by Winnie Power

"Can you hear me, Mr. Larabee?" the anaesthesiologist asked. He didn’t expect an answer but he’d always explained what he was doing to his patients.

Chris could hear the man talking to him but he couldn’t understand what he was saying. His life had just become an unbearable symphony of pain. His abdomen being the loudest and most urgent and he felt tears well up in his eyes. He tried to breathe against the intrusion of the tubes running into his mouth and nose and fought to lift his hands and pull them away.

Suddenly Chris felt his right arm pulled out straight and strapped to a board. His left arm soon followed.

"Vitals are coming through now, Dr. Gleason," the circulating nurse said as she continued to monitor the patient. "You’re doing very well, Chris," she said soothingly.

"As soon as Dr. Weaver gets here, I’m going to put you to sleep, Mr. Larabee. I’m going to inject something called Versed into your IV and you’ll wake up in recovery," Chris looked at the man through hooded, pain-filled eyes. "Tell Dr. Weaver the patient is prepped and ready to begin."

The circulating nurse walked to the door and held it as Dr. Weaver followed by Dr. Roger Simpson entered. Weaver made his way to the bed where the patient lay in a jumble of machines and tubes.

"Hi, Chris, Dr. Simpson is going to be assisting me today. I know you’re in a lot of pain and we’re going to do everything we can to make you feel better. Dr. Gleason is going to put you to sleep now. So just close your eyes and let us take care of you," Weaver explained. He watched as Chris’s face suddenly relaxed and the lines of pain that had been evident since his arrival seemed to disappear.

Gleason very gently ran his hands over Chris' eyelashes and when there was no blinking reflex he signalled that they were ready to begin. Dr Gleason administered the dose of succinylcholine. He removed the tube from the patient's mouth and replaced them with an endotracheal tube but leaving the NG tube in place. He placed the bag over the tube and waited for Weaver to confirm the tube was in place. As soon as Weaver signalled that it was, they taped the tube and attached the ventilator to it.

"How’s the patient?" Weaver asked Gleason.

Gleason had been watching the monitors for a few minutes, "He’s still not as stable as I’d like but if we wait any longer he’s just going to get worse," he answered.

"Let’s get started," Weaver said.

+ + + + + + +

Six worried men took up residence in Vin Tanner’s room. The quiet was something each man needed as they waited for word on Chris Larabee.

Josiah Sanchez stood at the window watching the lazy white clouds as they tried to obliterate the dwindling sun. He continued to pray for his fallen comrades.

JD Dunne sat on the floor, his knees pulled up against his chest. His mind wandered back to the day Chris and Vin had invited him into their elite group and he hoped he’d get to see them smiling as they’d been that stormy, snow-covered morning.

Buck Wilmington leaned against the wall at the foot of Vin Tanner’s bed. He unconsciously flicked his hair back as he remembered the devastating day they’d discovered Sarah and Adam had been murdered. Chris had fought back from the brink of hell those many months ago and he hoped his friend could do it again.

Ezra Standish sat in a chair next to Vin’s bed. He watched each man in the room. He had an amazing knack for reading people. The day he’d met Chris Larabee he’d been amazed at how well the man could keep his thoughts and feelings so well hidden, yet he’d been able to read Ezra perfectly. Ezra had joined the team for no other reason than to get a reading on the enigmatic man.

Nathan Jackson sat on the right side of Vin Tanner, watching the man sleeping peacefully, unaware of the surgery being done on his best friend. Nathan knew their leader was in trouble and he wished for the same anonymity as his friend. He knew what Chris was going through in surgery and he knew the man was in for a long recovery period. It was at times like this he wished he didn’t know the particulars of the human body and it’s inadequacies.

Orrin Travis wondered if he’d ever be on the receiving end of the Larabee Glare. He admired the tenaciousness of the man. Chris had been the one person Travis had allowed to usurp his authority and if anyone asked he would have told them he was proud of it. There were worse things than admitting he was wrong and Chris had proved it to him many times.

"How long's it been, Buck?" JD asked worriedly from the floor.

"Three hours and forty minutes," Buck answered without glancing at his watch. He could feel every minute as it ticked by.

"How much longer do you think it’s gonna be, Nathan?" Travis asked.

"That depends on what they find," Jackson answered.

Ezra picked up on the anxiousness in the medic's voice. "You know what’s happening don’t you, Mr. Jackson? Would you care to enlighten the rest of us?" he asked.

Nathan stood from the chair and joined Sanchez at the window. He gazed out at the parking lot before speaking. "The wound in Chris’s abdomen," he said.

"What about it?" Buck asked.

"Whatever caused the wound also caused some internal damage," Nathan explained.

"What kind of damage, Brother Nathan?" Josiah asked worriedly.

Before Nathan could answer, the door opened and Dr. Weaver entered, "I was told I could find you all here," he said.

"How is he?" the question came from six mouths but seemed to come from one.

"Is Mr. Tanner still sleeping?"

"Yes, Dr. Mercer ordered a sedative for him and he’ll be out for a few hours yet," Jackson explained.

"Then I’ll ask you all to step out and follow me to the waiting room," Weaver said.

"Someone should stay with Vin in case he does wake up," Buck said.

"I’ll stay," Standish volunteered. "Mr. Jackson can give me the details when you guys come back.

"Thanks, Ezra," Buck said as they left the room.

They followed Weaver to the tiny waiting room and were surprised to find it empty. Josiah, Nathan, and Travis sat down in the leather chairs. Buck and JD stood to either side of their friends.

"Well?" Buck asked impatiently.

Weaver looked at each man individually and saw the same anxious look mirrored on each unshaven face. "Mr. Larabee made it through surgery and is being taken to ICU."

"Thank God," Josiah’s quiet voice said.

"What aren’t you telling us?" Nathan asked.

"He’s in critical condition and may not make it through the night."

"No!" JD exclaimed and felt tears come unbidden to his eyes.

"What’s wrong with him?" Buck asked, the other men were amazed at the calm tone of his voice.

"He’s has pneumonia. We’re treating him with antibiotics for that. He’s also having difficulty breathing so he’s on a respirator. His left wrist is broken, his right hand had two very severe cuts as did the right elbow. The elbow took twenty stitches."

"What else?" Travis asked.

Weaver swallowed. He always found this part the hardest. How to tell a family that one of their members was either not going to be with them soon or would be in for a very long period of convalescence. Either way the man would be lost to them for some time to come. "Whatever caused the wound to his side went deep enough to damage the large intestine."

"You can fix it right, Doc?" JD asked, his voice suddenly taking on a boyish quality.

"Let him finish, JD," Nathan said quietly. He wanted them all prepared for what could happen.

"We were able to repair the damage. We flushed the excess waste and blood from the abdominal cavity. We performed a Laparotomy in order to resection the large intestine. We’ve left a drainage tube in place to get rid of any waste we’ve missed."

"And?" Buck said as the doctor remained quiet for a moment.

"Have any of you heard of Peritonitis?"

"Some kind of infection?" Sanchez asked.

"That’s right. It’s caused by blood and waste seeping into the abdomen from the intestine. Mr. Larabee probably didn’t even know he was bleeding inside but he must have been suffering a lot of pain. We’ve started him on antibiotics for that as well but he’s so weak he may not have the strength to fight back." He watched as each man became solemn. "I’m going up to ICU to check on the patient. I’ll tell the nurses there to let you know how he’s doing."

"Can I see him, Doc?" Buck asked as he swiped at the moisture streaming from his eyes.

"Only one at a time and only if you stay out of the nurses way," Weaver told them.

"You go ahead, Buck," Nathan said knowing how close he was to Chris, closer than all of them with the exception of Vin Tanner.

"Thanks, Nathan," Buck said and followed the doctor out the door.

"I should warn you about what you’re going to see when we get there," Weaver said.

"You mean there’s more," Buck snapped and then apologized immediately.

"That’s ok, Mr. Wilmington, I understand how worried you are," Weaver said as they entered the elevator and he pushed the button and seven lit up.

"What else is there?"

"Mr. Larabee is hooked up to monitors so we can watch his vitals. He’s also being given blood transfusions to help replace what he lost. I told you he has a drain in his abdomen to remove excess waste and blood," Buck nodded. "He’s also got a G tube. This is a tube leading to the stomach. We’ve also attached him to a foley catheter."

"Ah, shit, Chris is gonna hate that one," Buck laughed as he remembered another time when Chris was attached to a foley. He’d hated it then and Buck knew he’d hate it now.

"I take it he’s had a Foley before?"

"Couple of times."

"You men lead a dangerous life."

"It can get rough sometimes, Doc," Buck said, smiling at his own understatement.

The door opened and Buck followed the doctor to the main nursing station. "Is Mr. Larabee settled in his room?" he asked.

"Melanie is in there with him now, Dr. Weaver, she’ll be done in a few minutes. He’s in ICU four."

"Thank you, nurse. Mr. Wilmington, if you’ll follow me."

Buck followed Weaver down a brightly lit corridor. He saw patients in various states in every room he passed. Nothing prepared him for what he saw as he entered ICU four. "God damn, Pard, you and Vin were supposed to be on vacation," he said and let the tears role down his cheeks.

"Melanie," Weaver said to the freckle faced, red haired nurse who was busily checking monitors on her patient.

"Hello, Dr. Weaver," she said softly.

"Melanie, I want you to make sure you measure everything. I know you always do but I’m a stickler as you know. Melanie’s worked with me for over ten years, Mr. Wilmington, she knows what she’s doing. If you have any questions, she’ll be able to answer them for you. Let me know immediately if there’s any change. I want you to notify me as soon as he shows any sign of coming to," Weaver ordered.

"Yes, Doctor," Melanie said as she looked at the handsome, moustached man standing at the open door. "Are you a friend?" she asked.

"Y...yes," Buck answered wearily.

"Why don’t you come over and talk with him?" the nurse asked.

Buck moved closer and noticed the straps holding his friends arms to the bed. He looked at the nurse angrily, "What are those for?" he asked knowing how his friend hated being tied down.

Melanie saw what he was upset about and explained, "When a patient is on a ventilator, we have to make sure they can’t pull the tubes out. He’s going to be very uncomfortable when he wakes up and he’s probably going to grab for anything that’s causing the discomfort. The straps will remain in place until he comes off the ventilator."

"I... is he in any pain?" Buck asked as he looked at the sleeping face of his friend. If not for the tubing running into his mouth, Buck would have sworn he was resting.

"Dr. Weaver ordered pain meds for your friend. He’ll be kept as comfortable as possible," Melanie said as she checked the drainage tube attached to her patient's right side.

Buck was unable to tear his eyes from the tube leading into his friend. The dark, pinkish fluid made him nauseous and he closed his eyes against his rebelling stomach. "What’s that stuff?" he asked.

"This is a drainage tube," Melanie explained in simple terms. "It allows waste and blood to drain from Chris’s abdomen. He’s holding his own, Mr. Wilmington."

"Dr. Weaver told me he had a lot of tubes but I didn’t think there’d be this many," Buck said as he ran his hand through his dishevelled hair.

"Your friend is a very sick man right now, Mr. Wilmington. He needs all these tubes and monitors to help keep him alive," Melanie told the distraught man.

"What’s that one for?" Buck asked as he noticed a tube leading into Chris’s chest.

"That’s the G-tube. We use that to feed patients who are unable to take things by mouth. We also use it for medications if we need to," she explained as she emptied and measured the liquid collected from the foley catheter.

Buck couldn’t help but smile as the woman did her job. "I think Chris would gladly put up with all those tubes if you’d take that one out," he said as he stroked the sweat soaked blonde hair.

"I don’t know anybody who enjoys this thing but it’s necessary. We need to know his intake and output. It’s all part of the treatment and care of the patient."

Once more Buck watched as the woman checked her patient’s vitals and IV lines. He watched as she put another bag of fluid on the pole and hooked it to the line. Next she attached a smaller bag and ran it through. "What’s that for?" he asked.

"The small bag is an antibiotic. Your friend has pneumonia as well as peritonitis. This will help him fight the infection," she said as she continued to monitor the pale man on the bed.

"How long before he wakes up?" Buck asked as he remembered the doctor saying he wanted to be notified.

"Dr. Weaver cut back on some of the meds. There’s no telling how long before he wakes up, Mr. Wilmington. We just have to wait and see."

"I hate waiting," Buck said as he moved away so the nurse could do her job.

"It’s always hard on family and friends," Melanie said as she checked the central line running into her patient’s neck.

Buck shook his head and fought back the tears that once again threatened to make themselves known. He turned to the door and his eyes fell on the worried face of Josiah Sanchez. "I think my replacement's here," he told the nurse as he turned back to the injured man. "I’ll be back, Pard, you just make sure you’re here when I return," Buck said and hurried from the room.

Josiah Sanchez came into the tiny room and struggled with his own tears. He sat next to the bed and only moved when the nurse needed to check one of the numerous tubes.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner fought to stay in the warmth of his dream. He smiled at the blonde haired man sitting next to him. They would soon be arriving at the lake for some much needed R&R. He could see his friends tense features as he watched the approaching storm. The sound of Mayday being shouted pulled him from the warmth of the dream to be slammed into the harsh truth of reality.

"No! Chris!" he screamed as he sat up in the hospital bed. Beads of perspiration running down his face.

"It’s ok, Vin. It’s just a dream. You’re safe now," Nathan Jackson said soothingly.

Vin opened his eyes and once again the reality of his situation crashed back on him. "It wasn’t a dream," Vin said. All thoughts of his own injuries were set aside as he remembered the harsh breathing of his best friend, the cry from the EMT ordering Nathan to help him, the cry of cardiac arrest. He shivered as he asked the terrifying question that had taken root in his mind, "Where’s C...Chris?"

"Chris is here, Vin," JD said.

"Where?" Vin Tanner asked anger at being in the dark and feeling lost coming through in the one word.

"He’s in ICU, Vin," Jackson said.

"He’s bad isn’t he?" Vin asked.

"Yes, Vin, he is."

"Oh, God, Chris!" Tanner’s cry broke from his throat in a gasp of mental and physical pain. "We w...were supposed t...to g...go fishing, Nathan. No bad guys, no guns. How c...could this happen?"

"It was an accident, Vin. The storm was a fluke and you guys had no warning."

"Chris didn’t really w...want to g...go. H...he did it for m...me," Vin said as his breath came in hiccupping breaths.

"JD, go get the nurse," Nathan ordered softly as the man on the bed began to thrash around. "Take it easy, Vin, no one blames you for what happened."

"M...my f...ault," Vin said as a nurse entered the room and placed a needle into one of the IV junctions. "M...my f...ault," Vin said as his eyes closed in sleep.

"Damn, that boy likes to carry a load of guilt," Wilmington said.

"Between him and Mr. Larabee, they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders," Ezra explained.

Orrin Travis stepped into the room and looked at the agents. "I’ve arranged for rooms for all of us at the Hilton. Don’t argue with me. I want each of you to take advantage of the rooms and get some rest. We’re no good to either of them if we don’t get some rest. I think the best thing to do is for two of us to remain here at all times. The rest of us should get some rest and take shifts."

"Orrin, that’s a good idea. It’ll keep somebody fresh here at all times," Jackson said as he glanced at the exhausted faces of his friends. "Look we’re all tired. Ezra, you stay here with Vin and I’ll go stay with Chris. Buck, JD, Orrin, and Josiah can go to the hotel, eat, get some rest and be back here to relive us in the morning."

"You need some rest too, Nathan," Buck told him.

"I’ll get some rest in the chair in Chris’s room. Look, Buck, I know you and you’ll never sleep while you’re here. Go get some sleep and come back tomorrow," Nathan ordered.

"We’ll call if anything changes, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra told him.

"Alright," Buck finally relented. "Just make sure you do call if anything changes at all."

"I will," Nathan promised.

"I’m gonna go see Chris first," JD said.

"I’d like to see him as well," Travis said. "You come with me, JD. We’ll be back in fifteen minutes, Buck. Be ready to go."

"I’m gonna go see him as well, Mr. Jackson. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes," Ezra told Nathan as he followed the others out the door.

"This is a mess, Nate," Buck said as he rubbed his tired eyes.

"That’s putting it mildly, Buck, just remember what you’re always telling the rest of us."

"What’s that?"

"Chris and Vin are fighters and together they’ll make it through anything."

"Did I really say that?" Buck asked weariness evident in his quiet voice.

"You did, Buck, and we really need you to believe it for them now," Nathan said.

+ + + + + + +

Three men converged on room four and watched as the attending nurse checked the monitors on the unconscious patient. Josiah Sanchez saw them and immediately placed his hand on the blond head. He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer as he left the room.

"How is Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked.

"He’s about the same," Josiah said worriedly.

"Has he been awake yet?" JD asked.

"I’m afraid not, JD," Sanchez said.

"What does the doctor say about that?" Travis asked, the lines around his eyes and mouth becoming more prominent in his worry over his friend and associate.

"They think he’s in a coma," Sanchez said softly.

"Ah shit," JD exclaimed.

"They’re going to put him through some tests just to be sure but the doctor is pretty certain."

"What’re we gonna do?" JD asked.

"Talk to him, JD, there’s no way of knowing whether a patient in a coma can hear things but I’m a firm believer in doing anything and everything in my power to help Brother Chris," Josiah said. "I’ll let you guys visit and go see Brother Vin."

"Mr. Travis has arranged rooms for all of us at the hotel. Nathan and Ezra are going to stay with Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner while the rest of us get some sleep. They want us to relieve them in the morning," Standish explained.

"That was very kind of you, Mr. Travis. I’ll see you guys in Vin’s room as soon as you’re done," he said as he headed for the elevator.

"You want to go in first, JD?" Orrin Travis asked the youngest member of the team.

"Can you come with me, Ezra?" JD asked.

"I don’t know if they’ll let us both in but we’ll certainly find out," Ezra Standish said as he placed his arm around Dunne’s shoulder. "We won’t be long, Mr. Travis."

"I’ll be right here," Travis said as he stood next to the open door.

"Only one visitor at a time," the nurse said as she checked the monitors over her patient's head.

"My young friend is a little nervous. I’d like to stay with him if it’s ok, Nurse?" Standish asked.

Melanie turned from the monitors and noticed the slightly pale young man being helped into the room by a man not much older with intense green eyes. "You can stay for a minute but then you’ll have to go," she said, giving them a small smile of reassurance.

"Thank you, Melanie," Ezra said as he read the name on her tag. "How is Mr. Larabee doing?" he asked as she checked his blood pressure.

"There’s no change," she said.

"Chris, I don’t know if you can hear me or not but you have to get better," JD said as he leaned heavily against Standish. He let his own tears flow freely from his eyes and wondered if he’d ever be the recipient of the Larabee glare again.

"I second that, Mr. Larabee, the team needs you," Standish said as he blinked away the moisture in his own eyes. "Ah hell, Chris, I need you. You’re the first person who’s ever believed in me and I won’t ever forget that. Keep fighting and come back to us." He closed his eyes against the moisture but was pulled from his thoughts by the loud sound of alarms.

"You’ll have to leave! Get out of here now!" Melanie said as she began pulling the blankets off her patient.

Ezra Standish pulled the younger man from the room as the call went out over the hospital’s PA system. "CODE BLUE, SEVENTH FLOOR, ICU! CODE BLUE, SEVENTH FLOOR, ICU!"

+ + + + + + +

"Chris!" the cry was ripped from Vin Tanner’s mouth as the call for code blue came over the speakers. His body thrashed around in the bed as he trembled in the throes of a nightmare.

Nathan Jackson, Josiah Sanchez, and Buck Wilmington didn’t need anyone to tell them that something had happened to their friend in ICU. The intangible link between Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner was in full force and even in his unconscious state Vin knew something had happened to his friend.

"Go, Buck, find out what’s going on. I’ll stay with Vin," Jackson said as he soothed the trembling man on the bed.

"I’ll stay with Brother Vin, Nathan, you go with Buck," Sanchez said as he took over Jackson’s place by the injured man’s bed.

"Thanks, Josiah," Nathan said as he headed for the door.

"We’ll let you know as soon as we find out anything," Wilmington said as he hurried from the room and raced towards the elevator, almost knocking over a drug cart pushed by a tiny nurse in his panicked flight. He apologized but continued to the elevator as the Code Blue call continued over the PA system. Nathan Jackson following closely on his heels.

Buck tapped anxiously on the door of the elevator and pushed continuously on the button for the seventh floor. Neither man said a word as the elevator continued it’s upward journey. It seemed like an eternity before the doors opened and they raced out into the hall. They ran down the hall towards their friend's room hoping they were wrong and that it wasn’t Chris who was in trouble but some other unfortunate soul. As they rounded the corner, they knew they’d been right when they saw the anguished looks on the faces of the three men leaning against the stark white wall.

"Oh, Buck," JD said as he spotted his friend. Suddenly the dam burst and his body was wracked with sobs as tears fell from his eyes.

Buck reached out and gently held his the younger man. He lifted his eyes to the tiny room that housed several people all working anxiously to save the one man who meant so much to so many. "Ah, shit," he said as his own tears joined those of his young friend.

Nathan Jackson stood by the door. He knew from his training what was happening in the tiny room. Chris Larabee was lying on his back, blankets pulled back, nude body exposed for all to see. He hated how hospitals made you feel as if you had no dignity but also realized that everything that was being done would help save his friend's life. He watched as Weaver lifted the paddles on the defibrillator and heard the anxious call to "Clear!" He watched as the patient’s body arched into the air as the jolt was delivered. He looked up at the monitors and knew nothing had changed. He watched as a needle was inserted into his friends IV and once again the paddles were applied and the body repeated the same arching as before. Once again his eyes were drawn to the monitors and he was relieved to see the signs improving as the drugs and shocks did their job.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner knew something was wrong before he opened his eyes. He’d felt the connection he had with Chris being snapped and it caused more pain then the ankle or his aching head. He pushed himself up in his bed but found strong hands pushing him back.

"Lay still, my friend."

"Josiah?" Vin asked weakly.

"I’m here," Sanchez said reassuringly.

"Something’s wrong with Chris," Vin said, his sightless eyes filled with worry.

"He’s ok, Vin," Josiah lied.

"No! No, he’s not, Josiah. I can’t feel him anymore. He’s not in my head," Vin cried.

Sanchez had come to realize that Chris and Vin had an unspoken connection. It was something he’d known from the beginning and when he’d first witnessed it his thought had been, ‘The Lord works in mysterious ways.’ "He’s still there, Vin, you’re just not able to feel him because of the sedatives. How do you feel?" he asked, trying to divert the young man’s attention.

"Like my head’s gonna explode," Vin said.

"Well that’s to be expected. The doctor was in earlier while you were resting. She says you have a severe concussion," Sanchez said.

"Can you lower my head a bit, Josiah?" Vin asked as he continued to worry about his friend in ICU.

"Sorry, Vin, but you have to stay as you are. Dr. Mercer thinks it might help the swelling behind your eyes. You in any pain?" Sanchez asked.

"A little," Vin answered as he winced at the pain in his ankle.

"More than a little. I want you to try to go back to sleep. You’re having surgery early tomorrow morning and you’ll be needing your rest."

"Surgery?" Vin asked confusedly.

"On your ankle. They have to put a pin in to keep it immobilized and allow it to heal properly."


"Yes, Vin."

"Can I see Chris?" suddenly Vin started to laugh.

"What’s so funny, Brother Vin?" Josiah asked.

"I asked if I could see Chris. I can’t see nothing but can I visit him?" he laughed softly.

"You’ll be able to see him soon, Vin. You have to let your own body heal first."

"I want to visit him now," Tanner said forcefully.

"That’s not going to happen right now."

Vin’s anger and frustration over his injuries and blindness exploded from his mouth, "I knew it. He’s dead and that’s why you won’t let me visit him." Tears flowed from his eyes as his body was wracked with painful sobs.

"No, Vin, he’s not dead," Josiah said as he pushed the tiny button that would summon the nurse.

"Then why can’t I see him?" Vin cried.

"Because you need to rest," Josiah answered.

The attending nurse entered the room, took in the troubled face of her patient and left the room. She was back a few moments later and inserted a needle into the junction in the IV line. She stood and watched as the handsome young man succumbed to the drug induced sleep.

"What happened?" she asked Sanchez.

"He’s worried about his friend," Josiah explained.

"He the one in ICU?"

"Yes, Ma’am."

"I saw the others run out when they heard the code blue. Was it your friend?"

"I think so. They would have returned by now if it wasn’t Chris."

"I’m sorry," she said as she watched the lines of worry on the man's face.

"Thank you," Josiah said and soon heard the door open as she left.


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