by Winnie Power

"What’s going on?" Weaver asked as he hurried into the room.

"His temperature is up two degrees and there’s more fluid draining from his abdomen," Sheila said as the doctor walked up to the bed.

Nathan stepped back out of the way and listened to the exchange. His face showed the worry he felt for the blonde haired man. He wondered what had happened to suddenly make him think they were going to lose Chris.

"We must have missed something," Weaver said as he checked the fluid that had collected in the drain. The fluid had darkened again and his patient was writhing in agony. "Sheila, call ahead and arrange for an OR. Have Dr. Simpson paged immediately," he ordered as he checked his patient's eyes.

Sheila relayed the orders over the mic and turned back to the man on the bed.

"Chris, can you hear me?" Weaver asked.

"Y...yes, W...what’s g... oh, God," he cried as the pain twisted like a knife through his side.

"Easy, I know it hurts but we’re going to help you. I’m going to give you something to help with the pain and then I’m going to explain what I think may have happened," Weaver said as he watched the nurse fill a syringe and inject it into the IV line. "That should take affect pretty fast, Chris. Try to relax and let it take hold."

"K," Chris said through clenched teeth. He tried to ignore the doctor's ministrations but his body felt as if it were on fire. He gasped as Weaver hit a sore spot on his abdomen and tried to move away.

"What’s going on, Matt?"

"I think we missed something, Roger. He’s still bleeding and his temperature is rising again. Extreme soreness in the abdomen and increased discharge."

"Damn, thought we’d found everything," Simpson said as he examined the patient. He finished quickly and signalled for Weaver to follow him outside.

Jackson replaced Weaver at the side of the bed and reached out to take Chris’s hand in his own. "You’re going to be fine, Chris," Nathan said soothingly.

"Nate, tell V...Vin. T...tell em I’m sorry," Chris said as the pain meds kicked in and he became listless.

"You can tell him yourself, Chris," Jackson said.

"N...no time. T...tell V...Vin s...sorry bout e...eyes," Chris said as he surrendered to sleep.

"I’m afraid you’ll have to leave, Mr. Jackson," Weaver said as he came back into the room.

"What’s going on Doc?"

"We’re taking Chris back to surgery. From what we’ve seen, we’re pretty certain we missed something."

"Like what?" Nathan asked.

"We won’t know till we go back inside. Probably another nick in the intestine that didn’t show up the first time. I’m sorry we have to get him ready so you’ll have to go."

Jackson took one last look at his friend and walked out of the room. The weight on his shoulders made him want to sink to the ground but he knew he had to go fill the others in on what was happening. He walked towards the now familiar waiting room and entered to find the other’s talking quietly.

"Nathan?" Buck said as he saw the look on his friends face.

"Give me a sec, Buck," Jackson said as he tried to get his own emotions under control.

"Chris," Buck cried and tried to leave the room.

Nathan’s hand on his arm stopped him. "Not now, Buck, they’re getting him ready for more surgery," Nathan said unable to keep the tiny quiver from his voice.

"What?" Buck said as his legs threatened to give out.

"Chris took a turn for the worse. It looks like he’s still bleeding inside. Dr. Weaver and Dr. Simpson are prepping now."

"Take a seat, Buck," Travis said as he watched the shaking agent.

"I’m going to see Chris," Wilmington said.

"You can’t, Buck, don’t you understand they have to go now. Right now. He’s in such pain," Jackson said.

"Goddammit to hell. I thought he was past all this. Hasn’t that man been through enough?" Buck cried.

"I think you need to calm down, Brother Buck," Sanchez said. "Right now, you’re not doing Chris any good. I think our best bet would be to leave word at the Nurses station and go down with Brother Vin. He’s going to be upset by this news."

Buck wanted nothing more than to tear the place apart. His anger at the agony his friend was going through was making his head spin. He finally sank into the nearest chair.

"I need a drink," he said.

"Let’s go check on, Mr. Tanner," Standish said.

"I’ll be down in a few minutes," Buck said.

"You sure, Mr. Wilmington," Standish asked.

"Yeah, I just need some time to myself right now, Ez," Buck told him. He heard the others leave the room and finally released the sobs he’d held in check. ‘God, Pard, you gotta be ok. I lost Sarah and Adam right along with you and I don’t think I can lose you as well,’ he thought as he finally stood up to leave.

When he reached the door, he watched a bed being pushed into ICU four. Slamming the door behind him, he hurried forward. He stood in front of the door and watched as his friend was disconnected from the machinery and gently lifted onto the gurney. There was no protest from the too still body and Buck caught himself staring as the machines were shut off. It seemed so final to him.

Sides were put up on the bed and it was wheeled out of the room and past him. He followed the stretcher until they reached a set of doors that said Authorized Personnel Only beyond this point!!! Buck stood and watched as Chris was wheeled through.

"We’ll be here when you get back, Pard," he said aloud. With heavy heart, he went to check on his other injured friend.

+ + + + + + +

Once again six men waited for word on the seventh member of the team. Travis stood by the window feeling like an outsider. Chris Larabee was his employee as were the other members of the Firm’s elite team, but Chris was also their leader. They came to Chris when they needed something and he’d relay that information to Travis.

He’d had enough arguments with the man, even managed to win a few, but not when it came to Chris’s men. He’d never gotten the upper hand on Larabee and he wondered if he ever would. He hoped and prayed he’d get the chance to go Toe to Toe with the blonde haired man.

Vin was tired but he fought his way to consciousness. Something kept niggling at his mind. Something to do with the man he considered a brother. The pain in his head had receded again but his ankle still throbbed painfully. Slowly he opened his eyes and was instantly awake. "Chris," he said as he took in the six men present. He tried to sit up but a wave of dizziness and nausea swept over him.

"You alright, Brother Vin?" Sanchez asked from his perch by the bed.

"I’m fine, Josiah. What’s going on with C...Chris?" he asked stumbling on the last word.

"If you promise not to try and get out of that bed, I’ll tell you," Jackson said.

Tanner scowled angrily and said. "Nathan!"

"There’s nothing you can do for Chris right now, Vin. They’ve taken him back to surgery."

"Why?" Vin asked worriedly.

"Dr. Weaver thinks they missed something. The wound in his abdomen isn’t healing properly and is still showing signs of bleeding and waste," Jackson explained.

"I knew something was wrong. I knew I should have insisted on going back up to see him," Vin said in a guilt-ridden voice.

"It’s not your fault, Pard," Wilmington said softly. "Believe me, Vin, I feel just as guilty as you do but it doesn’t do Chris or us any good. He’d be the first to tell us that," Wilmington told the younger man.

"How long ago?" Tanner asked.

Nathan looked at his watch for what seemed the hundredth time in the last two hours.

"He’s been in surgery about two hours now," he answered.

"I want to be there when they bring him down," Vin said.

"We’ll see, Vin," Jackson said.

"Nathan, I have to be there. Chris needs me and I n..." he stopped before he revealed too much but the others had heard.

"If you rest and get some more sleep, I’ll see if your doctor will clear it," Jackson said.

"I ain’t going no where," Vin said as he relaxed into the pillow. His body may have looked relaxed but his mind was in turmoil as he lay against the soft cushion. He kept hearing Chris’s voice just before he’d left his room. So down and depressed, asking to go home.

"He’ll be fine, Brother Vin," Sanchez said, gently patting the man’s shoulder. Silence once again took over as the men waited to hear word of their fallen comrade.

"How’s your head feeling, Mr. Tanner?" Standish asked.

"Not as bad as earlier, Ezra, and my sight seems to be returning as well. Things are not as blurry as they were."

"Go to sleep, Vin," Jackson said. "We’ll wake you as soon as we know anything."

"I’ll try, Nathan," Vin said but no one believed he’d sleep.

+ + + + + + +

"I’m going to see if there’s any word," Buck whispered to JD. He wasn’t sure if Vin was sleeping or not but he’d been quiet for the past hour.

"Want me to come with you?" JD asked.

"No, stay here with the others. I’ll be back as soon as I know anything," Buck said as he slipped out the door.

+ + + + + + +

Buck approached the nurses desk on the seventh floor. It had been almost four hours since Chris had been taken to surgery and Buck was worried more than he let on. He’d listened to Chris’s voice and known there was something wrong with him. Something more than his injuries. He worried that his friend was slipping back into the depression he’d been in for weeks after Sarah and Adam’s death; weeks filled with pain, guilt, and longing. Buck was certain he’d lose Chris Larabee until the day he’d met Vin Tanner. Vin had brought something vital back to Chris. Something intangible or so it seemed until Buck saw the change come over his friend.

He recognized Chris’s nurse and called out to her. "Sheila, any word yet?"

"I’m afraid he’s still in surgery, Mr. Wilmington," she said as she walked towards him. "There’s been no word on his condition."

"That’s not good is it?" Buck asked.

"Sometimes things get complicated in surgery, Mr. Wilmington. It could be just that they’re having trouble finding the problem."

"I wish they’d hurry up," he said as he followed the nurse to Chris’s room. He could see they’d changed the bed covers and cleaned up the room and suddenly Buck was once again struck with the feeling of finality.

"Sheila, they’ll be bringing your patient down in a few minutes," a voice said over the intercom.

"See, Mr. Wilmington, nothing to worry about. You’ll have to wait outside while they bring him in," Sheila said. "Why don’t you go tell your friends he’s out and I’ll have the nurse’s station let you know if you can come see him?"

"I’ll wait to see what the doctor has to say first," Buck said as he walked out of the room and leaned against the wall. Five anxious minutes later he watched as a stretcher was wheeled towards him. He stood aside and let the orderlies wheel the precious cargo into the room. He was relieved to see that his friend wasn’t hooked up to the ventilator again.

He watched as Chris was gently moved from the stretcher and back to the more comfortable bed. He hated seeing all the tubes and leads being reconnected and wondered when they’d be taken out for good.

It wasn’t long before Dr. Weaver showed up and Buck waited for him to check on Chris before he asked his questions. Weaver checked the monitors and wrote new orders on the patient's chart before he left the room.

"How is he Doc?" Buck asked before the man had cleared the doors.

"Well, Mr. Wilmington, we’re pretty certain we’ve found the culprit and corrected it. There was another tiny nick in your friend’s intestine and we’ve repaired it. Hopefully we’ll see a marked improvement in his condition over the next twenty four to forty eight hours."

"And if we don’t?" Buck asked, fearing the worst.

"We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it."

"Can he have visitors?"

"I’d rather you all went home and got some rest. Chris has been through a lot and will most likely sleep through the night. His body is still fighting the pneumonia and he still has a few more treatments to endure but Dr. Lawrence has agreed to wait until he’s had a chance to recover from this latest surgery."

"Alright, Doc, I’ll see if I can convince the others," Buck said. "I’m just going to look in on him for a second, Ok?"

"Just for a second. I told you he needs to rest," Weaver said as he walked to the nurses station.

Buck walked into the room and watched the nurse replace the bag of antibiotic. She also placed something in his IV line and then covered him with a tiny blanket.

"He’s sleeping, Mr. Wilmington," she said.

"Dr. Weaver said he’ll probably sleep through the night," Buck said as he flicked a stray lock of blonde hair from his friend's forehead.

"He probably will. Between the anaesthetic and the pain meds we’re giving him, he should have a comfortable night. You and your friends should get some rest yourselves."

"We’ll see," Buck said as he left the room.

+ + + + + + +

"Where’s Buck," Vin asked as he opened his eyes and surveyed the room.

"He went up to see if there was any word on Chris," Travis said.

"How long’s it been now?" Tanner asked.

"Four and a half hours, Vin." Jackson answered.

"Any word?"

"Nothing yet," Sanchez told him.

"Why’s it taking so long?" Tanner asked.

"Hey, Buck," JD said as the door opened. "Any word?"

"He’s back in his room," Wilmington told them.

"How is he?" came from six mouths at once.

"He’s sleeping but the doc says he came through it well. He wants us to let him rest tonight."

"Like hell, Buck, I have to see him," Vin said as he threw off the blankets.

"Vin, he won’t even know you're there," Wilmington told him.

"Yes he will, Buck, I need to see Chris. Please, Buck, take me up there," Tanner begged.

"I tell you what we’ll do, Vin. I’ll bring you upstairs and if the nurse says it’s ok, I’ll bring you in for a few minutes, but that’s it. Then you’ll come back here and get some rest yourself. Deal?" Buck told him.

"Shoot, Buck, that’s all I’ve been doing," Vin told him.

"You’ve been in bed but you haven’t been resting," Jackson said.

"Vin, is it a deal?"

"Yes, Buck. Just get me up to his room."

+ + + + + + +

Wilmington pushed the chair up to ICU four. Sheila met him there.

"Mr. Wilmington, Dr. Weaver asked you not to come up here today," she said.

"Please, Ma’am, It’s my fault. I need to see him," Tanner pleaded.

Sheila looked into the blue eyes of the young man in the chair. She could see an immense sadness in the expressive eyes and knew this man cared deeply for her patient. "I’ll let you see him for a minute, but that’s it. You look like you could use some sleep yourself. The rest of you," she said taking in the other men who’d followed Buck and Vin, "can wait out here. I’m sorry but Dr. Weaver wants your friend to rest."

Buck wheeled Vin’s chair up to the bed and Vin felt his fears recede. He’d thought the worst when Buck had told them that Chris had needed more surgery. He’d worried that he’d never be able to talk with him again.

"Hey, Cowboy, you know if you keep this up, I’ll look older than you. It’s not nice to scare the life out of the rest of us. I know you can hear me Pard and I want you to know I’ll be here for you."

"I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave now. We’ve got a few things to do for Chris before the next shift comes on. You can come back in the morning," Sheila said as she saw the downfallen look on the man in the wheel chair.

"You heard her, Pard," Buck said softly.

"Just a few more minutes," Vin asked hopefully.

"No way, Pard, we had a deal remember?"

"Alright, Buck," Vin said. "I’ll be back tomorrow, Chris," Vin said as his chair was pulled away from his friends bed.

+ + + + + + +

Vin Tanner woke in a cold sweat. He’d been asleep since the nurse had given him the sedative and had been stuck in a nightmare the whole time. He was blind, totally irreparably blind and Chris was lost. He couldn’t find him, was hopeless to search for him. A cold shudder ran down his spine as he realized the darkness was not permanent.

He remembered his friends had left the hospital for some much needed rest. Once again the feeling that he needed to be with Chris clouded his better judgement and he pushed down the side rail of his bed. The hated chair stood next to his bed and he had no choice but to use it because they’d refused to supply crutches, saying he needed to stay off the ankle for a few more days.

+ + + + + + +

Melanie had come back on duty after her four days off and was surprised to find the same patient in ICU four. Usually patients were in ICU for a couple of days and then moved to normal rooms. After reading his chart, she understood the need to keep him in ICU.

She’d spent most of the night trying to get her patient to rest. But even in sleep he’d cry out and thrash around on the bed. She’d been talking to him, hoping to sooth him out of whatever nightmare had him in its grips.

"How is he?" she looked up at the softly spoken words and recognized the young man sitting in the chair trying to manoeuvre into the room.

Melanie left her patient for a minute and walked over to the door. "You shouldn’t be here," she said as she checked his IV, wondering just how he’d managed to hook it on the pole and get his body in the chair.

A cry from the bed sent both Melanie and Vin into the room and over to the bed, "Come on, Chris, it’s just a dream," the nurse tried.

"Hey, Cowboy, you got to calm down now," Vin said.

Melanie was shocked at the instant response from her patient. He went from heavy thrashing and crying out to quiet and resting. All signs of the torturous nightmares seemed to have disappeared as soon as the young man had spoken to him. The pain that had been etched on the blonde’s handsome features disappeared and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. "He seems to know you’re here, Mr. Tanner," she said.

"Please call me Vin," he said as he reached out and touched his friend's shoulder. He hated seeing Chris so vulnerable. Hated all the tubes, IV’s, and especially the injuries he’d suffered during the plane crash. He closed his eyes for a moment savouring the feel of his brother's touch.

Melanie thought he’d fallen asleep and was about to call for an orderly to take him back to his room when his soft voice reached her ears. "Chris and I have a kinda sense for each other. It may sound strange but I can feel when he needs me. I felt it tonight," he said.

"It’s not so strange, Vin. I’ve seen a lot in these rooms especially from patients in serious condition like Chris. Thank you for getting him to rest but I think it’s time for you to go back to your room. It’s almost four am and you’re not well yourself," she said.

"Can’t I stay just a little longer?" Vin pleaded.

Melanie looked at the pale young man in the chair. He seemed tired but not to the point of exhausted. "Alright, Vin, you can stay for a few more minutes. I’ll let your floor know where you are in case they need you for something," Melanie said as she spoke into the PA system.

"Thanks," Vin said as he placed his head on the thin pillow next to his friend.

Melanie watched the two men carefully. Their chests seemed to rise and fall in perfect synchronization and she once again marvelled at the difference in her patient. ‘He’s better than any medication for Chris Larabee,’ she thought with a smile.

Melanie reached up and changed the IV bag on the second patient in ICU four. The nurses station had sent up the bag and meds for the younger man when they’d been notified of his whereabouts. Vin Tanner had fallen asleep not long after he’d placed his head next to his friend. She’d been tempted to make him go back to his room but could see the benefit of having him stay with his friend. She’d had the doctor on call come up and take a look at him and he’d agreed that it wouldn’t do any harm to leave them as they were, except that Vin Tanner would probably end up with a stiff neck. It seemed minor compared to what these two had been through the past week.

He opened his eyes and tried to move, gasping for breath as his wounds reminded him he should be still. His mouth felt like sandpaper, his tongue thick and dry as he tried to speak.

"Sh, easy, Chris, Don’t try to speak. I have some ice chips here for you," Melanie said as she lifted his head to take the tiny offering.

"W...what h...happened?" he asked, his voice cracking. He felt movement and noticed the head lying next to his. "Vin?"

"Hey, Cowboy, how’re you feeling?" Vin asked, a grin lighting his tired face as he rubbed his stiff neck.

"Like s...shit," Chris answered honestly.

"You kinda look like it too, Cowboy."

"Thanks but have y...you looked in a m...mirror l...lately?"

"Can’t say I have," Vin said the smile slowly leaving his face. "I almost lost ya, Pard," he said seriously.

"What happened?"

"They missed something when they did the first surgery. Had to take you back in yesterday," Vin said, swallowing the lump in his throat.

Chris tried to move and was overtaken with a coughing spurt. His chest felt terrible and his nose dry where the oxygen was being fed into his nostril.

"You ok, Pard?" Vin asked worriedly, his own ankle throbbing unmercifully.

"Y...yeah, g...give me a m...minute," Larabee said between coughs. He finally got the coughing under control but the strains of pain on his face showed what it had cost him.


He opened his eyes and looked into the compassionate eyes of his nurse. "What?" he snapped and regretted it immediately.

"I’m going to give you something for the pain and then I want you to go back to sleep. I think it’s time Vin returned to his own room as well."

"No, please, I’d like to stay," Tanner pleaded.

"I’m sorry, Vin, but you need to go to your room. I’m sure your nurses need to do things with you. I have to get Chris ready for Dr. Weaver and Dr. Lawrence," Melanie told him as she signalled an orderly into the room.

Chris had closed his eyes as Melanie shot home the drug only to snap them open at the mention of the second doctor’s name. The panicked look on his face made Vin’s heart race.

"What’s wrong, Chris?" he asked worriedly.

"D...don’t need Dr..." he started but was overcome by more coughing. "Oh, God," he said as he felt the agony in his side.

"He’ll be fine, Vin. You go with Jason and maybe I’ll let you come back after breakfast," Melanie said.

"No! He needs me," Tanner said as he felt someone grab his chair.

"I...it’s ok, V...Vin," Chris said as he noticed his friend's tired pain filled face. "I...I’ll be ok," he said as the shot Melanie gave him kicked in and he closed his eyes to sleep.

"He’s sleeping, Vin, and you should be too. Now go get some rest," Melanie told him.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey, Vin, how are you doing?"

"Buck," Tanner said sleepily.

"Yeah, it’s me, Pard. You gonna sleep the day away?"

"What time is it?" Vin asked confusedly.

"It’s nearly noon. We’ve been here since nine but didn’t want to wake you. Jenny, that pretty little nurse of yours is coming in to give you your shots so I figured I’d wake you for her. Dr. Mercer is coming too and she’s a little upset about your trip to Chris’s room last night,’ Wilmington said as the door opened and Mercer strode purposefully up to the bed.

"Mr. Tanner," she said as she read his chart.

"Doc," Vin smiled sweetly.

"That smile won’t work on me, Mr. Tanner, so don’t waste it. I want your word that there won’t be a repeat of last night. Otherwise I’ll leave orders for a nice little shot to help you sleep. You’re in no shape to be going off on your own to visit your friend. You have to give your eyes and head a chance to heal totally and you have to stay off that leg! Understand?"


"No buts, Mr. Tanner, you’re my patient and my first concern is for your well being. Now do you listen to orders or do I write up a new order?" she asked.

"I’ll listen," Vin said avoiding her eyes.

"Look at me, Mr. Tanner," Dr. Mercer said.

"I won’t stop you from visiting your friend during the day as long as your friends are willing to bring you back and forth when we need you here. Otherwise I’ll put a stop to even those visits."

"Yes, Ma’am," Vin said, still avoiding her eyes.

"Your lunch is just coming up. If you eat everything on your tray, you can visit your friend for half an hour. No longer than that. I want you to get some rest yourself. I’ll be back to check on you later," she said as she turned to the door. "And by the way, the nurses will be checking to see if you’ve obeyed my orders. They’ll be writing everything down on your chart," she smiled as she left the room.

"Damn that woman!"

"She seems to know you pretty well, Vin. Ah, here’s your lunch. Remember what she said. You be a good boy and eat all of it," Buck laughed.

"Shoot. Buck, I ain’t hungry," Vin said as the tray of broth, green Jell-O, tea, and juice was placed on the table.

"You want to go see Chris?"

"Buck," Vin said as he picked up the cup of broth.

"That’s better," Wilmington laughed.

"Have you seen Chris today?" Vin asked as he finished the warm broth.

Bucks face turned serious as he thought of the man on the seventh floor. "Yeah, Vin, I saw him." he said quietly.

"Is he doing any better?"

"You know those damned pneumonia treatments are pretty rough on him."

"I know," Tanner said sadly. "How much longer will they be putting him through that?"

"Another day or so according to Dr. Weaver. Depends on if the medication and antibiotics work."

"They gotta work, Buck. Chris can’t take much more," Vin said as he sipped the juice on his tray.

"Finish that off and I’ll take you upstairs," Buck said.

"Not hungry anymore, Buck," Vin’s eyes were wet with unshed tears.

"What’s wrong, Vin?"

"I keep thinking I almost lost him, Buck. I keep hearing him cry out when we were alone out there. He pulled something out of his side and then he removed whatever was trapping my leg. Hell I couldn’t even see to help him. He could have bled to death out there and I would have been unable to do anything about it."

"He’s going to be just fine, Vin," Buck told his friend.

"Is he, Buck? Is he really?"

"Yes, Vin, I know he will be. Now finish up and I’ll bring you upstairs and you can see for yourself."

"Alright," Vin said as he turned his attention to forcing down the unappetizing meal.


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