Connecting the Dots


ATF Alternate Universe


The next two days were miserable for both JD and Vin. Buck, Chris, and Josiah stopped by the apartment whenever they got a break from testifying in court to check on their young friends. Most of the time they would find the two men lying silent and motionless in bed or on the couch, yearning for the one thing they couldn't get. Relief from the itching and the pain.

Josiah had been excused from testimony for the afternoon, so he went to check on the boys. He entered the apartment quietly, figuring Vin and JD would be sleeping. He laid his jacket over the back of a chair and noticed that Vin was absent from the couch. Then he heard a strange grunting noise. Curious, and a bit fearful, he followed the sound.

"Uh – Uh. Keep 'em up, JD," grunted Vin as he took another jab at JD. A low rumbling chuckle distracted him and Vin dropped his guard, allowing JD to bop him on the side of his face.

Josiah's chuckle became a belly laugh as he looked at the two children before him, boxing with their oven mitts.

"Um, hi Josiah," said Vin sheepishly.

"Hey!" protested JD. "At least we're not scratchin'!"

"No. I can see that JD. But I think you've had enough activity for now. Back to bed." Vin was suddenly weary, having used up his spurt of energy. He stumbled a bit as he headed toward the living room. Josiah caught him by the upper arm and steadied him. Josiah laid his hand on Vin's forehead checking for fever. "How are you feeling?" he asked seriously.

"I wanna go home," Vin answered softly with a weariness that clutched the large man's heart.

Josiah smiled and nodded toward the couch. "Why don't you rest, Vin? I'll fix you somethin' to eat."

"Not hungry," Vin mumbled.


Vin shuffled slowly back to the sofa. He lay down, putting on his headphones and turning on his Walkman. He sighed at the sound of the music, letting it relax him, and fell asleep within a few minutes.

Josiah made soup and brought it to them. He sighed when he saw Vin asleep on the couch, but smiled as JD ate hungrily for the first time in 5 days. Team 7's youngest agents had been through a lot. They had lain for hours in oatmeal baths and soda baths. They had lathered their bodies with every anti-itch cream known to man. The closest pharmacy had to restock their inventory of calamine lotion. They had swallowed a countless number of pills -- pain relievers and antihistamines -- only to find themselves relentlessly walking the floors most of the night.

Josiah didn't know how Buck and Chris had dealt with being awake most of the night and testifying in court during the day. Just testifying was taxing enough for Josiah, but to deal with two cranky, sick ATF agents as well? Josiah smiled, hoping that Buck and Chris had hidden the agents' weapons. He shook his head knowingly. He could see it. Buck Wilmington had a giant gentle heart. And Chris? Well, Josiah knew that buried somewhere beneath that sometimes intimidating exterior, Chris Larabee was a caring and nurturing soul. He had been a good father.

"Can I have some more?" asked JD.

Josiah grinned and poured part of Vin's soup into the younger man's bowl. JD's appetite was definitely returning. Vin stirred at the voices. "Here, Vin. You need to eat," said Josiah.

Vin pulled himself awake. "Not hungry," he mumbled.

"I know, but you have to eat."

Vin shook his head.

"C'mon, Vin. Try a little," coaxed Josiah.


Josiah sighed and looked at the Texan with pleading eyes. Vin nodded once in concession, but didn't make an effort to take the spoon. Josiah gave him a spoonful of soup, wincing in sympathy at the pained expression as Vin swallowed. He managed to get Vin to take four spoonfuls before the sharpshooter lay back down on the couch. Josiah patted him on the shoulder. "We'll try again later." He stood, taking the soup bowls into the kitchen.

"Josiah? Ya wanna play cards or something?" asked JD when Josiah came back into the living room.

Josiah tucked the blankets around Vin. "Sure, JD. Kitchen?" JD nodded and followed. Josiah smiled. JD was past the worst part. Vin couldn't be far behind.


The two youngest agents of Team 7 had been confined together for four miserable days while both of them were sick. Now it was day five of unrelenting torture for Vin. It was day seven for JD and the kid was perking up. JD felt quite a bit better, but he was still tired. At least his pox had dried up and he could go out if he was up to it. Vin on the other hand was worse. He was tired of being sick and JD was a captive target. The two men made for a bad combination.

JD really wasn't doing anything differently than he had done the past few days. He flipped on the television and started channel surfing, finally settling on a cartoon.

"Damn it, JD. Turn it down!" growled Vin.

JD looked at the grouchy man. "If you wanna sleep, you can use my room."

"I ain't gonna set foot in that pig sty. Ain't fit for a human," responded Vin with a look of pure disgust on his face.

JD gasped at the insult. "Jeez, Vin. I know the itching is bad, but don't you think that's a bit harsh?"

"Who gave you the right to tell me what ta think? Yer just a kid."

JD fumed and held his tongue. He could yell back at Vin, but he knew it wouldn't help. Vin was sick and JD worked hard to remind himself that he didn't really mean what he was saying. "I'm going for a walk. I'll be back in awhile."

"Did ya get permission from Chris? Huh? You'll do anything to please the almighty Larabee."

JD sucked in his breath angrily. No, he would not answer Vin. He walked out the front door, slamming it behind him.

When JD returned to the apartment an hour later, Vin was asleep on the couch. The television was still blaring. JD entered quietly. At least with Vin asleep he wasn't grousing. The kid turned down the television slightly, sat down in the recliner, and watched the show. He was distracted several times by Vin's restlessness in his sleep. He was moving constantly and mumbling. JD wanted to wake him, but then again he didn't. He didn't need to deal with cranky Vin, so he let him sleep.

Vin jerked awake with a gasp. JD watched closely as Vin struggled to figure out where he was and what was happening. "JD?" Vin moaned.

"What do you want?" JD asked with no emotion. He didn't want another fight.

"Water?" pleaded Vin.

JD sighed heavily, got up, and brought Vin a glass of water. The Texan gulped it down quickly. As he reached out to set the glass on the end table, he misjudged and the glass crashed to the floor. He looked up at JD with fear in his eyes, waiting to be reprimanded. JD softened, recognizing the fear. "It's okay Vin. I got it." He grabbed a garbage can and started picking up pieces of glass. Vin was breathing hard and fast, almost panting. JD looked up at him again. "Vin, really, it's okay. It's just an old glass. I do stuff like that all the time." The Texan started to get up, as if he wanted to run. "No, Vin! Stay put. You don't have any shoes on. You might cut your feet."

"Sorry." JD sucked in a breath at the whimpered word. Where did this Vin come from? This scared little boy? It certainly wasn't the same person who had yelled at him earlier.

"Stay put, Vin. I'm going to vacuum this up."

When JD returned with the vacuum Vin was lying down again. The kid vacuumed up the glass, put away the vacuum and went back to the kitchen. He retrieved another cup of water for Vin, this time making sure it was a plastic cup. Returning to the living room, he touched Vin's shoulder. "Vin, are you still thirsty?"

Vin nodded and JD handed him the cup. Vin held it with trembling hands and took a gulp. "How 'bout if I make you a bath?" Vin nodded again and JD headed for the bathroom.


When Chris and Buck arrived after court, they got an earful from JD. Vin had been switching between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde all day, yanking JD's emotions from anger to sympathy right along with him, and JD was tired of it. Buck took the kid to a fast food place for dinner just to give him a break while Chris stayed with Vin who was sleeping again.

After eating the burgers JD and Buck brought back for him and forcing some soup into Vin, Chris had packed the Texan up and headed back to the ranch again for the night. It was the same routine they had followed for the past four days. Vin had been silent for most of the ride, except for the involuntary grunts that accompanied his painful swallowing. Chris glanced over at the younger man. Vin had finally lost the battle and fallen asleep, his head leaning against the side window.

Chris hated to admit it, but he was glad Vin was asleep. He had never seen the Texan like this. One moment he was a bear, snarling, growling and biting, and the next, he was clinging like a little kid needing someone to comfort him. Vin normally was edgy and short tempered when he was sick or injured, but this was different. He was downright surly, and even mean at times. Then he'd do a total flip-flop and almost whine for attention. The Vin Tanner he knew couldn't stand being coddled.

Chris stopped the truck in front of the ranch house. Well, at least this thing would be over soon. JD was clear to be around people again, although Chris didn't think he was really ready for work. Vin had taken ill a couple days after JD, so it was likely he would be on the mend in another day or so as well. Chris shook Vin gently.

"C'mon Vin. Wake up. We're here." Chris frowned when Vin didn't stir. "C'mon Cowboy. I'm not carrying you to the house." Vin groaned as Chris pulled him upright so he was no longer leaning on the door. He climbed out of the truck and walked to the opposite side, opening the door. "Ya with me, pard?" He shook Vin again. The Texan blinked sluggishly, clearly not quite coherent.

Chris smiled. Vin had been sleeping hard. "Think you can make it to the house?" Vin stared at him wide-eyed as if the words didn't register. "C'mon," coaxed Chris. Vin began to blink again, struggling to focus. Chris took Vin's chin in his hand and turned it slightly to look at him. "Are you okay?" Vin sucked in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. He nodded that he was okay and began to slide off the seat of the truck.

Vin's feet met the ground but his legs refused to hold him up. Chris caught his weight awkwardly, but kept Vin from falling. He repositioned Vin slightly, supporting the Texan under his arms until he seemed to find his legs and take his own weight. Chris chuckled to himself. The lithe young man was truly out of it. "C'mon. Let's get you inside and get you to bed." He walked the unsteady man into the house, heading directly for the guestroom.

After tending to Tanner's basic needs and getting the sharpshooter tucked into bed, Chris sat in the living room and nursed a bottle of beer. Vin's fever was up again. If the young man wasn't any better in the morning, Chris determined they would pay another visit to Vin's doctor.


"Morning, JD," said Chris as he and Vin arrived at Buck and JD's apartment. Vin had seemed better this morning. His fever was down some and he responded to all of Chris's requests without arguing. He even got a couple of smiles out of the Texan.

"Good morning, Chris," said JD excitedly. "Look. All dried up! I can go back to work now!"

"Whoa. Hold it right there, Kid," said Buck. "I didn't say nothin' about going to work."

"Ah, Buck. I'm tired of staying home. It's boring," groaned JD.

"Thanks a lot, Kid," whispered Vin hoarsely.

"Oh! Vin! Sorry," stammered JD. "I didn't mean you were boring."

" 'S'kay, JD." Vin grimaced and tried to clear his throat.

"How'ya doin' there, Junior?"

" 'Kay. I kin work too."

"Yeah, right," said Buck, holding out a glass of water for Vin. Vin gulped as much of it as he could in one swallow. "Hey, hey. There's more where that came from. No need to rush," said Buck. Vin took another large gulp.

Chris eyed the sharpshooter. "Throat still hurting?" He figured the way Vin was gulping, he was conserving the number of times he swallowed to avoid pain.

Vin shook his head negatively and Chris sighed. "You know, Vin, it's not going to kill you if you admit you're sick."

" 'M fine!" growled Vin. Larabee grimaced. The bear was rearing its ugly head.

"All right, you're fine. But neither of you is going to work today. That's final," ordered Chris.

"But, Chris!" protested JD. Chris nodded toward the kitchen and JD followed him.

"Don't need no babysitter!" Vin hoarsely yelled after them.

"JD, Vin's still pretty sick. I need you to keep an eye on him," explained Chris.

"You just need a reason for me to stay home."

Chris smiled. JD was a sharp young man. He knew Chris just wanted to keep him home a little while longer. "You're right, JD," Chris acknowledged. "I want you to be one hundred percent, able to hit the ground running."

JD looked at Chris and gave him a grin. "Okay, Chris. I'll stay. But you really don't know what you're asking."

Chris chuckled. "Believe me, JD. I do know." He looked through the doorway at the cantankerous man on the sofa. "He'll be fine in a day or so."

"Not soon enough, for me," said JD. "No offense."

Chris nodded. "We'll check in when we can, JD. See ya later." Chris and Buck headed for the office, and then would proceed to court.


Chris headed back to the office at 11:30 a.m. He was done testifying. He walked toward his office and was surprised to see JD at his desk.

"What are you doing here?"

JD looked up guiltily. "I wanted to do my report from the surveillance."

Chris grinned. "Vin that bad?"

"Jeez, Chris. I never seen him like this. I just needed a break," said the weary young agent. "I left him some juice, a bottle of water, the remote control, the phone - all within reach. I even put the calamine lotion and cotton balls beside the couch. He was fine. Even made sure he was asleep before I left. I just couldn't take his stinkin' attitude any more."

"It's okay, JD. I'm sure Vin will be all right on his own for awhile. Maybe a break will do him some good too."

JD let out a sigh of relief that Chris wasn't mad at him.

"Hi guys, what's up?" said the dark-skinned paramedic as he walked through the door.

"Nathan! Hi! Welcome back!" said JD.

Nathan took one look at the spotted JD and grinned. "What happened to you?" he asked teasingly, knowing simply from observation that the young man was recovering from Chicken Pox.

"Aw, I had the Chicken Pox. Vin's got 'em too."

Nathan took JD by the chin, turning his head back and forth examining him. "You both got them? You're kidding?"

"Nope. It's true, Nathan," said Chris. "How was your vacation?"

Nathan let go of JD, satisfied that the young agent was safe to be out and about. "Great! So where is everyone?" asked the paramedic.

"Josiah and Buck are testifying in court. Ezra's on loan to Team 8. Vin's at Buck and JD's place," explained Chris.

Nathan raised his eyebrow. "Alone?"

Chris chuckled. "Well, let's put it this way, we all needed a break."

"Grumpy, eh?"

"That's putting it mildly," said JD.

"Well, boy howdy! Look what the cat dragged in," exclaimed Buck as he came in. He slapped Nathan on the shoulder. "How was your trip?"

"Great. Hey, are you guys up for lunch? We could head over to Inez's."

"Let's go!" said Buck.


The lunch turned into a couple hours as Josiah joined them as well and Nathan regaled them with the details of his vacation. About 2:30 p.m. Buck, Chris and JD headed back to the office. Nate accompanied Josiah back to court.

"JD, you look tired. Why don't you wrap things up and head home?" said Chris.

"I'm fine!" protested JD. He really was tired, but he didn't want to go home and deal with Vin.

"JD, there really isn't much to do around here. Why don't you go on home and check on Vin?" encouraged Chris.

"Chicken!" muttered JD.

Chris broke into a smile. The kid was right. He was chicken. He didn't want to deal with nasty Vin. He'd have his fill tonight when he took him to the ranch. "Someone should check on him," Chris insisted.

"I'm fine, and I'm sure he's fine, Chris." JD gave Chris his best sad puppy look and Chris relented. He couldn't send the kid back into the lion's den with the surly Texan.

Chris picked up the telephone and dialed Buck and JD's apartment. It rang several times before it was picked up.

"What!" growled an unfriendly voice.

Chris sighed. "Everything all right?"

"I don't need you checkin' up on me every five minutes, Larabee. I ain't no damn baby."

Chris checked his anger. He heard the slight lisp and reminded himself that Vin was sick and that could make anyone irritable. But this was going way beyond irritable. Being sick didn't give him the right to rip into everyone who was trying to help him.

"Do you need anything?" Chris asked, forcing his voice to be calmer than he felt.

"I need to be left the hell alone! I was sleeping."

"Back off, Vin," he said quietly.

"Go to hell." The phone line went dead as Vin hung up on him.

Buck saw the look of anger on Chris's face. "I take it Junior is still his sweet self?"

"I hope he snaps out of it soon. Otherwise, I might not be responsible for my actions."

Buck slapped Chris on the back. "You'll have to wait in line."


Buck and JD made themselves busy with the never-ending paperwork and Chris headed to his weekly meeting with Assistant Director Travis. Josiah and Nathan returned from court just as Chris returned to the office shortly after 4:00 p.m. He was no sooner in his office when the phone rang.

"Larabee!" he barked. There was no response from the other end of the phone. "Hello?" All he could hear was heavy breathing. He slammed the phone down. "Damn crank callers," he muttered as he walked out of the office.

"I'm not going to do it," argued JD.

"C'mon, JD. Someone's gotta," said Buck. "He likes you best."

"Someone's gotta do what?" asked Chris.

"Check on Vin," responded the dark-haired ladies man.

"Don't bother. He'll just bite your head off," growled Chris.

"Why does someone need to check on Vin?" asked Nathan.

"Our soft-spoken friend has been a bit overwhelming to deal with," said Josiah.

Nathan stiffened slightly. "How so?"

"He had the Chicken Pox pretty bad," said Chris. "Been real moody."

"Moody? Hah! I've never seen Vin so mean," said Buck.

"Well, he's really tired and he's had that fever and all," defended JD. Everyone turned and looked at him incredulously. "Well, it's easy to be grumpy when you feel bad," he explained.

Chris's phone rang again. He picked up the call on Buck's extension. "Larabee." He heard the heavy breathing again. He growled and slammed the phone down again.

"One of your fans?" asked Buck with a grin.

"Obscene caller," fumed Chris. "JD, if it rings again, trace it."

"How long has Vin been sick?" asked the paramedic, his medical instincts in full swing.

"Had the rash five or six days."

"Chris, has he had the fever the whole time?"

"It went down for awhile, but he was pretty lethargic last night."

"Lethargic? How?"

"It was really hard to wake him up. When I did, he was pretty disoriented. Had a bit of trouble walking. He was really sleeping deeply."

Without a word, Nathan grabbed his jacket and his keys. He headed for the elevator.

"Nate?" asked Chris as he followed.

"Vin could be in trouble Chris. Chicken Pox is nothing to mess with for adults."

Chris felt a chill go through him. It had never occurred to him that Vin could be seriously ill. He hurried after Nathan, followed closely by Buck, JD and Josiah.


Vin was glad when the kid left. JD was driving him nuts. The kid was always annoying him, cranking up the TV, flipping channels, forcing food or something to drink on him. Maybe now he would get some peace.

He made up his own oatmeal bath and relaxed in it awhile. It was probably hotter than was good for him, but he was so cold. After the bath, he dabbed calamine on the spots he could reach. Vin was getting frustrated. He had dropped the bottle a half dozen times and was really making a mess. He gave up trying to clean it up because he just seemed to spread it everywhere.

Moving to the kitchen, he put a bowl of soup in the microwave and nuked it for lunch. He knew that it was some time after noon but he couldn't tell exactly what time it was. The numbers on the clock didn't seem to want to stay in focus. He tiredly sat on the chair waiting for the soup to finish warming. An hour later he was startled awake by the telephone ringing. He had fallen asleep at the kitchen table. Vin stumbled around the apartment a bit before he found the phone on the sofa where he'd left it. It was Larabee checking up on him like he was some little kid who couldn't take care of himself. Chris was pretty surly on the phone. Vin shut off the phone and threw it back on the couch in disgust. He shuffled back to the kitchen to reheat the soup. He felt a little dizzy, so he sat down and laid his head on the table. The kitchen light seemed too bright so he closed his eyes as he waited. The timer on the microwave dinged and Vin groaned. If he was going to eat, he had to move. Slowly he stood, holding on to the back of the chair to catch his balance. He walked slowly to the counter, put on the oven mitts and carefully took the bowl from the oven. He placed it on the table. 'So far so good,' he thought as he slowly turned back to take off the oven mitts and get a spoon.

Suddenly, Vin grabbed his head in distress as he was struck with a blinding headache. He sank to his knees on the floor, crying in pain. Reaching for the chair blindly, he tried to pull himself up, but he had no strength. He found himself breathing rapidly trying to lessen the intense pain. Realizing he was in trouble, Vin began to crawl toward the living room. He had to get to the phone. Nausea overwhelmed the young man and he wretched violently. Forcing himself back up to his hands and knees, he was almost to the doorway when everything went haywire. Nothing would work. He tried to move his arm forward, but it wouldn't move, and then it wouldn't even hold him up. He fell clumsily onto his chest and face. Fear surged through him as his body began to shake uncontrollably in seizure, and darkness slowly overtook him.

Gradually he became aware that he was awake. Vin felt horribly weak. He managed to bring his hand up to his face and wiped away the partially dried vomit that clung to his cheek. He had no sense of time, but he knew there was something urgent he needed to do. He just wasn't sure what it was. Lifting his head from the floor, he slowly looked around the room. His eyes focused on the couch, then the object lying on the couch. 'Phone! Help!'

It was a frighteningly slow process. Vin had to evaluate each movement he had to make even to crawl. 'Move arm. Move arm. Move leg. Move leg.' And he was so tired he had to stop to rest. The couch seemed to be miles away. He tried to keep 'Phone! Help!' in his mind to drive him forward.

He was at the couch, but he didn't remember how he had gotten there. 'Why am I here? Oh. Phone. Help.' He reached up and fumbled with the phone. It looked totally foreign to him. 'How do I make it work?' Vin pushed each button until he heard a noise. 'What number are you supposed to punch when you need help?' There was no way he could remember what number to dial. He pushed a button that said 'r-e-d-i-a-l' on it, whatever that meant.

"Larabee!" said a voice on the phone.

"H-h-h-h..." Vin couldn't form the word. He knew he needed to say 'help' but the word wouldn't come out.

"Hello?" said the voice.

Vin heard a click and a dial tone. Somebody was there and he recognized that voice. He had to make him listen. He needed help. 'How do I make this thing work? Oh, yeah. That 'redial' button. He pushed it again.



The phone line clicked off again. Vin stared at it blankly not understanding why it wouldn't work. As suddenly as it had happened in the kitchen, the blinding headache struck the young man again and Vin went into a second seizure. The convulsions threw his body away from the couch into the middle of the room. Vin was aware enough to know he couldn't control his body or stop what was happening to him. He whimpered in fear as everything went blank.


Buck unlocked the door to the apartment and pushed it open. Chris pushed past him before Buck could even get the key out of the lock. "Vin? Vin?" he called anxiously. The drive to the apartment had given him time to get truly worried as Nathan explained some of the potential complications of Chicken Pox. He gasped as he caught sight of Vin sprawled lifelessly on the floor near the couch. "Vin!" he cried in fear. Chris knelt beside the unconscious man. Guilt washed over him as he saw the phone in the Texan's hand and he put two and two together. His obscene phone caller.

"Chris, get out of the way," repeated Nathan. Buck and Josiah grabbed hold of Chris and pulled him away from Vin. Nathan moved in close beside the prone man. Vin was lying on his stomach, his face turned to the right. Nathan began a quick assessment.

"Vin! Vin, can you hear me?" Nathan asked loudly.

The Texan opened his eyes.

"That's it, Vin. C'mon. Look at me," demanded Nathan as he was checking for injuries. Finding none, he carefully rolled Vin to his back. He watched as the team sharpshooter's eyes slowly tracked to him.

"Good. What happened, Vin? Can you tell me what happened?"

"Ambulance is on the way," informed JD.

"Vin, what happened?" repeated Nathan.

"Nate?" rasped Vin.

"Yeah, it's me. What happened?" He frowned. Vin was clearly disoriented and having a difficult time speaking. Just from touch, he knew the young man had a high fever.


"Your head hurts?"

"Seeths..." said Vin weakly, slurring the word beyond recognition.

"Your eyes? Are you haven't trouble seeing?"

The movement of his head was miniscule, but Vin responded negatively. "Seeths..." he mumbled again, growing agitated.

"Shh," soothed Nathan. "It's ok."

Vin was terrified. He couldn't make his body respond. And he couldn't make Nathan understand what was happening. "S-shake."

"Sees...shake..." repeated JD.

"Seizure?" asked Nathan. Vin nodded and regretted it. The pain in his head intensified at the simple movement.

Watching closely, Nathan saw the flash of fear in Vin's eyes before they rolled back into his head and the young man began shaking uncontrollably in seizure.

"Nate?" gasped JD in panic. "What do we do?"

"Just make sure he doesn't hurt himself. Don't hold him down. Just keep him from banging into stuff."

It seemed like forever as the five men watched their friend writhing on the floor, but it was just a couple minutes. The seizure subsided, leaving Vin consciousness but not coherent. He was in a stupor as his mind and body tried to regroup leaving him unresponsive.

Fear for Vin gripped each man. Nathan forced himself to be very clinical. It was the only way he could function knowing that a close friend was in dire circumstances. JD was leaning on the arm of the couch, trembling. He couldn't make himself stop. He felt an arm slip around his shoulder. JD leaned into the embrace as Buck rested his chin on the top of his head, watching Nathan work. Josiah was praying. It wasn't loud enough for the others to make out the actual words, but they knew the sentiment and added their own prayers.

The paramedics came into the apartment and quickly assessed the situation. Nathan filled them in on what he knew, and stepped back to let them work.

"Brother Nate?" asked Josiah. When Nathan turned to him, Josiah nodded toward Chris.

Nathan grimaced. Chris was frozen in place, going into shock. It was no wonder. One look around the apartment told most of the story. There was a trail of vomit from the kitchen to the living room, and another trail from the couch to where they had found their unconscious friend. Vin had some of the sticky mess in his hair and on his clothes where he had dragged himself along the floor. Nathan figured Vin must have had the first episode in the kitchen and then he tried to get to the phone. The mess by the couch had to have been from later. He moved to Chris's side. He didn't need two patients to worry about.

"Chris?" He shook the blonde roughly. "Chris? C'mon now. Vin needs you." The paramedics loaded Vin on the gurney. Larabee seemed to snap out of it when he saw his friend being wheeled away from him. He scrambled to his feet and followed, with the others close behind.


Buck was torn. He looked at his weary young friend and could see that JD was exhausted. He had been sick, and today he had pushed himself too hard by returning to work, and now worrying over Vin. Nathan had insisted that the kid needed to rest but there was no couch in this waiting area of the hospital, just the hard plastic chairs. JD lay on the floor feigning sleep, using his coat as a pillow and Buck's as a blanket. Buck was sure JD was blaming himself for leaving Vin alone and not being there when the Texan needed him.

And then there was Chris. The corner he sat in seemed even darker with the man's brooding. Buck sighed. He knew Chris was kicking himself for not realizing that Vin was in trouble. Not only had he not called back a second time to check on Vin, but also he had likely hung up on the Texan twice when he had called for help.

That new doctor certainly hadn't helped. The man obviously didn't care about his patients or their families. After initially caring for Vin, he had come to the waiting room and ripped Chris up one side and down the other for waiting so long to bring Vin to the hospital. And Chris, already overwhelmed with guilt, had just stood there and taken it. Larabee had practically melted to the floor when the brash young man told Chris his carelessness had cost Vin his life.

Fortunately, the doctor's supervisor had arrived at that moment, stopping Buck from killing the young man. The supervisor chastised the doctor and removed him from Vin's case. She assured them that Vin was alive but his condition was very grave. Then she had rushed back to work on Vin. But it was too late for Chris, the damage was done. Larabee had shut down, blaming himself.

Buck felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and looked up into Josiah's blue eyes. "How are you doing brother?" asked the older man.


Josiah sat down next to Buck. "Yes, you. You figure out which one needs you more?" Buck looked up, startled. How did Josiah know what he was thinking? Buck grinned and shook his head, 'no.' "The way I see it, brother, JD still has you. If things don't go the way we hope, Chris won't have Vin." Buck took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Josiah patted him on the knee. "I'll keep watch on JD."

"Thanks, Josiah."

Josiah nodded and stood. "I'm going to get some coffee. Do you want anything?"

"I could use something stronger, but coffee will do. Thanks Josiah."


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