Buck sauntered into the room carrying a small bag holding Chris's stuff. The soreness in his beaten muscles was increasing but he refused to acknowledge it, though he knew the next morning it would be hell to move. He passed the first bed in the room and rounded the end of the curtain hanging between but stopped dead at the foot of the second, any remnant of a smile on his face wilting away.

Chris, though still sitting in a chair, was leaning forward over the edge of the bed and was gently patting his hand on Vin's chest while Vin shifted uncomfortably.

"What's wrong? He having a relapse?" Buck asked as he moved up to the other side of the bed.

Chris looked up at him. "Not really. The doctor thinks that Vin just got so tired earlier that he didn't have the energy to react to the pain, but now that he's gotten a little rest, it's bothering him again. It's not nearly as bad as it was earlier, though."

"They have any idea how much longer it's gonna last?"

Chris shrugged. "They take blood samples about every hour. Say the toxin levels are still dropping but they're dropping a lot slower now than they were at first. The doctor told me that if it keeps up at the current rate, it'll be tomorrow afternoon before it's worked its way out."

Buck shook his head. "And he has to suffer all that time?" he questioned, raising his voice slightly. "Haven't they found anything that'll help?"

"They have tried a few things but they're afraid of OD-ing him on painkillers. Even though they aren't stopping the pain, they are still in his system. They're checking those levels too and when they get down to certain levels, they'll try something else."

Chris sounded like he knew what he was talking about. Buck was confident that Chris had grilled the staff mercilessly trying to get information on and action taken to help his friend.

Chris turned his attention back to the man in the bed. "He said my name, Buck."

"Huh?" Buck was a little thrown by the softer tone and the change of subject.

Chris repeated his words.

"Well, that's great, isn't it?" Buck was a little surprised Chris didn't seem happier about that. "Means he's back to normal, right?"

Again, Chris shrugged. "I hope so."

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

There was only a dim light coming into the room from somewhere Vin couldn't pinpoint when he opened his eyes. He moved his gaze around the room and could tell right away that he was in a hospital. For a moment, he felt his heart race as he thought he was back alone in the hospital he was in before Chris showed up. He wondered if he had just dreamed it all. Slowly, he moved his head around, noticing that the room looked different than what he remembered.

Finally, his eyes fell on Chris slumped asleep in a chair beside his bed. The way Chris looked, Vin wondered if the right person was in the bed but, as he lifted his head to get a better view, he knew that at least he belonged in one as his head started to pound. He quickly lowered it and took a few deep breaths. The pain seemed to ebb and he relaxed.

After the pain in his head, he was a little leery to find out if anything else hurt so he tried to focus his mind on something...anything...else. He looked at the window but all he saw was black. Must be nighttime. There wasn't much else to look at in the room so he contented himself with watching Chris sleep as he waited for sleep to claim him again.

Silently, a nurse entered the room and stepped up to the side of the bed. She was a little surprised to see Vin awake and smiled sweetly at him.

"Well, hello," she whispered, then glanced over at Chris, hoping she didn't wake him up. Chris remained slumped down in his chair. "How're you feeling?" she asked as she wrapped a rubber strap around his upper arm. Vin knew what that meant. Time for another blood sample.

He watched her perform her task, watched as the needle slid under his skin, watched as his blood flowed into a small glass tube and watched her pull the needle out. When she was done, she put some cotton over the wound and folded his arm up.

"Hold that there for about ten minutes."

Vin wrinkled his brow at her, not knowing what she had said. She smiled as she patted his arm and then turned to leave the room, taking another look at Chris.

Vin stared at his bent arm for a moment then took a deep breath and sighed.

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

Dawn was just breaking when Vin woke up again. He looked around and saw that Chris was still asleep in the chair, though he did seem to have changed positions. He tried to shift his position in the bed but froze and winced as each movement sent tiny pinpricks of pain in all directions. It wasn't anything compared to the pain of the day before but it was still uncomfortable and Vin would have just as soon not felt it.

He realized that if he moved slowly and just one part of his body at a time, that it was bearable. He took his time and was able to move around into a different position. He knew he'd been lying down for a long time because his back was starting to ache.

Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming pressure in his bladder and knew he had to go to the bathroom. The feeling was so urgent that it surprised him that he had just now noticed it. He didn't know if he'd be able to make it to the bathroom, wherever that was. He shifted around again and tried to gauge whether he'd even be able to stand up. That only triggered the pain again and he sucked in a breath as he pressed his legs together. He looked over to his friend in the chair and wondered if he could wake him up to help. He opened his mouth to try and force out a sound but nothing came forth. Next, he looked to see if anything was in reach that he could throw at the man but there was nothing.

Vin gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut as he pressed his legs harder. He hated this. He was a grown man and he was about to wet the bed. Tears of humiliation began leaking out from his tightly shut eyes and Vin did nothing to stop them.

"Vin?" Vin recognized Josiah's low voice and opened his eyes to his friend. Josiah had taken great care in coming in and not waking up Chris but as soon as he saw the distress on Vin's face, all those concerns were forgotten. Chris was awake instantly at Josiah's word and sprung up to the side of the bed.

"What's wrong?" he asked, wiping the sleep out of his eyes.

Josiah took in Vin's posture, noticing his legs were tightly pressed together and guessed. "Looks to me like he has to go to the bathroom." He looked around the room for a moment. "Is there a bedpan here?"

"He can't have to go to the bathroom. He has a catheter in."

Josiah nodded his head in realization. "Well, that's why he feels like he has to go. Those things should be declared cruel and unusual punishment."

Chris turned curious eyes on Josiah as his friend began poking around the end of the bed. "Why is that?"

Josiah stopped, straightened up and stared at Chris a moment. "You've obviously never had one." He smiled and pointed at Vin. "Try and get him to look down here."

Chris did as Josiah asked and both he and Vin saw the big man pull a clear plastic bag into view. The bag was half full of a yellowish liquid and had a tube running from the top. Josiah pulled gently on the tube and eventually, Vin felt the tug on his body. His eyes grew wide with the sensation but he knew what his friends were telling him. He'd had one of these before. He made himself relax and tried to ignore the feeling. Taking a deep breath, he looked over at Chris.

Chris tipped his head forward a bit and raised his eyebrows. "Okay now?" he asked. Vin stared at him with sad eyes, the same sad eyes that had been staring at him all week. Chris felt a catch in his throat as he gently rubbed his thumb against Vin's cheek. Not only did watching Vin have to go through this break his heart, he also knew that it was not over. Maybe he had imagined Vin saying his name the day before. But Chris could tell that Vin still couldn't understand what was being said.

"I brought breakfast," Josiah broke into Chris's thoughts, raising up a bag. He placed it on the table and pulled out two cups of coffee and two large bagels along with a few packets of cream cheese. He spent a few seconds arranging the items on the table, then stopped and looked up at Chris. "Are they gonna feed him?" he asked pointing towards Vin. " 'Cause if not, he can have one of these bagels and I can go pick up something else."

"I imagine they'll give him something. He didn't get anything last night and..." Chris paused as he searched his mind for the last meal Vin had had. "I don't think he's had anything since night before last. He's gotta be hungry."

Breakfast did come for Vin. Chris raised the head of the bed but Vin made no move to eat. He didn't refuse it, however, when Chris started to feed him, though he ate slowly. He kept his eyes low, not looking at either man in the room as he ate.

The doctor came in just as Vin was finishing his meal. Chris and Josiah looked at him expectantly while Vin rolled his head slightly to the side and slowly looked up.

"So, how's he doing?" Chris asked, referring to the blood work.

The doctor looked down at the chart he was carrying. "The latest results look pretty good. The toxin levels are a lot lower than I would have expected them to be." He looked down at Vin. Reaching over, he checked Vin's pulse on his neck and then moved his stethoscope to Vin's chest to listen.

"I think he'd feel a lot better if he could lose the catheter," Josiah spoke softly from the end of the bed.

The doctor glanced at Josiah, down at his chart, at the IV bag and then stepped to the end of the bed to check the output from the catheter. "I think we can manage that," he said finally. "I'll sent one of the nurses in to take it out in just a few minutes." He looked up at Vin's face and noticed that he looked pale and tired. He then addressed Chris. "How is he feeling ? Can you tell ?" he asked, knowing he couldn't ask Vin.

Chris looked over at Vin and was finally able to make eye contact with his friend. "He feels pretty bad," Chris told him.

The doctor nodded. "Yeah, I kinda guessed he might. His body's been through a lot. We may be able to try the pain killers again, see if they don't help him now." He marked something down on his chart and then told them he would check back in a little while and left the room.

A few moments later, a nurse entered with the supplies needed to remove the catheter. She had Chris and Josiah wait in the hallway as she worked. As they waited, Chris thought seriously about going off and finding out what room Perkins was in and paying him a visit. Maybe rubbing a little salt in his wound. Josiah instinctively knew what was crossing Chris's mind.

"That won't help Vin, my friend," he said sagely.

Chris turned startled eyes on him. He was usually able to kept his expression neutral. After a moment, he smiled wearily at Josiah. "Yeah, you're right, but it'll sure make me feel a whole hellova lot better."

When the nurse exited the room, the two men went back in and noticed Vin looking a lot more comfortable. He actually attempted a weak smile at his friends as they sat on with either side of the bed. A moment later, a different nurse came in with a syringe that she told them was the painkiller and she injected it into the IV tubing. Vin had looked worriedly at the syringe for a moment, past experience getting the better of him, until he felt the relief that it instantly provided him. It felt like a warm wave that flowed over him as the pain of moving, along with the constant background pain that he wasn't really even aware of, were washed away and replaced with pleasant numbness. Vin relaxed visibly and slowly closed his eyes. Chris smiled as he watched his friend fall asleep in front of him, then he looked over at Josiah.

"If you'd like to take a break, I can stay here for a while." He nodded his head towards Vin. "My guess is he'll be asleep for a time."

Chris nodded absently, looking back at Vin and then down at his watch. "Yeah, I guess I could stand to stretch my legs a little. Maybe go over to Buck and JD's, grab a shower. They should be up by now." After one last look at Vin, Chris stood up, grabbed his bag and headed out. Josiah pulled a small book out of his shirt pocket, moved to the chair beside the bed and opened it up to read.