One Hit

by Tonny

This is a birthday story for Tammy, aka nikbait. Tammy, many good years to you, girl! The plot is all Sherry's fault. She introduced me to a website full of ailments, wounds and hospital treatments and amongst all those horrible things that could happen to someone I found something I knew I wanted to make into a story. So here it is. I tried to be as accurate as possible with the data I collected, but I have NO medical background whatsoever!!!

All thanks again for my beta, Tracey, who once more saved me by giving it a good look over. Any mistakes still in it are exclusively mine.

No one was in time to stop the piece of wood descending. Chris tried to duck, but it still connected solidly with the side of his head and he went down, hard. Before he could be hit with it again, Buck was there, all fists and feet, punching Johnny Carson solidly in the jaw and taking it from there. Vin was only a few seconds behind him, but seeing that Buck had things well under control and was giving Johnny a real hard time, he opted for kneeling beside his boss and best friend.

"Chris? Nathan! You get over here fast!"

Nathan was already on his way. The rest of the bust had delivered no problems whatsoever and Johnny's gang members were herded together by Josiah and JD. They had quickly given up any token resistance and frankly, no one had expected Johnny to react like he had. The gang of young men was tough with fists and knifes, but didn't carry fire arms. When Chris and Ezra had posed as buyers for the liquor they had stolen, no one had thought the boys would be too much of a problem. Johnny had gone berserk though and Chris had only had a second to shove Ezra out of the way when the solid piece of wood Johnny had picked up descended towards the undercover agent. Unfortunately he hadn't been fast enough to totally escape himself.

Johnny sure didn't have the proper respect for guns, Vin thought sourly, looking back over his shoulder to where Buck was putting the handcuffs on the cursing and screaming young man.

Fact was, no one had wanted to shoot him. Johnny might be large and mean, he still was no more than a kid, a kid who had thought he had made it when he'd found some big buyers and who couldn't handle the shattering of that dream. Vin was feeling a lot less charitable now though, with his best friend laying so pale and quiet in the filthy alley where the bust had gone down. Ezra was sitting close by, looking a bit dazed and forlorn.

"Hell Chris," the sharpshooter sighed. "Why didn't ya pull yer piece on that shit? He might be a kid, he still beat up lots of store owners."

" all went so fast," Ezra said softly. "I should have seen it, but my attention was on JD and that big slug Mickey. I was just on my way to assist when Chris shoved me."

"Ain't your fault," Nathan warned, examining Chris' head. " Sides, it don't look too bad."

As if to affirm his words, Chris chose that moment to groan and complain. "Then stop...poking at it! Damn!" He looked at Vin with glazed eyes. "What 'appened?"

"A piece of wood happened," Vin grinned. "How ya feelin', Cowboy?."

"No... c... cowboy. Oh, yeah, Johnny got mad." Chris started looking around with some alarm. "Ez... alright? And the others? Where...."

"Hey, hey, hey, you take it easy," Vin admonished, while Nathan grabbed for the blond's shoulders, pushing him back down.

"Damn it, Chris," Nathan said a bit tersely, "lay still until the ambulance gets here."

"Don't need an ambulance, I'm fine!"

Vin sighed and Nathan rolled his eyes. They didn't release their grips though.

"Buck! You tell them I'm fine!"

"Are you?" Wilmington's voice boomed above Vin and Nathan. "That was one giant whack on the head, sport." He had his cell phone in his hand and was already punching in numbers.

"So? I got a hard head. No! Don't you dare call the ambulance! I don't need it."

"Chris," Nathan now started, but Chris held up a hand and glowered at the medic.

"I mean it, Nate. I ain't dizzy or nauseous, nothing. Alright, a bit of a headache, but that's understandable. Hell, I know how concussions feel and I'm telling you, I don't have one." He fingered at the sore place above his right ear and looked at his fingers. "It's not even bleeding."

"Chris, are you really sure? That was one mean hit." Buck still had his hand hovering over his phone. "Nathan?"

"Nothing's cracked or anythin'. And it's true, it ain't even bleedin'," Nathan answered. "But I don't like the fact he was dazed fer a few minutes."

"Hell, I'm sure. Now let me up, the street's cold!" His friends retreated, letting Chris get up by himself, all the while watching him with penetrating gazes. Chris glared right back and got up fast, without problem. No swaying, no dizziness, no stumbling. After a last look at the three, he walked away towards where Josiah, JD and now also Ezra were keeping an eye on the cuffed prisoners, five in all. Ezra was especially close to Johnny Carson, glowering at him all the while. It made Vin grin. He was right at Chris' heels, despite the annoyed look that got him from the blond.

"You mad at him, Ez?"

"He did cause my beautiful new jeans and sweater to become all muddy, Mister Tanner. This is a genuine Sacred Blue, over two hundred dollars! And my sweater may have a casual look, it still is made of cashmere wool."

"New? Ez, those jeans look all washed out to me and you paid over two hundred dollars for them?"

"They are supposed to look that way. I did need to look the part, didn't I? That does not mean I should give in on quality, though. And now they will have to be dry cleaned, while still hardly worn at all!" Ezra again glared at Johnny, who, like the other gang members, was staring with some awe at Ezra's expensive jeans.

"Just let's get them all behind bars and skip the clothes talk," Chris sighed. "If this piece of shit didn't give me a headache, listening to you talk about them jeans sure does."

"I will ignore that," Ezra said haughtily, grabbing Johnny by the arm and starting to escort the once again cursing young man to the police van that was making an appearance.

Two hours later team seven was back at the office, everything about the Carson case taken care of except for all the extensive reports that still needed to be typed. Surveillance tapes were at the ready for JD to take a look at and everyone was trying to keep the small celebration going a little longer. No one liked the paper work that always followed a case.

"Last donut anyone?" Josiah finally asked with regret.

It became a tug of war between Vin and JD which Vin won and then Chris told them to all get some work done. Vin gave him another surreptitious look over, but Chris really seemed fine. Truth to tell he had seemed fine the whole day, from the moment the police arrived at the scene and the familiar wrangling with them had started, right up to this celebration. He'd been laughing and joking with all of them. Well, as much as Chris Larabee did laugh and joke of course. Still, it was hard for the sharpshooter to let go of his worry. They all knew how stubborn the blond could play it down when he was hurting.

Chris in the mean while gave them all a broad smile. "You all did good, so we'll knock off early today. That still leaves us with five hours to fill."

"Before we do, I would like to admonish each and every one of you to shoot me when I take leave of my senses again and arrange another bust in the wee hours of the morning."

"Hell Ez, you're on!" JD immediately yelled.

"Even better, let's shoot you now!" Buck started throwing pens and wads of paper and soon everyone but Chris was involved in a throwing fight. They didn't let up until Chris yelled at them. He wasn't gone into his own office for two minutes though before the fight started again.

+ + + + + + +

"Chris? You feelin' alright?"

"Yeah Vin, I'm fine. Just go back to typing. And don't you have that snitch to call about the Riley case?"

"Yeah, yeah. You sure you're alright? You look a bit pale there, Cowboy."


"I'm goin', I'm goin'! Jeez!"

Chris sighed and looked back at the report that hadn't been going anywhere for the last half hour now. Truth be told he didn't feel fine, not at all. He didn't understand. Nothing had been wrong this morning, but now his head was killing him. Surreptitiously he looked at the clock. Three thirty. Another half hour and he felt he could send them all away. Then he could go home and get to bed. A long night's sleep was probably just what he needed.

Finally it was four p.m. and he immediately stuck his head through the door of his office. "Alright, class dismissed! Enjoy yourselves, but be here again tomorrow morning. On time," he groused specifically at Ezra.

The smooth undercover agent looked at him innocently. Banging the door shut, Chris turned to go back to his desk when nausea hit him.

Shit, where did that come from? Surely not the chicken sandwich he'd had for lunch? He swallowed and luckily the feeling receded. He made his way towards his desk and took a long swig from the bottle of mineral water he always had standing there. The cool water felt good. Dry swallowing two more Tylenols in the hope it would help his raging headache, he took another long swallow.

Someone knocked on his door. Before he could say anything Vin was already peering inside. "Chris? Me, Buck, JD and Josiah will be at the Saloon. Drink some, eat some, havin' us some fun. You coming?"

"Nah, I'm just finishing this and then I'm going home and make it an early night."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, need to sleep off this headache."


"Vin, stop worrying! If it'd been a concussion you know I would have felt it this morning! It didn't even bleed, damn it. All I need is a good night's sleep! This headache probably has more to do with Ezra's latest strange expense report than that one blow anyway."

"Alright, alright! Jist don't make it late, you deserve an early break as much as we do."

"I won't, this won't take more than fifteen minutes, tops."

"Good. See you in the mornin' then."

"See you."

It took half an hour, with his head killing him. Finally Chris shut down his computer, took up his cell phone and jacket and headed for the door. Moving made him nauseas again and he swallowed deeply. This time it didn't help. He was barely hanging over his wastebasket in time before he threw up everything he'd eaten that day.

Finally done, he sat back, feeling horrible. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to battle his headache. Maybe that was why he was so nauseated as well, because his head hurt so damn much. He couldn't remember when he'd ever had a headache as terrible as this one.

Slowly climbing to his feet, Chris decided he had better lay down on his couch a moment and see if that would help. It felt good to rest his head on the soft pillow. The nausea seemed to abate a little, but unfortunately his headache didn't.

Chris didn't know how long he was laying there, one arm over his eyes, trying to live through the headache and keep the nausea at bay. Finally he knew he had to do something. Get some more Tylenol. Yes, that would help, it had to! Slowly he got up, but immediately sat down again, one hand before his mouth. God, he felt sicker than sick!

Trying to keep the bile at bay soon proved to be impossible and a moment later he was hanging over the wastebasket again.

He didn't think he would make it home this way.

After the heaves finally stopped, he managed to get behind his desk. He drank some water to get rid of the foul taste in his mouth and then he grabbed for the phone.

The ringing seemed to take forever, probing deep into his skull. Finally the other side answered with a soft, Texan drawl.


"Vin? Vin I don't... don't feel too good."

"Chris? That you?"

"Y... yeah. Could you come and pick me up?"

"Sure. Where are you?"


"What? You still there? Damn Chris, it's close to six by now!"

"It is?" he whispered, trying to look at the clock he had hanging on one wall. He couldn't focus his eyes enough.

"I'm on my way. Stay put. Fifteen minutes and I'll be there."

"Thanks. I... I'll go down, be in the parking garage." He disconnected and wiped a hand over his face. God, his head.... He was starting to feel that dying might be better than this awful, relentless pain. Keeping a tight grip on his nausea, he stood and moved to where he'd dropped his jacket.

Damn, why had he dropped it? Was something wrong? Something... he needed to do something. God, it was hard to think. He needed to go downstairs, that was it.

Carefully Chris stooped down and got his jacket. With it in his hand he looked at his desk, then at the floor. There was something he needed to do.... Oh! Shit, he felt like throwing up!

Trying to hold a tight reign on his nausea, he sat down on his couch. He needed a moment to catch his breath, make sure he wouldn't throw up and then he would figure out what he was supposed to do.

He was supposed to get to his car and go home.

With a sigh Chris stood and pulled on his jacket. It seemed to take ages, every move extending the pain in his head. Finally he had both arms through the sleeves. Not bothering with the buttons he made his way to the door of his office and opened it.

A flash of pain made him grab for his head. He lost his balance and fell heavily against the doorframe. A moan could be heard and he tried to get away from the door.

Tried to move.

Oh God, he was going to be sick again!

"Chris? Didn't see you downstairs, so I... Chris?"

Chris tried to answer, but he couldn't, he just couldn't. He tried to focus his eyes on his Texan friend, only to see darkness. The last thing he remembered was falling.

+ + + + + + +

"Vin, what happened? What's going on?"

"Hi Buck. Don't know, they're still doin' a scan. Haven't heard anythin' yet."

"But what happened? One minute you tell us you have to go pick up Chris 'cause he feels sick and the next thing we know you call us from the hospital!"

"He... he passed out, Buck. When I got there he was hanging against the doorframe of his office, lookin' like shit and the next thing I know he went down!"

"I don't get it. He looked fine all day." Buck fell heavily in the chair beside Vin. JD kept standing, hopping nervously from one foot to the other. He nodded vigorously to indicate he agreed with the ladies man.

"He had a headache when we left," Vin said softly. "Looked a bit white when I asked if he was coming along, but he said a headache was all it was and he wanted to go to bed early."

"And you didn't warn Nate?"

"Damn it, Buck! Don't ya think I haven't been beatin' myself up over that ever since I found Chris? All day he seemed to be doin' fine but in the ambulance they... they had to intubate him! He didn't seem sick or anythin', jist a bit white and I never thought he'd... he'd...." The young man buried his head in his hand. "Stupid, that was real stupid of me and now... now.... God, when they shoved that tube down his throat...!"

"Jeez Buck, nice going!" JD said with disgust. He took the chair at the other side of the Texan and put his arm around his friend. "You don't mind Buck, he's just so riled up he stopped thinking. You didn't do anything wrong, you hear? We all thought he was fine. We did!"

"Yeah, sorry," Buck said softly, putting his hand on Vin's knee. "The kid's right. I know you didn't do anything wrong. Like JD says, we all thought he was okay. Damn, but I've never heard of anything like this. Sounds like a belated concussion except for that tube, but I don't think something like that exists, do you? Maybe it's got nothing to do with the bash on his head? He didn't seem too bothered by it this morning."

At that moment Josiah came in with Nathan behind him. He had picked the medic up after Vin's phone call. "Anyone reached Ezra yet?" he asked tersely.

"Yeah. He's on his way."

"He is already here," the Southern drawl answered from the doorway. "And he really would like to know what happened. All I understood from JD's a bit excited and therefore hard to understand phone call, is that Chris was taken to the hospital? Was he attacked? In an accident?"

"Nah, he collapsed," Vin said softly.

That made one of Ezra's eyebrows rise delicately.

"Collapsed? My friend, I can believe many things of our illustrious leader, but I do not easily see him as the collapsing kind."

"Not that kind of collapse," Vin told him irritably. "He passed out!"

"Oh, I see." Ezra took the bridge of his nose between his fingers and sighed deeply. "So maybe he has a concussion after all from the horrible blow that miscreant Carson gave him?"

"Not concussion. This ain't how concussions work, no way he could've hidden that from us, well, from me anyway," Nathan stated. He looked worried. "Where is Chris at the moment, Vin? What's happenin'? And when can we see him?"

"Scan," Vin told him. "Have to wait for that."

They all sat down, looking morosely at the door of the waiting room or at the floor. Finally, after what they were sure was ages but in effect was no more than ten minutes, a doctor came inside, looking for family members of Mister Larabee. They all immediately stood up.

"Eh, I did ask for family," the doctor said, taken a bit back.

"That's us," Buck stated. "All of us."

"Can you prove that?" the doctor asked skeptically, eyeing them with suspicion and giving Nathan a hard look. "Pardon me, but you don't look like family, you look like friends and I really need to discuss his treatment with his family. Fast. So if you could tell me how to reach them?"

"I got POA for Chris Larabee," Vin scowled, digging up his wallet and producing the document.

"And I got second POA," Buck added, scowling as well.

"Fine, then I'll discuss his medical condition with you and only you," the doctor told Vin, turning around without waiting for an answer.

Buck leaned over to Vin and hissed, "You drill 'im!"

Vin didn't react, he followed the doctor without looking at anyone, tension radiating from him. Why couldn't the man just have come in and told them Chris was fine, a bit of a concussion but otherwise fine? Ready to go home as long as someone kept an eye on him? Why instead was he dragged along to some quiet corner to discuss treatment? By the time the doctor ushered him inside an empty office, Vin was ready to hit the roof.

"What treatment? Why the secrecy?" he asked accusingly. "What's wrong? Ain't it jist a concussion?"

"I'm afraid not, Mister?"

"Tanner, Vin Tanner."

"First, can you give me prove of your POA for a minute?" Vin handed over the document, waited while the doctor looked it over and then snatched it out of the hand that gave it back.

"All seems in order, Mister Tanner. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm doctor Dirk Bennet, the neurosurgeon assigned to Mister Larabee. I will need to be brief, because it really is important to treat Mister Larabee fast."

"Neurosurgeon?" Vin asked, suddenly feeling his guts turn. "Why's he need surgery? Is it 'cause he got whacked on the head this mornin'? But Nate said his skull ain't even cracked. There's only a bruise!"

"There is far more than a bruise here, Mister Tanner. You said it happened this morning?"

"Yeah, round 7:00. Why?"

"Good, good!" The doctor looked relieved. "Then we are probably in time to prevent any major brain damage."

"Brain damage? Whadda ya mean, brain damage? He was fine all day! Jist a... a headache."

"The blow on his head caused a blood vessel in his brain to disrupt," the doctor said softly, looking at Vin severely. "It was a blow above his right ear, yes? The CT-scan showed us an accumulation of blood there. An important blood vessel, the middle meningeal artery, runs right behind the temporal bone of the skull. It has probably been bleeding ever since the blow, filling the area between the skull and the dura, the layer that covers the brain, with blood. After a while there is so much blood, it starts to crush the brain. That was probably the moment Mister Larabee started to experience a headache. The increased intracranial pressure then most likely caused nausea and maybe even vomiting, until he passed out. We call this condition an epidural hematoma."

Skipping all the difficult medical terms, Vin got right to the point. "So yer sayin' he's bleedin' inside his skull? How ya gonna stop that?"

"Yes, Mister Tanner, that is what I am saying. And I'm afraid there is only one treatment possible. I need to make a small hole inside his skull over the temporal bone and drain away the blood collecting there. This will relieve the pressure on the brain."

"God." Vin suddenly felt sick. "Ya gotta... gotta drill a hole in his head?"

"I'm afraid so and the sooner the better. This pressure will eventually lead to severe brain damage. Normally though, when we are made aware of this condition within 24 hours, the patient will recover fully. I am very glad to hear that this is the case. Still, the sooner the pressure is eased, the better it is. I need your permission for this treatment, but make no mistake, Mister Larabee's life is in acute danger right now. Without this procedure he will die."

"D... die?"

"Yes. Although when done in time recovery will be fine, this is an extremely dangerous condition."

"Shit, I'll sign, of course I'll sign! I ain't gonna let him die!"

"Good, here are the papers. If you please sign them, I really would like to leave and prepare my patient."

Trembling, Vin signed and then he looked with pleading eyes at the doctor. "He will be alright, yeah? And we can see him?"

"I have every hope Mister Larabee will recover completely. You can see him once the surgery is finished and he is moved to the ICU. I will let you know when that is as soon as possible, alright? Mister Tanner, I understand this sounds very ominous, but believe me, it is only life threatening when not treated. We are in time, so I do not think you need to worry."

"He jist... jist seemed alright."

"Yes, well, head injuries are tricky." The surgeon sighed. "It would be wise to have a CT scan just to be on the safe side whenever something like this occurs again. Good evening." A second later the doctor was gone and Vin found his way back to the waiting room. Five pairs of eyes were staring at him full of expectation.

"Well?" Buck groused, "Tell us! What's going on with Chris?"

"He eh... they found blood inside his skull," Vin told them dully. "They gonna drill a hole in his head to drain it out. Jesus, Buck, if I hadn't found him, if... if he'd managed to get home and we hadn't found him until tomorrow he... he would've probably had some severe brain damage! If'n he hadn't died that is...." He wavered and immediately his friends were around him, escorting him to a chair. Vin sat down heavily, putting his head in his hands.

"Died?" JD asked confused. "How? He was fine, wasn't he?"

"Bleedin' inside his skull?" Nathan said, apprehension filling his eyes. "Damn it, I knew I should've pushed him to go to the hospital! That's real dangerous."

Josiah put a hand on the medic's shoulder and squeezed briefly. "That's all hindsight, Nathan. We all thought he was fine, hell, Chris thought he was fine. We can't dwell on that, it's done. And now, Vin? What happens now?"

"Surgery, then ICU."

"They are doing surgery right now?"

"Doc was real hasty."

"Good," Josiah said with force. "Means we have time to go and get something to eat. That's what we'll do, eat and get some rest. Then we'll probably have to break our way in here again, but we will be there for Chris."

+ + + + + + +

Opening his eyes turned out to be a really bad idea. The glaring light hurt him right through his skull. Hastily he shut them again, groaning softly.


Vin? Chris decided to move his head and try to look through slits. Yes, Vin. After that confirmation he immediately shut his eyes again.

"You look like... like shit."

"Hello to you too, Cowboy. God, it's good to see ya open yer eyes and hear ya talk. I was startin' to think you were gonna sleep forever!"

Chris grimaced. Vin sounded very relieved, which meant his friend had been worrying like hell. Why would that be? He had the feeling he was in a hospital, the place sure smelled and sounded like it, but he didn't have the first inkling why that was.

"What 'appened?" he managed to croak.

A soft laughter answered him. "That was also about the first thing you asked after Johnny Carson hit you on the head with that piece of wood. Here, sounds like you need this."

Something was pushing softly against his lips and when he opened them he was relieved to feel the cool ice chips.

Johnny Carson? What the hell?

"We... we were setting up a bust," he whispered when the ice was melted away. "I thought he d... didn't...." Shit, what was that word? A word for him and Ezra not being found out by Johnny... what was it?

"Chris, we busted him three days ago. You got whacked on the head and ended up in hospital. Been unconscious ever since."

Damn! Chris opened his eyes again, he needed to see Vin's face after this news, but the light still hurt too much.

"What's wrong, Chris? Why ain't ya keepin' yer eyes open? Oh, hello nurse. Yeah, I pushed the call button. Chris woke up, but there seems to be somethin' bothering his eyes."

A cool hand was placed on his forehead and somehow Chris knew it wasn't Vin. Again he tried to open his eyes. "Shit!" he mumbled, closing them tight again.

"I think the lights are hurting his eyes. Mister Larabee, I need to do a check-up on you, but then I'll turn down the lights, can you keep them shut that long?"

"Y... yeah."

"Mister Tanner, please?"

"Alright, alright! Chris, I'm right outside the door, pard."

Footsteps receded and Chris felt the nurse examine him. She was particularly interested in his head, he noticed.

"Any headache?"


"Is it severe?"

Again he couldn't remember the word he wanted. So he settled for another. "Hor... horrible."

"The doctor is on his way and I will inform him. He will know what to do. Wait." Footsteps receded and then came back. Even through his closed eyelids Chris had already noticed it had become darker around him. "Shall we try again?"

This time the light was dim enough that he could keep his eyes open. He smiled at the nurse standing beside him. She smiled back, a smile that brightened up her entire face, making her beautiful. Then the door opened and someone came in, immediately putting on the big lights again. With a groan he hastily shut his eyes once more.

"Why was it so dark in here? What's going on, Alice?"

"Hello Doctor Bennet. Nothing, I had merely lowered the lights because they hurt the patient's eyes."

"Ah, I see." The man was now standing beside his bed. "I am sorry, Mister Larabee, I didn't know. It is fairly common though with head injuries such as yours that involve some minor brain damage. Don't worry, I know that sounds ominous, but the damage really is minor and will pass. I have the utmost confidence you will recover one hundred percent. Now, I will first have to examine your head wound before the lights can go off again. As for who I am, my name is Dirk Bennet and I am the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery on your brain." Hands were on his head and started what felt like removing bandages.

"S... surgery?" He could at least still repeat a word. God, he was slow! "What happened?" Chris asked once more. "Vin said I was... was...." Damn, again he couldn't find the right word! No, he got it! "...was hit on the... the... head. Was it that bad?"

"Yes it was, Mister Larabee. The blow you received to your head caused internal bleeding inside your skull. Frankly, you are lucky to be alive. If you hadn't been found in time the brain damage caused by this bleeding would have led to your death."

Chris blanched.

"The reason I tell you this so harshly is, because I hope the next time you receive a blow on your head you will come to the hospital even though it doesn't seem to be bad. With head injuries you just never know."

"I d... didn't go to the hospital?"

"No, you didn't, as far as I understood from your colleagues you kept working until you collapsed at the end of the day. At that point the bleeding inside your skull was severe enough to put you in a coma. I am glad the coma wasn't too deep though and you are with us once again. Alice, the wound looks very good. There is no infection and look, the skin is already starting to cover the place where the hole has been. I still want you to keep it under close observation though."

"Yes, doctor."

"H... hole?" Chris asked.

"I had to open your skull in order to remove the blood."

"Think I'm gonna... be sick!"

He felt how something was held beneath his mouth. An arm was wrapped around him, holding him while he was heaving.

"Keep a tab on his nausea," he heard the doctor say to the nurse. "Did he complain about any other pain besides his eyes? Headache?"

"A headache, doctor. Sounded severe." The woman helped him back down in the pillows and he felt a straw at his mouth. Thankfully he drank the water.

"That is to be expected. You can give him some Demerol to relieve the pain, Alice. Mister Larabee, do you remember coming to the hospital?"

"Chris. Call me Chris and n... no, I don't."

"What is the last thing you remember?"

Chris tried to recall the last thing that had happened before he woke up in the hospital. He moved his head away from the deft hands still feeling around his injury.

"Leaving for home after... after Ezra and I had talked with a gang," he finally told the doctor. "We had set a... a date for.... Jesus, what date is it? Vin? I need to speak to Vin!"

He heard the door open and a worried Texan drawl asked "Chris, what's wrong?" Chris opened his eyes, desperate to see his friend, cursing when he had to close them again.

"The bust! Vin, did I miss the bust? What... what happened?"

"Nah Chris, ya didn't. Ya got hit on the head during the bust, don't ya remember?"

"No, I... last thing I remember was me and Ezra setting a date for the buy with... with...." To his horror he suddenly couldn't remember the gang leader's name anymore. What was wrong with him?

"Doc, that was two days before he got hit. Is that serious?"

"No, don't worry, it isn't. Mister Larabee, Chris, it's alright; some memory loss is to be expected with injuries like this. Maybe your memory of these two days will come back, maybe not, but this is nothing to worry about."

"I... I need to know about the bust! About the others!"

"Chris, everyone was fine and we got them all. Now, jist let the doc take care of you, please?"

"I do need you to calm down, Chris. I need to clean the wound out now."

Chris nodded. He yelled when a searing pain stabbed through his head and finally he felt how a bandage was again wrapped around the wound.

"You can turn the light down now, Alice. I'm done. Chris, would you please try and open your eyes now? I need to examine them for a moment."

"They're f... fine. I can see."

"I know, I just want to see your pupils, they can give some information about head traumas. Now, please move your head just so.... The pupils are a bit too big, but not by much. You seem to be doing very well, considering the fact you stayed in a coma for almost three days. The CT scan we performed yesterday didn't show anything wrong either, so all in all I would say you are making great progress. We will keep observing you for the next few days though."

"Alright," Chris mumbled. He felt tired and couldn't stop a huge yawn. It made the doctor laugh softly.

"Do give in, Chris. It may sound weird after a coma, but sleep is the best thing for you. It helps your head to heal."

It might be, but Chris wanted some answers first. Stubbornly he managed to keep his eyes open until Vin was back. He smiled weakly at his friend.

"So, tell me," he whispered.

"Aw Chris, ain't much to tell. We got to the alley y'all agreed to meet in for the buy, we busted 'em, Johnny got crazy 'bout it all and picked up some chunk of wood lying there. He wielded it around and managed to whack you solidly on the side of the head. No one else was hurt 'cept for Johnny himself. Buck got a little carried away when he saw you go down. You insisted you were fine and then in the evenin' ya called me from the office and asked if I wanted to come and get ya. You passed out when I got there and scared the shit out of me."

"S... sorry."

"Next time you get hit, you go to the hospital, that's a fact. Don't care if I gotta punch yer lights out to get ya there!"

"Yes mom, that'll surely help," Chris grinned. He couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. He felt drowsy, so very drowsy and he didn't care if it was because of his health or the pain meds he had been given through his IV. After another big yawn he gave in. He felt Vin patting his hand.

"You go to sleep, Cowboy. I got yer back."

And Vin did have his back, he knew. He was safe.

+ + + + + + +

"Hey! Look who's here!"

Chris grinned, then winced. After Buck's yell paper wads hit him from all sides while his team was making their appreciation known of finally, after three weeks, seeing their boss in the office again. The noise sure hurt.

"Nice baseball cap!" Buck laughed, trying to make a direct hit on it. "You do know they come in other colors than black, don't you?"

Chris only smirked at his oldest friend, feeling a bit self-consciously at the cap. He wore it to cover the still bald side of his head where he'd been shaved for the surgery. Not a fun discovery and he'd suddenly found he did care about how he looked after all.

"So Chris, what did the doctor say?" Nathan of course, he had to be the one to ask first.

"He wants me to wait 'til Monday before getting back to work, but I did get the clear."

"For desk duty only," Vin drawled behind him. The Texan was lounging against the door post, a broad smile on his face. His obvious mirth convinced the other five that yes, the news really had been good. A renewed barrage of paper wads followed, accompanied with pens and post it blocks this time, since the target now was the sharpshooter. Some heads popped out of other doors lining the hallway, people wanting to know what all the excitement was about and shaking their heads when they saw where the noise came from. Of course it would be team seven, the idiots.

Vin grinned back at the quickly disappearing heads before he shut the office door with an audible bang. Chris winced again and this time his men noticed. Immediately the noise level dropped several decibels and guilty looks were thrown in his direction instead of the barrage of paper.

"Still trouble with hard noises, Stud?" Buck asked worried.

Chris nodded, wanting to prepare the team they had to be a bit more subdued the coming time. He knew they would, when the reason was important enough they could be quiet, really they could.

Well, he could hope, couldn't he?

"And light?" Nathan asked, looking even more guilty than the others if that was possible.

"Better. Still like it more when it ain't this bright."

Vin immediately hit the light switches beside the door, grinning in the gloom when protests could be heard from all sides.

"Hey, it's for Chris," he exclaimed innocently.

"Leave me out if it, Tanner."

"Ouch, that hurt Larabee. I'm only thinkin' of you." It got him another barrage of items, this time a bit bigger and less innocent than paper wads and pens.

"Come on, cut the crap!" Josiah finally told them. "Chris, you up to lunch with us all?"

Chris looked at Vin and then he nodded. "I'm game. You mind, Vin?"

"Who, me? You askin' me? Hell, you're the boss, Lar'bee. I'm jist doin' as I'm told," Vin sighed dramatically.

"Oh you're... you're.... Shit!" There was a moment of silence, then Chris pressed his lips together and moved to the door.

"Don't, Chris, don't run off. You know it hardly ever happens anymore," Vin said softly.

"I hate this!"

"Damn it, you scarcely say enough to have much problems with finding a word anyway! And it's no big deal to us, it really ain't. You know that!"

"It isn't, Chris. Besides, we know what you mean," Buck said softly, suddenly standing beside the blond and throwing his arm around his friend. "Hell, you don't need to search for words half as often as JD here."

"Buck!" JD yelped indignantly.

"And J'siah here would love to go to all them meetings for you a bit longer," Vin stated. "He loves the talkin' and it gives you some time to do real important stuff instead of all that brass ass licking."

"What? Oh you're... you're...," then a small, fleeting look of triumph could be seen on Chris' face. "Hopeless, Tanner, you're hopeless."

"Hell, I knew that! So are you Lar'bee, so are you! Now, where we gonna eat? Me, I want Mexican."

"Nah, Italian, pizza!" JD yelled.

Chris winced again, after which Ezra firmly cuffed their youngest team member.


"Chris chooses, it's his coming back to the rat race we're celebrating."

Chris grinned at his eldest friend and stated "Greek."

That made Buck grimace, while JD looked almost crestfallen.

"Shit, you had to say that Buck, hadn't you?" he hissed loudly.

"What's a matter, Greek too healthy for you?" Nathan smirked. "Olives, feta, salads.... Good choice, Chris." He followed a not so very enthusiastic Buck through the door who was mumbling something about them at least having some kind of sausages. JD glowered at the medic's back. "Making fun of me again, sure, go ahead," he muttered, before going after his teammates. Soon only Chris and Vin were left in the office.

"You really ready for this, Cowboy? Might be noisy."

"Yeah, I'll live. Time to go... go.... Oh fuck!"

"Don't worry, Chris. You hardly have trouble findin' yer words anymore."

Chris sighed. "Maybe. But I still hate it."

"Hell, you hate a lot of things. And you still swear like the best. Come on, move, old man."

"Old? I'll give you old!"

Vin barely kept his distance all the way to the elevator, where Chris finally managed to whack him solidly on the side of the head.

Team seven was ready to roll again. And make a nuisance of themselves.