp stocking hat to the youngster.

"Better get that and your coat hung up to dry.";

"I'm trying 'siah, but someone . . ."; JD looked at Buck, "is slowing me down.";

Buck laughed and moved out of the way and JD headed for the mud room.

Standing by the table, Chris sorted the mail as Josiah started pulling items from the large double-door refrigerator. Josiah was cooking this week and Ezra moved to help him; as a team they worked effortlessly together preparing wonderful meals. Chris piled everyone's mail into separate stacks and handed Vin the one piece he'd received.

Vin glanced up at Chris then down at the envelope in his hand. His face went pale when he read the return address. Almost everyone in the room could hear the distressed *NO* he yelled in his head.

Chris grabbed Vin's shoulder, "What's wrong?";

The shaggy head came up and blue eyes met green, shaking Vin swallowed then looked back at the envelope. **Army**

"Doesn't mean anything,"; Chris answered out loud, knowing the others had become worried, though they wouldn't ask anything.

"They want me back."; Vin stated.

"You don't know for sure until you open the envelope.";

Vin nodded and opened the envelope, he pulled the two page letter out and began to read. He was unaware that his friends had gathered around him in support.

Vin's eyes picked up only a few words, report, March, Denver, the rest of the words blurred out as his hand shook.

"No, not ready . . ."; Taking a deep breath he squared his shoulders, though his mind was racing, he knew he would report and do what they asked of him. He was Black Ops and his training was ingrained in him; he would be there for his country when they called him; as long as he was alive.

Chris knew what was going through his soul brother's head and kept his hand on Vin's shoulder as he read the paperwork over his shoulder.

"Vin, it's not a call up. They do want to see you, but it sounds like a update for their medical records. They want to see you on the 23rd. You're not shipping out.";

There was a collective sigh of relief from the men gathered around the table and Vin felt weak for a moment as relief washed through him.

"Damn, I can't go with you that day. Buck and I have a show meeting to go to. It's been arranged for months and we can't get out of it now,"; Chris suddenly said, remembering why the date was so familiar to him.

For a moment there was silence in the kitchen, other than the country music coming from the radio. Each man ran the date through their heads, trying to think if they had plans that day.

"I can go!"; JD exclaimed with a rush before Josiah or Ezra could say anything. "That's a Thursday, and depending on what time the appointment is, we could stay the night and shop some. It'd be a fun trip. We could eat out and just have some fun shopping. I can look over a new computer too for us,"; he said excitedly.

Vin looked up at the slightly younger man and smiled, "I'd like that. I need a few more things.";

"Yes. We'll have time to shop and can spend the night, and just relax. We can see a couple of the sights too before we come home Friday. You haven't been to Denver, well once for just a little bit, no time to see anything. We'll have a good time, just the two of us.";

Buck shook his head as he smiled at the young man, "You two just be careful and stay away from southeast Denver. You know JD, it's not safe there.";

"Yes Dad, we will. Where do you have to be and what time, Vin?";

"Eleven AM. Office is on north 7th Avenue,"; replied Vin a minute later, after scanning the papers.

JD slid into the chair next to Vin and peered at the paperwork. "I know where that is, been past it a couple of times. Once you are finished there, we can head over to the Denver Museum, if you'd like, then to the mall on north 180th. There're some decent motels in that area also. We can go to 'Dilly n Jacks' for dinner,"; JD paused hearing a groan coming from Buck and Josiah. "What's wrong guys?";

Josiah laughed as everyone else grinned. "That is one great hamburger place. You'll love it there Vin. The food is excellent, you will not leave there hungry . . . or able to eat anything for hours.";

"That's true Mr. Tanner,"; Ezra said as he passed seasonings to Josiah. "It was even on TV many years ago, from some pictures on their wall. Just don't let Nathan know you both ate there; he thinks it's an artery clogging food hell.";

The men laughed and Buck added, "But it does have the best hamburgers in the country.";

"Guess we'll have to try it JD."; Vin said with a grin.

"You'll love it. They have every kind of burger you can imagine and they will put anything on them you want too. Hey Josiah, are you making hamburgers? I could eat one now,"; JD said.

"No John Daniel, I'm not making hamburgers, I've got Taco Soup started.";

"Oh I love that too,"; JD stated as he licked his lips.

With chuckles the men returned to their mail, coffee and cooking.

+ + + + + + +

March 23rd dawned; the sun came up coloring clouds with pink and yellow. It was below freezing and the snow had a crust on it that sparkled when the sun touched it. The snow was still three and four feet deep on the land. Horses were fed and stalls cleaned; the six men were eating breakfast as they watched the sun come up.

Vin was warmly dressed as he and JD left the house. JD was almost bouncing as they got into the 4-wheel drive Silverado; he was looking forward to showing Vin some of the sights around Denver. Vin drove east, careful of the road, which had black ice in the shaded areas. JD kept up the conversation as they headed towards the city.

Chris was walking through the large living room, briefcase in his hand when he heard the phone ring. Glancing at the clock on the mantle he paused and answered the phone. For a minute he listened to the man on the other end of the line, after a couple tense questions he thanked the man and hung up.

Buck, waiting in the kitchen for his partner, took one look at Chris' face and knew something was wrong.

"What's going on Chris?";

"That was Detective Lee Williams. They found that green Ford SUV that Vin had been dumped from. It was in an old warehouse and pretty much stripped. Found the license plate under a box several feet from it. They traced it back to a stolen vehicle from near Reno, Nevada. Some of the numbers had been covered with tape to change them, make them look different, at a glance anyway.";

"So does that mean those men are still around or what?";

"That's the big question,"; Chris said as they walked out the back door, heading for the garage. "It's been there a couple of months Williams thinks, by the amount of garbage around it and dust and dirt on it. Only reason they found it is because the building is being torn down next week. The warehouse is only about six blocks from the bus depot. They don't know anything else.";

"Should we warn the boys?"; Buck added as he started the SUV.

"I don't know. Denver is huge; chances are they have already left the area. But . . . If they were still around, where would they be?";

"Yeah, I can't see where the boys are going they would run into those guys. We'll tell them when they get home tomorrow, give them a day to just enjoy themselves,"; Buck said.

"Williams said they were still looking for the men, but he thinks they left. They've never seen them or found anything about them.";

"Right. Anyone who could leave someone in the middle of a snow storm to die had better keep going. I'd like to get my hands on those men who did that to Vin.";

"I would too Buck, chances are they'll never be found. They think that they left Vin to freeze to death, and bodies can't ID them.";

"I know. Hey looks like old Jamison is here today,"; Buck exclaimed as he turned into a cleared parking lot. A smile crossed his face when he heard the groan from Chris. Karl Jamison had a small farm and attended every meeting in the area, whether he was involved with what was happening or not. He always had something to say about everything. It drove Chris nuts when he started in on horse raising, training, or showing. He hadn't owned a horse in fifty years, but always figured he knew everything about them.

Buck laughed at the look on Chris' face, he knew the old man grated on Chris, but Chris always treated him kindly. It was going to be an interesting meeting he thought, as he followed Chris through the slushy snow to the building and then inside. Shaking his head as he walked behind Chris into the meeting room, Buck just hoped that they could get out of there before dinner, or dark.

+ + + + + + +

Vin left the Army office, a look of relief on his thin face. He saw JD waiting for him in the truck, still parked in the parking lot beside the building, reading a magazine. It had taken two hours for an Army doctor to examine him before he was released. The doctor had studied the report that Nathan and Rain had prepared about Vin. He was told that he was still too thin, but the doctor was pleased that he had begun to gain some weight; he figured it would still be still several months before Vin was back to his appropriate weight. Vin was assured that he wouldn't be called up unless it was a national emergency and the Rangers needed his expertise.

Vin was relieved, it was a good report and he wasn't worried about an emergency; his name was one of many and he was low on the list. He smiled as he slid into the truck beside JD who tossed his computer magazine into the back seat. "Let's go eat, I'm starved,"; he told JD.

JD grinned and started the truck. In less than ten minutes JD pulled into a parking space in front of a Mexican restaurant.

Following a filling meal the two young men headed for the malls, after having found out when they arrived in the city that the museum they had wanted to visit, wasn't opened during the week, only on weekends. They shopped for the next five hours, checking out new clothes, computers, tack, and everything that struck their fancy in the stores and shops they'd visited. It was well past dark when they locked the motel room door and made their way down the block to 'Dilly n Jacks' for a late dinner.

For its name, the restaurant was busy and people were talking and laughing at tables overflowing with all kinds of hamburgers and other foods. They were seated and their drink orders were taken. Vin was shocked at the extent of the kinds of hamburgers that were offered. He and JD were laughing over some of the names and ingredients of the food, as they tried to decide what combination they wanted on their burgers.

The bar tender spotted the slender longhaired man as soon as he and the dark haired young man walked in the door. For a moment he was frozen in shock. The last time he'd seen the thin man, he was walking away from him in a blizzard. He was supposed to be dead.

Jack Miners, whose real name was John Mathews looked away from the two men, not wanting to alert them that someone was watching their movements. He moved quickly to the bar's phone and dialed a number. As he waited for an answer he filled a drink order.

"Rex . . . He's alive. Tanner just walked in the door. What should we do?";

Chapter 2

Buck and Chris arrived home just before dinner, both in a bad mood. The meeting had dragged on for hours. They'd just about get something settled, and true to form, Karl Jamison would disagree and start trying to change it. Thank goodness around 3PM it started to snow and the old man decided he had better head for home before it got any worse. From the minute he walked out the door the meeting went forward and by 5PM it had finished and the attendees had headed home.

Chris was reading the paper while the rest of the guys were watching something on TV when the phone rang. He smiled as he picked it up, knowing it was Vin. The connection between the two men didn't work that well due to the almost eighty miles that separated them, but Chris had been expecting a call from the young men.

A short conversation ensued before he handed the phone to Buck for a minute. Both men were satisfied that Vin and JD were fine, that Vin hadn't shipped out, and that they'd be home well before noon the next day. Lastly, they were headed out for a late dinner before calling it a night.

Relieved that their soul brothers were all right and having fun, the two men went back to what they were doing. Ezra talked them all into a game of cards. The rest of the evening passed with the four men playing cards and visiting, while outside the snow softly came down again

JD ran a hand over his face then shook his head. He felt funny. Nothing he could put his finger on, it was just an odd feeling, like he was becoming disconnected. With a glance at Vin, whose hand had just swiped over his face too, he decided they were tired and needed to get back to the motel.

"Shall we get out of here Vin?"; he asked. JD thought his words were loud, it sounded loud to him. He saw Vin look at him and nod towards the entrance.

Both young men rose and with an uneven gait made their way to the counter and door. It took them a couple minutes to pay their bill and get outside. Once on the snow covered sidewalk they both breathed deeply of the cold air.

JD turned, and with a lurch, headed towards the motel. Vin staggered beside JD, his head feeling fuzzy and disconnected. He felt JD grab his arm as he veered suddenly towards the street. He heard JD say something, but it made no sense to him; he just concentrated on putting one heavy foot in front of the other. He stopped when a door suddenly appeared in front of him, his fuzzy brain clearing for a moment. Unlocking the door, they went inside, unaware that a man had slipped through the door behind them.

JD collapsed on the first bed he came to. "Vin I sure don't feel good. My head . . . Vin?"; JD looked at Vin who was standing next to the other bed. A frown crossed his face as he suddenly noticed that there was another man in the room with them.

JD watched as the man took Vin's arm and pushed him into the chair in the corner of the room. "No! Vin doesn't like to be touched,"; JD muttered as the man turned towards him.

JD blinked as the man's face filled his vision. The face was red with spots; spots JD wanted to touch, to try and connect one with the other. He giggled as the man pulled off his coat then boots.

"Get in bed.";

JD heard the order and automatically obeyed. Once under the blankets he looked at the spotted face again.

"Go to sleep. Vin is fine, he's with friends. You will get up in the morning and go home. Vin won't be with you. You won't remember him until you get home. Now go to sleep."; The man ordered and watched as JD's heavy eyes slid shut on a drugged induced sleep command.

With a grin Rex Sommers turned to the longhaired young man sitting obediently in the chair. For a moment Rex stood over the dazed man. He looked him over, noting that he'd put on a few pounds, he wasn't as gaunt and fragile looking as he'd been almost four months ago. With a soundless laugh he thought of what John was going to want to do with him.

"Come on, let's go,"; Rex said as he grabbed Vin's arm and pulled him upright. Vin blinked and walked alongside the man.

Outside, Sommers closed the door, making sure it was locked, then with a hand gripping Vin's arm led him to the waiting car. Shoving Vin into the backseat he said, "Stay there, don't move until I tell you."; He watched as Vin settled himself in the seat before he closed the door and got into the driver's side. Checking his watch, he turned the car around and headed back to the restaurant. Finding a parking spot across the street from the front door, he waited, letting the car run to keep them warm.

Fifteen minutes later, Rex saw his partner hurry out of the building, a stocking cap pulled tightly over his bald head. Rex honked the horn and with a glance, John hurried across the street to them.

John Mathews got into the passenger seat, but his eyes went to the young man sitting quietly in the back.

"Got him,"; he laughed as Rex pulled into traffic and headed for their rented house. "Oh this should be fun. After thinking he was dead, then finding out the cops were looking for us. He turned us in. Now he'll pay. More so than the others.";

"Why don't we just drug him up and turn him lose? He won't remember anything, including us.";

"Oh that's going to happen too,"; laughed Mathews. "It'll be fun to soften him up some too. I've needed an outlet for awhile.";

"Just remember he's ex- Army, he will not put up with you beating on him."; Rex told him.

"Don't worry, he won't fight back,"; John twisted around and looked at Vin. "I've given him that combo I just made, lucked out that I had stashed some in my locker. He's not going to remember much of what he was doing, and probably will have some hallucinations. I'm glad I can try this drug combo on someone.";

"Just don't get caught with it!";

"Don't worry, I won't. I've got it here. No one at work knows what's going on or that I am anything more than what they see. Nope, I'm safe now. And we've got the hiding place in the house for it. This is going to be so much fun for the next few days.";

"Yeah, what then?"; Rex asked as he turned down a dark quiet street.

"Then we'll dump him with the other homeless people, never to be seen alive again,"; Mathews replied with a laugh.

Rex turned into a driveway and stopped in front of the garage door. John got out, walked through the snow and opened the garage door, then closed and latched it behind the car when it pulled in. He moved to the side and flipped on the light and unlocked the house door. Within minutes the two men were inside supporting a badly staggering Vin.

"Come on, in here,"; John pulled Vin into a bare room with a boarded up window and small twin bed with a blanket tossed on it.

Vin shook his head trying to clear the fuzzy blanket feeling that had come over him. He knew he was in danger, but couldn't collect his thoughts well enough to what to do anything about it. He saw the small room, barely larger then a closet, and balked. The eight by six foot room brought back memories of a smaller dark room that he'd been in for a long time. "No"; he whispered and stopped dead, cold sweat breaking out on him.

John heard the quiet word and smiled as he gripped Vin's shoulder tightly. "In here now,"; he ordered, looking into the wide glazed blue eyes that turned to him.

Vin shook his head no and tried to turn to leave, panic raising in him as the grip tightened. He tried to back up, to pull from the hold on his shoulder. Flashes of the tiny prison he'd been held in for months raced through his mind.

He barely felt the pain of the first blow that landed on his back; the heavy warm coat buffered the blow. As he struggled, the second caught him in the lower back and he stiffened a moment. Before he could take a step his coat was stripped from him and another blow landed in his stomach.

Full-blown panic overtook Vin and he lashed out with a rock hard fist catching Rex a glancing blow on the side of his head and dropping him to the floor. Before Vin could turn to the second man, arms wrapped tightly around him, pinning his arms to his sides. For an instant Vin hesitated as the arms tightened around him, fisting together in the center of his chest and pressing inward. He threw his head back trying to hit the face of the man holding him. The head wasn't there and he connected with the taller man's shoulder.

Rex recovered and slammed his fists into Vin's stomach and abdomen.

Vin gasped in pain trying to step away from the onslaught of blows. All of a sudden he was turned loose, and as he tried to bring his fists up, he was struck so hard across his lower back that he staggered forward several steps. As he reached the door, another blow to the side of his head dropped him to his knees. A kick to his side sent him to the floor, and curling around his stomach to protect his vulnerable parts, he fought to hold onto consciousness. He thought he heard voices above him, but his mind could not comprehend what was being said. In his panicked thoughts, it was a foreign language, one that had tortured him for three months.

"No, no, no. . ."; Vin mumbled as he began to force himself to his feet. He was on his knees and braced a hand on the wall beside him when the voices changed. Clinging to the wall, he pushed his left leg up, swallowing cries of pain that threatened to get past his lips. He knew the soldiers would hurt him more if he cried out.

A heavy boot caught him in the center of his lower back, and the dinner he'd enjoyed an hour earlier, made a reappearance as he dropped to his hands and knees. Vin vomited twice before the boot landed against the center of his chest and drove him over backward. His head hit the corner of the bed and blackness dropped over him like a dark blanket.

Breathing hard, John looked at his partner, "This is one tough son of a bitch. See if he's still alive. I'll get something to clean up that mess.";

Rex nodded his head, as his breathing slowed down. He looked down at Tanner and with a sigh dropped to one knee and placed his fingers on the man's throat.

Tough kid, he thought, when he felt the strong beat. Without thinking, he ran a hand over the longhaired head and felt the beginning of a lump rising. He then ran his hands over the young man's chest and ribs finding two broken ones on his left side and several cracked ones on both sides.

Rex accepted the wad of paper towels and wiped Vin's face then waited as John cleaned up the mess Vin had made.

Noses wrinkling the two men disposed the soiled paper towels and then together lifted Vin onto the small bed. John had pulled the blanket off, and once they had Vin on the bed, they quickly stripped him of his clothing. John tied Vin's wrists to the metal bed frame with a thin piece of rope. With a satisfied grin he tossed the blanket over the naked man and left the room. Rex followed snapping off the light and closing the door.

Vin shivered uncontrollably and forced his eyes open. For a moment he lay still wondering where he was, and why the heat wasn't on. He tried to reach the blanket to pull it up from where he could feel it on his legs. Pain shot through him as he pulled on his arms, but they wouldn't move. He suddenly realized they were tied to the bed; he began to twist to try to free himself. As he twisted, he felt the blanket slip, but there was nothing he could do to stop it as it slid to the floor.

Vin gasped in pain as his back and ribs moved. An involuntary cry of agony passed his lips before he could clamp them together, his mind bringing back his time as a prisoner.

A noise outside in the hallway made him freeze, and as he listened footsteps stopped at the door. The door opened and a light was switched on. Closing his eyes, Vin turned his head away from the bright light above.

"So, you're awake. I've got some water for you,"; a voice said. Vin didn't respond, he tried to ignore the figure he could feel towering above him.

John Mathews smiled as he watched Tanner try to ignore him. His gaze moved over the lithe body that lay on the bed and he licked his lips in anticipation. Slowly he ran his hand up Vin's thigh and across his chest. He grinned, feeling the young man stiffen and try to pull away.

Mathews ran his hand over the cool body again, then reaching down, grabbed the old blanket from the floor. Tossing it over Vin's middle he again said, "I have water for you. I'll help you get your head up."; His hand curved around Vin's head and he lifted it, pressing the glass against Vin's lips.

Vin tried to turn his head away, but the hand tightened in his hair and held his head in a firm grip

"Drink or it'll be worse for you."; Vin heard the order and realized something had to be in the water. With a low groan, he twisted trying to free himself from the hold on his head. His legs thrashed as he tried to turn. Mathews released his head and placed his hand over a darkening bruise on Vin's chest, over the broken rib, his fingers digging in hard.

Vin bucked in pain and clamped his mouth shut on a cry of pain. He felt the hand in his hair as his head was lifted up again.

"Drink, NOW!"; the command came as more pain rocketed through him.

Powerless to fight the hands on him, Vin opened his mouth and took a drink of the cool liquid. It had an odd taste and he tried to close his mouth again. He heard the voices above him as something clamped his nose shut and held his jaw tightly. Unable to breathe, his lips parted and the water was poured into him, as he swallowed to keep from drowning.

The liquid went down Vin's throat as Rex held his nose closed until the cup was empty. When the last drop was swallowed Vin started coughing and gagging, and Rex let his nose and jaw loose and stepped away. John dropped Vin's head and watched the coughing man. Glazed eyes looked up at the two men, watching for their next movements.

Noting where a man stood, Vin lashed out with his left leg, his bare foot catching the man hard in his upper chest and slamming him back against the door frame.

Before Vin could kick out again his ankle was grabbed in what felt like a steel vice, then his other leg. Blinking back tears that threatened to fall from his eyes due to the pain in his lower back and ribs, Vin moaned from pain now in his ankles as the man dropped on top of his lower legs, pressing them to the bed. Voices were talking again but he couldn't tell what they said, his head was becoming fuzzy.

Rex came back into the room with two lengths of rope and he helped John tie Vin's ankles to the sides of the bed. His chest hurt where Tanner's foot had caught him, he admitted that the young man was a fighter. He'd noticed the scars on the slender body and wondered what had happened to him in the Army. As he watched John tie Vin to the bed he saw Vin relax and the panic look disappear. He knew the drugs were taking him to another plane.

He watched as John ran his hands up the long legs slowly, kneading his fingers in the muscles. Rex grinned and shook his head then left the room. After years he still couldn't figure out his long time friend. John was a man who loved to be with women, but his thirst for young men was confusing. Rex moved into the living room and sat in the rocker he'd claimed. As he rocked he tried to ignore the noises coming from the small room by turning on the TV. He acknowledged that he liked to 'play' with some of John's young men they'd taken, but not quite like John.

He and John had been together for over fifteen years, but in the last six John had started experimenting with some of the different drugs he could buy in almost every large city they passed through. John seemed to know exactly where to go to get them. He also was an accomplished bartender and could get a job almost anywhere. He had the perfect job to pick his victims and did it often.

Rex wasn't sure what all Tanner was in for before John dumped him. The last young man had been taken to the southeast part of the city and dropped on a street corner in the snow storm just a short time ago. He'd had enough drugs in him that they had to physically pull him from the car.

Seeing the room was beginning get brighter, Rex rose and went to the kitchen to start breakfast. He was hungry and knew John would want something to eat when he finished with Tanner. Cooking eased his mind and Rex enjoyed the mindlessness of putting together a meal.

WARNING, Hint of rape below. Marked off by ##~~~~~~~## you can skip this marked part, go to the next line of ##~~~~~~~##

Chapter 3

JD drove the Silverado towards home. His mind kept telling him something was wrong, but he couldn't think what it could be. He'd gotten up before 7AM and showered, dressed, packed his overnight bag, grabbed the spare one and loaded everything into the truck.

Before leaving the city, JD drove through a Burger King and bought breakfast, enough for two people. As he ate his breakfast sandwich he looked around the inside of the truck, feeling that someone was missing.

Leaving the city behind, he sipped on a supersized soda and watched the lightly falling snow hit the windshield. Beyond the truck he could see snow covered hills and mountains, now and then, through the falling snow until the sight was cut off by the trees. Several times he glanced at the passenger seat expecting to see someone sitting there.

When he turned into the ranch's long driveway just before 10AM, he suddenly remembered that Vin was supposed to be with him. In shock he yelled, 'Vin' and slamming on the brakes, he slid on the snow covered driveway, fighting the wheel until the SUV stopped short of one of the snow banks beside the driveway. Shaking hands gripped the wheel as his frantic gaze swept through the interior then toward the ranch house an eighth of a mile away.

**JD what's wrong?** he heard in his head.

Looking around again JD felt tears burn his eyes, **Vin. I lost Vin.** He exclaimed as the tears began to roll down his cheeks.

**Buck, Vin, I don't know where he is. . .**

**Come to the house. We'll find him. Come on brother.** Buck's soothing answer flowed through his head. Calming a little, JD drove on and stopped at the garage. Buck and Chris rushed out of the house and he saw Ezra and Josiah behind them.

The door was jerked open and JD collapsed into Buck's arms sobbing, unable to get his emotions under control.

Buck held his young soul brother and tried to calm him as he led him to the house. His glance at Chris reflected devastation on the blond's face regarding Vin. He knew Chris had been trying to reach his soul brother, and knew it hadn't happened yet.

Buck eased JD onto the couch and kept a comforting arm around the shaking shoulders.

Finally containing himself, JD raised his head and looked directly at Chris.

"I'm sorry Chris.I lost Vin.";

Holding his temper, Chris said in a cold, even, voice, "Tell us what happened JD.";

JD looked at the four men as tears slid down his face. "I'm not really sure. We shopped and then got our room. It was only a block to Dilly's so we walked to it. Ate a great meal. We had a couple of Pepsis. The second one tasted a little odd, but we thought it was because they were fountain drinks and they always taste different. We walked back to our motel . . ."; JD paused, his forehead wrinkled in thought. Slowly he continued, "Vin almost walked into the street, but I caught him. We got to the room . . . I was feeling dizzy, disoriented . . . Got the door opened and went in . . .I laid down . . . there was someone by Vin . . . Vin was standing by his bed . . . he pushed Vin into the chair by the door, I told him Vin didn't like to be touched."; His eyes widened, "Then he was in my face, told me to get into bed and I did. I tried to connect the red spots on his face, but I couldn't . . . he said Vin was with friends and I was to go home and . . ."; tears spilled down his face again, "I was instructed I wouldn't remember him 'til I arrived here and I didn't. God where is Vin? What happened to us? Chris, I'm so sorry. I'd promised to take care of him and I lost him. I'm sorry, my head hurts."; Overcome by his emotions, JD sobbed and dropped his head against Buck's shoulder.

Looking over the young man's head, Buck and Chris exchanged glances and Chris left the room followed by Josiah.

Ezra called Rain Jackson, who had just returned from work a half hour earlier. He apologized to her and asked if she could come to the house. Within a few minutes she had arrived and hurried into the kitchen. After a few words with Ezra she walked into the living room where she found JD.

JD looked up at Rain when she placed her hand on his shoulder, and with a smile she told him she needed to check his eyes. He nodded and then she asked him to look different directions, follow her fingers, and then she shone a penlight into this eyes.

After carefully checking each eye she stepped back and smiled at him.

"You'll be fine JD; you just need several hours more sleep. It looks like you were drugged, the effects are wearing off, but with a bit of rest the drugs should be totally gone and you'll be your old self again.";

"Drugged?"; Buck exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes. I'm not sure what kind. I'd guess a type of date rape, though without a blood test I couldn't tell you. It has almost worn off, from what I can see; his eyes are clearing, head too.";

"Okay little brother, off to bed you go,"; Buck stated, pulling JD up.

"Vin . . .";

"We'll find him JD,"; Chris said coming back into the room with Josiah.

JD looked at Chris, hope in his dark eyes. "I wish I could remember more Chris . . .";

"It's all right JD, not your fault. I sent Vin's picture to Dusty Fields, he's getting it around to everyone and we're meeting him at one this afternoon at the Denver Police Department.";

"I want to come too.";

"No JD. You need to get that drug out of your system. Maybe tomorrow. Today you need to rest,"; Chris ordered.

"I'll stay with him,"; Ezra said looking from the distraught young man to Buck, knowing that the big man wanted to be with Chris, to support his longtime friend. Josiah's head nodded as Rain looked from one man to the other, confusion written on her beautiful face. She wouldn't ask, seeing how serious the men were.

"I can stay with JD,"; Rain offered.

"No, pretty lady, you just got home from long hours of laboring at the hospital and need your rest. Ezra can keep an eye on JD and help us from here. You get your rest so when Nathan gets home you'll be awake for him. You can both check on JD later."; Buck said as he hugged her for a moment before be headed off to get the things he needed for the trip into the city.

Ezra placed his hand on Rain's arm a moment, letting her know he'd fill her in what happened to JD shortly, with his glance.

Chris went out the door, to warm up his large black Ram, and then to the Silverado JD and Vin had driven. He gathered up bags of things they'd bought and carried them to the house. Buck was a step behind him, grabbing the young men's overnight bags, wondering if they should have gotten one for themselves. He had a feeling they wouldn't be home until they found Vin.

Spotting Josiah coming out the back door, Buck smiled. The older man was carrying three overnight bags.

Several minutes later the Dodge was traveling down the snowy driveway, heading for Denver.

+ + + + + + +

Vin shivered and peered around the room, which was now his prison. His eyes blinked as they adjusted to the bright light overhead. He moved his arms, but couldn't get them to drop to his sides. Rope cut into his sore and bloody wrists. He moved his legs and for a moment was surprised that he could bend his knees almost to his body. Pain slashed through his lower back and groin and he let his legs drop back onto the mattress. He knew that feeling and he moaned in despair. He was still a captive and they were still torturing him.

He spotted a blond haired man, wondering at first if it was a dream. Jumbled thoughts rolled through Vin's confused mind, horses, and being dragged out of a hole to be beaten; green eyes smiling at him, hanging by his wrists while being raped and cruelly violated; cleaning stalls and working with horses, cut and stabbed with knives while men in camouflage laughed. A blond holding him close and warming his half frozen body, questions he wouldn't answer and more beatings with whips and clubs, and more violations.

Trying hard Vin latched onto the green-eyed blond and pulled him through the mist of his jumbled thoughts.

**Chris!** As the name of the blond came to him suddenly, Vin held onto the name, **Chris, Chris,** Vin repeated it over and over to himself, and with his eyes sliding closed, his battered body relaxed.

John Mathews walked into the room a little later, and standing beside the tied down man, his gaze took in the dark bruises that had formed on Vin's chest, ribs and upper legs. He knew the man's back was bruised also. With a smile he looked at the deepening purple finger print size bruises on Vin's hips, legs, and other areas. This young man excited him; he was the finest he'd had in sometime, but he knew things would be totally different if it were not for the drugs, he wouldn't have been able to enjoy himself as much as he had been. With that thought, John placed the glass of water containing a different drug mixture on a shelf above the foot of the bed, and began to run his hard hands up Vin's legs.

##~~~~~~~## SENSITIVE READERS SKIP THIS PART ##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##

Rex Sommers watched from where he leaned against the door frame and wondered how long John would play before Tanner was totally awake. He held an instant camera which he used now and then to take pictures of John's captives as John 'played' with them. John enjoyed looking at them when they were between captives to toy with.

Ten minutes later Vin's head was moving back and forth as he tried to dislodge the hot weight on his hips and thighs. He cried out in pain once, before clamping his lips tightly closed. The weight shifted and more pain lanced through him. His eyes flew open when he felt a hand tighten on his throat, pressing down.

For a moment the light blinded him and he couldn't see anything. A form appeared beside him, and the light was blocked for a moment. Vin's fuzzy gaze looked at the thing in the man's hand. Rex holding the glass of drugged water, nodded to John who pressed a bit harder on Vin's throat.

Vin gagged and opened his mouth to try and draw in air. Water began to be poured into his mouth, and then suddenly his throat was released. He swallowed the water quickly attempting to clear his mouth and throat for needed air. He coughed as he was forced to drink more. It tasted awful and he tried to turn his head only to be stopped by a hand fisted in his hair holding his head in place.

Vin gasped in pain when something rammed hard into him unexpectedly, and the rest of the drink was poured down his throat. He swallowed to keep from drowning as he tried to twist his hips and legs away from the weight and pain. Arching his back, he fought to free himself from the weight, as his mind spiraled back in time once more. For an instant he saw the blond and cried out, *Chris* before his camouflaged captors began their assault on him.

Rex nodded to John, "He's all yours buddy, shaking his hand.

John quickly rose. "Help me turn him over for awhile,"; he said as he released the still gasping Vin. Together they flipped Vin over onto his stomach before he could react. While Vin started to struggle, he was retied to the edges of the bed, legs wide apart before he realized he had been untied. John quickly reseated himself, his weight holding Vin down. He rested between the muscled thighs, his hands tightly gripping the narrow hips as he regained his position and began to move on the younger man roughly.  

John reached forward grabbing Vin's shoulder tightly and chin, forcing Vin's head to turn to the side. Vin jerked his head away from the soldier and mumbled, *Chris, Chris,* before his chin was grabbed again and his head was forced towards the bright light. The painful grip on his shoulder eased as the hand moved down his side to cup his hip. He was unable to understand what the whispered voice was saying, but he shuddered as the hands moved all over his body.

Vin struggled against the hand holding his chin and the weight pressing heavily down on his back. He could still see the blond in his mind and called to him, hoping the man would hear him and help him. A sharp pain on the side of his face brought his eyes towards the man holding him. The fuzzy figure said something to him, but he had no idea what, the language was foreign to him. Hands slid down his back and lower making him shudder and he tried to buck the man off. Nothing moved the weight pressing in on him. More pain flared through his abdomen, and back, as the man moved heavily over him. His broken and cracked ribs grated as the weight shifted and pressed harder.

A different kind of pain all of a sudden tore through his stomach and Vin writhed wildly. His arms twisted and jerked against the bonds holding him, as his legs tried to clamp together. All he wanted to do was curl into himself but he couldn't move. The person on him shifted and he screamed in agony as the weight pressed harder into him. His back and hips took the brunt of the weight and he screamed again as hands pressed on his hips so hard his back felt as if his rib bones were piercing through him.

More pain flowed up his body as the weight shifted once again and Vin mindlessly screamed knowing he shouldn't, that the soldiers would hurt him even more, but he couldn't stop. Bile rose in his throat. He managed to turn his head before he vomited the water. He didn't see or feel the rough rag that wiped his cheek cleaning up the watery mess as he was lost in the agony of what was happening, what the soldiers were doing to him.

One more cry of *Chris* and Vin let the darkness take him, no longer able to take the pain. He didn't hear the click of the camera or see the flash as more pictures were taken.

Feeling the lean body collapse under him, John released his tight grip on the narrow hips and pulled himself free, climbing off the bed. With a smile of satisfaction and lust on his face, he patted Vin's butt and headed for the bathroom to clean up. He wanted more from this young man, and he was going to get his way.

##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~## OK HERE ##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##

Rex wiped the blood off Vin's face where John's hand had caught the corner of his mouth. He looked the body over and seeing blood in another place, he grabbed a towel and staunched the flow. Pressing the towel to the torn area, he held it in place for a couple of minutes, until the bleeding stopped.

John came back into the room buttoning his pants and watched his friend tend to the unconscious man.

"Your turn Rex,"; he grinned and licked his lips; Rex didn't mind him watching what he did to their play toys.

Rex looked at John and shook his head. "I think we need to get rid of him.";

"Why? He's one of the most excellent I've had in a long time. You'd like him too, just play.";

"I think he's one of those with that 'connection' a lot of people have,"; Rex looked at the battered body on the bed. "Did you hear him? He was saying a name over and over. Don't know who he was calling out to, could be the boy in the room or someone else. I'm sure they're looking for him now. And if that 'Chris' heard him, well you know what they say, his call could lead him here quickly.";

"Damn."; John paced along the bed, one hand sliding and fondling Vin's body as he thought.

For several minutes there was silence in the room except for John's footsteps and the hitched breathing of Vin.

Finally John stopped, and with his hand on Vin said, "You're right Rex. We need to get rid of him as soon as possible. We can't be found. It's too bad he's been a superlative toy to play with. He should be awake soon. I've got something to give him and we'll get rid of him tonight. He won't remember his time with us.";

"Good. Do you want some lunch?";

"Since we're going to dump him later, I'm going to enjoy his charms some more. Have fun while I can. Help me turn him over again; I have something to try on him that worked well with the last guy. You sure you don't want any of this? Hell he is so . . . good.";

"No, he's all yours this time. Next time I will play with the toy.";

Rex helped John turn Vin onto his back and lifted his hips as John slid several rolled blankets under them, raising Vin's hips almost a foot above the bed. They again tied his wrists and ankles to the bed, this time with some play in the ankle ropes, so Vin's knees could be partially bent. John checked the way Vin was laid out then nodded to his partner. "That should do.";

With a wide grin John dropped his clothes and went to the head of the bed and slapped Vin's face until blue eyes blinked open. "Hey there pretty boy, we're going to have some fun, me and you."; He laughed at the confused gaze watching him.

Vin's eyes widened when the man started running his hands through his hair then down over his chest. Hard fingers rubbed and pinched him hard enough that he twisted trying to free himself from the cruel hands that seemed to move all over his body, pinching and petting him. He vaguely wondered why he could see his hips, and could feel that part of his back was raised also. His legs kicked out, but the ropes stopped them, nowhere able to reach the man. "NO!"; He yelled as he moved, but the hand movements continued, the low laughter urging him to struggle more.

Unexpectedly Vin's left arm came free, the pain of it tearing free of the bloody rope made him gasp. With all the energy he had left in him he lashed out as hard as he could at the grinning face hovering over his chest.

The rock solid fist caught John on his neck; just below his ear knocking him away from the bed. Gasping for air and shaking his head, his hand rose to his neck as he pulled in air noisily through his mouth. With a scowl he slammed a flattened hand down on Vin's chest as he reached for the freed arm, stopping it in mid-air before it could connect with him again.

Vin convulsed trying to push away from the pain that grated through his chest. Before he could do anything weight dropped onto his chest, pinning him down as his freed wrist was tied down again.

"You asked for it now Tanner,"; Mathews said when he finished retying his wrist above his head to the bed.

##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~## SENSITIVE READERS SKIP DOWN ##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##

Vin tried not to scream when pain lanced through him as his captor dropped onto him moving from chest to raised hips. The pain finally centered in his raised lower back and hips when the man shifted and moved between his thighs, forcing his feet up to sit flat on the bed, held in place by cruel hands. He suddenly felt like he was being split apart from inside out and the scream he had tried to suppress exploded from him. His mind reached for the blond, the only safe and calm thing in his world right now. As the pounding continued to rip into him and tear him apart he screamed 'Chris' over and over. He didn't know how long the assault and pain lasted; he was numb and prayed for blackness. A heavy hand struck him in the face as he thrashed back and forth. Time appeared to stand still, even though it was moving quickly, less than 15 minutes had passed. Vin wasn't conscious of the camera flashes or noise of the clicks as John took pictures one handed from where he was on Vin.

##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~## ALLOK NOW ##~~~~~~~##~~~~~~~##

Barely conscious, Vin felt his mouth forced open and liquid poured into it. He was so thirsty that initially he did not realized it wasn't just water, but when he did and turned his head away, his jaw was gripped tightly. As the liquid continued to cascade down his throat, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Hate filled his eyes as he looked into the face of the man who was forcing him to drink.

John jerked the rolled blankets out from beneath Vin, letting him slump back flat on the bed. Stepping back he quickly cleaned himself and pulled on his clothes, then with a glance at Rex, John said, "Help me get his clothes on him and we'll get him out of here.";

"He's bleeding.";

"He's fine, it isn't much. It'll stop by the time we get him dressed."; John replied as he reached to cut a wrist free.

Within minutes Vin was released and clothed. He staggered drunkenly between the two men as they half carried him through the house. His wrists, ankles and his entire body screamed in pain as he tried to walk. Passing through the kitchen, Vin bumped into a counter when one of the men temporarily let go of him to open the garage door, and shut off the lights behind them.

As Vin brushed past the counter, his hand hit something that gave. Mail which had been stacked on the counter was scattered, and most dropped to the floor. The man gripping him paused a moment, letting him lean against the counter as he snatched the mail from the floor. Vin glanced down and saw an envelope almost under his shaking hand, not thinking, he reached out and grabbed it, crushing it in his hand. Before his arm was gripped again, he managed to stuff it into his pocket a moment before he banged into the refrigerator. The hand grasped his arm, jerking him towards the garage door.

Minutes later the car was moving down the dark street, Vin barely conscious, wracked with pain, kept repeating his mantra through disjointed thoughts, **Chris, Chris, Chris. . .**

Chapter 4

Very little conversation passed between the three men while Chris drove as fast as he dared to Denver. They were still a distance from the mile-high city when Chris felt the first quicksilver thread of his connection to Vin come alive.

Buck noticed that Chris's hands suddenly relaxed on the steering wheel, and his head tipped a little. He grinned over the seat at Josiah and both breathed a sigh of relief.

They reached the outskirts of Denver when Chris, with a groan, pulled into the first open parking lot and released the wheel. His hands were shaking, his face pale.

"Chris what's wrong?"; Buck asked from beside him.

"Someone needs to drive. Vin . . . he's being beaten and . . . Oh God no . . ."; Chris's voice broke as he tried to reach his soul mate.

Buck glanced at Josiah and nodded and they both helped Chris out of the truck.

Chris stood in the cold air shaking as he tried to draw in air, as though breathing for two. Josiah placed his hand on Chris' shoulder to anchor him.

A few minutes later the two men led Chris to the passenger side of the truck and paused as Chris gasped and blindly reached out. Josiah grabbed him when he suddenly convulsed and bent over losing what little was in his stomach. When the dry heaves stopped, Buck wiped his face with a handful of paper napkins from the glove compartment.

Chris shuddered and tried to pull back from the torment Vin was going through. A face had appeared for a minute and he was sure he'd recognize the man when he saw him again. He felt hands guide him to the passenger door, and he moved with Buck and Josiah. Once Chris was belted in, Buck jumped in the driver's side and minutes later they were on the road again. Chris gasped and shuddered as he felt pain lance through his back, hips, ribs and stomach. He gagged for a moment; the painful feelings were gone as fast as they'd occurred.

"We have to find Vin, and now,"; Chris rasped as he ran a shaking hand over his face.

"What's going on Chris? What do you feel?"; Josiah asked as he placed a hand on the blond man's shoulder.

Chris shook his head as he ran his hands through his blond hair, before realizing how badly they were shaking and dropping them into his lap.

"Someone's got him, they've beaten him, and, and . . ."; he felt Josiah's hand tighten for a moment as the older man picked up what he was trying to day. "I think he's been raped and definitely drugged . . . He's in pain, tied down, in a small dark room, and reliving some of his time as a prisoner.";

"Damn!"; Buck exclaimed as he turned towards the large Denver Police Department on one of the main streets. "Junior's been through enough, he doesn't need this on top of everything else,"; he added as he maneuvered the big truck through the afternoon traffic. Within minutes he turned into the police parking lot. Automatically he pulled into the parking space that had been his for several years. Buck blinked when he realized what he'd done, then shrugged; at least the space had been open.

The three men entered the building and made their way to the detective department on the third floor. At the main desk Chris asked for Detective Dusty Fields with a small smile. Who would name their son Dusty with the last name of Fields? Chris remembered then that Dusty had a brother named Bear who was a banker and a sister named

Sage who owned a flower shop.

The woman at the desk told them where Detective Fields was located and they headed for his cubicle.

Dusty Fields, a tall muscular man of 50, salt and pepper brown hair with dark brown eyes, grabbed another chair and invited them to sit down. His eyes went instantly to the pale faced Larabee as they all sat down. Josiah was introduced before Fields began to talk.

"I have just a little information for you Chris."; Fields said before Chris could speak, he could tell the younger man was hurting. "We found that JD Dunne and Vin Tanner returned to the motel last night at 10:09PM. The night clerk noticed that Tanner left several minutes later with another man. She thought the man had freckles and red hair, but she wasn't totally sure. She said he had a grip on Tanner's arm and seemed to be guiding him as there was no resistance from Tanner. She thought they were friends, and they drove off in an older dark colored Ford. No license number. I've passed out Tanner's picture to our officers, but nothing so far.";

Chris nodded and rubbed his head. Buck glanced at Chris then back to Dusty and said, "Chris is connected to Vin and saw something awhile ago. It's no help though, just a room, but Vin's been hurt and whoever has him is drugging him.";

"Damn,"; Dusty said. "Recently there has been several young men who have disappeared in the same way."; He shuffled some files around on his desk and stacked four together and pushed them towards the visitors. "They were reported missing and then found days later, battered, raped and drugged. None of the men could remember much; a dark room and maybe two assailants. The drugs in their systems were a little different for each man. It was almost like someone was experimenting with different drug combinations.";

Silence reigned for several moments among the four men before Josiah said, ";So there's nothing to point to these kidnappers. I imagine the drugs are common ones they can get on the street?";

"Some are, including Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and GHB, but there are also several new ones now; one they call Baron, and the other Forbidden. Baron is a combination with the old Viagra drug in it. The drug Forbidden causes the person to have stomach cramps and vomiting. The last young man had a combination of Forbidden, Ecstasy and Morphine, along with some other drugs which are easy to find now on the street. He's alive and a little worse for wear, but he, like the others, can't remember anything that happened to him. He didn't even know where he'd been picked up from.";

"Where have you found these young men?"; Josiah asked.

Dusty pointed at the map of Denver. "The last three were found around this area, near Purgetorio, or the southeast area of Denver. First one was wandering the city streets.";

"At least we have an idea where to look for Vin,"; Buck stated.

"Yes, but when and where? It's a large area to cover remember Buck."; Chris remarked.

Josiah looked over the map and replied, "It is, but from where Detective Fields is pointing, it seems to be a six square block radius.";

"How long were they held?"; Chris asked.

Dusty sat back down and folded his hands over the files. "The first man, two days, but the fourth man was held for six days we believe, before we found him.";

"Vin is the fifth?"; Buck whispered and watched Dusty nod his head.

For a moment Chris' head dropped then it snapped up, his eyes green fire. "I'll find him before that,"; he swore.

Nodding his agreement, Dusty replied, "Chris, you said you and Tanner have the connection, I'm sure this is, well, like a breakthrough for us. The first young man had the connection and he was found very fast with help by his soul mate. None of the others had it, so we were lucky to find them alive, three to six days later. They had no idea how long they'd been on the street. I believe it wasn't more than a day before we found them once they were released. Well that's my theory.";

Dusty's gaze went from man to man, "Why don't you go get some coffee? The stuff here is overcooked and bad. Troy's Diner is just across the street, has good coffee and food.";

Josiah stretched, "I could use a cup of coffee."; He said as he rose and looked at his two partners.

Chris nodded and Buck smiled. They stood up and looked at Dusty.

"You know how to get rid of people don't you Detective Fields?"; laughed Buck.

Grinning, Dusty answered, "Well, I think you all need a little break, and I need to check a couple of things. By the time you return, our artist should be free to assist you in sketching the man you've seen Chris.";

"Yeah good idea. We'll be back shortly,"; said Chris as he pulled on his coat and headed out of the cubicle.

Five minutes later they were seated in the warm diner with steaming cups of coffee. They all ordered sandwiches, having left home before lunch and it was now almost mid afternoon. The smells from the diner had their stomachs growling.

They were almost finished eating when Chris suddenly turned white and staggered to his feet. His frantic gaze swept the diner and then he took off towards the restroom signs. Buck and Josiah exchanged looks and Buck rose and followed Chris.

Buck waited in the restroom, listening as Chris lost his lunch. Several minutes later a pale and shaking blond walked from the stall and went to the sink. After rinsing his mouth out and using a wet paper towel to wipe his face, Chris stood with his hands planted on the sink rim watching the water go down the drain. Finally he reached out and shut off the water, looked up and nodded in appreciation at Buck, who had been leaning against the door to keep everyone else out.

"You all right?";

"Not sure, think so now. Vin . . ."; Chris frowned and wiped the sheen of sweat off his face again. "Let's get back to the office. I saw the guy again. Vin's in pain, he's . . ."; Chris shook his head and looked at Buck. "We have to get back to Dusty, got to get this down while I can still see him.";

Buck moved aside and opened the door and followed Chris back into the dining area. Josiah was standing by the cash register, paying their bill. They got their coats and hurried out the door and across the street.

Entering the detective department they saw a man sitting in Dusty's cubicle, a large sketch book in one hand, the other was laying out an assortment of pencils. He was introduced as Detective Collier, and he began to sketch as Chris answered his questions. The first picture was taken by Collier to be copied a short time later.

Within another hour Collier was working again, and a partial picture of the second man was sketched. Chris's connection was full blown; he was fighting to connect with Vin through the pain he could feel coming from his soul brother. Shaking and sweating he heard his name called over and over.

Darkness began to fall over the city, street lights came on as it crept across the land. Chris was in agony when he gagged and wrapped his arms tightly around himself. Through the connection with Vin, he felt rough hands on him, he eased himself up listening to his name still being called. His wide gaze took in his friends and the detectives.

"They're moving. . . We have to go . . ."; Chris gasped and blindly staggered towards the cubicle's opening.

Josiah grabbed the blonds' arm and held him when he leaned against a chair, shaking. Buck moved to his other side, holding Chris's coat under his arm, his other on Chris's shoulder.

"I'm all right,"; Chris said as he finally straightened up. "I think I've been able to tone his cry down some. Vin is in trouble. We have to go, now.";

"We are Chris. Where are we heading?"; Buck asked as Dusty watched from several feet away.

"Heading away from the house. I don't know, south I think. I can hear Vin calling my name over and over. I might be able to follow the call if they stick to their MO and head for Purgetorio where the others were dumped.";

"I'll alert the patrol officers in that sector. Go, I'll be right behind you,"; Dusty hurried from the cubicle and the three men quickly left.

In the Ram they headed toward the southeast part of the city. Buck turned the scanner to the police channel as he drove through the lightly falling snow. He listened to the scanner as Chris sat hunched in the passenger seat, eyes closed as he once again concentrated on Vin's whereabouts.

Josiah, his gaze taking in all he could as Buck drove through the dark snowy streets, held the 2-way radio the detective had given them at the last minute. Dusty had met them at the door, radio in hand, and then went to collect his partner, Lee Williams, before heading to his car. Williams and Josiah stayed in contact discussing location, streets they were on, or were crossing.

They had been cruising the partly deserted streets for almost an hour when Chris gasped and said; "Right, turn right . . ."; Buck turned at the corner and drove down the street. A couple carloads of teens went past them turning off at the next street. Several blocks ahead, through the snow they saw tail lights of a car pulling away from the curb.

"There, there... Go, go. . ."; Chris cried pointing after the car. Buck floored the pedal and the truck took off after the car. The car swerved around several cars then around a corner.

"Vin! Stop where they were.";

Josiah was on the radio and they saw flashing lights come on and turn after the speeding auto.

Buck spotted where the car had been moments before and pulled over. The three men saw a figure staggering badly through the snow half a block away. Before Buck could pull out and forward, Chris was out of the truck and racing after the man. Josiah was on the radio as Buck gunned the motor to follow Chris.

The truck was rocking from a quick stop beside Chris who was kneeling in the snow holding Vin in his arms.

Buck and Josiah were at Chris and Vin's side a moment later. They could hear Chris's quiet voice talking to the younger man, and the raspy voice of Vin saying 'Chris, Chris' over and over in a broken whisper.

Vin had felt the car he was in come to a stop and the next thing he knew, he was being dragged out of the back seat amid curses, and shoved against an icy building. He was glad for the fresh air as he'd vomited several times on the floor of the moving car. Shivering he began to walk along the snow and ice covered sidewalk as he continued his whispered 'Chris'. He heard tires squealing and tried to move faster, he hurt enough and didn't want anyone near him. In the back of his head he knew he had to find a place to hide before he froze to death, or got attacked by someone else.

Hands on him had Vin trying to fight. Someone was calling to him when his legs buckled and he fell. Strong arms gripped him and eased him down, to where he was leaning against a warm chest. He blinked his eyes at the figure talking to him, trying to understand what was being said. 'Chris, Chris, Chris' he continued to chant, dropping his head.

"You're all right Vin, I've got you, it's Chris ... Vin I'm here. Vin, Chris is here, it's all right now ..."; Vin heard and felt a warm hand on his chin, gently turning his face up so he could see who held him. His eyes finally met the man's gaze who held him and he smiled, it really was Chris.

"Chris . . . help me . . . He hurt . . .me. . ."; Vin's pain filled words were whispered to Chris.

"I've got you; no one will hurt you again. We'll take care of you.";

"O. . .kay."; Vin quieted, relishing the warmth he was engulfed in. All of a sudden he remembered the envelope in his pocket and his shaking hand moved to his pocket.

"Got address . . .where ...was . . . was. . ."; Vin muttered as his hand fumbled at his front pocket.

"Here, let me get it Junior, you rest,"; another voice said, as a hand touched his, then dug in his pocket.

Vin froze for a moment then relaxed, "Buck. . .lin?";

"Yeah, it's me and Josiah's here. You just take it easy. I see the ambulance coming and now I've got an envelope from your pocket.";

"'Kay. I'm tired.";

They saw Vin's head slump against Chris's chest as he went limp in the blonds' arms.

"Vin?"; Josiah said watching as the ambulance and two police units came to a stop beside them.

"He's passed out. Get those EMT's here,"; Chris ordered harshly. An instant later the medical personnel were kneeling in the snow beside him.

Chapter 5

Two paramedic's worked on Vin as Chris, Buck and Josiah stood by. Within minutes, with a blanket securely over him, Vin was loaded onto a gurney and strapped down for the ride to the hospital. Chris waited in the back of the ambulance as they loaded Vin, his glare daring them to say anything. Buck and Josiah followed them to the hospital in the Ram.

Vin slowly opened his eyes as he tried to sit up. Then suddenly he realized he was restrained and began to panic followed by fighting and thrashing, in an attempt to free himself. He'd been hurt enough and wasn't going to take anymore. The drugs in him made everything hurt twice as bad and he moaned then growled as he fought desperately to get free, to run.

Chris was shocked, caught off balance, surprised at the violent waking of his soul brother. Hearing the growl and seeing that Vin was going to injure himself more, Chris grabbed Vin's shoulders.

"Vin, settle down, you're safe. Look at me, it's all right.";

"No . . . let me go! . . .No more hurting . . . tied . . . let me go, no . . . no more . . . no...";

Chris saw Vin's wrists twisting in the restraints, fresh blood started to seep out from under the padding. "Release him, he's been tied down too much already,"; he snapped at the EMT beside him. "I'll calm him, release him!";

Noting the look on the blonds' face, the man released Vin's arms, and as he worked on the ankle restraints, Vin sat up and was grabbed and held by Chris.

Vin's hands curled into fists and he tried to lash out to get free when he heard a voice at his ear and in his head, **Chris?**

**I've got you Vin. You are safe with me.** He heard and slumped into the strong arms.

He felt the nearness of Chris as he relaxed and fell into his arms. He knew he had to tell him something but couldn't get it worked out in his mind what it was. While he tried to remember, the ambulance came to a stop, the warmth was gone, and panic began to rise again like a snake head.

"You have to stay down Vin. I'll be right beside you. You're going into the emergency room and a doctor is going to check you over. You'll be fine, and then we'll head for home.";

"Home, wanta go home. . .";

"We will. Stay still so you don't fall off the gurney, here we go.";

After the gurney was lifted out of the vehicle, Chris walked beside it as it was pushed into the ER department. He grimaced as he heard in his head Vin's mantra again, 'Chris, Chris.' He knew Vin was in a state of panic and he placed his hand on his chest to let him know he was beside him.

They were directed into a large examining room where a nurse was preparing for the patient. Another nurse entered the room as Vin was transferred to the examining table by the EMT's, who provided information about Vin.

Wide, scared blue eyes gazed around the room before settling on Chris who had stepped back from the table to get out of the nurses' way as they began to work on Vin. While one set up an IV the other began to strip off his clothes. A sheet was drawn over his battered body as an IV port was attached to his hand, to provide fluids.

A tall black man in scrubs hurried into the room and with one question was given Vin's vitals and what information they had from the EMTs. With a nod he stepped to the exam bed and looked down at Vin.

"Mr. Tanner, I'm Doctor LeMaes, I'm going to check you out and we'll see if we can get you more comfortable, and out of here in a reasonable amount of time.";

Vin stared at the man for a moment before he turned his gaze back to Chris.

"Doctor LeMaes, he's been held captive for a day and as you know, was given drugs besides being beaten, and . . ."; Chris' eyes held the doctor's dark ones for a moment before the doctor nodded his understanding before looking again at his patient. Chris looked back to Vin and held his gaze as the doctor gave orders.

"I need a full blood panel. Angela get that taken care of right now. Have it checked thoroughly for any kind of drugs,"; LeMaes ordered, with a glance at the other nurse he said quietly, "Get a rape kit; I want the portable X-ray ready.";

While Angela drew several vials of blood, the doctor began his examination, starting with Vin's head and face, telling the nurse who had replaced Angela what he wanted done to repair any damage. The redhead listened closely as she helped him.

As he moved slowly over Vin's chest, noting older scars, he called for X-rays. The redhead notified radiology that they'd be receiving images and needed them back STAT.

Working his way down Vin's stomach and abdomen, Vin shuddered then started shaking. As the exam moved lower he began to shaking harder, a raspy, whispered, "No"; was barely heard. The next "No"; was louder and Vin began to fight, a fist lashed out.

Chris watched as the doctor began his examination of Vin and listened to his orders to the nurses. When he heard the first "No"; he took a step forward, then the second one came and Vin was fighting.

Chris grabbed Vin's fist just before it connected with the doctor's face. Flashing a glance at LeMaes Chris grabbed Vin's other hand as it came up.

"Vin, Vin, listen to me. Vin its Chris, it's alright calm down . . . You're safe, calm down, I'm here . . ."; As Chris talked to the traumatized young man he moved directly into Vin's line of sight blocking out all but himself for Vin to see. Chris talked as Vin's frantic gaze flashed around before the wild eyed stare settled on him and Vin relaxed a little. His fisted hands were still held in Chris's grip.

"It's alright Vin. You're at the hospital and the doctor is checking you. You'll be fine. Just relax and let Doc LeMaes finish. I'm here, you aren't alone,"; Chris nodded to LeMaes to continue as he lowered Vin's arms, feeling the shaking coming from the thin body. **Take it easy, you'll be fine. I've got you now.**

"No more . . ."; Vin's gaze never left the green look that bored into him from his soul brother as he felt the doctors hands on him again. "No more . . . NO! Please . . . No more. Please don't . . . Don't hurt me . . ."; Tears suddenly flooded the blue eyes as Vin's face paled.

"It's the doctor, you're safe Vin,"; Chris continued to reassure Vin.

Suddenly Vin arched up, heels and shoulders digging into the exam table as a scream of pain escaped him. For a moment everyone froze in surprise. Vin dropped back to the table as fast as he'd arched, unconscious.

"Nurse . . .."; Chris didn't pay attention to what the doctor and nurses were saying and doing as he held Vin's limp wrists.

"Mr. Larabee, if you'll step back we'll finish with your brother as quickly as we can,"; the redhead said as she touched his shoulder.

Chris jumped in surprise and looked blankly at the pretty nurse. Snapping out of his thoughts he looked at the woman, "Sorry. I think it's the drugs they gave him before they dumped him on the street.";

"He will be all right. The blood test results just came in and we are starting him on the counter treatment. Dr LeMaes needs to do the rape tests. We should have the X-rays back by the time he finishes. If you will move back, or out of the room, we'll be able to finish.";

"I'll get out of the way but I'm not leaving him."; Chris stated as he stepped back out of the nurses way. He hated to see what the doctor had to do to Vin, but knew it was needed. He'd seen the blood that had dried on Vin's upper legs and the finger sized bruises on him. He concentrated on Vin's face as he listened to the doctor giving instructions to the nurse. It seemed like an hour had passed but it was barely 20 minutes when Dr. LeMaes finished. Stepping back from the examining table, the doctor looked at the X-rays that were now displayed on the computer screen.

When the doctor turned away from the screen his gaze landed on Chris. "Mr. Larabee, he will be fine once the drugs are out of his system. We are giving him a drug to neutralize the drugs he'd been given. He has some tearing and I've taken care of that with a few stitches. They will dissolve in a couple of weeks. It looks like whoever did this to him wore very good protection; only bruising, tearing, but no secretions, moisture or DNA. He was taken dry and that will be the cause of some soreness, but he was a very lucky young man. He has a slight concussion, but since he's been awake and talking, it should be fine in a little while, except for the bump on his head. There are two cleanly broken ribs in his lower chest, which I will manipulate and set in a moment, he also has two cracked ribs. He has a lot of bruising on his legs, hips, torso, chest, from the beating, but there isn't much that can be done about that. I will prescribe ointment for them and warm showers will help. Once the drugs are out of his system he can go home."; The doctor had moved to Vin's side while he talked and with the nurses help, worked on the broken ribs, getting them back in place. Motioning to the X-ray machine, the nurse followed the doctor's orders and snapped a few more pictures and sent them to radiology before handing LeMaes bandages and tape. They began wrapping Vin's lower ribs.

"I don't know how much your brother will remember of his experience of the last days. We have found that most young men haven't remembered what happened to them, other than the pain. By the looks of Mr. Tanner he's had some previous bad experiences that will last him a lifetime; we can hope he doesn't really remember this latest attack on him.";

"You've seen this before?"; Chris asked looking at the tall man.

"Oh yes. We've had four or five young men come to the ER in this condition. I've been the attending each time. Only one remembered what happened to him, but couldn't describe the kidnappers, so they continue their lives with a blank page for the time they were captives."; LeMaes shook his head as he checked the ribs on Vin's sides. "They really only remember being taken by someone, then waking up here in the hospital in a panic. All of them had to talk to someone and it will help your brother to do so too."; He moved to check Vin's breathing and the IVs in his hand, giving the nurses more instructions before turning to Chris again.

"I'm admitting him for the night. I have wrapped his ribs for the night, just a precaution from him thrashing during the night, the bandage can be taken off tomorrow, either before he leaves or when he gets home. I want to be sure he's awake and drug free before he leaves. He'll be confused and trying to remember what happened to him. I'll give you the name of the doctor who's helped the others. If Mr. Tanner is clean in the morning he can go home.";

"Thanks Doc. We have a partner who might be able to help Vin, and a physician who lives on the premises, so he will be well cared for,"; Chris said as he watched them prepare Vin to be moved to a room.

A flash from the computer screen drew the doctor's attention. He looked at the newly arrived X-rays and said, "Good. He can go to his room now. I'll see him in the morning, unless something comes up during the night, although, I don't expect it. I'll see you both in a few hours,"; LeMaes shook Chris's hand and left the cubicle to tend the next patient.

"Sir, we'll be moving him to room 502. You can meet up there in a little while,"; the nurse told Chris.

Chris nodded and with a touch to Vin's shoulder left the room.

Entering the ER waiting room he spotted Buck and Josiah and headed to where they were sitting. Both tall men stood up seeing Chris and moved towards him. Together they moved to the hallway as Chris filled them in on what had happened and took the elevator to the fifth floor.

Finding the room still empty they settled in to wait for Vin's arrival as they talked. By the time Vin, nurse, and orderlies arrived, it had been settled that Buck and Josiah would stay at a nearby motel for the night. Chris would join them if he couldn't stay with Vin. Buck would be calling home to update them, as soon as they left the hospital.

Several minutes later the men were invited into Vin's room. As they moved around his bed, the floor nurse wondered who they were.

"Visiting time is until nine, you'll have to leave. We will be watching Mr. Tanner closely to be sure the drugs are leaving his system.";

"Ma'am, this is his brother and Vin can get violent when he's hurting, and having been a POW for some time, it doesn't mean he wants to hurt anyone but it could happen. After all that he's been through the last year and now . . . Well, we need to have Chris here, to stay with Vin to make sure he doesn't wake fighting you all.";

The nurse listened to Buck, her eyes going from her patient to the quiet blond and back. She had seen the scars on the young man's body when he arrived in the room and was dressed in a fresh gown. His wrists were lightly bandaged, as were his ankles, and she knew he was one of the victims of the kidnappers who were taking and abusing young men around the city.

"I'll ask the attending and let you know as soon as I can if one of you can stay with him. I'd rather have someone here than traumatize my patient more.";

"Thank you,"; the men said as she left the room.

Buck and Josiah stood beside the bed for several minutes before finding a place to sit.

"Chris, you need to eat something, it's late and you haven't had anything since before noon. I'll go with you and Josiah can watch until we get back.";

"Wait 'til we hear if I can stay then we'll go.";

"It might be hours. We can be back in a little while. I saw an all night diner across the street.";

"Why don't you two go, I'll be fine . . ."; Chris started.

A knock on the door had the men's heads turning to see Dusty Fields and a police officer enter the room.

"Chris, guys,"; Dusty nodded in greeting to the men. "How is Tanner doing?";

"If the drug's out of his system he'll go home tomorrow."; Chris answered, looking at his friend. "What's going on?";

"This is officer Tom Andrews; he can fill you in on what happened.";

Andrews shook the men's hands and with a glance at the unconscious Vin said, "We began to chase the suspects and lost them. But from that envelope you found, the house was put under observation and those two men showed up about an hour later. We let them think they had eluded us. As soon as the search warrant came through we went in and they were arrested. Thanks to Judge Orin Travis, who you recommended, the warrant was put through fast. The house was searched and the room was found where Mr. Tanner and the other young men had been held. In another room, we found pictures of the men who'd been taken, included Tanner."; Andrews paused a moment and looked at the figure on the bed and shook his red-haired head.

"That was one sick man,"; shaking himself he looked at the blond noticing the glare that was aimed at him. "Sorry. The pictures were bad, explicit. . .sick. When we arrived, the bald man was printing more pictures of Mr. Tanner. One of them talked, Rex Sommers, who told us their names; we're checking with the FBI. He seemed to be relieved to talk to us and we're doing background checks on both of them now. From the pictures, this has been ongoing for some time, in several cities from Vancouver BC to Seattle, Portland, Reno, Salt Lake City, and several other cities as they worked their way east.";

A beep was heard and Andrews glanced at his cell phone. "I have to take this call. Thanks to you and Tanner we've caught these men. I'll catch up with you later Dusty,"; Andrew nodded to the other men and hastened out of the room.

Dusty looked at Chris, Buck and Josiah, "I'm glad your friend will be all right. He might have to ID Sommers and Mathews, but maybe not have to go to court, with all the evidence that is coming in against these men. It will depend on the judge and what Tanner can remember.";

"Dusty, we think, from what we know of them that they're the two men who picked Vin up several months ago. They dumped him during a snow storm, up by Rooster's Roost. He's lucky to be alive from that occasion."; Chris told the detective again.

"If it wasn't for this connection between them, Vin would still be up there, until spring, so attempted murder is another thing they can be charged with, oh, and robbery too."; Buck added.

"Thanks, we'll look into that also. I'll need dates and all,"; at the men's nod, Dusty looked at the tired faces. "If he's released tomorrow, stop at the precinct and we'll get his statement, on the attempt murder and whatever he remembers of this. We'll get this all over for him as fast as we can."; Dusty stopped as Andrews walked back into the room.

"We'll stop,"; Josiah said. With handshakes all around the two officers left.

Silence fell over the room for a minute, then with a shake of his head Buck looked at Josiah who nodded his head.

"Let's go get a bite to eat Chris then Josiah and I will go get a room for the night. Josiah'll call us if the nurse comes back while we're gone.";

Chris glanced at Buck then back at Vin who hadn't moved through all the conversations and noise in the room.

"Alright I'll go, Josiah call if Vin wakes up . . . Vin, I'll be right back, just going to be gone a few minutes. Josiah is here for you.";

Josiah watched as Chris and Buck went out the door. Settling in the chair beside the bed, his hand on Vin's arm, he began talking, letting his voice flow over his sleeping young friend.

Chapter 6

Vin woke slowly, aware he wasn't at home. Breathing evenly, his eyes closed, he tried to figure out where he was and why. He felt a sense of comfort in his head and he began to try to find the source. He finally realized he was in a hospital, that his back and ribs ached, but his head was clear. He opened his eyes a slit and had to blink to clear his sight. His blue eyes met the searching green gaze of the man sitting beside him.

**Hey Vin.** Vin heard in his head.

**Chris! What happened? Why'm I here?**

**Take it easy Pard. You'll be fine. Do you remember anything?**

Vin frowned and looked around the room as pictures flashed through his head. He felt Chris's hand on his shoulder and leaned into it as bits and pieces of the last few days came to him.

"JD? Is he alright?"; Vin suddenly remembered he'd been with the younger man. Chris's hand tightened on him as he tried to get up.

"Stay still Vin. JD's fine, he's at home safe and sound.";

"Good morning Mr. Tanner, Mr. Larabee. It's good to see that you are awake, Mr. Tanner. It's still a little early; Dr. LeMaes won't be in for another three hours to check on you. Breakfast should be here in about two hours. I'll check your bandages and vitals then let you rest until he gets here."; The grey haired nurse had appeared beside Vin's bed, talking as she checked Vin's chart then pressed a button to raise the head of the bed up a little. With a nod to Chris she turned to Vin and began to check the bandages around his chest. Minutes later she had completed her exam of his eyes and had taken his blood pressure. When she finished she jotted some things on his chart then moved to Vin's arm.

"I'm Nurse Laurel and per doctors instructions I need a blood sample from you so it can be checked again. I'll be quick. You're lucky it's me doing this. Nurse Karen, she was your night nurse, is terrible, the poor patients leave looking like a pin cushion . . ."; The woman talked while she found Vin's vein.

As good as her word, she was done in minutes, her talking distracted Vin long enough to get two vials of blood.

"There you are, all done. I'll get these taken care of and bring you some juice if you'd like,"; she paused long enough to see Vin's nod. "I'll be right back, then you get some more rest and the doctor will be here later, your breakfast too."; With the vials in hand she left.

Vin blinked and looked at Chris a smile crossed his battered lips. Chris grinned back.

"Remind you of someone?"; Vin asked.

"JD, a lot older and female."; Chris's grin widened.

"Yep."; Vin said as he laid back. "I think she wore me out.";

Before Chris could answer, Laurel entered the room and handed Vin a covered container of juice. "I hope you like apple juice, it's all there was left.";

"Thanks."; Vin opened the container and started drinking.

Laurel watched a moment then turned away, "Have a good day Mr. Tanner, Mr. Larabee,"; she said as she headed for the door.

Chris took the empty container from Vin when he finished. "It's only 4AM. Go back to sleep for awhile. After your doctor sees you, we can get out of here if those blood samples are clean.";

"Drugs! They drugged us, me. Chris, JD is really alright?";

"Yes Vin, he is fine. They did drug him and it was something that made him forget for awhile what happened. He remembered the closer he got to the ranch. That's how we found out so fast and came looking for you.";

"Was Sommers and Mathews, the guys who dumped me in the snow.";

Chris nodded, "That's who we figured it was. What else do you remember?";

"Beat me. Forced me to drink drugged water . . ."; Vin stopped, for a moment he gazed at his bandaged wrist.

Chris watched as Vin's face paled, then turned red, and paled again. He knew what was happening to Vin and was prepared when Vin rolled to his side as a low anguished cry escaped from deep within.

Vin tried to fight the hands that held his shoulders still as he tried to roll, to curl into himself. He tried to bury his face in his hands as visions crashed through his mind. His eyes squeezed shut as unwanted tears began to fall. Shocked by horrifying images that filled his mind, he just wanted to hide. Feeling the warm hands on his shoulders relax their grip, he sat up ignoring the pain that flashed through him. Before he could get out of bed, arms wrapped around him, pulling his shaking body close and a hand pressed his head to the black clad shoulder as tears flowed freely down his face. His arms wrapped themselves around the supportive body holding him.

"Sh, sh, you're fine Vin. It's okay, they used protection. Nothing . . . You'll be fine. Easy brother, it's all right, you're fine. . ."; Chris held Vin close, his gentle whispers only loud enough for Vin to hear over the silent tears and sobs that wracked the slender body.

Vin's arms around Chris finally loosened and the sobs stopped. Chris kept whispering to him as Vin finally relaxed against the strong body holding him.

"You going to be alright now?"; Chris asked tenderly.

Feeling Vin's head nod, Chris eased him back down onto the bed and rested Vin's head on the pillow. When the tousled head turned away from him, Chris went to the bathroom, grabbed a wash cloth and ran cold water over it. Wringing it out he walked back to Vin's bed.

Chris knew Vin was embarrassed for his break down in front of someone, but he hadn't been surprised that the younger man had. Vin had gone through a horrifying time as a MIA/POW with a long recovery, only to have been abandoned and left to die in a snow storm. He was coming out of the many ordeals he'd gone through and beginning to get his life back only to have this happen. Chris shook his head as he wiped Vin's face free of the tear tracks.

"Vin, we are here for you and we will help you get through this. They only hurt you; protection was used, and used well. You don't have to worry about any kind of diseases. The drugs they used, Doctor LeMaes said should be out of your system soon. He was able to counter the drugs they gave you,"; Chris looked down into worried blue eyes.

"Hate me . . ."; Vin hoarsely whispered.

"NO! This was NOT your fault. Get that out of your head. You did NOTHING wrong. They are the ones who did it to you, you deserved none of this. We do not hate you or despise you. We won't turn our backs on you either, so don't even go there. You are my Soul Brother, my other half, my brother no matter what happened or happens. I am here for you; I'll be here forever for you. So will the others."; Chris responded emotionally, blinking his eyes as he looked into the beautiful blue ones, his hand rubbing Vin's shoulder.

"I am here Vin and always will be.";

Blue eyes filled and overflowed before Vin could hold the tears back. His face turned a slight pink as he held out his hand. His arm was gripped in their special warrior's grip and he looked up at Chris, their minds touching. With a hesitant smile he nodded.

**I'm sorry Chris. I trust ya an' th' others with m' life. I'll always be here for y'all too.**

Chris nodded then released Vin's arm and tucked it under the blankets. **Get some rest for awhile. We'll go home later. I'll be here.**

Vin's eyes fluttered closed, opened once to make sure Chris was still there, then slid closed in sleep.

Chris slumped back into the chair, his hand still touching Vin. He realized he'd almost lost the younger man. The way Vin was thinking, he'd been close to leaving so he wouldn't be a burden on them. Chris ran his free hand over his face, no way would he let Vin suffer alone in this, he'd help him through whatever came up in the next days, or however long it took.

A slight noise by the door woke Chris from the doze he'd fallen into, his head snapping up and around. He smiled as Buck slipped into the room and quietly made his way to his side.

Buck squatted beside Chris after checking the sleeping Vin over.

"Sorry to have woke you. How is he?";

"He'll be fine. Was awake earlier, remembered what all happened to him,"; Chris whispered back.

"Oh damn! The doctor didn't think he'd remember.";

"Well he did, and he knows who kidnapped him.";


"What're you doing here?"; Chris asked.

"Couldn't sleep any more. Decided to come over and let you go to the room and clean up. I'll stay here 'til you get back,"; Buck looked Chris over and grinned. "You need a shower Pard. Your hair is standing on end. Go. Truck's just outside the main door; motel is three blocks down the street. Room 310, third floor left of the elevator. Go, you'll feel better for the day. I'll take care of Junior.";

For a minute Chris considered, then nodded. A hot shower would feel good. He stood up and Buck rose beside him. Buck handed him the truck and motel room keys. With a pat to Vin's shoulder Chris turned and left the room as Buck sat down in the vacated chair. He placed his hand on Vin's arm when he noticed the young man had started to stir.

"You're okay Junior, I'm here, Chris will be back shortly,"; Buck whispered, then smiled as Vin settled again.

Forty five minutes later Chris was back, a sack in one hand. The hot shower had awakened him and the clean clothes felt good. Josiah was by his side, carrying two sacks. They had picked up some breakfast sandwiches, donuts, and coffee on their way back to the hospital.

Vin glanced up from his breakfast when Chris and Josiah walked through the door, a smile lit his face when he saw what they were carrying. His fork dropped to the tray in front of him with a clatter.

"Hope ya brought me somethin' to eat. This is the worst food I've ever tasted."; Vin looked longingly at the bag in Chris's hand.

"I've been telling him he has to eat that if he wants out of here,"; Buck grinned as he pointed at the tray in front of Vin.

"Hey 'siah, is there something in there for me?"; Vin asked when the older man stopped at the foot of his bed.

Chris looked at the tray of food; it looked like there had been a lot of food on the large divided plastic dish. All that was left was some runny cold looking eggs and a mushy piece of toast. An empty bowl, fruit cup, coffee cup and the scent of bacon showed what Vin had eaten already.

Chris shook his head when he heard, **I'm still hungry and that's not fit ta eat.**

Chris opened the sack he was carrying and handed a breakfast sandwich to Vin, then one to Buck and Josiah when he placed the bag on the movable table.

Josiah reached into his sack and pulled out large cups of coffee, then tore the second sack part ways down a side revealing several different kinds of donuts. The grin on Vin's pale face was worth it to them, and they enjoyed the impromptu meal with him, just glad that that he'd been found in time.

A half hour later Dr. LeMaes walked through the door followed by a nurse carrying a tray of salve and bandages.

"Good morning Mr. Tanner, Larabee,"; he said and nodded to Buck and Josiah who rose and moved away from Vin's bed.

"Name's Vin,"; Vin replied.

"All right, Vin. I see you've eaten so I guess all that's left is to check you over. I have the reports from your last blood draw and it is very good. It looks like your blood is clear of all the drugs you'd been given. Do you remember anything that happened?";

Chris stepped to Vin's side, his hand moved to Vin's arm as the younger man's head tipped down, his battered features paled as his long hair swung to cover part of his face. LeMaes' gaze rested on the bowed head a moment then flicked to Chris who nodded his head.

"Yes, I remember everything and I know who they are,"; Vin mumbled.

"You remember everything?"; LeMaes looked at the young man in surprise.

"Yes sir,"; came the quiet reply.

"I'm sorry; you're the only kidnapped young man who's remembered their abduction. They usually only remember small bits and pieces of the attack but nothing about the men who did it."; LeMaes shook his head wondering a moment how Tanner could have remembered everything. With a glance at Chris he continued as he checked Vin's cuts, bruises and ribs. "We are checking the drugs we found in your system, they have used a different combination this time that could be why you remembered. These drugs, if they hadn't caught the men already, would have helped to ID them this time. We now have a list of the drugs used on the others."; LeMaes paused and looked at Chris, then continued. "I need to check the stitches now."; He saw Vin stiffen and try to pull the blankets closer around him as his head turned towards Chris.

Vin had listened to the doctor talk as his head and everything else were examined, but hearing 'stitches' he grabbed the blankets. **I'm fine!** he thought.

**Vin no. You have to be checked out totally so we can leave.** Vin heard instantly in his head. His hand froze on

the blanket he was tugging on and his gaze connected with the blond standing beside his bed.

"Aw hell,"; Vin mumbled and dropped his head and hand.

Hearing an odd scraping noise Vin looked up and saw the nurse pulling the curtain around his bed. No one could be seen other then the doctor and Chris and Chris moved to leave. **NO! Stay Chris, please.**

Chris stopped then moved back to the head of the bed and laid his hand on Vin's shoulder, feeling the tenseness and slight shaking under it.

"Vin this will only take a few minutes at the most. I'll be fast,"; LeMaes said as he uncovered Vin's legs, and asked him to turn over onto his good side and place his foot up on the mattress.

Once turned, Vin locked his gaze on his soul brother and let his mind go blank.

Several minutes later Vin felt a tap on his thigh and felt the blanket cover him again.

"All done Vin, you can turn back."; Vin heard and as he rolled to his back he looked at the doctor who had stepped away and was tossing his gloves into a container. The nurse pushed the curtain back as the doctor made some notations on Vin's chart before looking at him.

"Everything looks good Mr. Tanner, Vin. You can go home as soon as this antibiotic bag is empty, which looks like maybe an hour. There is some pain medicine in there to help you get home without any pain today. I'll leave your release papers at the nurses' station and a prescription for antibiotic medication and some pain pills. I'd like you to take them until they are gone. I'll leave a list of doctors for you to follow up with, to talk to. . .";

"No, not going to a head doctor. . ."; Vin shot a look at Josiah who was standing beside Buck near the door. "If'n you think I need ta talk ta someone, Josiah can help me. He has before."; Vin's blue gaze pleaded with Josiah who smiled and nodded his head.

"Doctor, I'll work with Vin on this. I'll help him any way it's needed. I've had some experience in these matters."; Josiah told the doctor sincerely.

"All right, that will work. Get to your doctor instantly if you get feverish or not feeling well. I'd like to see you in a week. . .";

"Doc, where we live we're a long ways from here, but we have a surgeon and a doctor on the premises. If you don't mind, Vin can see them there at the house,"; Chris cut in.

LeMaes looked at the four men, seeing nods from three and a blush cross his patient's face. "What's wrong Vin?";

"Not gonna let Rain see me, just Nathan if I have to."; Vin answered not missing the little smiles that crossed his friends' faces. More pink flooded his bruised face as he remembered his first meeting of Rain and Nathan who'd cared for him when Chris had found him.

LeMaes noticed Vin's anxiety and said, "Well, if your Nathan is a doctor I'll turn your care over to him. If you'll give me his name and information I'll have the paperwork drawn up for him.";

"I'll go with you doc and give you whatever you need, and maybe get Vin's scripts filled too,"; Josiah said.

"Thank you. All right, I'll leave you and as soon as the antibiotic bag is empty you can leave."; LeMaes said as he shook Vin's hand before leaving with Josiah.

The nurse checked the almost empty bag and smiled,"; I'll be back in a half an hour and disconnect so you can leave. A moment later she was gone.

Chapter 7

The four men talked as they waited for Vin to be released. Buck produced a pair of jeans and a clean shirt for him to wear. Vin dressed slowly as he waited for the nurse to return.

Josiah slipped from the room to pick up Vin's release papers and filled prescriptions. Buck thanked the nurse as she left after having disconnected Vin's IV, and Chris helped him into the rest of his clothing and coat.

Chris steadied Vin as he rose from the bed; a moment later a determined Vin was headed for the door.

"Let's get out of here,"; he said.

With a grin Buck fell into step behind Vin and Chris as they walked slowly down the hall towards Josiah who was waiting at the nurses' station. Josiah held up the paperwork and prescription bag. A nurse frowned at Vin but backed off seeing the blue-eyed glare that dared her to say something about a wheelchair. Without a word they continued to the elevator.

Vin stopped in front of the silver doors and when they opened, he froze. The small space seemed to reach out to grab him, and he took a step backwards, his heart thudding faster, face going white.

Buck, held the doors open, saw Vin's face pale and reached out to him, afraid he would pass out. Vin backed another step and Buck looked at Chris.

Chris placed his hand on Vin's back and stepped closer to him.

**It's all right Vin. You're not there. It's just an elevator. You can't walk down five stories right now. We're here, it's all right.**

Vin heard Chris's voice in his head, and despite his body trembling, felt the reassuring comfort of a warm hand on his back. Swallowing hard, Vin took a hesitant step then another and quickly entered the elevator. He didn't see Josiah wave off several other people as he stepped in after Vin and Chris.

Vin felt the walls close tighter and tighter on him and he started to panic. Buck asked him a question then asked it again, forcing Vin to look at the tall man and answer him.

As the elevator descended, both Buck and Josiah asked questions, forcing Vin to concentrate on the answers. He could feel Chris's hand on his back and with his eyes closed he answered each of the questions put to him.

Vin was the first one off the elevator when the doors opened, drinking in huge gulps of air. With Chris by his side, he headed for the doors to the outside; Buck and Josiah, after exchanging a quick smile, followed behind.

When he exited the building, Vin stopped and looked around the snow covered parking lot. The large parking area stretched out in front of him for what seemed like half a mile; he had no idea which direction to go. Josiah, with Buck beside him, stepped around Vin and Chris and led the way to where the black Dodge Ram was parked.

Within minutes they were in the Ram and headed towards the Denver Police Station. Vin knew he had to give a statement, but was nervous about what he had to tell them. He hoped he didn't have to see Sommers and Mathews face to face. Leaning back, Vin closed his eyes and tried to relax for a few minutes. He could feel his soul brother's light touch on his mind and arm, and smiled slightly at the concern he could feel over their connection.

**I'm fine,** he sent.

**I'm here, you're not alone anymore.**

**I know, 'preciate it.**

Buck glanced into the rearview mirror then grinned at Josiah who looked back at him from the passenger seat. 'They're fine.' Buck mouthed as he turned the blinker on and minutes later pulled into the police parking lot.

A short time later Vin was seated at a table in a small conference room with Chris beside him. Officer Tom Andrews had met the men and escorted Vin and Chris to the room where Detective Fields was to meet them.

As Vin nervously rose to move about the room, the door opened and a short balding man entered carrying a small recording machine accompanied by the detective. Pausing by his chair, Vin could feel the room quickly closing in on him.

Chris was beside him in one fluid movement, his hand on Vin's upper arm. Vin looked at him as he heard Chris say, "Deep breaths Vin. It's only for a short time. Calm down and we'll be out of here in a few minutes. The room is all right, you're fine too.";

Vin nodded and slid back onto his chair, his glance touched briefly on the older man, then turned to the detective.

Fields had seen Vin's face pale when he walked into the room and Chris's attention to the injured young man. He wasn't sure what had happened, but watched as Vin took several deep breaths before he sat down again.

"Mr. Tanner, I'm Detective Dusty Fields and this is Officer Denis Kristen, he'll be recording everything that's said here. We'll try to get this done quickly so you can leave."; Seeing a quirky half smile cross Tanner's lips, Dusty knew what he was thinking and smiled at him, "My folks were behind the times and named us kids from the 1960's. I'm just happy they named my brother Bear. In this business, Dusty is bad enough."; Dusty saw the smile widen and hoped Vin was relaxed enough to talk. He placed the file he had on the table near Vin and looked at the battered man.

"Let's get this done, Mr. Tanner. Could you tell us how you met these men and are they the ones who accosted you?"; Dusty opened the file and slid two pictures out.

Vin looked down at the two pictures and shuddered. Pointing to one picture he said, "This is the man, John Mathews, the other is Rex Sommers. They picked me up in Salt Lake City back in early December. Mathews had hair then, but this is him. . ."; Vin went on to explain what the two men had done to him when they first met. A few minutes later he told of being drugged and picked up at the motel he and JD were staying in. His voice broke as he told of being drugged and beaten, then violated, to waking in the hospital. Shaking he came to a stop, and looked up. His blue eyes scanned the room; all he could think of was how the room was closing in on him. He had to get out, he needed air. With a gasp Vin rose and started for the door.

Chris let him go, knowing he wouldn't go far.

"Dusty are we done now?";

Fields watched Vin rush out the door and stop near Josiah and Buck, who were seated further down the hall. He turned back to Chris, "I think we are. Did you get everything Denis?";

"I did sir. From Mr. Tanner identifying the two men, to the last where he woke up in Denver Memorial. I'll have this typed up in fifteen minutes and ready to be read and signed.";

"Good. Can you wait around for a few more minutes Chris? I know you want to get Vin home, but if we can get this taken care of, he shouldn't have to come back for anything, maybe not even the trial. He's claustrophobic isn't he?";

Chris smiled, "We can wait a bit longer. And yes, he is claustrophobic; he can't stand small spaces. He was a POW for 3 months and held in a tiny cell recently, and while he was growing up he suffered some incidents also. So, we were lucky he managed to sit still as long as he did."; Chris glanced at Vin and saw that he was relaxing, his head cocked to hear what Josiah was saying. "We'll go get some coffee or something and be back in a half hour.";

"That's a good idea. We'll see you then,"; Dusty said shaking Chris's hand. Chris nodded and walked from the room.

Outside the building the four men stood by the Ram discussing where to go for coffee. Vin wanted nothing to do except go home and sleep, but with a sigh decided it would be good not to have to come back to the city again. When he looked around he spotted the diner across the street and started walking slowly through the parking lot. With grins the others followed him, and shortly they were in the diner where they had eaten the day before.

Once seated, Vin's eyes lit up seeing a large covered display of donuts, and promptly ordered several with his coffee.

An hour later the four men were headed home. Vin had read over the typed pages of his statement, then signed the paper with Chris and Buck as witnesses who signed below his name.

Vin relaxed in the passenger seat next to Chris; before they were out of Denver he was asleep. The three men talked quietly amongst themselves until Chris pulled into a parking space in front of a large grocery store. Chris left the truck running as Buck and Josiah got out and hurried into the store.

Vin woke with a sudden jerk and looked wildly around. A warm touch on his arm had his head snapping around to see who was there. A smile crossed his face.

"I'm fine.";

"I know. We decided we needed a few things from the store, and this one has a lot. They'll be back in a few minutes.";

"'kay. I feel so tired."; Vin said leaning his head against the headrest as Chris turned the truck off.

"Yeah, the doctor said you'd probably be that way for awhile. The meds will make you sleepy too, I think, and the pain ones for sure will. At least the drugs those guys used on you are out of your system.";

"Can't tolerate drugs. They go through my system pretty fast or I get sick as a dog from them. Doctors in Germany found I can't take most anesthetic drugs, almost killed me, though I didn't have far ta go then, I was so bad. Some drugs take longer to leave me, but I'm usually sick from them, with no other affects. Depending on the medicine, some of those do the same thing ta me. Morphine sometimes helps, but only for a short time.";

"Looks like we need to get your medical records here as soon as possible, to have on hand.";

"Yeah, think Nathan or Rain can get them since they're doctors. Sorta' are my doctor's now I guess,"; Vin grinned as his eyes slid closed. "Think they're all at Lewis-McCord Base, Washington. They's the last doctors I seen before you finding . . . me. . .";

Chris grinned at Vin's last words. The young man fell asleep talking. Several minutes later Chris spotted Josiah and Buck heading their way loaded down with groceries. After the groceries were loaded on the floor and seat between the two men Chris started the engine and headed for home.

Vin slept until the turn off to the ranch. He heard the whispered, **We're home,** in his head and opened his eyes to the sight of the snowy countryside. The long driveway was clear of snow, but it was still piled deep on each side of it for as far as he could see. In the distance he could see the snow covered trees that were around the house and outbuildings, nothing had changed, though he felt that he'd been gone for weeks rather than days.

The comfort of being home went through his head, as peace settled over him. Vin knew the next few days or weeks would probably be hard to get through, but he was also confident that Josiah would help him overcome what he had gone through. And Chris was there, knowing firsthand what he'd suffered. He shot a grin at Chris when the blond eyed him out of the corner of a green eye, before turning his gaze back to the driveway. Yeah, Chris knew what had happened and with that little look Vin knew, and felt, Chris would be with him every step of the way.

JD met them at the door when Vin, followed by Chris, Buck and Josiah walked in. Vin smiled at JD who grinned back at him then launched himself into Vin's arm's almost knocking the slight man over. Buck grabbed JD before he could hug Vin too tightly. Ezra smiled and nodded at Vin from the doorway to the living room as JD's relief spilled out.

"You're okay Vin? How do you feel? I'm sorry for what happened; I didn't know you were missing until I got close to the house. I'm so happy you're home, and I'm so sorry this happened to you. I wish I could have stopped it somehow. Are you sure you're alright?"; JD babbled nonstop until Vin held his hand up to halt the barrage of words.

"I'm fine JD,"; Vin said as he glanced at the men who had followed him inside. Seeing the looks on their faces he added, "I *will* be fine, soon. I've got all of you to . . . help me past what happened."; He pointed toward the stairs. "I'm going to go lay down for a bit, call me for dinner?"; Vin ruffled JD's hair. As he made his way past him Vin then patted Ezra on the shoulder when the man squeezed his arm as he passed.

Vin made his way up the stairs to his room and a smile crossed his gaunt features. He was home. He was alive. He was fine, mostly, and had friends and one soul brother, who had already saved his life and was willing to help him through this. He didn't know how he could ever thank these men, but he was determined to somehow let them know how much they meant to him.

Vin has seen the smile cross Chris's lips and smiled. Chris had heard his thoughts and accepted him as he was; he'd stand by him too. He was home; all was fine in his world now.



Detective Dusty Fields showed Judge Orin Travis the transcript of Vin Tanner's statement of what had taken place in March. The judge was not only the Chief Justice for the State of Colorado, but by his office could render judgment and sentencing without trial. He had held this position for the past eleven years, ever since the judicial system had been drastically changed due to fewer judges around the country and more criminal offenders. As Chief Justice, he also was the state's circuit judge, traveling around the state providing judicial services, many times at no cost to the taxpayers. Several times Travis had tried to retire, but each time he was returned to office as everyone was very familiar with his name and his impartiality in rendering judgment. The people knew that he did not put up with a lot and realized that the state was slowly putting away offenders, with the help of law enforcement.

Fields showed the judge the photos that had been taken from the residence of Mathews and Sommers, pointing out and naming victims from not only Denver, but also Salt Lake City, Reno, Redding and Seattle, all of them had been ID'd and families contacted. Another pile of statements from victims' families, and a few from the victims also were present, but the only one able to positively identify the two men was Vin Tanner.

The sketches that Chris Larabee had done were there to help ID the two men. The other victims could only report shadows and hair color.

Judge Travis knew Chris Larabee and that he was totally honest, and trusted his judgment. The sketch of the one man could have been used to pick Mathews out of a large line up without a doubt. Travis studied everything that concerned the case against Sommers and Mathews and after two hours called for Fields and his commander. When the two men arrived in his chambers he declared without a pause, "Sommers and Mathews are to be sent to prison for a total of not more than 20 years, but no less than 10. Please see that they are escorted to the facility immediately to begin serving their sentence tomorrow. This judgment is final and cannot be changed by any appeals, by the power invested in me by the State of Colorado. Thank you Detective Fields, for your in-depth investigation into this matter, it was well documented. If the other states want to add time to these men's sentence, they will need to contact me. Thank you gentlemen, this is ended. Dismissed.";

Travis rose, nodded to the two men and left the room. Dusty smiled at his Commander, "Larabee and Tanner will be glad to hear this. No more wondering what will happen.";

"How is Tanner?"; Commander Palmer asked.

"Last I talked to Chris, Tanner was fine. He's had no problems with drug flashbacks and Sanchez has helped him over a few rough spots. Tanner is working with their horses' full time and seems very well.";

"Good! I'm happy that everything has worked out for him. At least he doesn't have to testify at a trial. It's all done and over with. Let's get to work on getting those two men transferred out of our jail and off to the prison.";

"Yes sir, I'll call and give them the word as soon as we get Mathews and Sommers out of here.";

The two men walked down the hall towards their offices, happy with the outcome of this nasty case.


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