War Shorn

By Princess Nat

The familiar black Dodge truck exploded, and Vin started sprinting. "Chris!"

He was halfway to the blazing wreck when he was tackled from behind. Not even thinking about it, he twisted around, kicked out, and was up and running once again, determined to reach his friend. He'd almost made it when he was tackled again, but this time, there were just too many bodies. Still fighting, Vin was desperate to reach the truck... to reach Chris... and then something hit him in the face, hard, and the world went black.

JD's eyes widened as he read the breaking news on his laptop screen, and he couldn't stop the almost wail that came out of his throat, "Buuuuck!" The ring of two cellphones added accompaniment to the heavy feet running down the stairs.

Nathan stared, uncomprehending, at the television as the grim-faced reporter stood in front of a convenience store, the lights of emergency vehicles reflecting off the man's face as he spoke in reverent tones. The trilling of his phone had him reaching absently to his belt clip.

Ezra suppressed a curse as the tell-tale vibration purred against his thigh. Sighing regretfully, he pushed his lovely full house face down into the middle. "I am afraid I must fold. Duty calls," he drawled out.

Josiah tilted his head, pausing from his weeding, to see if the sound came again... it did. Drawing himself up to his feet, he covered the few steps to the bench where he'd left his jacket and cell phone. "Sanchez," he answered.


"Sir, there's an Officer Stiles here to see you. It's related to the Larabee case," Emily's voice was as calm and professional as always, but Travis could detect something underneath it, something that made his stomach clench a bit in dread.

"All right," he replied, straightening up and looking expectantly towards the door. His brows were drawn together, as this was an unwelcome surprise. He'd already been contacted by the police about Agent Larabee. When the young woman in uniform entered holding a gun and badge wallet in an evidence bag, his confusion only grew. "Officer Stiles, what can I do for you?" he asked.

Officer Kate Stiles studied the man for a moment, taking in the strong jaw and steady eyes. Taking a breath, she finally spoke, "I'm sorry to disturb you, but I was asked to bring these to you by one of your people--Agent Vin Tanner." She set the bag gently on the desk.

Travis stared at her. And then an icy chill ran down his spine as he opened the bag to draw the items out. Flipping open the wallet, he closed his eyes as he saw the identification. "When did he give these to you?" he asked, as he gently set the wallet down and directed his gaze at the officer.

"Right after he gave me his statement. He witnessed the explosion that claimed Agent Larabee's life," she stated softly. "Sir..." she paused, trying to think of a way to phrase it that wouldn't hurt the vulnerable man she'd spoken to earlier in the day. "Sir, it took five men to keep Agent Tanner from racing into the burning truck."

Vin had witnessed it? Chris was going to explode. Even while a litany of curses ran through his head, he gave the officer a nod. He understood what she was saying... and trying desperately not to say. "It will be taken care of," he assured her. "Thank you for bringing these to me. I'll see that they're returned." A thought struck him, and he called out just before she reached the door, "Officer Stiles, was he injured?"

She turned, a wry smile forming as answered. "According to him, he was 'fine,' but the evidence suggested otherwise. Unfortunately, I was called away, and when I returned, the paramedic said Agent Tanner had just disappeared. Can't really say I was surprised," she finished softly.

"No," Travis agreed.

"I'm sorry about Agent Larabee. He must have been a good man," she commented.

"The best. Thank you again, Officer Stiles." He waited until she had shut the door behind her and then looked back down at the ID on his desk and rubbed his face wearily. What a mess. Why was it that nothing was ever easy when Team Seven was involved?


Vin was moving on auto-pilot. The only thought in his head was running on a continuous loop: 'Chris is dead.' He saw again the brilliant flash of orange, red, and yellow as the truck exploded and the world as Vin knew it ended. A sob escaped him before he could choke it back down, and Vin held his breath to keep others from doing so, as well. He hadn't felt this kind of pain in a long time, and he realized that he wanted to kill someone. But first, he had to find out who.


The five men stood silent and grim within the entryway of AD Travis' rather large and richly appointed residence. It wasn't exactly normal procedure to have a briefing at an Assistant Director's home, but then again, Team Seven had never been known for following normal procedure.

Evie Travis bustled in. "Oh, I'm so sorry to keep you waiting. I just got off the phone with Oren. He was held up at the office, but he's on his way. Please, follow me," she said, and turned around and bustled off again.

Exchanging puzzled glances, the five fell into step after the woman. This certainly wasn't what they had been expecting. She led them into a large dining room that was probably used for entertaining.

"Help yourself to anything you might want to eat or drink," Evie said, gesturing toward a table that had been set up against a wall. "And please, sit down.

The men simply stared at her, unable to fathom how she could be so... well, normal. Finally, Evie stopped and really looked at them. Sighing, she pointed at the chairs around the dining table. "Sit," she commanded. "I will be right back."

Still silent, they sat. None able to meet each other's eyes. JD looked shell-shocked, his eyes wide and red-rimmed on his pale face. Buck and Nathan were both smoldering, like volcanoes about to erupt. Age had seemed to settle upon Josiah. Ezra appeared bored, unless you looked into his eyes, which were filled with too many emotions to name. Footsteps echoed down the hall... familiar footsteps, and not those of Evie or Travis. Almost as one, the five men looked up and stared.

Chris Larabee smirked as he took in the gobsmacked expressions of his team. "Hello, boys." He looked them over carefully as he walked in, wincing a bit as he took in their condition. Evie hadn't been kidding. They did look like death warmed over. Then he frowned. "Where's Vin?" he asked even as the team began to bombard him with exclamations and questions. Immediately, all voices cut off and five pairs of eyes dropped to study the table cloth as if it was the most fascinating thing they had ever seen. He glared around the table. "Well?"

"Chris..." Buck started.

"I'm afraid we have been unable to locate Agent Tanner," Oren Travis stated as he entered the room. "Please, Chris, take a seat."

Still glaring, Chris sat down next to Buck. He hadn't wanted to agree to this operation, but his superiors had give him little choice. It had only been the argument that his team could be hurt by someone after him that had made him agree to the plan, but even then he had insisted upon certain concessions. And this was the biggest one--his team would not be left in the dark. However, he had had to compromise, as well, and that had been that they would not be told until after the fact. "Travis...."

Orin held up his hand. "I'm afraid things didn't go exactly according to plan. Opening his briefcase, he removed Vin's badge wallet and gun.

Chris' gaze homed in on them like a laser. He immediately knew who they belonged to. "What happened?"

It was Buck that answered, swallowing his own questions about just what was going on. "Seems Junior saw your ass get blown up and tried to jump in with you." Anger simmered under the calm tone, and Chris knew he was going to get blasted once Travis had left. "Took five guys and a well-placed punch to keep him down."

Chris winced, feeling ill. 'God, Vin!'

Ezra took over the narrative, his voice ice-cold, "Officer Stiles reports that he gave his statement, handed over his weapon and ID, and disappeared."

"I traced his cell phone via the GPS chip, but it was lying in the parking lot of the store where..." JD trailed off, swallowing convulsively and turning his eyes away from Chris.

"I checked the ranch, but he wasn't there, and Peso was still in his stall," Josiah offered quietly.

"He wasn't at his apartment, either, although it looked like he might have packed some stuff up." Nathan interjected. He wanted to mention the open and empty gun safe, but not with AD Travis present. Noticing a slight narrowing of Chris' eyes, Nathan gave an almost imperceptible nod. Hopefully, Chris would understand.

And Chris did, only too well. He tightened his jaw in frustration. Of them all, Vin was the one he had worried about the most with this plan--because Vin was the most like himself. And now, pretty much his worse case scenario had occurred.

"Now, tell us just what the hell is going on," Buck growled, his glare shifting from Chris to Travis and back again. The rest of the team nodded in unison.

"There was a contract taken out on ATF Agent Christopher Larabee for two million dollars," Travis began.


The fire crackled as Vin stared at it unseeing, tears burning in his eyes, but not falling. He lifted the knife, took hold of a lock of curls, and sliced through it resolutely, chanting all the while. He continued until not a single strand reached his shoulders. Then, still chanting, he carefully sliced seven parallel lines on his left forearm--one for each member of Team Seven. Once that was done, he gathered the blood on his finger and carefully drew the war markings on his face. His leader had been killed and it was his duty to find the one responsible and make him pay. Finally, the chant came to an end he shook his head, hard. This wasn't accomplishing anything. Reaching deep within, Vin closed his eyes and called upon training that had never went away, but simply sunk well beneath the surface. When he reopened them, the vibrant blue had turned hard as steel and all emotion had been erased from his features. He had a mission to accomplish, and he would finish it or die trying.


JD stared pensively out the window of Buck's truck. They were on their way to check up on Chris' place. He still couldn't believe what was happening. Someone had put a contract out on Chris' life. They'd thought they'd lost Chris. And they had lost Vin... just not the same way. At least, he hoped not the same way. He chewed on his lip as he thought about it. Why had Vin just disappeared?

"Well now, to understand that, you'd have to understand what Vin's life had been like up until he joined the team," Buck's voice startled him, and JD realized he must have said that last thought out loud. "Junior hasn't had a lot of stability, and Chris gave him that. With Chris gone... well, I'm bettin' that Junior just sort of got swept away, like a ship without an anchor."

"But why didn't he come to us? We're a team!" JD exclaimed.

Buck nodded. "I know, and Vin does, too..."

"Then where is he?" JD demanded. "We haven't heard anything from him since... since..."

Buck glanced over. "JD... Think about what it must have been like for him. As far as he knows, he watched Chris die in a ball of fire right in front of him and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. He didn't just read about it or hear about--he was there. Something like that..." Buck shook his head. "Right now, Junior's dealing with a whole mess of powerful emotions, something he's not real comfortable with at the best of times, which this sure ain't."

JD considered Buck's words. He hadn't really taken into account the fact that Vin had witnessed Chris' "death." He tried to imagine watching Buck die and being helpless to prevent it and shuddered. "I just wish we knew where he was, if he was OK."

"Yeah, you and the rest of us," Buck agreed. He pulled into the long driveway, trying not to get his hopes up that Vin's jeep would be there when they reached the house. He knew he'd been unsuccessful when he felt the rush of disappointment when it wasn't there.

"Damn," JD whispered. "I'd kinda hoped..."

"Me too," Buck said, shoulders slumping. He turned off the truck and got out. No sense waiting around; if Vin wasn't here now, it wasn't too likely he would be anytime soon. For once, Buck almost wished Vin were a bit more like Chris in one regard--he'd have no problem finding the blond--deep in a bottle of whisky and destroying everything around him. Not healthy, but at least it was predictable. A shout from JD brought him out of his dark musings.

"Hey Buck, there's something on the porch!"

Easily catching up with his younger friend, Buck noticed the small bundle in front of the door. It was a blue bandana that had been used to wrap something and then tied in a knot. Knealing down, Buck poked it carefully with his finger. Whatever was in it, it didn't appear to be very substantial. Shrugging, he reached for the knot.

"Do you think you should open it?" JD asked, looking dubious.

Buck cocked an eyebrow. "How else are we going to find out what it is?" Then he turned back to the task at hand and deftly untied the knot. At first, he wasn't quite sure what he was looking at, and then it dawned on him.

"Guess Vin's been here," JD whispered, staring down at the pile of long, brown curls.

"Yeah, looks that way," Buck replied around the lump in his throat. Their missing sharpshooter was hurting, there was no doubt about that. Silently, he retied the knot and tucked the bandana into his jacket pocket. "C'mon, let's check the place out and get back to Ezra's. Chris'll want to know what we've found."


Vin sighted down his scope, his finger tightening slightly on the trigger as his quarry came into view. He'd had to call in a few favors, and it had taken a couple of days, but it had been worth it to find the low-life responsible for the contract on Chris' life--Gonzalo Mendez. Once he'd had the information, he had found himself automatically dialing Ezra's number, but then had reconsidered. What he was doing was in no way legal or sanctioned by the United States government. Sure, he'd turned in his badge, but he doubted Ezra or the others had, and he didn't want to take them down with him. No... it was better that he do this alone.


Buck swore as he spied another "offering" on Chris' porch. 'Aww, Junior, now what?' he asked mentally. It had been a week since Chris' supposed 'death,' and there had been no further sign of Vin... until now. Once again, when he opened the bandanna, he found hair. But this time, rather than clumps of brown curls, several dark braids were coiled neatly inside, and one of them had strands of gold and silver chain threaded through it. Whistling through his teeth, Buck stood up, the bundle clutched tightly in his hand, and reached for his phone. He hit a button and waited. "Ezra... I think we might have a problem..."


Chris pulled the hood up over his head and burrowed his hands deep into his pockets. He didn't really think anyone in Purgatorio would know or care who he was, but he didn't want to take any chances. After all this, it would be stupid to blow the plan just because he'd gotten careless. He jogged easily up the four flights of stairs to Vin's apartment, knowing better than to trust the temperamental elevator that was slow as molasses on a good day. As he stood outside Vin's door, he paused. He knew what he was hoping to find, but what was he going to do if Vin wasn't there? Finally shaking his head, he took out his key and unlocked the door. Stepping inside, he could feel his heart plummet at the absolute silence, until he noticed the small droplets of blood leading towards the bedroom, and then it started racing. "Vin," he called out quietly as he followed the blood. It was never a good idea to come upon Vin unannounced.

When he finally reached the doorway, Chris swore viciously as he hurried to the bed. He hardly even recognized his friend. "Jesus Christ, Tanner, what have you done to yourself?" he whispered as he knelt down, feeling for a pulse.

"Chris..." Vin muttered, tossing his head restlessly.

"Yeah, I'm right here," Chris said, moving to brush a couple of sweat-dampened strands off Vin's forehead. "Interesting haircut you've got there, cowboy."

Vin frowned, then bleary blue eyes peered up in confusion. "Chris?"

"That's me. What happened?"

Still frowning, Vin tried to figure out just what it was that was wrong with this picture. "Got shot," he answered absently, and then he remembered. Explosion. Fireball. Chris. Dead. 'Shit, Tanner, you're worse off than you thought if you're seeing dead people,' Vin thought to himself. Closing his eyes again, he decided the blackness was less confusing and let it take him away.

"Hey, stay with me, Vin. Vin?" Chris sighed when he couldn't get a response. Vin was hurt more seriously than Chris could deal with, and he knew it. He couldn't take him to a hospital, either, as the doctors there would be required to report all gun shot wounds, and that would bring up questions they didn't want asked. Taking out his cell phone, Chris made the call.


"I found him. But he's hurt. Gun shot wound," Chris stated tersely.


"Yeah. He was conscious for a minute or so, but then went back out. Pretty sure he's running a fever," Chris continued.

"I'm on my way. Try to get him to drink some water, if you can," Nathan said.

"Will do." Chris flipped the phone shut and scrubbed wearily at his face. "Just what in the hell did you think you were doing?" he muttered crossly as he stared down at his unconscious friend. 'Avenging you,' a small voice inside his head answered him, and he grimaced. He should have gone against orders and told his team the plan from the start. He should have known how Vin would react... in fact, he had known. Still cursing himself, he headed for the kitchen to get some water.


The next time Vin came around, he had no idea where he was or what was going on. The only thing that made any sense was that Chris was right there with water.

"C'mon, Vin, take a little of this for me," Chris coaxed.

His eyes never leaving Chris', Vin did as instructed, wincing a bit at the movement as Chris helped him lean up to drink. Once he'd swallowed, he rasped out, "Rest of the team OK?"

"Everyone's just fine. You're the only one managed to get himself shot," Chris replied.

Vin blinked. "Bust go bad?" he hazarded, having no recollection of just what had occured to make him feel so terrible.

"No..." Chris narrowed his eyes, studying the glazed eyes. "Why don't you get some more rest. Nathan'll be here soon, and he'll have you feeling better in no time."

That sounded like good advice to Vin, so he closed his eyes and followed it.


Nathan hissed through his teeth as he peeled back the makeshift bandage Vin had applied to his side. It was obvious that the sharpshooter had done his best to take care of the wound, but considering how run down the younger man looked, and the conditions in which he'd sustained the wound, infection had taken hold anyway. "Damn fool," he muttered under his breath. In a louder voice, he proclaimed, "He should really be in a hospital."

"I know. If you think it's necessary, we'll take him in, but I'd rather avoid it if possible. Too many questions we can't answer," Chris said.

Nathan nodded. Even though he wanted to give Vin a piece of his mind, he didn't want the younger man to suffer any more than he already had. And he was pretty sure that the ATF in particular, and the federal government in general, would be none too happy with Vin's recent activities. Even if they did, ultimately, result in justice. Still, vigilantism was illegal and not something an agent of the ATF could or should be allowed to do. Then he looked at Vin's shorn head and thought about his own rage and grief when he had seen the news report--how much worse would it have been to have actually been there? Huffing out a breath, he knew he couldn't condemn Vin for seeking justice.

"Well? How's it look?" Chris asked impatiently.

"Not great, but I think I can deal with it. Looks like the bullet went straight through, didn't hit anything vital. The biggest problem is the infection. His fever's still rising," Nathan stated. "Lost a lot of blood, too." He glanced up at Chris and his expression softened. "He'll be OK, Chris. He's young and strong. And you know Vin's no quitter."

The last comment earned him a weak grin. "Can we move him? I'd rather have him where we can keep an eye on him," Chris said.

"Let me clean and rebandage this, and then I'll let you know. I'm going to hook him up to a drip, too, to battle dehydration and the infection. In the mean time, get ahold of Josiah. He'll be able to carry Vin down the stairs," Nathan said.

Chris gave him a sharp nod and stepped out of the room to call the others.


Josiah made it to Purgatorio in record time. Even still, Chris had been pacing Vin's living room impatiently until he heard the knock on the door. Glancing through the peephole, he opened the door quickly. "You made good time," he commented.

"Had good reason to. Is he ready to go?" Josiah asked.

"I believe so. Nathan's been back there with him since I called you," Chris said.

Nodding, Josiah headed back towards Vin's bedroom. He couldn't contain the grin that spread across his features to see their lost lamb. Even feverish and noticeably underweight, Vin Tanner was a sight for sore eyes. "Thank the Lord," he whispered.

"Let's go," Chris said, impatient to be gone. He was none too fond of Purgatorio, and with a man down, he liked it even less.

"Should maybe grab him some clothes, don't you think?" Nathan asked as he packed up his supplies. He was relieved to see that Vin had at least had the presence of mind to lock his guns back up, but from the state of the man, that was about it.

Without a word, Chris grabbed up the duffel next to the bed. It was mostly empty, but he dumped out what was left and began refilling it with enough essentials to hold Tanner for at least a few days. Vin didn't have much, so it didn't take long. By the time he was done, Josiah was gone and Nathan was flipping the latches closed on his kit. Hefting the duffel bag, Chris motioned for Nathan to precede him.


Josiah pulled his Suburban into the garage, unsurprised when the door immediately closed as soon as the vehicle was completely inside. He was sure Nathan would have called ahead, and Ezra would have been keeping an eye out for them. He'd no more than turned off the ignition when the Southerner himself appeared.

"I've prepared the downstairs guest room for him," Ezra said as he peered into the window, trying to catch a glimpse of his injured teammate.

"He's in the back with Chris," Josiah said, as he opened the driver's side door.

"Well, of course he is," Ezra muttered, feeling a bit foolish for not having expected that to be the case. He opened the door to the back and found himself looking into the glaring eyes of his team leader. For once, however, he barely noticed. Instead, his attention dropped immediately to the man that Chris was holding. "Vin..." he breathed out as something tight within him slowly unclenched. The man looked a bit of a mess, but it was a relief just to see him alive and with them once more. Taking a deep breath, Ezra pulled his composure about himself once more. "I must say, Mr. Tanner, that I'm not very impressed with your stylist," he managed to say without his voice cracking... much.

Chris snorted. "You can say that again. Looks like he attacked his head with a weed whacker."

"More likely a knife," Josiah surmised as he reached in to take Vin from Chris' arms. He'd noted the seven cuts on Vin's arm earlier, and had a fair idea of just what Vin had been doing. Cutting one's hair and self was a common method of dealing with grief in many tribal cultures, and they all knew that Vin had spent some of his formative years on a reservation somewhere in Texas.

Chris grabbed the duffel he'd packed and moved to follow Josiah, but was halted by Ezra's words.

"Mr. Larabee, there is something you need to know..."


Vin woke with a start and then blinked in confusion. He felt much better and he was no longer in his apartment. In fact, from the looks of the room, he'd say he was at...

"Ah, Mr. Tanner, you have finally deigned to rejoin us, have you?"

...Ezra's. Turning his head to the side, Vin was unsurprised to see Ezra studying him critically.

"We are going to have words, my friend, about what are and are not acceptable coping mechanisms," Ezra continued. "And about how it is impolite to go off alone without informing your team of your plans or destination."

Vin closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again and met Ezra's gaze. He took a breath to speak and promptly started coughing, which made his side flair up and he winced.

Shaking his head, Ezra waited until the attack had ended and silently handed Vin a glass of water, which he accepted gratefully. Once he'd drained it, Vin settled back against the pillow wearily.

"Didn't mean to worry ya'll," he finally got out. "I just..." Vin had to pause a moment as the grief welled up again and his eyes burned. "Chris..." he said helplessly, unable to articulate the maelstrom of thoughts and feelings he'd experienced since witnessing Chris' death.

Reaching out, Ezra placed a hand on Vin's arm. "Vin, Chris is..."

"Right here," a voice came from the doorway and Vin's head snapped up. There, impossibly, stood the man himself, looking remarkably healthy for a dead man.

Seeing this as his cue, Ezra gave Vin's arm a quick squeeze and took his leave. Chris gave him a slight nod as he passed and then entered the room and closed the door.

He gave Vin a quick once over and was relieved to see that the younger man looked much improved. "What the hell did you think you were doing?" he demanded, scowling.

Vin simply stared at him in shock, then admitted, "Wasn't thinkin' at all."

Snorting, Chris sat down in the chair Ezra had vacated. "You got that right," he agreed. Then he dropped the scowl, leaning forward. "I'm sorry, Vin. It wasn't supposed to go down like that. The plan was to let the team know it was a ploy before anyone could take action. Should have known you'd jump the gun."

Vin didn't say anything for moment, just studied his friend--he was too overjoyed to see the man alive to be upset with him. Finally, his lips quirked up in a slight grin. "Well, I guess I was 'highly motivated,' as Ezra would say, by watching your scrawny ass get blown to kingdom come."

"Yeah..." Chris sighed, rubbing his hand down his face, "about that..."

"What? Didn't you like my gifts?" Vin asked, his blue eyes twinkling in mischief.

"You're something else, you know that?" Chris asked, shaking his head. "You're just lucky Nate could patch you up, else you'd have some serious explaining to do."

"Aww, cowboy, all I did was practice my stylin' skills," Vin protested.

Chris snorted. "Don't quit your day job." So saying, he reached into his pocket and pulled out Vin's badge wallet, tossing it onto the bed.

Vin opened it up, smiling. "Thanks, Chris."

In response, Chris reached out his hand and Vin clasped his forearm in a warrior's clasp. Both men gaining strength and comfort from the warm grasp of the other.


"I don't get it. Why did Mendez' men turn on him?" JD asked, his nose scrunched up in puzzlement.

"Well, you see, men like Mendez, they control things through fear," Josiah explained, "and once they can no longer instill fear in those around them, they lose that control."

"And people lost their fear 'cause he got a haircut?" JD asked, his tone ripe with skepticism.

"Not just a haircut, JD. For Mendez, his long hair was status symbol, and his personal guards wore theirs long, as well, to show their affiliation. Now, one morning, all of them wake up with the most god-awful haircuts ever, people are going to talk... and they did," Buck said, chuckling. "No way they could pass off what happened as simply a new choice of hairstyle... not after the scream Mendez let out when he discovered his hair was gone."

"So, I guess, Mendez didn't seem so scary once he'd had his hair clipped in the night? I mean, if someone could get into his home and cut his hair, they could have just as easily slit his throat?" JD half said, half asked.

"Exactly. Brother Vin counted coup against him, and that shattered Mendez' reputation," Josiah said, grinning toothily.

"Of course, the appearance of a flash drive full of incriminating data off of Mendez' computer mysteriously arriving at the DEA offices certainly didn't soften the blow. Mendez' estate was raided that very night, I believe," Ezra added as he joined in the conversation.

"And, as Mendez is currently sitting in a cell with all of his assets frozen, the contract he had put out on Chris is null and void," Buck finished.

JD blinked. "Well, why didn't we just do that in the first place, instead of faking Chris' death?"

The other man stared at him blankly for a few seconds, and then they all burst out laughing.

"Good point, JD. Sure would have saved us a lot of trouble," Buck finally got out once he caught his breath.


Chris leaned back in his chair and regarded his companion thoughtfully. "So, why didn't you kill him?" he asked.

Vin sighed, closing his eyes. "Almost did. I had my finger right on the trigger, squeezing, and then I started thinking if that's what you'd have wanted me to do. I'd have had to go on the run after that, no returning to the team once that line had been crossed... and I couldn't do it. I wanted to, but I knew you would have kicked my ass if you'd been there. But I couldn't just let him get away with it, either, so I came up with a new plan.

Nodding, Chris tilted his head back. "I'd have loved to have been there to see Mendez' face when he realized he'd lost his hair... and how easily it could have been his life."

"I didn't stick around. Seemed I'd worn out my welcome," Vin stated with a wry grin, his hand coming up to his injured side.

At that, Chris head came up and he drilled Vin with a glare. "Next time, you go to the team. No more of this lone-wolf shit."

"Better not be a next time, but I hear what you're saying," Vin said. "I almost called Ez once, but didn't want to involve the boys."

"Screw that," Chris said. "We're family."


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