Good Intentions Lead to Trouble for Vin
Disclaimers: Mag7 does not belong to me. This is for fun.
Notes: Thanks to Mog for creating the ATF universe. This story can stand on its own but mention is made of my previous story Hurtful Words Lead to Rash Actions.
Summary: Buck and Josiah try to do something to get rid of a demon from Vin's past, but all they did was brought the nightmare back into Vin's life.
Warning: Language, violence, angst and hurt/comfort.
Characters: Mainly Chris and Vin, Buck and Josiah.
Chris was exhausted as he drove down his driveway towards his ranch house. It had been a long week of meetings and damn but he hated meetings. Thankfully the team had the next week off after a long tough case, it was Travis's way of thanking the team for all the hard work they had done.
As the ranch house came into view he broke into a smile. It had been about a month since he had convinced his soul brother his chosen brother Vin Tanner to move out to the ranch. After the younger man had been injured in the mountains by being knocked down a hillside by reckless bicyclists Chris had realized what he had almost lost. It seemed that Vin had the same revelation. It did not take much arm-twisting to get Vin to move and give up his apartment in Purgatory.
Vin was a child of Mother Nature and was happiest when he was out in the wild with only the wind, sun and open land around him. Chris liked to tease him that he should have been born a century earlier before the high tech age came into being. Vin had just smiled as he agreed, but he reminded the blond that Chris liked the outdoors better than being surrounded by people and buildings.
To which Chris had replied that it was a good thing then that they lived an hour outside the city, in the country away from people.
It was this easy bantering that both men enjoyed. They also enjoyed the long silences at night just sitting on the deck watching the sun set or just enjoy the night sounds
Now as Chris pulled up and parked his big SUV he sighed, he was home. Vin was home, the house was lit up and looked so welcoming, unlike before Vin had moved in with him.
Before Vin he had worked late not wanting to get home to a cold silent, empty house. But no longer, whoever got home first and a lot of the time they rode together to save on gas, started dinner and took care of the horses.
Chris walked into the living room and smiled at the fire in the big stone fireplace. It was early June but the nights still got cool. The fire gave the room a cozy homey feeling. The blond had a feeling they were going to have to chop down more wood in the fall since Vin seemed to have thin Texas blood and hated the cold weather.
The ATF leader hung his jacket up and headed into the kitchen where he smelled something wonderful.
Vin was standing at the stove stirring something in a large pot. The sharpshooter looked up and smiled at his brother.
"You look tired, cowboy. Sit down and relax, supper will be ready in a few minutes."
Chris sighed and sat down, he was so thankful to be home and with the knowledge that no one would bother him for several days.
Chris looked up as a cold bottle of beer was sat down on the table next to him.
"Thanks, Vin. Something sure smells good," Chris said right before he drank half the bottle down.
Vin raised his eyebrow as the beer quickly disappeared, but he made no comment knowing that Chris had been having a tough time with the job. Chris didn't drink a lot anymore and he sure didn't drink it down that fast.
"I just grabbed this and that and made some beef stew, there are biscuits in the oven."
"Damn Vin, that sounds wonderful," Chris said his mouth watering. Anytime Vin just threw something together it was heaven to eat.
Sure enough Chris ate two bowlfuls of the stew and several biscuits washing it down with a couple of more beers.
When Vin went to clean the kitchen Chris insisted he would do it since Vin cooked. Vin tried to protest saying that Chris was so tired but the blond insisted. It was the agreement that they had from day one. If one person cooked the meal then the other one cleaned up.
While Chris was cleaning up Vin wandered outside to care for the animals. It was a chore he truly enjoyed, all his life he had loved animals. All they wanted was someone to love them, and care for them and in return they gave unconditional love back.
Vin laughed as he had that thought as his gaze came to rest on his horse Peso. Of course Peso was the exception at least that was what his teammates would say.
Peso was wild as the wind in a January blizzard, meaner than a stepped on rattlesnake and had more attitude than a mother grizzly bear with cubs. The only person he allowed on his back was Vin and then only if he felt like it. The others would laugh but Vin and Peso understood each other. Vin knew that Peso loved him; he just didn't show it much after all he had to keep up appearances being the alpha horse in the barn after all.
But Vin knew it was true because the damn horse knew when he was not feeling well or in a bad mood because Peso became the best-behaved animal in the barn. Heck just a couple of weeks ago he had been still been suffering from a cold due to his adventure in the mountains and had fallen asleep leaning against the side of barn in the corral. He had been watching the new foal and had just drifted off to sleep. Chris not knowing that Vin was in the corral had let the foal out into the field and put the stallion into the corral. Going back into the barn Chris had let Peso out of his stall so he could check on a sore foot and the damn horse had nudged him out of the way and jumped the fence so he was in the corral with the stallion.
Chris had cussed up a storm and hurried outside expecting to see a horse fight ensue, but to his astonishment Peso was standing still and glaring at the stallion.
Peering around Peso Chris saw Vin sitting down leaning against the barn wall and terror had filled his heart, he was afraid that the stallion had knocked his brother down and Vin was hurt.
Chris ran over to Vin, Peso totally ignored the blond keeping his attention on the stallion, just daring the big horse to try to come close to his master.
As Chris knelt next to Vin and put his hand on Vin's shoulder Vin had jerked awake, both men had been startled.
Vin because Chris was right next to him, and Peso was in front of him; Chris because he was sure Vin had been injured.
Needless to say Chris had grasped Vin by the arm and led him straight to the house only pausing long enough to put Peso back into his stall and give him extra oats for saving his foolish master.
Vin had been read the riot act and been suitably repentant. Chris had immediately called Nathan and had dosed Vin with some cold medicine he had in the cabinet much to Vin's disgust.
Vin just apologized again for scaring Chris, he had seen the look of worry and fear in the green eyes when he had woke up and looked into his brother's face. Chris was so afraid of losing another member of his family, Vin vowed not to do anything like that again.
So it was that Vin made sure Chris knew he was going to the barn and wouldn't be gone long.
Vin finished feeding the animals; he slipped Peso some apple treats and then headed back to the ranch house.
Headlights appeared in the driveway and he paused. As far as he knew they were not expecting anybody for several days when they would have the team out for a BBQ and bonfire. It was mid October and perfect for a bonfire, the night air crisp and cool.
Ezra had taken off to Rome to visit his mother and her current husband. JD and Casey were going to Florida to do the Disney routine. Nathan and Raine were flying back East to visit relatives.
It wasn't often the whole team got a week off so everyone was determined to take advantage of it.
Which was why Vin was surprised to see Buck pull up in his truck, Josiah sat in the passengers seat.
As far as he knew Buck was having a different woman in his bed every night for the next week and Josiah had talked about going on a retreat in the mountains.
Vin walked over to the truck hearing Chris open the front door of the house.
A bad feeling washed over him as he saw Buck and Josiah exchange a look between them.
The two men climbed out of the truck and Buck threw his arm around Vin's shoulders turning him and heading for the house. Josiah was already at the door and walking by a surprised Chris.
"What is going Buck?" Chris asked as he shut the door behind them.
After all four men were sitting down Buck cleared his throat and started to speak then clamped his mouth shut and glanced at Josiah.
Josiah sighed, shook his head and said; "I think we did something stupid, boss."
Chris glowered at his men. What the fuck could they have done that was making Buck tongue-tied and Josiah look like he was prepared to get beaten.
Vin was sitting next to Chris on the sofa and placed a warning hand on the blond's knee.
"Are the boys okay," Vin asked worry about his teammates clouding his blue eyes.
"They're fine, Junior. Didn't mean for you to worry about the guys. I...shit Vin, Josiah and I fucked up and I mean I think we really fucked up," Buck hissed running his hand through his hair.
Vin and Chris exchanged confused glances. Buck was not a man who cussed a lot and he was acting very upset.
Chris finally growled, "If one of you doesn't start talking I am going to get my gun and start shooting."
Josiah took a deep breath and said, "Vin we were trying to help, trying to right a wrong that was done to you a long time ago when you didn't have anyone to help you."
Buck piped up his blue earnest, "Yeah, Junior. We...hell we just had to do something, that old bastard had to pay for what he did to you so we decided to be the ones to make him pay."
Vin looked at Chris still not figuring out what the hell his friends were talking about.
Chris thought he knew and if he was right then he was going to shoot Buck and Josiah both and hide the bodies. Vin wouldn't rat on him and he figured he could get away with it.
Chris frowned and in a low pissed off voice said, "You didn't. I told both of you to leave it alone."
Buck held up his hand and sat forward on the chair and looked at Vin.
"Remember when we were on the mountain, we got stuck up there and those bicyclist's knocked you down?"
At Vin's nod Buck continued.
"Well when you were telling Chris why you hated storms and what that headmaster did to you, well...ah...Josiah and I heard it all, we weren't asleep."
Vin had flinched when mention was made of the headmaster but now he smiled.
"I knew the two of you were awake. Come on Bucklin, I was in the Rangers and a bounty hunter, don't you think I know when someone is faking sleep. Heck you guys are my friends and you came up that mountain with Chris after me. I figured I could trust you with one of my crappy childhood memories," Vin said.
Buck felt himself flush with pride as he heard Vin say he trusted him. Tanner didn't trust many people and while he knew that the team had his back on the job this was the first time Vin had stated that he trusted the guys with his personal life.
Josiah felt the same spurt of pride that Buck had, but knew that what they were going to admit doing might just cause Vin not to trust them again.
Josiah explained, "We started hunting for that abusive headmaster not long after we came down off the mountain. It seems that not to long after you ran away one of the kids was found dead, drowned in a shed behind the school. It had rained and the water had came out of the banks and the boy died."
Vin had turned pale realizing that it could have been him that drowned all those years ago. Instantly there was a warm hand wrapped around the back of his neck gently squeezing letting him know that he wasn't alone, his brother was right beside him.
Taking a deep breath Vin tried to relax and not to think about 'what might have been', he just needed to remember that he had survived his childhood despite all the odds. Now he had a man at his side that was closer than most brothers and five other men who cared about him.
Vin turned and met concerned green eyes; he flashed his crooked little smile trying to reassure the blond that he was fine.
Obviously Chris didn't believe him as the hand remained on his neck in comfort and reassurance.
"We're sorry to bring up bad memories Vin and wouldn't if we didn't think we had no other choice," Buck apologized his blue eyes worried as he glanced from Vin to Chris.
Buck was well aware that his old buddy was furious with him and Josiah for digging into Vin's past and bringing up bad memories.
Vin licked his lips and replied, "It's okay, Bucklin, Josiah, I know you all meant well. Just that kid could have been me and well it's kind of unnerving."
"Did you find the bastard?" Chris said trying to change the subject away from dead kids and drowning.
"Well, it took us a while. He was fired after the kid died and well he wasn't as old as we thought he would be, he would only have been about thirty-five when you were at the orphanage," Josiah said.
Vin seemed surprised, "I thought he was a lot older than that."
"Well when you're only eight and a scrawny little shit at that he probably did seem a lot older," Chris said trying to tease his brother.
Vin raised one eyebrow and looked over at Chris.
"Well I guess age is a relative thing and there are times cowboy when you seem to be..."
Chris mock growled knowing that Vin was going to harass him about his age again.
Vin laughed as Chris grabbed him in headlock ordering him to apologize, but the younger man was laughing to hard.
Chris finally let Vin go but kept his arm around the slender shoulders.
"You messed my hair up, I had it looking just right," he complained then frowned as all three men laughed.
Vin had to grin then he settled back on the sofa, Chris's arm still around his shoulders.
"So did you finally find him?" Vin asked.
"Yeah! The bastard was murdered about five years ago, he was in his early fifties," Josiah replied.
"Good, then he's rotting in hell right now," Chris commented.
Vin was watching his two friends and saw their reaction to Chris's comment.
"What's going on guys? I know it's not that he's dead, because none of us care about that," Vin said fixing his blue eyes on his two teammates.
"We did a number of searches trying to find the guy, he dropped out of sight after he was fired and changed his name because there was talk of criminal charges being filed. The information that came up not only pertained to him but what happened to him," Buck explained.
Vin and Chris cast puzzled looks at each other.
Josiah then jumped in and said, "What we found out was that he wasn't the only person from that orphanage to be murdered. Over the last decade there have been fifteen murders tied to that orphanage. Eight of the murders have been of former employees; seven were orphans who had lived there. Vin, all the people killed had been at the orphanage during the time you were there and the way they died wasn't pleasant. Some of them were tortured before they were killed and most of them were either drowned or beat to death. The headmaster was the worst, he had been tortured for hours before he died, drown in his own blood."
Chris felt his temper flash.did they think Vin had killed these people? As he started to read them the riot act he looked closely at the two men and realized that he had almost jumped the gun. Buck and Josiah were looking at Vin with worry covering their faces.
The anger died away from him as he realized that they were afraid that whoever was committing the murders might come after Vin.
Vin not being as quick to jump to conclusions as his brother calmly stated, "You guys think I might be on the killers list?"
Buck shrugged as he replied, "We don't know, Junior. You weren't there as long as some of the kids so maybe not, but we may have inadvertently brought you to the killers attention."
Josiah saw the lethal look in his boss's eyes and hurriedly stated, "But we just don't know for sure. We contacted a few people and found out that not long before they were killed the victims had gotten on the orphanage's website for various reasons."
Chris hissed, "So therefore since you guys got on the website and probably left your names or phone number, it would be very simple for someone to find the two of you. Then it would be a simple matter to find out where and who you worked with and heck the name Vin Tanner pops up."
Chris jumped up and shouted, "How the hell could you guys be so fucking stupid."
Buck got up and faced his friend across the coffee table.
"Don't you think we've kicked ourselves ever since we found out about this shit? We didn't know about the murders at the time. I left my name so I could get more information. It's done Chris and no amount of yelling is going to change the fact that Vin might be in danger."
Vin looked at Josiah who looked back at him. It never failed to amaze them that Chris and Buck had not killed each other over the years the way they could flash off each other.
Vin stood up and placed his hand on Chris's arm, he could feel the tension radiating off the blond.
"Chris, getting mad isn't going to solve anything. Besides I wasn't there that long. Chances are we are getting worked up about nothing."
Chris gave Buck and Josiah one last glare before he hissed that he needed a beer and stomped into the kitchen.
Buck hung his head, he hated to argue with his friends and he felt so bad for what was going on now. Vin had to deal with so much crap in his life and now his own friends cause more trouble for him.
Vin softly said, "Don't worry about it Bucklin. I doubt anyone is gunning for me. Thanks for checking on that bastard for me though, I know it's not right but I am glad he is dead."
Buck smiled, leave it to Vin to try to comfort him when by all rights he should be pissed off.
"I am sorry, Junior. Just wanted that animal to pay for what he did to you, throw a scare into him like he did to you."
Josiah said, "Yeah, we are sorry, Vin, but you're right I doubt anyone is looking for you. We only contacted the administration at the orphanage so I don't think it's anything to worry about. We just thought you should know."
Chris came back into the room carrying four bottles of beer.
The blond ATF leader passed them out and then flopped down on the sofa, Vin followed suit.
Sighing deeply Chris said, "I know you guys meant well, but next time please ask first before you just go off half cocked. We just have to hope that whoever committed those murders is finished and isn't aiming to add a Tanner scalp to his belt, though it would be a pretty decoration for anyone's belt."
Vin nudged the blond sharply in the side for his comment but Chris just smiled and took a long drink of the cold beer.
Josiah and Buck told the two men everything they had found out, which wasn't much. After they were done they had all convinced themselves that there was nothing to worry about.
However the three older men had individually decided to keep a stronger eye on Vin. You could never be too careful especially when dealing with a psycho.
Vin however couldn't let the matter go and on Monday checked with the Texas authorities that were on the case. They had no new leads but promised to keep Vin apprised of the situation.
The next few days Vin and Chris took care of chores around the ranch house fixing fence line, a loose gutter, and other odd jobs that they had let go.
By the middle of the week Vin was beginning to get an idea of how a bug under a microscope felt. Chris insisted on working right beside him and refused to allow his brother to ride the fence line alone to fix any holes in the barbed wire. Since rain had moved in for a few hours on Wednesday the whole fence line didn't get checked over so they put it off until the weekend when it would be a little dryer.
On Thursday they had planned on mucking out the barn and working on the saddles. At noon a neighbor called and let them know that his son had been out riding and noticed that the fence on the north side of the property had a big hole in it.
Vin told Chris he would ride up there and fix it and then head straight back. Chris was not happy with the thought that Vin would be going alone but Travis had called and needed Chris to run into the office for a quick budget meeting.
Vin had assured the man that he would fine, he was a big boy and could be left alone. Chris had frowned at the younger man clearly unhappy with the whole situation.
However he knew that if he continued to hound Vin's every step the younger man would start to balk and might even get fed up enough to move back to town. Chris sure as hell didn't want that to happen.
So after making Vin promise to take care of himself, take his cell phone with him and not take any chances Chris left and headed to town. Vin waved to the blond as he rode Peso out of the barn.
Chris walked into the ATF building an hour later, just as he was going into his meeting his cell phone rang.
It was Buck just checking in with his old friend to see how repairs were going at the ranch and if they needed any help.
Chris was relieved to hear from his old friend and immediately asked if Buck would mind going on out to the ranch and give Vin a helping hand with the fence line.
Buck chuckled as he read right through to Chris's real reason he asked for Buck's help.
"No problem, stud. You probably don't want me to let Vin know you're worrying over him like a mama bear, so I'll just let him think it was my idea to help out," Buck said amusement coloring his voice.
Chris grimaced as he realized that Buck had figured his ploy out.
"Thanks, Buck. I just have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and I would feel better if someone was with him. It seems like if there is any trouble around it will find Vin," Chris said.
"I'm on my way out the door now, besides if Josiah and I had not dug into that damn orphanage you wouldn't be worrying now."
"Buck we agreed not to fret about that. You guys did what you thought was right. I mean who the hell would figure a serial killer was taking out people who had connection to that place. Vin is on the north side of the property and thanks again."
Buck said goodbye and they hung up. As the big man climbed into his truck he could only think it would be good if Chris took his own advice and not fret about the whole thing, but he knew that wouldn't happen.
Chris worried about all his men, but Vin especially. Vin was Chris's kid brother and nothing would stop the blond from worrying over the younger man. It was a testament to Vin's good nature and patience that he hadn't strangled his brother for hovering all the time.
Buck pulled out onto the highway and headed quickly to the ranch. Barring a traffic jam he would be there before long and then have to ride out where Vin was. A tingling feeling of unease shivered down his spine so he stepped on the accelerator. While he told himself it was just Larabee's unease that had communicated itself to him there was no harm in getting out to Vin as fast as he could.
Meanwhile Vin was enjoying the beautiful day, humming to himself as he fixed the fence line. Peso stood to the side happily munching on the grass.
The quiet was shattered as a gunshot rang out. Vin cried out, grabbed his shoulder and fell to the ground. Peso reared up and took off running heading straight back to the ranch.
Vin tried to scramble to his rifle that he had left leaning against a fence post but a savage kick to his side sent him falling back to the ground.
Vin found himself roughly rolled onto his back, a foot pressed down on his throat keeping him in place and threatening to cut off all his air.
Vin felt fear spike through him as a familiar face peered down at him. It was the face of his childhood, the face of the boy who had terrorized him and the other small kids in the orphanage. He was the reason that Vin had been tossed into the shed; he was the bully from the orphanage. There were the same beady little black eyes, the bushy eyebrows; the pure mean look on the face and the black hair slicked down on his head like a skullcap.
Vin knew that he was facing the serial killer and he was next on the guys list.
In Denver Chris was sitting at the conference room table being bored out of his mind. Suddenly a feeling of fear washed over him so strong he almost gasped.
It was Vin, it had to be and something was very wrong. Chris flipped open his cell phone and tried to call Vin but the sharpshooter didn't pick up.
Chris stood up, everyone looked at him in surprise but he didn't care. He knew Vin needed him and that was all that was important.
"I'm sorry Director Travis but I have an emergency and I need to leave. I will call you later," Chris said and then quickly strode out of the room not waiting for a reply from his boss.
Thankfully Travis had the utmost respect for Larabee so he just took a deep breath and continued on with the meeting acting as though nothing unusual had happened.
Buck had reached the ranch and was currently on his way to Vin's location.
Vin of course didn't know that help was so close at hand. He had a funny feeling that the connection between he and Chris was working just fine and the blond was on the way, but would he be in time.
Matt sneered, "I see you remember me, Tanner. You're still a scrawny piece of shit. You know I'd forgotten all about you until your buddy got online and I backtracked it to you. You were such a nothing that you didn't even register on my radar. I was after the people who gave me a hard time in that hellhole. Of course my father was one of them that had to pay. You didn't know that Headmaster Simmons was my father did you? Well he was, made me use my dead mothers maiden name instead of his, and didn't want anyone to think he was playing favorites. Very few knew he was my father, mainly because the old bastard never acted like a father. I was treated like one of the orphans, but I got back at him. Tortured him for hours until he was hoarse from screaming. Damn but I enjoyed watching him die. I enjoyed watching them all die. Now you are next. Then I'm going after the next one and he has a family I just might kill them all. Get ready to die, Tanner."
Vin despite his injured shoulder suddenly moved shoving Matt's foot off his throat and lunging for his gun. The big man moved fast kicking Vin again cracking a couple of ribs. Vin was yanked to his feet. Matt backhanded him splitting his lip and making his head spin. Vin again found himself flat on his back with a big foot on his throat, every time he moved more pressure was applied until he was sure his windpipe was going to be crushed so he stopped struggling.
Matt leaned over and picked up a length of barbed wire that Vin had just cut to use. Vin's mouth dried up as his gloves were pulled off his hands and the barbed wire was used like a piece of rope and wrapped around his bare wrists.
The sharp points immediately bit into his skin drawing little beads of blood.
Vin knew he had to play for time, he could sense Chris was coming; he just needed to give his brother the time to get here.
Buck was closer; in fact as he came up over a hill Peso was trotting ahead of him headed back to his master. The big black was ashamed of himself for leaving his master like that.
Buck rode over to the skittish black and grabbed his reins. Looking Peso over he was thankful there was no blood visible. Suddenly he heard a phone ring and reached into Peso's saddlebag where he found Vin's cell phone.
Buck grimaced when he saw that it was Chris calling. Shit he really did not want to take this call.
Sure enough as soon as he picked up the phone Chris's voice came across loud and clear.
"Vin, damn you Tanner, why in the hell didn't you pick up the phone earlier."
Buck cleared his throat as he continued riding towards where Vin should be, he was certain his young friend was in trouble now.
"Chris, its Buck. I just ran across Peso, all lathered and upset, Junior's phone was on him. I'm heading towards Junior's location now."
Chris sighed, "I just got to the ranch, and I'll be heading that way as fast as Pony can run."
"How the hell did you...never mind, stud? We'll talk later," Buck said, then he clicked the phone off and sped up the pace.
Chris saddled his horse in record time and took off at a gallop.
Vin found himself yanked to his feet, a rope was tied between his wrists to the barbed wire, and the other end Matt held.
"Why, Matt? I never did anything to you," Vin asked.
"You fucking survived that flood. When I saw your name I remembered how mad my father was that you lived through it. Did he take it out on you that day, hell no you were just tossed back in your room. Me. though, me he used the belt on, said no one would ever notice the marks since I was his own kid then he made me suck him off and not just once but many times. That shock you...you little prick, well my old man was a pervert and he used any excuse to force me to do him as a punishment. You have to pay for that," Matt growled as he leapt on his horse and started riding away, Vin was forced to follow at a walk then a run or be drug behind the horse.
Vin stumbled and almost went to his knees, he knew that he wouldn't be able to last much longer; the barbed wire was biting into his wrists, the blood dripping down his hands. The bullet wound was bleeding freely and he was getting dizzy.
'Hurry up, cowboy,' Vin mentally sent the thought to his soul brother.
Chris gasped as Vin's thoughts came clearly to him. Vin needed him and needed him now.
In a new burst of speed Pony gave it his all feeding off his masters desperation to reach his brother.
Buck cleared the hill and came to where Vin had been shot; he found the blood trail and immediately began following it. Calling Chris he filled the blond in on what he had run across, Chris told him that if it was the serial killer then he was likely taking Vin to the small lake on the property, since he seemed to like to drown his victims.
Buck headed that direction, Chris knew a short cut and the race was on to save their sharpshooter.
Vin managed to stay on his feet until Matt tapped his horse and began to trot; the lake was now in sight.
Vin cried out as he fell, shards of agony tore through him as the barbed wire cut deeply into his skin, his ribs throbbed with pain and he knew he would be lucky not to have a lung punctured.
Matt laughed as he drug Vin the last few yards to the lake. Climbing off the horse the man forced Vin to his feet then shoved him towards the water.
Vin balked, a hard fist slammed into his kidneys sending pain radiating up and down his back, a back that wasn't in the best shape anyway.
Gasping unable to catch his breath, Vin stumbled to the ground catching himself with his bound hands in front of him.
Incandescing pain roared as the wire ripped through more skin as his body landed on top of his hands.
Matt laughed loudly as Vin screamed from the pain. Matt reached down and gripped Vin by the back of the shirt and drug him to the water.
"Bye bye Tanner," Matt crowed as he dropped Vin face first into the water, his body half in and half out of the lake.
Matt knelt next to the now struggling man and shoved Vin's face under water holding it there.
Chris and Buck both heard Vin scream in pain, they knew they were on the right track.
Clearing the hill Chris saw a man holding his brother's face and upper body under water.
Chris screamed in fury and shot off his gun to get the man's attention.
Matt whirled around and raised up in a crouch pulling his own gun, he was to slow, as Chris rode into range he shot the man.
Matt spun around from the impact and landed in the water, he didn't move.
Chris threw himself off the horse and ran to Vin, pulling him out of the water. Chris sat on the ground holding Vin close to his chest. Vin was gasping for breath as he coughed water up.
Buck came galloping up, swearing under his breath, how in the hell had Chris beat him here.
As Buck approached them, Matt suddenly surged to his feet and turned to face the two seated men, the gun in his hand pointed right at them.
Buck yelled a warning, Chris turned protecting Vin with his own body as gunfire erupted.
"It's okay, Chris," Buck yelled as he checked the body in the water. This time the bastard was dead.
Buck hurried over to his friends, cursing under his breath when he saw the condition Vin was in.
Peso had kept up with Buck's mad dash across country and now ventured closer to check on his young master. Buck noticed Vin's jacket tied on the back of Peso's saddle and retrieved it.
Vin was shivering, his lip was swollen and bleeding, his face was scratched, his clothes were torn, and it was obvious he had been drug behind a horse. The barbed wire wrapped around the young man's wrists were what horrified the two ATF agents.
Vin was shivering violently, the water was freezing because it was runoff from the mountains, Vin tried to burrow into Chris's body, he couldn't remember the last time he felt so cold
Buck tore off part of his shirt and got a rough bandage around the bullet wound. It would at least slow the bleeding down.
"We can't get that wire off, cowboy. We have to get you back to the house and call an ambulance," Chris assured his brother.
Buck and Chris were both seething at the damage done to Vin and to get him to safety they were going to have hurt him some more. There was no way they were going to get that barbed wire off without cutters.
Vin was helped to his feet, his jacket was put around his shoulders, and Buck shrugged out of his jacket and put it around Vin trying to give Vin as much warmth as they could.
Vin was trying to explain through shivers shakes and stutters that he could ride Peso back to the house.
Chris just gave his brother an incredulous look then glanced at Buck in shock.
"Vin you can barely stand, your wrists have barbed wired wrapped around them and they are bleeding from some deep cuts. You have a fucking bullet hole in your shoulder. I can tell from how you're bent over that you probably have busted ribs and God only knows what else is wrong," Chris said as with Buck's help they walked Vin over to the horses.
Before Vin could argue anymore Buck placed his hands around Vin's waist and put him on top of Peso, Chris quickly mounted behind his brother and put his arms around the slender waist holding Vin securely yet gently in place.
Despite the pain he had to be in, Vin gave the blonde a disgruntled look. Chris totally ignored the look, as he headed Peso in the direction of the ranch.
Buck followed close behind them leading Pony, he was calling on the cell phone for an ambulance to meet them at the ranch.
Chris gently tugged backwards until Vin was plastered against him. Vin turned his head and pressed his face into Chris's throat inhaling the reassuring scent of his brother.
Vin's hair was wet and Chris could only pray that the sharpshooter didn't come down with another cold or pneumonia.
Nathan was going to fucking kill them all.
Just then Vin mumbled, "I'm not telling Nathan I'm hurt, it's not my fault. I don't want him riding my ass again."
Chris chuckled, it seemed the connection between the two of them was working just fine, they both were afraid of Nathan Jackson's wrath; well there was just one thing to do.
"Buck is going to tell Nathan what happened, aren't you, Buck?" Chris said glancing around at his old friend.
Buck paled, shit when Nathan was pissed because one of them was hurt he was scarier than Chris Larabee's glare.
Buck knew that Vin held a special place in Nathan's heart because it was Vin who saved Nathan's life. It was this heroic action by the young man that had brought him to Chris's attention and ultimately Team 7. Shit Nathan was going to go ballistic.
When they reached the ranch they could hear the sirens in the distance as the ambulance was heading their way.
Vin was gently taken off Peso and sat on a blanket, when Buck went to use the wire cutters, Chris stopped him by shaking his head.
Vin's breath hitched as he realized the wire wasn't coming off yet.
Chris gathered Vin into his arms again and whispered, "Vin, I want them to take that wire off at the hospital, they can put you out, we can't. It is going to excruciatingly painful."
Buck dropped some more blankets around Vin's shoulders just as the ambulance peeled into the yard.
Soon Vin was loaded into the ambulance and was speeding towards the nearest hospital. Chris and Buck were in Buck's truck right behind it.
Chris got on the cell phone and called Josiah filling him in on what had happened and where they were going.
Josiah said he was leaving and would meet them at the local hospital.
Chris could tell that Josiah was devastated by the news. The blonde knew that Buck and Josiah were going to blame themselves for Vin's injuries. While it was true they brought Vin to that bastards notice and he had been royally pissed at the time, logically Vin might have become a target at any time.
At least now the prick was dead and wouldn't hurt anyone else.
Chris knew Vin and he knew the compassionate young man wouldn't blame his two friends for anything, it would take them a while to forgive themselves.
At the hospital Vin was wheeled into an exam room. Dr. Eliam would not allow the ATF agents into the room.
Buck watched as Chris paced up and down the small waiting room. Suddenly they heard Vin scream for Chris.
Chris barreled into the exam room to see Vin surrounded by nurses and doctors. They were trying to get an oxygen mask on but Vin was fighting them.
Chris rushed across the room until he was standing at the head of the bed. Chris caught Vin's face in between his hands. He noticed that two nurses were pinning Vin to the bed so he couldn't hurt himself.
"Sh...cowboy, you're going to be okay, let them take care of you. I'll be right by your side."
Chris glared at everyone in the room making it plain that he was not going anywhere.
Vin allowed the oxygen to be put on, the doctor then injected him with a sedative that put him out.
It was all Chris could do not to throw up as he watched the medical team painstakingly take the barbed wire off his brother's wrists. Deep cuts and gashes covered Vin's wrists; his hands had been hurt also.
The only time Chris left Vin's side was when he was in surgery for the bullet wound. Chris waited with Buck and Josiah in the waiting room.
It seemed like an eternity before the doctor came out to talk with them. Chris wished Nathan was with them, granted they would have been read the riot act for Vin getting hurt but at least Nathan could reassure him that Vin was going to be okay.
The doctor was concise and to the point.
"Agent Tanner will be fine, but we will be keeping him for a couple of days. The bullet was removed with no problem; he has two broken ribs, a slight concussion and multiple scratches, abrasions and bruises. We have him on antibiotics and pain meds. The worst part of course is his wrists. The wire bit into his skin badly, there were a couple of cuts deep enough to have some stitches put in, we will be keeping his wrists wrapped for at least a week. I understand he is a sharpshooter; of course he will not be shooting a gun for at least a month and may need therapy. He is in room 318 and you may visit him in about an hour, he will be awake by then. If you have any questions I will be available."
Chris hurried down the hallway with his teammates following on his heels. When they reached the room the nurse was finishing up, she smiled at them as she left letting them know that Vin would be waking up anytime. It was a testament to how upset Buck was that he didn't even attempt to flirt with the pretty brunette.
Chris stood on one side of Vin's bed while Buck stood on the other side. Josiah stood at the foot of the bed, he placed his hand on Vin's leg and bowed his head saying a silent prayer for the younger man.
Chris took Vin's hand in his and gently squeezed letting his brother know he was by his side, he was very careful to avoid the bandages around the wrist. Buck put his hand on Vin's arm patting it carefully.
"Damn Chris, the boy looks like he's been in a war. I am so sorry, this wouldn't have happened if Josiah and I had kept our noses out of Vin's past."
Josiah piped in, "That's right boss. Everything that has happened has been our fault."
Vin's soft voice broke into their conversation.
"You guys didn't do this, Matt did. Matt he was the headmasters son, but no one knew that, he told me that after he killed me he was going after another guy. This guy had a family. So...so you see if we hadn't stopped him more innocents would have died. I will recover but somebody else might not have been so lucky."
"But Vin, it's our fau..." Buck started, he stopped when Vin sighed and gave him a long look.
"Bucklin, you guys did nothing wrong. You are good friends, but if you guys are going to agitate over what you mistakenly think you did wrong, fret over my injuries and otherwise be a couple of pains in the butt, then I may have to kick some sense into both of you. Got it?"
Chris bit the side of his mouth to keep from laughing at the looks on the faces of his two guilt ridden teammates.
"I think you boys need to do what Vin says. The two of you wallowing in guilt doesn't accomplish anything, but if it makes you feel better, the two of you are going to be the ones to tell Ezra, JD and Nathan what has been going on. Now Ezra and JD are going to be concerned about Vin, and want to know the whole story. Nathan though is a different matter. He is going to want to know about every single one of Vin's injuries in detail. The two of you are going to soothe and calm him, and that won't be easy. Got it?"
Buck and Josiah cast their boss a disgruntled look. Nathan was going be one very angry man, but it was the least they could do.
The two men stayed a while longer then headed out. Chris had made it plain that he wasn't leaving the hospital until Vin did.
Sure enough Chris stayed at the hospital until Vin was ready to leave. The doctor allowed Vin to leave the next day; it had not taken long before the young agent was driving the nurses crazy.
The doctor gave Chris instructions on Vin's care and allowed him to leave, it was either that or the nurses would probably go on strike.
It wasn't that Vin was hateful or rude; he was just obstinate and clearly wanted to go home.
They had been home for a whole day when the whole team descended on them.
There were not a lot of questions about what had happened as Buck and Josiah had filled in their three teammates. Vin had given his statement to the authorities who had passed it on to the Texas police who had been investigating the murders.
Nathan had unloaded on Buck and Josiah for getting Vin into the mess, but since they had clearly learned a lesson and since Vin wasn't upset he didn't lecture them to long.
Vin permitted Nathan to take him to his bedroom and check him over. Nathan was pleased with the doctor's care and the fact that Vin was taking his meds and following doctor's orders. Of course since Chris was probably standing over the Vin the young man didn't have a choice. It wouldn't surprise Nathan if Chris didn't make Vin stick his tongue out to make sure the sharpshooter had really taken the pills.
Vin was able to tell the guys that the Texas authorities had contacted him that morning and they had found Matt's apartment filled with evidence and a list of people he intended to kill.
Vin had smiled at Buck and Josiah and told them that if they hadn't taken it upon themselves to check into the orphanage then a lot of innocent people would have died.
While the sentiment made the two men feel better they still promised not butt into anybody's business again. Neither man found it remotely funny when their five teammates cracked up laughing at that comment.
The evening ended with good food, beer except for Vin much to his consternation and great company.
The guys left for their own homes and promised to check in before they had to go to work on Monday. Vin would not be going to work for at least a couple of weeks and then it was desk duty until the doctor released him.
Chris was not able to take off with his brother but had silently vowed that he would not work late and would leave early whenever possible, he didn't want to leave Vin alone for any longer than he had to.
Vin had seemed to accept his past coming back to blow up in his face, but Chris knew that his brother kept a lot hidden not wanting to worry anybody.
Late that night the two brothers sat on the back deck and just enjoyed the star filled night sky, the insects singing their song and the wolves howling in the distance.
"Chris, I know you're worried about leaving me alone for a couple of weeks. Don't worry. I'm fine. You know it helps a lot to know that a lot of people are safe now, innocent people who were in danger through no fault of their own."
"I'm glad the guy is dead, but Vin you were hurt, your wrists are going to be wrapped for another week. It's going to be at least a month before you can even try shooting a gun. I know your back is killing you and by the way I am going to give you one of my patented Larabee back rubs later. My God I thought I was going to be too late and you would be dead," Chris said the anguish coming through as he remembered the frantic ride to save Vin.
Vin turned in his chair to face the blonde, his blue eyes were calm, his soul was at rest and it reached out to his brother.
"But I'm alive and so are a lot of others. Matt is dead and suffering in hell right along with his father. We are sitting out here on this deck under a perfect night sky after having a wonderful day with the guys. What more could a person want?" Vin asked.
Chris looked deeply into Vin's eyes, he felt himself calm as his blue eyed brother spoke to him.
Chris smiled raised his beer in salute and said, "Not a damn thing, cowboy. Not a damn thing."
Vin returned the smile and settled back into his seat. He had been telling the truth, he was happy, sure his injuries hurt but everything else was fine and with his family around him he didn't see how his future wasn't going to be even better.