It was after midnight when Chris finally pulled into the driveway of his
ranch and several seconds after that before the house came into view. There
were quite a few interior lights on so Chris knew Buck and JD were there,
and he knew he'd have to have a word with them about leaving so many lights
on. Maybe he should let them pay the electric bill for a month or two and
see if they changed their ways. When he neared the house, the motion sensitive
spotlights came on and lit up the whole front of the house. Chris could see
Buck's truck parked to the side and he pulled in beside it and switched off
Vin was sleeping in the passenger seat so Chris gently shook his shoulder
to wake him up. He returned to coherence slowly and finally looked over at
Chris who pointed towards the house. Vin followed the line of his finger
with his eyes and when he recognized the place, he smiled wearily. Chris
got out of the truck and circled around to open the passenger side door.
Buck and JD hadn't seen or heard Chris pull up but they did hear the sound
of the truck door closing. They appeared at the front door of the ranch and
rushed over to Chris's vehicle. Chris discretely waved them to hang back
a minute until he got Vin out of the truck. He leaned in and released the
seat belt, then helped Vin ease out. He stood shakily for a moment while
his legs steadied underneath him. Chris wasn't sure he was entirely awake.
Finally, Vin felt steady enough to start towards the house and only then
did he see Buck and JD standing by the back of the truck. He smiled broadly
when he saw them and they took that as a signal to approach him. Buck gently
wrapped his arm across Vin's shoulders and squeezed firmly.
"It's so good to have you home, pard," he said with a tremor in his voice.
Chris's eyes darted to Buck's, a little surprised at the emotion he was showing.
Buck was always the jovial, devil-may-care guy.
"Yeah, Vin. We missed you," JD added as he patted his hand on his friend's
upper arm. Both he and Buck had noticed the way Vin was cradling his forearms
against his chest and made an effort to avoid touching them. They both could
also see how tired he looked and started moving back to the house. Vin followed
along slowly with Chris behind him carrying his cell phone, a half-empty
bottle of water and its completely empty twin and all of Vin's medical records.
He would have to arrange for Vin's medical care somewhere in the area and
he knew he couldn't put it off for long, but as he looked down at the file
in his hands, he just didn't want to think about it.
Once inside the house, the three men could see Vin obviously relax as he
looked around at the room. It was a room he had been in countless times.
The three men watched as he slowly wandered around and looked over things
that he had seen a hundred times before. He lingered at a shelf loaded down
with photographs as he inspected each one. He was in some of them, as were
the rest of the team members. There were a few of Sarah and Adam and Vin's
expression turned sad as he looked at those.
"Uh, Chris, we got some coffee made. You want some?" JD whispered, almost
afraid to break the silence.
"Yeah, JD, thanks. Coffee sounds good."
"What about him?" He lowered his whisper as he pointed to Vin.
Chris turned to JD. "You really don't have to whisper, JD. He can hear you
but he can't understand you. And we'll just have to take him to the kitchen
and show him to know if he wants any coffee." Chris hoped he didn't sound
irritated. That wasn't the way he felt, he was just tired. It had been a
long day and an emotional one. He stepped forward and put his hand around
Vin's upper arm, nodding his head in the direction of the kitchen. The four
men walked into the spacious room where the aroma of coffee permeated the
JD moved to the coffeepot and refilled his and Buck's mugs. Then he pulled
two more down and filled one. He turned and held it out to Vin, not knowing
any other way to find out if he wanted it. Vin timidly reached out with both
hands but hesitated before he took it. Chris grabbed the mug from JD.
"JD, pull down that blue mug...no the smaller one...and fill it only halfway,"
Chris instructed. JD complied and Chris took that mug and set it down on
the table. Vin sat at the spot and with the smaller, lighter mug only half
full, he was able to pick it up using both hands without hurting himself
too much. The other men took seats around the table as they drank the brew.
"Did you decide what to do about tomorrow?" Buck asked quietly after a long
"I think I want to try taking him down there. Maybe we can make the judge
understand that Vin can't testify through no fault of his own and we should
be granted a continuance. I think Vin would want to try. You know how he
felt about this case."
"You really think the judge'll go for it?" JD asked.
"Well, if we don't try, Chassen's guaranteed to get off. If we do try, then
we at least have a shot."
Vin's eyes traveled from Chris's face to Buck's to JD's. He watched their
mouths move as they carried on their conversation and he recognized the sounds
of their voices. He strained, hoping to force himself to understand what
they were saying but, as with all the other times he had tried, it didn't
work. There was a part of him that had prayed there was nothing wrong with
him and that the hospital he was in was in some foreign country and that
was why he didn't understand anybody. Even if that had been true, it didn't
explain why even his own thoughts sounded foreign to him and when Chris showed
up and Vin still couldn't comprehend, he knew that it was him there was something
wrong with. He could feel the familiar feelings of isolation returning and
he sank back in his chair, his eyes lowering to stare at a spot on the table.
He wanted to cry.
Chris looked over at Vin and noticed the change in his body language. He
assumed Vin was tired and stood. He laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and
shook lightly. When Vin turned his eyes on him, Chris hesitated a moment,
not being able to read what he saw there. He indicated that Vin should stand
and follow him and slowly, Vin stood.
"You going to put him in your spare room?" Buck asked, intending to go ahead
and ready the space.
"No, he's going in my bed."
Chris nodded as the men started out of the room slowly, letting Vin set the
"With you?" Buck raised an eyebrow.
"Buck, he can't talk. If he wakes up and needs something, I want to be right
there. I don't want him to have to wander around looking for help." Chris's
tone was curt.
Buck really hadn't intended for Chris to get riled. It was just not too common
for two of his teammates to share a bed. "Didn't mean nothing, Chris. Just
wondering if JD and I would have to fight over the good couch. Now I guess
we have to fight over the extra bed," Buck tried to mollify his harried friend.
"I'll take the couch, Buck. I'm younger. My bones can take it," JD joked.
"Could one of you call the rest of the boys, let them know we made it in?"
Chris asked, changing the subject.
"I'll do it," JD volunteered and dropped back to head for the phone.
Chris's room was at the end of the hall and he swatted at the switch to turn
on the light when they entered. The king size bed was covered in rumbled
blankets. Usually, he at least tried to straighten them up but he left his
house this morning, over eighteen hours earlier, in such a rush that making
the bed was the last thing on his mind.
Chris motioned towards the master bathroom and raised his eyebrows, hoping
Vin could figure out what he was asking. After blinking a few times, Vin
slowly walked to the room. Chris hit the light switch and pulled the door
shut for him, making sure it didn't latch. He tried to let Vin know that
he would help him if he needed but wasn't sure if Vin understood.
While they waited for Vin to finish, Chris and Buck tried to arrange the
blankets on the bed so they weren't a tangled mess. "Can he do that himself?"
Buck asked, nodding his head towards the bathroom door.
Chris paused his work on the covers. "I guess it depends on what he has to
do. He seemed to manage okay at the truck stop we ate at, but if he has to..."
Chris waved his hand in the air, not wanting to say the words, and Buck nodded
that he understood what Chris was referring to, "...then he may need help.
I don't know if he'd ask for it, though."
Buck held out his hands in front of him and stared at them as he slowly opened
and closed them. "Can't imagine not being able to use either hand. I've had
one broken before and it was hard getting anything done."
"The doctor told me that all the breaks were on the outside of his hands
and wrists so he can use his thumb and first couple of fingers. As long as
what he wants to do doesn't take a lot of strength...then he has trouble."
Chris tried to demonstrate with his own hands as he spoke.
"Did the doctor have any idea of how he got hurt?"
Chris dropped his hands to his side and blew out a lungful of air, his jaw
clenching. "He thinks Vin was thrown from a moving car. They found him alongside
a highway out in the middle of nowhere."
Buck's expression turned hard and he began shaking his head slowly back and
forth. "I'll kill that bastard," he muttered.
"You have to wait in line for that, Buck." Chris's expression was equally
Vin finally emerged from the bathroom and stepped up to the end of the bed.
Both men changed their expressions so as not to cause Vin any undue concern.
His sad eyes shifted between the two men.
Chris waved him over to the side of the bed he was standing on. Vin came
over and Chris sat him down on the edge. He knelt down and began untying
"Is he gonna sleep in what he has on?" Buck asked.
"I guess. I think it's what he's been wearing since he was in the hospital.
One more night won't hurt."
"What about the sweatshirt?"
Chris finished taking off Vin's sneakers and reached for his socks but Vin
quickly covered one foot with the other, blocking Chris's hand. Chris looked
up into Vin's face and Vin stared back with a sad expression. Chris stood
up and finally answered Buck's question. "I guess, if he's cold, we should
leave it on him." Chris reached out and pulled lightly on the sleeve of the
sweatshirt and threw his eyebrows up again. Vin began to squirm and Chris
figured he wanted the shirt off so he began to pull it over his head. Vin
helped as much as he could and when one of the sleeves caught on one of his
splints, Buck reached in to assist. Finally, they got the shirt off and Chris
tossed it on the foot of the bed.
Chris was about the help Vin lie down when he remembered the pain medication.
It had been a little over four hours since his last dose and though he didn't
seem to be in pain now, it was a long time until morning. "Buck, could you
get me a glass of water?" he asked as he pulled the medicine bottle from
his pocket. Buck went to the bathroom and came back a few seconds later with
a glass. He held it until Chris had the bottle open and the pills ready to
give to Vin. Vin obediently opened his mouth and waited as Chris dropped
the pills in. Buck raised the glass to Vin's lips and let him drink his fill.
Once the pills were swallowed, they helped Vin to get settled in bed and
pulled the blankets up to his chest. Chris sat on the edge of the bed and
locked eyes with Vin. He hoped Vin could tell how happy he was to have him
back and that he would help him as long as it took.
"Can I get you anything?" Chris asked, feeling the need to verbalize the
request, not knowing how to ask it without words. Vin replied by nestling
further into bed. Chris sat silent for a moment and then lifted his arms.
He pointed one finger at his watch face. "Soon...," he pointed to himself,
"I...," he placed both hands palms together and rested them on the side of
his face and tilted his head to that side, "...will be sleeping...," he pointed
to the other side of the bed, "...right there..." He wrinkled his eyes as
little, wondering if he hadn't just confused Vin more. Vin turned his head
to the other side of the bed briefly, then turned back to Chris, smiled feebly
and nodded. He understood.
Buck and Chris said their final goodnights and left the room, turning off
the light and pulling the door most of the way closed. Chris had left a small
light on in the bathroom and that light kept the room from being completely
dark. Vin watched his two friends leave and then looked around the room,
more things coming into view as his eyes adjusted to the dim light. He had
thought that coming home would make him feel better but after the elation
of seeing Chris had worn off, he felt as alone as he had in the hospital
where he hadn't known anybody. He knew it was probably just as hard for them
as it was for him and he wondered how long they would put up with him the
way he was. That thought scared him and he felt tears warm his eyes. He blinked
them away and took a deep breath, sinking even further into the bed and finally
closing his eyes. Within moments, he was asleep.
"He must really be feeling bad," Buck mumbled as the two men made their way
back to the main part of the house.
"Why do you say that?" a weary Chris asked.
"You see the way he opened up for those pills. Not like the Vin I know. He
could be the anti- medication poster boy."
"It's probably been as hard a week for him as it has been for us. I can't
imagine what it's been like for him."
The two men had returned to the kitchen to finish their coffee. There, they
found JD sitting at the table with his mug to his lips, but not drinking.
He was staring at a pile of papers in front of him.
"What'cha got there, JD?" Buck asked as he took his seat and picked up his
"Huh?" JD looked up startled. "Oh, these are Vin's medical records that Chris
brought back. They ran a bunch of tests on him. Did you know he'd been there
since last Monday?"
"Yeah. Dr. Lucas told me."
"They found him on the side of a road. They think he may have been thrown
from a car and that that trauma might be why he can't understand stuff anymore.
Wow." JD went on reading to himself, engrossed by the pages of notes written
on Vin's condition.
"You get a hold of the other guys, JD?" Buck asked. When he got no reply,
he gently thrust his elbow into the kid's ribs. JD looked at him, barely
phased. "You get a hold of the rest of the boys?" he repeated.
"Yeah. I called Josiah and Ezra and Josiah called Nathan. They'll meet us
at the courthouse at eight- thirty tomorrow morning." He turned his attention
back to the file.
Chris rubbed a hand over his face. "Eight- thirty. Man!" He looked at his
watch. Nearly one in the morning.
"Maybe you ought to head on to bed yourself, Chris. You've had a long day,"
"Yeah, I think I will. You're gonna be in the spare room?" Chris asked as
he took his near empty coffee mug and sat it in the sink.
"Yeah. I'll let the kid take the couch, young bones and all," Buck joked,
but JD was too engrossed in his reading to notice. Chris smiled at the intensity
he dove into the file.
"Okay, I'll wake you up in the morning. The alarm clock in that room is broken."
Chris left the room and went back to his bedroom, stopping to use the hallway
bathroom so he wouldn't disturb Vin. He slowly pushed open the door and slipped
through, closing it behind him. He stepped up to the end of the bed and stripped
down to his underwear. He had grown accustomed to the limited light and could
now see Vin sleeping soundly on the other side of the bed. He eased himself
in gently, leaning over to turn on the alarm clock, already set for six in
the morning. Then, he slid down under the blankets and fell right to sleep.
Buck patted JD on the shoulder trying to get his attention. "Beddie time,
kid," he said when the boy looked up at him.
"It ain't that late--" he began, looking at his watch. "Oh, wow. It is late.
You go on, Buck. I want to read a little more."
Buck shook his head at the boy's determination. "Don't stay up too late,
"Yeah, sure, Buck," JD said absently, as he returned to his reading.