Alternate ATF Universe: Pantheon
Character Focus: Vin, Chris, Nathan
Disclaimer: Don’t own any of them, written purely for enjoyment. Mog created the ATF universe.
Beta by Kalde.
Summary: While Nathan is away Vin suddenly falls ill, but is it as innocent as it appears?
Please note: Text within '#' indicate that the words are being spoken by the Silver Archer using a voice modulator.
Chris paused as he entered the outer office before changing direction to stop near Vin's desk.
"You ok, cowboy?"
Vin looked up at him, his face a shade paler than it should be.
"Chris...I...uh..." his face paled dramatically even further and the sharpshooter grabbed his waste basket urgently.
All work stopped as he retched violently, the rest of the team coming over as Chris pulled his ponytail back over his shoulders while he gently rubbed his back; an action that helped the sniper's body more easily rid itself of what was upsetting it.
"Ah hell, junior, what's upset you?" Buck asked worriedly, handing him a cup of water, once he finally stopped. With Nathan keeping an eye on him the instances of him becoming unexpectedly ill had significantly decreased and situations like this were now quite rare.
"Hell if I know, Bucklin, musta been something I ate," Vin replied wearily.
"Feel better?" Chris asked.
"Worse, if that's even possible."
Chris frowned worriedly, wishing that Nathan wasn't off at the EMT conference.
"Come on, let's go wash up. Hopefully that will make you feel better." He could also feel how his friend was feeling closed in and needing some space away from the concerned gazes of their other friends.
A faint nod and the blond helped him to his feet and down the short stretch of corridor to the bathroom.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," the long-haired man commented shakily once he was at the sink. He splashed some water over his face and rinsed his mouth out but made no move to leave once he had done so.
"No," Vin mumbled before leaning over the sink he was holding on to and throwing up violently again.
"Hell, how do you even have anything left to bring up?" Chris asked concerned, quickly pulling his friend's hair back and resuming the soothing rubbing on his back.
"Don't know...since I feel like I already brought up my shoes..." Vin moaned in reply. Chris winced in sympathy.
Once his stomach had settled somewhat and he'd washed his face again Chris all but carried him back to the blond's private office; settling him on the couch, where he could keep an eye on him, with a waste basket right next to him.
The sniper dozed for several hours under the watchful eyes of his best friend.
'Chris...' the silent plea was so full of distress that the blond was by his side instantly.
"Easy..." Chris eased him into a sitting position, holding the waste basket in front of him.
Vin moaned, hanging his head over the plastic lined receptacle, his stomach hovering just on the border of complete rebellion.
"Don't fight it, brother," Josiah rumbled, joining them in the office.
"I ain't, 'siah..." Vin mumbled, wishing he would stop feeling this way; whatever way it happened.
After they had sat like that for a few moments Ezra slipped into the room with a cup of water.
"Perhaps this will help." When he got questioning looks from the others, he continued, "It will either prompt his stomach to finally rid itself of whatever is upsetting it or cause it to settle. Either way he'll feel better."
"Thanks Ez..." Vin said faintly before shakily accepting the cup.
"Just sip it, cowboy," Chris cautioned, receiving a shakey nod in reply.
He continued to rub his back soothingly while the sharpshooter sipped at the water.
Several small sips into the cup Vin suddenly found he couldn't swallow the liquid in his mouth.
"Cowboy?" Chris asked worriedly when he had to spit it out.
"Couldn't swallow," He explained.
"Feeling any better?"
"Want some more water?" Josiah asked.
Vin shook his head, "can't swallow."
Josiah frowned before realising what was happening, reaching out and pushing Vin's head further over the bin moments before the water made a reappearance. It had taken quite a while to come but now that it had the lean man was nearly projectile vomiting.
"I'm taking you out to my place," Chris declared firmly once the sharpshooter was done, wilting into his supporting grip; he'd been hoping some rest would help the other man enough that he'd be able to go home on his own, knowing how much Vin hated having to be looked after.
Vin just nodded in acceptance and Chris scooped him into his arms to take him down to his truck and from there to the ranch.
"I'm calling Nathan first thing in the morning," Chris stated as he sat by his friend while he struggled with his nausea after the third bout that night.
"He's waited so long for that conference...don't drag him away just 'cause my stomach ain't...behaving...itself..."
As speech became difficult for the other man Chris grabbed the bucket and got it in position just as more came up.
"Think he'll understand. And don't try to say you don't feel like death warmed up."
"Probably just something I ate and I'll be right as rain tomorrow. You'd just be pulling him out of it for nothing."
Chris sighed. "Okay, but if you don't improve by morning I'm calling him regardless."
Vin nodded wearily and after a couple more tortuous hours he finally slipped into an uninterrupted sleep.
Buck called before he headed into work the next morning.
"How is he?"
"Was up most of the night with him but he's doing ok now; actually sleeping."
"Did you call Nathan?"
"He asked me not to."
"And you agreed?" Buck sounded incredulous.
"Only if he was improved this morning."
Buck chuckled, "Junior has your number. I guess you're going to stay with him today?"
"Yeah. I'm going to make sure he rests and is actually recovering."
"I'll call later to check."
"You do that."
With Vin actually sleeping he managed to get some sleep himself, waking up in the early afternoon. Checking on Vin, he found the sniper awake but still in bed.
"Still feeling rocky?" Chris asked, worried that he really should have called Nathan.
"No, thought it better to wait until you were awake before getting up. Save you fretting," Vin replied with a rather mischievous grin.
Chris shook his head in amusement before helping the still weak sharpshooter to get up and dressed.
He made sure Vin took it easy for the rest of the day and flatly refused to take him back to his apartment come nightfall. He was still worried, plus the sniper's vehicle was at work so he either didn't have transportation or didn't have a place to park the bike if he rode that instead.
Vin seemed well enough to join him at work the next day but he grew worringly quieter as the day progressed.
'You ok, cowboy?'
'I'm good. Think I'm a touch worn out though.'
That was reinforced by him being on his fifth cup of coffee.
'Let me know if you want to go early.' He really would prefer to take him back to the ranch again but knew his friend would prefer going back to his own place if he was up to it.
'Think I'm a tad more worn out than I thought I'd be last night.' Vin conceded. 'Think it would be ok for me to stay the night again?'
'Sure.' Chris poked around in how his friend was feeling using the bond they had and was glad to note he was just feeling exhausted instead of nauseous like he feared. 'Want to go now?'
Receiving a relieved affirmative he collected his stuff and went into the outer office.
"Vin's exhausted so I'm taking him home."
"You ok, junior?" Buck demanded instantly, looking over at him worriedly. They'd all been shooting worried glances at him all day.
"Yeah, just worn out," Vin replied as he got slowly to his feet.
The short elevator trip to the truck was made in silence and once buckled into the passenger seat he dozed off.
They were just leaving the outskirts of the city when he abruptly woke up.
"Chris...stop the car!"
He quickly pulled over and the sharpshooter frantically unbuckled himself and scrambled from the vehicle. After stumbling a few steps he dropped to his knees and threw up violently onto the gravelly dirt of the side of the road.
"Vin!" Chris was quickly out of the truck and by his side.
"Musta done too much too soon," Vin mumbled trying to catch his breath.
"Looks like it," Chris agreed. "You done?"
He helped him back into the truck after he received a shakey nod.
The rest of the trip passed without incident and once home Chris got some soup into his friend before getting him settled for the night. He waited several hours, until half an hour before his normal bed time, before settling down himself to make sure his friend didn't need him.
His confidence the other man would be ok was premature. 2 am found him crouched beside his friend as Vin heaved violently onto the floor having failed to even get out of the room let alone to the toilet in time.
"Sorry..." he mumbled with what breath the heaves left him.
"Shhh. It's ok, you can't help it," Chris soothed, wishing he could do more.
Once the bout was done with Chris moved him into the main bedroom, sure he wouldn't need it for the rest of the night, with a bucket beside him before taking care of the mess.
He was right in his prediction of not needing a bed for himself for the rest of the night; Vin slept fitfully, rousing only to heave painfully into the bucket amid mumbled apologies.
Morning finally came and, with Vin finally sleeping restfully again, Chris gave Buck a call.
"What's wrong?" the ladies man demanded as soon as he heard his voice.
"Vin did too much yesterday, we won't be in today."
"Damn. He ok?"
"Ok as he can be."
"Let us know."
As he hung up the phone he hoped that Vin would be feeling better soon.
The next day after resting for the entire day and sleeping uninterrupted Vin insisted he was well enough to go in to work. Chris only relented because it was Friday, and after managing to extract a promise from the sniper to take it easy.
Several times during the day the team leader dragged him into the private office so he could have an hour's rest. The rest of the team found it rather amusing, particularly given Vin's protests.
The long haired man was quite happy to go back to the ranch at the end of the day, however.
Chris' main fear, that of an interrupted journey like Wednesday, didn't eventuate. He wasn't prepared for Vin to refuse to eat the soup he made for him at dinner though and nearly asked him to humour him; thinking the sharpshooter was tired of soup and wanted real food. The words died on his lips as their bond alerted him to the real reason just before his friend excused himself and dashed for the bathroom.
Chris caught up to him quickly and nearly carried him into the room, they barely made it there in time.
"Damn, Vin, what the hell is doing this to you?"
Vin mumbled an apology while he tried to get his breathing under control. Chris blinked as he realised that his friend wasn't truly with him.
"No need to apologise, cowboy," he said carefully. "Let's get you lying down."
Vin didn't protest and lacked the strength to assist when Chris pulled him to his feet. Chris could feel the heat pouring off his friend and wondered where it came from.
He got him settled in the bed, like he had on far too many occasions over the last few days, before retrieving a damp facecloth and wiping him down.
The blond's worry increased when the long haired man began mumbling incoherently.
"Shhh. It's ok. Just hang on, Vin, I'm going to call Nate."
He wasn't sure the ill man understood as he quickly left to make the call, wondering as he did so if he'd made it worse by not calling earlier in the week.
"This better be important." Nathan's grouchy voice sounded on the other end of the line.
"Nathan..." he couldn't find the words but the fear in his voice spoke for him.
"What's wrong!?" Now he sounded alarmed.
"I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Thanks..." he was now talking to a dial tone.
He returned to Vin and was joined half an hour later by Nathan, who'd taken the hero transport network to get there.
"Damn, how long has he been like this?"
"Out of it? About an hour. He first got sick at work on Monday. Was ok after he spent Tuesday resting, but got sick again on the way home on Wednesday...we thought it was just he'd done too much...kept him home yesterday but he seemed ok this morning. Made sure he took breaks during the day...then he got sick again after I brought him back here..." Chris interrupted the explanation to quickly roll the ill man so he was over the bucket as Vin became sick again.
"He been throwing up much?"
"That's the main symptom," Chris answered, wiping his best friend's face. "Only became delirious this time, though now that I think of it; he was worse on Wednesday than Monday. I thought it was just 'cause he'd worn himself out at the time. He wasn't hot the other two times either."
"We need to get him to the base, now." The medic's voice was carefully controlled.
"You know what it is?" Chris asked, looking at him hopefully while gathering the unresponsive sharpshooter into his arms.
"Yeah, he's been poisoned."
"How could he have been poisoned!?" JD demanded incredulously.
"I don't know." Chris replied wearily, he'd been trying to figure that out since Nathan had said that was what was wrong. He kept getting stuck on how only the sniper had been poisoned, particularly as he hadn't actually been home since Monday morning.
"Could have been something you all ate, that would only have affected him," Nathan said tiredly from the doorway to the medlab. "In his system it acts as a poison but in any of the rest of us it wouldn't."
"So it could be in something normal and we wouldn't know," Buck said with a sigh.
"It's not normally or naturally found in food," Nathan stated.
"So someone who knows his system set out specifically to poison Mr Tanner?" Ezra asked with distinct alarm.
Nathan nodded gravely. "And the only people who know enough to be able to do that are the medics of the medical authority and myself."
"I'll contact Scintillation Shock," Josiah rumbled and left to do so.
Chris nodded then turned to Ezra. "Can you think of a plausible reason to go back to the office?"
"I can easily say I am checking the validity of some information I received from an informant. I don't always document those, particularly if the information doesn't pan out. Why?"
"I need you to confiscate any and all food or drink items there. Vin hasn't been home since Monday morning so it has to be something at work."
"Can't hurt to check his apartment as well, it may be something he brought from home unknowingly," Buck suggested. "I can check there."
"Whatever it was, it was timed to coincide with my trip out of town," Nathan commented softly. "And probably counting on you taking him for conventional medical aid if he became ill in civilian life, who wouldn't have the equipment or the knowledge to diagnose the problem. In fact, the standard medications he is given in response to a reaction, which the normal doctors would assume was the problem, would actually exacerbate it."
"Damn, someone definitely did their homework," Chris growled.
"Better check the water supply at the office too," JD suggested. "If they know his habits, the best way to make sure he gets a dose would be to put it in the water or coffee, maybe even the sugar, since he always has a cup of strong, sweet coffee. Especially if no one else is going to react to it."
"That's a good thought," Chris replied, nodding his approval.
Ezra nodded and took his leave, along with Buck, just as Scintillation Shock arrived.
"How is he?" the United Heroes leader asked concerned.
"He'll be fine as long as he doesn't get another dose before it's out of his system," Nathan answered. "Josiah fill you in on our suspicions?"
Scintillation Shock nodded. "You really think it's possible it could be a medic?"
"Unfortunately, yes. They're the only ones who would have the knowledge outside of me, and I'm happy to undergo a telepathic check."
Scintillation Shock nodded. "We'll do that to avoid any suggestion of favouritism or blaming them because of a feud on your part." Nathan was quite capable of keeping even the strongest telepath out of his mind, thanks to the training all seven had received, but Minds Paths would be able to tell if he was hiding something.
Nathan nodded. He knew that Scintillation Shock couldn't risk whoever had done this muddying the water by suggesting that it was actually a case of Münchausen by proxy on his part. He glanced behind him into the medlab as a faint beep sounded.
"He's waking up. Chris, you want to go sit with him? He'll be disorientated and sick for a while yet as it works its way out of his system. Get him to drink as much as you can; I don't want to have to put him on a drip if possible."
Chris nodded and slipped into the room.
"What's the problem with a drip?" Scintillation Shock asked curiously; they'd had to do one several times when the young man had been in their care and he hadn't noticed any problems.
"His system is more reluctant to absorb things delivered by drip and I don't want to put more stress on his system than I have to."
Chris blocked the rest of the conversation from his mind as he sat down beside the very ill sniper, who was moving restlessly while sweat still poured off him.
"Easy there, cowboy," Chris soothed while grabbing a cloth to wipe him down.
Several of the machines where cooling him in different ways so the cooling aspect of the cloth was not actually needed but the comfort given by the action couldn't be replicated by any machine.
"Chris...?" Vin mumbled vaguely.
"I'm here. You're going to be ok."
Vin's breath hitched and Chris quickly pushed the basin under his mouth. Nathan came in as the heaves were easing.
"Easy there, Vin."
"Nathan? Wh...what are you doing here?"
"Helping you get better."
Vin frowned dazedly for a few moments. "Ah hell...Chris pulled you out of that conference..."
"You're a tad more important."
"He'll be going back before morning or people will be wondering how he got here." Chris told him.
"Oh..." Vin frowned again. "What happened?"
"You were poisoned," Nathan explained, not sure how much he was taking in or whether he would remember later.
"We're still figuring that out."
"Just rest, cowboy, we'll get whoever it was."
"'m sure you will," Vin mumbled, drifting off to sleep again.
"No...more..." Vin pushed the cup away from his lips as he struggled to keep his stomach in the right place.
He could feel the soothing from the bond with Chris trying to help with the struggle, but he knew it wasn't going to work this time.
He tried to sit up and nearly instantly the strong arms of his best friend were taking his weight, something he barely noted as his stomach won its rebellion.
Chris glanced at the clock once his friend was done heaving; only two more hours before Nathan could return. Vin wasn't even officially critically ill, though he'd been granted sick leave from work, as he hadn't been taken to hospital so they couldn't summon Nathan home officially. Before he had returned to the conference Minds Paths had stopped by to clear him of involvement; which had occurred, not surprising any of the heroes.
He looked up at the door as a slight form slipped through the door.
"He's burning up..." Cardinal murmured, his mentor was nearly incandescent to his unusual eyesight.
"They ain't...gonna let me die..." Vin looked up at his mentoree.
A training outing had been planned for the previous night but they'd all been so caught up in what had happened they had forgotten to let the teen know. Josiah had ended up taking him into the workout room to run through some training as they couldn't take him out without his official mentor.
Ezra had found a small device attached to the water supply at the office while the food and drink at both locations and the water at Vin's apartment had come up clean. The only water unaffected at the office had been the water cooler.
Finding out who had done it was more difficult and the investigation had only just started. Scintillation Shock was still present; he had suggested the game plan they'd adopted. The Denver Protectors hadn't gone out the previous night. Instead a portion of United Heroes had done the patrol. While they searched for the perpetrator or perpetrators they would give the impression that they'd succeeded with the Denver Protectors going underground apparently in response to the death of one of their own.
Knowing that whoever had done it knew their civilian identities, Chris had returned to his home during a spell when Vin was sleeping peacefully and summoned AD Travis urgently to the ranch. As of Monday the whole of Team 7 was on emergency leave; he'd explained the whole thing to the former judge as he'd figured them out quite a while ago.
High Flyer and Dragonfly had joined them at the base both to give credence to the impression and to check on him themselves.
At a suggestion from Travis they had arranged for speculation about whether one or more heroes of the Denver Protectors were ill or dead to hit the media through Mary. They had found it quite interesting that within an hour of the news release, there was an official statement from the Hero Medical Authority that no member of the Denver Protectors had been treated recently and if one was dead or in serious trouble, then it was undoubtedly Medical Marvel's fault.
The statement was enough to prompt several heroes from United Heroes and elsewhere to contact Scintillation Shock to ask what was going on and offer their assistance.
"I know, but sometimes people don't get a choice," Cardinal replied. "You really think it could be a medic?"
"Evidence is getting stronger by the minute," Scintillation Shock said reluctantly from the doorway. "Several medics from the third gen section contacted us that there was something weird going on in the main section of the authority. Many regular medics are scared to talk; those who have, had gone to the third gen section for help, because they are known to have direct access to heroes. And they have mentioned that recently there has been a lot of uncomplimentary things being said about Medical Marvel. It looks like it's coming from someone high up."
"Any idea who?" Vin asked, lying back wearily.
Scintillation Shock shook his head. "Not yet. We're looking at recent appointees though."
Vin nodded, running a tired hand over his face.
"Ready for some more water?" Chris asked softly. Vin turned green and emphatically shook his head.
The nausea had been getting gradually worse and he hadn't been able to keep anything down for the last hour. Untrained though he was, Chris knew his friend hadn't taken in enough to counter the amount he'd brought up.
They tried several more times before Nathan returned, the nausea reaching a point that Vin ended up refusing to try any more. Not that it particularly helped as he became ill several more times without having had anything to drink.
Any energy he'd had was long gone by the time Nathan could return.
"Damn," he swore softly as he took in the weak sharpshooter being cradled in Chris' arms. Efficiently, he set up a drip and attached it.
"Sorry, I know you wanted to avoid that," Chris said apologetically, "but he couldn't keep anything down the last few hours."
"Not your fault," Nathan reassured him, "but expect some more upsets; his system is not happy."
"I know..." Vin mumbled, peeling open an eyelid to look at him.
Nathan looked at him sympathetically. "I'm sorry about this."
"Why? Wasn't you who poisoned me."
"No, but all evidence points to it being someone with a vendetta against me."
Vin took a deep breath and closed his eye again. "Well...if you...want...to make...amends just...stay right there...and ya will..."
Nathan snatched up the basin and held it in front of the struggling sharpshooter.
Buck came over to hover worriedly in the doorway after he heard the lean man violently throwing up once again.
"Easy, easy," Nathan soothed as Vin lay back against Chris again with a whimper he couldn't suppress.
"He going to be ok, Nate?" Buck asked.
"Yeah. Just for now his system is unhappy and letting everyone know," Nathan replied.
"Might believe you if I wasn't feeling like something a cat coughed up," Vin mumbled and Chris turned worried eyes on the medic.
Nathan brushed some of his sweat soaked hair off his forehead. "Just gotta give it time, Vin."
"How is he?" Scintillation Shock asked softly from the medlab doorway.
"Getting better, no longer quite as ill," Chris replied, looking up from the sleeping sharpshooter. "Any progress?"
They were again waiting for Nathan to be free to return from the conference.
Scintillation Shock nodded silently and handed Chris an electronic file.
Chris looked it over quickly and then looked up at the United Heroes leader in surprise. "What does he have against either of them?"
"He was the one who was shown up when Medical Marvel found the cure for Silent Night's poison."
"Why would he be so upset about that?"
"We're still looking into that. It could just be that he wasn't allowed to find the cure, but since he's shown the willingness to target and harm heroes we have to ask whether there isn't another reason."
"Like whether he is or was working with Silent Night."
He nodded seriously.
"This could be bad," Chris noted gloomily and the other hero nodded in agreement; heroes put their lives in the hands of the medics every day - if they didn't feel they can trust them then many were likely to start carrying medical arsenals like Medical Marvel. But unlike the armoured hero they would have neither the training or the inborn talent to be able to use it like he did.
The head of the Hero Medical Authority was having a field day in front of the cameras and reporters at the press conference; laying blame at the feet of Medical Marvel regardless of whether there was any blame to be laid or not. Both the media and the public were becoming uneasy at what was happening; it didn't take a genius to figure out something was going on.
"You sure that's the real story?"
The smooth feminine voice made him pause and caused a flutter of excitement amongst the gathered reporters. Minds Paths wasn't seen in public all that often but when she was it was usually big news.
"Of course I'm sure!" he blustered.
There were several ripples in mid air and several heroes stepped from illusionary concealment, courtesy of Joculator, and ringed him. There were several members of United Heroes along with six of the Denver Protectors. The only one missing was the Silver Archer.
He shot a look of hatred at Medical Marvel and no one missed the gleam of triumph in his eyes.
One last ripple and the Silver Archer strode out of concealment to stand confrontationally in front of him.
#I do not appreciate being poisoned,# the silver clad hero stated into the dead silence that had fallen upon his appearance. He continued as the chief medic sputtered, #nor do I appreciate the attempt to put it on Medical Marvel. If it wasn't for him I'd have died due to your machinations.#
The electronic voice was level but anyone who knew the wiry hero could see the fury in his stance.
"You have no proof."
"Au contraire, we have more than enough," Shadow Mirage stated smugly as Special Force made their way to the stage.
He looked around trying to figure out if he could make a get away.
#Go ahead, I'd love to see you try to outpace Aerotik.#
He froze then reluctantly allowed himself to be handcuffed.
Scintillation Shock stepped forward to the microphone as he was being led off.
"Scintillation Shock, does this mean that the integrity of the medical authority has been compromised?" a reporter asked the question running through many of their minds.
"We do not believe so. Many were coerced into remaining silent and even then several managed to contact us via indirect means. Most have already been cleared of active participation and the rest will be completed shortly. Those who have been dismissed in the last few weeks will have the circumstances reviewed."
"Has the Silver Archer fully recovered?" Mary asked.
"Thanks to Medical Marvel he has recovered completely."
"Was anyone else at risk?"
"The particular poison used was targeted specifically at the Silver Archer. He was apparently targeted because of his friendship and teaming with Medical Marvel. Once it became clear what the method used was, we arranged for others that would be at risk from that method to be watched over by a division of the medical authority who were immune to threats from anyone high up in the chain of command in the main section. No other heroes have been reported as falling ill even from natural causes."
Several more questions were presented but it was obvious that the latest crisis to face the heroes was over.
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