Vin shifted slightly in his
sleep, just awake enough to feel the ache in his side where Keith Faulk had tried
to eviscerate him and nearly succeeded. Thankfully he had gotten hauled out of
the jail cell before Keith and his brother Kyle had succeeded in killing him.
Between the bruises from the beating he had gotten (most of his body was black
and blue) and the long knife wound that crossed his lower abdomen; there was not
a part on him that didn't ache. Chris had promised to get him out of the hospital
as quickly as possible, but it was still going to be a while. For some inexplicable
reason, they didn't want to let him out until his organs all proved they could
do their jobs again.
He turned his head slightly; someone was in the room with
him. That was a given since Denver's ATF team seven, of which Vin was a member,
rarely left one of their own alone in the hospital, but he particularly was never
left to face a night in the hospital on his own. Chris was usually the one who
stayed by his side, but it was not his familiar presence that was in the room.
"Chris had to go home and get some sleep. Nathan kept telling him to leave
and he kept saying he was fine, Josiah finally explained that if Chris didn't
go he was going to pick him up like a two year old and carry him out. I guess
Chris figured it would be better to leave with some dignity and agreed to Nathan's
suggestion that he get some sleep. Do you need something, Vin?"
JD. Their young
computer wonk was the one sitting guard tonight. How he could talk that much without
stopping to breathe was beyond Vin. Why he would want to was even more mystifying.
"I'm good, JD, just sore everywhere," he answered, yawning.
"Want me to
get the nurse and see if she can get you something for the pain?" the younger
man asked, wanting to help however he could.
"No, it's only been a couple of
hours since they gave me the last stuff, I can wait."
"You'll heal faster if
you're not in pain," JD quoted Nathan, the team healer.
Vin sighed. "I watched
two friends go through withdrawals from pain killers after landing in the hospital.
I take the stuff when I need it, but not until then and I can wait until the nurse
Vin opened his eyes at the silence; JD was never quiet unless
he was thinking. Large dark eyes were staring at him. "You weren't, I mean...
I know that kind of thing ..."
"No, I did what I could for Hitch and Connor
while they fought it off, but I've never been there. If I had I wouldn't be eligible
for federal law enforcement. Watching others was enough, though," Vin shuddered
involuntarily at the memory.
"I guess I never though much about getting addicted
to pain killers. Never knew anyone that used drugs, couldn't understand why a
person would do that," JD mused to himself.
"Known too many people that were,"
Vin replied softly.
JD stared at him again. Vin never tried to hide the fact
that he had grown up on the streets or that he was still more comfortable and
at home in places like Purgatorio then the nicer suburbs he could easily afford,
he just never talked about those years.
"You can't live like I did and not
know `em." Vin pointed out.
"I knew that you would have known people like that,
I guess I just never thought about them being your friends," JD admitted.
closed his eyes; JD was still very protected in a lot of ways. He more than held
his own on the team, but in a group of men that never seemed to have gotten a
break, he had grown up in a very protected world.
"There was no reason not
to be friends with them, didn't really think of them as druggies, just like I
didn't think of most of the women I knew back then as whores. We were just people
trying to get by as best we could and doing what we had to to survive," Vin explained,
opening his eyes.
JD didn't say anything, but nodded with a kind of glazed,
far away look that he got when he was tumbling things around and sorting out new
Vin looked at his friend and smiled. One thing about JD was that
he was always open to new views and ways of seeing things. He would listen to
what you said and mull it about, sometimes finding that his old way of thinking
still felt right to him, but always ready to change his way of thinking if the
new way seemed better. Too bad Harrison hadn't had that ability.
"If most of
the people you knew were using drugs and selling themselves, how did you avoid
getting caught up in that? I mean, it had to be hard living with that all around
you and never ..." JD petered out. He didn't want to offend his teammate, who
was also a good friend, but was uncertain how to ask what he really wanted to
"Had good friends, just like I do now; just have more than the two I
"That kept you from getting in trouble?"
Vin looked at him and
closed his eyes. "I use to hang out by a shelter; too scared to go in, though.
One of the workers saw me and started bringing food out to me. He would stay and
we'd talk while I ate. Started getting cold and he found a couple of blankets
and a coat for me. We got to be friends. He told me as long as I didn't start
on the drugs, I had choices and a life to use the way I wanted it. One day he
took me to the Challengers Club and introduced me to Miz Nettie. They set me up
with a room there and got me back in school. I helped them at the shelter or the
club in exchange for meals and a room. They made me promise not to drink or use
drugs and that I wouldn't get involved in any of the gangs. Didn't want to disappoint
them after all the trouble they went to for me, `sides I keep my promises. Gave
me a way to stay safe until I was able to join the army and get out of there."
"Are you still in touch with him?" JD asked.
Vin opened his eyes the half
way they would allow. "See Josiah almost every day."
JD gaped, "That's how
you meet Josiah?"
"Yep, he was convinced I could make something of my life
if I was given half a chance, so he made certain I had that chance," Vin mumbled,
his eyes barely slits.
Vin snored softly.
JD smiled at
his friend and went back to playing his gameboy. Vin wasn't much for sharing personal
information, he'd have to remember to volunteer to fill in for Chris more often
on Vin sitting.
Chris got off the elevator
and headed for his friend's room. He had had a bad feeling all day that something
was coming. These hunches of his had served him well in the SEAL's and were rarely
wrong. For Vin's sake, he hoped and prayed that this one time he was being delusional.
He stopped at the nurses' station for an update on his second in command's
condition, fine was the only word in Vin's vocabulary when it came to saying how
he was, when a man passed him.
Ezra, sitting outside Vin's door saw him as
well and gave an imaginary tip of the hat to his leader.
The signal was given.
Chris was right, trouble had arrived.
Buck nodded from where he was chatting
up a nurse at the other end of the long hall.
Josiah looked up from the magazine
he was half-heartedly reading in the waiting area.
The boys were familiar enough
with Chris's hunches that they had volunteered to join him in watching the room.
Nathan was the only one not there, he had been called in to fill in for another
Ezra looked up as the man approached him. A lifetime of making a
living reading others told the undercover agent that the man was at least mildly
intoxicated. Not stumbling drunk, but far enough gone that he was making bad judgments,
like deciding to come here after visiting hours and see Vin. In the interest of
not reciprocating on him the beating Vin had received because the recently retired
officer had falsely arrested him and put him in with the general population, the
team had been avoiding Harrison like the plague. It was hardly their fault he
had shown up here. Chris's orders were firm, however, unless he started trouble,
or Vin was in danger, they were not to do anything. Hopefully their presence alone
would be enough to get the man to leave.
"I want to see Tanner," Harrison growled
at the well-dressed man. While not in his usual Armani suit, Ezra was in designer
jeans and wearing a shirt that was three steps ahead what the rest of them would
"And I would like to own a casino in Monte Carlo. I'm afraid that as
visiting hours are long past and Mr. Tanner requires his rest, we're both out
of luck," Ezra responded, smiling pleasantly and arising.
"Let me in!" Harrison
demanded getting in the smaller man's face.
Ezra didn't even blink when he
had an enraged Chris Larabee in his face threatening to shoot him himself, something
that occurred at last once a week, so there was no way that this man was even
a blip on his radar.
Harrison grabbed him and began physically moving him.
Buck winced; this was not going to be pretty. Ezra hated being manhandled.
"Unhand my person, sir," Ezra demanded, at the same time that he somehow slid
out of the man's grip like a snake shedding skin, grabbed his arm and whirled
him around face first into the wall.
Chris grinned. Ezra was a slippery son
of a gun in more ways than one. He had lost count of the times he had totally
lost it and actually made a grab for the man to simply find that he was holding
"Here, let me help you up, brother," Josiah leaned down and nearly yanked
the man to his feet. Then roughly patted off any dust or dirt that might have
found its way on him, nearly knocking him back on the floor.
"Looks like you
might've gotten a bit banged up there," Buck commented with mock concern as he
ambled over to join the others.
Chris walked slowly over to join his team and
Harrison. The ex-cop glared at Chris, Buck tried not to laugh.
crossed the line one too many times and got caught. Accept the consequences and
let it go," Chris advised.
"Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?"
The overweight man sneered, looking the lean senior agent up and down.
Larabee, I lead ATF team Seven. Vin Tanner, my second in command and shooter,
got beaten within an inch of his life and nearly stabbed to death because you
wouldn't check his story, wouldn't call me, and didn't even have the sense to
put him in solitary if you had to take him in!" Chris didn't yell; his tone was
the one JD had called absolute zero. It had no warmth and destroyed everything
"I had probable cause for everything I did!" Harrison shot back.
"For going to the house, yes; for stopping him and questioning him; yes; but
that is where it should have ended. He told you he was a federal agent and even
told you where his ID and weapon were. You not only refused to check, but wouldn't
let your partner look, either. He gave you two people to call and verify his story
with, you refused to call anyone; your partner finally had to. You threw him in
with the general jail population, when there is even a question of a suspect being
a law officer you put them in solitary if you have to lock them up at all!" Chris
snarled, stepping closer to the other man.
Harrison involuntarily took two
steps back. Josiah politely moved out of his way.
Ezra smiled, Harrison had
just lost and didn't even know it. The southerner was reminded of a documentary
he had watched once about wolves. In it the alpha male had found it necessary
to remind an older male in the pack of his place. Harrison, like that old wolf,
had backed down when faced with the Alpha force that was Chris Larabee. Hopefully,
Harrison was as familiar with submissive postures as the old wolf; if not, he
would be before Chris was finished with him.
"There was no reason to believe
his story. What kind of federal agent goes around unshaven, long haired, and looking
half starved?" Harrison snorted derisively.
Ezra sighed, so much for submissive
"Any that want to as long as their supervisor doesn't care," Buck
answer from behind his boss.
"I don't give a rat's ass how my men choose to
look as long as they're healthy, get the job done, and are presentable for court.
Vin's never failed on any of those counts. And you didn't have to believe his
story, all you had to do was make a call or look in the spare room like he asked!
Face it, you screwed up," Chris spat.
Harrison grabbed Ezra and threw him at
Chris and Buck; then dashed into Vin's room.
Josiah stepped over the three
tangled agents on the floor and started after Harrison.
Eyes wide, the graying
profiler leapt to the side as Harrison was catapulted out of the room and back
into the hall, hitting the wall opposite Vin's room door, hard. JD landed on top
Buck winced in momentary sympathy for Harrison, he had been tackled
by JD himself in a few of the team football games and knew how much it hurt. JD
might be the youngest and one of, if not the, shortest, but he was heavy and solid
and it did not tickle when he launched himself full force into you.
I'm the one he hurt and I've gotta' miss all the fun," Vin complained from his
bed, seeing the entire thing through the open door.
"Vin, if you put one foot
outside of that bed, so help me you'll be staying here for your entire recuperation,"
Chris informed him. Why was it that conversations with a hospitalized Vin always
reminded Chris of dealing with his now deceased four-year-old son?
heavily and leaned back in his bed.
Buck was not gentle as he patted Harrison
down for weapons. When he found the wicked twelve-inch bladed knife, Chris thought
they were going to have to sedate Buck to keep him from killing the man with his
bare hands. Instead, Buck slapped a set of cuffs on him and hauled him towards
the elevator. Josiah went with them, since he had the confiscated knife safely
sealed in a baggie, as evidence. The others went along since they would need to
give their statements and the nurse wanted Vin to have at least some quiet that
night before he had the law invading his room looking for a statement.
A man dressed immaculately in white suits had
watched the entire scene. He smiled while leaning on his cane. They might be a
rough and tumble group compared to the people he normally worked with, but he
had to admire their style.
He had just watched a man being forced to face the
consequences of his actions the hard way, after choosing not to face them the
easy way. It was time for him to face the consequences of past decisions himself,
past time, if he was honest with himself. He hadn't seen his son in seven years,
the choices they had made then had brought them to the place they were now, perhaps,
with seven years more wisdom, they would make a better decision now.
to the nurses desk for permission to see Vin.
The nurse blinked at his request,
but led him to the room that had had five vicious guard dogs half an hour earlier.
Vin looked as she entered, he had known that he wouldn't be alone long, it
was just a matter of which of his friends came back up to sit with him. He had
been guessing that it would be Chris. The nurse made sense, he was a patient and
there had been quite a bit of excitement not that long ago. The man following
her was not expected and not welcome.
"Agent Tanner? Mr. Briggs asked to be
allowed to see you alone," The nurse passed on the request.
"I just want to
know that you're okay, and to be heard out before you throw me out," Michael stated
his reason for being there and requesting an audience.
Vin closed his eyes.
This was not something that he wanted to be deal with right now. He had met his
father all of once; a meeting that had ended when he had requested that his father
be removed from the hospital room where he was recovering from his last mission.
Opening his eyes, he nodded to the nurse. Looking uncertainly from the patient
to the visitor, she turned and left. She had been told to admit NO ONE to this
patient's room without getting it cleared by the blonde agent. If the patient
had agreed, though, she supposed it was all right.
Vin looked at the tall slender
man, leaning on his cane, a patch over one eye. The last time he had seen him
he had vowed that he would never have anything to do with him again. He could
count on one hand with fingers left over the times he had broken that promise,
and every one had been in extenuating circumstances and had not required that
he actually deal with the man himself. His current predicament, however, had come
about largely from a man that was not willing to get all the facts before passing
judgment on a person. He supposed the least he could do for his father was to
hear him out this time, maybe there was a reason for his lack of presence in his
son's life. It was hard to imagine anything that would justify leaving a child
to face life alone as Vin had, but maybe there was a reason of some kind.
indicated with a nod the chair next to his bed.
Michael seated himself.
filled the room as a pair of dark blue eyes met a light blue one.
man looked at his son. It was interesting how much of Elizabeth was in the young
man, and yet he could see traits that were all him, as well. The light brown curly,
wavy hair reminded him a lot of her, and yet they were somehow fitting on her
son. The average height was from her side, too. Michael was over six feet tall,
but as he recollected from the few times he had met one of the Tanner men, none
of them were particularly tall. The blue eyes were from him; Elizabeth had commented
on her family's trademark green ones. The broad shoulders tapering down to slender
hips were also characteristic of his side, Tanners tending to be short and stocky.
The high metabolism and consequent slenderness also came totally from Michael,
Tanners tended to be a bit heavy.
"You said you wanted me to hear you out,
I'm listening," Vin stated. Just because he had agreed to see him did not mean
he was going to try and make this easy on the other man.
"You certainly do
have your mother's directness, I'll give you that."
"Always heard I got that
from you," Vin responded, a touch less vehemently.
Michael gave a short laugh,
"I guess you can blame both sides for that, neither one of us was known for beating
around the bush."
Silence fell between them again.
Getting up, Michael went
over to the window. "Did you ever hear how your mother and I met?"
of ya talked about the other, no I haven't."
Michael sighed. Why was it that
he could talk to dignitaries or sub-committee directors, or anyone else in the
world, but not his own son? Because, he told himself, you don't give a damn what
they think of you, but you do care what Vin thinks of you.
"We ended on a bad
note, to put it kindly, but we started out good. She was very pretty and young,
only in her mid twenties. She had moved to California, never did say why. She
got a job waiting tables at a restaurant. I used to eat there; once I saw her
I would arrange it so I was there while she was working and was seated at one
of her tables. She always had a smile and a kind word for everybody," Michael
"Can't remember much about her, but I know she could always make
me feel like everything `d be fine no matter what," Vin replied. "Made you feel
real special, like you the most important person in the world."
"It was a rare
gift she had. No one was ever a stranger to her," Michael agreed. He could still
see her lively green eyes and slow smile that could light up a room. He had never
seen Vin smile, but guessed that his might be like that.
"Seems you were, at
least after I was around, I don't remember you ever coming by or calling. Mom
never mentioned any letters or anything from you," Vin retorted coldly.
was not my fault. I was sent overseas, I told Beth I would be back as soon as
I could. When I returned, she was gone. No forwarding address, message, or anything.
We had had a huge fight before I left; I wasn't surprised to find that she had
gone. I was sorry she was gone, but didn't think anything of it until another
waitress that was a friend of hers mentioned her having been pregnant when she
left." Michael returned to the chair as he spoke, standing on his leg for long
periods of time for no reason was not a good idea.
"She never told you about
me," Vin stated.
"No, but as I said, I was gone before she found out, and she
was angry at me for going."
"Hardly the first woman that had a hard time being
second to duty," Vin stated.
"Sometimes duty has to come first, as hard as
that can be, something you, I imagine, would understand having been an Army Ranger,
a U.S. Marshall, and now an ATF agent."
"Understand it, doesn't make it easier
when someone you love won't stand for it," Vin acknowledged.
Michael gave a
tilt of his head, for him a nod; it would seem that they had found a common ground
they could meet on for the moment.
"Your mother was an honest woman, so I had
no doubt you were mine. You would have been about two or three, then. I started
looking for her, but it was a challenge since she had been going by Hitchcock,
not Tanner. She had mentioned being from Texas, so I guessed that she had gone
back there. It was a starting place at least," Michael continued.
her father's name, Grandfather adopted her when he married Grandma," Vin explained,
"She told me that her parents hadn't married, something about
their parents disapproving."
"Don't know, no one in the family ever talked
about it, and mom always said I was too young to understand and she would tell
me when I was older."
"Is it important to you to know about that?" Michael
Vin leaned back in his bed and thought for a minute. "No, when
all is said and done, I guess not, wouldn't change much if I did know the particulars
"I know that he left your mother and grandmother on their own, I
don't know anything more than that, I do know that I never meant for you and your
mother to be in the same position. I found your mother, finally, through an obituary
notice. It mentioned that she had left a child, so that confirmed that I was a
father. She had died a year earlier. When I looked into the situation as far as
I could tell you had a good home with your grandfather. From what I gathered it
was better than anything I would have been able to offer you at that time, so
I left you there. You seemed happy and that was what was most important."
blinked at him. "I seemed happy with a grandfather that hated my very existence?"
"How would I have known how he felt about you? All I had to go off of was what
I observed and what others said when asked about your welfare, and I DID ask,"
Michael pointed out sternly.
"Why didn't you ask me? Or talk to me?" Vin asked.
He understood how a parent might leave a child with relatives if the child truly
seemed happier and better off, but for a parent to not even let the child know
that they existed didn't seem right.
"I was going to, but when I talked to
your grandfather and a school councilor who was working with you, I was told you
were having trouble adjusting and it was best if I didn't get involved, so I didn't.
I made a bad decision, but it was the best I could do based on the information
Vin sighed, the years with his grandfather had been a nightmare, or
had seemed so since he hadn't known what was coming. "Do the best you can with
the Intel you have. Been there and done that."
"Vin, I did check in on you,
to see how you were and how things were going. I had reached a decision that it
was best to intervene between you and your grandfather, at the same time he died.
You seemed to be in a good place with loving family after your aunt and uncle
took you in. By all appearances and everything I was told and learned it was better
than you would have had with me."
"Aunt Janet was okay, she treated me nice;
Uncle Matt was hell, but he started out okay, too. Just kind a' ignored me. Seemed
real nice after Grandfather, guess I can see where you thought I was okay there
at first," Vin acknowledged.
"Everything blew up there at the same time that
I was seriously injured and spent the better part of a year and a half in hospitals
and rehab of one kind or another. By the time I was able to check on you again
you were in foster care. I started the legal headaches of getting custody of you
and by the time that was at a point that I could see you, they were telling me
that you had run away and they had no idea where you were," Michael explained.
"You wouldn't have thought to look in Colorado fer me," Vin yawned, his medication
making his accent thicker and him a bit tired.
Michael snorted, "No, I had
no idea that you headed there, but I had one ear out for the name Vin Tanner and
checked on all of them. I finally hit on you about the time you joined the Army.
I came to see you, but you were doing well at that point and didn't seem to have
much need of me."
"Probably would have told ya to get lost if you had contacted
me back then, I was still pretty angry," Vin admitted with a sigh.
flew open as Chris Larabee came barreling in, gun pointed at the visitor.
this is my father, `preciate if ya didn't shoot him," Vin requested.
slowly lowered his gun, looking form Vin to the other man and back.
Coldsmith-Briggs," The man in white introduced himself.
looked at them both and was reminded of two alpha male wolves facing one another.
"The third," Vin smirked.
Michael glared at his son; Chris raised an eyebrow.
The face off was settled, Michael was welcome to visit since Vin would vouch for
him, but he was no more part of their odd pack at this point than Maude was. If
he wanted acceptance, he would need to prove worthy of it.
Vin was fairly certain
that Michael wouldn't care one way or the other about that as long as he was able
to stay connected in some way with his son. They might have only the thinnest
of threads connecting them, but it was something, and more than they had had.
"It was an impressive scene out there, you have good men," Michael commented.
Chris nodded, "They're the best."
"Undoubtedly why you have Vin on your
team as well."
Chris smiled. "Picked the team myself, wanted the best and got
Michael turned to the younger man, rising. "You're certain that you'll
Vin grinned, "Had worse and lived to tell about it."
you sometime next week and see how you're doing," Michael told him.
"I don't need to give you my phone number do I?"
have a number I can reach you at, it'll be a bit easier to get hold of you when
I need to," Vin pointed out.
Michael handed him a card with a number on it.
"My schedule is unpredictable at best, but if you leave a message at that number,
I'll get it almost immediately."
Turning, Michael handed another card to Chris.
"If anything happens to him, I would appreciate knowing."
Chris took the card
and shook the offered hand.
"I'll talk to you later; maybe we can arrange a
time to get together," Michael told Vin as he turned back to him.
"I... I think
I'd like that, still got lots of questions."
"I would imagine that you do,
I'll answer any I can."
Vin and Michael shook hands, and Michael left.
and Vin stared at one another.
"You told me that you didn't know your father."
Chris reminded him.
"I didn't, I'd only met him once; that's not knowing someone.
He heard I'd been hurt and came to check on me," Vin explained.
Vin had never lied to him and had not about this, either. "How did he find out
what had happened?"
"He's eyes and ears everywhere. He's a deputy director
for a division of the CIA, at least I think that's what they are. All I really
know is that they're part of the intelligence community and he's very high up,"
The younger man stared at his friend, their normal easy communication
and balance was off.
"We cleared some stuff up, but I don't expect that I'll
see much of him. Nothing has changed."
Chris sat down in the chair by the bed,
relaxing as he settled into the familiar spot. They would talk about and sort
out the sudden appearance of Vin's father later.
"Thanks for the save," Vin
smiled at him, the connection was back.
"Any time," he smiled back, clasping
his friend's forearm in a handshake that was unique to them.
Vin sighed contentedly
and settled into the bed for the night. Chris situated himself and settled in
to watch over the man and battle any nightmares that came his way. For tonight,
at least, all was right in the world again.
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