Black Widow

by Deirdre

Part 28

Chris eyed the terrain far below through high-intensity binoculars. The pilot deftly maneuvered the aircraft, while the ATF leader scanned the brush, rocks and vista of the Sonorran Desert. He swung his gaze from left to right and back again. Then he froze on an image.

"Drop 'er down a bit," He hollered. Upon closer inspection, it was a group of bodies, presumably dead. All looked to be aliens seeking refuge except one. As the helicopter swooped downward, Chris's heart sank. "Put 'er down, one of my men is down there."

"How can you be sure?" The pilot shouted.

"How many border jumpers you know who wear Armani?" Chris hollered, taking off the headgear and twisting towards the door. Once the aircraft landed, Chris bolted towards the prone figure in pale gray.

"Ezra...Ezra..." He shouted, dropping to Standish's side and turning him over. "Shit..." He turned back to the pilot. "Call for a Medivac and get me a First Aid Kit!" His fingers felt a thready pulse and took in the shallow breathing. The left side of the shirt was soaked in blood. Chris tore the tail of the shirt off and slid his hand under the silk and pressed hard, trying to stem the flow. This motion caused an audible cry and two pale green eyes blinked up at him. Chris lifted him up and took the canteen from the pilot. The Conman was trying hard to focus on him.

Ezra felt a sharp pain and forced his eyes open. He blinked several times and felt someone lifting him and urging him to drink. He took a long swallow of cold water and tried to force his head back to see where he was.

"Don't move around, Ezra, there's a bullet in you." Chris ordered, holding Ezra while the pilot flushed the wound with an antibacterial wash and bandaged it.

"ETA's ten minutes on the chopper." The pilot reported, "I'll call headquarters." He took the kit with him and trotted back to the aircraft.

Ezra finally found the name for the voice; he opened his eyes and looked up at the fair-haired man. "Mr. Lar..a..a.b..bee?..." He saw the head nod and started to sit up. The pain slammed into him as did a wave of dizziness.

"Right here, Ez...Quit movin' around, you're making it worse." He said harshly. "Ezra where's Vin?"

"Oh God...Mr. Tanner..." Ezra whispered, eyes darting and finally focusing upwards on Chris. "We were so close...those desert hoodlums attacked us...I tried...Mr...Chris..." He gasped, "too many..." He paused, coughing. Chris lifted his head and gave him another drink. As he did so, he eyed the half dozen dead bodies littering the desert.

"You were outnumbered six to one, Ez, you did fine. What happened to Vin?"

"...shot me...pulled from car...took him away...gray van...heading north..northeast...Vin's in dark blue pajama's...passing blood..." He paused, and felt Chris gripping his hand. "They hurt him...drugged me...made me watch...I didn't know...swear...didn't...didn't..."

Chris saw the raw anguish in Standish's mournful eyes and bent over, placing his face directly in front of the Southerner's. "I know that Ezra," He reassured, tightening his grip, "and so does Vin. We found the tape. Were Carlino and that bitch with you this morning? Did they ice that guard?" He saw Ezra nod and the pale lips moved again.

"No time...thought Vin dying...had to go back..." Ezra gasped, looking at Chris hard, " close...I promised him..keep safe...stay with him...I promised...I'm sorry Vin...I prom..."

"Ezra look at me," Chris ordering, turning the distraught face towards him. "You saved his life and damn near died doing it. Vin knows that...and I know that." Chris said thickly, "You make sure the first rounds on him when we get you two home, okay?"

"...can't apertif's..." Ezra slurred.

Chris saw the Medivac unit land. "Your ride's here, Ezra. I'll see you at the hospital later."

"...they hurt him, Chris..." Ezra pained as his eyes drooped.

"They're gonna pay, Ezra, you got my word." Chris spat hotly.

Chris moved out of the way and let the Medic's tend to the patient. "Where you taking him?" he inquired.

"University Medical Center in Tucson." The Medic said over his shoulder. He felt Chris's eyes on him and turned again. "He's doing fine. We'll take it from here."

"I'd like one of my men to ride in with him. They're patrolling the border. Can you pick one of them up?" Chris asked.

"Yeah, we can put down at Sector Seven."

"Thanks, I'll update you."

Chris found the pilot laid a map out on the seat and had drawn a triangle within the range Ezra specified. He picked up the radio and pressed the call button.

"Baker 215 and Baker 340, copy?" Chris paused and then repeated himself. "Baker 215 and Baker 340, Code Red, copy?"

"Baker 215, Go." Josiah replied.

"Baker 340, Go" Nathan answered.

"Ezra's on his way to University Medical Center in Tucson. He's got a bullet in his shoulder. The Medivac can land at Sector Seven. I want one of you with him at all times. Who's closer?"

"Copy that Boss," Josiah replied, "We're approaching Seven now. I'll wait for the chopper."

"Ezra said Vin's in a gray van headed northeast. He's wearing dark blue pajamas. We'll push from here, Buck you head south from where you're at, Baker 340 what's your position?"

"We're closing in on Sector Eight, suggest we head south and triangulate." J.D. offered.

"Let's do it!" Chris replied.

"Roger that, Baker 215 out," Josiah answered.

"Roger, Baker 340 out." J.D. said

Chris scanned the area below him and spotted a vehicle. "Drop 'er down." He commanded. Peering through the binoculars, he observed the van nearing the border. He scanned the horizon and saw both patrol vehicles about a mile north.

"Baker 215, Baker 340, the van's headed your way. You should sight him soon. Copy?"

"Roger, Boss, I see it," Buck replied.

"Roger, Got 'im." J.D. shouted.

The chopper swooped down and hovered in front of the vehicle, forcing it to stop. Chris drew his weapon and waited until the other cars were behind the van. He heard Buck's voice on the loud speaker, ordering them to stop and toss out their weapons.

" Pare... el tiro fuera de sus armas."

Chris dropped out of the helicopter as the gun was tossed from the window. He saw J.D., Nathan and Buck covering him. The would be border jumpers spilled out of the car. J.D and Nathan ordered them to lie flat, belly down, arms extended. Chris and Buck stuck their heads in the car, but Vin wasn't there.

"Son of a bitch..." Chris swore and pulled the nearest man to his feet, slamming him against the car.


"No entiendo" the man gasped, shrugging.

"You understand this, you fuckin' Mexican cockroach!" Chris screamed, sticking his gun under the man's chin. "You tell me where he is or I'll blow your lyin' head off. WHERE IS HE?"

"No tire por favor. Le diré." The alien squirmed, pleading.

"You got three seconds. One...Two..." Chris's eyes bulged and he snarled as he pulled the hammer back.

"Él está vivo..parte posteriora allí en la roca" The man yelped covering his head.

"What rocks?" Chris demanded, "How far back?"

"Racimo no lejano de,a, usted verá"

"You left him out there to die?" Chris raged, intensifying his choke hold and watching the coward struggle to breathe. "I ought to shoot you anyway..." Chris said slamming the gun against the man's head.

"Cuff these bastards to the van." Chris ordered and glared at the squirming prisoners. "If I don't find him, I'll be back to finish this." He warned the prisoners. "J.D. you ride with the chopper." Chris directed, "I'm with Buck, we'll head directly south, Nate you stay behind us and a bit east."

They were only en route a matter of minutes when they saw a cluster of rocks ahead. J.D.'s voice intercepted them as they increased their speed. "I see him...he's at ten o’clock from you Buck, just beyond the rocks."

Chris was out of the car before Buck put it in park . He scrambled across the rocks, shouting Vin's name and raced to his side. The younger man was lying face down, soaked in sweat. Chris held his breath as his shaking fingers sought a pulse. He sighed visibly in relief and sank back on his heels.

"Thank God..." He murmured, rolling the unconscious man over. Buck appeared and flanked Vin's other side, armed with a water bottle and a tee shirt.

"He's alive." Chris answered the silent question riddling Buck's worried features. Buck let out a breath and dropped his head. Chris leaned over and gave the downcast agent's shoulder a hardy squeeze.

"Hold him up, Chris," Buck recovered, "We'll get him cooled off."

Chris gently lifted Vin's upper body and eased it back against his. Vin's wet head rested against Chris's left shoulder. Buck ripped the tee shirt in half and soaked it. He gently wiped Vin's face and neck. A moan escaped and the eyes twitched. The head moved slightly and the brow furrowed.

"Vin? Can you hear me?" Chris asked, tapping the bruised face. "I got some water for ya, here." He placed the nozzle of the bottle against Vin's slack lips.

Vin felt the change immediately. The cold water on his face...the gentle touch and soothing voice. It was a new voice...he knew that voice. 'Trust' the message flashed. The voice beckoned again and he drank, as ordered. A word formed in his mind and he moved his lips, even before he realized the impact.

"Chris?" the croak sounded.

"Yeah, it's me cowboy. I got you. You're gonna be fine." Chris spoke softly in Vin's ear and held him tighter.

Vin was prodded to drink again and the word 'cowboy' echoed in his head. A picture formed. A blond man with piercing green eyes. Chris...the name and face melded. He felt his shattered insides warming. The strong arms that held him now became so much more.

"Cowboy..." he grumbled.

Buck smiled as the injured man's face scowled and one eye peeled open and glared at both of them.

"...'bout fuckin' time..." He rasped, giving them both a chuckle.

"Now that's gratitude for you." Buck complained, leaning in and wiping Vin's face. "Come halfway through a desert risking life and limb and not so much as a 'Hey, Bucklin, How are ya?"

Vin took several short breaths and blinked rapidly trying to make Buck's fuzzy face clearer. "...hell are ya...Buck?" he rasped, squinting and eyeing the blurry face that drew closer; tossing a weak fist at Buck's chest, "...f..f..fuck y'all Buc..klin..."

"Now I have missed my traditional morning greeting." Buck chuckled, as Vin grasped his hand and stared at him. One eye was colored with bruises and swollen shut, but the other one was full of emotion. "Good to see you too, Junior." He choked, squeezing the hand.

"NATHAN!" Chris screamed, causing the fevered man to jump.

"...wakin' the dead..." Vin coughed, glaring at his best friend.

"Sorry." Chris tossed, moving to shade Vin from the sun. He felt the younger man staring at him. He hoped Vin didn't feel the nerves jumping around inside. His eyes flicked from Vin's to where Buck disappeared.

"NATHAN...WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?" He shouted, then felt a tug on his shirt. He looked down and saw Vin's worried look.

"...ya need a drink, Cow...boy" Vin wheezed.

"Somebody polished off my tequila..." He grinned, and was rewarded with a weak smile.

"...reckon I'm worth it..." Vin coughed, gripping Chris's hand as pain racked through him. He shut his eyes and tried to control his breathing. He heard Chris's voice near his ear, low and reassuring. Where was the other voice? An image of someone caring for him flashed quickly. Where was he? Another image, darker and terrifying crept by. An angry mod, screaming and a shot.

"Oh God...Oh God..." Vin rasped, trying to break the vise-like grip he friend held him in.

"Calm down, Vin!" Chris said sharply.

Vin started to panic. Something was wrong, something important. His head was pounding and the faces were getting harder to see. His heavy eyes were sliding shut. He couldn't sleep now. He had to go somewhere. He struggled to rise and a sharp pain lanced through his back.

"Ahhhh...." He screamed, clawing at someone's chest.

"Take it easy, Vin." Chris gripped him as Nathan dropped by his side.

"...hurts Chris...hurts bad..." Vin pleaded, blinking up at his best friend.

"I know Vin..." Chris managed, trying hard to control his voice.

"Vin, Where does it hurt the most?" Nate asked, after taking his pulse and respiration.

"Back...head...feet..." Vin coughed and cried out squeezing Chris's hand for all it was worth.

"Please..." He begged Chris, as his eyes slid shut.

"Roll him over a little towards you, Chris." Nate asked, lifting Vin's shirt and grimacing at the bruises on his back.

Chris saw Nate's face and heard the sharp intake of Buck, who was standing behind the dark-skinned healer. The taller man walked away, rubbing his eyes. "What?" Chris asked, crooking his head to see.

"Kidneys ..." Nate answered, nodding to the crimson stained puddle under Vin. "I hope it's just bruised. Let's get him outta here. You ride with him in the chopper. We'll follow in the car."

Several minutes later they were airborne. Chris was on the floor of the chopper with Vin sitting in front of him, resting against his chest. He laid his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. He let a weary sigh escape and felt a cold fear, realizing how close he'd come to losing Vin. He felt the body in front on him shift and moan; Vin began to tense up and tremble; the frantic breathing told the blond Vin was reliving part of the nightmare. He pulled him closer, rocking him side to side slightly. He spoke softly in Vin's ear and relaxed a bit, as the tension left and the ragged breathing replaced the moans.

"He won't hurt you again, Vin" Chris promised, "He's gonna die by inches...I'll be there to send him to hell."

Part 29

Light. Bright light. Blinding and causing him to blink. For some reason, he couldn't move his hand to shield his eyes. He felt something covering his nose and mouth and started to panic. His heart began to race and it was then he felt the intense pain. Someone was talking. Were they talking to him?

"...Standish...hear...take it easy..."

Ezra tried to respond, but his tongue wouldn't work. He managed to turn his head painfully and saw a nurse, blurry, but a nurse none the less. Confusion reigned and his muddled face led way to another voice. Unmistakably male and heavy with an oriental accent. He blinked at a white smock, splattered with blood. His blood? He couldn't see the face of the speaker and the voice was getting further away. He felt a small, featherlight touch on his face and turned. It was the nurse again.

"We're taking you to surgery now, Mr. Standish, to take that bullet from your shoulder. You're going to be fine."

Bullet? He tried to remember a shooting incident, but everything was hazy. He felt motion and realized the gurney was moving. The bright lights moved overhead and caused his eyes to become more leaden. The gurney stopped and deep voice boomed overhead. He felt a strong grip on his hand. The voice was familiar and he forced his eyes open.

"You beat the devil again, Brother Standish." Josiah grinned, hiding his concern at the Conman's pale face. He saw Ezra's confusion and tried to reassure the troubled green eyes. "You got a little lead in your wing, the doctor's gonna take it out. I'll be here when you wake up."

"Where..." Ezra managed to gasp through the oxygen mask.

"I'm sorry, we have to go now." The nurse gently tapped Josiah's arm

"Okay." He nodded and bent down, trying to pry Ezra's hand away. "Tucson, Ez, in the hospital. God's traveling with you, Brother. I'll see you later."

The gurney was moving again and the lights made his head hurt. He slid his eyes shut and everything began to slow down. He could hear the sound of his shallow breaths drawing in and out. His heart sounded like a drum. A black circle closed in and took him away. Just before he surrendered, he remembered. His lips tried to form the word the spelled the image in his head. Vin.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah watched the doors to the hall leading to the surgical wing close and slumped into a chair. He resumed the prayers he'd been saying for the safe return of Vin Tanner. His cell phone rang and he took it out of his pocket. He stared at it for a second, almost afraid of the message. He flipped it open and heard Nathan's voice.

"Lost lamb number two is on his way to sick bay," Nate exclaimed.

"Thank God," Josiah sighed, rubbing his head. "How's he doing, Nate?"

"All things considered, not bad." Nate admitted, "He's looks awful, covered in bruises and cuts. But I didn't see anything life threatening. He's running a pretty high fever, bruised kidneys most likely, and got a mess of congestion in him. Chris is flying in with him. They should be in the ER in about six or seven minutes. How's Ezra?"

"They just took him to surgery. He was really out of it. I gotta tell you Nate, he had me worried. They had to put a lot of blood in him. He's listed as critical but guarded."


"How's our omnipotent team leader?" Josiah inquired, knowing how deeply Chris's feeling ran towards Vin.

"I'm not sure." Nate admitted, "I think maybe he's going through the calm before the storm. I'll tell you what," Nate's voice got louder, "I wouldn't want to be Roberto Carlino. Chris is on the hunt and that's a fact."

"Thanks for the update Nate. I'll save you a seat."

+ + + + + +

Chris reluctantly relinquished his hold on Vin at the landing bay on the roof of the hospital. A team of emergency room personnel was standing by to take the injured man. Within seconds the calm state quickened. Vin was eased onto a gurney and oxygen was administered. The team worked in sync, delivering oral notification of Vin's vital signs. Chris was so intent on what they were doing, he slipped into the ER right behind them. When he saw the blue silk garment cut away, he wished he had stayed behind the closed doors. Vin's body was riddled with cuts and bruises. His first thought was how to repay Ezra. The magnitude of the Southerner's efforts was undeniable. Ezra's ministrations and fast thinking on top of risking his life, was well merited.

"I got crackles..." an intern stated, with his stethoscope to Vin's chest. "...and pleural effusion. He's gonna need a chest x-ray."

"Temp is 104, heart rate's over 100," a nurse stated, "his pulse is rapid. BP is 120 over 70."

Voices penetrated in his dark world. Bits and pieces of words and phrases he couldn't understand. Noises joined the voices, clanging and cracking of metal, paper ripping, beeping sounds...He was cold and could hear his teeth chattering. Reluctantly he peeled an eye open. He grunted and tried to make his lips work. He eyed the lab coats and green scrubs...a hospital. Hands were poking and prodding, a sting in his arm as the IV was inserted, his head was pounding and his chest hurt. What happened? How did he get here? Images swirled a dark room, brutal hands, unrelenting pain and weariness. Another picture appeared...Ezra's face...gentle touch...taking care of him. His fever made it hard to concentrate and he eyed the hand coming towards his throat.

"NO!....Chris...Chris..." He fought, pushing the hand away and twisting.

Chris felt the storm about to erupt when he saw Vin's eyes darting around the room. He started to make his way closer, when the nurse reached over to remove the bandage on his throat. Chris felt the younger man panic and moved in, just as the weak cry for help emerged.

"Who are you? How did you get in here?" A doctor demanded. "Get him out of here."

"Get out of my way." Chris snapped, tossing off the intern's offensive hand. "I can calm him down."

"Chris..." Vin's IV was about to dislodge and the blond bent over the sweat-soaked face.

"I'm here, Vin. Look at me." Chris ordered loudly, turning Vin's flushed face. "You have to calm down, you're gonna hurt yourself. You're in the hospital and these people are trying to help you. You're gonna be fine, but you gotta calm down." He said sharply, gripping Vin's hand. "That's an order, Vin."

Vin's exertion left him nearly breathless and it took him several seconds to find Chris's face. He held onto the hand and nodded. "...ain't got badge...can't order..."

"The hell I can't." Chris dictated, "You've been cleared of all charges and are back on the payroll." He saw Vin frown and his brow's furrow. "It's the truth,Vin." Their eyes met and Vin relaxed. That should have helped, but something was wrong. He couldn't concentrate on what he needed to ask Chris.


"I gotta go Vin." Chris felt the pressure of the Intern's grip intensify. "Back off Jack," He growled, flicking off the hand. "You're gonna get some x-rays and then I'll see you in your room." Chris didn't relinquish his stance until Vin's eyes slid shut. He bushed the sodden locks off the younger man's face and backed away.

"My God," a nurse entering the room asked, "What happened to him?"

"Some sick son-of-a-bitch tortured him." Chris snarled, kicking over a small metallic trashcan.

"I'm sorry," She said, seeing the pain radiating from the angry blond's eyes.

"Not half as sorry as that bastard's gonna be when I get done with him." Chris prophesized as he left.

He glanced as his watch and realized it would be a good half-hour before the others arrived. He spotted the Admissions desk and gave got Vin's information. The clerk told him the room number that Vin would be admitted to and Chris thanked her and left. He dialed Ted Dempsey and left a message for him. He took a seat in the back of the lobby, pulled out a phone number from his wallet and began to dial.

"Sierra, we found him." Chris winced hearing the worried girl's relief, "He's beat up pretty good and has some infections and pneumonia...Oh, uhm...University Medical Center in Tucson." He flinched at the soft sobbing on the other end of the phone. "Hey, he's gonna be fine...Don't you worry about rushing to the airport. We'll take good care of him until you here. You call as soon as your plane lands. Me or Buck or will come for you...Okay."

He found the location of the surgical waiting room on the diagram of the hospital on the far wall. He made his way to the elevator and waited.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah looked up when Chris entered the waiting room. The ex-preacher's elbows were resting on his knees. He was sitting forward, head bowed with a string of rosaries in his large hands. He looked up when Chris entered, bearing two cups of coffee. He slipped the beads back in his pocket and gratefully took a cup.

"Bar was closed." Chris muttered, with a half a grin and slid into a seat.

"Pity." Josiah answered. "How's our boy?"

Chris sighed and leaned forward, duplicating the position Josiah just vacated. He ran a hand across his face and sighed again. "I thought I was prepared. But that video doesn't do the damage justice." Chris's voice broke and Josiah rose and sat next to him. He rested his hand on Chris's shoulder and waited. "There ain't an inch of him not marred in some way. Cuts, bruises, welts, skin rubbed raw. He's got a high fever, pneumonia they think." Chris paused taking a deep breath, "His feet...were blue and purple, Josiah...and his toes...where the nails used to be... I can't" He paused again, rubbing the back of his neck. "The burns on his thighs..." Chris jumped up and paced the small room. Josiah sat calmly and waited, his face reflecting a deep pain. "I've been close to losing it before Josiah." he finally spoke, "But I swear, I'm gonna kill that son-of-a-bitch with my bare hands." He punched the wall.

"Not with a broken hand, you're not." Josiah noted wryly. "Everybody's got a dark side, Chris."

"Maybe, Josiah," Chris said slowly, "But I've lived there. It took me a long time to climb out of that place. To feel again...breath clean air...see the sky as be alive. But now..."

"Now you're feeling the dragon's fire on your back and you're afraid you'll buckle." He saw Chris's head drop slightly. He found himself at the younger man's side and looked in his eyes. On the surface was anger and hate, but deep inside the green pools was fear. "You're much stronger than the stranger who lived in that dark place, Chris. You've got equilibrium now. A stong balance of body, mind and spirit. The other half of your soul."

"I...I felt him Josiah...dark, cold and alone." Chris's voice wavered, "It scared the hell out of me."

"That's because you haven't fully embraced the gift, as Brother Vin has. There's a part of you that still fears the storm, Vin's calm acceptance is the power of self. That communicative silence you share is the cornerstone of character." Josiah professed, tapping Chris's chest, "This is the difference between that lost Chris and the one who's whole. Have faith Chris, embrace that feeling and it will guide you."

"I don't know Josiah," Chris admitted, thinking of Vin, "It hurts like hell."

"Would you trade it back?" Josiah crossed, catching Chris's eye.

"God no," Chris blurted before he could think. "Be like dying."

"I think you found your answer." Josiah smiled and saw Chris's lips curl up.

"You're a wise old pain in the ass, you know that?" The leader offered his hand and Josiah took it and laughed.

"There you are..." J.D. called out as he entered the waiting room. "Any news?"

"Not yet. Most likely be awhile before they're done with Ezra. He was listed as critical but guarded, mostly due to blood loss." Josiah replied.

"And Vin?" J.D. asked Chris. He stared at the youngest team member, gripped his shoulder and left the room.

"What?" J.D. puzzled.

"Chris was in the ER when they examined Vin." Josiah answered.

"He's all busted up inside, Kid," Buck eyed his oldest friend through the small window in the door. "He'll be okay once Vin's out of danger."

"Vin's gonna be okay, isn't he?" J.D. worried, wanted to make amends with his friend.

"He'll be his cranky old self before you know it," Nate predicted. "His body will heal okay, it's the rest of him I'm worried about. He's strong but..."

"I think I can help him along that path," Josiah said, "I've been there."

"You?" J.D. squeaked.

"During the war," Josiah sighed, and smiled, "Before you or Vin were born. Four months in a P.O.W camp in Viet Nam."

"God, I'm sorry, Josiah," J.D. said. gaining a whole new respect for the eldest.

"Thanks Son," Josiah looked up, feeling J.D. hands on his back.

Chris stuck his head in, "The OR admission nurse said Ezra's holding his own and it'll be awhile yet. I'm gonna see if Vin's back yet. His room is 217."

"Did anybody call Ted?" Buck asked.

"I left a message," Chris answered, "Once Ezra's out and we get Vin settled, I'm gonna head over there. Oh, I called Sierra, she's gonna try to fly in tomorrow. She's got a banquet or some damn thing tonight."

Chris sat in the empty room and flipped through the channels on the television. He finally left it on a car race, not really caring what was on anyway. He let his mind wander; remembering the many shared moments with the blue-eyed Texan. He jumped up when the doors opened and Buck, Nathan and J.D. spilled inside.

"How is he?"

"He's in ICU and Josiah's with him. They're pretty strict, only one visitor." Nate replied. "No permanent damage, but he'll need some therapy. They upgraded him to guarded and the doctor said he expects Ezra to make a full recovery."

"Thank God," Chris let out a long breath, "When I found him...."

"Vin?" Buck asked eyeing the empty bed.

"He's on his way up." Chris answered, "Or so the nurse said. I don't think she likes me."

"What?" Buck grinned, "Weren't you your usual charming self?"

"Shut up Buck." Chris tossed as the door opened again and Vin was wheeled in, followed by a doctor, who was met with a barrage of questions from all sides. He held his hand up and regained control.

"He's running a high temperature, that's due to a few factors. One being from the infection in the tissue of his toes where the nails were removed, as well as the raw abrasions on his wrists, which were both infected. The burns in his groin area were only slightly inflamed but enough to be contributory and he's got a slight case of pneumonia." He paused, speaking to the three grouped around him and wondering about the solitary figure who hovered at the patient's head. "He's littered with cuts and bruises, all minor and that brings us to his kidneys."

"Bruised?" Nathan's voice was hopeful.

"Bruised, no lacerations." He smiled slightly at the huge multiple sighs of relief.

"God, he peeing blood," J.D.'s gasped at the crimson fluid in the catheter bag.

"Normal for bruised kidney's. That will lessen over the next couple days as the bruises heal. But they're very painful. The antibiotic will help with the fever and infection in his lungs. What he needs most is complete bed rest, a lot of it and time to heal. A big dose of old fashioned TLC."

"He'll get plenty of that." Buck spoke for the group and shook the doctor's hand. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, but I'll tell you something." He admitted, "Whoever cleaned his wounds and treated him initially, deserves a your thanks. It may have saved his life. Infections are a very serious matter. Well, I'll be checking on him throughout the day. If he coughs, get him to expel the sputum, it'll help clear his lungs. Someone should remain with him. With a fever that high and what he's been through, nightmares are a strong possibility and I don't want him pulling out that IV line."

"Doc, you don't know us," Nate laughed, "We're used to camping out in hospital rooms."

"Hell, we're specialists." J.D. grinned.

"Well, he's in good hands then." The doctor moved closer to Vin and saw the silent blond figure already had a container of water and was wiping the fevered man's face and neck. "He can't tell you, so I will. That's bringing him enormous relief."

"I know." Chris said quietly, feeling Vin's peaceful slumber. He left the cold cloth on Vin's forehead and extended his hand. "Thanks."

"What I did is nothing compared to what he did." The physician nodded to Vin's still form. "I can't imagine having such courage." He nodded to the quartet and exited.

Buck knew Chris was reluctant to leave Vin's side. He moved over and stood next to Chris. "I'll go talk to Ted, Chris."

"No," Chris sighed, "That's why they pay me to be the boss. No sense all of us being here. We should take shifts. Someone needs to relieve Josiah too."

"I'll stay with Vin for awhile." J.D. offered, needing to be at Vin's side.

"Okay, Buck you and Nate head back to the barracks and see if the Border Patrol picked anything up. I'll check in with Ted."

"I'll relieve Josiah later." Nate offered. "Buck and me will swing back with some pizza around five or so."

"Sounds good," Chris agreed, "J.D, you gonna be okay?" he asked, seeing the guilt ridden face the youth wore so easily.

"Yeah," J.D. replied, resoaking Vin's cloth.

"Okay, I'll update Josiah and get going. I'll be back soon, J.D."


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