A Reason For Thanks
(A Magnificent Seven ATF Thanksgiving Tale)
Disclaimer: Without prejudice, the characters of "The Magnificent Seven" belong to
MGM, Trilogy, etc. and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
The ATF AU was created by MOG.
Note: I felt the need to write something for Thanksgiving and this is what appeared. This has not been beta'd
Feedback: Email to MMW
A Reason For Thanks(A Magnificent Seven ATF Thanksgiving Tale)
A thin drizzle leaked from the November clouds as the sun struggled to brighten the hidden world below.
Blinking up at the ceiling, Chris sighed. Rolling over to check the clock, he felt a nervous tension stir within.
Today was Thanksgiving, a day to rest, eat and watch football. A day he used to enjoy when Sarah and Adam were alive and a day he had finally been looking forward to again.
It had been Buck’s idea and Chris would have to make sure to thank him, but not before yanking his chain a little.
Discovering that none of the team had plans for Thanksgiving, Buck had quickly invited everyone out to Chris’ for a day of food, fun and football. Of course, the fact he hadn’t bothered to check with Chris first had been something of a sticking point, but the excitement Chris read in the others’ eyes quickly silenced his protests.
So, the plans had been made; the roles assigned; the menu agreed upon. And then Fred Grubacker, the sharpshooter from Team Five, had broken his leg.
Since they had finished one case and were just beginning another, Vin had been called in to replace the man if needed. JD had been drafted into Team Five’s case when Karen Jameson came down with strep throat.
Word had come down yesterday afternoon that the deal had been set for Thursday – Thanksgiving Day. That meant Vin and JD would most likely miss the festivities, though they promised to try and get there afterward.
Buck had agreed and insisted they would hold off on dinner until the duo could arrive.
It was disappointing that the two would be missing out on the relaxing day, but not unusual for anyone who had been in law enforcement any length of time to have to work on a holiday.
That didn’t explain the nervous tension that had been running through him since the bust was announced. He had even hinted about sending the rest of his team in as backup, but had been turned down.
Vin had picked up on his nervousness and asked about it. When Chris couldn’t provide any explanation, he assured Vin that he trusted both he and JD and was sure they’d be fine.
Glancing once more at the clock, he fought the urge to call Vin and check on him. He knew the Texan liked quiet the morning of a bust. Besides, Chris knew that Vin would pick up on the worry in his voice and would tease him endlessly when the bust went off without a hitch.
Releasing a sigh, he pushed himself out of bed and prepared to face the day. Everything would be fine, he assured himself.
JD did his best to ignore Buck. He wasn’t thrilled about having to go on this bust, but it was part of the job. The fact that Rob Anderson, Team Five’s leader, had asked for him first had been a boost to JD’s confidence. In his time with the ATF he’d gone from being the rookie kid to someone other teams respected and requested.
Having finished his cereal, he took his bowl over to the sink and rinsed it out, knowing Buck would put all the dishes into the dishwasher and run it before leaving for Chris’. A small pang of regret sounded in the young man at the thought of not spending the day out at Larabee’s, but then, this wasn’t the first Thanksgiving he would be spending on the job.
Turning he ran into Buck who had been hovering nearby all morning. Throwing up his hands in frustration, JD stepped around the taller man and asked, “What is your problem, Buck? It’s not like this is my first bust. I am capable of doing my job.”
Buck heard the frustration and anger in JD’s voice. That wasn’t what he wanted. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d been after, but he’d spent the previous night distracted and worried. That worry only grew as he heard JD moving around the apartment this morning. It had been the gnawing tension that had driven Buck from his bed.
Not having any foundation for his worry, he started chattering at JD, not really aware of what he was saying. He could see the kid ignoring him and begin to be irritated, but Buck couldn’t help the feeling of nervousness that was growing.
Taking a deep breath, Buck held up his hands and said, “Whoa, there, Kid. I know you can do this. You’re damn good at your job.”
“So what is it then?” JD demanded, crossing his arms and glaring at his friend.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a sigh, Buck turned partially away and ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know,” he admitted softly. “I just…” he couldn’t finish. He didn’t want JD to worry.
JD let his arms drop. “You just have a bad feeling about this bust,” he stated, smiling slightly as his friend’s blue eyes shot to meet his own. Knowing what Buck was about to ask, JD explained, “I was talking to Vin yesterday. I didn’t like how suddenly this was set up. He admitted he had a bad feeling about it too. We just didn’t say anything to you guys because we didn’t want you to worry.”
Buck chuckled. He’d been so intent on protecting the kid from his worry it never occurred to him that JD might be doing the same. He locked eyes with his friend as JD rested a hand on his shoulder.
“We’ll be fine,” JD assured.
Vin ran the cloth over his rifle one more time. He’d been in the office since well before dawn. Something about this set-up didn’t sit right. Yesterday at the briefing, he could read it in Anderson’s eyes. Team Five’s leader wasn’t happy with the set-up, but they’d been given very little choice in the matter. The fact that JD had approached him later had only confirmed his own instincts.
A small grin crooked the Sharpshooter’s lips as he thought about how the two of them had kept their concerns to themselves in order to protect their friends. Of course, they should have known better. Upon their return, Vin easily read the concern in Chris’ eyes. The fact that Josiah, Ezra and Nathan had all stopped by and offered the two youngest their support and a few words of encouragement only increased Vin’s unease.
Still, he and JD had played it as cool as they could. Buck had nearly driven him over the edge yesterday afternoon. Vin had left for the day and was just getting on his motorcycle when Buck appeared by his side and started in on his “big brother, mother hen” act. It was only JD’s arrival that allowed Vin to escape.
He didn’t blame Buck and knew his friend had been equally worried about both of them.
Releasing a sigh, he cleaned up his desk and prepared to go to Team Five’s area.
Five members of ATF’s Team seven gathered at Chris’ house. Though they tried to be upbeat and relaxed, each of them felt the undercurrents of tension at the thought of two of their number on a bust without them.
Nathan was in the kitchen cutting carrots into sticks when Ezra came in and began fiddling around with the coffee. The medic knew the Southerner had something he wanted to ask and had a pretty good idea what it was. He would be patient, though, and allow Ezra to ask in his own time.
Finally having his thoughts ordered the way he wanted, Standish cleared his throat and asked, “Don’t you think this meet was set up rather hastily?”
Nathan’s brow raised in surprise. Ezra must be more worried than he suspected to come straight to the point like that. Turning to face his friend, Nathan set the knife down and leaned back against the counter. Releasing a sigh, he glanced out the window and then back at Ezra. “Something seems off about it, but I can’t tell you what.” Looking directly at Ezra he observed, “This whole thing just doesn’t sit right.”
Ezra nodded, finding no comfort in having his own fears confirmed. If he were being honest with himself, he had been hoping that he was only being foolish in his fears, thus his broaching the subject with Nathan. That Nathan, the one who was most likely to set aside unexplained feelings in preference of facts, confirmed his fear, only seemed to increase the urgency of it. Nodding his thanks, the Southerner headed out of the room.
Nathan watched Ezra leave and could only hope they were both wrong in their fears.
Josiah stood in the barn tending his horse. He had seen the tension in his friends and felt a need to escape it, especially since he had no words of comfort or wisdom. A sense of unease had infiltrated his soul the day before and left him jumping at shadows, expecting to see crows each time he turned.
That his dreams had been free of the birds of darkness had brightened his spirit somewhat, but hadn’t yet relieved him of the thought that something was wrong.
As he ran the brush lightly over his horse’s coat, he offered up prayers of protection and a request that they all be reunited before day’s end.
Vin lay still in the rafters of the warehouse as he waited for Team Five’s Undercover Agent and the buyers to arrive. He could hear the soft check-in of the others and smiled when he heard JD’s response. The kid was all business when it came to a bust. Vin could only wonder if anyone else realized the respect the other teams had for JD.
An odd sound came across his headset and he frowned. It had been reoccurring periodically as they waited. It wasn’t loud enough to be a distraction and it didn’t cover any of the voices. It was just enough of a sound to cause Vin to question what it was.
Glancing down toward JD’s position, he could tell his friend had heard it too. Shrugging off his concern, Vin focused his attention back on his job, knowing that if it was something to worry about, someone would let him know.
JD placed his hand over his ear as the sound came again. He knew that sound, had heard it before. If only he could place it…
Before he could figure it out, the suspects walked into the warehouse followed closely by Team Five’s agents.
Moving his hand to its supporting position under his gun, JD waited and watched as the deal was made. Just as the money was being exchange, the odd sound filtered through his headset again.
It took his mind only a split second to make the connection between the sound and the training class he’d attended last month.
The sound was feedback created by certain radio transmitters specifically those used to remote detonate bombs. Glancing around, he fought panic as he tried to spot where the receiver had been placed. Eventually, he spotted at least one bundle of C4.
A second before Anderson gave the order to move in for the arrest, JD shouted, “BOMB!”
He saw the suspects and the agents in the center of the warehouse turn toward him and heard Vin’s quiet swear only seconds before his world was plunged into chaos and noise as an explosion tore through the building.
Vin heard JD’s call of “Bomb!” at the same time the buyer pulled a gun on the Undercover Agent. He swore softly and quickly took the shot he’d lined up when the men had entered the building..
He had no idea if his bullet hit its mark as an explosion rocked the building.
The story broke on television before they received official notification.
The five men had settled before the large television to watch the game and munch on snacks while waiting for their friends to finish the bust.
It was third and long on the fifteen. It was obvious they would be passing since the running game had been ineffectual. The men watched as the quarterback drew back his arm. Just before he released the ball, the picture changed to show a special report.
“We interrupt this game to bring you a special report,” the announcer said.
The five men watching dropped whatever they had in their hands, somehow instinctively knowing that what came next could change their lives.
“Good day,” the serious-faced reporter greeted. “Ten minutes ago an explosion rocked the warehouse district here in Denver…”
The voice trailed off as Chris’ phone began ringing. All eyes turned toward the loud implement as Chris lifted the receiver, his eyes reflecting his fear and dread. “Larabee”, he responded. A few nods and a few yes and no’s later, he hung up. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and slowly released it before turning to face the others. “That was Travis. The explosion was in the warehouse Team Five was using.” He held up a hand to forestall all questions. “They don’t know…” he began before his voice cracked with unexpressed emotion. Clearing his throat he tried again. “They don’t know what happened. They lost contact with the team when the explosion occurred. Rescue crews are on the way.”
“Fire?” Nathan asked, already moving toward the kitchen to turn the oven off.
“Not that they could see,” Chris reported, turning the power off to the television. “Travis said we can help with the rescue effort, but the case is going to team Two. We’re too close.” He wasn’t surprised when there were no arguments.
Chris, Nathan and Ezra headed for the door, anxious to get on-site.
Josiah was standing beside the still, pale form of Buck Wilmington. Reaching out he rested a hand on Buck’s shoulder. Wincing at the pain and fear he read in the deep blue eyes that met his, Josiah could only squeeze the tense muscles beneath his hand. “We won’t know until we go,” he said quietly.
“But what if…” Buck began, his voice strained with emotion and fear.
“We won’t know until we get there,” Josiah repeated firmly, holding Buck’s eyes with his own.
Buck stared into the Profiler’s eyes, searching for some hope, some answer. He wasn’t sure what he found there, but it seemed to reassure him. Nodding his head, he stood and followed the others out of the house, knowing they couldn’t get to the site soon enough.
Darkness surrounded him, enveloped him, sought to consume him. He could feel the cold hand of oblivion seeking to steal his soul and ran as fast as he could. Crying out his terror at the thought of being lost forever in the darkness.
As he fled, he became aware of other sensations, a pain in his arm, his legs and his head, a difficulty in breathing.
The darkness was gaining on him, nipping at his heels even as he tried to return to consciousness. Releasing another cry, which to the rest of the world was a soft moan, he felt unconsciousness once more reclaim him.
It was the warm, sticky flow which first caught his attention. Trying to breathe, he could only whimper at the constriction he felt around his chest.
Blinking his eyes open, Vin felt panic trying to consume him. Everything was black. Was he blind? Before he could give in to that fear, he noticed a dim gray glimmer above him and sighed in relief.
Sorting through his muddled thoughts, he recalled the bust, JD’s cry that there was a bomb. The shot he took and then an explosion. He recalled falling and being thankful he was wearing his safety harness. Then the beam to which he was attached buckled and he fell even further.
There was a sudden stop and pain as debris buffeted him and started him swaying. He remembered watching the wall come too close and at the wrong angle and then nothing.
With some effort, he managed to figure out how to move his arms and legs. He was currently dangling with his back to the ground, his arms, legs and head pointing downward like a rag-doll. His whole weight supported by the harness. That would explain why it was so difficult to breath.
Trying to turn his head so he could judge how far a drop it was to the ground, Vin saw a dark ring begin at the edge of his vision and knew he would pass out before he could achieve his goal.
A moment later he was unconscious.
The five men piled out of the two vehicles they had driven from the ranch to the warehouse.
It took them only a moment to locate the command center, which was being overseen by Travis and Cade McCord, leader of Team Two. The two men paused in their instructions as the remaining members of Team Seven arrived.
“Chris,” McCord greeted, having known these men would show up the minute he found out Tanner and Dunne had been on site.
“Cade,” Chris greeted back. “Orrin,” he acknowledged with a nod. Not wanting to waste time with questions and instructions, Chris simply offered, “We’re here to work.”
Staring into the hazel eyes of the worried blond, McCord nodded his head and motioned the men over. On the tailgate of a pickup truck, a number of papers had been laid out. “These are the plans Rob filed for the bust. We’ve already got people working from the outside in trying to focus on the areas the men were positioned. Right now the teams are here, here, here, here and here,” he explained, indicating various areas. “If you check over there, you should be able to get some gloves and hardhats.”
Chris nodded. “I’ll be searching with this team,” he said indicating one that was closest to the side where Vin had been. “Buck will be here,” he said, indicating the team closest to where JD had been.
“And the others?” Cade inquired.
Chris glanced over his shoulder at the remaining three men. He couldn’t ask them to work away from either group closest to their missing friends. Josiah was still next to Buck, offering support, Nathan was shifting impatiently from one foot to another, anxious to get started and Ezra was staring at the remains of the building, his expression unreadable. “Josiah will be with Buck. Nathan and Ezra are with me,” Chris instructed.
McCord nodded his agreement and offered his hand. Catching Chris’ eyes, he assured, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure everyone comes out alive.”
Chris felt his stomach clench at the statement before pushing away the fear that tried to assail him. Vin and JD were not dead, could not be dead. “I know,” he replied before leading the others away.
The cold drizzle had continued throughout the day as men and women worked through the rubble, calling out names, hoping for a response.
Team seven had been at the task for several hours when another group found the first of the missing agents. Though dusty and tired, he was otherwise unhurt. An ambulance took him away to the hospital for a more thorough checkup, as a precaution and the teams attacked the rubble with a renewed vigor.
Nathan glanced over at his two friends and felt his concern grow. The three of them had been working like men possessed. They had made good headway into the building, but the physical strain they were under required some attention. Knowing that trying to get either Ezra or Chris away from their current location would be nearly impossible, Nathan made his way over to where refreshments had been set up.
Grabbing three water bottles, he made his way back to where Ezra and Chris still dug through the debris. Walking up to each man, he forced the water into their hands and ordered, “Drink.” Though he could read the protest forming, neither man disobeyed.
Within minutes they were done with their water and back at work, trying to make their way toward the portion of the building that hadn’t completely fallen, but had been blocked by the debris.
Across the way, Josiah and Buck continued working. Josiah looked around and made mental notation of where the walls had been. He knew they had to bet getting close to where JD had been located, providing the young man hadn’t moved out of position.
It was only a few minutes later when he heard Buck cry out “JD!”
Making his way over, he nearly fell as Buck came to a sudden stop.
There in the rubble and dust, was a pale hand protruding from under a box.
Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes in brief prayer, Josiah moved cautiously forward, nearly weeping with relief when he found the hand warm, and a pulse. “He’s alive,” he whispered through tear-roughened voice. Glancing over his shoulder, Josiah saw the tears streaming down Buck’s face as he absorbed the news.
Relinquishing his place to Buck, Josiah motioned the other workers in their group over to their location.
Within minutes JD was free. Nathan had come across from his position and was checking the young man over before the paramedics arrived.
“Nothing feels broken,” he said quickly. “Looks like he hit his head. I expect that he has a concussion. The hospital will be able to tell us more,” he assured, feeling hope and relief blend together. The injuries could have been much worse. Apparently the boxes JD had used as shelter from potential gunfire had also provided shelter from the blast.
Rising, Nathan glanced across and saw Chris’ haunted eyes staring back. Some of his relief left as he realized they still had one man to find and Vin may not have been as lucky.
Josiah rested a hand on Nathan’s shoulder. “I’m going with Buck to the hospital. I don’t think he should be driving.”
“I’ll let the others know,” Nathan assured before heading back to his search party.
Across the way, Chris watched as JD’s unconscious form was loaded onto a gurney and he, Josiah and Buck left. Just then he couldn’t explain or express what he was feeling. He was relieved and thankful that JD had been found, but finding JD only drove home the fact that Vin was missing and could be badly hurt. He knew Vin wasn’t dead, hoped he wasn’t dead, but still…
“Doesn’t seem like anything’s broken,” Nathan informed Chris and Ezra as he approached. “Looks like his hit his head. Buck and Josiah when to the hospital to be with him.”
Receiving nods of acknowledgement from both men, Nathan turned his attention back to sifting through the rubble and debris.
Vin forced his eyes open again. He was able to hear the sound of people working. He wanted to call out, but he was so light-headed and thirsty he wasn’t sure he had the energy. Looking around the small enclosed space which held him, he decided to shift to his other arm.
The second time he had woken up, he had expended a portion of his waning energy to alter his position. He had reached out with his arm, managed to snag the rope and work himself into a more upright position. As he felt the pull of unconsciousness once more, he had wrapped his right arm in the rope to keep himself upright.
As his periods of lucidity became more frequent. Vin had explored his prison as much as he dared. It was perhaps five feet across and quite long. He was unable to touch the ground and still had no idea how far a drop it would be. Unwilling to risk further injury, he alternated holding himself upright with his right and left arms.
The stream of blood that had initially woken him up had ceased, but the ache in his head and body continued to grow. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he recalled Nathan telling him to stay awake when he had a head injury. Searching for something to keep him awake, he remembered that it was Thanksgiving. He had a lot to be thankful for this year.
Thinking back to a year ago, he had to smile. A year ago he had been alone, driving back to Denver after tracking a bounty down to Tombstone, Arizona of all places. It hadn’t even dawned on him it was Thanksgiving until he turned on the radio and heard the Cowboys were playing. His meal had been a frozen chicken dinner - the only meal available when he’d stopped by the 24 hour gas station.
Then, a few months later he’d met Chris and Nathan. Shortly after that Buck, Josiah and Ezra had appeared and finally JD. Worry seized the injured Texan at the thought of his friend. He could only hope JD was safe.
In less than a year Vin had been given friends, a home, a job he loved, a purpose. And he knew without question that the others were here now looking for him and JD. He only wished they would hurry.
JD fought his way out of the blanket of darkness that enveloped him. Something important happened or had happened. He needed... he needed something... Something wasn’t right...
Buck sat beside JD’s bed. He had been relieved when the doctor had assured him JD wasn’t injured badly. The only concern the doctor had was the egg-sized knot on the back of Dunne’s head and the fact he was still unconscious. Quiet words of encouragement tumbled from Buck’s lips. "Come on, Kid, you’ve got to wake up soon. We’ve go the turkey and all the trimmings set to go out at Chris’ house. We held off until you could be there with us. Even made those sweet potatoes you were going on about. Can’t have any of it until you wake up though, JD."
Josiah looked on silently from the other side of the bed. He was saying his own prayers of thanks and requests for healing. That JD could have come through the explosion almost unscathed was beyond what they had hoped. Aside from some rather deep bruises on his arms and legs and what appeared to be a hyper-extended elbow, they only had the concussion to fear. Josiah could only pray that Vin was in as good condition.
JD heard a soothing flow of words wrap around him and lead him closer to consciousness. Eventually the darkness began to fade as other sounds and feelings made themselves known. Shifting slightly on the bed, he called, "Buck?"
Buck’s head snapped up. JD had been shifting around on the bed every now and then, but the whispered croak of his name was like a jolt of electricity through him. His smile broke out as he tightened his grip on JD’s hand. "Right here, Kid," he encouraged, relief and joy evident in his voice.
JD turned his head toward the voice and slowly cracked his eyes open. A smile crawled across his face as his friend came into focus. "Don’t call me kid," he demanded, feeling relief as Buck’s laughter washed over him. His brow furrowed as he tried to remember what happened. "Bomb!" he called as his eyes flew open wide. Feeling another hand on his shoulder he turned and found himself looking up at Josiah.
"Yes, there was a bomb," Josiah assured. "They’re going through the rubble now looking for survivors. Some of the building is still standing and they want to get through it as quickly as possible.
"Vin?" he asked, worried about his friend who had been so exposed.
Buck opened his mouth to tell him Vin would be fine, but Josiah frowned and interrupted with the truth, knowing to lie to JD now would help no one. "They’re still looking for him. So far the workers have recovered everyone except Vin and those involved in the deal. It shouldn’t be long now, though," Josiah assured.
JD took the words into himself and nodded. "Thanks Josiah," he said. "The others are still looking?"
"Just as hard as they can," Buck assured his friend.
"How... How are the others," JD stammered, not sure he wanted to know the answer.
Josiah smiled down and squeezed JD’s shoulder. "Who says Christmas is the only time for miracles?" he asked. "So far nothing that won’t heal with time and rest."
JD sighed in relief. "Good. Now all we have to do is get Vin," he observed as the doctor walked in.
With each discovery, with each agent recovered, Chris felt his desperation grow. They had to find Vin, they had to. Nathan had updated he and Ezra on JD’s status just a few minutes ago. The kid was hurting a bit, but was otherwise OK. The crates he’d been behind had protected him from most serious injury. The doctors predicted he would make a full recovery in no time.
A shout behind him had Chris spinning around. They had found the under cover agent and the buyer. Debating whether or not to take a look, he eventually moved over to help. As he approached the sight, he could see the agent was awake and talking. It was obvious his arm was broken and he had some nasty cuts. The suspect was obviously dead. Scanning the body, he spotted what looked like a bullet hole in the man’s shoulder. Vin’s work, he thought grimly. It would have incapacitated the man without killing him. Glancing down the arm, he saw where falling debris had severed it just below the elbow. A gun was still clutched in the dismembered hand.
Taking in the man’s height and the location of the shoulder, Chris followed the line of sight. His eyes fell on a partially upright section of wall and roof. It was a little to the side of where they had been searching. Glancing back at the body, Chris looked back over at that section of wall again and moved over to it.
Ezra watched as Chris made his way over to the newly discovered agent. That left only Vin unaccounted. The news that JD would be fine had greatly encouraged him and relieved some of his worry. As Chris headed back, he wondered at the altered course of his Team Leader. Glancing over his shoulder at Nathan, Ezra headed off to intercept Larabee.
Nathan walked next to Ezra as they approached the Team Leader. "Mr. Larabee," Ezra called. Chris kept walking, staring intently at a small opening in the rubble. Quickening his step, Ezra soon found himself next to Chris. "Mr. Larabee! Chris!," he called, reaching out to rest his hand on the blond’s arm.
Chris turned toward Ezra when he felt a hand on his arm. "What?" he asked, stopping.
"Why are you headed this way?" Nathan asked.
Turning to look at the section that had been his goal, Chris informed, "The suspect was shot. The shot would have come from about there," he said pointing overhead. "If the beam fell, then Vin might be over here."
Nathan’s stomach clenched at the thought, not only of Vin trapped in that small space, but also at the possibility of the injuries the Sharpshooter might have sustained in a fall. Allowing a shudder to run down his spine, Nathan took a step closer to their destination. "Then we’d better get started," he said, determination in his voice.
As the three men moved closer to the partially standing wall, Ezra stopped them both. "Gentlemen," he said looking at the task before them. "We need to be careful here. If we move the wrong things, we could bring it all down."
Chris nodded. "What do you suggest?" he asked, willing to listen to take advice. Right now his emotions and thoughts were chaotic enough that he knew he wasn’t thinking clearly.
As quickly as he could, Ezra motioned for another of their party to join them. In no time they had arranged their small group.
Vin heard voices. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but they sounded close. Relief began to fill him, but he fought against it. He needed to stay awake and if he allowed the relief to win, he would lose that fight.
As he heard the shifting of debris begin, he once more turned his thoughts to reasons why he was thankful.
Though it was only about another thirty minutes, to Chris it seemed hours before one particular piece was moved and a shaft of grey light shone into a small cavern created by the partially collapsed walls and roof.
Peering into the gloom, his breath caught at the sight before him. Vin was suspended a few feet off the ground. Half his face was covered in blood. What wasn’t covered in blood was covered in dust and grime. One arm was twisted in the rope which held him suspended and his head was down.
"Vin..." he gasped out.
As if sensing Chris’ presence, Vin lifted his head and stared met the concerned hazel eyes. "Cowboy," he replied, a wry smile appearing on his face as his eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness.
"No you don’t!" Nathan commanded as Vin started getting up of the couch.
Vin let out a sigh of frustration. "I’m fine, Nathan," he declared.
"No you’re not," Chris disagreed, stepping up next to his friend.
"The doctor informed us that neither you nor JD are to do anything stressful. You’re also not to be left alone and are to be awoken every two hours to ensure there are no complications," Ezra informed. He had been terrified when he saw Vin hanging there looking more dead than alive. He hadn’t dared hope things would have worked out as well as they did. Vin had a gash on the side of his head that required four stitches, a concussion, and more bruises and scratches than anyone should have.
"I know that, Ez," Vin said, wincing as he shifted around. "But sometimes a man needs to get up off the couch."
Josiah’s eyes lit as understanding dawned. Letting out a low chuckle he rose and helped Vin to stand. "Think you’ll be OK on your own?"
"Been takin’ care of myself for a while now," Vin grumbled, holding onto Josiah’s hand until he had his balance.
Buck grinned as they watched the Sharpshooter shuffle down the hall.
"Dinner ready?" JD asked from the recliner.
Buck glanced down at his watch. "Turkey should be done in about twenty minutes," he observed.
Studying the clock, JD smiled and nodded. "Good," he said. "It’ll still be Thanksgiving."
"Looks like you’re right," Buck said, clapping JD on the leg. "I wouldn’t..." His voice trailed off as movement in the kitchen caught his eye. Standing, he headed toward the kitchen. "Vin Tanner!" he called, startling the young man. "You put that roll back right now! Dinner isn’t that far away."
"Aw, but Buck!" Vin whined as the rest of the team started laughing at the antics.
Before too much longer they were all seated around the dining table that was almost groaning under the weight of food placed upon it. As each man settled into position, silence fell.
Heads bowed as Josiah offered up a prayer. Finishing his prayer, he looked at the others and said, "As is tradition in many families, I think we should each say what we are most thankful for this year." His suggestion was met with a mixture of cheers and groans.
Clearing his throat, Chris felt all eyes turn to him. "I’d like to start," he announced. "For a number of years I could see no point in this holiday. I didn’t think there was anything in this life that I would ever feel thankful for again." Looking around the table, he met each pair of eyes, lingering longest on Buck and Vin. "I was wrong. This year, and this day especially, has given me a reason for thanks. A lot of reasons. And I am truly thankful for every one of them."
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