Notes: Ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? Well, Vin is going to suffer one of them in this fic. Kinda like the day Ezra had in another fic of mine: Give Me a Break.
Vin opened his eyes as he rolled slowly onto his back. He put his arms over his head and grabbed the top of the headboard while at the same time pointing his toes down to the bottom of the bed. He then stretched like a cat that had been dozing in the sun all day. His back arched up off the mattress and he groaned in pleasure at the sensation of his body being extended. He finally relaxed as he turned his head and focussed his eyes on the clock on the nightstand.
"Shit! Nine o'clock. Oh, godammit, I'm later than Ezra. How the hell could I oversleep, today of all days?" he grumbled as he kicked the comforter from his legs after pushing the top half down toward them. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed he slammed his feet onto the floor in frustration and groaned sourly. "Least it's Saturday or I'd have Chris yelling blue murder 'cause I'm late for work," he muttered darkly.
He got up and hurried to the bathroom where he washed and shaved, cutting his chin in the process on the razor he was using. His electric one had broken so Chris had lent him a normal razor in the meantime until he could buy a replacement. He hastily dabbed at the resulting blood and scowled when he saw he'd patterned the towel with nice red spots. Now I know why I use an electric shaver, he muttered to himself. He strode back into the bedroom and then tried to take off his pajama pants but grumbled when one pant leg became firmly stuck round his ankle. With his free foot he stood on the material that was already pooled on the floor and pulled his trapped foot upward to try and disentangle himself. He resembled a puppet on a string as his leg moved up and down while he tugged for all he was worth. He finally lost his balance after one tug too many and fell over onto the bed with muffled curses as he flopped face first on the pillow. He struggled round so that he was sitting up and then reached down to tug the offending item off. When it finally came free with a sound of ripping material he balled it up and threw it forcefully across the room accompanied by a few well-chosen swear words.
He then stood and looked in the closet for something to put on and settled on a green t-shirt and black jeans. Black to suit my mood. God, I'll get like Chris if I ain't careful. He looked in the mirror on the back of the closet door and brushed his hair irritably before tying it back roughly. Usually at weekends he let it hang loose but today he felt the need to tame it. A bit of order in the chaos that seems to have surrounded me, he thought to himself wryly.
"Right. First job on the list today is get the jeep fixed. Jeez, when isn't it the first job on the list?" he asked himself wryly as he tied his sneakers quickly.
He picked a few cookies from the jar in the kitchen for a sparse breakfast before running downstairs to his vehicle. He missed his footing getting in the jeep and sprawled headlong over the front seats and dropped his cookies on the floor. "Dammit, more haste and less speed, Tanner. Or is it more speed and less haste? Jeez, what the hell does it matter? Stupid saying anyway."
He stayed lying down as he felt around under the seats for his lost breakfast. When he finally got hold of them and pulled them into view they were covered in fluff and something else that he couldn't quite identify. He groaned angrily and let them drop back to join the piles of candy wrappers and pizza boxes that already adorned the floor. He then sat up straight and maneuvered his legs round either side of the steering wheel so he could touch the pedals. He turned the key to start the motor and sighed in frustration when it failed to start.
"Come on, baby. Don't mess me about today, will ya? I'm taking you to be looked at, ain't I? They promised to get you running like a dream this time and I'm gonna be late for the appointment if you don't start." He turned the key as he talked cajolingly and the jeep finally started, albeit reluctantly. "Atta, girl. Knew you wouldn't let me down," he said as he pulled out quickly into the traffic and set off at speed to the repair shop.
Several hours, and a few hundred dollars later, Vin was on the road again. He hadn't expected the jeep to take quite so long to fix or that it was going to cost him so much money. The vehicle was a non-stop money-eater but he still couldn't bear to part with it.
"How the hell do I explain to Nettie that I can't stay for too long? Shoulda been with her an hour ago. What else can go wrong today and do I really want to know?" he said sardonically as he took a quick look in his rearview mirror.
He pulled up outside Nettie's house and leapt out of the vehicle and ran up the path, stumbling over an undone shoelace on his sneaker. He dropped to one knee and hastily tied it but somehow managed to get his finger tied in the middle of the bow. "Godammit. Who invented shoelaces?" he muttered as he attempted to pull his digit free without untying the lace. He only succeeded in hurting his finger in the process and he cursed once more with feeling. He stood up when he'd freed himself and knocked on the front door loudly.
The elderly lady opened the door and pursed her lips. "What time do you call this, Vin Tanner?" Nettie asked sternly as she pointed to her watch and tapped her foot with seeming impatience.
"Sorry, Mz. Nettie," Vin apologized as he kissed the ladies' cheek. "If you can believe it, I overslept and it's been all downhill since then."
"Overslept? Well, that's almost unheard of, son. You sickening for somethin'?" she asked as she playfully reached out a hand to feel his brow.
Vin smiled. "Yeah, must be. Got a touch of the Ezra's, I reckon."
Nettie got hold of his elbow and pulled him inside with mock concern. "You poor soul. You'd better come in and sit down before you start talking like him as well. Can't bear that happening, Vin."
"Yeah, know what ya mean. Don't think all those long words would sound right coming outta my mouth, do you?" the sharpshooter replied with a broad smile. His expression then changed to one of apology when he remembered he'd promised to stay with his friend all day. "Look Nettie, I'm real sorry but 'cause I'm so late I can't stay as long as I planned."
Nettie patted his arm understandingly. "That's alright, son. I'm used to you ducking off early and I'm sure you've got better things to do than stay with an old fart like me."
"Nettie! You know I love visiting you and I'd stay all day if I could but it's just that I've gotten a lot to fit in today," Vin protested as he put a hand gently on the woman's arm.
"I was only kidding, Vin."
"I know. What do ya want me to do while I'm here then?" the sharpshooter asked as he smiled at the woman who had taken him into her heart.
"Well, if you've got time could you replace the fence panel out back 'cause it's falling to pieces? I've got a new one all ready for you so it shouldn't take too long to fix."
"Yeah, sure I can."
Vin wandered out into the yard and began working after finding the tools he'd need to complete the task. It was an awkward job for one man but somehow he managed to get the new fence panel in position and began hammering in the nails to hold it in place. Nettie watched his progress from the porch as she knitted a sweater for Casey.
The long-haired man wiped the sweat from his brow on his shirtsleeve and took a deep breath. Vin then raised the hammer to hit in the last nail but missed totally, striking his thumb hard instead. He yelped and dropped the hammer onto his foot as he shook his hand vigorously to try and ease the pain. When that didn't work he put the injured digit in his mouth, dirt and all, and sucked it while hobbling round in a small circle to ease the pain in his foot.
"Vin, honey?" Nettie called in concern. She stood hastily and dropped her knitting on the chair before hurrying toward him.
"Godammit, Nettie. Missed the nail and hit my thumb. Jesus, it hurts."
"Let me see," she commanded as she held out her hand.
Vin showed her the bloody digit and Nettie took hold of it gently and studied it critically. "Well, you did hit a nail but not the sort that you were supposed to," she said as she smiled apologetically at her joke. "Hit it hard, didn't ya, son?"
"Yeah," Vin replied with tears of pain in his eyes.
"Call it a day, Vin. Don't want you damaging any other body parts. Is yer foot okay?"
"Yeah, that had a bit of protection from my sneaker. It's just my thumb that's real bad."
The elderly lady escorted him inside and gave her guest a drink before sitting beside him to treat his injury. She bathed it and found a large Band-Aid to cover the wound with.
The long-haired man studied her handiwork and smiled appreciatively. "Thanks Nettie. Don't know what's wrong with me today," the young man admitted. He'd never been so clumsy before.
"Well, that's what happens when ya get a touch of the Ezra's, son. Ain't nothin' you can do but hope it passes."
Vin laughed and looked at his watch, which made the smile fade quickly. "Dammit, late again. Better phone Chris and let him know or he'll get his panties in a bunch." The sharpshooter stood and wandered out into the yard as he pulled out his cell and punched in Chris's number. "Chris? Look cowboy, I'm gonna be real late," Vin said apologetically.
"Everythin' okay?" the blond asked anxiously. It was very rare that Vin was ever late, he usually arrived well before time.
"Yeah fine. Got up late and it's gone from bad to worse. Now I'm really behind so don't wait for me, okay?"
"Sure. Just let me know how long you think yer gonna be so I don't start fretting," Chris ordered.
Vin looked at his watch again and did a few quick calculations in his head. "Definitely within the hour. I'm leaving Nettie's now and I've gotta stop at the Mall to buy some supplies on the way."
"See ya then and don't be late," Chris said sardonically.
"Oh ha, ha," Vin laughed as he disconnected. He kissed Nettie good-bye hastily and hurried out to his jeep.
+ + + + + + +
Out at the ranch, the rest of Vin's friend's began their poker game in the knowledge that they could deal Vin in when he eventually turned up.
Chris put the deck in the middle of the table and Ezra automatically put out his hand to pick it up. Buck reached out too and slapped the back of Ezra's hand hard making the green-eyed man snatch it back with a yelp. Ezra put it up to his mouth where he soothed the tender skin with some saliva.
Buck fixed his friend with a stern look and chastised, "Oh no you don't, pard. I don't trust yer nimble digits. I'll deal."
"Mr. Wilmington! Are you implying that I cheat?" Ezra asked as he shook his hand to rid it of the continuing sting.
"Yeah, now you mention it."
"What makes you so cocksure that we can trust you instead, pray tell?" Ezra asked innocently as he stared at the taller man intently.
The ladies' man pointed with an index finger to his cheek. "Well, just look at this face, Ezra. This ain't that face of a cheat, is it?" Buck asked with a raised eyebrow and a crooked grin.
"Ain't the visage of an angel either, Bucklin," Ezra muttered petulantly.
"Boys, boys. Come on and deal Bucklin, or you'll be seeing a look on my face which ain't anything like an angel," Chris warned as he flicked his eyes between the two arguing agents.
"Oh, good God. I can't bear to behold your vengeful-devil look, Mr. Larabee. I fear I would die of fright."
"Shut up, Ezra," Chris growled before turning to Buck again. "Come on, hurry it along, Buck. Arnie could deal faster than you."
Ezra guffawed as he imagined Chris's dog sitting up at the table dealing cards. "Well, he'd have four paws to deal with, wouldn't he? You have to make allowances for us humans, who only possess two hands," he laughed. "Bucklin is particularly sluggish when it comes to dealing cards. He saves his fast hands for the ladies."
"Shut up Ezra, dammit. I'm going as fast as I can but if yer in such a hurry to lose yer money, I sure ain't complaining. Prepare to empty yer pockets, pards."
Buck finally finished dealing and the men played cards contentedly until Chris looked at his watch.
"Well, he said he's been late all day. He's just late again," the ladies' man replied calmly.
Chris shook his head decisively. "He sounded pretty sure he'd be here within the hour. I know he was gonna stop off on the way from Nettie's to buy a few things for tonight but that wouldn't have taken him long."
"Best laid plans of mice and men, Chris. Give him another half-hour before starting to worry. Probably had trouble with the jeep again."
Another half an hour passed by and Chris got up and looked out the window anxiously. "He'd have phoned if he was gonna be this late," Chris pointed out. Vin was always conscientious enough to let the blond know if he was going to be later than agreed.
"Which way was he coming?" Buck asked with a sigh, knowing that Chris wouldn't settle now that he'd begun to fret.
"Okay, I'll go and look for him, pard. You stay here in case he turns up but call me if he does, will ya? Don't wanna be wasting time looking for him if he arrives here five minutes after I've gone. Gotta win my money back from Ezra," Buck replied before leaving the room to go out to his truck.
+ + + + + + +
Vin traveled toward Chris's ranch as he kept looking at his watch anxiously. The jeep had played up a couple of miles out of town which had delayed him yet again but he hadn't bothered to phone Chris because he hoped to make up time once he'd gotten the vehicle going again. He hated being late and was beginning to get flustered, which was unusual for him. He knew Chris didn't mind tardiness as long as he was expecting it but Vin always considered it rude to be late no matter the reason.
The sun was just beginning to make its way lazily toward the horizon and when visible it was at an awkward angle for driving. He hadn't thought to bring his sunglasses so he pulled the windshield visor down in the hope that it would help. The road was becoming thinner and more winding the further he went into the mountains and as he slowed down on the approach to a bend, the sun suddenly appeared from behind the mountain in front of him and blinded his vision. He automatically began blinking rapidly as he attempted to see where he was heading but the world turned black and he couldn't see the road at all. He slammed on the brakes as he wondered how close he was to the corner and heard the tires start screeching on the road's surface as a result. Vision finally began to return but he was horrified to find that he was now on the wrong side of the road so he stepped on the gas quickly and steered desperately to get back to the right-hand side. His injured thumb chose that moment to start hurting and he bit his lip against the pain as he tried to keep control of his vehicle. He caught movement out the corner of his eyes and found himself heading toward Buck's truck, which had suddenly appeared from round the bend. The ladies' man saw Vin heading straight at him and he swore as he tried to avoid him but the sun flashed in his rearview mirror blinding him as well at a crucial moment. He put his hands up to his eyes because they seemed to burn with pain from the sunlight and he tensed as he waited for the expected collision. Vin saw Buck take his hands off the steering wheel but there was nothing he could do to prevent them hitting one another. He was still on the wrong side of the road and he saw he was heading toward the crash barrier. The two vehicles struck hard and the sound of smashing glass and crunching metal rent the air.
"Fucking hell!" Vin said forlornly as his jeep ploughed through the barrier and headed off into space. What a fucking day, he cursed.
Buck's truck came to a stop in the middle of the road facing back the way he'd come. He rubbed his neck and tried to ease the pain he encountered there. He climbed out of the truck and stood wobbling in the middle of the road before turning round and looking for Vin. He couldn't see the jeep but he did notice the skid marks and debris which lead to the hole in the barrier. He walked shakily to the edge and looked over.
"Shit!" he cursed when he saw Vin's jeep at the bottom of the slope surrounded by undergrowth.
He got down on his butt carefully and worked his way slowly down the slope, brushing through thorny bushes and thick shrubs on his journey. He felt the branches scratching his skin and he cursed in pain. He finally balanced himself against the side of the jeep and tried to pull the uppermost door open.
"Vin? Can ya hear me, pard?" he called once he'd forced the door open. When he received no reply he climbed in carefully and reached across to feel for a pulse.
The sharpshooter was covered in blood, which seemed to be flowing freely from a head wound. The man's arm also looked broken and when Buck touched it he could feel the break quite plainly. Buck got out of the jeep and walked away before pulling out his cell and calling for an ambulance. He then tapped in Chris's number and waited impatiently as he walked back and forth rubbing his neck continually.
"Chris? I've been in a wreck with Vin's jeep. I couldn't avoid him and he's gone off the road, pard."
Chris's heart seemed to stop for a few seconds before stuttering back to life. "Shit! Where are ya?"
"We're on the mountain road waiting for the ambulance."
The blond frowned worriedly and asked, "How badly hurt is he?"
"Can't tell really. He's trapped inside and I don't wanna move him too much. The only thing I do know is that he's broken his arm and got a bad cut on his head."
"What about you? Are you okay?" Chris asked anxiously as he looked at the rest of his friends who were staring at him with worried expressions.
"Neck hurts and I'm a bit shaken, pard."
"Do you want me to come? Can you cope with him on yer own?"
Buck shook his head and immediately wished he hadn't. "We'll be okay. Ambulance will probably get here before you can anyway, pard."
"Okay, but don't ignore yer own injuries, will ya? Can't discount the seriousness of neck injuries, Bucklin. Just stay still if it starts hurting too bad. Call me when you get to the hospital and we'll come."
"Sure thing, pard."
The ladies' man put away his cell and wandered back to the jeep. As he got in, Vin stirred and groaned while moving his head toward the sounds that Buck was making.
"Vin? Talk to me, pard," the tall agent instructed as he saw his friend's eyes open.
"Yeah, I'm here. Can you tell me how you feel? Where does it hurt?"
"Head," Vin said simply as he fidgeted in his seat and discovered just how much of him hurt.
"Ribs," the smaller agent said breathlessly. His fidgeting had started a stabbing pain in his chest and he found that he could only breath shallowly. He automatically reached out a hand to rub the tender spot but gasped and nearly jumped out of his seat at the agony his touch created.
"Can you tell me what happened? Why were you on my side of the road, pard?"
"Sun was low and I couldn't see the road 'cause of the glare. I don't remember what happened after that."
"Okay, don't fret. Reckon that's why we hit each other 'cause the same thing happened to me. Couldn't see jack-shit for a while. Just relax and keep talking to me, son," Buck instructed as he rubbed his neck again and groaned.
"I'm cold, Bucklin," Vin said after a few minutes and he couldn't help the shiver that shook his body.
"I'll get a blanket. I won't be long so don't fall asleep." Buck took off his jacket and put it over Vin as a temporary cover before he climbed back up to his truck. He somehow pushed the vehicle out of the way of any traffic that might pass and then ferreted around in the back and found a blanket and a first aid box that he kept there for emergencies. He slid back down to the mangled jeep and looked in at his friend. "Vin? You still with me?"
Vin opened his eyes and winced. "Yeah. I'm here."
"Good." Buck draped the blanket over Vin's chest and legs after retrieving his jacket and putting it back on so he didn't get cold either. "Is that better, pard?"
"Yeah, thanks." Vin looked around in confusion "How long 'til I can get out?"
"They're on their way. Shouldn't be too long. Do ya feel okay?" Buck asked as he held a pad to the still bleeding cut on his friend's forehead.
"Sleepy and my arm hurts," the sharpshooter admitted quietly.
Buck said sympathetically, "Yeah, well you've broke it good, kid. I don't wanna touch it 'cause it's caught under the steering wheel. Just try and relax."
"Are you okay? We hit hard, didn't we?" Vin asked as he remembered the collision.
"I'm alright," Buck lied as the pain in his neck increased.
"You sure? You look a mite stiff," Vin observed as he watched his friend from out the corner of his eye.
"Well, my neck hurts a bit but don't you start frettin' about me."
As they talked, the ladies' man heard the emergency vehicle's siren approaching but he was by now in too much pain to get out of the jeep. He managed to look up to the road and saw the paramedics looking down at them through the gap in the barrier. The two medics began climbing down to them and eventually arrived at Buck's side.
The taller of the two men smiled when he saw that both casualties were conscious. "Hey fellas. What are yer names?"
"I'm Buck and this is Vin," the mustached agent replied as he pointed to his companion as well.
"Can you tell me where ya hurt?"
"My neck's painful. Vin's broken his arm and says his ribs hurt. You can see the cut he's got on his head for yerselves," Buck mumbled.
"Okay," the paramedic replied as his colleague went round to see to Vin. "Let's get you into a neck brace. Were you both in this vehicle? Whose is the truck up on the road?"
"Mine. I came down to check Vin."
The paramedic nodded in understanding and began treating Buck's neck. After making the two agents as comfortable as possible they were taken up the slope, one at a time, to the ambulance.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and the rest of the men arrived at the hospital an hour later after receiving a call from the medical facility to say that Buck and Vin had been admitted. They hurried through to the nurses' station and asked for news of their two friends.
An older nurse checked the information that she had to hand and gave the two patient's colleagues the brief details of their injuries. "Mr. Wilmington has got bad whiplash injuries but seems fine otherwise. Mr. Tanner has badly broken his arm and has quite a few cracked ribs as well."
"Can we see them?"
"Sure. Follow me," the nurse replied.
Chris and the others walked along in her wake and finally entered the room where their friends had been settled.
"Hey guys. Had an eventful day, ain't ya, Vin?" the blond said sympathetically.
"Sure have, cowboy."
"You alright, Buck?" the slender man asked as he looked across at his oldest friend critically.
"Yeah, we've both gotta stay in overnight but it coulda been a lot worse."
"Mr. Tanner? How are you feeling?" Ezra asked as he took up position beside the man's bed and looked down at him with concern.
"Pretty well seeing as I've been suffering from an attack of the Ezra's all day," Vin replied with a wink and a grin.
"Sounds serious," Chris said. "What are the symptoms, cowboy?"
"Perpetual lateness for starters and then clumsiness where manual labor is concerned but fortunately I ain't yet progressed to the real bad final stage of the disease."
"What's that?" Chris asked, playing along with a broad smile on his lips.
"Talking bullshit," Vin said as he looked up at Ezra.
The men laughed, including the undercover agent.
"Well, I'm quite proud to a have a medical complaint named in my honor but I disagree with the symptoms. I think they should be jocularity, savoir-faire and verecundity instead," the well-educated man said as he raised his eyebrow theatrically.
"Jesus, better make the arrangements for his funeral, guys. Sounds like he's in the fatal latter stage of the sickness. That was a definite bullshit attack if ever I heard one," Vin said as he grinned.
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