I've Got Your Back

by Kathy Teresa

ATF Universe

Chapter 22

Nathan looked up to see Vin's nurse enter the room. She smiled and hung a small bag of fluid on a pole above Vin's head. Seeing Nathan's questioning look, she turned back and spoke quietly. "It's antibiotics. We've got him covered with triple antibiotic coverage. He had a dirty wound and a long time on the operating table. I'm going to be turning off the sedating medication in a couple hours. He'll need a familiar voice to help him out. Do you want to catch a nap before I do that?" Nathan looked at Vin sleeping peacefully and without obvious pain. Standing and stretching Nathan nodded. "Yeah, I'll go up the other team member's room. I'll call you with the extension. Can you call me before you turn off the medicine?"

"Of course. Let me know where you will be." The nurse turned back to Vin beginning a bath to try and remove the dirt from the scrapes and small cuts on his body. Nathan leaned over Vin and took the sharpshooter's hand once more squeezing it reassuringly.

Slipping quietly from the room, Nathan headed toward the elevators to find Chris's room.


Ezra was dozing in the recliner chair parked in the corner of Chris's room. Nathan slowly opened the door. The sight of Chris Larabee in a hospital gown sleeping quietly struck Nathan as unusual. Sleeping or resting was not a usual position for their energetic leader. Crossing to the bed, Nathan settled in the hard chair and checked out the infusion pump giving Chris fluids.

"He's doing much better. Finally woke up and insisted on using the facilities. No plastic tubular device for Mr. Larabee. The man HAD to stand on his own two feet. Which he did, of course, never mind that the orderly and I had to practically drag him back to bed." Standing and stretching, Ezra chuckled softly. "How's Vin doing? I'm assuming things are better if you are here." The sentence ended as a question.

"The ICU nurse was washing him up when I left. His vital signs...blood pressure and stuff have been good all night. They're gonna turn off the sedation medicine in a few hours. Nurse suggested I get a nap before then. So I'll be able to be with him when he wakes up." Nathan picked up the phone and dialed the ICU speaking briefly and gave the nurse the extension to Chris's phone. Seeing Ezra motion him to the recliner, Nathan started across the room.

"You both gonna talk anymore? Then leave. Wanna sleep." Both Ezra and Nathan turned their heads at the sound coming from the pile of pillows.

"Chris? Hey, how ya doing?" Nathan bent down to see Chris's face. Seeing a pale but much stronger looking Chris Larabee, Nathan reached over and picked up the glass of water on the bedside. Chris sat up slowly, nodding thanks when Ezra piled pillows behind his back. Taking a long drink, Chris inspected the IV site in his left forearm and back at Nathan. Nathan got a glare when he shook his head "no" about the IV.

"Vin, okay? Wanna see him." Chris sat up and started to swing his legs over the side of the bed. He felt four hands put pressure on his arms and shoulders and stopped his attempt to climb out of bed.

"Vin's doing okay. Just sit back and I'll fill you in." Nathan looked at the defiant look on Chris's face. "I mean it. Nothing from me unless you lie back down."

Seeing the determination in Nathan's face, Chris allowed the two men to settle him back on the bed. Crossing his arms, Chris looked up at Nathan and raised his eyebrows.

"Okay. Vin made it through surgery okay. He had a fractured pelvic bone along the left side underneath where the bullet entered. The femoral artery had been partially severed...that's where all the blood was coming from. They gave him a bunch of blood to get his blood pressure back and then put a plate across the pelvic fracture to hold it together. The vascular surgeons sewed Vin's femoral artery back together." Holding up a hand against a question Chris was about to pose, Nathan continued. "He's in the ICU upstairs. Spending the night on a breathing machine and two drugs. One to support his blood pressure and another to keep him sedated."

"So when are they going to wake him up?" Chris was still tired but his usual impatience with LONG explanations was beginning to catch up with him. "I want to be there."

Ezra and Nathan looked at each other and realized it wasn't a question. It was a Larabee "statement". Rolling his eyes, Nathan started to speak. Ezra held up his hand to Nathan and spoke.

"Mr. Larabee? What is the last thing you remember?" Nathan smiled at Ezra's question and sat down in his chair, waiting for Chris's answer.

Frowning, Chris let a small smile graze his face. "Trying to take a piss in the bathroom with two other people standing there watching." Nathan tried not to laugh at the look on Ezra's face.

"Mr. Larabee, I assure you..." Ezra's reply was cut off by the ringing of the telephone. Reaching over to answer Ezra listened and replied shortly. Hanging up he turned back to the other men. "That was Mr. Tanner's nurse. They are going to start letting Vin wake up at nine."

"Okay. Let's go." Chris scooted to the end of his bed and started to stand.

"Wait, Chris. Just wait a minute." Standing Nathan eased Chris down avoiding the glare that was gathering. "It's only five in the morning. Let's all go back to sleep for a couple hours and then we'll see if you're gonna get discharged.

"I'm not staying here anymore. I'm fine." Chris started to sit up again and Nathan put out his hand.

"Okay, but I'm tired. Let me get a short nap and we'll sign you out before we go up to see Vin." Crossing to the recliner, Nathan eased himself down and was asleep within minutes. Ezra settled in the chair next to Chris's bed. "Poker, Mr. Larabee?"

Turning his back to Ezra, Chris settled as sleep began to overtake him. "Ezra? What I do remember is a friend sitting at my bedside last night." Turning to look at the con man, Chris finished. "And that's something I won't forget." Chris closed his eyes before Ezra could reply.

Looking down at his cards, Ezra looked at both sleeping men. "Sleep well my two friends; sleep well." He whispered and began a game of solitaire.

Chris woke to the sound of a breakfast tray being placed on his bedside table. "Mr. Larabee? Your repast is here." Pouring a cup of coffee, Ezra crossed to Nathan sleeping in the recliner. "Mr. Jackson? Coffee?"

Nathan sat up and accepted the coffee from Ezra's hands. Looking over at Chris he saw their leader sipping tentatively at a similar cup. Ezra walked to the door and headed down the hall toward the nurse's station. Nathan rose from the recliner and walked to Chris's bedside chair. "How do you feel?

"Fine." Chris sat and started to take the tape off his intravenous line.

"Mr. Larabee? Let me get that." Chris's nurse followed quickly by Ezra with a wheelchair approached the blonde haired agent. "Are you feeling light headed? Any nausea?" She applied a dressing after removing the IV as Chris grumbled 'no' to each of her questions. Placing a blood pressure cuff around Chris's arm, she took two readings. One with Chris sitting and the other with Chris standing. "Mr. Larabee? Your blood pressure is fine and the doctor has agreed to discharge you." Smiling she saw Chris's frown disappear and a smile start to form. "Gentlemen if you want to help Mr. Larabee get dressed I'll get his discharge papers ready."

Chris watched the nurse leave and walked carefully to the closet where his clothing had been stored. It was an easier walk than it had been earlier but Chris could still feel the toil yesterday had taken on his body.

"Let me help you Mr. Larabee." Ezra approached Chris from the side and got a look at the expression on Chris's face. Taking a step backwards he paused. "Or not."

"Here, Chris. Sit while I help ya with your boots." Nathan didn't wait for an answer as he worked the wheelchair next to Chris. Looking at the wheelchair Chris nodded and sat quietly. Letting Nathan help his finish dressing, he watched as Ezra picked up a cup of coffee off his tray and handed it to him.

Looking up Chris offered Ezra a smile and thanks. The nurse returned with Chris's discharge papers and a short lecture on eating properly and getting enough to drink. Chris nodded his thanks and promised to do what she asked. Ezra and Nathan smiled openly from behind the nurse's back. Chris gave them both 'the glare' as she left. Starting to move the wheelchair by himself, Chris nodded toward the door. "Come on. Let's see Vin."

Chapter 23

Vin ran his tongue around his mouth, savoring the feel of his teeth and the absence of those damned plastic tubes. Upon awakening from the sedation, he had regained consciousness quickly and began to gag on the tube in his mouth. His mind clouded by the remnants of pain medication and anesthesia, Vin had been confused and slightly combative.

Sensing his agitated state of mind, the nurses and doctors expedited getting the breathing tube out. His nurse then quickly cleaned his mouth with a refreshing wash. Afterward, she gave him a brief explanation as to why he was in the hospital and the lengthy surgery necessary to repair his damaged body. Giving him another dose of morphine and instructions to lie still in the bed, she left him after collecting some more lab work the doctor had ordered.

Wrinkling his nose at the medicine smell of the oxygen blowing into his nostrils, Vin let his head drop back and tried to remember. His eyes roamed the room checking out the clock, the sink, his bed and the IV tubing and lines attached to his body. His lower body felt stiff and restricted but was not uncomfortable.

Mostly Vin was looking to find a familiar face. But no one was in the room with him. No jackets or books left on a chair. No get well cards plastered on the walls. Just the aseptic impersonal atmosphere of his hospital cubical.

Letting his head fall back to the pillow, Vin sighed tiredly. He didn't know why he expected anything to be different. He long ago had become used to waking up alone. Relying on himself for his own comfort and strength. This ATF team he had been with for the last few days... they weren't his friends. Just working partners. So why should he expect them to be at his bedside?

And why did he care?


Chris pounded impatiently on the arm of his wheelchair. Looking up at Nathan again, Chris said shortly, "Great! Four elevators to get to the ICU and only two of them working. Come on, we've been waiting twenty minutes. I'm taking the stairs."

Chris started to get up but Nathan was there to press him back down.

"Hey now! Chris, relax. They haven't discharged you yet and there is no way you are climbing seven flights of stairs. We'll make way on the next elevator if we have to move people off by force."

"What if Vin is awake and none of us is there? He'll be confused. I promised..."

Chris caught himself. He let the words fade from his mouth. Exactly whom had he promised? Vin or Adam? The events of the last thirty hours or so had left him confused and unsure of the thoughts running through his mind. Besides, Vin wasn't Adam. But still...

"Here we go."

Ezra stood in front of a group of drug representatives and interns and held the door as Nathan rolled Chris into the elevator. Giving the stranded group a smile and his trademark two finger salute, Ezra pressed the button for the ninth floor.


Vin heard someone in the room. Opening his eyes in spite of the morphine, his vision would not focus well. But he recognized the color of the blue scrubs and jackets he had seen on all the nurses earlier. Raising his head, he scanned the room. Dropping his head back on the pillow, he closed his eyes as he confirmed the facts around him.

Here he was again, alone, hurt and in the care of strangers. Seemed he couldn't break that old lifetime habit. Squeezing his eyes closed against the tears trying to form, Vin cleared his throat hoping the nurse wouldn't hear him. He just wanted to be left alone. He knew how to handle being alone.

Shelly heard her patient's movements. Giving him a minute to collect his thoughts, she finally turned and faced him.

"Hello, Mr. Tanner. I'm Shelly. I'm going to be the nurse taking care of you today."

Vin opened his eyes again to see a petite brown-haired nurse with a kind smile.

"Thirsty," Vin managed to get out.

Shelly spoon fed Vin some ice chips she had brought into the room. Watching her patient savor the cool moisture, she began to set up a pump that would let Vin give his own pain medication.

Vin let the ice melt and ease the dryness in his throat. Watching Shelly work, he sighed and finally asked the question he needed to have answered.

"Shelly?" Vin saw her turn and look his way. "Were there...ah, any friends or like other ATF agents here last night?"

Seeing her turn back to program the pump, he stumbled on. "I mean, you know? Just a security guard or something?"

Looking back at the handsome, vulnerable face, Shelly pressed her finger on the pump giving Vin a generous dose of morphine to ease the pain he might be having. It also served to lessen the answer she had to give.

"I'm sorry, Vin. I've been here since seven this morning. No one was has been in the room except doctors and staff. The other nurse didn't mention anyone."

Vin listened to her words expecting the worse but desperately hoping for the best. When she told him none of the team had stayed to check on him, Vin couldn't help himself. Never one for feeling sorry for himself, he just couldn't help it this time. But he didn't want the nurse to see the tears he knew were coming. Starting to ease onto his side, Vin raised himself on his left shoulder and tried to turn. Shelly sensed his movement and grabbed for his right shoulder before he had moved too far.

But it was too late.

The rotation of Vin's hips and legs sent an anguishing stab of pain shooting up his side and along his spine. A burning aching pain that had no end and no beginning. It consumed his brain and made him gasp and cry out wordlessly.


Chris was furious by the time the elevator made it to the ninth floor. Full of staff and visitors, the damn thing had stopped at every floor. Another fifteen minutes had passed. Chris worried that Vin would wake up and be all alone. Nathan assured him that they wouldn't remove the breathing tube so quickly and that there was still plenty of time.

The elevator door opened into a small lobby outside the surgical ICU. Moving toward the automatic doors guarding the entrance, Chris, Ezra and Nathan backed up as the portals suddenly swung open. A young couple left the ICU, the husband supporting a quietly sobbing wife.

Then from the back of the unit, all three men heard an anguished cry. Instinctively, Chris rose from his chair and bolted toward the sound. He felt the tug as his IV was pulled out but chose to ignore it. His head told him that cry wasn't Vin because he still had a breathing tube in his mouth. His heart told him it was the young sharpshooter... one of his team who needed him.


Shelly drew up an additional dose of pain medication as two orderlies helped reposition Vin on the bed. Her young patient was in so much pain that she was afraid he would go into shock from the mere force of it crashing over his weakened body. Moving quickly, she injected a bolus of morphine into the IV that held the continuous infusion. Talking quietly to him, Shelly tried to get Vin to open his eyes. To breathe. To relax. To let the pain medication do its work.

But Vin was like a tightly coiled spring. Frozen since the pain had assaulted him. He felt the hands repositioning his body but couldn't fight off the agony that burned its way up his spine and hips with liquid fire. Struggling to breathe, he lay arched and still. Afraid to relax. Afraid to even breathe.

Chris rounded the corner of the cubical and saw a nurse inject something into Vin's IV while she tried to talk to him. And Vin was absolutely white with pain. His chest didn't seem to move and a mewing sound was all that Chris could hear coming from the sharpshooter's mouth.

"What happened? He...why is his breathing tube out? They were supposed to wait until we got here."

Chris babbled the words quickly, never taking his eyes off of Vin's contorted features. Shelly turned at the authoritative voice behind her.

"Who...can I help you?" She cast an inquisitive glance at Chris and the men behind him, then looked back at her patient. "He got his breathing tube out about two hours ago. He was doing great until...well, until he tried to turn to his side. I've given him another dose of pain medication so it should work pretty quickly."

Watching Vin's breathing and heart rate, she suddenly made the connection. "Are you ATF agents? His teammates?" Seeing Chris nod his head, she continued. "He was asking about you. If you had been here. I had to tell him that I hadn't seen any of you. Terri, the night nurse, didn't say you were coming. He started to cry. Tried not to but he didn't want me to see the tears. That's when he tried to turn and the pain really hit him."

Chris looked at Nathan and Ezra who were both distressed by the display before them. Chris moved to the side of the bed across from the nurse, absently grabbing a dressing for his arm. Lowering his head to Vin's level, Chris spoke softly.

"Vin? Tanner? It's Larabee. We're here now. Nathan was with you all night. He came to get me and Ezra so we could be with you this morning. Sorry we were late. Open your eyes for me? Vin? Please?"

Chris fumbled around until he found Vin's hand buried in the blanket, gripping the sheets for all he was worth. Prying the fingers free, Chris threaded Vin's fingers through his and placed his other hand on top.

"Here. You hold on to me. Let me take some of the pain. We're here now. You watched our backs just like you said you would. Saved Buck's life too. Now you just rest and let that medication take you away to dreamland. We'll be here when you wake up. That's a promise."

Chris whispered all this to Vin while he watched the young agent's face and body begin to relax. Vin finally released a shuddering breath and lay quiet. Glancing up at the nurse with a questioning look, Chris held on to Vin's hand, feeling it go limp within his grasp.

Checking Vin's vital signs again, Shelly sighed and relaxed.

"Thank you. You all came at the right time. Sometimes despite the strong medications, patients need to hear familiar voices before they feel safe enough to let go and rest. Is one of you planning to stay? I..."

Shelly got no further before Chris answered.

"Yes. We're not leaving. We're a team."

Nodding quietly, Shelly crossed to the door and called back. "He's wrong, you know?"

"About what?" Chris asked, green eyes still focused on Vin's face.

"You're not only his teammates. You're his friends. You tell him that when he wakes up. I'll be back in a few minutes. Watch him for me?"

Shelly smiled as all three men nodded and settled within the small room.

Chris straightened the sweat-soaked curls covering Vin's forehead.

"Always. That's what teammates and friends do. They watch your back, no matter where you are."

Getting a nod from Nathan and Ezra, Chris settled back in the chair still holding tight to Vin's hand.

Chapter 24

Vin felt consciousness seep slowly back. A memory of blinding pain made him hold his breath. He let his mind explore his body bit by bit. A deep aching remained across his hips. A nagging reminder of the awful stabbing pain he had felt earlier. At least he thought it was earlier. Opening his eyes slowly he tried looking around without moving his head. Searching with his eyes for a clock or window, Vin saw nothing but ceiling tiles above him. Feeling the pain begin again, Vin closed his eyes tightly hoping to shut it out.

Chris felt the subtle movement that signaled the morphine induced sleep Vin had been enjoying was ebbing. The increased breathing of the pale young man in the bed next to him caught his attention and he sat up searching Vin's face. Still holding Vin's left hand, Chris nodded to Nathan who was dozing in a chair across the bed.

Nathan leaned forward and pressed the button on the morphine pump attached to Vin's IV. He knew the medication was wearing off as he watched Vin press his eyes close against the returning pain. Chris rose and leaned over Vin's head.

"Vin? It's Chris. It's about noon and you're in the intensive care unit at Four Corners General. Nathan's here too. Sorry we weren't here when you woke up. But we're here now with you." Getting no reaction from the young sharpshooter, Chris frowned and looked with concern to Nathan.

"Give him a minute Chris. He's probably still trying to sort out what's happened to him. Keep talking. That will help him stay oriented." Nathan checked the readings of Vin's heart rate and blood pressure and was satisfied when it remained unchanged.

Chris listened to Nathan and leaned forward speaking softly into Vin's ear. "Vin, can you open your eyes? It's okay. Nathan gave you some more pain medication." Watching patiently, Chris was rewarded with blue slits opening up at he talked. "Hey! There you are. Welcome back, sleepy head."

Vin forced his eyes open further and saw the blond haired team leader looking down on him. Trying to speak past his cracked dry lips, Vin's question came out as a garbled sound. "Chris?"

"Easy. Hush now. Just rest and try to remember what happened. Everyone is okay." Chris watched Vin's face as Nathan started to hand him some ice chips. Chris regretted talking so much as he saw Vin start to struggle.

Vin heard Chris speaking and his mind suddenly saw an image of a rifle trained on Buck's back. Struggling to rise, Vin felt a panic take over again. "Buck! Buck! Watch behind you!" Chris and Nathan pressed firm hands on Vin. Chris struggled to keep Vin flat on the bed.

"Vin, please! Buck's fine. Buck's okay. You got the sniper. Everyone is okay. PLEASE...please relax. Nathan?" Chris said pleadingly to the team medic. Nathan turned to get Vin's nurse when she came quickly into the room.

"Already gave him some more morphine but he's not listening. Seems to be remembering what happened on the roof!" Nathan kept his voice low and caught the nod from the nurse.

"Try and keep him still. I'll be right back." Turning quickly Vin's nurse ran for the medication room.

"Vin it's okay. Just lay still please. Buck didn't get shot. You did. Please...listen to me." Chris was starting to worry that Vin would start moving again, injuring himself further.

Nathan saw Chris pale as the struggle with Vin continued. Just as he was going to insist that Chris sit back down, the nurse was back into the room.

"Okay, here we go." The nurse quickly injected a generous dose of a sedative into the IV in Vin's neck. Flushing the drug quickly through the line, she gave both men an encouraging smile. "That should settle him very quickly. We were hoping we wouldn't have to sedate him in addition to pain medication but he's got to be quiet."

Chris felt Vin's body start to sag against the mattress. Releasing the pressure on Vin's body, Chris felt his knees start to buckle and sat in his wheelchair quickly. Giving Nathan a dirty look, Chris took a deep breath. "I'm fine, Nathan. He scared me that's all."

"Yeah, right. Okay well, now that Vin is taken care of let's get you signed out." Nathan watched the nurse fuss over Vin's dressings and IV lines as he walked around to move Chris's wheelchair.

Ezra appeared in the door holding a tray with sandwiches and drinks. "What, pray tell is happening?" Setting the heavy tray down, Ezra looked from Vin to the other men. " Is Mr. Tanner all right?"

Chris twisted in his chair and spoke. "He woke up in a panic. Must have thought he was still thinking he was on the rooftop. Was screaming for Buck to get down. The nurse had to give him a sedative to calm him down."

Ezra smiled at the nurse as she finished hanging Vin's antibiotic and gave him an additional dose of morphine. Returning his smile, she turned to look at the three men. "I can get your nurse upstairs to bring your discharge papers down here. That way you can stay with your friend. Okay?"

Before anyone could speak, Ezra spoke. "That would be most helpful. I'm sorry I did not introduce myself. Ezra Standish."

"Ronnie. I'm sorry if I didn't introduce myself earlier." The nurse spoke quietly as she finished her computer charting.

Ezra took the offered hand and gave it a slight squeeze. "We are all honored to meet you and extend our thanks for the care you have given Mr. Tanner." Watching her leave, Ezra looked at Nathan and Chris. "So did I stand in that miserable excuse for a food establishment only to have my choices ignored? You and Mr. Larabee take these sandwiches to the lounge and eat. I shall attend Mr. Tanner until you are finished."

Moving before Chris could act or speak, Nathan turned the wheelchair and sat the tray of food in Chris's lap as he wheeled them through the door. "Watch him closely. Do NOT let him move his lower body."

"I understand, Mr. Jackson." Taking a chair, Ezra moved it next to the sleeping sharpshooter. Pulling a paperback from his jacket pocket, he watched Vin's face for a moment and then began to read.

Chapter 25

After signing his discharge papers, Chris finished his lunch under Nathan's scrutiny. Before going back to check on Vin, Chris dialed Josiah's cell phone number.

"Sanchez." Josiah clicked his phone on with the first ring. Watching carefully, he was happy the noise hadn't awaken JD sleeping on the couch. After watching JD unsuccessfully try to get Buck to come out of his room for the third time, Josiah had suggested JD leave Buck alone for a while. JD had finally agreed falling asleep on the couch.

"Josiah. This is Chris." Chris waited patiently for Josiah to finish asking about his and Vin's health. "They discharged me a while ago. I'm fine. Vin." Chris paused swallowing trying to gain control of his voice. "Vin is in the intensive care unit with a fractured pelvis and a femoral artery that has a graft holding it together. He's in a lot of pain. Panicked the first time he woke up. He thought he was still on the roof top watching the gunman try to shoot Buck. Ezra's with him now. They had to knock him out with sedatives and pain medications. How are things there?"

Josiah collected his thoughts before continuing. "Well, Buck is hold up in his bedroom with a six pack thinking he killed Vin. JD and I have been talking to him but he refuses to come out for anything but to use the bathroom. JD tried to stop him last time he was out and ended up with a shiner. The kid has exhausted himself worrying about everyone except himself. Other than that things are great."

Chris listened carefully while planning his next step. "Okay. Can you do this for me?" He continued talking over his plans with Josiah and settled on a time for Josiah to be at the hospital. Clicking off his phone, Chris rose slowly and walked toward the intensive care unit. Still tired from the events of the last thirty some hours, Chris refused to give into his fatigue. He had to be next to Vin when the young agent awoke again. He'd made a promise to the men under his leadership to always support them and back them up. Vin had done it for all of them. He could do no less for Vin.

Nathan stood as Chris walked into Vin's room. "He's been asleep since we left for lunch. They put his sedative on so that it would be a continuous infusion. It should take the edge off any panic when he wakes up next time." Looking at Chris's face Nathan continued. "What did Josiah have to say?"

Chris filled Nathan on his plans while making his way around Vin's bed. "Ezra go home?"

Nathan went to pick up his coat. "Yeah, said he would be able to come back tonight if you need him. He's on his beeper. Gonna catch up on sleep. Which is where I plan to go. That okay?"

Chris nodded while settling next to Vin's bed. "Yes absolutely. Get some sleep. Can you get to the office tomorrow morning and take care of getting the paper work started? Josiah will be here with Vin until tomorrow morning while Buck and I do what I have planned."

"Okay then, I'm on my beeper. I'll call you in the morning? Before I leave for work." Nathan saw Chris nod his head and smiled. "Don't suppose I can talk you in to sleeping in your own bed tonight?"

Seeing Chris's expression, Nathan held up his hands defensively. Buttoning his coat, he smiled as he watched Chris study Vin's face and reach for the sharpshooter's hand.


It was late afternoon when Chris noticed Vin's eyelids move. The doctor's had been by on "rounds" and expressed satisfaction at Vin's general condition and the look of his surgical incision. Assuring Chris that Vin would recover completely baring infection and given enough healing time, they had emphasized again the need for Vin to stay flat and quiet. When Chris had questioned them on how long Vin would be hospitalized, they had hedged finally stating that a minimum of two weeks was a real possibility.

Chris was still trying to figure out how to tell Vin about his hospitalization when Vin opened his eyes.

Vin blinked his eyes trying to clear to clear his vision. He felt sluggish; Almost floating, but he could tell by his environment he was still in a hospital. Raising his head slowly he was rewarded this time by Chris Larabee sitting at his bedside. Beginning to open his mouth to speak he was stopped by Chris's hand on his shoulder.

"Easy, Vin. Everything is all right. Don't talk. Let me get you some ice chips first." Vin watched the tall blonde go to his bedside table and return with a cup of ice chips.

Still trying to sort out time and events in his mind, Vin eagerly took the soothing ice chips from Chris. Closing his eyes, he felt the icy coolness moisten his dry and aching throat. Opening his eyes he raised is eyebrows asking for more, seeing Larabee shake his head slowly negatively, Vin let his head sink into his pillow. Attempting to speak, Vin was able to whisper a small "What?"

Before Vin could finish his sentence, Chris was leaning over the bed with a cool washcloth he placed on Vin's forehead.

"Lay still and I'll fill you in, okay?" Giving Vin his best Larabee glare he waited until he got the agreeing nod he wanted. "Do you remember waking up before?" Chris got a small shrug from Vin as the sharpshooter's eyes clouded slightly. "You were still under some anesthesia and in a lot of pain. They had to put you back to sleep. I'm sorry I wasn't here. I should have been."

Vin frowned at those words and asked in a whisper. "Why? You're not responsible for me. No one is but me."

Chris couldn't help but hear a sadness in the young man's voice. "You're wrong Vin. We're a team. We all have a part. You did your thing out there in the field. You put yourself in the line of fire to save Buck and the rest of us." Vin started to speak but Chris held up his hand and slipped Vin some more ice chips. "We'll talk about your tactics when you're feeling better." Raising a cocked eyebrow in Vin's direction. "In the meantime Buck and everyone is fine and you're here with a bullet hole in your left groin. The force of it broke your hip bone and put a hole in the big artery in your leg. You almost bleed to death out there, Vin..." Chris walked around the bed and took a seat where Vin could see him more clearly.

Vin watched his boss sagging into the chair and whispered. "You okay, boss?"

Chris nodded placing a hand on Vin's arm. "You scared the hell out of me, Vin. All that blood. Don't ever do that again, you hear?" Vin listened to the emotion in Chris's voice and found himself nodding his head slowly in response.

See the subtle response Chris sat up. "Good then. Here's the deal. You lay flat and still so your hip and artery can heal. The less you move the faster you heal. Moving last time hurt didn't it?"

Vin grimaced remembering vividly the pain from before. "But how long? I mean?"

Chris took a deep breath dreading what he had to say. "Well, the docs say two weeks at least in the hospital." Seeing Vin start to panic, Chris gave Vin's arm a squeeze. "Now don't get all worked up. They're just estimating at this time. I mean, geez, Vin you almost died. Your pelvic bone is held together with a metal plate and there is a big patch on the hole in your artery. You've got to do what they say."

Vin let the words sink in. "You mean I gotta stay here. On my back? For two weeks? But how am I ...uh...you know..."

Chris tried to hide his understanding smile, but Vin saw it first.

"You think this is funny, Larabee? I mean. How am I gonna pee and stuff? I..." Vin let his head fall back as tears started to form. He was exhausted by the talk and couldn't hold back the humiliating tears that followed.

Chris leaned forward rising so Vin could see his face. Taking the now warm washcloth from Vin's forehead, he wiped the tears from the young agent's face and placed ice at his lips. Vin took them gratefully, thankful for a chance to get his emotions under control.

"Okay," Chris continued as he returned with a cool washcloth. "Here's how you do it. They got this tube in you so you don't have to bother with peeing and I'm sure they got other ways of handling all that stuff. And there's gonna be pain. The nurse said they had you on some stuff in that bag there to help and there's a button here so you can press it and get some more pain medication." Chris held up the button and showed it to Vin placing it firmly in Vin's hand. "You hurting now?" Chris asked seeing the frown starting to form around Vin's eyes.

Seeing Vin nod 'yes' Chris pressed the morphine button and waited with the injured sharpshooter's until he saw Vin's eyes close and the crease lines disappear from his face. Smiling he straightened the washcloth on Vin's forehead and turned at the noise in the doorway. Seeing Josiah, he motioned for the man to join him at Vin's side.

"He's sleeping now. Told him what happened in a general sort of way. And told him he HAD to stay quiet and still while he healed. He got worried over the details of bodily functions and was starting to hurt so I showed him how to dose himself with pain medication." Chris showed Josiah and the big man nodded.

"Sounds like you found an easy out to telling him about hospital ways of dealing with bodily functions." The deep laugh from the 'preacher' lightened the mood in the room.

Chris grinned and faced Josiah. "Well, I wanted to leave you two something to talk about." Clapping Josiah on the shoulder, Chris poured himself a glass of water. Turning back to Josiah, Chris spoke again. "JD ready with Buck?"

Josiah smiled slightly. "Well, let's just say that the last time I saw Buck he had a two day growth of beard and JD was in the middle of pushing him into the shower." Grinning, Josiah continued. "That JD can get mighty 'Old Testament' when he's dealing with Buck. I think you can count on JD to have him at least physically presentable. The rest is yours I'm afraid."

"Well, Buck's been there for me a time or two so I guess it is my time to do some mending. And the way I figure on doing it, Buck is gonna have a chance for a little enjoyment too." Walking over to Vin who was soundly sleeping, Chris turned back and looked straight into Josiah's face. "You watch over our newest, okay? He's a lot more scared than he'll let on." Giving Vin on last small pat on the arm, Chris headed for the door.

Josiah turned to watch Chris go as he took his seat next Vin's bed. "Aren't we all Brother Larabee, aren't we all?"

Chris nodded a small smile and went to get Buck.

Chapter 26

Retrieving his keys, Chris opened the door to his truck. Again Nathan had seen that it was available for him. He gave a small thanks for the thoughtfulness of the team members. They didn't always show it, but each man came through in his own way. He just hoped he could get Buck squared away so they could carry out the plan he had in mind.

Driving to Buck and JD's condo, Chris worked over the details of his escapade. Pulling into an empty space, near the condo entrance Chris saw JD outside washing the windshield of Buck's truck.

"JD." Chris said as he approached the young agent.

"Chris? Great. Glad you are here." Shaking the leader's hand, JD put down his rag. "Vin doing better now?" JD got a positive shake of Chris's head.

"Remembers some of what happened. Took a lot to make him believe that you and Buck were all right. He appears to be a bit stubborn even when he's doped up on painkillers." Chris smiled to stop the frown that was starting on JD's face.

"Well, Buck upstairs?" Chris gestured to the condo stairs.

"Yeah, sober but not exactly cooperative." JD started to lead the way toward the condo door. He felt Chris's hand on his shoulder.

"You've got some shopping to do, don't you JD?" Chris continued up the stairs without JD.

Staring at Chris's back, JD smiled and shook his head. "Well, if I didn't before, I do now." Moving toward his car, he looked back to see Chris entering the condo.

Chris didn't knock. He didn't want to give Buck a chance to retreat to the back bedroom before they had a chance to talk. Buck was perched on the edge of the end of the sofa, a cup of coffee in his hand. Buck looked up at Chris and back down at his drink.

"What do ya want, Chris?" Buck's voice was flat and tired.

"You." Chris made his way to the kitchen to retrieve coffee for himself. Noting a trash can full of empty beer cans Chris hoped they all hadn't gone into Buck's stomach.

Returning to the living room, Chris sat on the other edge of the sofa. Buck looked up and saw the expression on his friend's face. Lifting his lips in a small smile Buck spoke softly. "The kid poured it all out last night. He didn't trust my word I wouldn't touch it."

Smiling Chris caught Buck's eye. "Think I remember someone doing that for me a time or two over the last few years."

Buck drank slowly from his cup of cold coffee and grimaced. "He and Josiah have been trying since the shooting to convince me that Vin is still alive." Standing Buck walked to the window and looked out. "But I know that's a lie, cause I saw all the blood. All that blood. No one could survive that. Shit!"

Buck sank to the floor spilling the remainder of his coffee.

Chris was watching closely and managed to get to Buck before fell over. "Buck. Buck?" You have to listen to me."

Buck lifted his head from his hands. "Why? So you can tell me what a jerk I am. How that young kid, and that's what he is Chris ...a kid...died a noble death?"

Leaning down so he whispered in Buck's ear, Chris spoke. "Look at yourself Buck. At least JD got you to bathe." Laughing softly he straightened Buck's shoulders so they rested against Chris's chest. Chris sat holding his oldest friend. "Now I'm gonna say this just once 'cause we have some work to do and I wanna get to it. I promised Josiah I would be back later to sit with Vin tonight so are you ready to listen?"

Buck felt the tension in Chris's arms as they supported him on the hard floor. Sitting up suddenly Buck turned and looked Chris straight in the eyes. "You keep talking like Tanner is alive. He..."

"Look, get up. This floor is killing my back. Tanner's alive and gonna be okay. Now get your butt off the floor and tell me what you know on Johnson we can use." Chris groaned as he slowly stood. Looking down at a very surprised Buck Wilmington, Chris stuck out his hand.

Using Chris's help to get up Buck grabbed his arm. "What the hell are you talking about? If Tanner is alive, then let's go see him."

Stretching his back slowly, Chris eased himself down on the sofa. "Sit down Buck. We got some work to do. Now what exactly did Johnson tell you about Vin?"

More confused than ever, Buck sat himself down next to Chris.


JD exited the drive-thru with a muffin and egg sandwich and coke for breakfast. He ate his meal while driving aimlessly through the Denver morning traffic. He had no special direction but he soon found himself across from Four Corner's Hospital. Taking a ticket as he entered the underground parking, JD parked Buck's truck and stepped into the elevator.

The lady at the information desk took in the slightly built young man approaching her. Dressed in baggy long shorts and T-shirt, he politely took off his baseball cap and gave her his biggest smile. She couldn't help but smile in return.

"Ma'am? I'm looking for Vin Tanner. He's a patient here." JD looked around the lobby suddenly aware of his window washing clothing. Keeping the smile he turned back to her.

"Young man, I'm afraid Mr. Tanner isn't allowed any visitors." She spoke looking at her computer terminal. Expecting the young man to try and get the information another way, she was very surprised when he pulled out a shield marked with the ATF symbol. Placing his ID next to it, the ravin haired agent smiled again.

"He's family. You understand?" JD gave her his saddest puppy dog eye look. "I just wanna talk to the agents that are with him. I was with him last night when he got shot. " A telephone was placed in his hand and the correct extension was dialed.

Josiah watched as Vin rested quietly in his drug-induced nap. The unit secretary came to the cubical and told him he had a phone call. Checking to make sure Vin was still sleeping, Josiah walked to the desk to take the call. "Agent Sanchez."

JD heard Josiah's deep voice. "Josiah? JD." Turning his back to the information booth, he continued. "They won't let me up to see Vin. Can you tell me where you are? I just wanna see him for a moment? He okay? Chris said..."

"JD?" Josiah broke into the eager chatter of their youngest member. "Can you stop chattering enough for me to give you directions?"

"Oh...uh...sure, Josiah." JD smiled graciously at the computer lady. Listening carefully he scanned the lobby for the elevators Josiah was describing. "Got it, Josiah. Thanks." JD placed the phone carefully on the cradle. "Thank you, Ma'am."

Walking toward the lobby JD waited until another visitor busied the information desk. Quickly stepping toward the elevators JD hid out of sight until the doors opened. Stepping inside JD selected the floor Josiah had mentioned.


Josiah quietly slipped back into his chair next to Vin. Noticing the slight sheen on the sharpshooter's face, Josiah stood to inspect it closer. He watched as Vin's eye lids slowly opened. Taking a cool washcloth left in the sink, Josiah softly ran it over Vin's face gently.

The cool washcloth reminded Vin that he was still in a hospital. Although he knew he had been asleep, he felt totally drained of any energy. Feeling the washcloth leave his face, he reopened his eyes and saw Josiah at his beside.

"Thirsty?" Josiah picked up the cup of ice chips and offered Vin a few. Vin sucked on them greedily hoping for relief from the heat that seemed to haunt him.

"More? So dry and hot." Vin asked as Josiah motioned for his nurse. "Josiah? Chris here?"

Josiah turned back at Vin's question moving out of the nurse's way. "Let the nurse have a look at you, Vin, then I'll fill you in on what is happening."

Looking at Vin's vital signs, his nurse quickly added them into the computer. Frowning slightly, she crossed to his bedside and placed her hand on his cheek. "Mr. Tanner? How are you feeling?" Looking carefully at her patient she saw the slight flush to his color and noted the dampness of his skin. Checking Vin's medication file, she checked his dressings and IV sites.

"Kinda hot." Vin said trying to follow her movements without sitting up. Straining to raise his head, he felt a strong arm move to support his head.

"Easy, Vin. Just stay still and rest." Josiah's strength and soft voice helped Vin relax and he let his head sag into the "preacher's" hands.

Josiah joined Vin's nurse at the doorway. "Trouble?"

"Don't think so. He's got a fever. That could be from a lot of things. He got an awful lot of blood some of it not matched so it could be a delayed hemolytic reaction or his own body's reaction to having been shot and undergone major surgery." She gave him a big smile. "I'm just gonna check some blood work and give him something to make him more comfortable. I'll be sending in a patient care technician to start a cooling bath. The other nurses said he was pretty shy, so why don't you check to see if he wants a male nurse to help finish the bath." Josiah nodded and went back to the sink to retrieve another cool washcloth. Saying a small prayer for healing, he turned back to the newest member of the team.


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