The Spine of the Matter

by ElenaRoan

Alternate ATF Universe: Pantheon

Character Focus: Vin, Chris, Nathan

Disclaimer: Donít own any of them, written purely for enjoyment. Mog created the ATF universe.

Betas: Geris (Grammar and Spelling), Michelle (Comprehension)

Summary: Something unusual comes to light about Nathan when they have to deal with the much delayed aftermath of a battle.

Chapter 1: Consequences


"Yeah, Vin?" Chris spoke distractedly, not looking up from the paperwork in front of him.

"Um..." An odd note in the sharpshooter's voice caused the team leader to look up at his friend sharply.

The easy stance the long haired man had was belied by the white knuckled grip he had on the doorframe and the extreme paleness of his face.

"Sit down!" Chris ordered, dropping the papers he was working on.

"Don't think I can..." Vin mumbled in reply.

Chris was by his side instantly. He pulled the sharpshooter's free arm over his shoulders and put his arm around his waist. He nearly had to support the sniper's entire weight once he let go of the doorframe. It was with a little difficulty that he got him over to the couch. Vin put his head shakily in his hands once he was sitting down.

Chris turned towards the door ready to bellow for Nathan but was surprised when the medic was already beside him. Behind the medic the blond could see Ezra closing the door to give them some privacy.

"I knew something was wrong last night," Nathan said softly, getting Vin to lean back and feeling his forehead.

Chris frowned. "You weren't feeling good last night? Why didn't you say something?"

"'Cause I wasn't," Vin mumbled. "Only been an hour."

Chris decided not to push, they'd address that later.

Vin stiffened almost imperceptibly and the slowly strengthening mental bond between the two flared into life. Before he even consciously registered it Chris had grabbed the bin and shoved it in front of the sharpshooter, a split second before his lunch made a reappearance.

"Hell..." Vin mumbled in a slight breather between waves. Nathan soothingly rubbed his back until he was done.

The door quietly opened to admit Josiah as Vin leant back against the cushions again. The big man silently handed Nathan a wet paper towel. Worryingly the medic got no protest when he wiped the sniper's face.

"Hospital or home?" Josiah asked softly.

Chris paused for a moment in thought, it was nearly home time and no one would think anything of it if they left en masse.

"Home," he decided. "Get Buck to put JD's bike in the back and JD to drive Vin's jeep home."

The profiler nodded and quickly informed the rest of the team.

"Think you can walk, cowboy?" Chris asked.


"Ok, just hold onto me then." Carefully he slipped his arms around his best friend and lifted him gently into his arms, drawing a soft groan from the ill man as he did so.

All seven of them piled into the lift and mercifully made it to the parking levels without anyone else getting in.

"Let me take him," Nathan stated. "I'm closer."

With only a few moments of hesitation Chris placed Vin gently in the medic's car.

Moments later six vehicles left the parking levels and headed for their separate homes.

Chapter 2: Causes

By the time Chris got to the base the rest of the team were already there and waiting while Nathan had Vin in the small medical lab. None of them had changed into costume either. Chris went straight into the med lab.

Vin was curled up on his side while Nathan tried to ease the lean man's suffering. Chris knew exactly what misery his friend was in.

Nathan looked up as his boss approached. "I think he caught one of Porcupine's spines last night."

"Thought we checked for that?" Chris replied as he put a reassuring hand on Vin's shoulder.

"If it was hidden by his hair, came out, or something we could have missed it."

The computer gave a soft beep and Nathan checked the results, then pulled out an injector.

"Well?" Chris asked as the medic injected the sharpshooter.

"Computer just confirmed what I thought. We'll need to give him a thorough going over; make sure it's not lodged in him somewhere."

Chris concentrated on the link for a few moments. "I think it's on the back of his neck."

Nathan pulled on one of his costume gloves and carefully searched the area Chris had indicated. He found, after a moment of intense scrutiny, the snapped off tip of one of the spines imbedded near the long haired man's spine. Carefully the medic pulled it out with a pair of tweezers and dropped it in a containment jar; he wasn't about to run the risk of anyone jabbing themselves with the poisonous spine.

"He'll be ok now?"

"As long as that was the only one. Could set up a scan to make sure."

Vin whimpered slightly and Chris knew it had nothing to do with the poison still running through his blood.

"Easy Vin, it's that or take the chance there's another spine in you."

"Almost prefer to take the chance," Vin replied faintly.

Chris grimaced in sympathy; shortly after all seven of them had linked up together Nathan had insisted on doing scans of all of them so he'd know if there was a problem or something changed down the track. What none of them had known then was how Vin's system would react to the scan, not even Vin himself as he hadn't been scanned before. It had been pure agony for the lean man, though he'd stifled any outcry while the scan was in progress so that Nathan wouldn't cut it short. The first the medic had known of it had been when Chris had bolted to his best friend's side after it finished. The pain had been so bad that Nathan had resorted to chemically knocking the sharpshooter out and pumping him full of painkillers.

"Do you want to?" Nathan asked, willing to run the risk to avoid causing more pain to Vin.

"No," Vin answered before opening his eyes to look at Nathan seriously. "And that's MY decision." The medic had torn himself up over what had happened and the last thing the sniper wanted was for him to blame himself for the decision to scan Vin again.

Nathan nodded and started warming up the machine, then prepped an injector.

"I'll put you under, no need for you to go through it conscious again," The medic stated softly. Vin nodded and let him inject it. A few moments later he dropped off to sleep with a soft sigh.

Nathan injected some more painkillers before carefully manoeuvring him into the scanner.

Chapter 3: Resolution

The first thing Vin was aware of was a muted burning all over his body before it was chased away by a faint hiss. After a small struggle he managed to get his eyes open, to meet the concerned green ones of his best friend.

"How're you feeling?" Chris asked softly.

"Ask me again when the painkillers Nate just injected wear off," Vin replied dryly.

"Didn't want you to go through more than you had to," Nathan said subduedly.

Vin rolled onto his back so he could eyeball the medic.

"MY decision, MY choice," he reminded him as forcefully as he could.

"First do no harm," Nathan commented nearly inaudibly.

"More harm in not doing the scan," Chris stated before continuing to Vin. "It found another."

The sharpshooter nodded in acceptance before drifting off to sleep again.

Chris watched him sleep both relieved and worried. What he didn't think he would be able to tell the lean man was that the second spine had been placed where it was nigh on undetectable without the scan. Where a decent blow in the right spot could have driven the spine into the joining area between the spinal cord and the brain, potentially killing him instantly.

A soft knock on the door brought his attention to JD standing in the frame.

"Ajax and Shadow Mirage have returned."

"They encounter any difficulties?"

JD shook his head. The two had gone out on the streets to give at least the impression that everything was business as usual.

"How's Vin?"

"Getting better, woke up just before." They'd explained to the others what had happened before Vin had woken up after the scan.

JD nodded and headed back to let the others know.

Chris glanced over at Nathan where he was fussing around the machines that lined the walls of the tiny med lab.

"You said you knew something was wrong last night, how?"

Nathan looked up at him, his eyes troubled.

"Sometimes I seem to get...a sense...that something isn't right."

"You usually right?"

The medic looked at the floor. "Don't know."

Chris walked over to the tall man and put his hand on his shoulder, causing Nathan to look up at him.

"You were right this time. Next time say something." After a brief pause the medic nodded.

Decisions still needed to be made regarding the latest complication in their lives but at least one thing had been set to rights.


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