Notes: This story stems from a story line in the Australian soap
Neighbours. I have adapted it slightly to suit my needs and thought it would
be a suitable one for Vin. This is for Teresa and Darla.
Josiah was doing some home improvements and there was no shortage of volunteers
to lend a hand. All the boys were there in one capacity or another. Ezra
was buying supplies so he didn't have to get too dirty but all the others
were painting or doing other odd jobs. The profiler wanted every room done
so there was a lot to keep the men occupied. Josiah had worked out what items
were needed for purchase next and all but Vin and JD had gone to help Ezra
buy and load the supplies into Josiah's truck.
JD and Vin carried on working in the kitchen and they had now just about
finished. JD put the last tile on the wall while Vin fixed the doors onto
the new cabinets. The kid sighed in satisfaction and then stood back to admire
"Not bad if I do say so myself," he said with a grin as he wiped his hands
on a cloth.
Vin stood up after completing his job too and he took up position beside
JD and put an arm round the youngster's shoulder. "Yeah. We've done a good
job, kid. Sure looks great and I hope Josiah will be pleased. Let's tidy
up and then we can help the others when they get back. I'll pack up the tools
if you can clean over the floor. I made a bit of a mess, I'm afraid," Vin
said as he sniffed and then sneezed loudly.
"Sure. I'll wash it over." JD found some floor cleaner and set to work with
Vin watched him and smiled. JD was enthusiastic in everything he did, be
it at play or doing something as mundane as cleaning. If only everyone
enjoyed life so much the world would be a better place, Vin decided.
He turned and began packing away his equipment and then moved it into the
hallway out of JD's way.
"Vin? The container for the cleaner's sprung a leak. Got anything I can put
it in instead?" JD called as he wiped his hands down his pant legs.
"Use this, kid. It's clean." The sharpshooter threw him an old milk bottle,
complete with lid, and JD caught it deftly. He transferred the liquid into
the new receptacle carefully and put on the top when he'd finished. He stood
it on the sink and then put away the bucket and brush he'd been using as
"Hey you two slackers! Give us a hand, will ya?" Chris called from outside.
Vin and JD left what they were doing and went to help bring in the new material.
Josiah's truck was jammed with pots of paint, packs of tiles and other items.
Vin looked at the supplies as he rubbed his head wearily and sneezed again.
He could see how much more work there was left to do. He'd thought they'd
nearly finished but he now knew that he'd been wrong.
"Jeez. Did ya buy the whole store? Anybody would think you owned the White
House, Josiah," JD complained as he stood with hands on hips while surveying
"Every time a sheep baas it loses a bite," Ezra said cryptically as he placed
the first pot of paint on the ground.
"What the hell does that mean?" JD asked in exasperation. "God, you always
speak in riddles."
"Means shut up and help, I think," Buck said with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Yes, nearly right, Mr. Wilmington. If you hadn't said your last speech you
could have carried one load in by now, JD. If you didn't complain so much
you'd get a lot more done," Ezra said emphatically.
"You can talk, Ezra," Chris said as he patted the undercover agent on the
back and laughed.
The men worked hard as they unloaded the truck carefully. They finally carried
the last load in fifteen minutes later and piled it in the living room and
then flopped on the floor in exhaustion.
"Who's for food?" Josiah asked as he surveyed his tired helpers.
"God, I thought you'd never ask, Mr. Sanchez. I'm so hungry my stomach thinks
my throat's been cut," Ezra said with feeling.
"That can be arranged," Buck grinned. "Anyway you ain't done nothing except
give orders. How come you worked up an appetite after that?"
"Being in charge of operations is the most strenuous task, Mr. Wilmington.
Especially trying to co-ordinate a lot of no-hopers like you."
Josiah moved to the kitchen as the men continued bickering and he tidied
up a bit more to make room for his cooking. He checked to see if he had all
the ingredients that he would need but he found that he was lacking a few
items so he went to the local store to buy them.
Back in the living room, Buck suddenly looked at JD and asked, "You going
The youngster immediately put his hand up to his hair and exclaimed, "What?
I'm not, am I? God, I'm too young to have any gray hairs."
Buck stood and reached out a hand to touch his friend's hair and sighed in
relief, "Phew! What a relief kid, it's just white paint. Gee, I thought you'd
suddenly aged twenty years."
"Are you sure it's paint?" JD asked as he stood up and headed for the mirror
"Sure, I'm sure." The ladies' man held up his hand to show the white substance
that had now attached itself to his palm. "It was still wet when I touched
it so you've got a white patch now instead of spots. God knows if it's gonna
"What? I don't wanna look like a zebra for the rest of my life," the kid
said as he dabbed at the paint with his hand.
"Don't keep touching it 'cause you'll just make it worse, JD. We'll get it
out even if I have to cut it out."
"Oh no, you won't. You'll make me bald knowing you. I'll stay with the white
patch, I think. It adds an air of sophistication," JD said with a broad smile
as he looked in the mirror and posed.
"Suit yerself," Buck grinned as he sat down on the couch again and wiped
his hand down his pant's leg.
"Anyone want a drink while we wait?" Vin called as he stood up with a sigh
and blew his nose.
"No. We're fine thanks," Chris replied as he watched his friend worriedly.
"Are you okay? You look a bit pale."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just snuffly and hot, you know?"
"Snuffly? Well that's a new one," Ezra said with a sympathetic smile.
"Good, weren't it? Nearly as posh sounding as some of yer words," Vin said
grinning as he sneezed once more. He blew his nose and turned to leave the
room to get his much-needed drink.
JD turned away from the mirror and accompanied Vin to the kitchen to take
another look at the tiles. He was really proud of himself and he began wiping
them over with a clean cloth so they shone. Vin went to the fridge and pulled
out a bottle and searched the cupboards for a clean glass. He sneezed loudly
and then blew his nose again before pouring a drink. He couldn't smell a
thing and his sense of taste was shot but he really felt the need of a drink
after all his hard work. He'd had the cold for the last few days and he felt
rotten although he would never admit it to anyone. He'd had second thoughts
about helping Josiah that morning and he'd rather wished he'd stayed in bed.
He took a sip from his drink and immediately started coughing as the liquid
burned his throat instead of cooling it as he'd hoped. He put his hand up
to his throat and gasped at the stabbing pain while JD turned and patted
his back, thinking he was choking. The youngster's eyes then saw the bottle
that Vin had poured his drink from. He sniffed the contents and realized
with horror what had happened.
"Shit, Vin! Chris? Nate? Get out here," JD yelled as he came out in a cold
The two summoned men appeared in the doorway with inquiring glances and saw
Vin doubled up and gasping for breath. He was making dreadful noises and
the medic immediately moved toward him in concern.
"Nate? He drank this. It's floor cleaner not milk," JD said as he held out
the bottle concerned.
"Fucking hell! Bring both bottles, JD. The old and the new one, okay?" Chris
"Bring some water too, will ya JD?" Nathan asked.
"Come on, Vin. Let's get you sorted," Chris said as he swept the sharpshooter
into his arms and hurried outside with the two other men behind.
"Buck? Stay with Ezra and tell Josiah what's happened and then meet us at
the hospital," the blond ordered as he swept by them quickly.
"Sure thing, pard," the ladies' man shouted to his friend's departing back.
Chris put Vin in the Ram and then got in the front seat with JD as Nathan
took charge of the sharpshooter. Vin was still coughing for all he was worth
and looked very red in the face. The medic put some of the water on Vin's
lips to try to ease the burning sensation. The sharpshooter then managed
a few sips of water between coughs but it didn't seem to have much effect.
His throat still felt as if it was on fire and the fact he couldn't catch
his breath only made matters worse.
They arrived at the hospital quickly and Vin was taken away along with the
two bottles. JD sat down in the waiting room and rested his elbows on his
knees as he stared at the floor. He felt guilty and he sighed loudly in despair.
Chris watched him with pursed lips and then sat beside the youngster and
asked, "How did it happen, kid?"
JD sat up straight and flicked a quick look at the older man to try and gauge
his mood before relating his tale. "The original bottle had a leak so Vin
gave me the other one to tip the remainder of the cleaner into. I put it
on the sink but then you called for us to help you unload the truck so I
don't know what happened to it after that. I s'pose Josiah thought it was
milk and put it in the fridge and Vin just used it assuming the same thing.
I'm sorry, Chris. I meant to go back and label it but I forgot. If only I'd
done that then this wouldn't have happened."
"Just sounds like one of those unavoidable things, JD. The fates conspiring
together to defeat ya so don't blame yerself. If only are the worst
words in the language, kid. It's no good crying over spilt milk.....Shit.
Sorry, JD that was a bad saying to use." Chris put his arm round the youngster's
shoulder and gave it a squeeze. He could see JD was still upset.
The blond looked up from comforting JD as he heard Buck and the others arrive.
The ladies' man made a beeline for JD and sat on the other side of him. "Any
"Na, not yet," Chris said. "He was still coughing when we got here, though."
"What's the matter, JD? You okay?" Buck asked worriedly as he heard the boy
"He blames himself. I told him it couldn't be helped." Chris then explained
what JD had just told him.
"Chris's right and I don't think Vin would disagree either. It's kismet."
Buck patted his young friend's knee and sat back to await news.
A doctor finally came and sat down next to Chris. "He's got a few burns to
his throat and mouth from the chemicals in the cleaner. Luckily he hadn't
drunk too much so he should be okay. He'll be unable to talk for a while
and he should only eat liquidized food until he feels better but nothing
too hot or too cold to start with. We'll keep him in overnight but he'll
be alright to go home tomorrow."
"Can I see him?" Chris asked.
"Sure, if you follow me I'll take you to him. He's asleep at the moment and
he's being given humidified oxygen to make sure his throat stays lubricated."
"Come on JD. You're with me, kid," Chris said as he waited for the youngster
to join him at the door. Once JD reached him, the blond draped an arm round
his shoulders and herded him along the hallway.
They entered Vin's room to find he was still asleep. Both men studied the
recumbent sharpshooter and then took seats beside him. The injured man eventually
stirred and coughed painfully as soon as he opened his eyes. His throat felt
as though it was full of barbed wire and he found it painful every time he
"Okay, Vin. Just try not to cough." Chris saw Vin open his mouth to say something
and the blond shook his head quickly. "Don't talk, Vin. You've burnt yer
throat so it's gonna hurt for a while. Just stay quiet. Do you want a drink?"
The longhaired man nodded and Chris took off the oxygen mask and put the
straw in the glass to his friend's lips. Vin took a small sip and coughed
again. He put a hand to his throat and gasped as tears ran from his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Vin. It was my fault," JD said haltingly with tears in his eyes
too. He hated seeing Vin in pain and it upset him.
Vin reached out a hand and JD took it slowly and the longhaired man squeezed
it and shook his head to say he didn't blame him. Vin reached up and wiped
the tears off his own face as he stopped coughing and then lay back on the
"You stay with him, JD. I'm going to see the others but I won't be long,"
Chris said as he patted the youngster's back and sent a quick smile to the
Chris walked back to the waiting room and was besieged by his friends all
firing questions at him. "He's in a bit of pain and quite upset. Buck? Could
you put him up when he's released tomorrow? I think JD would feel better
about things if he had some hand in looking after him."
"Sure. Good idea. I'll go and get things ready now. Is JD alright?" the ladies'
"Upset and still blaming himself."
"Poor kid. Is he staying here tonight?" Buck asked.
"I expect so. I'll drop them both off tomorrow then, okay?" Chris turned
to go back to Vin's room as the other men went to help Buck get another bed
ready for Vin.
Vin looked up when Chris returned. "Okay, Vin?" the blond asked as he smiled.
The sharpshooter nodded and pointed to the glass of water again.
"You want another drink?" Chris received a nod and he said, "Okay, cowboy.
Here ya go."
Vin took a small sip and coughed again. Chris could see how much pain he
was in by the look in his eyes and the tears that streamed down his cheeks.
"Get some sleep, Vin. You can go home tomorrow. Or rather, I mean, Buck and
JD are gonna look after ya at the loft. Is that okay with you, JD?" Chris
asked as he turned to the youngster with a smile.
"Sure. I'll take good care of him, Chris."
"Great. That's sorted then."
Vin settled and tried to sleep but he found his throat made it impossible
for him to relax properly. He'd nearly get to sleep and then he'd swallow
and the pain would wake him again. He groaned in frustration after the fifth
aborted attempt and opened his eyes.
"Vin? Can't you sleep?" Chris asked quietly. JD was already snoring in his
chair on the other side of the bed and the blond didn't want to wake him.
Vin automatically opened his mouth to answer but closed it without uttering
a word when he remembered what had happened. He shook his head instead and
rubbed his throat.
Chris reached out a hand and put it on Vin's arm and gave it a squeeze. "Nurse
said to give you this if you needed it. It'll help ya sleep."
Chris gave Vin a drink and then helped settle the sharpshooter back on the
pillows. Vin lay quietly and finally felt his eyelids grow heavy and Chris
smiled in relief as he watched his friend finally fall asleep.
Vin's two companions stayed all night and in the morning Chris did as promised
and took the two men to Buck's loft. The ladies' man let them in and showed
Vin into JD's room. Buck had made space in his own bedroom to accommodate
JD while Vin used his room.
"Okay Vin? Got everything you need?"
The sharpshooter looked round and nodded his head gratefully. Chris gave
the ladies' man some medication that had been prescribed and then left the
men to cope on their own.
Buck passed Vin a pad and pencil. "Write on there if you want anything, okay?
One of us will be here all the time with you. Do you want anything now?"
Vin picked up his pencil and scrawled on the pad before passing it to Buck.
The tall agent deciphered what Vin had written and smiled. "Sure, one glass
of water coming up. You take a seat and I'll bring it in."
Vin sat down and rubbed his throat distractedly as JD took as seat nearby.
"Does it hurt bad?" the kid asked worriedly.
Vin nodded as he tried and failed to stifle a cough. He looked up as Buck
returned with his drink and he sipped the water tentatively. It felt good
against his burnt throat and he smiled gratefully. He then held the glass
against his cheek to try and cool his skin. He still felt slightly hot and
he sighed contentedly as the cold glass had the desired effect.
"You okay, Vin?" Buck asked as he placed the palm of his hand on the man's
The sharpshooter nodded and smiled as he moved the glass to his other cheek
and sighed again. The ladies' man studied him for a while longer and then
returned the smile when Vin nodded to him once more.
"Can you amuse yerselves for a while?" Buck asked.
"Yeah, we'll be alright. Fancy a game of poker, Vin?"
The sharpshooter nodded and took the pack of cards that JD handed him. He
shuffled efficiently and dealt a hand each. Buck smiled and disappeared to
start getting some food ready for Vin and also to study his medication in
more detail. Buck could hear JD talking constantly as he worked and he smiled
when he heard a loud sigh from the youngster.
"God, how much do I owe ya now?" the youngster asked in exasperation. He
took the piece of paper that Vin handed him and stared at it in disbelief.
Buck looked into the room and saw Vin smiling quietly and holding out his
hand to accept the money he was owed. He pocketed the notes swiftly as he
saw Buck watching.
"Too good for ya, is he kid?" the ladies' man asked.
"Damn right. I thought Ezra could bluff but he ain't anything compared to
Vin. He looks all innocent but there's a heart of stone under that cool exterior.
I ain't got no money left now," the youngster complained.
Vin smiled and held up his pad so the other two could see what he'd written.
You wanna try and win it back?
"Sure, but if I win I get to take yer bike out for a spin."
Vin narrowed his eyes and regarded the boy solemnly before signaling a negative
answer. No one but no one rode on his bike except as a passenger.
Vin quickly wrote something down and held it up for JD to read. Sorry,
kid. That's one bet too far. I'll keep your money if it's all the same to
JD cursed and pouted in disappointment. He ought to have known better.
"Alright, simmer down you two. Time for your medicine Vin." Buck held out
a bottle and a spoon and the sharpshooter swallowed the liquid as ordered,
though certainly not willingly.
The sharpshooter screwed his face up and coughed at the strong vile aftertaste.
Buck sat down next to him and rubbed his back as the longhaired man wiped
his eyes wearily. Vin sighed and rubbed his chest before smiling at his tall
friend. Although the pain was still intense Vin thought it wasn't quite as
bad as it had been the day before.
"Can you face somethin' to eat now?" the ladies' man asked quietly.
Vin pursed his lips as he considered the question. He was hungry but it was
still painful to swallow even liquid. He nodded reluctantly in the end and
Buck smiled and went back to the kitchen. He returned with a bowl and Vin
looked into it curiously. He raised his eyes to study Buck's face and looked
at him quizzically.
"It ain't poison but I won't tell you what's in it 'cause it'll probably
put you off. Nate said it would do you good though," Buck assured him with
a wry smile.
Vin opened his eyes wide and didn't look convinced. He poked the liquid with
the spoon and eventually raised some to his mouth. He tipped it into his
mouth and then smiled in surprise after he had swallowed it.
Vin nodded vigorously and finished the rest in record time. He held up the
dish like Oliver Twist and Buck filled it again. Vin ate that too and smiled
in thanks. The men then sat down to enjoy a quiet afternoon of watching videos
and playing board games. Vin actually fell asleep halfway through a film
though and awoke a couple of hours later when he heard JD's voice raised
in anger. The sharpshooter sat up and rubbed his eyes wearily before studying
"Sorry Vin. Didn't mean to disturb ya but I just found out Buck used my boxers
for cleaning the windows. He just put 'em back in the drawer for me to wear
when he'd finished. Didn't even wash 'em. Said he mistook them for rags,"
the kid complained loudly.
Vin reached for his pencil and pad and scribbled something quickly. JD took
it from his hand and read it with a scowl.
The note read, Least ya butt will sparkle after you've worn 'em, kid.
"Gee, thanks for the sympathy, Vin," the kid said as he walked away in disgust.
Vin smiled and the smile widened when Buck appeared from upstairs still laughing
heartily at his mistake. Vin yawned painfully and decided on an early night
and he retired after eating another bowl of Nathan's food.
Buck shook his head in disbelief. Usually Vin wouldn't touch Nate's herbal
remedies. Buck put his finger in the leftover brew and tasted a bit and
immediately screwed his face up in disgust.
"Gee, Vin. That's awful but s'pose you can't really taste it properly anyway.
That medicine you had though musta tasted real diabolical if you thought
this was good," the ladies' man said quietly to himself as he washed up the
dishes. "Oh well, I ain't gonna tell ya it tastes bad. Just hope it does
ya some good."
After a slightly disturbed night the three men met up for breakfast. Buck
was going back to Josiah's again to help finish up there. Vin watched him
get ready and then put a hand on his arm. Buck looked at him and saw the
note Vin clutched tightly in his hand. The sharpshooter passed the note over
and Buck read it quickly.
Can I come too? it read.
The ladies' man studied Vin seriously. Vin wrote something down and held
the new message out. I promise not to eat or drink anything unless JD
tests it first.
Buck laughed and put a hand on Vin's back. "Sure you can come." The ladies'
man walked to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up to the next floor. "JD?
Get a wriggle on, kid! You've got an important job to do."
"What?" JD asked as he appeared.
"Official food and drink taster to His Royal Highness Vin Tanner."
Buck explained and the kid smiled and nodded. "Oh okay. You sure you wanna
go, Vin?" He received a smile and a nod in reply.
The three men finished getting ready and set off back to Josiah's house.
Chris opened the door to Buck's knock and smiled in surprise. "Hey, cowboy,"
the blond greeted. "How ya feeling?"
Vin smiled and nodded. He held up another pre-prepared note. What can
"I want you to sit and watch. You don't do anything. You don't
touch anything, you hear me?" the blond stated clearly as he pointed
to where he wanted Vin to sit.
Vin frowned and flopped down on the couch dejectedly with a scowl on his
face. The rest of the men set to work and Vin watched them unhappily as he
punched a cushion in frustration. He could've stayed at the loft on his own
if he'd known he was going to be unoccupied.
After an hour had passed, Josiah looked at the sharpshooter sympathetically
and asked the medic, "Nate? Is it alright for Vin to do something? He looks
kinda sad sat there all alone."
"Sure. There's no reason why not."
The big man wandered over and stood in front of the sharpshooter who looked
up at him eagerly. "Vin? Can you do something for me?" Vin stood immediately
and followed Josiah toward the bathroom. "Can you do some stenciling for
me? Whatever takes yer fancy, okay? The stencils are over there. Is that
Vin nodded and set to work eagerly and Josiah smiled and left the young man
to it. He returned a couple of hours later and stopped short with his mouth
open in surprise. "Jesus Christ, Vin. That's great," the big man praised
as he patted his friend's back.
The two men stood and looked at the wall. Instead of stenciling, Vin had
painted a mural with some of Josiah's oil paints. He'd covered half of one
wall with an underwater scene. There was a coral reef, tropical fish, a turtle
and many other things. It looked fantastic.
"I didn't know you could paint, Vin. This is terrific, son. Hey fellas? Come
and look at this, will ya?" Josiah shouted enthusiastically as he squeezed
The other men followed the sound of Josiah's voice and saw the artwork.
Chris looked at the wall and then at Vin. "You did that?"
Vin nodded and looked embarrassed.
"It's truly wonderful, Mr. Tanner. You shouldn't keep talents like that hidden.
It's a shame that you had to suffer an injury in order for us to find out
about your expertise. You have a real gift," Ezra said as he smiled broadly.
Vin smiled shyly but looked very pleased with Ezra's comments.
"Ezra's right, Vin. You should be proud of that," Buck agreed. "If you don't
watch out, everyone will want one."
Vin shook his head and wrote on his pad. Just this one. It helped take
my mind off my throat for a while but I prefer the outdoor life. I sure enjoyed
doing it though. It was fun.
Ezra smiled kindly and said, "Well, you've brought the outdoors indoors on
this occasion and the pleasure you felt definitely shows in the painting,
Mr. Tanner. When you're earning millions doing commissioned portraits I hope
you'll remember us lesser mortals."
You, especially, ain't exactly forgettable, Ezra, Vin wrote and passed
the note round.
The dark-haired man narrowed his eyes and said, "I don't know whether that
was meant as an insult or a compliment."
"Insult," his friends cried as Ezra snorted in disgust.