A/N: Yup, I write fics mostly in a screenplay-esque format. But, sometimes I get an inkling to do a lil inner psyche mumbo jumbo. This is one of those. Of course there's some hurt, but it's also a bit of fun. And, yes, I've chosen to play in the ATF sandbox for this one. *sigh* Writing AU fics…look what you guys have done to me… ;)


In .03 seconds, his brain registers the fact that he is falling. It takes .02 seconds for the order to travel to his arm demanding it to protect the body from impact. The sound of something snapping hits his ears in .05 seconds. The pain following the sound comes in .06. It's another 30 seconds before he realizes the anguished crying echoing through his house is his own. It takes another two full minutes before he can calm himself enough to think clearly.

Call for help, his rational thought tells his panicked body.

His cell phone is in his pocket. All he has to do is reach it. Just move an arm, and –

Oh God!

No, not that arm. That arm just sacrificed itself to save the rest of him from further damage. He has to try the other.

Why won't it move?

Oh, that's right. That traitorous arm is pinned up to his chest in a sling, courtesy of Bob the Bodybuilder trying his best to barehandedly rip it off his torso.

Next time Buck is in danger of experiencing an untimely death at the hands of his latest conquest's muscular boyfriend, do try to remember to mind your own business, his rational mind tells himself.

He knows he'll ignore the advice.

Back to the issue at hand. He is lying on the floor of his apartment, one arm bound, the other being consumed in invisible flames which grow hotter at the slightest hint of movement. What can he do?

Your legs still work, imbecile. Get up and seek aid from a neighbor.

He could swear he actually heard his rational mind sighing at him from inside his brain.

He tries to sit up. He fails. The flames in his arm burn hotter, not to be extinguished by the cool tears leaking, unchecked, from his eyelashes. Sucking in a few quick breaths, he rolls slightly to the left in an attempt to use the bound elbow as leverage. The too-recently injured shoulder screams in protest and he quickly rolls onto his stomach to take the weight off the offended limb.

Great. Now you're lying on your face. It won't do to be found in such an ungentlemanly position.

"Shut up," he mumbles to himself, but can't help but agree. He would never hear the end of it if his friends should walk in and see him face-down on the floor, his left art trapped in its neat little blue sling beneath his body, and his right arm splayed awkwardly and uselessly out beside him. No, that wouldn't do. Apalling. He has to get up.

Having no other choice, he presses his head hard against the ground, cringing at the thought of having to use the most important part of his anatomy as a crutch. Well, Buck would argue that it wasn't the most imp-

Focus, Standish!

Puffing out a breath, he makes slow work of sliding his knees up underneath him, pushing himself off the ground in a rather clumsy and unsteady manner. He stands up, laughing giddily at his success. His arm, now dangling loosely at his side, reminds him with a rather rude flare of agonizing pain that this is no laughing matter. He trudges forward to the door, then stops and stares dumbly at the knob. In a moment of uncharacteristic panic, he begins kicking the wood hard and screaming for help at the top of his lungs. Spent, he turns around and leans back against the barrier that's trapping him within his own home.

Feel better? that annoying inner-voice asks sarcastically.

"No," he admits.

Good. Then a lesson has been learned regarding throwing childish tantrums. Now think. You have another way to call for help.

Of course! The phone in the kitchen! He trudges across the front room, mindful to take a wide birth around the overturned stool he had toppled from. He glances up at the ceiling above it, scowling at the fowl beast responsible for his tumble. He swears it's laughing at him.

The phone, Standish.

He moves on, wondering at the fact that his inner voice actually sounds irritated with him. He doesn't think he hit is head… Perhaps he's losing his mind… Must just be the pain. God, how it hurts!

You're here, just a call away from assistance. You can do this.

Pondering the phone on the kitchen counter, he thanks his lucky stars that it's there and not hanging from the wall. Sighing, he once again is forced to use various parts of his cranium as a crude tool instead of as the protective shell safe-guarding his normally (but currently questionably) sharp mind. A few grunts of irritation later, he is finally able to flip the phone from its cradle so that it lands face-up on the counter. Smiling in relief, he bends down in an attempt to use his nose to press the buttons. He ends up pushing several at the same time.

You need something more precise.

"I know!" he snaps at himself before glancing around in search of something appropriate. His eyes land on the porcelain cylinder beside the stove, the one holding his collection of wooden stirring spoons. He hesitates for only a second before leaning forward and pulling one of the spoons out with his teeth. Again, he can't help from giggling at the absurdity of his situation: both arms out of commission, a wooden spoon clenched tightly in his mouth, and all the while talking to himself. Lord, what would his mother think of him now?

You can call her and find out, his suddenly irrational mind points out.

The thought sobers him quickly, but does bring about an entirely new question. Who should he call? Of course he should call an ambulance. No, he had no means of unlocking his door to allow them in. He was not about to have his expensive mahogany wood irreparably damaged by overzealous paramedics. His friends had keys to his home. He would have to call one of them… But who?

Buck?

Don't be stupid. He'll take one look at you and laugh until he undoubtedly splits his insides. Besides, he's partially the reason you are in this mess to begin with. If you still had one good arm-

"I get the point," he mutters around the spoon.

JD?

Out of the question. He'll simply tell Mr. Wilmington, in which case you will be no better off than if you had directly called him in the first place. He's also far more energetic than you can handle at your current fragile moment.

Chris?

Ha! Mr. Larabee will most likely drown you with a stream of foul language for the useless state you've allowed yourself to fall into. In fact, he'll probably just put you permanently out of your misery. What good is an agent with no arms?

"I'll heal," he assures himself, forcing back the oncoming melancholy. Now was simply not the time for such dark thoughts.

Josiah?

He'll smother you with his damn fatherly concern. Yeesh.

Did he just mentally shudder?

Nathan?

While normally a reasonable choice, as he is medically trained, you know he'll roughly lecture you on how it is you managed to find yourself in this predicament. Especially since you'd be pulling him away from his evening out with the lovely Miss Raine.

Vin, then. There was no one else.

Perfect. He'll aide you with quiet courtesy. Why did you not think of him first?

He wished he had a finger with which to flip himself off with. Now there was an odd thought. Perhaps he had unknowingly hit his head? Shaking his mind clear, then immediately regretting it as he realizes that with the spoon in his mouth, he must have looked like a mangy cur with a stick, he carefully begins to dial Vin's number. After several rings, and with growing anxiety, he nearly whoops for joy when his friend's voice answers with a jovial "Tanner!"

He begins to speak rapidly, only to be interrupted by the man on the other line.

"Ez? That you? I can't understand a word you're sayin'."

Spit out the spoon. What is wrong with you, man?

If only he knew. Much like that same mangy cur he had just imagined would have done, he twists his head to the side and throws the spoon across the kitchen with his mouth, not caring where it should land.

"Mr. Tanner," he gasps into the phone. "I seem to have found myself in a rather embarrassing dilemma. Would you be so kind as to come and assist me? You'll need to bring my house key, I am unable to answer the door."

"Are ya hurt? What happened?"

He can hear Vin already on the move, the worry in his voice evident.

"Nothing to cause any undo concern, I assure you. In a rather clumsy moment, I managed to fall from a short height and seem to have landed a bit awkwardly on my good arm. I fear I may have damaged that one, as well."

"How bad?"

A car door slams and the sound of the stuttering jeep's engine coming to life pours through the phone.

"I don't believe the bone is broken, but something most assuredly is. I felt that something give at the elbow and I am currently unable to move my arm at all."

"Hurt a lot?"

"Excruciating."

"Shit. Hold on, I'm almost there."

"Thank you, Mr. Tanner."

He hears the phone click off, but can do nothing about hanging up his end. Instead, he makes his way back to his couch and gently lowers himself onto it, wincing at every tiny shift of his arm. A movement on the ceiling catches his eye, and he stares disdainfully at the brown spec making its merry way across the room.

Felled by a monster no larger than your fingernail. Tsk tsk.

"It lunged at me," he defends himself.

It's not even poisonous.

"Yes, I see that now, thank you, but I had no way of knowing at the time. It attacked rather unexpectedly."

You were destroying its home.

"I thought it was merely a dust bunny, and it should not have built its home within mine in the first place!"

"Ez? Who're ya arguin' with?"

Ah, the savior has arrived at last.

"Oh, only myself, Mr. Tanner."

Why does he look so very worried all of a sudden?

"I think we should get ya to a hospital."

"I think that would wise."

7777777

"What's wrong with 'im, doc?"

"He's suffered a rather serious rupture of his triceps tendon. We'll have to take him into surgery right away to repair it."

Do they have to talk right over me as if I'm not here?

"That is because very few people nowadays are raised to exhibit the most basic understanding of manners," he answers himself grumpily.

"Who the hell are ya talkin' to, Ez?"

Well, it's about time Vin remembers that he is, in fact, still in the room.

"I told you once already, I am talking to myself. Please refrain from eavesdropping on my conversation."

He watches through bleary vision as Vin directs his attention back to the doctor. Wonderful. Ignored again.

"Why's he actin' like that?"

"Oh, nothing to worry about. We've administered some medication to ease the pain as well as a mild anesthetic. It's not unusual for a patient to exhibit unusual behaviors while under the drugs' influences."

"Yeah, but he was talkin' to himself like that when I found 'im."

Good Lord, will they not cease their insulting drabble?

"Not likely," he mumbles.

There's that worried look again from Vin. The doctor doesn't even glance in his direction. Typical. Medical staff are generally not to be trusted.

"Sir, tendon ruptures are one of the most painful injuries a person can sustain. That, coupled with the knowledge that he would have to find help for himself, seems to have put him into a mild state of shock. It helped numb the pain enough for him to seek medical aide."

Numb my ass.

"Now that was just crude. Mother raised you better than that."

Is that amusement now in Vin's eyes? Oh yes, things are funny now. Well, that must be a good sign. Perhaps the situation is not quite as serious as he had feared. He could just relax and allow the medical professionals to take over.

I thought you said they weren't to be trusted.

"Shut up."

Oops, the amused look is gone from Vin's eyes. The concern has made a miraculous comeback.

"Hey, doc, ya sure he'll be okay after surgery?"

"He'll be fine, sir."

"Right as rain, Mr. Tanner."

Vin is flashing him that familiar subtle smile. Good. It's much better than that worried look.

I thought perhaps his face might permanently freeze that way.

"Please, for the love of everything holy, just shut up!"

7777777

The first thing he senses when he wakes up is a feeling of being trapped. His arms are both pressed tightly to his body, the left tilted up across his chest, the right straight across his abdomen. His initial instinct is to try everything possible to escape the bonds.

"Whoa, easy, Ez, you're okay."

He immediately stops struggling.

"Mr. Tanner?"

"Yeah, why don't ya open your eyes and take a look."

The tone is soft, soothing, lulling. He doesn't want to open his eyes. He wants to go back to sleep. He knows he's safe with his friend quietly –

Quiet.

There is something odd about the quiet.

"It's gone," he says, his voice a mix of awe and gratitude.

"What is, Ezra?"

The tone is gentle, patient, understanding. He knows the tracker already suspects what he is referring to, but asked anyway out of simple courtesy. He would answer in kind.

"Me. I mean it. I mean… I don't know… there was a voice…" He looks at his friend in alarm. "I'm not insane."

"Never said ya were."

Vin smiles at him. It's a reassuring smile. It's a relaxing smile. It's an "Everything is going to be fine" sort of smile.

...Well, almost. There's still the simple matter that he's an ATF agent with no arms…

The End!