Two hours. Two long, excruciating hours Chris sat and watched as Vin suffered. He'd squirm around in the bed, trying to move away from the pain, whimpering at it, and Chris could do nothing for him. And the doctors could do nothing for him, so they said. Something about the make-up of the drug was designed to maximize the pain and inhibit any pain medications. They had tried. They'd given him several different things but nothing helped

Blood samples had been taken periodically and the doctor did report that the toxin level in Vin's system was decreasing. Chris was happy about that, just wished it'd go faster.

Finally, slowly, Vin began to quiet. His breathing became slower, deeper and at times he almost appeared asleep. Chris stayed by his side, talking softly to him, touching him, making sure he knew he was not alone.

******* ******* *******

Buck peeked his head around a curtain. He didn't want to disturb his friends but wanted to know how Vin was. Chris smiled sadly when he saw him and Buck stepped up beside the bed.

"How's he doing?" he asked, mouthing the words more than saying them.

"Finally starting to rest," Chris replied, though as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Vin jerked a leg and groaned.

"Hey, he's making noise now."

"Yeah," Chris acknowledged, turning his eyes back to watch Vin. "He actually started that during that nightmare he had last night."

"Think that's a sign that this is almost over? That he'll be talking again soon?"

Chris shrugged. "I hope so."

Buck finally noticed how wiped-out Chris sounded and began studying him closely. He was looking so closely that he didn't notice the nurse who had entered the area until she placed a hand on his arm and tried to move him out of her way.

"Excuse me, sir. I need to get another sample," she smiled as she stepped up to the side of the bed and began readying Vin's arm to have a blood sample drawn. Buck wrinkled his nose and moved around to the other side of the bed, next to Chris. He really didn't want to watch her draw blood.

He looked down at Chris and for the first time saw the small trail of blood going down the side of his neck. He raised a finger to move Chris's hair out of the way to get a better view.

"You hurt, Chris?"

The nurse perked up. "Mr. Larabee?"

Chris ducked his head away from Buck's probing fingers. "I'm fine, Buck. Knock it off."

"You're bleeding."

"It was. It stopped a long time ago. I'm fine."

"Maybe you ought to let them look you over."

Chris turned his evil stare on Buck.

The nurse completed her task and then moved around to the other side of the bed. She immediately saw the trail of blood and moved closer to examine the area.

"Mr. Larabee, a head injury is nothing to ignore. We really should check it out."

Chris kept angry eyes on Buck. "What about you? I seem to remember you flat on the floor."

"I've already been checked out. Been x-rayed, CAT scanned, probed, prodded and poked. I'm fine." Buck smiled, knowing Chris had no more excuses.

Chris turned his head back to Vin and gently rubbed his arm. "I ain't leaving," he said softly.

Buck should have guessed that right off. It wasn't the 'seeing the doctor' part that he objected to. It was the 'leaving Vin alone' part. He moved up behind Chris and placed a friendly hand on his shoulder.

"I'll stay with Vin. You go get yourself taken care of or you'll be in worse shape than he is."

Chris thought about that. It was probably the only reasoning that would have worked. He had to be healthy in order to be there for Vin. He turned back to Buck who nodded his head and gently coaxed him out of the chair he had occupied for hours now. Buck took the seat and focused himself on the man in the bed. The nurse led Chris out of the area into another examination room.

With the exception of the ATF team, it had been a slow day in the emergency room. Perkins had been tended to and was now in surgery having the bullet removed. He would then be put into a room, heavily guarded, no visitors allowed, until he was healthy enough to go to jail.

The rest of the members of the team were gathered in the waiting area. Two were on their cell phones, all were eager to hear news on their friends. The nurses had passed on some information but they were waiting to get it from the horse's mouth. They all jumped up when Chris entered.

"How is he?"

"How are you?"

"He gonna be okay?"

Chris was amazed that he managed to understand anything as all four men spoke at once. He held up his hand to quiet them.

"Vin's getting better. Whatever Perkins gave him is slowly working its way out of his system."

"What about you?" Nathan asked, pointing to the small bandage peeking out from under his hairline.

"Oh," Chris began, turning back to look angrily at the room he had just been in. "I'm fine. Had a little bump and it had stopped bleeding on its own but once they started poking at it, 'cleaning it', it started bleeding again so then they decide it needed stitches." Chris shook his head. "Should have just left well enough alone."

"Is Buck still back there?" JD asked.

"Yeah. He's with Vin, making sure he's comfortable...well comfortable as he can be."

"Mr. Larabee?" a voice spoke from behind him. Chris turned to see the doctor standing there. "We've gotten the latest results of Mr. Tanner's blood work. The toxin seems to have leveled off. There isn't much of a change since the last test. We'd like to keep him overnight, make sure his system's able to flush enough of this out before we send him home."

Chris only thought a moment about it before he was nodding his agreement. The safe house hadn't turned out to be so safe. The hospital was probably one of the safest places for Vin to be.

The doctor nodded back. "I'll start making the arrangements to get him moved up to a room." He turned and headed down the hall. Chris turned back to his team.

"Guess you'll be spending the night here too?" Josiah asked, though they all knew the answer. "You need us to bring you anything?"

Chris smiled and shrugged. "Usual" Chris didn't know why he felt like he could joke. Things weren't anywhere near settled down yet. Just needed to release some pent up frustrations, he guessed.

******* ******* *******

Chris stood off to the side as Vin was settled into a regular hospital bed in a semi-private room. Luckily, there was no one occupying the other bed.

Vin had lost an IV but gained a catheter, something Chris knew he'd love. He was still conscious but the pain and energy expended to ride it out had left him exhausted. He opened his eyes occasionally during the move but simply looked around vaguely until his lids fell closed again. Chris hated seeing his friend like that and knew that, this time, it really was his fault. He should have let someone check his stuff before he got it out of his truck. He didn't even check the vehicle to see if it had been broken into. After the tracking device had been found, he'd had the agency check his truck and they found telltale evidence that someone had forced their way in.

Chris glanced down at his watch. Almost five o'clock. It felt like it should be later. He looked out the window and could see the Friday afternoon rush hour gaining momentum down in the city streets. He found himself almost wishing for the normalcy of a nine-to-five job. Taking a deep breath, he turned his attention back to the room. The last remaining nurse was making her final adjustments on the IV line and on Vin's bedding before turning and, with a smile to Chris, left the room.

Chris stepped up slowly to the side of the bed. Vin was lying with his eyes closed but Chris didn't think he was asleep. His breathing was a little too erratic and there was the occasional twitch of muscles as a spasm of pain would hit. The drug hadn't completely let go yet.

Chris stood silently, unmoving for several minutes, just watching. This was his co-worker, teammate, closest friend...hell, probably the closest friend he'd ever had...and he couldn't do anything to help him. Only one other time in his life had he felt so helpless...when his wife and son had been killed. His eyes got a faraway look in them as his mind drifted back to that time in his life. The feeling of complete lack of control that he'd hoped he'd never feel again.

"Chris ?" a weak voice called him. Chris shook himself out of his reverie and looked down at the bed. Vin was staring at him with sleepy eyes. Chris reached out with one hand and cupped Vin's fingers and wrapped the other hand around to the side of Vin's head. He leaned forward.

"Right here, Vin. Just relax, you're going to be fine," he said comfortingly, rubbing his thumb gently on Vin's temple.

Vin wrinkled his brow as he watched Chris's mouth move, then, slowly, his eyes drifted closed. It wasn't until Vin had fallen asleep that Chris realized what he had heard.

"You talked, Vin," he marveled quietly, continuing to stroke Vin's temple. His mind started toying with the idea that maybe this whole thing was almost over, but the practical side of him held back, reminding him things weren't always as they seemed. He pulled up the chair that stood by the wall and sat down.