Fates Conspired

by Hombre

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 his handiwork.

"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 gusto.

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 well.

"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 the load.

"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 gray, kid?"

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 anxiously.

"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 come out."

"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 sweat.

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 ordered.

"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 news?"

"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 sigh.

"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 swallowed.

"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 pillows tiredly.

"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 sharpshooter.

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' man asked.

"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 brow worriedly.

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. "How much?"

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 you.

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 JD.

"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 do?

"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 alright?"

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 Vin's shoulder.

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.

The End

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