by Raquel

ATF Universe

Disclaimers: This is a work of fan fiction based on the TV show The Magnificent Seven. I'm not doing any monetary profit with it. They belongs to...

I'm just playing with them to enjoy myself and the people that read it.

Rating: PG for language.

Thanks: To Mog who created this universe that I like to play in so much. To Nancy who archives my stories. To Robin and Kathy that encourage me to write Chris stories. To Kathy again, who beta read this and 'repaired' all the grammar and vocabulary mistakes.

Warnings: There aren't a lot. It's a Chris story with quite a few Vin moments and some for Buck too. I don't want people to think I believe Chris is an alcoholic, because I don't think that. And probably some of you might think that I could have handled his story in a different way. I know, but it came to my head in this way. I just hope it doesn't sound sappy.

If any of you think this fan fic is similar to one already written. I'm sorry. I only write the ideas I think nobody has written, but as I have read quite a lot fan fiction it could be possible I have been inspired by them.

"Try to open your eyes.

Okay, okay, good boy.

Now keep them open.

I said open!!

Why is the ceiling lamp spinning?

Oh my... it's spinning really fast.

Okay Larabee.

Now the difficult task: lift your head and the rest of your body.

I'd suggest you use your arms to help yourself.


Use your arms!!

Well, I would use them... if they followed my command, of course!"

Finally he got himself seated at the edge of the bed. There he was, trying not to move any muscle in his body, feeling in total misery and the worst part hadn't arrived yet.

He had got drunk, and that was almost impossible in his case. Maybe it wasn't impossible, just highly improbable. When it came to alcohol, he was more like a bottomless pit.

The events of the last hours didn't make sense in his head yet. Actually he didn't care. Every time he had gotten really drunk -in the past, of course-, he had been able to remember almost everything, -well, that was when he was completely sober for at least twelve hours.

Chris realized he had got really, really drunk. But he could remember Vin had left him sleeping in his bed. He had to wake up now. He needed an aspirin. Better yet, a half dozen. He stood up and walked to the bathroom very carefully, placing his hands on the wall for support. He was quite dizzy. Now he knew the reason Vin had preferred to stay and help him to past this hard moment.

It had been a hard week. It had been the anniversary of Sarah and Adam's deaths, and the team had participated in a difficult case. In the bust, JD was injured in the side, Vin in the arm and Ezra had gotten a hell of a concussion.

Since Vin's release from the hospital, Vin had decided to stay with Chris while he got drunk. Chris didn't want that because he knew Vin's arm was hurting him, even though he had it in a sling. Vin needed to rest, not to look after a destructive man that wanted to get drunk at all costs.

Vin had played his injury down, as usual. It had been a shot in the upper arm. The bullet had passed through cleanly and hadn't done much damage. They had allowed him to leave the hospital some hours after being admitted. JD and Ezra would be there at least that night which, in fact, had ended already.

Chris had finally arrived at the bathroom doorframe. 'What a difficult task, man!' he thought 'I usually reach it in -how many?- In about five or six steps' That was one of the things he hated about getting drunk. He felt so damned old lately. And then he began to think about the fact that maybe he was getting old, and normally he didn't want to admit it.

He rested against the doorframe for several minutes, just to catch his breath, to allow his head to stop sending messages of needing to vomit and to wait until the room and everything around him stopped spinning. When he had gotten enough courage to go on, he pushed himself away from the doorframe and gripped anything secure enough to the floor that could give him enough support to keep himself in a vertical position.

He didn't know how, but he was standing in front of the basin, and in front of the mirror that kept behind it the longed-for treasure: a bottle of aspirins. He kept his hands on the edge of the basin for awhile, and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He looked awful. His skin was a color between white, yellow and green. He had dark circles under his eyes, a beard of two days and his blonde hair really looked unmanageable.

He took his hands from the edge of the sink, opened the little cabinet to pick up the aspirins. He saw there was a glass on the basin, ready to be filled with water that would help him to swallow the miraculous product. He managed to open the bottle with his thumb and poured several pills in his hand. Keeping them in the hand, he left the bottle of aspirins and picked up the glass with his free hand while with the other he tried to turn on the tap to fill the glass.

In that moment his head began to spin violently, his eyes became blind and his body didn't answer his commands. As he was falling to the bathroom floor, he felt the impact of the edge of the basin against his cheekbone and nose. He knew he was bleeding, but he almost knew that he was going to be sick. He felt the spasms his stomach produced in his body as it tried to empty its contents. He still had the glass in his hand when he hit the floor. The glass broke into pieces, and cut his hand. He was unaware of anything around him as the darkness called him, and he couldn't do anything else but follow its command. He fell unconscious.

+ + + + + + +

Vin was waiting outside his apartment for Josiah to pick him up, his Jeep was in the garage, as usual. Normally it was Chris who would do that, but in his current state, the Team 7 leader would arrive late at work. It wasn't a problem; they were adults enough to know what they needed to do. Besides, Buck would stay at the hospital until JD was released, and then probably he would bring the kid home and play his mother-hen part for a while. An evil grin appeared on Vin's face at that thought. 'Poor kid, he is going to prefer to be tortured than bear Mom Buck fussing over him'. At that moment, Josiah's car appeared Vin opened the door and sat next to the older man.

"Morning, Brother Vin. How is your arm?"

Vin looked at his left arm in the blue sling and then at Josiah.

"Not bad, it hurts a little, but I'm okay. It's just a scratch," he added waving his other hand in the air.

Josiah smiled at that affirmation. Vin could be bleeding to death and that would be a scratch too.

"How is brother Chris dealing with everything?" Josiah's voice had a hint of concern.

"I don't know at all. Yesterday he got himself drunk. Maybe it was the third time in my life I have seen him so drunk. I left him sleeping soundly in his bed. I wanted to be sure he didn't do anything silly."

"This had been a hell of a week for all of us, but more so for him," Josiah pointed out shaking his head lightly, his attention on the traffic.

+ + + + + + +

In no time they had arrived at the ATF building. When they got out of the elevator, the only one there was Nathan.

"Hey, morning, guys. How is your arm, Vin?"

Vin rolled his eyes. Was that the most asked question today, or what?

"It's fine, Nate. Don't worry. I'm not going to take off the sling, okay?"

Nathan showed a satisfied grin on his face. Finally they were learning to follow his medical recommendations.

"Buck had just called. JD is going to be released in a few hours. The bullet just grazed his side. They stitched him up and kept him during the night just in case. Ezra was released an hour ago. I left him at his apartment to change clothes and everything, and he will come after that. We are all quite worried about Chris."

"It's no problem. I left him sleeping like a baby." Vin said.

Waiting for the rest of members of the team, Nathan, Josiah and Vin each had a cup of coffee and chatted about several things. Vin called Chris's cell phone twice. If Chris had awakened, the phone would be switched on. If he was still sleeping, Vin didn't want to wake him up by calling the ranch phone.

A little part in Vin's brain told him that maybe he should have spent the night at the ranch instead of having left in a cab. In that case, he would know if Chris was all right.

He remembered Chris insisting he take that cab. He even picked up the phone and dialed the number of the cab dispatcher to ask for one to come to the ranch. Vin had to speak for him. He wasn't coherent at all.

Vin hated seeing his best friend being self-destructive in that way. He had to admit that his best friend didn't do that as frequently as he used to when they first met, or for what Buck had told him Chris did just after Sarah and Adam's deaths. But if Chris had decided to deal with whatever was in his soul in that way, Vin was his friend and would be with him to help him in anything he needed.

Lost in his thoughts, Vin had missed the conversation and Ezra's arrival at the office. As Vin came to reality, he found Ezra's face in front of him.

"Good morning, Mr. Tanner. How are you dealing with your injury?" he asked pointing to Vin's arm.

"I'm doing okay, Ez. How is your head?" Vin indicated it with a quick nod.

"My head is perfectly fine. Nothing that a day of sleep can't heal. But I'll wait to take that well-deserved rest after knowing, how health is of the rest of the team."

They took their seats at their desks and began to work. Vin could just organize the paperwork and type with one hand, in a way that turned his task into the most pitiful he could imagine. Meanwhile Ezra was trying to look busy playing solitaire on the computer.

Vin called Chris's cell phone every fifteen minutes, then every ten minutes, but the answer was always the same: the voice mail went on. Chris hadn't switched his phone on.

Vin stopped dialing Chris's number, as Buck and JD came out the elevator. Buck was helping the kid, who was walking a little slower than usual. In fact the kid usually came into the office like a hurricane.

Everybody stopped what they were doing to greet the newcomers.

"How are you doing JD?" Vin asked, saying it before Nathan, who had the question hanging on his lips.

"I'm fine."

Everybody rolled their eyes... they didn't know why they bothered to ask. The kid could be tortured repeatedly and answer that he was fine. Josiah thought the same thing about Vin and his scratches.

"The doctor said that with two days' rest and without doing any hard tasks, he'll be as full of energy and health as always," Buck answered with a smile on his face. The ladies man was enjoying himself. He could take care of his younger brother for 48 hours more. "We just came to see if everything and everybody is okay, and to pick up some paperwork for me to do at home. Ezra, Vin, how you doing?"

"Fine" and, "Perfectly healthy again" were the answers.

"Where is Chris?" the kid asked. He didn't know how Chris was affected by the bust and his fallen friends, and everything.

"He'll be here in a while." Vin said coming back to his desk and dialing again. Nothing.

Buck saw the worried look in Vin's eyes and leaving JD sitting in comfortable office chair, approached the sharpshooter.

"How is he?" Buck asked in a low voice.

Vin knew Buck was the only one that could understand Chris and his way of dealing with things, because he used to be there of at least trying to.

"Slept, I suppose. I left about five AM, he insisted that I take a cab, and you know how he gets when he is in that way. Now it's only eleven, so he can still be sleeping. I'm phoning him on his cell phone. You know, switch it on is the first thing he does when he wakes up."

"Yeah, I know how Chris is. He can turn into an angry bear, if you disturb him."

The rest of Team Seven had noticed that Buck was still at Vin's desk, and that they picked up the phone, dialed, and then put the receiver down several times.

"What are you two doing?" JD asked, sitting on a chair next to Vin.

"Nothing. We were trying reach Chris," Buck said.

"But it seems he is still asleep." Vin shrugged. In his gut, he knew something was wrong but he couldn't put his finger on it.

"Yeah, he's probably still asleep." Josiah affirmed.

"Or, there's something wrong," Nathan added "You left him sleeping, Vin, right?"

"Yeah, Nate. Of course. I checked on him. He was sound asleep, and with the amount of whisky he had, I guarantee he couldn't have woken up until..." he looked at this watch "now."

At that conversation, JD's mind made a recollection of similar situations and began to enumerate them, but he didn't say his thoughts out loud. To the youngest Team Seven member: Chris could be kidnapped, or somebody could have come into his house and tried to kill him. In fact, JD had to keep himself from going to check the case files looking to see if somebody familiar had been released from prison recently. He had to admit his mind was working quicker than it usually did.

As if Buck knew what was going on in the kid's mind, he squeezed JD's shoulder in an attempt to calm him down.

However, Vin's mind went down a different path. He knew Chris would wake up in a really bad mood. He didn't want to piss him off more that it was really necessary. He usually thought about the bad options as JD did, but he wanted to wait, at least for a little while. That didn't mean that he wasn't going to try to contact his best friend. He had thought already about going to the ranch, but he stopped himself in that intention. He could see Chris's glare at him as he opened the door of his ranch house... and just trying everything end fine for everybody, including Chris... he decided to wait a little longer.

In the next two hours, Vin and Buck tried to phone Chris every ten minutes. Vin was getting nervous. He couldn't wait anymore. Buck saw the younger man jump to his feet.

"Buck can you drive me to Chris's ranch? Something has to be wrong." Vin added turning to face the man with the moustache.

The rest knew how Vin felt about Chris and how he worried about him. So they didn't say a word and let him take care of things in his own way.

Nobody was surprised when they discovered that Vin had been with Chris until early that morning. Chris had to have insisted a lot if Vin had left. Under different circumstances, Vin would have been there until Chris had awakened, but the younger man was injured and Vin probably had promised his friend and leader that he would go back to his apartment to get some rest.

+ + + + + + +

Vin and Buck arrived as soon as traffic allowed.

Vin had his own key so they could get in. Vin ran to Chris's bedroom, while Buck checked the kitchen and the living room. Vin entered Chris's room, and seeing the bed empty, he went to the bathroom that was adjacent.

The scene in Chris's bathroom was moving. Chris was lying facedown in a pool of blood and vomit. Chris hadn't stirred since he hit his face against the sink and fell to the floor. So when Vin tried to come into the bathroom, he couldn't open the door all the way because Chris's feet were blocking it completely.

"Buck!!. Come in here. I need your help!!" Vin shouted.

Buck appeared immediately. Vin had taken off the sling, hissing in pain as he began to move Chris's legs away from the door. Finally they could open the door all the way.

Their voice caught their throats at the scene in front of them. Vin crouched beside Chris to find a pulse. He was relieved to discover one, and was going to try to lift him.

"No, Vin. Your arm. And think about it. Maybe it isn't good to move him."

"I know it, but Buck, I don't want anybody to see him in this way; neither the guys, nor the paramedics. It wouldn't look good for Chris's image and for his record. Call Nathan and the paramedics."

Both of them moved him as gently as they could without changing his position and cleaned the blood and vomit off the floor. Vin took a towel and cleaned Chris's face and hands. The blood from the cuts had stopped flowing, but Chris's nose and the gash in his cheekbone still bled. Buck, meanwhile called Nathan and the paramedics.

When Buck finished talking with Nathan, he came into the bathroom where Vin was sitting on the floor beside Chris who was now covered by his bathrobe. Vin's face said everything.

"It's not your fault, Vin. How were you supposed to know Chris was going to wake up in the state he was? Actually, he usually sleeps all through the night, the last times he's gotten drunk."

"I stayed with him till five. I could have stayed till nine. He would have awakened by then and we would have gone to work together, after stopping by my apartment so I could take a shower and change into some clean clothes."

"You know it isn't your fault Vin. Chris isn't going to be happy with you if he knew you thought that."

"Thanks Buck, but right now it's how I feel."

+ + + + + + +

Six members of Team 7 were in the hospital waiting room. JD was asleep on the couch covered by a blanket. Ezra was sitting on another couch with his head leaned back and appeared to be sleeping, too. Josiah was next to Ezra, and Nathan and Buck were in chairs. Vin couldn't stop pacing from one side of the room to the other.

Finally, after almost two hours, a doctor came into the room.

"Are you here for Mr. Larabee?" Buck, Josiah and Ezra nodded instantly, while Vin approached him.

"I'm Doctor McBride I've been treating your partner."

Vin couldn't wait anymore. "How is he?"

"Okay, he had a hard blow to the face between his nose and cheekbone, and he's broken them. He's been through surgery by now. We stitched the cut in his cheekbone and on his nose. He has a cut on his hand that we also stitched. We did a scan and there isn't any damage to his head, so he will be all right, but with a hell of headache when he awakes. You can see him if you want, but only one person at a time."

Josiah, Nathan, Buck and Vin thanked the doctor.

"Buck, you go in first," said Vin.

Buck was surprised by Vin's request, but in an instant, it made sense to him.

"Vin, I told you. It's not your fault. Probably Chris would like to see your face more than mine. I remind him of how old he's getting"

"I'll go with you, but you go in first."

Buck couldn't do any more than accept Vin's proposal.

Chris was in bed. His face was covered by an ice pack on the right side that hid the bandages and stitches. His right eye and the area between his nose and cheekbone were completely bruised. His right hand was bandaged and an IV was attached to his left hand.

Buck looked at him and let out a bitter chuckle. The injuries weren't so serious. He was going to be okay physically, and quickly, but Buck wasn't so sure about Chris's self-esteem. The Team 7 leader wouldn't like to know how he and Vin had found him, especially for Vin. He himself had seen Chris in worse situations. Chris looked really awful. The nurse had told them that he probably couldn't speak clearly because of the swelling and the anesthesia.

The ladies' man saw Chris's eyes flutter and clasped his bandaged hand. He waited as Chris's eyes began to focus. Buck began to talk to him as Chris's eyes fixed on him at last.

"You've given us a hell of a fright, man."

Buck's grin didn't give Chris a clue as to what Buck was talking about.

"You fall in the bathroom and hit your pretty face on the sink. Did you want to end your career as a ladies' attraction? Thank you, buddy, it's a nice gesture from you. They will be all after me after that."

"What?" Chris voice sounded strange even to himself. He touched his face with his left hand and found the ice pack. He took it off so that he could see Buck with two eyes. He ran his right hand over his face and discovered the bandages there.

Buck poured some water in a cup and placed it against Chris's lips. The swelling and anesthesia made it difficult to sip liquid just yet.

"You broke your nose and cheekbone. A hell of a fall."

"How is everybody? Where is Vin?" He now remembered almost everything.

"Well, you scared the hell out of him. He thinks this is his fault, because he left you at five a.m.... He got shot yesterday. He has hardly slept some hours. You scared him to death. He feels guilty... How do you think he's doing? You know he is okay..."

Buck being sarcastic was the last thing Chris needed right now.

"I know I have never found a good way to deal with things. Besides, I'm getting too damn old for all this shit, Buck," Chris managed to say, though his mouth didn't cooperate completely.

"I'm thinking the same about me, pard" Buck patted Chris's leg and turned to leave.

"Could you tell Vin to come here?" Chris realized speaking hurt like hell. In fact, all his face hurt like hell.

"As you wish. Put that ice on your face again," he said pointing to the ice pack as he left the room, "it will help your face heal." Then the door closed behind him.

Chris tried to smile but he decided the result had been fruitless. He placed the ice on his face again, when he heard the door open.

He took the ice off of his face and saw Vin standing next to him. Vin had circles under his eyes and his arm was resting in the blue sling he had been wearing last night. However he wore one of Chris's T-shirts.

"You were a really good-looking man, last time I saw you," Vin commented.

"Yeah, I know... you don't look any better, either," Chris mumbled.

"I know." Vin looked at the floor.

"Are you all right? You know it's not your fault, don't you? It's mine, Vin. I'm an adult. I decided to deal with things in that way. That might not be good, I know, but that works for me."

"You could be dead right now. I should have stayed with you. I'm your friend" Vin's eyes met Chris's and Chris saw how the younger man was affected by what had happened.

"I'm sure of it, Vin. And you are the best friend I could ask for. You were there last night, while I was getting drunk even though you'd been shot, and you helped me to get my ass into bed with just one arm. I thank God for having you as a friend, Vin. Never forget that."

Chris offered Vin his bandaged hand and Vin shook it lightly. "Vin go get some sleep."

"No, I'll stay with you."

"It's okay. I'm going to be knocked out the moment they give me my medication. Can I ask you a favor?

Could you give a home to an old man for a few days until I get better?"

"Sure, Chris." Vin's smile made Chris feel better.

"Now go to sleep. I'll see you later." And placing the ice over his face again, Chris closed his eyes.

Vin walked back to the waiting room thinking that they were definitely going to see each other later, and that they were the best friends for each other.


August 2000

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