In From the Cold

by Winter

ATF Universe

Vin couldn't believe how cold it got last night as he chipped away at the ice on the apartment building steps. He didn't think he'd ever get used to Denver's weather. The light rain the night before had turned into a freak ice storm by midnight leaving the city looking like a giant icicle.

It was Thanksgiving and Vin had the day off. He never could figure out why this holiday was such a big deal. Vin moved down a step as he tapped the shovel against the cement to break up the ice. He tried to remember if he ever celebrated the holiday and couldn't think of one time. Hell the first time he had a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving was in the Army. Vin was glad the others didn't make a fuss about it either.

Vin leaned on the shovel and looked around the neighborhood. The sun sparkled off the ice, making Purgatorio actually look pretty. He'd promised the kids he would play touch football later but it didn't look like that would happen now, not with all the ice.

The sharpshooter wasn't paying attention to where the ice was, and as he stepped down to the sidewalk, he slipped and started to fall backwards. He instinctively put back his left hand to break his fall.

"Shit!" Vin cursed as he felt a burning pain in his left wrist as he hit the unforgiving sidewalk.

"Vin!" Hector yelled. The teen had gone inside to get them both some hot chocolates. "Are you alright?"

"Think I broke my damned wrist," Vin grumbled as Hector helped him up.

Vin felt like an idiot. Not only was his wrist killing him his jeans were wet from the puddle he had landed in. Carlita Gonzalez's door was the nearest one and Hector knocked and helped Vin inside.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Fell on the ice," Vin said as he cradled his left hand in his right.

"I'll call a cab to take you to the hospital." Carlita said as she picked up the phone.

"Hector can you run upstairs and get my wallet?" Vin asked.

"Sure," he said and dashed off.

"The cab will be here in a few minutes," Carlita said.

"That's a surprise," Vin said trying to ignore the pain. "It usually take them forever."

Hector came back with Vin's wallet and his cellphone. Vin thanked him and Carlita sent the teen to watch for the cab. Vin sat on the couch and waited in misery. Hector came back in fifteen minutes to tell him the cab was out front. He helped Vin down the steps and into the waiting car.

"Where too?" the cabby asked.

"Denver General Hospital," Vin answered.

Vin slumped in the back seat and closed his eyes. The next thing he knew the driver was telling him they were here. The fair was seven dollars and Vin pulled a ten form his coat pocket and told the cabby to keep the change. He got out and walked through the automatic doors.

Vin made his way to the triage area of the emergency room. Cradling his left forearm with his right arm, Vin made his way toward the line formed at the desk. After fifteen minutes he made it to the nurse's desk.

"Can I help you?" The tired nurse didn't look up as she started filling out yet another triage form.

Clearing his throat, Vin swallowed and spoke softly. "I think I broke my wrist or sprained it. Anyway, I fell on it. On the ice."

Looking up the nurse studied his arm, still enclosed by Vin's coat. "Let me see." Standing up she motioned Vin around to the small office that held an exam room. Helping Vin with his coat, she looked at his arm closely, poking it and pressing in various places. Vin didn't want to cry out, but couldn't help flinching when she hit a spot where the bone was broken. "Hurts right there?" She said pointing to areas around the front and back of Vin's wrist about four inches below this palm. "Okay, let me get your vital signs and I'll send you off to get some X-rays." Once the paper work was finished, Vin was given an icepack and sent to sit in another area. "The X-ray technician will call you and then send you back to us." Vin walked to the area she indicated.

Thirty-five minutes later, Vin's name was called and he made his way to the x-ray room. "Sorry it's taking so long. We had a major trauma come in. That always backs us up." Helping Vin sit in a chair next to the x-ray machine, she began grabbing exam plates and putting them into the machine. "Okay, now point to where it hurts."

Vin slowly eased his arm down on the plate that she produced and pointed to the swollen, bruised area below his palm. "There and over here. Think it's broken?"

"We'll know in a minute of two. Says here you fell. Did you stick your hand out behind you when you fell?" She gently turned his forearm around so she could get the angle she needed for the x-ray. When Vin hissed in pain, she apologized. "I'm sorry. I have to get several different views of this so we can see for sure where the break is."

"So you think I broke it, huh?" Vin was talking mostly so he wouldn't cry out as she continued to move his arm around.

The technician left him sitting at the machine while she reviewed her films. In a few minutes she came back holding the x-rays up to the light. " You were right. You broke it in two places. You can and here..." Helping him up, she gave him the films and sent him back to the triage area. "Take these to the nurse sitting at the far desk. Hope you feel better." Vin nodded and made his way slowly down the hall carrying the now-warm ice bag in his good hand.

He made his way back to the reception area and took a seat. His arm hurt like hell and he was cold. His wet jeans were plastered to his legs making him very uncomfortable. Vin leaned back and tried not to move his arm.

"Mr. Tanner?" Vin looked up and saw the nurse motioning to him. He had been sitting in a chair next to the window trying to keep his arm 'above his heart' like they had told him to do. He couldn't quite figure out how to do it when he was sitting up right. His arm was swollen firmly up to his elbow now and he was glad he had taken off his jacket. They would have to cut his shirt off to get it off him.

"Yes, Ma'am?" Vin felt the room sway a little as his wrist throbbed harder now that he had lowered it.

"We've got a room free. Sorry you've had to wait so long." Showing him to a room down the hall, she tried to help him take off his shirt, but like he thought they ended up cutting it to free his arm. Sitting in his undershirt, Vin shivered in the cold impersonal exam room cradling his arm.

Coming back into the room the nurse was struck by how miserable the young man looked. Looking at her chart she saw he was a federal agent of some type although she didn't see any weapon. Putting down her supplies, she turned to him. "I'll be right back, okay?"

Sighing, Vin watched as again he was left alone in the chilly room. "Man," he said as he laid his head down on the gurney next to his chair. Rocking slightly back and force, Vin took some comfort in the motion. Looking down he saw that his fingers had lost definition. They looked like swollen sausages next to the whiteness of his open hand. The door opened again and the nurse reappeared with a blanket and some pills in a cup.

"Why don't you get up here on the stretcher? The doctor is looking at your x-rays now and he'll be here in a minute. I've got some pain medication here for you. You do have someone to drive you home, right? " She waited for Vin's answer as she fixed the straw in the cup of water.

Easing himself onto the stretcher, Vin took the water gratefully. Trying to drink while holding his injured arm away from his body, he answered her. "No, I came in a cab. I couldn't drive my car. A friend called one for me."

Setting the pill cup down the nurse frowned and slipped a warm blanket over Vin's legs and another over his shoulders. "Oh. ...Is there someone you could call. To come get you? I can't give you any narcotics if you're going home alone."

"Hadn't thought that far ahead," Vin admitted. "Was just going to call someone to get me when I was done."

Sighing, the nurse set the pills aside and placed a pillow on Vin's lap. Helping him ease his arm down on top of it, she looked sadly at him. "Alright. Let me talk to the doctor and I'll get you something without narcotics." Placing another icepack on Vin's forearm, she picked up the pills and left the room.

Vin let his head fall back on the cot and snuggled deeper into the warm blankets. It seemed like forever and he must have fallen asleep in exhaustion before the nurse and the doctor came back.

"Mr. Tanner? I'm Doctor Maxell. Sure there's no one we can call to pick you up? I'm gonna manually reduce your Colle's fracture and it would be less painful if I could give you some narcotics." Waiting for an answer the doctor placed Vin's x-rays up on the light board.

"Won't know until I call someone," Vin said as he watched the nurse prepare a syringe and walk towards him.

"This is an anti-inflammatory shot. It will ease the pain somewhat. It's the best we can do since you don't have a ride and the hospital can't take the chance you'll drive home. Is the other arm okay?" The nurse pulled back the now cool blanket and gave Vin the shot after he nodded "yes."

Watching the doctor gather his supplies, Vin felt his gut tighten as he felt the needle sink in his arm. The doctor turned and slowly lifted Vin's arm up off the pillow.

"Alright, Mr. Tanner, I'm going to have to press and turn your wrist to work these bones back into place. Once I have them in place, I'll splint your arm and we'll get some more x-rays." Not waiting for Vin to answer, the doctor pressed firmly on the bulge at the base of Vin's palm and straightened Vin's fingers as he pulled.

"Ah...Shit!" The stabbing pain took Vin by surprise and he tried to pull his arm away from the punishing hands of the resident.

The doctor stopped and looked at Vin. "Look, I'm sorry, but this is pretty swollen and it's been almost..what? Three hours since you broke it...not that that's your fault or anything...but if I can just continue here...we'll get it over with." Seeing Vin nod, the doctor's fingers when back to twisting and forcing the bones back into alignment.

Ten minutes later Vin was soaked with sweat and trying not to move as the resident formed the warm plaster to the backside of his arm. Watching his arm and fingers disappear underneath fluffy padding and elastic wrap, Vin's entire body throbbed with pain. He could tell the nurse and doctor hated what they were doing and he finally had asked them to stop apologizing.

"There," the doctor said as he carefully pinned the elastic wrap around the mummified arm of the sharpshooter. "Let's get some more x-rays, Mr. Tanner and we'll see if we have to make any adjustments."

"Adjustments?" Vin's voice was a weak imitation of its usual self.

"Yes, these pictures will show me if I need to move the bones around anymore." After the doctor left, Vin let his head fall back on the stretcher. Vin took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He hurt so much he was afraid to move. The nurse watched him and pinched at his fingers to make them blanch. Vin opened his eyes at the feel of the pressure.

"Sorry, I ...need to make sure the circulation to your fingers is okay." Pausing she looked carefully at Vin. His face was pale and drawn with pain so she took pity on him. "I'll have the technician come get you on the stretcher so you won't have to move as much this time when they take pictures."

A few minutes later the promised technician came and wheeled him down to x-ray. They tried to move his arm as little as possible since he was in such pain. When the x-rays were done the tech pushed Vin back to the exam room. Vin just hoped they didn't have to make any adjustments. The resident came back to the room and Vin knew he didn't get his wish.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Tanner," the doctor began.

"Don't worry about it," Vin said in a pained voice. "If I didn't have bad luck I wouldn't have any."

The nurse smiled at the comment as she helped the doctor take off the bandages. As the resident manipulated his wrist, Vin couldn't help the tears that slid down his cheeks as he clenched his teeth. They both ignored Vin's tears as they wrapped his arm. Vin took gasping breaths when they were finished to try to ride out the pain. The doctor sent him back to the x-ray room for more pictures and when he came back the doctor said everything was fine. Vin watched as they added a thick rolled pad by his thumb so it would stick out.

"Well at least if I have to hitch a ride home I'm set," Vin commented.

The nurse laughed as she held Vin's arm for doctor. Dr. Maxell finished adding the padding he wanted then tightly wrapped the entire arm from elbow to finger tips. They helped Vin sit up and he almost passed out.

"Just take it easy, Mr. Tanner," Dr. Maxell said. "Nurse, when I'm done you can get him some Advil."

They positioned his arm at an angle across his chest. The doctor wanted his hand raised to reduce the swelling. When he was finished the doctor has Vin's arm strapped tightly to his chest. The nurse again pinched his fingers to check the circulation.

"Well, Mr. Tanner, you're all set," Dr. Maxell said as he wrote on a pad. "Here's a prescription for pain killers and I want you back in twenty-four hours so I can check to see everything is alright. If it is, we'll put you in a hard cast. If you lose the feeling in your fingers I want you back here immediately."

"Where am I supposed to get this filled? It is Thanksgiving?" Vin was surly as he took the paper.

"There's an all-night pharmacy on Wilshire," the nurse answered with a smile. She knew he was in a lot of pain and ignored his anger.

"Thanks," Vin sighed.

"Ok just sign here and you're free to go," Dr. Maxell said as he held out the pen and clipboard.

"At least it wasn't my writing hand," Vin smiled as he took the pen and signed.

Vin left exam room and went to sit in the reception area. As he passed the vending machine, he realized how hungry he was. He dug his wallet from his back pocket. He opened it to find it empty and cursed. He'd planned on calling a cab to get home but hat was now out of the question. Vin put his wallet back and rummaged in his pocket for change. He had enough for a Snickers. He opened the Snickers with his teeth as he walked down the hall. Vin was surprised to see how crowded it was as he passed the nurses' station. The nurse that had taken his information earlier was still on duty and she smiled at him as he walked by.

Vin looked for a quiet place next to the heater. His pants were still wet and now that he only had on his T-shirt he was cold. The area over by the large heater was empty and Vin sat next to it gratefully. He struggled into his coat and winced as he banged his wrist. Once he was comfortable he checked his watch and saw it was three o'clock. Vin decided he'd call Buck and JD's since they were the closest. Vin pulled out his cellphone and hit speed dial. The phone rang a few times when Vin heard the answering machine pick up. He waited patiently for JD's annoying instructions to end to hear the beep.

"Umm hey guys, this is Vin, I'm at the hospital can you come get me?" Vin asked then hung up.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey JD hand me the 3/4 wrench," Buck called from under the pick up.

"Sure, Buck."

The dark haired young man passed the wrench off to the hand sticking out from under the truck. When the hand disappeared JD looked at his watch and saw it was a little after three.

"Hey, Buck. Want a beer?"

"Yeah sounds good."

JD ran into the apartment and grabbed the six pack from the fridge. As he trotted out the front door he failed to notice the light flashing on the answering machine.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra Standish held the phone up to his ear. He half listened to his mother as he also listened to 'Madame Butterfly' coming from his stereo. It never failed that she would call on Thanksgiving Day and talk to him for hours. This Thanksgiving was no exception. Ezra was surprised but also glad when he heard a buzz come from his phone signaling he had another call.

"Mother, I have to go," Ezra interrupted her. "There's someone on the other line."

"Nonsense," Maude said in her deeply southern accent. "You have an answering service. They can leave a message. Beside, I never get to talk to my darlin' boy."

Ezra sighed as he leaned back and listened to his mother talking about winning it big in Monte Carlo. He knew she would talk for another hour at least and he resigned himself to his fate.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey, Ez, I'm at the hospital can you come get me?"

Vin bit his lip as he tried to keep his emotions in check as he hung up the phone for the fourth time. His wrist was really starting to hurt and he just wanted to go home. He called Josiah after Buck and remembered he was helping at a homeless shelter today. He left a message anyway then tried Nathan. Vin got no answer there either because he forgot Rain and Nathan were going to a party. Vin left another pitiful plea on Nathan's machine to pick him up.

The half a Snickers bar he'd eaten earlier was starting to make him queasy. There was one last number to call. He hated to call Chris and make him come all the way into the city but he wanted to go home and get warm. He also wanted to pick up his damned pain pills and take the whole bottle his arm hurt so much. Vin sighed and dialed Chris's number. The answering machine beeped to leave a message and Vin left a tearful message to come get him. After he hung up and calmed down he wanted to call Chris back. He knew Chris would think the worse when he heard that message but Vin didn't care. This was his worse Thanksgiving ever.

+ + + + + + +

Chris finished in the barn and headed back for the house. The afternoon had passed swiftly as he did some of the repairs he'd been meaning to get to. As Chris walked in the back door and into the warm house he realized how cold it was outside. He went to the fridge and grabbed a beer and a bag of pretzels before heading to the living room. Chris sat on the couch and turned on the football game. He'd been watching for a few minutes when he saw the light flashing on the phone. He tried to ignore it, but a nagging feeling told him he should check it. He reluctantly got off the couch and over to the machine. As he figured, the first two messages where telemarketers. Hell, even on thanksgiving they didn't quit. The third message sent a shiver up his spine.

"Chris," Vin's voice cracked. "I'm at the hospital, come get me."

Chris dashed to the door grabbing his keys and his coat as he went by.

+ + + + + + +

The nurse noticed Vin still sitting by the heater. She knew the young man had been released over two hours ago and didn't know why he was still there. She was off duty in a few minutes and wanted to make sure he was all right. As she got closer she could see he was in a lot of pain. She wasn't surprised since he hadn't been given anything for the pain. "Mr. Tanner," she called. "Are you alright?"

"Yes ma'am," Vin replied.

"What are you still doing here?" she asked. "Do you want me to all a cab?"

"No, thank you," Vin said. He didn't want her to know he didn't have any money. "Friend's coming to get me. He must have got stuck."

"Can I get you anything?"

"Can I have blanket?" Vin asked hopefully.

"Sure," she smiled and left.

When she came back, she spread the blanket over him and he sighed in contentment. Vin thanked her and she went back to the nurses' station. She grabbed her coat and pocket book and wished everyone happy Thanksgiving. The ER was still crowded but it was hard not to notice the handsome mustached man walk through the automatic door. Following him was a younger man with big hazel eyes and longer hair. She sighed thinking all the cute guys came in when she was off shift.

Buck strode into the ER and made a beeline for the reception desk. JD had to trot to keep up with Buck's longer strides.

"Can I help you?" asked the nurse.

"I'm looking for Vin Tanner," Buck answered impatiently.

"The nurse typed the name into the computer. "There's no Vin Tanner admitted here."

"But he called a few hours ago and said he was here, "JD said confused.

"Mr. Wilmington, Mr. Dunne," Ezra called as he walked in. "Have you found our compatriot?"

"They say he ain't here," Buck replied.

"Madame that is absurd," Ezra commented. "The gentleman in question left a message on my message service."

"As I told these two men he's not been admitted," she said defensively. "Now if you would kindly step aside so I can take care of the next person."

They reluctantly did as she asked. Buck wanedt to storm the place and check all the rooms. Ezra was saved from literally having to knock sense into Buck when Nathan and Josiah arrived. They explained what was going on and Josiah went back over to the nurse's station. They knew he could be persuasive and were a little disappointed when he came back empty handed. What they really need was Chris Larabee.

"Where is he!" Chris demanded as he stormed in.

"We don't know," JD jumped when he heard Chris yell.

"We'll just see about that," Chris growled as he stalked to the desk.

The remaining five men looked at each other, then at Chris and quickly hurried after their leader. They watched to make sure he didn't kill someone.

"I'm looking for Vin Tanner," Chris announced.

"As I told your friends earlier, he isn't here," the nurse said angrily. Then, looking up into the Larabee glare, her face blanched. "Who were you looking for?"

"Vin Tanner," Chris said with infinite patience.

The nurse hastily typed a star for the first name then spelled out the last. Several Tanners popped up. One in maternity, one in Pediatrics and the last was released. She pulled up the one that was released, as sure enough it was the right one.

"He was released two hours ago," she said.

"What?" Buck said puzzled. "Then where is he?"

"Maybe he called a cab and went home," the nurse said helpfully.

"Could he still be here?" JD asked.

"It's possible," she admitted. "Some people sit here for hours after they're released."

"Spread out," Chris said.

"Hold on, Chris," Nathan began. "What was he admitted for?"

"He had a Colle's fracture of the wrist," she answered. "They couldn't give him any pain meds since he didn't have a ride home."

"Shit!" Chris cursed.

"He couldn't have gotten far," Nathan said. "That hurts like hell."

"I'll check the cafeteria," Buck said.

"I'll check the garden," Josiah offered. "You never know with Vin."

"I'll go help Buck," JD said and followed his roommate.

"I shall inquire at the gift shop," Ezra offered.

That left Chris to search there in the ER. He couldn't believe how busy it was. No wonder the nurse had been a little put out. Chris carefully made his way around the crowded area. When he got to a relatively quiet area by the heater he stopped to look around. He didn't see Vin anywhere. He was about to check down by the vending machines when he noticed someone leaning against the heater covered in a blanket. Chris couldn't see his face but he was almost positive he recognized Vin's hiking boots. He walked over to the figure and hoped he wasn't making a mistake. He peered around the edge of the blankets and saw familiar pained-filled eyes looking back at him.

"Chris," Vin whispered.

"Hey cowboy," Chris said as he helped Vin sit up. "How long you been here?"

"Don't rightly know," Vin admitted. "Can you take me home now?"

"Just a minute," Chris said. He pulled out his cellphone and called Buck. "Round up the others. I found him."

Chris helped Vin to his feet and grabbed him around the waist as he almost fainted. As Vin stood up Chris saw a half eaten Snickers bar fall from his lap. Chris shook his head at Vin's Thanksgiving dinner. He guided Vin towards the doors as Buck showed up with the others.

"Damn, Junior, you look like shit," Buck smiled.

"Feel like shit, too," Vin answered.

"Vin where's the prescription for the pain medication?" Nathan asked.

"In my pocket," Vin answered.

"Shit, Vin your jeans are wet," Chris said as he checked those pocket.

"Wha' happens when you fall in a puddle," Vin shivered.

"I got it," Nathan said as he pulled out the piece of paper.

"You boys eat yet?" Chris asked. "Vin here thinks a half a Snickers bar is a good dinner."

"Had no money," Vin said defensively.

"What did you have in mind, Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked.

"Why don't y'all come out to the ranch," Chris said. "There's plenty of hotdogs and hamburgers from the party last week."

"Any beer?" Buck asked.

"Plenty of that too," Chris smiled. "Me and Vin will meet you out there after I get his prescription filled."

They all agreed and Chris left Vin with them as he pulled the Ram around. They helped Vin climb into the truck and got him buckled in. Josiah was forced to put the seatbelt under Vin's right arm so it wouldn't hit his broken wrist. Chris said he'd see them in a little while as he pulled away. Vin leaned back and Chris could see he was still cold. The blonde cranked up the heat to high and pointed all the vents towards Vin.

"Thanks," Vin mumbled.

Chris pulled into the pharmacy on Wilshire. He left the truck running so Vin would stay warm. He came out twenty minutes later to find Vin leaning against the passenger door. Chris pulled a bottle of water out of the bag he was carrying and opened the pills. He picked out two then closed the medicine bottle. Chris opened the water then touched Vin's leg.

"Here ya go," Chris said holding out he pills.

Vin didn't even argue as he eagerly took the pills and the water from Chris. Chris shook his head as he backed out of the space and out of the lot. They were half way to Chris's when he heard Vin sigh.

"The pills finally kick in?" Chris turned to him and smiled.

"Yeah," Vin smiled back. "Sorry to be such a bother."

"It's no bother," Chris said.

"Yeah it is," Vin argued. "I ruined everyone's holiday."

"I doubt it," Chris disagreed. "I know for a fact all JD and Buck did today was work on that damned pick up. Ezra was staying home to relax. Josiah and Nathan were the only ones who had plans."

"Okay, I ruined their holiday then," Vin smiled.

"What happened?"

"It was stupid," Vin said frustrated. "Was cleaning the ice off the stairs and I fell." Chris tried to stifle a laugh but failed. "Ain't funny Larabee!"

"You're right, it isn't." Chris agreed but laughed anyway.

"Damned skinny-assed no good punk," Vin growled.

"Who you calling skinny?" Chris asked. "Runt."

Vin smiled then settled back against the seat. Chris turned his attention back to the road. When he finally pulled into the driveway he was sure Vin was asleep. The others were already there. When he stopped the truck Vin sat up.

"Thought you were asleep," Chris said.

"Too hungry to sleep," Vin said as his stomach growled.

Chris released Vin's seatbelt then got out of the truck. Vin had the door open as Chris came over to give him a hand. When they walked in the door they were greeted by a fire in the fireplace and two men yelling at the TV.

"Damn it ref!" Buck cursed. "A blind man could see that was pass interference!"

"You need glasses, Buck," JD argued. "The ball was no where near him."

"Ah Mr. Larabee, Mr. Tanner you are finally here," Ezra said as he helped Vin out of his coat.

"Great they're here!" JD said excitedly. "Can we eat now?"

"Yeah get the food JD," Chris said as he led Vin to the bedroom. "Going to get Vin out of these wet jeans."

They cam back a few minutes later and Vin was dressed in warm, dry sweatpants. Chris got Vin settled on the couch with a blanket around his shoulders. He then went into the kitchen to help bring out the food. When the food was finally out by the TV they dug in. Vin bit into a hotdog and sighed.

"Good huh?" Buck asked with a smile.

"Best damned Thanksgiving I ever had," Vin answered.

"Amen, Brother," Josiah smiled.

"You are wrapped up like a proverbial mummy and you call this as good Thanksgiving?" Ezra asked.

"Yeah," Vin smiled. "This is the first one I've spent with friends."

"Then I propose a toast," Ezra said raising his beer can. "May we do this again next year."

"Well I wouldn't go that far," Vin protested. "I like ya's and all but I ain't breaking my arm next year just so we can spend Thanksgiving together. Next year it can be JD."

"Oh Lord," Buck wailed. "Now he's cursed."

"Hey," JD protested.

"Just shut up and watch the game!" Chris growled.

They all looked at each other and smiled. Vin winced as his arm shifted when he settled back against the couch. Vin had meant what he said. This was the best Thanksgiving he'd ever had.

The End

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