Who Will Mop My Fevered Brow?

by Hombre

Notes: Can't think of anyone that I'd rather have to mop my fevered brow. Thought Vin needed a bit of TLC because I know I've been ignoring him lately. Sorry, Vin fans!

The seven men were gathered in the conference room going over the details of a new case. Chris stood at the head of the table and outlined the main points as he read from the file that lay open in front of him. He'd been talking for about ten minutes already and still had a long way to go judging by the amount of paper before him.

Although Buck was listening to what his boss was saying, he had his eyes fixed solely on Vin. The sharpshooter was lounging in his chair as normal but looked highly uncomfortable. The ladies' man watched as Vin rubbed his stomach and swallowed quickly while shifting slightly in his seat as if trying not to draw attention to himself.

Buck decided enough was enough and interrupted what Chris was saying by holding up his hand and apologizing. "Sorry, just a minute, Chris." The tall, mustached man then turned to face Vin and asked, "Vin, pard? Are you feeling okay? Yer looking a mite peaky."

"What?" Vin said in a startled tone. His head jolted up after hearing his name being mentioned and he saw six pairs of eyes staring at him in concern.

"I was asking if you were okay, pard," Buck repeated as he watched his quiet friend turn a slightly gray color.

The six men expected to hear the usual answer of I'm okay from the man but were surprised when, for once, he was truthful.

Vin took a halting breath and raised a hand to his mouth. "Ain't felt too good since I woke up. Feel kinda sick, 'scuse me," the long-haired man mumbled softly through his fingers as he stood and hurried outside. Unfortunately, Vin didn't get as far as the restroom before his nausea overcame him and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

After watching Vin leave, Buck stood up and went to check on the sick man. The ladies' man exited the conference room just in time to see Vin throw up all over Ezra's jacket, which was hanging over the back of the undercover agent's chair.

"Don't come out here, Ez," the ladies' man yelled in warning, but with a grin.

"Why, pray tell?" Ezra's disembodied voice asked.

"Yer jacket's taken a turn for the worse by the look of it," Buck said as he passed by the chair, giving it a wide berth.

"'Scuse me?"

Buck replied, "Vin just puked all over it."

"Please tell me you're hoaxing."

Buck headed on toward Vin during the conversation and put out a hand to steady the pale sharpshooter. "Pard? Sit down. Yer looking real awful."

"Feel it, Bucklin. Room's spinning like it'll never stop," Vin said as he swallowed quickly and took a deep halting breath. He lowered himself gingerly into a nearby chair and leant forward slightly. He put his hand back on his stomach and began rubbing it slowly.

"Oh, good God," Ezra gasped as he came to see if what Buck had told him was true.

"Sorry, Ez," Vin said quietly as he closed his eyes briefly and quickly swallowed in an attempt to stave off another bout of sickness.

The undercover agent bit his tongue as he held back a stinging comment, knowing that Vin couldn't help being sick. "Don't give it another thought, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said as he picked up his jacket between thumb and forefinger and dropped it in the nearest wastebasket. "How are you feeling now that you've expectorated your stomach's contents?"

"Like shit, Ez."

"Shall I take you home, pard?" Buck asked kindly as he squatted in front of the trembling agent and rubbed his arm.

"Yeah, thanks, Bucklin. Wouldn't make it home on the bike," Vin confessed as he lifted his hand back to his mouth again. He could literally feel something making its way up from his stomach and he knew he wouldn't be able to stop its journey.

"Call me, Vin. Let me know how yer feeling later on," Chris said from the conference room's doorway.

"Sure." Vin stood up and swayed. "Could we stop off at the restroom, Bucklin? Think I'm gonna puke again."

"Okay, come on, before you throw up over Ezra's shoes as well. Don't think he could handle losing those," Buck said as he got hold of Vin's elbow gently and steered him away.

Vin smiled weakly and hurried along to the restroom, leaving Ezra looking down at his designer shoes while wriggling his toes inside them thoughtfully.

+ + + + + + +

"Jeez, Vin. Let's get you home to bed," Buck said when Vin had thrown up for the third time in the john. "Do you think you can hold it in 'til I get you there?"

"Yeah, I'll try," Vin said as the ladies' man escorted him down to his truck.

They made it back to Vin's apartment without mishap but as soon as Buck opened the front door, the sharpshooter ran to the bathroom. Buck sighed as he heard the retching noises so he sauntered along the hallway to meet up with his friend. Once Vin emerged, with a hand clamped to his stomach, they went along to his bedroom. The ladies' man escorted him as far as the bed and pulled back the covers ready for him to get in. Buck let go of him and turned to leave the room so that the sharpshooter could get undressed and into bed when he was ready. Vin stood still and swayed while watching in dismay as his friend walked away.

"Bucklin?" he called plaintively before the man could leave.

"Yes, pard?" the ladies' man asked as he turned back from the door and arched a questioning eyebrow.

The smaller man didn't move but commented quietly, "I ain't got the energy to get outta these clothes. Every time I move, I feel like I'm gonna fall over."

"That's your way of asking for help in undressing, is it?" Buck asked with a smile as he headed back toward his friend.

"Yeah, sorry."

"Don't be sorry, pard. All have to have some help at some point in our lives. Just glad you've finally learnt to ask for it," Buck said. "Shoulda offered my services anyway. Oughta have known that you couldn't manage it," the ladies' man acknowledged sympathetically.

He moved so that he was facing Vin and then began to peel the layers of clothes off the man's body slowly. He looked around the floor for Vin's pajamas and found them in a heap where the sharpshooter had discarded them that morning. He tried to thread Vin's foot through one pant leg but the man couldn't stay still. Buck reached out a steadying hand to keep the man upright and eventually made him sit down on the bed to make things easier.

"Thanks, Bucklin," Vin said once the ladies' man had finished.

"That's okay. Now, in ya get," the tall agent said as he pulled the covers back a bit more and patted the mattress.

Vin eased himself down and slowly lay out flat. Buck waited until he was settled and then pulled up the covers but as he did so he saw Vin shiver from head to foot.

"You cold?" he asked with a frown.

"Bit," Vin admitted with chattering teeth as he tried to snuggle down in the bed to find some warmth.

"Sounds like it's more than a bit, pard. I'll find something else to put over you." Buck searched the closet and found a comforter, which he put over the man.

Vin clutched it tightly and pulled it up to his chin as he sighed and shivered again. He didn't think he'd ever be warm again. It wasn't that he really felt cold but he somehow couldn't stop his body quivering.

Buck studied the sick man for a quiet minute. "Yell if you want anything. Knowing Nate, he'll probably be in at some point to check on you too. Now try and get some rest, pard, and I'll phone Chris to give him an update."

"You don't have to stay, Bucklin. Been lookin' after myself for years so I'll be alright," the long-haired man mumbled as the world stopped spinning clockwise and started off counter-clockwise instead.

"Vin!" Buck protested. "I've just had to undress you, so you ain't alright. I can't leave you as you are. Let me rephrase that; I won't leave you as you are."

The tall agent smiled at the fact that Vin had reverted to his old ways so quickly. The man never liked to accept that he couldn't deal with everything alone.

Two blue eyes stared at the ladies' man from under the bedcovers before blinking rapidly. "Thanks, Bucklin. Just don't like being a nuisance," Vin finally acknowledged.

"It'll be a change to take care of someone else. JD'll be pleased for some time on his own. Bet he'll be on the phone calling Casey as soon as I tell him I won't be home. He'll be arranging a night of passion like no other."

Vin snorted quietly before turning over onto his side; a move he rather regretted as it set the world spinning clockwise again. He groaned loudly and put a hand over his eyes.

"Need anything before I go?" Buck asked anxiously.

"Can you stop the room from spinning?" Vin asked feebly.

"My powers don't extend that far, pard. Now get some sleep."

Buck backed out of the room and turned off the light before wandering along to the kitchen to make a drink and phone Chris. He'd just finished the call and taken one sip from his coffee when he heard unsteady, hurried footsteps heading for the bathroom.

"Oh, Vin," he muttered as he walked along the hallway and waited outside.

The sharpshooter emerged after a few minutes looking paler and smaller. He put a hand on the doorframe and swayed from side to side gently.

"Hey, pard. How ya doin'?"

Vin didn't answer but turned round immediately and dropped to his knees beside the toilet bowl. Buck followed him in and squatted next to him. He put his hand on Vin's back and rubbed it gently as his friend continued throwing up. Vin wobbled wildly and Buck grabbed hold of him quickly so that he didn't fall.

"Vin? You okay, there?" he asked as he kept a firm grip on the man's upper arm.

"Oh.....Jeez," Vin mumbled. "Dizzy. I hate dizzy."

"I know, bud. Let's get you back to bed."

Buck put his strong arms round Vin's chest and hauled him to his feet. Vin felt like he imagined a flea might feel when being picked up by an elephant. He'd never felt so weak in his life. Vin's knees buckled slightly once he stood up so the ladies' man tightened his grip to keep him vertical.

"Whoa there, pard. Having trouble staying upright?"

"Can't find the floor."

"What?" the tall agent asked in confusion.

"Floors going up and down, up and down. Put my foot down and the floor wasn't there. Everything's movin'," Vin mumbled feverishly as he reached out a wild hand to grab for the wall when he had the sensation of falling.

"Hold onto me, Vin. You'll be better off lying down, believe me."

Buck walked the man slowly back to his room, pulled back the comforter and eased his friend down onto the mattress. "Stay there a minute and I'll be back."

Buck ducked into the kitchen and picked up a large plastic bowl before heading back to Vin and putting the utensil on the floor.

"There ya go, pard. Puke in that. Save all the back and forth to the john, won't it?" Buck helped Vin lie down and covered him gently.

"Thanks, Buck," Vin mumbled sleepily.

"Call if ya need anything else."

Buck sat in the living room watching TV while also listening out for Vin's voice. After two hours he heard his name being called so he hurried along to the bedroom, opened the door and poked his head round it. "Pard? What's up?"

"Sorry, Bucklin," Vin said in embarrassment as he wriggled in the bed.

The ladies' man turned on the light and saw the vomit all over the bedclothes.

"Couldn't help it. Honest," the sharpshooter said as he kept his eyes downcast in shame.

Buck smiled at the sharpshooter reassuringly. "It's alright, bud. Catches you unawares sometimes, don't it? Better get you cleaned up, I s'pose."

Buck took Vin to the bathroom and changed his clothes after washing any dirty bits of skin. He left the man there, sitting on the side of the tub, while he went back to quickly make up the bed again with fresh linen. He took the dirty sheets along to the kitchen and put them straight in the washer and set it going.

"Okay, all set, Vin," Buck said as he went back to collect his friend once more. He helped the sick man back to the bedroom and asked, "You feelin' any better?"

"Not quite so bad but still a bit dizzy," Vin replied as he lay down.

"Well, before we left the office Nate gave me some pills that might settle things for ya. Wanna try one of those?"

"Yeah, thanks, Bucklin." Vin said from under the covers. He hated taking medication but he had to admit that, for once, he really needed it.

Buck filled a glass with water and handed over a couple of pills and watched as Vin swallowed them. "Now get some more sleep if ya can, pard. Hopefully it's just a twenty-four hour bug that you've got. Probably be right as rain in the morning."

Buck went back into the living room and lay down in the couch. He managed some sleep of his own and when he woke he ambled along to Vin's bedroom to see how the man was. He opened the door quietly and looked at the lump under the bedcovers. He walked to the bed and saw Vin fast asleep curled up in the comforter snoring softly. The ladies' man reached out a hand and felt Vin's brow and was not surprised to find it slightly warm.

The man he touched stirred uneasily, but didn't wake. Buck smiled. Vin looked so innocent, and twice as young, when he was asleep. He looked even younger than JD. The tall man stayed a while longer and then silently left the room on tiptoe.

As he walked back along to the living room, he heard a knock at the apartment's front door. He opened it and found Nathan standing on the doorstep.

The medic smiled apologetically. "Sorry, I couldn't make it last night, Bucklin. How's he been?"

"He's asleep now but he was as sick as a dog before. He was real dizzy so I gave him some of those pills. Hope they've helped," the mustached man said.

"Well, if he's asleep they must have done, Buck. Do ya want me to stay with him instead?" the medic asked.

Buck shook his head. "Nah, we're okay, pard. Just tell Chris we won't be in."

"Okay, but call me if you need a break."

"Sure thing. Thanks for dropping by, pard," Buck said as he watched Nathan wander back down the hallway. The ladies' man then ambled to the kitchen and made himself a drink. He busied himself around the apartment and checked on Vin every so often.

Vin finally woke mid-morning and wandered through to the kitchen, where he could smell eggs cooking.

The ladies' man looked up as he detected movement and smiled in welcome. "Hey, bud. Yer lookin' better. Feel okay?"

Vin nodded and smiled in relief as he took a seat at the table. "Yeah, thanks for taking care of me, Bucklin. Much obliged. S'pose I'd better buy Ez a new jacket, hadn't I? He didn't look happy that I puked all over it."

"Don't think you could afford the sort he has, pard," Buck pointed out truthfully.

"I know, but I'll find something suitable," Vin promised.

+ + + + + + +

The next week, Vin turned up at work with a bag in his hand and he placed it in on Ezra's desk.

"Mr. Tanner? What is this?" the undercover asked curiously as he looked up at the sharpshooter.

"I thought I should replace yer jacket, Ez. Hope ya like it."

"There was no need, Vin, but thank you." The undercover agent opened the bag and pulled out a denim jacket. Not the usual sort of thing he wore and not worth the value of his lost attire but it was the thought that counted. He smiled broadly in pleasure at Vin before standing up and putting it on and doing a twirl to show it off.

"Jeez, now if I put that on, I'd look scruffy. How come it looks a million dollars on you? You'd look good wearing a cardboard box," Vin said jealously as Ezra laughed.

The End