by Winnie Power

Chris was awake, awake and miserable. He’d undergone two pneumonia treatments and his chest and side paid for them.

JD sat next to the bed. He didn’t want to speak afraid the older man was sleeping. He watched the day nurse, Thelma, as she checked the patient's vitals and made sure the IV’s were running properly.

"JD," Chris’s voice was soft and low.

"Hi, Chris," Dunne said, relieved to hear his mentor’s voice. "How are you feeling?"

"Been better, JD. Everyone here?" the blonde asked.

"Yeah, they’re in the waiting room. I’ll go out in a minute so one of 'em can come in," Dunne said.

"Is Vin ok?"

"Vin’s fine, Chris. Buck’s with him and he’ll probably bring him up when he’s done with lunch," JD explained.

"Make him get some rest," Chris said as he watched the nurse ready another bag of antibiotics.

"We will. I’m going to go let one of the others come in, ok?"

"That’s fine, JD," the blonde said as he closed his eyes.

"You have some wonderful friends, Chris," Thelma said as she drained the tube in his side.

"They’re the best," Chris said as the pressure in his side grew.

"Almost done," she told him.

"Ok," he said as he forced himself to remain still. Finally the pressure stopped and his breathing calmed.

"Hello, brother Chris, I must say you’re looking better."

"You’re not a good liar, Josiah," Chris said as the older man placed a soothing hand on his shoulder.

"I won’t ask you how you feel then," Sanchez said.

"No, I don’t think that’s a good idea right now, Josiah," Chris said quietly.

"Feeling sorry for yourself, Brother Chris? That’s not like you."

Chris opened his mouth and bit back the snide comment he’d been about to make. "Ah, hell, Josiah, I’m sorry. You're right I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m so damned tired of all this stuff," Larabee told him as he indicated the wires and tubes.

"You won’t have them much longer," Sanchez assured him. "That’s not the only thing bothering you is it?"

Chris looked at the older man. He felt as if Josiah’s eyes could see deep into his soul. He was quiet for a few moments before speaking.

"I thought I’d lost my brother out there, Josiah. I don’t know if I could have lived with that."

"You’re a strong man, brother Chris, you’d have found a way. I thought we’d lost you when Sarah and Adam were, I’m sorry," Sanchez said as he bit his lip at bringing up the memories from the recent past.

"It’s ok, Josiah, it still hurts to think about but thanks to Vin, I’ve been able to deal with it."

"Brother Vin has had a huge impact on your life since he joined the team," Josiah said.

"He’s like the brother I never had, Josiah. Buck’s always been my best friend. He’s always there for me but Vin just seemed to fill something I’d been missing."

"He is your brother at heart, Chris, and that is something special."

"He’s something special," Chris said as weariness took over and he closed his eyes to sleep.

"How is he doing?" Sanchez asked Thelma.

"Well, Mr. Sanchez, if things continue to improve, we’ll be able to transfer Chris out of ICU tomorrow. Dr. Weaver and Dr. Lawrence are very pleased with his progress since he underwent the second surgery."

"That’s great news. I do believe life will be simpler for all of you once Chris and Vin are in the same room."

"You’re right about that, Josiah," Vin said from the door. The smile on his face told Sanchez that he’d heard the news about Chris.

"I’ll go tell the others the good news," Josiah said as Buck wheeled Vin into the room.

"I’ll be back in a little while, Pard," Buck said as he left Vin alone with Chris.

"Thanks, Buck," Tanner said. "He’s really going to be ok?" he asked the nurse.

"It’s going to take some time but yes he’s going to be ok," Thelma said with a smile.

Vin closed his eyes and said a silent prayer. Chris was going to be alright. They were both going to be alright and as soon as Dr. Weaver said it was ok, Chris would be in the same room with him. He’d rest easier knowing his friend was close by and he could watch out for him.

He sat in his chair thinking about his life before Chris Larabee. A life where he chased dangerous criminals for the bounty on their heads. Where he didn’t care whether he lived or died.

He smiled as he recalled the bounty he’d been after just before Chris had offered him a lifeline of hope. He’d been chasing down a bounty named Bickham and had managed to get himself injured in the process. Larabee and his team had helped him and taken him to the hospital. The team had accepted him and he’d been with them ever since.

Vin smiled as he recalled calling Larabee a nursemaid among other things that day and the deep friendship that had started with that meeting.

"W...what’re you thinking about, Vin?"

Tanner smiled at the man on the bed, "Thought you were sleeping," he said.

"I was. T...tired of sleeping," the blonde told him.

"You need your sleep, Chris," Thelma said from the opposite side of the bed.

"Seems like that’s all I’ve been doing."

"Would you like to try some water?" Thelma asked.

"Real water, not ice chips?" Chris asked.

"Real water, Chris," Thelma laughed as she placed the straw in his mouth.

He sipped slowly from the glass, savouring the moisture in his arid mouth. He swallowed and felt the trail of moisture as it made its journey down his throat. "Thanks," he said as she pulled the glass away.

"Let me know when you want more," she said and just had time to reach for the small kidney shaped boat.

Chris’s face lit with pain as his stomach lost the meagre amount of water he’d been given.

"Chris," Vin cried as he watched his friend.

At his panic stricken look Thelma smiled, "It’s ok, Chris, you’re stomach has been empty for so long that it’s just not ready to accept anything yet but if you’re willing to try again in a little while it might be better. Ok?"

"Ok," Chris said, grateful for the moisture in his mouth in spite of the loss of the water.

"You scared me there, Cowboy."

"Sorry, Vin," Chris said. "How are you doing?"

"Better than you," the younger man laughed.

"Your eyes?"

"Almost back to normal. Dr. Beattie said I may have some dizziness and a few headaches but that’ll go away eventually."

"Your ankle?"

"Hurts like a son of a bitch," Vin laughed.

"I bet it does," Chris laughed and coughed weakly. "Sorry," he said when he saw the worried look on Tanner’s face.

"You ok?"

"I think so."

"Good afternoon, Mr. Larabee."

"Dr. Lawrence," Larabee said harshly.

"I came to give you some good news."

"No more back beating?" Chris asked sarcastically.

"Not quite," Gina Lawrence said. "We’ve got some of the results back and it looks like the pneumonia is beginning to clear up. You’re not done with it but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel."

"What light?"

"I’d say two more days of the breathing treatments and as you call the back beating treatments and we should be able to stop them. You’ll still have to take the antibiotics but things will start to improve."

"Two days," Chris said.

"Think you can last two more days?" Lawrence asked as she set up the tube and medication.

"Do I have a choice?"

"No," she said simply as she raised the head of the bed.

"Vin," Chris said before taking the tube in his mouth.


"Why don’t you go sit with the others till I’m done here?"

"You don’t want me to stay?" Vin asked.

"I hate this, Vin, and I hate having you guys see it."

"It’s ok, Chris. I don’t mind being here with you."

"I don’t need a nurse maid."

Vin startled him by laughing, "Seems to me I said those same words a while back and you didn’t listen. I’ll stay with ya, Cowboy. You can even hold my hand if you want," he said.

"All ready, Mr. Larabee," Lawrence said as she placed the tube in front of his mouth.

Vin smiled reassuringly as Chris took the tube into his mouth.

+ + + + + + +

"So they’re going to let Mr. Larabee out of ICU tomorrow," Standish said.

"I said they may let him out, Brother Ezra, it all depends on whether he continues to improve."

"Can you imagine the two of them in one room? It may be best for them but I pity the poor nurses," Wilmington said.

"Would anyone care to wager how long it takes for them to demand their release?" Ezra asked.

"No way, Ez," Dunne said. "I think we all agree the only reason Vin hasn’t asked is because of Chris."

"That’s right, JD, but when they’re placed in the same room they’ll both start asking," Jackson said.

"We’re going to need to keep someone here at all times. Those two will try to make good their escape as soon as Chris is up and around," Travis said.

"I think you may be right, Mr. Travis," Standish said. "We could take shifts and have someone here at all times like we’ve been doing. I mean these doctors don’t know Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner the way Dr. Midland does."

"Yeah, Ez, it’s too bad she ain’t here," Wilmington said. "She’d make sure they stayed put."

"Now that Chris and Vin are both getting better, I’ll be going back to Billings tomorrow. There were some unfinished files when we left and I think I’d better go back and soothe some ruffled feathers. I’ll send the Firm's private jet to pick you guys up when Chris and Vin are released."

"I don’t know if they’ll want to fly back after their last flight," JD said softly.

"You could be right, JD, but the plane they were in was a twin engine job. You know Vin loves the jet," Buck said.

"What about Chris?"

"Oh I think he’ll be ok because he’ll be going home," Buck said.

+ + + + + + +

"I feel sorry for you, Cowboy," Vin said as Chris finally brought his breathing under control.

"T...thanks," Larabee said as he closed his eyes and held his side.

"Time for that shot, Chris?" Thelma asked.

"I t...think so," Larabee said as he struggled against the pain.

"Let’s turn you a little," she said as she pulled back the blanket. "There you go," she said as she pulled the syringe out. "Feel like trying a little water again?"

"Yeah," Chris said as she helped him turn onto his back again.

She placed the straw in his mouth and he sipped gratefully. "Thanks," he said and fought to control his rebellious stomach. Once again Thelma placed the bowl in front of him as he lost the fight.

"Shit," Chris said causing Vin to smile.

"It’ll get easier, Chris. I’ll ask Dr. Weaver about giving you some Gravol to calm your stomach before we try again, Ok?"

"Ok," Chris said tiredly.

"I think we should let him sleep for a while, Mr. Tanner. I’ll have an orderly take you back to your room," Thelma suggested.

"That’s alright, Ma’am, I’ll take him," Buck said as he entered the room.

"Just a little longer," Vin said.

"Remember our deal, Vin?" Buck asked.

"Go get some rest, Vin," Chris said through a yawn.

"Alright, Cowboy, but I’ll be back later," Tanner promised as he left the room.

+ + + + + + +

Chris waited anxiously for Dr. Weaver to complete his rounds. The morning had been filled with his pneumonia treatments, blood tests, and portable x-rays. None of his friends had come to see him yet because in the tiny room with the added equipment there was just no room.

Now he lay with his head back and his eyes closed. He’d been able to keep the water down after they’d given him the Gravol and he was hoping he’d be free of at least one tube today.

"Hi, Chris how are you feeling today?"

"Better, Dr. Weaver," Chris answered.

"You are looking a little better than you were yesterday. I have some good news for you."

"Good news?" Chris asked.

"How would you like to get rid of some of those tubes?"

Chris couldn’t suppress the smile that broadened on his face. "I’d love to. What about the Foley?" he asked.

"I think that one can go as well. You’ve made remarkable strides in the past two days. If things go well with the removal of the tubes, we might even spring you from this constant surveillance."

"Really?" Chris asked hopefully.

"Really," Weaver said. "I have a couple of more stops to make. Dr. Lawrence will be here to assist me. We’re going to give you a local while we remove the tubes. It might be uncomfortable but it shouldn’t hurt."

"I can deal with uncomfortable," Chris said as he closed his eyes and sighed with relief.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington spotted Weaver coming out of ICU four and moved to intercept him. "Well Doc, how is he?" he asked as the doctor came to a stop in front of him.

"Chris is doing very well, Mr. Wilmington, better than any of us thought at this point."

"Does that mean he gets sprung from here today?"

"Well, we’re removing some of the tubes and IV lines. If all goes well he should be moved in with Mr. Tanner before dinnertime this evening."

"That’s great!" Buck said excitedly. "Can I see him?"

"I’d rather you didn’t right now, Mr. Wilmington. He needs to get some rest for what he’ll go through this afternoon. If all goes well, you’ll be seeing him when everything’s done," Weaver said.

"What do you mean if all goes well?" Buck asked worriedly.

"Chris has still got a long way to go, Mr Wilmington. Just because he may be released from ICU today doesn’t mean he’ll be waltzing out of here tomorrow and then he’s going to need a long recovery period. He has to realize that as well."

"We’ll make sure he does," Buck said.

"Good. I have to go finish my rounds and then I’ll be with Chris for a while. You go stay with Mr. Tanner and we’ll let you know what’s happening as soon as we’re done. But, Mr. Wilmington don’t expect to hear anything till later this evening."

"Alright, Doc, but are you sure we can’t visit Chris?"

"If you do, it’s just going to take us longer to get things done."

"Alright, Doc, I’ll keep the others away," Wilmington told him.

"Thank you," Weaver said as he walked away.

Buck walked past his friend’s room and looked in. He could see Chris’s face and could tell he was sleeping. ‘Rest easy, Stud, we’ll see you soon,’ he thought as he hurried to tell the others the good news.

+ + + + + + +


Larabee opened his eyes slowly; he’d been reliving the plane crash and the terror of seeing Vin trapped. He shook his head and immediately regretted the movement.

"Are you alright, Chris?"

"I’m fine, Dr. Weaver."

"Sure you are. All my patients in ICU are just fine," Weaver laughed. "Are you ready for this?" he asked as he indicated the tubes in the patient’s side and chest.

"Yes, hell yes," the blonde said.

"Ok, Dr. Lawrence is going to help me. We’re going to start with the one in your chest. I’m going to give you a local so it shouldn’t hurt. It may feel uncomfortable but that won’t last long. Alright?"

Chris nodded his head as he watched Dr. Lawrence prepare a syringe.

"This might hurt for a minute," she said as she swabbed the area and began injecting the local anaesthetic.

"We’ll give that a minute before we remove the tube," Weaver said and Chris nodded.

"I think we’re ready to begin. As Dr. Weaver said, you may feel some pressure. Ready?"

Chris nodded and felt the tube being pulled from his body. The pressure was almost unbearable but he breathed through it with the help of the nurse.

"All done, Chris," Weaver said as he dropped the bloodied tube into a tray. He cleaned the tiny wound and placed sutures over it to help it heal.

"T...thanks," Chris said tiredly.

Dr. Weaver glanced at the chart and smiled at his patient. "Looks like the one in your abdomen can go as well. The last three notes say there was no sign of bleeding. What do you say? Want to get rid of that one as well?"

"Yes," Chris nodded as Dr. Lawrence prepared another syringe. He held his breath as she injected the local into the tender area of his abdomen.

Chris closed his eyes and waited for them to begin.

"Ready, Chris?" Weaver asked and watched as the patient nodded his head.

The blonde gripped the blankets tightly as Weaver began to remove the tube. He groaned as the pressure built but he remained still.

"All done, Chris," Weaver said as he again cleaned the area around the wound and again placed sutures on it. " I think we’ll let you get some rest before your next scheduled pneumonia treatment."

"What about the damned Foley?"

"Oh, I almost forgot about that one," Weaver laughed as he removed the final tube from his patient's body.

"Thank you," the blonde said with a grin.

"You’re welcome now try to rest."

"When can I get out of here?"

Weaver and Lawrence both laughed but Gina was the one to answer. "If all goes well with the next breathing exercise, we’ll move you down to Mr. Tanner’s room."

"Ok," Chris said.

"Thelma’s going to give you your pain meds now and I want you to try to sleep," Lawrence told him.

"I will," Chris said as he watched the doctor’s leave.

"Which one?" Thelma asked.


"Which hip. Now that you have that tube out, I figured I’d give you a choice."

"I don’t need it."

"Your eyes tell me you’re lying, Chris. Besides it’s doctor’s orders," Thelma said. "Now which one?"

"The left," he told her as he shifted slightly. He felt the warmth of the medication and closed his eyes while it soothed his pain-ridden body.

+ + + + + + +

"You said Dr. Weaver would let us know what was going on, Buck," Tanner said angrily.

"He will, Vin.  The nurse in Chris’s room said we’d know shortly. They wouldn’t even let me in to see him because he was sleeping. Dr. Lawrence was on her way up to give him another one of those damned treatments," Wilmington told him. The other’s had left to get an early dinner since they’d all missed lunch while waiting for word on Chris. Buck had stayed with Vin to keep him company.

"Hello, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Wilmington," a nurse Buck recognized as Betty said as she entered the room. "I need to move your bed as close to the wall as possible. They’ll be here with a new patient in a few minutes," she said.

Buck helped her push Vin’s bed tight against the wall.

"Is the new patient Chris Larabee?" Vin asked but didn’t get an answer as the door was opened and a stretcher pushed in.

"Mr. Wilmington, could you please stay back out of the way," Betty said as she helped manoeuvre the stretcher into the space between the beds.

"Is it Chris?" Vin asked Buck.

Buck looked around the curtain and smiled back at the man in the bed, "It’s him, Vin," he said.

Chris could hear Vin and Buck talking but it took all his strength to concentrate on riding out the waves of pain. His body felt stiff from lying in the bed all the time.

"Now, don’t try to help us, Mr. Larabee," the orderly said. "Let us do all the work."

"Ok," Chris said as he felt the orderlies lift him and guide him into the bed. He held his arm against his side and groaned as he was moved onto the new bed.

"There you go, Mr. Larabee," one of the orderlies said as they removed the stretcher from the room.

"Thanks for the ride, boys," the blonde said.

"Hi, Stud," Buck said as he pulled the curtain back.

"Hey, Cowboy," Vin smiled from his bed.

"Buck, Vin," Chris said as the nurse tried to make him more comfortable.

"I’ll be your nurse today, Mr. Larabee. Would you like your head raised a little further?" Betty asked.

"Please," Chris said and stifled a yawn.

"I’m just going to get your vitals and then you can get some rest. Dr. Lawrence will be here in two hours," Betty told him as she checked his blood pressure.

"Oh great," the blonde said.

"I also have to put these back I’m afraid," Betty said as she hooked up the nasal Canulas.

"Damn, I’m beginning to hate those things."

"Well, you’re not taking in enough oxygen on room air Mr. Larabee, and until you do, these stay in place," she said as she put up the side rail on his bed. "Now don’t try to get out of bed on your own either."

"I’ll make sure he stays put, Betty," Buck said with a grin.

"Traitor," the blonde said.

"Mr. Tanner, how are you feeling?" Betty asked as she walked to his bed and replaced the almost empty IV bag above his head.

"I’m fine," Vin said.

"Keep them both in bed, Mr. Wilmington," she said as she left the room.

"How are you feeling, Cowboy?" Tanner asked.

"Honestly, Vin, I’ve been better. You?"

"Same, been better but been worse too."

"I’m glad to see you got rid of that damn tube they had stuck in your chest," Wilmington said.

"Got rid of the one in my side as well," Chris answered but didn’t open his eyes.

"What about the one down lower?" Wilmington asked, a sly grin on his face.

"Gone," Chris told them, a grin on his face as he yawned again.

"Why don’t you both go to sleep for awhile? I’ll stay here and watch your backs,"

"You always do, Buck, you always do," Chris said as he drifted off.

"Your turn, Vin."

"I’ll try, Buck."

+ + + + + + +

Buck stood outside the room waiting for the others to get back. He wanted to catch them before they walked into the room and woke the sleeping agents. The door was slightly ajar so he could hear if either man woke up.

He heard them before he saw them and held up his hand to stop them as they rounded the corner.

"What’s wrong Buck?" JD asked worriedly.

"Chris and Vin are sleeping," Wilmington told them, a boyish grin plastered on his face.

"You mean Mr. Larabee is now in residence with Mr. Tanner?" Standish asked.

"That’s exactly what I mean. They brought him down about an hour ago."

"What about the tubes?" Jackson asked.

"They took them out, including the one we’re all so fond of," Wilmington laughed. "Dr. Lawrence will be here in an hour so I thought I’d let them both sleep."

"So Chris is better?" Dunne asked.

"He’s getting there, Kid," Wilmington said.

"Thank the lord," Sanchez said as he raised his hands to the air.

+ + + + + + +

Chris lay in bed listening to the muted conversation that drifted through the partially opened door. He could hear the relief in each man’s voice and knew his family was waiting for the two downed members to get back on their feet. From the feel of his own body, he knew it wasn’t going to be anytime soon. It seemed as if the pain had taken up residence and planned to stay with him for a long time.

"Hey, Cowboy, you alright?" Tanner’s soft voice drifted to him from the other bed.

"I’m fine, Vin, you?"

"I’m fine," Tanner answered and suddenly both men gave into relieved laughter.

"What’s so funny," Wilmington asked as he entered the room followed by the others.

"P...private j...joke," Vin managed to get out between laughs.

Chris held his side as the laughter put strain on the stitches and suddenly his face grew pained as he was taken with a severe bout of coughing.

Vin’s laughter stopped immediately at the harsh wracking cough from his friend.

Nathan Jackson was immediately at his friend’s side and helping him sit forward. He signalled for Buck to get the nurse as Chris’s face grew more distressed. "Take it easy, Chris," he said soothingly as he rubbed the blonde’s sweat soaked back.

"Chris," Tanner’s voice was filled with worry as he tried to get out of bed and move to his friend’s aid.

"No you don’t, Brother Vin," Sanchez said, placing a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Nathan’s got em."

Buck came rushing into the room and watched his friend's growing distress. The coughing hadn’t subsided and it looked as if the man wasn’t getting enough air.

"Come on, Chris, breathe," Jackson said as Betty came rushing in.

"What happened?" she asked as she took over Jackson’s spot.

"He was laughing and suddenly started coughing. He can’t seem to get enough air," Jackson said as he helped the nurse keep Chris in an upright position.

"Mr. Larabee, can you hear me?" Chris slowly nodded as he tried to control the coughing and take a full breath of air. "I’ve put a call in to Dr. Lawrence and she should be here any minute. For now, I’m going to put you on a full oxygen mask instead of these," she said as she removed the nasal canulas and placed a mask over his mouth and nose.

"K," Chris said as he continued to struggle.

"What’s going on, Betty?" Weaver asked as he entered the room. One look at his patient told him he had work to do. "Everyone out," he said as he took his place beside Chris.

The five healthy men walked to the opposite side of Vin’s bed but not out of the room. The curtains were drawn and they had to listen as the Weaver examined their friend.

"What brought this on?" Weaver asked the nurse as he listened to the patient’s chest.

"His friends said he was laughing and just started coughing," Betty answered.

"Concentrate on breathing, Chris," Weaver said. "See how deep you can get the air to go into your lungs."

Gina Lawrence appeared at Weaver’s side and began hooking up the tube for the pneumonia treatment.

Chris shook his head as he watched her prepare the medication. "D...don’t, p...please..." he gasped as he began to feel some control returning.

"No talking, just breath," Weaver ordered as he noticed the bluish tinge surrounding his patient's lips.

"What’s the reading on his oxygen intake?" Lawrence asked.

"It’s just at ninety," Betty answered.

Lawrence removed the oxygen mask and pressed the tube into the patient’s mouth. She pushed a button forcing the medication into his lungs and watched his eyes widen in fright. "It’s ok, Chris, this is going to open your bronchial tubes and make it easier to breathe. It’s the same as you were taking upstairs, remember?"

Chris nodded as the machine continued to force the medication deep into his tortured lungs until he was finally able to breathe in on his own. He closed his eyes and waited for the feeling of panic to disappear.

"What’s it reading now?" Weaver asked.

"Oxygen intake up to ninety three and rising." Betty answered.

"Feeling better, Mr. Larabee?" Lawrence asked.

The pale blonde didn’t bother opening his eyes as he answered with an affirmative nod. He continued to breath in the medication and let his body’s tense muscles relax. The feeling of panic from being unable to breath slowly dissipated and he felt sleep beckoning once again.

"Any idea what caused it?" Weaver asked the respiration specialist as she removed the tube and replaced the oxygen mask over his face.

"I’m hoping it was just a panic attack. He’s doing fine now but we’re going to have to watch him. Keep him on the mask until he’s totally stabilized, Betty. I want him checked constantly."

"You think we moved him out of ICU too fast?" Weaver asked.

"Maybe, but I hope not," she said as she watched Weaver check the patient's injuries. "I don’t think he needs the other part of the treatment at this time. Let him sleep for now," she said as she left the room.

"Make sure you call me if this happens again," Weaver said.

"Yes, Doctor," Betty said.

"How is he?" Tanner voiced the question before the others had a chance.

"He’s sleeping right now. Can you tell me what happened before this attack?" Weaver asked.

"We were laughing and he suddenly started coughing and couldn’t breathe," Vin said, his voice full of guilt.

"That’s probably what brought on the attack, the laughing I mean," Weaver said with a smile. "Don’t feel guilty, Mr. Tanner, the coughing actually did him good."

"Sure it did," Tanner said sarcastically.

"Mr. Tanner, the coughing helped loosen the mucus in Chris’s lungs. He just has to remember that he’s weak and some thing’s are a no no right now including too much laughter," Weaver said as he took in the other men. "Chris is going to be fine but he’s also got to remember that his body is still weak and will be for quite some time. Between the obvious wounds that you can see, he’s still fighting not only the pneumonia but the peritonitis infection as well. It’s only natural that he’d have a relapse and he’ll probably have others. We just have to make sure he’s able to fight it off."

"Will he be able to?" Vin asked.

"I think you can answer that for yourselves. I’m pretty certain I’ve heard all of you say how strong he is and that he’s a fighter. Do you believe that or was it just something you said?"

"Chris is strong," Dunne said firmly.

"Brother Chris is a fighter," Sanchez said.

"I’ve never met another man like Mr. Larabee," Standish said.

"Yep, Chris is strong and a fighter as well," Jackson said.

"I’ve seen him come through a lot," Wilmington said as his mind conjured up images of his friend’s tormented body and mind after the death of his wife and son.

"But will that be enough?" Vin asked.

"That and the medical treatments will help but the main thing is the support of his friends," Weaver assured them. "I’ll be back to check on him before I leave for today. Gentlemen," he said as he looked at the healthy men. "Don’t let either of them overtax themselves. They both need to rest and give their bodies a chance to heal," Weaver said as he left the men to their thoughts.

"Can you pull back the curtain, Josiah?" Vin asked as soon as Weaver was gone.

"I’ll do it," Betty said as she finished changing another bag of antibiotics. She pulled back the drapes and turned her best intimidation look on the five men standing around her second patients bed. "Keep your stay short," she said as she checked Vin’s IV.

"Yes, Ma’am," Buck said a little too sharply.

"You heard Dr. Weaver they need to rest," she said a little too sharply. "Just keep it down and let Mr. Larabee sleep. I’ll be back in a minute with your dinner, Mr. Tanner."

"She’s tough," JD said.

Nathan and Buck walked to the second bed and looked at the sleeping patient. The mask on his face delivered the precious oxygen to his lungs and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully.


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