Vin was awake. The pain hed felt the night before had diminished and he wanted to remove the pads from his eyes. "Ez," he called. When no answer was forthcoming, he reached up and pulled the pad from his left eye. The lights hurt but he could make out shapes. He knew he was alone when no one stopped him from taking off the second one.
All he could see were shadows as he sat up in bed. "Ez," he tried again. Smiling when there was no answer, he felt the side rail until he found the safety buttons and released the rail. His chair was at the end of the bed and he scooted towards it, fighting the wave of pain that attacked his head and ankle.
He pulled the chair towards the side of the bed and struggled to get in it. Pain now radiated out from his ankle and into every nerve in his body as he lifted his leg onto the tiny support.
The IV in his hand pulled and he wondered what he could do about that. Im comin, Chris, he thought as he pulled the needle from his hand. He applied pressure to the tiny indent and hoped it wouldnt bleed too much. He sat back in the chair and waited for his senses to return. Finally he reached down and wheeled his chair to the door. It took him some time before he realized the door he was trying to go through led to the washroom. Damn, Larabee would love this one, he laughed.
Vin Tanner was stubborn, even more so than anyone realized. A normal man in his condition would have given up at the wrong door. But Vin was not a normal man. He was a man with a mission. That mission was to see Chris before anyone realized where he was. Hed made it out of his room and into the elevator. He saw the shape of a woman as she held the door for him to wheel inside.
"Thanks," he said.
"Youre welcome, what floor?" she asked.
"Seven," he told her. The elevator started up and Vin was relieved when it came to a halt and the woman told him this was his floor. "Thanks again," he said with a small smile.
"Youre welcome," she said as she walked away.
Shit, what room are you in, Cowboy? he thought as he turned to the left. He knew this was the direction Buck had wheeled him in but he didnt know the room number. He continued on for a few feet until his progress was stopped by an irate voice.
"Of all the stupid idiotic things youve done, Tanner."
"Hi Nathan," Vin said sheepishly.
"What on earth do you think youre doing? Where the hell is Ezra?"
"Dont know where Ez is. Wanted to see Chris," Vin told him.
Nathan gazed into the younger mans eyes, "How did you get up here without Ezra?"
"Can see a little, just shadows mostly. I needed to see Chris."
"Wheres your IV?" Nathan asked.
"Took it out," Vin said simply.
"Vin, so help me Im going to..."
"Please, Nate, just for a few minutes. Wanna make sure hes ok."
"Ill take you in but only for a minute. Hes due for another treatment soon and youd just be in the way."
"Thanks, Nathan," Vin said as he relinquished control of the wheelchair.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra Standish walked into Vins room and swore sharply. The empty bed, the eye pads, and the emptying IV bag told the story. He knew where hed find the missing patient.
His anger was cantered more at himself than at Vin. Hed gone to the cafeteria to grab a coffee and something to eat. Vin had been sleeping when hed left and he was sure hed stay that way till he returned. He punched the number seven in the elevator and tapped on the door until it reached the floor.
+ + + + + + +
"How is he, Nathan?" Vin asked as he was wheeled up to the bed. He could make out the man on the bed but he couldnt see him plainly.
"Vin," Chris said in a low raspy voice.
Vin heard the pain and weariness in his best friends voice and reached out his hand. "Thought you werent supposed to talk, Cowboy, he said.
"Not, b...but n...never s...stopped me," Chris said.
"Chris, Ill make them leave," the new night nurse whod introduce herself as Paula threatened. "Your throat's still not ready for use yet."
"K," Chris said.
"Chris," she warned.
"S...sorry," he said and clamped his lips shut.
"Thats better," Paula laughed.
"You any good at interpreting, Nate?" Vin asked.
"Not really, Vin but I can interpret the look on Ezras face."
"Oh, shit, is he angry?"
Chris listened to the conversation between the two men and looked at the door. He could see Standish and he recognized the look on the man's face. You sneak out on him, Vin, he thought with a smile.
"Think maybe youd better go, Vin," Jackson suggested. "Looks like hes brought a nurse with him. If you dont be careful, theyll stop you from coming up here altogether."
"Ill come back, Cowboy," Vin said as Nathan turned him from the bed.
Shit, not again, Chris thought as he spotted Dr. Roberts walking towards his room. He closed his eyes and hoped the nightmare would go away.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had no choice but to listen as Ezra explained just what hed done wrong and what Ezra had planned to make sure he didnt do it again.
Ezras usually cool, calm exterior had been shattered when hed found Vin missing from his room. It hadnt really surprised him but it had hurt him, especially the fact that hed been the one responsible for the injured man.
"Sorry, Ez," Vin said.
"Dont try to placate me, Mr. Tanner. Im the one who wouldve had to face Mr. Larabees wrath if you re-injured yourself again. I dont want to be on the receiving end of that infamous glare, Standish said angrily.
"Mr. Tanner, Im here to restart your IV," a dark haired nurse said from the door.
"Oh, hell," Vin said as the pole with the new bags was wheeled up to his bed.
"You brought it on yourself, Mr. Tanner," Standish said.
"Damnit, Ez, I know I did but I had to see Chris."
"You could have waited for my return," Standish told him and looked away as the nurse started the IV.
"Youre gonna feel a small prick," she warned Vin as she inserted the tiny needle into his arm.
"Squeamish, Ez," Vin said, trying hard to hide a smile.
"I have always had an aversion to needles, Mr. Tanner," Standish told him.
"I seem to remember you passing out the last time we needed inoculations," Vin laughed.
"Dont remind me," Standish said, keeping his back to the bed.
"All done," Tanner told him.
Ezra looked back at the bed and caught the look of amusement on the face of the nurse.
"Dont worry, your secret's safe with me," she said as she left the two men alone.
"Im really beginning to hate this place," Vin said as his head began a staccato beat.
"Headache, Mr. Tanner?"
"Yeah, seems like it never goes away."
"It probably would if youd do as you're told," Standish said and immediately regretted his harsh words. "Ill see if its time for your shot," he said.
"No, dont, Ez, its not so bad yet," he said.
"You could have fooled me," Standish said. "Ill make a deal with you, Mr. Tanner, if you go to sleep, I wont call the nurse."
"You drive a h...hard bargain, Ez," Vin said as he closed his eyes.
"I always do, Vin, I always do," Standish said as he pulled the chair next to the bed.
+ + + + + + +
Chris struggled to get the coughing under control. Dr. Roberts was just as thorough as Dr Lawrence when it came to the pneumonia treatments, maybe a little harder on the back.
The pain had gotten to the point where Chris had nearly blacked out. Unfortunately, the coughing had prevented that. With each breath, he felt as if his chest were being compressed and he wanted to scream his frustrations.
Hed sent Nathan out to get something to eat and was alone with the new nurse and his own misery.
A hand on his shoulder made him open his clenched eyes. He looked into compassionate hazel eyes. The morning nurse was now on duty and he wondered how much longer hed be under constant watch. He wanted something to wear to give him back a feeling of being human again. He wanted nothing more than to escape the confines of the tiny room hed lived in for five days.
"Hi, Chris, sounds like youre having a rough time. My name is Sheila and Im going to give you something for the pain in a moment. I just want to check your side and make sure everythings still as it should be," she said as she removed her hand from his shoulder.
Chris knew what was coming. He hated the sickening feeling of pressure when they drained the tube in his side but the worst came when they drained the one in his chest. The one that led to his empty stomach.
"I cant do this anymore," he said as the fluid was drained from his side.
"Sure you can, Chris," Sheila told him, "Youre just feeling sick right now and your body is probably hurting terribly."
"How the hell would you know?" he screamed and grimaced as his still healing throat constricted.
"Hey, Pard, you having problems?" Buck Wilmington asked as he stepped into the room and up to his friend's bed.
"Just leave me alone, Buck," Chris said, his voice low, but not as harsh as it had been the night before.
"Cant do that, Chris. Youre hurting bad right now so I figure you kinda need me," Wilmington said.
Hed been there when Chris had lost his family and knew how much this man had grieved for them, how much he was still grieving. Buck had once promised Sarah that if anything happened to her hed look after Chris. It seemed hed been relegated to back burner in that. Something had happened when Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner had met. Buck didnt regret Vins relationship with Chris. He did, however, regret the loss of his own close relationship with the blonde haired man.
"Always there, arent you, Buck?" Chris asked and dissolved into another fit of coughing.
Buck Wilmington felt tears in his eyes. Hed always been there for Chris, he just hadnt realized the man knew it. He held his friend through the pain and sighed as the nurse gave him something to ease it.
"Im so sick of being here, Buck. I want to go home," Chris said.
"I know you do, Pard, and you will. You and Vinll be out of here in no time," Wilmington said.
"So, tired, Buck, so d...damned t...tired," Chris said as his eyes closed.
"How is he?" Buck asked the nurse.
"Honestly, Buck," she said, using the name shed heard his friend use.
"Hes still got a ways to go. The infection in his lungs and abdomen arent clearing up as fast as the doctors would like. Theyve changed his antibiotic again to try and fight it. His temperature is still high but not as high as it was. Hes unable to eat or drink anything so hes losing weight," she saw the look on his face and regretted being the bearer of bad news. "Im sorry but theres no easy way to say this. Chris is still in danger of losing his life. Weve got to keep on top of everything and that includes the horrid pneumonia treatments. Believe me when I tell you that those alone are a load of misery. Ive had them," she said.
"Oh, God, Pard, things just dont come easy for you," Buck said as he sat in the chair, placed his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands.
+ + + + + + +
Dr. Matt Weaver studied the chart of the man hed been treating for five days. By rights, he should have been getting better but he wasnt. Hed been in conference with other doctors and discussed what else could be done. The results of that conference were now being implemented.
A stronger antibiotic had been ordered and he prayed that this one would work. The patient's temperature had spiked earlier that morning and he worried whether the man had the strength left to fight.
He checked the vitals that showed on the monitor. Temperature was still elevated but everything else seemed within range. "Hows the drainage from his abdomen?" he asked Sheila.
"Theres still some blood present but not as much as indicated on his chart from yesterday," Sheila answered.
"I hope it clears up soon or were going to have to go back in and see whats causing it. Let me know immediately if there are any changes."
"I will doctor."
"When was his last pneumonia treatment?"
"Dr. Lawrence should be here in a few minutes."
"Im going to go have a talk with Chriss friends in the waiting room. Tell Gina Id like to see her when shes done."
"Yes, Doctor," Sheila said as she checked the monitors and made new notes in her patient's chart.
+ + + + + + +
"Vin," Travis said as he gently touched the trembling man. "Its ok, Vin, its just a dream. Youre safe now and so is Chris."
"No! Oh, God not Chris," Vin cried as he continued to toss in the throes of a nightmare, a nightmare in which he was blind and unable to help his injured friend. Where help had arrived to late and he heard Nathan Jacksons voice say there was only one survivor. A single tear rolled from his right eye and dropped onto the pillow.
"Come on, Vin, wake up," Travis tried again and was rewarded when two blue eyes stared confusedly up at him. "Its alright, Vin, youre in the hospital remember?"
"Hospital?" Vin said as he tried to focus his eyes. The shadows had grown slightly clearer and he was able to pick out faces now although they werent clear. "Orrin, wheres Chris?"
"Dont you remember, Vin?" Travis asked worriedly.
"Not sure, Orrin, thought he was dead," Vin said softly.
"Hes not dead, Son. Hes not in the best of shape but hes not dead. Hes upstairs in ICU. Dont you remember going up there this morning?"
Images came flooding to his mind and Vin closed his eyes. "Seem to remember Ezra being upset with me," he said.
"Ezra had every right to be angry with you. Next time you do something foolhardy like that youll be in trouble with all of us," Travis told him.
"I wont, not if you bring me up to see Chris," Vin told him.
"I thought youd say that. Got your wheels right here," Travis laughed.
+ + + + + + +
"What is it, Dr. Weaver?" Buck asked as the doctor entered the waiting room. The look on the man's face told the men present that it didnt bode well for Chris Larabee.
"Im afraid I dont have much good news for you," Weaver began, his eyes taking in each man.
"Hold on a minute, Doc, here comes Vin and Orrin. We should let them listen in as well," Josiah Sanchez said as he walked over to meet the newcomers.
"Whats going on, Josiah?" Vin asked as he was pushed into the now crowded room.
"Dr. Weaver was about to tell us whats going on with Chris," Buck answered.
"Is he ready to be moved out of ICU cause if he is I want him in the room with me," Vin said.
"Im afraid Chris wont be leaving ICU for a while yet," Weaver told them.
"Whats wrong, Doc?" Vin asked worriedly.
"Im worried that the antibiotic treatment is not clearing up the pneumonia," Weaver began.
"But you only just started the treatments yesterday," JDs voice was low and filled with anxiety.
"We did only start the treatments yesterday but the antibiotics were started the day he was brought in. Weve tried two different kinds and we started a stronger version today."
"Chris is a fighter, Dr. Weaver," Travis said.
"Well hes going to need every ounce of strength hes got to fight this off. Its bad enough hes got the tubes running into him everywhere, but hes got those breathing treatments to put up with as well. Were feeding him nourishment through the tube in his stomach but even that seems to cause him discomfort."
"Is that it?" Buck asked not meaning for it to sound as sarcastic as it came out.
"Actually no its not. The wound in his abdomen is still showing signs of blood, not as much as it was but still more than it should be at this point in time."
"What exactly does that mean?" Josiah asked.
"It could mean that we missed something when we repaired the injury to his intestine or there could be something totally different at work. Ive ordered a MRI for this afternoon. Hopefully if theres a problem, itll show up there. Im also ordering more blood work as well."
Silence reigned in the tiny room as each mans thoughts turned to the man lying just down the hall from where they sat.
"Can I see him, Doc?" Vin asked.
"Yes, Mr. Tanner, you can. But please keep visits to a minimum for today. As I said hes exhausted and waking him every four hours for treatment is not doing him much good either. I have to check on a couple of other patients but rest assured Ill be there for the MRI on your friend," Weaver said as he left the men to their thoughts.
"Ill bring you to his room, Vin," JD said quietly.
"Thanks, Kid," Vin said as he fought to keep his emotions under control.
"Dammit I thought he was getting better," Buck said as he slammed his fist down on the table, rattling the coffee mugs.
"Easy, Brother Buck, were all worried," Sanchez said as he touched his fingertips to each other and placed them in front of his face.
"I know, Josiah, its just so frustrating. I talked with Chris earlier and he was so depressed. He wanted to go home said he was so damned tired."
"Sounds like Brother Chris is a little depressed," Josiah said.
"He is, Josiah, I think hes been thinking about Sarah and Adam a lot lately. We had a talk before Chris and Vin left for the mountains. Hes still angry with God for taking them from him. Hes his own worst enemy when it comes to guilt. He blames himself for not being there to stop what happened," Buck said as tears filled his eyes and threatened to escape. He closed his eyes and turned away from the others.
+ + + + + + +
JD pushed Vins chair up to Chriss bed. "You want me to stay, Vin?" he asked.
"No, Ill be fine, JD. I just need to spend some time with Chris," Vin answered.
Chris lay on the bed, eyes closed tightly against the newly awakened pain in his abdomen and stomach. Gina Lawrence had come and gone, making him suffer through another unwanted treatment. He heard Vins voice and waited for JD to leave before opening his eyes and looking at his friend, his brother.
"Hey, Cowboy, hear youre not feeling too good," Tanner said.
"I want to go home, Vin," Chris said in a tired voice.
"I know, Pard, I do too. It wont be long before were both back home," Vin told him.
"Im so sick of all this. Look at me tubes and wires coming from everywhere. Hell I cant even pee on my own," Chris said. "Im sorry, Vin," he said as he slammed his broken wrist into the side rail.
"Im sorry, Chris, but if you do that again, Im going to have to ask your friend to leave," Sheila said as she checked the soft cast on her patient's wrist.
"Vin, dont leave," Chris said, knowing how selfish he sounded.
"Aint going nowhere, Pard," Vin said.
"Thanks," Chris said and closed his eyes. Vin thought his friend had fallen asleep but his quiet voice told him otherwise. "How are you doing, Vin?"
"Im fine, Cowboy," Tanner asked.
"Truth, Vin," Chris said, keeping his eyes closed.
"Well my ankle hurts like a son of a bitch but my eyesight is getting better."
Chris opened his own eyes and stared at his friend. "Thats great, Vin," he said with a smile.
"Yeah, it sure is, Chris, now why dont you get some sleep. Ill stay right here for awhile," Vin said.
"Thanks, Pard," Chris said as he closed his eyes once again.
Vin Tanner watched his friends sleeping face. The usually handsome face was pale and filled with pain. The lines on his forehead seemed deeper than theyd ever been before. He worried about his best friend even when his own head felt as if it were about to explode. His eyes blurred and he squeezed them against the painful flashes and moaned softly.
"Go get some rest, Cowboy," a weak voice from the bed said.
"Im alright, Chris," Vin assured him.
"Sure you are," Chris said. "Look, Vin, Im not going anywhere. Ill be here when youve had some sleep. Please, just go," Chris told him.
"Youll have to leave now anyway, Mr. Tanner. The lab techs will be here shortly to do some tests and Chris is scheduled for a MRI this afternoon. Your friend is still outside the door so you might as well let him take you back to your room. If everythings, ok youll be able to come back this evening," Sheila told him.
"Go, Vin, Im just gonna sleep anyway," Chris said.
"You sure, Cowboy?"
A weak smile covered Chriss pale face, "Im sure, Pard," he said.
"JD, Im ready to go," Vin called with one last glance at his friend. JD moved in and wheeled his friend from the room. They passed Nathan Jackson as he walked towards ICU Four.
"Now, Chris, I really think you should get some sleep. Youve got a busy afternoon coming up," Sheila told her patient.
"Cant sleep," Chris said.
"Hurts too m...much."
"What hurts too much?" Shelia asked worriedly.
"My side. Damn t...tube feels like its s...stabbing into m...me," Chris told her.
"Is it worse or about the same as it has been?" she asked taking note of the slightly higher temperature on her patient. Beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead as she watched him.
"Worse. N...not much but d...definitely worse."
"Whats going on?" Nathan asked as he entered the room and saw the pained look on his friend's face.
"Hi, N...Nate," Chris said, his voice laced with pain.
"Chris isnt feeling very well," Sheila answered as she began checking the drainage tube in his side. She looked worriedly at Nathan Jackson as she emptied the tubes and stepped to the wall mounted mike system.
"What do you need, Sheila?" a tinny voice asked.
"Would you ask Dr. Weaver to come to Mr. Larabees room?"
"Right away, Sheila," the answer was immediate.
"W...hats wrong?" Chris asked, alarmed.
"You just relax, Chris, I want Dr. Weaver to check you out. Hell know better whats happening. Ok?"
"Ok," the blonde answered tiredly.
"I dont know," Sheila answered Jacksons unanswered question. "Dr. Weaver will be here in a few minutes. Hell be able to tell you more."
"G...God it hurts," Chris cried, trying to curl into a ball as a new wave of agony hit his abdomen.
"Easy, Chris, just lie still," Nathan said as he stepped up to the bed.
"C...cant N...Nate," Chris cried as he clung to the medic's arms and tried to ride out the pain.
+ + + + + + +
"JD, take me back," Vin said as JD wheeled the chair into his room.
"Somethings wrong with Chris. Take me back to his room."
"Right now youre not going anywhere, Mr. Tanner," a nurse Vin recognized from the day before said. "I need to do vitals and Dr. Mercer is on her way down to see you."
"I have to see, Chris," Vin said adamantly.
"Mr. Tanner, its time you thought about your own health. I know all about your friend upstairs and if you like, Ill call up to see how hes doing. Right now I want you back in your own bed and not arguing with me. Bring him inside," she said as JD sheepishly kept his eyes averted but did as he was told.
"JD," Vin tried.
"Sorry, Vin but shes a barracuda compared to you," JD whispered in Vins ear.
"I heard that. Now lets get this Guppy in bed where he belongs," the nurse said as she looked at the two men smiling inside at being likened to a barracuda.
"Yes, maam," JD said swallowing the lump in his throat.
Vin soon found himself back in his own bed but he couldnt rest. His mind kept turning to his injured friend upstairs. Something was wrong with Chris and he needed to be near him.
"Ill stay with you if you like," JD said.
"JD, I need to know about Chris," Vin said as the nurse, whos name hed finally remembered was Thelma something or other changed his nearly empty IV. She adjusted the flow and inserted a needle into one of the junctures. "Whats that?" he asked her.
"Its the sedative Dr. Beattie ordered for you. Now let it take affect and get some sleep. Im going to put up the sides of your bed and I dont want you trying to get out of it on your own."
"Fine," Vin said as the weariness hed tried to fight took over. Between that and the sedative he was soon asleep and the nurse left him to rest. JD was torn between going up and checking on Chris or staying with Vin. He finally sighed and pulled a chair over to the window to keep the sleeping man company. He knew if something were wrong with Chris, Buck or one of the others would come tell them. The silence of the room was broken only by the soft snores from the injured man on the bed.
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