The birthday party for Chris was in full swing. The guys had shown up unannounced earlier that morning and brought everything they would need. Ezra had brought the "libations" as he called them. He brought wine and expensive scotch as well as Buck's favorite beer. The others had brought various foods ,Josiah of course brought his famous chili. The day was perfect warm and sunny. They were all out back enjoying the day. Vin had set up a volleyball net and a heated game was under way. Vin was teamed with Buck while Nathan had JD. They had tried playing with Buck and JD on the same team but it didn't work, they argued too much. Josiah was cooking at the grill while Ezra lounged sipping a glass of wine and observing his teammates. Chris was referring the game.
"Ball is out!" yelled Chris after JD's serve.
"Out? What do you mean it was out," JD objected grabbing the ball from Buck. "You need glasses or something?"
"Look out," Buck said with a smile.
Chris just looked at JD raised one eyebrow and glared. JD swallowed audibly and back down. He handed the ball back to Buck.
"Wise decision my young friend," Ezra said dryly. "Live to fight another day."
"Shut up Ezra," JD scowled.
'Now, son, is that any way to talk to your elders?" Josiah asked.
They all laughed when JD stuck his tongue out at the older agent. Buck served the ball and Nathan set up the ball so JD could send it back over. Vin easily passed it to Buck who set it up for Vin to spike. Nathan realized what was being set up and jumped to block it. He miscalculated and slammed his elbow into Vin's jaw. The sharpshooter went down hard, seeing stars.
"Vin!" he yelled and dropped at his side. "You OK?"
"Damn Nathan," Buck laughed as he helped Vin sit up. "You should have just told us you wanted to win instead of taking one of us out."
"Shut up Buck," Nathan scowled. "Vin how many fingers am I holding up?"
"I can see just fine Nate," Vin complained. "Don't know if I can eat though."
Vin gingerly worked his jaw and decided it was all right. Buck hauled the slighter man to his feet and he swayed.
"Come on ,let's get you in a chair before you fall down," Chris said as he moved to his other side.
"I'm fine!" Vin protested. "You try being pulled up that fast after being hit and not swaying."
"Lunch is ready anyway," Josiah said. "So lets eat."
They all took seats around the patio. They noticed Ezra was missing and Josiah said that he went to get some ice for Vin. The undercover agent came out and handed Vin a small towel filled with ice. Vin thanked him and placed it on his jaw. They ate lunch, while talking and placing bets on the game that night. Buck could see JD was eager to give Chris his gift and finally gave in. JD dashed into the house. He ran back out a few minutes later carrying a box and handed it to Chris.
"Here ya go Chris," JD said excitedly. "It's from all of us."
"Go on, cowboy open it," Vin said just as excited.
"They way the both of you are carrying on, you'd think it was your birthday," Chris said.
He ripped the paper off the box and opened it. He pulled away the tissue to find an antique six shooter. The holster was black with silver studs along the holster and belt. Large silver Conchos ran along the middle of the belt and on the holster. The gun itself was a black revolver know as a "peace keeper". The handles were made of aged ivory.
"Thanks guys it's perfect," Chris said with a smile.
"Vin told us you were admiring it at the western antique store," JD said.
"Been spying on me again, cowboy?" Chris asked.
"So I did follow you down there one day," Vin admitted. "Ain't never been good at getting gifts for people."
They all just smiled at Vin. The others knew Vin had never had anybody to buy gifts for before he joined the team. Buck threw his arms around Vin's shoulder and told him exactly what he wanted for his birthday.
"What makes ya think I'm getting you anything for your birthday?" Vin asked.
"Because ya love me," Buck said wiggling his eyebrows.
"I ain't one of your lady friends to be falling for your animal magnetism," Vin said pushing him away.
They finished their lunch and sat around in companionable silence. That is until JD got restless. He started teasing Buck until he threatened to throw JD in the hot tub. JD evaded Buck and a chase began. Buck quickly gave up and returned to the others.
"Hey Vin, you want to play some catch?" JD asked eagerly.
"Sure JD," he smiled.
JD grabbed a baseball mitt and handed one to Vin. They moved away from the others and started throwing the ball back and forth.
"Anybody know when Vin's birthday is?" Chris asked out of the blue.
"I don't believe the subject has ever come up," Ezra pointed out.
"Now that Ezra mentions it, he's right," Nathan agreed. "You mean Vin's never told you?"
"Why do you want to know Chris?" Buck asked.
"Just wondering," Chris said vaguely.
Vin and JD continued their game while the others sat down to poker with Ezra. JD threw the ball back to Vin but threw it a little too high and it went over his head. The ball rolled towards the shed and underneath it.
"I'll get it," JD cried.
"I'm closer, I'll get it," Vin said as he trotted over to the shed.
He took off the glove and reached under the shed. He couldn't see the ball and patted the ground looking for it. Suddenly he heard the ominous sound of a rattle just before he felt the snake bite his left forearm.
"Shit!" Vin cursed as he pulled his arm out and fell back.
"What happened?" JD said as he ran over to Vin.
"Help me back up to the house," Vin said holding his arm. "Got bit by a rattler."
"CHRIS!" JD screamed as he helped Vin to his feet.
They all jumped at JD's scream and ran over to them.
"What happened?" Chris demanded.
"Got bit by a rattler," Vin answered.
"Quick lets get him in the house," Nathan instructed. "Ezra phone the hospital and tell them we're on our way. Tell them we need antivenom for a rattler."
"You sure it was a rattler?" Buck said.
"Yeah Buck, I'm sure," Vin said. "I know what they sound like."
Ezra went to the house and phoned the hospital. Nathan had them place Vin flat on the floor with his arm out next to him. He had Josiah get him the first aid kit. Buck grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch and placed it over Vin. Chris was pulled off his boots then loosened the button on his pants. When Josiah came back Nathan opened the kit and pulled out an ace bandage. He wrapped it around Vin's arm about three inches above the bite but didn't make it tight. He then splinted Vin's arm so he couldn't move it. Vin hissed in pain when Nathan moved his arm to splint it.
"Buck put down the back seat in the Cherokee," Nathan instructed. "We have to keep him flat."
When Nathan was finished they picked up Vin and carried him out to the SUV. Nathan and Chris climbed in the back and the helped get Vin into the SUV. Josiah drove and Buck took shotgun. Ezra and JD followed in his Jaguar. Josiah placed the light bar on the dash and started down the driveway. Fifteen minutes later they were on the highway leading back to Denver.
"How ya doing Vin?" Nathan asked.
"My arms tingling and I feel like I'm gonna throw up," Vin answered.
Nathan reached out and checked his pulse. He placed his fingers along Vin's neck. He didn't need to count to tell Vin's heart was starting to race.
"You feeling dizzy Vin?" Nathan said looking in his eyes.
"That's a silly question Nate," Buck smiled. "He's always dizzy."
The comment got the result Buck wanted. Vin gave a small laugh and said yeah he was feeling dizzy. Chris held Vin's other hand and gave it a squeeze. Nathan checked the bite to see if it was still bleeding. The bite marks were still dripping blood and Nathan replaced the bandage. By the time the pulled into the emergency area at the hospital Vin was breathing faster and cringed whenever someone touched him. The medical personnel met them at the Cherokee and helped get Vin out of the car and loaded on a stretcher.
"How's he doing?" asked the doctor.
"He's in a lot of pain, he's dizzy, pulse rate is high," Nathan began to list the symptoms. "He's chilled and thirsty."
"That's enough signs for me to start the antivenom treatment," he said. "I'm Doctor Gorman, poison specialist for the hospital. I pulled Mr. Tanner's files and saw he deals with horses, is that correct?"
"Yes why?" Chris asked in concern.
"Antivenom is a horse serum," he explained. "He's going to have an allergic reaction to it. This will just make the treatment a little more challenging. But don't worry I've dealt with it before. He's going to have to remain quiet so might I suggest one of you come into the treatment room with him."
"You go Chris," Buck said. "We'll wait out here."
Chris followed Dr. Gorman to one of the examining room. When they walked in they found Vin fighting with one of the nurses.
"What's the problem nurse?" the doctor asked.
"He won't let me put the catheter in," she answered.
"He really hates that," Chris smiled.
"Don't we all," the doctor agreed.
"Vin, you don't have a choice," Chris said touching his shoulder. "Now just be still."
"Aw hell," Vin cursed and blushed as the nurse inserted it.
"Mr. Tanner before we start you on the antivenom treatment we have to give you some antihistamines," the doctor moved to Vin's side and got started.
They drew blood and took a urine sample and rushed it down to the lab. After a few minutes Vin's blood pressure wasn't improving with the IV and he was given some more drugs. The doctor waited a little while longer to see if Vin's blood pressure improved. They hooked him up to a heart monitor and he read the results. Chris looked at Vin and grabbed a basin from off the counter just before he threw up.
"Well that's not going to help," Gorman smiled. "Vin I'm going to insert an NG tube alright. This is going to be a little unpleasant because I don't want you to have any water."
Vin endured the tube being put up his nose and down into his stomach but he threw up again after it was inserted. They got him cleaned up and settled back on the gurney. Gorman checked his blood pressure and wasn't happy with it. He decided to start a central line so he could push more fluids. Vin cried out in pain, as the large bore IV was insert in the vein on his neck. He left the smaller IV in his arm and would use that for the piggyback infusion of the serum. When he was satisfied Vin was ready he administered the first vial of antivenom.
"Now Mr. Tanner if you have any trouble breathing or feel short of breathe let me know immediately," the doctor instructed.
"Alright," Vin said. "But you might as well call me Vin. I'm guessing we're going to be here for awhile."
"Alright, Vin, and you're right we will be," he said.
"How much of that stuff will it take?" asked Chris.
"Depends on the individual," he answered. "Usually 10 -20 vials."
After the first vial was finished they added another and he removed the ace bandage Nathan had wrapped around his arm. The swelling appeared to have stopped but Vin's arm was twice its normal size and looked painful. The doctor instructed the nurse to raise it to try to bring down the swelling. Now that the antivenom was being administered they could raise the affected limb above his heart. The doctor needed to push the first five vials in the first hour. He was just injecting the third one when Vin began to panic.
"Easy, Vin," Chris said and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"I was afraid of this," he said when he saw Vin was having trouble breathing.
He stopped the antivenom and gave Vin a shot of epinephrine. Vin's breathing got easier and he placed an oxygen mask over Vin's nose and mouth. He started up the antivenom again but at a slower rate. Vin lay spent on the gurney. Vin turned toward Chris to make sure he was still there.
"I'm still here," Chris said pushing the hair out of his eyes. "Feeling nauseous again?"
Vin nodded and the nurse hooked the NG tube to suction.
"So doc what happens now?" Chris asked.
"Now we just have to go slow watching his reaction and dealing with what happens," he answered. "It's going to be awhile. Should I tell your friends to go home?"
"They won't go," he smiled.
Four hours later Chris walked out to the waiting room. Ezra spotted him first and stood up.
"Well?" he asked.
"He's not out of the woods yet," Chris said. "They got the first five vials of antivenom into him. He finally stopped having an allergic reaction to it and so now they're going to move him up to ICU to continue the treatment."
"How many more vials does he have to go?" JD asked.
"Any where from 10 -20 it all depends on how he reacts to it," Chris answered.
"And we all know what a model patient Mr. Tanner is," Ezra smirked.
"Yeah he'll probably need all 20," Buck commented.
"How's he doing though?" Nathan asked.
"He was awake in the beginning but now he keeps drifting in and out," Chris said. "He's still nauseous."
"In other words miserable," Josiah smiled.
"Yup," Chris said returning the smile.
They saw the orderlies pushing Vin's bed out of the room. The doctor stopped them so the others could see him. They crowded around the bed and looked at him.
"Hey guys," Vin smiled.
"Hey yourself," Buck said. "How do you feel?"
"Don't say it!" Ezra yelled.
"OK I won't," Vin said giving him a lopsided grin.
"But how do you feel really?" Nathan asked.
"Sleepy," he answered with a sigh.
"OK gentlemen that's enough," Dr. Gorman said. "We have to get him up stairs."
"Wait!" Vin cried. "Chris?"
"Yeah, Cowboy," he said.
"Sorry I messed up your Birthday party," Vin said.
"It's alright Vin," Chris said. "Not like you did it on purpose."
"Besides, Junior, it will give us an excuse to have another one next weekend," Buck beamed.
The orderlies pushed him towards the elevator. They watched until the doors closed then they turned to Chris.
"What now?" JD asked.
"Well Vin kicked me out," Chris said. "Told me to go have a drink or something on him. I am sort of hungry."
"Fine," Ezra said. "We shall go drink a toast to Mr. Tanner's health."
"Sounds good to me" Buck agreed as he herded them towards the doors.
Forty-eight hours later Vin was being released from the hospital. The whole crew left work early on Monday to pick him up. When the got to Vin's room they already found him dressed and ready to go. He was sitting on the bed waiting for them. The only evidence of his ordeal was the sling holding his left arm and the large black and blue mark on the side of his neck.
"It's about time you got here!" he complained.
"Well that's gratitude," Buck said putting his hands on his hips. "Better behave, Junior, or you'll be staying with me and JD."
"Which is a fate worse than death," Ezra added.
"Don't I know it," Vin smiled.
"Hey!" JD said indignantly.
"Well I see the gangs all here," Dr. Gorman said as he walked in.
"Hey doc," Vin said. "Can I go now?"
"Yes, Mr. Tanner, you can," he smiled. "He's been pestering the nursing staff all day."
"Is there anything I should watch for?" Chris asked.
"He'll just be tired," the doctor answered. "I want him to take it easy for a few days."
"Vin?" JD laughed "Yeah right."
Vin and Buck both cuffed JD on the back of the head. Vin shook the doctor's hand before he left. He reminded Vin to come back in three days so he could check his arm. After that the nurse arrived with the wheel chair and they were ready to go. They rode out to Chris's ranch and had dinner. After dinner they sat around watching movies. Vin ended up falling asleep through the first one. Buck grabbed a blanket and threw it over him.
"Gentlemen I'd like to propose a toast," Chris said. "To the greatest gift."
"And that would be?" Ezra inquired.
"I'll drink to that," Buck said.
The others followed his example and then they all gave Vin a silent toast as well. The sharpshooter slept on oblivious to them, safe in the knowledge that he had friends that would watch over him.