"Mr. Sanchez," Weaver said as he entered ICU four.
"Dr. Weaver," Josiah said as he moved away from his friends bed.
"Can you please leave us for a little while? You can tell your friends Ill be out to speak with them as soon as Dr. Lawrence and I are finished in here," Weaver explained.
"You taking the ventilator away?" Josiah asked anxiously.
"Were going to check the results of Mr. Larabees tests. If everythings ok, well remove it. Ill let you know shortly."
"Ok, Doc," Sanchez said as he hurried from the room.
Weaver walked to the bed and touched his patient's shoulder, speaking softly as he did so. "Can you hear me, Chris?" he asked.
Chriss eyes shot open at the doctors query and he looked at the man hopefully.
"Easy, now. Dr. Lawrence and I were going over the results of your blood gas tests. It looks pretty good so if youll relax for a couple of more minutes, well get rid of the ventilator and that uncomfortable tube," Weaver smiled at his patient. "This is Dr. Gina Lawrence. Shes a respiratory specialist and will be working with you after this thing is removed."
Chris turned his head towards the new voice.
"Were gonna get this thing out of you right now. It may hurt a little but just remember how good it will feel once its gone. Ready, Dr. Weaver?" she asked.
"Ready," he said. Between Weaver and Lawrence, they removed the tape that held the tube in the patient's mouth. Weaver deflated the internal collar that helped hold the tube in place. "OK, Chris, this is the hard part. Youll probably feel like throwing up but try not to fight," Weaver said as he began removal of the tube.
+ + + + + + +
Jackson, Wilmington, Travis, Standish, and Dunne, stood outside the door to ICU four. Josiah Sanchez had told them what was about to be done to Chris and they all waited expectantly. Sanchez had left the others to go back and wait on Vin Tanners return.
+ + + + + + +
Chris felt the tube leaving his throat and the gagging sensation that went with it. He panicked as he fought to breath even as the tube was removed.
"Almost, done, Chris," Weaver told the struggling patient.
+ + + + + + +
The men waiting outside almost cried in excitement as they watched the tube being removed from their friend.
+ + + + + + +
"There all done," Lawrence said as the tube cleared the patient's mouth. "Easy does it, just breath slowly," she said.
Chris gasped in pain as the movement caused the wound in his side to stretch, pulling at the drainage tube still anchored there. He tried to move away from the pain but his hands were still tied to the bed.
"How long before his shot's due?" Weaver asked the nurse.
"Fifteen minutes," Nancy replied.
"Give it to him now," Weaver said as he tried to help the man ride out the new pain.
Chriss throat felt as if it were on fire as he tried to voice his first word in over four days, "V...v..."
"No you dont. Not a word, Chris. Your throat probably feels terrible right now and trying to talk isnt going to help it any. Nancys going to give you something for the pain and I want you to relax for awhile. Shes also got some ice chips, that should help soothe your throat a little. Dr. Lawrence wants to get you started on meds for the pneumonia thatll help open your lungs," Weaver explained as the man continued to writhe on the bed. Weaver watched as Nancy delivered the shot to the already bruised hip. "Were going to give you a one hour reprieve and then well be back. If you promise to be quiet and not try to talk, Ill let your friends come in to see you. No dont try to answer. Theres to be no talking until we say. Nancy if he tries to talk to his friends make them leave."
"Yes, Dr. Weaver," Nancy said as she hooked up the nasal canulas Dr. Weaver had ordered to make sure the oxygen level stayed within the range. She reached for a cup filled with ice chips. "Try these, Chris," she said as she placed the spoon by his mouth.
Chris opened his mouth and took the tiny offering. The cooling moisture on his lips and throat caused him to sigh. "V..." he tried again.
"Are you disobeying Dr. Weavers orders already?" Chris shook his head in consternation. "Good, because if I hear one word Ill tell your friends to leave. Here comes one of them now," Nancy told him.
Chris turned towards the door and smiled weakly at the man walking towards him. He was about to ask about Vin Tanner but was stopped by Nancys fingers placed on his mouth.
Nathan Jackson walked up to the bed and was relieved to see his friend's face without the tubes leading into his mouth. The skin around his lips looked red and sore from the tape and the tubing, causing the rest of his face to look even paler. "Hey, Chris, Dr. Weaver said you arent allowed to talk so Ill do enough for both of us," Jackson smiled at his friend. "I know youre worried about Vin so Ill tell you whats happening to him. Hes having a MRI done right now. Josiahs waiting for him. His ankles been pinned and should heal with the right exercises," he said.
"E...eyes," Chriss voice was scratchy and harsh from the tube and misuse.
"I heard that. Im afraid youll have to leave," Nancy said as she replaced the IV bag on the pole.
"No, please maam," Jackson said as Chriss face took on a panicked look. "Hell stay quiet, wont you Chris?"
Chris Larabee glared at his friend but nodded his head that he would.
"Last warning," Nancy told him as she emptied the drainage tube in his side and turned to the foley catheter.
"I think thisll be a first," Nathan grinned. "Chris Larabee with lots to say but not allowed to say it. I think Ezra will probably take bets on how long youll do as the doctor says."
Chris turned his head back to his friend and glared at him and suddenly yawned as the meds the nurse had given him kicked in.
"Sorry, Chris, that dont cut it. The glare doesnt seem nearly as fierce with you such a pale shade of grey. Go to sleep. Ill let the others know how youre doing," Jackson said as the patients eyes closed and his breathing slowed.
"He should sleep until Dr. Weaver and Dr. Lawrence return. Can you tell your friends they can see him later? Right now he really needs to rest."
"I will, Nancy. Did Dr. Weaver say anything about treating his lungs for the congestion?"
"Theyll be starting the treatments as soon as they get back. Hes got a lot of congestion in his chest and the longer its left the worse itll be for him."
"Shoot, nothing ever goes easy for Chris Larabee or Vin Tanner," Jackson said as he left the room.
+ + + + + + +
Vin was tired but even more he was frustrated. Hed returned to his room and been told he wasnt allowed to visit with Chris because the doctors were once again running tests. He knew Josiah was in the room with him but he didnt feel like talking. His head had started to pound and his ankle throbbed painfully.
Josiah watched the young man's face. He could see how hard he was trying to ride out the pain on his own. Vin Tanner was so much like Chris Larabee. Both men hated admitting they needed help and usually they only accepted it from one another.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Tanner. Ive got some medication for you. Dr. Beattie has ordered that we keep you slightly sedated for another few days. Hell explain it to you when he comes by to see you this evening," the nurse explained as she added the medication to Vins IV line.
"Dont want it," Vin said a touch of anger in his voice.
"Is something wrong, Mr. Tanner?" she asked.
"What could possibly be wrong? My best friend is in ICU and Im stuck here cause Ive got a broken ankle and blind to boot. If I were a real friend, I wouldve been there for Chris. I would have been able to sit with him while they had him hooked up to all those machines. But, no, I got to lay in this bed because no one will bring me to his room and Im too damn blind to find my way," Vin said as his voice began to rise.
Easy now, brother Vin, I told you Ill bring you up to see Chris as soon as the doctor okays it."
"I need to see him now, Josiah," Vin said. The past few days of not being close to Chris, not being able to see him, talk to him, were finally scaring Vin Tanner. He needed to talk with Chris, to tell him his fears, to tell him what it meant to him that Chris had believed in him when no one else had.
"Im sorry, brother Vin, cant do that. Why dont you try to get some sleep and when you wake up, well see about going to see Brother Chris," Sanchez suggested.
"Cant sleep, my damn head hurts," Vin said as he stifled a yawn.
"Relax and let the medication help you, Mr. Tanner. Ill see when your next pain meds are due," she said as she replaced the almost empty IV bag.
"Dont want any more drugs," Vin told her.
"Its a standing order until Dr. Beattie says otherwise. It seems he doesnt trust you to tell us when you need it," the nurse chuckled as she left the room.
"Damn doctors," Vin said.
"They catch on to you fast, Brother Vin," Josiah laughed.
"Only when that damn turncoat Wilmington blabs on me," Vin said softly as he turned onto his side.
The nurse returned ten minutes later to find Josiah reading quietly from a book of poetry and Vin Tanner curled on his side. Josiah watched as she stepped up to the bed and lowered the side rail. "Its time for your shot, Mr. Tanner," she said.
"I said I dont want it," Vin told her.
"Too late," she said as she sank the needle into his hip. "Now get some rest and Ill be back with something for you to eat shortly. Dr. Mercer says you can have a nice liquid lunch today. Hope you like Jell-o," she said as she left the two men alone.
"So we have damn nurses, damn doctors, and damn turncoats. Seems to be a pattern here."
"Shut up, Josiah," Vin tried to sound angry but was unable to hide the smile on his face.
"Do you want me to read some more?" Sanchez asked.
"Please," Vin said through another yawn.
"Moonshine, moonlight, and serenades, the perfect way for two lovers to spend an evening," Josiah began reading.
"That dont sound like the same book," Vin said sleepily.
"Its not. Sometimes poetry just doesnt cut it," Sanchez answered and began reading again.
+ + + + + + +
Chris feigned sleep as the nurse continued to drain tubes, check vitals, take blood, and change IVs. He felt tired and frustrated and wouldnt have been surprised to know that his friend was feeling the same things three floors below. Hed slept, he didnt know how long but he was sure it wasnt long. The constant pain in his side and the renewed coughing made him feel miserable.
His chest hurt and every time he coughed the wound in his side cried out in anger. He wanted to see Vin, wanted to tell him he was sorry about his eyes but they wouldnt let him out of the bed let alone the room.
Nancy knew her patient was awake even though hed done everything to hide the fact from her. She didnt miss the grimace when she drained the tube in his side. She took a cloth and washed his face for him, hoping her touch would give him some comfort. His eyes opened and she saw the sadness and pain in them.
"Itll be alright, Chris," she soothed.
"T...thanks," he said but her fingers were placed over his mouth.
"Still not allowed to talk, Im afraid. Here have some more ice chips," she said as she took a spoon from the glass and placed it near his mouth.
He opened his mouth and took the tiny offering, savouring the small amount of moisture as it cooled his throat.
"Hows he doing?" Weaver asked as he entered the room followed by Gina Lawrence.
"I...I." his injured throat croaked out.
"Dont, Chris," Nancy warned.
"Listen to your nurse, Mr. Larabee," Gina Lawrence warned.
Chris looked at the female doctor and wondered what she held in her hands. She began hooking tubes into the available connections and then poured something into a small bowl shaped vial. Weaver saw the fear in his patient's eyes and turned to the specialist.
"I think youd better explain whats going to happen before you start, Gina," he said softly.
"Ok," she said as she smiled at the man in the bed. "Im going to tell you exactly what Im going to do as we go along. Your lungs are full of congestion from the pneumonia and we have to get it loose and get it up. Im going to place this tube in your mouth and you're going to try and breathe in as deeply as you can."
She watched as the patient's face became panic stricken and he tried to talk.
"No, dont talk. Just listen. Im not going to lie to you, Chris, this is going to hurt and hurt bad. But left untreated, your lungs are going to get worse and theyll get to the point where youll be hooked up to that ventilator again. Thats not just an idle threat I assure you. Now the faster we get started on this, the faster its finished. Nancy, put his head up a bit."
Chris moaned as his head was raised and his pain-ridden body protested the movement. Nancy stopped the bed when he was semi reclined.
Gina Lawrence closed her heart to the man on the bed. This was the worst part of her job. She hated causing anyone pain, especially someone whod already suffered enough. Stealing herself, she placed the tube in front of his mouth and waited for him to open up.
Chris wanted to fight, he wanted to tell her to go to hell, or to take it herself. He was so tired of not having any choice in what he could or could not do. His eyes showed his anger as Gina Lawrence continued to hold the tube in place.
"Chris," Weaver said. "You want visitors this afternoon. I know there's a young man downstairs whos anxious to see you."
"B...black...mail," Chris croaked out.
"Im not adverse to blackmail when it comes to stubborn patients," Weaver laughed.
Chris finally opened his mouth. Gina smiled as she placed the tube in his mouth.
"Breath in as deeply as you can," she said as she pushed a button on the machine.
Chris felt the strong tasting gas go into his throat and tried to pull away.
"No, not yet, a few more deep breaths and we should be all done," she said as he was again forced to breathe in the gas.
Finally, she turned off the machine and Chris closed his eyes against the urge to cough. He knew what it would do to his side and he vowed to do anything to keep from doing it.
"Weve got one more thing to do, Chris," Weaver said. "Im going to sit you forward. I know you dont want to but it wont be for long," he said as he lifted the weak man up.
Chris bit back his outrage at being forced to endure more torture. Without warning, something thumped into his back just below his lungs. His scream of rage and pain were barely audible as it was forced through his injured throat. "N...no m...more," he cried.
"Just a few more, Chris," Lawrence said as she continued to thump her patient on the back.
"Oh, God," he cried as tears formed in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
"Last one," Gina said as she helped lower the man to the bed.
"Do...dont e...ever d...do that ...gin," he rasped.
"Im afraid theres no choice. Well be repeating this process every four hours until your lungs clear," Lawrence told him.
"No," Chris said as he dissolved into a fit of coughing. He was in misery and his anger showed on his pale face.
"You dont have a choice, Chris," Lawrence said as she placed the breathing apparatus on the table by the bed. "Hopefully thisll only take a day or two and then youll feel better. Nancys going to give you something for the pain now," she told him as she patted his right shoulder. "Ill be back in four hours," she told Weaver.
"D...dont b...bother," Chris told her. He felt Weaver turn him slightly and Nancy gave him the shot.
"Now thats enough of that, Chris. I know youve been through a lot but youre going to have to buckle down and take the rest of it. In your condition, left untreated, the pneumonia will kill you," Weaver said as he watched the patient fight the urge to cough. "Dont fight it, itll help bring up the mucus. The faster it clears up, the faster these treatments stop. Now if you promise not to talk, Ill send one of your friends in."
Chris nodded his head and tried to turn on his side. Weaver looked at the restrained hands and took pity on him, "Im going to take these off for awhile. Just make sure you dont touch any of the tubes or Nancy will put them back on. Ok?"
Chris nodded again and was relieved when the straps were removed and he could move a little more. He opened his mouth to say thanks but stopped at the look on Weavers face.
"Make sure he doesnt overdo it," Weaver told the nurse as he left.
Buck Wilmington walked into the room and up to his friend's bed. He knew what Chris had been forced to endure and he wondered if he could have done it. Lines of pain marred the handsome face. His mouth was drawn in a tight grimace.
Buck looked at the nurse expectantly.
"Hell be fine, she mouthed. "Talk to him."
"Hey, Pard," Buck said.
Chris opened his eyes and looked at his oldest friend. He wanted to talk but between the sore throat and the coughing, he knew it wouldnt be a wise idea.
"You look like shit, Chris," Wilmington said and was relieved to see a hint of a smile on his friend's face. "Dr. Weaver told us what you have to go through. Would it help if one of us were allowed to come in with you?"
Chris nodded his head, wanting the comfort of his friends through this part of his treatments. He wanted, no he needed to see Vin Tanner.
"I have a surprise right outside the door, Chris, feel like some company?" Buck asked.
Chris nodded and Buck left his side. He turned his head slightly and from the elevated position spotted his friend being wheeled in.
Nancy saw her patient smile, a real smile, for the first time. She was amazed at the difference it made to his pale, gaunt face. She could see just how devastatingly handsome this man would be when he was well. Shed already decided he was one of her handsomest patients already.
"Hey Cowboy, I know you cant answer me but I needed to see you," Vin said.
"V...Vin," Chris gasped, forgetting the warnings from his doctors in his happiness at seeing his best friend.
"Once more and your friends will have to leave," Nancy warned.
Vin sat in the chair, his face showing his surprise. No one had told him the ventilator had been removed. They knew him well enough to know hed demand being brought to Chriss room.
"You should have told me, Buck," Vin said, the smile on his face belying the anger he tried to portray.
"Sorry, Pard," Buck said as he smiled at his two friends. "We knew if you found out Chris was off that machine thered be no stopping you from coming up here. Now you can talk to Chris but hes not allowed to talk to you. His throat's still sore from the ventilator so hes only allowed to nod or shake his head. So if you want me to, I can be an interpreter for you both."
"Thanks, Buck," Vin said. "You feeling ok, Cowboy?"
Chris looked at the bruised face before him. One hand still had an IV in it so he reached through the rails of his bed and gripped the other hand. He nodded his head at Buck.
"Says hes ok, Vin," Buck said.
"Hell, Chris, you cant even lie through an interpreter," the raspy laugh from the bed sounded like music to his ears. "You had us mighty scared there, Pard," Vin said seriously.
Chris mouthed the word sorry to Buck.
"He says hes sorry, Vin," Wilmington relayed.
Suddenly the room filled with Vin Tanners laughter. It wasnt long before the infectious laugh caught both Buck and Chris.
"Whats so funny, Vin?" Buck asked as he tried to suppress his laughter.
"This must be someones idea of a practical joke. Im blind and Chris cant talk. I wonder if Nathan would see the humour in that?" he said.
Chris couldnt help but laugh at Vins comments. He held his side and groaned as the pain flared and the laughter turned to coughing. Nancy was at his side in an instant and helped him to sit up. As the coughing subsided, Chris lay back against the pillow, exhaustion evident on his face.
"Whats going on, Buck?" Vin asked worriedly.
"Chris has pneumonia, Vin. The doctors are treating it aggressively," Buck told him.
"Damn, that hurts. What about his side?" Vin asked.
Buck was about to answer when Chris shook his head. "Its getting better," Buck lied.
"You cant lie any better than Chris," Vin said. "He wouldnt be in ICU if it wasnt serious."
"Mr. Tanner, my name is Nancy and Im looking after Chris. Hopefully he wont have to be in ICU much longer. If the doctors can get the pneumonia cleared up and the fluid in the drainage tubes clears up, he should be in a regular room in a couple of days."
"I want him in with me," Vin said adamantly.
"Ill talk to the doctors," Buck told him. "I think Chris is asleep, Pard and its time to get you back to your room. Dr. Beattie is supposed to come see you soon."
"Ok, Buck, but I want to come back when he leaves," Vin told him.
"Not today, Mr. Tanner. Were going to give Chris a bath, hes going to have another treatment and then hopefully we can get him to settle down and rest. From the looks of you, you could use some rest yourself," Nancy told him.
"Im fine," Vin lied.
In truth, his head hurt and he was beginning to see tiny lights flickering in front of him.
"Sure you are, Vin," Buck laughed as he wheeled the chair out of ICU four. He nodded to Josiah as the older man took his place in with Chris Larabee.
+ + + + + + +
"Good afternoon, Mr. Tanner," Beattie said as he entered the room.
"Dr. Beattie," Vin said. "Did you get the results of my tests?"
"Now, Vin, give the doctor a chance to get in," Buck laughed at his friend's impatience.
"I understand his impatience, Mr. Wilmington. To answer your question, Mr. Tanner, I have the results right here."
"What do they say? Will I see again?" Vin asked and then squeezed his eyes against the daggers of light that flared behind his eyes.
"Whats wrong, Vin?" Buck asked worriedly.
"Mr. Tanner, are you seeing anything?" Beattie asked.
"L...lights," Vin stammered against the pain.
"Is that good, Doc?" Buck asked.
"Maybe, let me check your eyes, Mr. Tanner," Beattie said.
Vin groaned as Beattie flashed a tiny light in his eyes. The pain seemed to grow worse and he forced them shut. "H...hurts," he said.
"I think youre eyesight may be returning, Mr. Tanner. The swelling behind the optic nerve has gone down and the pressure it was causing is what caused the blindness."
"Will his sight come back totally?" Buck asked a sheepish grin on his face, laughter in his voice.
"I dont see why not. It might be a wise idea to cover your eyes against bright light until your vision returns completely."
"Is that necessary, doc?" Vin asked in a pain filled voice.
"Its best, Mr. Tanner," Beattie said. "Ill get some pads to place over your eyes. Then I want you to get some rest."
"I wanna see Chris," Vin said.
"Now, Vin, Nancy told you Chris would be busy for the rest for the day. They want him to rest between treatments and he sure wont do that with you there," Buck told his friend.
"You need to do the same, Mr. Tanner. Between the head injury and the ankle, youre probably in a lot of pain. Id rather you didnt move around a lot. Close your eyes and get some rest. You can see your friend tomorrow," Beattie told him and signalled for Buck to follow him
"Be right back, Vin," Buck said as he followed the doctor.
"Mr. Wilmington, its important that your friend gets more rest than he has been. Hes exhausted and hes in pain even if he doesnt want to admit it. Ive read his chart and I think hed be a lot more cooperative if he was in the same room as his friend. I know thats not possible right now but Im going to arrange it as soon as Mr. Larabee is released from ICU."
"Thats a real smart idea, Doc. We were going to ask for them to be placed in the same room anyway," Buck said.
"Im ordering his eyes covered because of the information from the hospital in Billings. His chart says both Mr. Tanner and Mr. Larabee are reluctant patients. Im hoping that the pads covering his eyes will stop him from trying to get to his friend."
"Hes not gonna like that, Doc," Buck said.
"Do you think hell stay put if he knows his eyesight has returned? Those flashing lights signal that hell soon be able to make out shapes and itll continue to improve. I dont want him to hurt himself because hes too stubborn to heed what I say. Now Id better get those pads," Beattie said as he turned away.
"I think we could use you in Billings," Buck said to the mans back. He heard the doctors laugh as he turned back to the hospital room.
+ + + + + + +
"Wake up, Mr. Larabee. Its time for your treatment," Gina Lawrence said as she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Chris opened tired eyes and looked at the Doctor standing beside him. "Ah, shit," he said and moaned as the effort to speak tore at his raw throat.
"Come on now, Mr. Larabee, youre not going to let a little pain get in the way of getting better, are you?"
"Its ok, Chris, Ill stay here with you," Josiah said from the opposite side of the bed.
Chris glared at her but opened his mouth to take the breathing tube. He knew what was to come and he knew it was going to hurt like hell and he was glad one of his friends would be there for him.
"Thats better," Lawrence said as she pushed the button to start the machine.
Chris was forced to breathe deeply as the foul tasting medicine hissed from the tube. His eyes opened wide as a sharp pain stabbed through his side. He tried to move away from both the pain and the tube but Gina and Nancy held him in place. He reached for the tube in his side wanting to be rid of the pain and hoping he could pull it out before they stopped him.
Nancy snaked her hand out and grabbed Chriss wrist, "Dont do that, Chris, well just have to put it back in," she said as tears rolled down his pale cheeks.
Chris wanted to fight but didnt have the strength. Finally he heard the mask being removed and closed his eyes against the pain.
Josiah Sanchez stepped forward and held his friends shoulders. "All done," he said with a smile.
"Not quite," Gina said. "Help me sit him up more, Nancy. Mr. Sanchez, youll have to move out of the way for a few more minutes.
Josiah looked into the blonde mans eyes and could see the fear there, "Cant I hold him?" he asked.
Gina watched the man on the bed and the man holding him and providing support. "Youll have to lift him up and keep him there till I tell you," she said
"I will," Josiah said as he helped Nancy pull the patient to a more upright position. Chris moaned the whole time.
Without warning, Lawrence began to thump on the patient's back once again.
Josiah felt his own tears as he listened to the pitifully weak cries of pain coming from the man he held. "Easy, Chris, this wont take much longer," he said hopefully.
"Alright, Mr Sanchez, lay him back against his pillow," Gina said. She stared into her patient's eyes and replaced the blanket over him. "I know this hurts, Mr. Larabee, but it has to be done. I think Nancys going to give you something for the pain now. Dont fight the coughing," she said as she watched his face. "The more you cough, the more of the mucus youll bring up and the faster well be able to stop this. Ive left orders for Dr. Roberts to continue the treatments through the night. Nancy, go ahead and give him the shot. Ill see you tomorrow, Mr. Larabee," the look on Chriss face told her hed rather she didnt.
The coughing began as soon as she left the room and Josiah held his friend until it finally subsided. The shot Nancy gave him soon took effect and he surrendered to sleep.
"Itll get easier on him, Mr. Sanchez," Nancy told the man standing beside her patient's bed. She could see the deep-rooted feelings this man held for his injured friends and knew they shared a close friendship.
"Will it, Nancy?" Sanchez asked doubtfully.
"Yes, Im sure it will. Your friend is a fighter and has so much support. Thats important for his recovery," Nancy said as she once again changed the antibiotics and emptied the drainage tubes. She smiled as she noticed the fluid from his abdomen had lessoned and made a note on her patient's chart.
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