The needle! The needle was still in his arm and that bag was still attached
to it. Whatever it was was still flowing into him. If he could only get the
needle out of his arm!
"Get it out!" Vin cried as he pushed on the back of his left arm with his
right hand. "Get it out!"
Chris's eyes shot open and it was only a second before he realized it was
Vin again and he was having another nightmare. But something was different
this time. This time, he was talking.
Chris sat up and scooted over to Vin's side.
"Vin!" he nearly shouted. He put his hand on Vin's shoulder and shook.
"No! Get away. Get it out!" Vin cried and he continued to swipe at his wrist.
Chris was afraid that Vin would hurt himself if he kept hitting his arm that
way so he worked his way behind Vin and laced his hands around Vin's elbows
and pulled backward. Vin began to struggle.
"No! No more! Please..." Vin's tone was changing from angry to pleading.
Chris held him tight, pulling him against his chest. "Vin," he began forcefully,
"you're okay. You're here with us and we aren't gonna let anyone hurt you."
Vin suddenly stopped his struggles and turned his head slightly towards Chris.
"You're okay, Vin."
"Chris..." a hoarse voice whispered.
Chris paused for a moment. "You understood me, didn't you, Vin?"
Vin straightened up slightly in Chris's grasp.
"You know what I'm saying, don't you?"
Vin turned his head a little more towards Chris. Chris released his hold
on Vin and moved around until he was face to face with the man. They locked
"Tell me you understand what I'm saying, Vin."
Vin stared at Chris for a long moment, then slowly began moving his mouth.
"I understand what you're saying," he repeated softly.
Chris was a little hesitant to feel happy just yet. "Tell me that I'm not
"You're not imagining this." Vin let out a loud breath as he sagged in front
of Chris. "Oh, god..." he began, putting his hands over his face and squeezing
his eyes tight.
Chris reached over and began rubbing Vin's back. He wanted to tell his friend
so much but nothing came to mind at the moment. He contented himself with
just being there for Vin.
"It's all making sense again." Vin straightened up and looked at Chris.
"Everything. What you're saying. What I'm thinking. I know what it all means
Chris didn't know what to say. 'I'm happy for you, Vin' was woefully inadequate.
He wanted to take his friend in his arms and hold him, share the good as
he had tried to with the bad but he wasn't sure how Vin would take that right
"Do you remember what happened to you?" Chris asked finally.
Vin's eyes got distant as he searched his memory. "That man," he said hatefully
after a moment.
Vin shrugged. "Don't know his name. The guy from the other day."
Chris nodded. "That's Parker Perkins. One of Chassen's toadies."
Vin looked up. "Chassen." He had strongly suspected that Chassen had been
behind it all along. It was nice to have confirmation.
Vin hadn't noticed that his breathing had become more forced but Chris had.
He tried to change the subject. "What did it feel like...the last couple
Vin thought for a few moments. "It was scary at first. I thought my brain
had quit working." Vin chuckled a bit then wrinkled his brow. "Even the stuff
I was thinking was twisted all around. Felt like someone had taken an egg
beater to my brain...everything was all jumbled up." Vin's eyes got distant
again. "I finally figured that was the way it was gonna stay. That I was
never gonna be right again."
Even in the almost total darkness, Chris could see tears glistening in Vin's
"Then you showed up," Vin said in a cracked voice as he looked again at Chris
and Chris felt tears come to his own eyes.
"You were gone a week. We thought maybe you were dead." Chris's voice was
nearly as broken as Vin's.
The two men stared into each other's eyes for a minute, neither saying a
word but exchanging a hundred thoughts.
"I was in Texas?" Vin asked finally after clearing his throat.
"Yeah," Chris nodded, "Amarillo. Amarillo Medical Center."
Vin's eyes focused on a spot on the bedspread. "I remember they threw me
out of a car. Figured I was gonna die."
Chris nodded again. "That's what the doctors in Texas thought happened to
you, judging from the injuries you had and where they found you."
"I tried to understand them. I knew pretty much what was going on there but
I couldn't understand what people were saying. And I couldn't make them
Chris found himself nodding once more. "We know. It was the drug that Perkins
gave you. JD tracked it down and we found out exactly what was happening
to you. We just couldn't make you understand."
"He tried to tell me I'd be okay?" It wasn't really a question though Vin
inflected it that way.
"You got that? JD was pretty sure he'd gotten you to understand but wasn't
Vin nodded. "I thought I got it at first, but then at that guy's office .
"Guy?" Chris asked.
"At that building where we got shot at."
"That was Dr. Stevens. He was recommended by the doctor you had in Texas.
What did he do that pissed you off so much?" Chris remembered the way Vin
had been following his appointment with the man.
Vin shrugged. It didn't seem so important now. "He just did a lot of the
same tests they did in that hospital...tests I couldn't do there and I couldn't
make him understand that. I figured you were fixin' to ship me off to some
institution or something...not that I'd blame you..."
"You really think I'd do that to you?" Chris looked honestly hurt.
Vin turned his eyes back to Chris. "Not if you could help it. I just figured
I needed more help than you could give me." Vin wasn't really sure that was
an accurate way to describe the way he'd been feeling but he didn't want
to make Chris feel bad about what he'd had to do. He knew how difficult the
whole affair had been from his side and he imagined it was just as difficult
on the other side.
The two men talked until the sun was fully up. Chris could smell the faint
aroma of coffee coming from the kitchen and knew someone was awake and about.
"So, are you feeling ready to face the rest of the boys or do you want to
get some more sleep?" Chris asked as he saw that Vin had also noticed the
smell of the coffee.
Vin gave him one of his half-smiles. "Reckon I oughta get it over with."
"We probably need to tend to these," Chris said, tapping on Vin's wrist lightly.
He didn't know if they had been cleaned and re-bandaged while Vin was in
Vin nodded. The two men climbed off the bed and headed for the bathroom.
Chris undid one of Vin's splints and then unwound the gauze bandages. The
injuries underneath were nearly healed except for where they had been the
"Guess you'll be ready for real casts here soon," he said absently as he
cleaned the area and rewrapped gauze around it. When he was done, he replaced
the splint, actually getting to ask Vin this time if it was too tight or
He started working on Vin's left arm, removing the splint and the bandaging.
Before he could begin cleaning it, Vin turned his arm over and began absently
running a finger over a spot there.
"What's that, Vin?" Chris asked, noticing a faraway look in Vin's eye.
"Where he gave me the . . . uh . . ." Vin nodded his head once in a 'you
know' kind of gesture. Chris remained still, sensing that Vin had more he
wanted to say about what had been done to him. "He kept laughing at me. It
echoed all around the room and all through me." Vin paused and shuddered.
"He kept asking me if I felt stuff . . . and whatever he'd say, I was sure
I felt. I knew it was just in my mind but I couldn't stop it."
Chris gently took Vin's hand and began tending to it, though he kept an attentive
ear to what Vin was saying.
"Once, he said he was giving me something that wouldn't show up for years.
Thought he was giving me AIDS, though I guess he was just trying to rattle
me . . ."
"We'll get you checked out, Vin," Chris assured him. He worked quickly and
within a few minutes, had Vin's other hand re-splinted. Vin stared at his
arms for a few seconds, twisting them around in front of him.
"JD showed me the x-rays. Three breaks in each?"
"Actually, we were told there were four in your left, but none of us could
find the fourth one on the x-ray."
Vin nodded absently, then looked up at the man before him. "Uh . . . Chris
. . . about the . . . uh . . ." Vin touched his finger to his own cheek,
then pointed to towards Chris's, then touched his own again and hung his
head. "I . . . uh . . . I just didn't know any other way to say . . . thank
you." He gave a half- shrug at his own explanation, almost expecting Chris
to deck him for even bringing it up.
Chris surprised him. He reached forward and grabbed Vin's chin in his hand.
Then, he leaned forward and placed a wet, sloppy kiss on Vin's cheek and
pulled away. "You're welcome, Vin."
Vin stared at Chris, shocked, for a moment, then both men started laughing.
"You ready to face the world?" Chris asked.
Vin took a deep breath and nodded his head.
The two men were a little surprised to find that it was JD who was up and
about so early. He was usually one to stay up late and sleep in on the weekends.
He had made a full pot of coffee but was standing at a window, staring out,
sipping on a can of soda.
"Morning, JD," Chris greeted him and he turned around.
"Morning, Chris," he responded and then smiled warmly at Vin.
Vin tipped his head. "JD," he said softly.
JD had to stop and make sure he hadn't imagined what he had heard. He stared
at Vin for a moment and a wide smile overtook his face.
Vin slowly nodded his head. "I reckon I'm headed that way, anyway," he answered,
lifting up his arms to show he wasn't completely back to normal yet.
JD rushed up to Vin but stopped short of wrapping his arms around the man.
He kept smiling. "I knew you'd be one of the quick ones."
Vin wrinkled his brow. "Quick ones?"
"Yeah. All that information we had on the other subjects. Ten to thirty days.
I knew you wouldn't take that long."
The explanation was a little lacking in information but Vin accepted it and
smiled back at JD. "I wanna thank you, JD, for all your help. All the effort
you put into telling me things. It helped." Vin was a little shy about thanking
JD, knowing his words would not be nearly enough to repay the young man for
all he did.
JD took a turn at being shy. He ducked his head down and shrugged it off.
"Nothing you wouldn't have done for me."
Chris stood back and smiled at the interplay between the two men. And he
knew it would be replayed with each of the other team members.
And Chris was right. As each of the other members of the ATF team affectionately
known as The Magnificent Seven wandered into the kitchen, the scene was
re-enacted. Vin would greet them, they would be shocked, then ecstatic and
Vin would shyly express his appreciation for all they had done for him.
The morning passed over a breakfast of French toast with the men asking Vin
questions about what he had experienced and filling him in on what had been
happening around him and while he was among the missing.
The afternoon found the men gathered in the living room to watch the Denver
Broncos play football. It wasn't every man's favorite team but it was the
home team so, unless it would be going against their favorite, they rooted
Vin would occasionally feel the eyes of one of the men on him and would turn
to see one of his friends looking at him and smiling. He smiled back, though
he wished they'd stop it.
At half time, several of them went into the kitchen to get snacks. Vin followed
and when they started pulling out the beers, he asked if he was allowed to
"I don't know, Vin. You don't want to be hungover for court tomorrow," Buck
"Court?" Vin asked. That was one topic that hadn't been covered and he thought
that after his last appearance that the trial was over, though that didn't
explain why someone would still be trying to get rid of him.
"Yeah. You have to show up again tomorrow. You got yourself a week's reprieve
when you showed up last week."
Vin thought about that for a moment. A few things made a little more sense
with that piece of information. "So, there's still a chance to put that bastard
Buck wrapped his arm across Vin's shoulders. "That's what we're counting
on you to do."
"I suppose we should call Cavanaugh and let him know the good news," Chris
said from the doorway, having heard the tail end of the conversation. "He's
probably home having a cow right now."
Vin snickered at the image that created as Chris moved to his phone to place
Cavanaugh was elated to say the least that his case wasn't a bust. He had
never liked the fact that the bulk of the case was based on the testimony
of one man but that was the circumstance of this one. He had wanted to speak
to Vin himself and had the man on the line for almost half an hour. The third
quarter was well underway when he returned to the living room.
Chris muted the set. "So, what did he say?"
"Be on time." Vin plopped in the seat he had been in earlier and rolled his
eyes at the men.
"It took him half an hour to tell you to be on time?"
Vin nodded, just as amazed as the rest. "Yeah, basically it did. That man
needs to calm down a little."
Chris shook his head and turned the sound back on to watch the end of the
The men decided to celebrate Vin's recovery with steaks grilled on the barbecue.
After the game was over, Josiah and Nathan made a run to the market to get
seven of the thickest slabs of meat they could find.
Chris felt content watching the banter of the rest of his team as they waited
for their meal. Josiah had taken control of the cooking after Buck nearly
dropped one of the steaks in the dirt. Vin seemed happy, though he was quiet,
but then, that wasn't unusual for Vin.
With the steaks cooked to perfection, the men gathered to eat. It was a team
back to normal. Buck picked on JD and JD bickered back. Josiah would offer
the occasional piece of wisdom and Nathan the occasional healthful tidbit.
Ezra would regale them with stories of past victories in the law enforcement
field. Vin would sit back and interject a sly comment when least expected.
And Chris enjoyed it all. The seven were one again.
Later that evening, Chris entered his room to see Vin sitting on the edge
of the bed.
"I thought you'd gone to sleep," he said.
Vin shrugged. "I don't have a suit for tomorrow, do I?" he asked.
"Not yours, but you can wear one of mine. They aren't that big on you."
Vin nodded absently and Chris approached him, sitting beside him.
"Anything wrong, Vin?"
"Naw. Just feels kinda weird, this whole thing. Sounds like something that
would happen in a movie and it happened to us...to me." Vin shook his head.
"Just a little weird."
"You wanna talk about it? I'm here if you do."
Vin looked over at his friend. He knew Chris would listen to him for as long
as he needed to talk and just knowing that took away much of the need. "I
think I need to sort a few things out first, but maybe in a few days...?"
"Like I said, Vin, I'll be here." Chris stood up, heading for the bathroom
and a moment later, Vin stood up as well.
"I don't guess I need to be sharing your bed any more, do I?" he asked, a
part of him wanting the security of having Chris close by while the other
part of him felt embarrassed at wanting that.
Chris stopped and turned to Vin. He threw out his arms. "I don't have anywhere
else for you to sleep, Vin. The rest of the boys have all the other beds
taken. There's plenty of floor space if you really want it but I don't mind
sharing." Chris's eyes met Vin's and the bond between them seemed to strengthen.
"You think six o'clock is early enough to get up?"
Vin let a small smile creep up on his face as he slowly nodded his head.
"Go on and get in bed. I'll be out in a few minutes."
Vin nodded again and climbed into the bed, pulling the blankets up to his
chest. He could hear Buck and JD still at it. They were in the den playing
one of JD's games and from the sound of it, JD was winning. He heard a few
calls for quiet come from some of the other men and he was happy he could
pick out that it was Ezra and Nathan's voices. Not only the sound of their
voices but the words that they said.
With a smile on his face, Vin drifted off to sleep.
******* ******* *******
"Your honor, I'd like to call Vin Tanner to the stand," Cavanaugh addressed
the bench. The bailiff called for Vin Tanner and the man entered the courtroom.
Chris watched Russell Chassen flinch at the sight of the man but quickly
regained his smugness. Just because the man was here didn't mean he could
Vin took the stand, raising his right hand when indicated to do so.
Russell Chassen sank imperceptibly in his seat as Vin said "I do" to the
"State your name."
Chris smiled while he watched Chassen's shoulders deflate as he sank lower
in his chair with each word that Vin Tanner spoke.