A MAN'S WORD by Ronnie

Note: This story follows events that happened in Like a Tanner. It stands alone as its own story. However, if you just have to know what happened to Vin before this story started, or if some references the boys make don't make sense, you may want to read that first.



"But Chris, I promised......."

"We're not gonna discuss this, I done told ya, no......"

"Chris, I told Miss Nettie I'd fix her roof while she was gone, she's gonna be back in a few days, and I ain't got it done yet....."

Chris sighed and looked at his best friend. It had been nearly two weeks since he'd come back to town injured from a cougar attack and bullet wound. Two long weeks for the fiercely independent tracker and the other six men. Between delirium from fever and medication for pain, Vin had spent much of the time in a daze. He had yet to realize how ill he had been. Chris looked at Vin and shook his head. Vin's deeply tanned face was still too pale, and dark circles were still evident under his eyes. Chris squatted on the floor in front of Vin's chair.

"Come on, let's get your socks and boots on before Nathan changes his mind about letting you out today."

"No, I can do it myself....."

"Stop being so damn stubborn and give me your foot....."

"No, I told ya, I can do it......."

"Right, like your shirt that you still haven't got buttoned......now give me your damn foot before I break your leg too......"

Vin's eyes flashed and Chris caught his foot before it hit his intended target. With a smirk, Chris grabbed Vin's foot and began tickling it. Chris chuckled, it was good to hear Vin's laugh again, even if it was forced. Smiling, Chris quickly stood without thinking while still holding Vin's foot, causing Vin to slide off the chair. As he fell, he struck the side of his head on the table beside the chair.

"Ow...." Vin raised his hand and began rubbing the side of his head.

"Aw, damn Vin, I'm sorry....." Chris' voice was full of concern, he'd never intended to further harm the already injured younger man.

"It's okay." Placing his elbow on his raised knee, Vin rested his head on his hand and sighed. "I hate this," he said quietly.

Chris squatted down and quickly put socks and boots on Vin's feet before he had a chance to protest.

"I know ya do pard, I know ya do....."

Standing, Chris extended his arm to pull Vin to his feet.

"Come on, steak and eggs for breakfast, in your honor."

Grabbing Vin by the front of his shirt, he pulled him closer and quickly finished buttoning it before he could be stopped. Slipping the sling over Vin's head, he helped him ease his injured left arm into it. Vin would not let the promise of a good meal change the subject.

"I gave her my word, Chris."

"Vin, you can't do it. Your left arm is still broken. Your right shoulder was busted up bad enough by the bullet that you still can't use your arm without it hurtin'. "

"Man's only as good as his word......"

"No, sometimes, for the right reasons, a man has to go back on his word. I don't want to be around when Nettie finds out you've been sick. I'm sure as hell not gonna tell her I let you climb on her roof." Chris smiled and pushed Vin toward the door. "You got friends here who care about you Vin. We'll help you with the roof. You're not alone anymore, you need to learn to accept help when you need it."

At the entrance to the saloon, Chris paused to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Seeing Buck turn around and gesture excitedly for Vin to sit in the empty chair between him and Ezra brought a frown to Chris' face.
What is he up to?
He didn't have long to wait when he caught sight of Ezra in dark glasses. As Vin sat down, Ezra reached out and poked at him.

"Mr. Tanner? Mr. Tanner, is that you?"

Vin attempted to lean away as Ezra ran his hands over his face and poked him in the eye.

"Ezra, what's wrong with you?"

Chris looked around the table and noticed the other men attempting to hide grins.

"Alas, I regret to say Mr. Tanner, I woke this morning, sightless."

"Wh...wh.....what?" Vin stammered. The shock was evident in his voice.

"I'm afraid it's traumatic blindness, caused by a severe blow to my temple region."

Vin sat quietly, listening. Buck leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"Uhm, pard, you clobbered him good a couple weeks ago......"

Vin's jaw dropped. Nathan intervened when he saw Vin become noticeably more pale.

"Alright, that's enough. You hit Ezra good Vin, but he's not blind, any more than Josiah here, and you got him too."

Josiah nodded his head in confirmation as Vin looked at him with a shocked expression. He had no recollection of what happened while he had been so ill. Much of the last two weeks was a pain filled haze of delirium.

Buck elbowed Vin and smiled. "Ya got Chris too."

"I, uh, I....I'm sorry Chris....."

Chris winked. "Don't worry about it Vin, I'll recover," he responded in a high pitched voice.

A slow blush spread across Vin's cheeks as he slowly realized where he'd hit Chris. Laughter broke out around the table. The seven men were together as one again and the camaraderie at the table was firm.

The men quieted when seven full plates of food were brought to their table. Six men quickly picked up their knives and forks and began cutting into their steak. The seventh slowly slipped his arm out of his sling and attempted to curl his fingers around his knife. Chris looked up and frowned. Clearing his throat, he got Buck's attention and gestured for him to get Vin's plate. Buck smiled and winked back at Chris. Buck swung his arm and "accidentally" knocked his coffee over. Vin jumped away just in time, before it spilled on his lap.

"Oh, Vin, I'm sorry, ya didn't get burned did you?"

"No, no, I'm fine."

"Well, long as you're up would you mind getting me a refill? Man my age, need to conserve my energy."

While Vin was at the bar getting Buck more coffee, Chris grabbed his plate and exchanged it with his own. When Vin returned to the table, he noticed the changed plates. Looking at Chris he frowned and started to open his mouth. Chris stopped cutting his meat and pointed his fork at Vin.

"You gotta accept help when ya need it Vin......"

As the men finished their meals, Chris leaned back in his chair. Vin had already finished eating and had dozed off with his chair tipped back against the wall. Chris exchanged a glance with Nathan and smiled. No matter how fine Vin insisted he was, the simple act of coming down the clinic stairs and crossing to the saloon had totally fatigued him.

"Well boys, we gotta go to Eagle Bend."

Ezra was bored and sat slowly shuffling his cards.

"All of us?"

"Well, no, Vin can't go of course. J.D. I want you to stay behind with him."

Chris noticed J.D.'s crestfallen expression. J.D. felt that the others still had no faith in him after what happened to Vin.

"J.D. I need someone to stay behind and watch the town and keep an eye on Vin. He's starting to feel better, I think he'll give you the least trouble."

"So, Brother, why Eagle Bend?"

"Judge wants us to bring a shipment of money back for the bank."

"Good lord, now we're common errand boys," Ezra slowly drawled.

"Last couple times they tried sending money, the shipments were robbed and everyone was killed. They need more than errand boys now," Chris smiled.

Nathan looked at Vin, still asleep, and frowned. He wanted to check his arm before they left.

"When do we go Chris?"

"Well, if Buck and Josiah get the horses and supplies together, soon as you get Vin settled. Don't worry, Ezra, you'll be back at the poker tables by tomorrow night."

Chuckling, Buck and Josiah left, followed by J.D. and Ezra.

Chris and Nathan moved into the vacant chairs on either side of Vin.

"Vin...." Chris placed a hand on Vin's shoulder.

Vin's eyes flew open, he began breathing rapidly and looked about him, confused. Everything was blurry and unfocused.

"Easy, easy there, you just nodded off."

Vin swallowed, and nodding his head slowly, he worked to control his breathing.

"Come on, let's get you back to the clinic."

Vin swayed as he stood slowly and exited the saloon with Nathan and Chris. By the time they reached the clinic, they were half dragging him.

"Nathan,what's wrong with him? I thought he was getting better."

"I don't know Chris, he was fine when he woke up this morning."

Vin was semiconscious as they placed him on the bed. Nathan sat on the bed and shook Vin to get his attention.

"Vin! Come on now, tell me what's wrong."

Vin opened his eyes and winced before groaning and attempting to turn on his side.


Vin closed his eyes, put his hands to his head and moaned.

"Aw Nathan, please leave me alone, m'head hurts...." he slurred.

Nathan put his hands on either side of Vin's face, so he could look at his eyes. When he did so, his right hand felt a large lump just behind Vin's left ear.

"Ow..." Vin moaned softly and again tried to move away.

"No, shh....stay put, take it easy...." Nathan soothed.

Turning around, he glared at Chris. There were no lumps on Vin's head when he got up this morning.

"He's got a good sized lump behind his ear."

Chris stared at Nathan with a blank expression before he slowly realized what had happened.

"Shit, Nathan, I was rough housin' with him.....he hit his head....."

Nathan shook his head in disgust.

"Well, I hope you had fun, he's got a concussion."

"Is...is he gonna be alright?"

Nathan smiled. "Yeah, I think so. Probably have a headache for a few days, but I think he'll be alright."

Chris heaved a sigh of relief as he sat beside Vin. With Chris' help, Nathan stripped Vin down to his longjohns and put him under the covers. Nathan noticed the guilt and worry on Chris' face.

"Chris take it easy on yourself, he's got a hard head. He'll be fine in a few days."

"Nathan, the rate he's going, we're gonna kill him before any bounty hunters can get to him."

As Nathan began chuckling at Chris' statement, Buck, Josiah, and J.D. entered.

"Hey, Chris, Ezra's downstairs, we're re.......What the HELL happened to him?" Buck thundered.

Vin's eyes opened, and moaning softly, he curled up on his side, Buck's voice ringing in his ears.

"Buck, quiet down," Nathan admonished. "Vin's got a concussion, he's gonna be fine."

"A concussion? How the hell did he get a concussion eating breakfast?"

Chris walked away from the others and sighed.

"It's my fault, I got a little rough with him and pulled him off the chair this morning."

Nathan put his hand on Chris' shoulder.

"Now, Chris take it easy on yourself, you didn't mean to hurt him."

Chris slowly nodded his head and went back to Vin's side. Buck looked at Chris, confused. Chris got rough with Vin?

Chris looked up at Buck and sighed.

"I was tickling him, Buck...."

Josiah turned away, smiling.

Chris pulled the covers up higher on Vin.

"You all go on to Eagle Bend, I'll stay here with Vin."

J.D. looked at Vin, lying so still on the bed, and back at the other men. Nathan glanced at J.D. and realized he still carried alot of guilt over Vin's injury.

"No, Chris, J.D. can still keep an eye on him. Vin will probably sleep most of the day. I told you, he's gonna be fine, nothing J.D. can't handle."

J.D. looked up at Nathan and smiled. His face was full of gratitude that Nathan still trusted him. Chris looked at Vin and then up at J.D. doubtfully.

"Well, alright, but if he gives you any trouble at all, you shackle him to the bed."

J.D. laughed when he saw that Chris was smiling when he said that.

"Now, J.D., you listen, I want you to wake him up every hour or so and make him drink some water. Get some broth into him for lunch and supper. He's gonna be sick to his stomach, so don't worry about him wantin' more than that. If he feels up to it, let him out of bed, but not out of here---don't want him all over town. No matter how fine he tells you he is, you don't pay no mind."

J.D. nodded at each instruction. He began to wonder what he'd gotten himself into. Chris and Nathan were trusting Vin to his care and he knew how hard it was for them to leave Vin with him.

Chris squatted beside Vin and whispered in his ear. "Hey Vin, come on cowboy, open those eyes....." He lightly pushed the hair from Vin's face and behind his ear. He gently fingered the lump when he felt it. "Gotta go to Eagle Bend, pard.....we'll be back tomorrow afternoon. You behave for J.D., don't give him any trouble."

Vin opened his eyes and looked at Chris. His brow creased as he attempted to focus. He swallowed and slowly nodded as he licked his lips.

"Vin, I want your word....you stay in this room, away from your horse.....don't touch your gun...."

"Mmm, hmmm...." Vin slowly closed his eyes.

"No Vin, I want your word." Chris lightly shook Vin's shoulder until he opened his eyes again.

" 'm tired," he softly drawled.

"I know you are Vin, but I want your word. You don't leave this room, and you stay off your horse......"

Vin's eyes started to drift closed. Chris shook his shoulder again.

"Vin....your word."

Vin's eyes opened and he slowly blinked.

"My word....stay here....no horse...." he slurred as he slowly closed his eyes again.

"Really, Mr. Larabee, was that necessary? He can barely remain conscious." Ezra was standing in the doorway.

Chris stood with his hand on his hips and sighed. He was afraid Vin would get Nettie's roof on his mind again.

"Yes, Ezra, as a matter of fact it was. Vin won't go back on his word once he gives it. Who knows how he'll feel later on, making him promise to stay put will make it easier on J.D. " Clapping J.D. on the shoulder, he walked to the door. "I mean it, you chain him up if you have to." With one last look at Vin, he turned to the others.
"Let's ride."

As they were going down the stairs, J.D. could hear Buck chuckling.

"Vin's ticklish? You actually tickled him right off the chair?"

"Shut up Buck," Chris growled.

+ + + + + + +

J.D. walked up to the bar and smiled as he ordered a beer. Today had been easy. Vin had slept much of the day, awakening only for short periods. He'd only gotten sick once and hadn't even tried to get out of bed. Vin wasn't as hard to take care of as Chris made him seem to be. All his initial worries about keeping an eye on Vin had already faded. Taking a sip of his beer, he was aware of snatches of conversation around him.


The mention of Vin's name caught J.D.'s attention. Putting his glass down, he attempted to figure out where the mention of Vin came from. He took a deep breath and tried to remain calm as he realized the men beside him were bounty hunters looking for Vin.

"Go through this whole town door to door if we have ta. Got a good feeling he's here......"

J.D. began to breathe rapidly, he silently prayed they had not noticed he was listening.

Can't let them find Vin.

He slowly stepped away from the bar and exited the saloon. Once outside, he ran to the clinic. He was relieved to find Vin still there, sound asleep, unaware of the danger outside.

Can't let them find Vin. Chris trusted me to take care of him. Chris and the others will be back tomorrow afternoon. Can't make it to Tascosa by then, but Vin's too sick.....

He stopped, snapped his fingers and smiled when he decided upon a course of action. He didn't hear Mary Travis enter and jumped when she touched his shoulder.

"J.D., what is it?"

"Mrs. Travis, thank God you're here. Bounty hunters are in town looking for Vin. Can't let them find him, he's not strong enough. We gotta hide him from them, get them to leave town."

Mary looked at Vin, lying so still on the bed, and nodded in agreement.

J.D. poured a large dose of laudanum into a glass and mixed it with some water. He hoped it was enough laudanum to keep Vin asleep until morning.

"Vin, come on Vin, wake up a little."

He lifted Vin's head and shoved the glass to his mouth.

"Wh...what? No...it tastes bad...." Vin gagged and tried to push the glass away.

Come on Vin, just drink it, it's for your own good.

"Vin, you promised to behave, now you know Nathan said you had to drink water, so just do it and I won't have to tell Chris you went back on your word."

Vin scowled at J.D. and began to drain the glass. J.D. felt slightly guilty when Vin stopped several times and gagged. He hoped that Vin would forgive him for overdosing him on laudanum. Vin gasped when the glass was finally empty and put his head back on the pillow. His eyes slowly closed as the now familiar blackness of drugged sleep claimed him once again.

"Okay, Mary, you stay here with him...."

J.D. ran out and returned a few minutes later. Walking over to the bed, he pulled Vin's right arm over his head and cuffed him to the bed post.

"J.D. what are you doing?" Mary was shocked.

"Chris said to shackle him to the bed if I have to.....don't want him waking up and getting any ideas."

Extinguishing the lamp, he guided Mary out of the room and closed the door.

"J.D., what are you planning to do?" Mary whispered.

"I'm gonna let them think I'm Vin."

"J.D., you can't!"

"You just tell Chris and the others when they get back, plenty of time before we reach Tascosa. It will get them away from Vin, I'll be okay." J.D. smiled. His plan seemed so simple, it was perfect.

+ + + + + + +

J.D. waited until the men left the saloon. Marching up behind the men, he called to them.

"You looking for Vin Tanner?"

The men turned to face J.D., he didn't notice one of them walking behind him.

"Well, you want me...here I am......"

The man he was facing smiled, and nodded his head. J.D. never knew what hit him as the second man took out his pistol and hit him from behind. J.D. fell to the ground, unconscious.

+ + + + + + +

"I don't get it, that was too easy...."

J.D. heard one of the men grunt. He opened his eyes painfully and realized his hands were tied to the horn of his saddle.

"Thought Tanner was taller and had blue eyes. Heard someone called him a blue eyed Indian once."

J.D. slammed his eyes shut. He prayed they hadn't noticed he was awake.

"Don't worry, Kobey knows Tanner. When we get back to camp, he'll know for sure. And if this little runt ain't Tanner, we know where to look....." The two men began laughing.

Aw shit, I screwed up again.....

+ + + + + + +

The early morning sun filtered through the curtains and into Vin's eyes. His head was pounding as he yawned and tried to sit up. His eyes flew open when he realized he couldn't move his right arm.


It took him a few minutes to remember that Chris and Nathan were out of town.


He struggled to free himself from the shackle. His frustration was rapidly escalating to anger.
He sat up and twisted around to face the bed rail. He began furiously tugging at the metal on his wrist.


Mary ran to the clinic when she heard Vin yelling.

"Calm down Vin. J.D. chained you there for your own good."

Vin stopped and lowered his head. He listened, breathing rapidly from his struggle.

"My own good?" he panted.

"Some bounty hunters were in town looking for you. J.D. let them think he was you. He knew Chris and the others would go after him."

Vin's head snapped up in alarm and he resumed his frantic struggle against his bonds. Mary placed her hand on his shoulder.

"Vin, calm down......the others will get back before they reach Tascosa."

Vin stopped and looked at Mary with pain filled eyes.

"Mrs. Travis.....Mary......that price on my head is for dead or alive.......what makes you think they planned on bringing me in alive?"

Mary's hand flew to her mouth in shock as she realized what Vin meant.

"Oh dear God!"

Vin's head was pounding and he leaned his head against the wall as he waited for another wave of nausea to pass.

"I'll go find the key....."

She returned a few minutes later, distraught.

"Vin, I couldn't find the key.....he must have taken it with him!"

Vin sighed and closed his eyes. He had to get free. Swallowing he licked his parched lips and tried to clear his head. He took a deep breath and looked at Mary.

"Mary, get my gun.....you gotta shoot the chain."

Mary shook her head and backed away. "No, I can't.... I might hurt you....."

"Mary, I can't do it myself........please help me......" Vin softly pleaded.

Picking up the gun, Mary's hand was shaking as she took a deep breath and shot the chain. Vin's hand dropped down. The shackle was still on his wrist, but he was at least free. Stumbling off the bed, he staggered about the room as he got dressed. His concern over J.D. was so high that he wasn't even shy that Mary saw him in his longjohns. Opening the door, he stepped outside. At the top of the stairs, he clung to the rail and closed his eyes. Taking several deep breaths, he opened his eyes and tried to focus on the stairs before he started down. Seeing double, he stepped wrong and lost his footing. He bounced down the stairs by the seat of his pants and landed with a gasp.

"Vin? What are you doing? Where are you going?"

Mary ran to keep up with Vin as he painfully limped away, ignoring her questions. She pulled on his arm as he slowly walked inside the livery.

"Vin! Stop it!"

Vin grabbed his saddle and groaned as he swung it on to his horse's back. Breathing heavily, he hung on the animal for support. After a few minutes, he took the reins and slowly started to walk out of the stall.

Mary stepped in front of Vin and tried to stop him as he led his horse out of the livery.

"Vin! NO! You can't!"

Vin paused and looked at her, and then continued on without a word. If he had been thinking clearer, or if he wasn't fighting the rising bile in his throat he would have seen the box beside him. But Vin's only concern was J.D. It would have been easy to climb on the box and then on his horse, but Vin never noticed the box. With a gasp, he grabbed his saddle horn and pulled himself up on his saddle. He closed his eyes and put his head down. His stomach was churning and he was struggling to stay upright in the saddle. He sadly looked down at Mary.

"Tell Chris and the others I've gone after J.D."

Urging his horse on, he headed out of town.

+ + + + + + +

"Well, ya little runt, ya gonna talk yet?"

J.D. groaned as he felt another painful kick to his side. The men began laughing as he tried to roll away. He had been beaten off and on throughout the night. Whenever he considered giving up and talking, he thought of Vin and remembered that Vin would never have been able to take this punishment. I just have to hang on 'til Chris and Buck get here. His right eye was swollen shut, he knew his nose was broken, and he was certain that last kick had broken at least a few ribs. The two men that had taken him from town were laughing as their leader, the one they called Kobey, grabbed him by the hair and kicked him viciously in the stomach. When he let go, J.D. fell backward, gasping. He grabbed J.D. by the front of his shirt and hauled him to his feet. Holding a gun to J.D.'s head, he put a revolver in J.D.'s hand.

"You see that can over there? Shoot it."

J.D.'s hands were shaking as he lifted the gun and fired. He never came close to hitting the can.

Kobey backhanded J.D. and he fell to the ground again. He let out an anguished cry as the three men resumed kicking him. Kobey stopped and grabbed the front of J.D.'s shirt again. His face was full of rage as he yelled into J.D.'s face.

"Now listen, ya little son of a bitch.....the Vin Tanner I know can shoot the wings off a fly and you sure as hell ain't him! Now, you gonna tell us where to find him or do we just beat on you until he comes looking for you himself?"

J.D. looked at Kobey, his eyes full of hate as he spit into his face. He fell back as yet another blow struck him.

You don't know. Vin gave his word. He ain't coming after me. You bastards are gonna have to deal with Chris Larabee.

J.D. felt himself begin to panic as one of the bounty hunters stepped forward, aiming his gun at his head.

"Kobey, Tanner's wanted dead or alive, this little runt says he's Tanner, let's give him the same treatment we were gonna give him."

He cocked the gun to fire. J.D. jumped as the gun was shot out of the bounty hunter's hand.

Kobey grabbed J.D. around the throat and put a gun to his temple.

"Hey Vin! Been expectin' ya! Now drop your gun and come out or your brave little friend is a dead man..."

"Let him go first."

J.D. was frightened. He had never heard such a deadly serious tone from Vin. Vin knew this man, and J.D. had a sickening feeling that they were both dead men.

Kobey cocked his gun.

"Vin, you know I don't like to be kept waiting.... Come out with your hands up....don't try anything or the little guy's dead."

The hairs on the back of J.D.'s neck stood up as Vin slowly rode into the camp with his hands stretched out. As he glared at J.D., there was no mistaking that he was furious.

"Well boys, let's have a little fun before we hang him......"

J.D.'s heart dropped when he saw the three men drag Vin off his saddle. Throwing him to the ground, they began to beat him. J.D. watched in awe as Vin was fighting, as weak as he was and against three other men, Vin was holding his own. J.D. tried to get off the ground to help, but pain prevented him, he lay, praying. His stomach twisted when he saw two of the men grab Vin's arms so Kobey could beat him. He was shocked when Vin managed to lift both legs off the ground, and using the men holding him for leverage, kicked Kobey in the midsection and sent him flying backward. J.D.'s stomach churned when he saw the men grab Vin's already broken arm and laugh as they twisted it, J.D. felt sick when he heard bones snap. With an anguished whimper, Vin fell to the ground, unconscious. J.D. closed his eyes as Kobey walked up and delivered a vicious kick to Vin's ribs.

"You guys are making a big mistake. You heard of Chris Larabee? He'll be here any time."

Kobey turned and grabbing J.D.'s hair lifted him off the ground.

"No runt, you made a big mistake. After we hang him, we're dragging Tanner's ass back to Tascosa. We'll leave your body here for Larabee to find."

Kobey hauled J.D. to his feet. Looking down at Vin, he felt sick as he realized what the bounty hunters intended to do.
I didn't help at all.

He tried to hide his shock as he noticed that Vin was still wearing his gun. The men had been so intent on hurting Vin they had been careless and forgot to take it away. He tried to quickly think of some way to grab the gun. Looking behind him, he saw that he had no escape. He was standing at the edge of a sheer drop.

Kobey raised his gun and aimed it at J.D.

J.D.closed his eyes. He heard Kobey's gun fire at the same instant that he was aware that Vin flung past him.


Vin's sudden movement caused J.D. to fall backward with his arms flailing. He grabbed frantically, and hung on to the side of the cliff, an arm's length from the top. He was gasping as he heard the gun shots up above and then silence.

As J.D. hung on, he realized he couldn't pull himself to safety. He hoped he'd be able to hang on until help arrived, if it arrived.


He waited to hear if Vin would answer.

"Vin?" He closed his eyes and said a prayer when there was still no answer.

I made no difference, they killed Vin anyway He hung his head and began to silently cry.

He looked up and held his breath when he heard movement overhead. He gasped in surprise when Vin's face peered over the side. The left side of his face was covered in blood and J.D. sadly realized that Vin had been hit by the bullet intended for him. Vin must have shot the other three men.

"Hang on J.D.....I'll get ya....." he hoarsely called down.

As frightened as J.D. was, he didn't miss the pain in Vin's voice.

"Vin, no, I can wait.....you'll hurt yourself more....." J.D. protested.

J.D. was shocked when he saw Vin lean over the edge.


Reaching down, Vin grabbed him with his right arm and with one mighty heave, pulled him up. As he got closer to the edge, J.D. was able to use his feet to push up. When J.D. came over the top safely, Vin fell back with a groan and rolled to his side , unconscious. J.D. fell beside him as blackness also claimed him.

+ + + + + + +

J.D. became aware of pain throughout his body as he slowly regained consciousness. He looked up and saw Vin smiling tiredly down at him. Chris was going to kill him. Vin looked terrible.

"Vin, thanks....you saved my life...."

"Don't worry about it. Hope ya don't mind waiting here for Chris to come......I just don't think I can put you on your horse...."

J.D. felt guilty as he realized that Vin was further injured and worrying about him.


J.D. looked at Vin expectantly. He thought that maybe Vin would be thankful he had tried to protect him.

"You don't know what my past is. Don't go pretending to be me......only get you in a mess of trouble...."

J.D. closed his eyes and silently waited for help to arrive. He looked over and saw Vin lean back with his eyes closed.

+ + + + + + +

Vin groaned as he became aware of the pounding in his head. Every breath was painful and he started panting as he struggled with the churning in his stomach. His left arm felt heavy, and his right arm was bound to his chest. His eyes flew open when he felt a hand rest gently on his forehead. He was confused as he began to panic.


A familiar voice.

"Ch.....Chris.....I....I don't.....feel good...."

Chris began calmy stroking his hair.

"I reckon you don't."

Vin shuddered and gasped as he tried to shift in the bed. Every movement sent pain throughout his body. Without moving his head, he looked over and saw J.D. sleeping in the next cot.

"J.D. ...... is..... he..... is he okay?" he gasped.

"Shh....don't worry about J.D. Banged up a bit.....couple broken ribs, busted nose is all......he'll be fine."

Vin closed his eyes and sighed. He shouldn't have pretended to be me.

"You on the other hand, have had us worried. Been out a couple of days. Broke your left arm, again. Dislocated your right shoulder, J.D. told us how that happened. Broke more than a few ribs. Stopped a bullet with that hard head of yours. Nope, Nathan ain't too happy with ya...."

Vin opened his eyes and looked at Chris.

"I'm sorry."

Chris pulled his chair closer to the bed and leaned down.

"Vin, you made a promise. You gave me your word. You went back on it."

Vin sighed and slowly nodded his head.

"You saved J.D.'s life. We wouldn't have gotten there in time. Vin, you went back on your word for all the right reasons."

Chris picked up Vin's hand and gently squeezed it.


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