"Bless you." rumbled Josiah for what seemed the hundredth time that morning.
Vin nodded his sandy head as he reached for another tissue from the box on his desk in the bullpen. The normally attractive sniper's nose was red and swollen and currently dripping like a leaking faucet as his shoulders hunched in what was the prelude to another sneeze. It was downright amazing, but even the whooshing sounds the slender figure was making seemed to have a Texas accent!
"Damn, didn't know ya could sneeze with a drawl." commented Wilmington as the sandy-haired form across from him glared with watery eyes and then let loose with another gusty expulsion of air that was aimed directly at Ezra's desk.
The undercover agent was currently sporting an unfashionable clear rain poncho over his suit jacket to protect the expensive piece of haberdashery from the more liquid parts of his partner's violent sneezing attacks. The emerald eyes rolled in long-suffering disgust as long fingers moved to hold down the papers that were attempting to slide off the desktop at the wild gust of wind that had attacked them from behind. He'd tried moving to the break room with his laptop, but for some reason the print function of the portable computer wasn't working properly and he had reports that had to be in hard copy form . . .in triplicate, of course- this was the government . . .so he was forced to endure the storm that was currently Hurricane Tanner. JD was working on the problem, and the electronics tech couldn't get it fixed fast enough to suit Standish.
"Vin . . ." started Nathan, only to be stopped by the upheld free hand of the sniper.
"Ain't got time 'ta be sick Nate, so don't start. 'Sides, I been takin' that homemade horse piss ya call tea, and it ain't doin' nothin' 'cept make me sneeze harder!" wheezed Vin. Another strong burst of air and moisture punctuated his remarks.
"Bless you, for the umpteenth time Vin." offered JD in sympathy. The younger agent had been afflicted with the cold the week before and knew how annoying it was. At least he hadn't sneezed as much as the sniper, though. That looked downright painful.
"Homeopathic remedies take a little longer to kick in sometimes, but they're better for ya in the long run . . ." offered the medic, slowing to a halt when he was skewered by the watery gaze of his subject. Three fingers were held up to the sniper's forehead as he pretended to rub his temple.
"Read between the lines, Nate . . ."
The larger figure recognized a subtle way of flipping him off when he saw it and ducked his head to keep from cracking a grin in spite of the exasperation in the blue orbs.
Another sneeze blew the sharpshooter's own paperwork off of his desk.
"Ah, hell." muttered the aggrieved form, knowing that when he bent to pick up the wayward pieces that his nose's drip would turn to a stream.
Feeling sorry for the miserable figure, Buck got up and retrieved the papers for him, ducking to avoid the spray that accompanied the sandy head nodding in thanks.
Nathan gave in and pulled out an antihistamine pill and carried it over to Tanner. Ezra willingly got up to get a glass of water, plastic poncho making crinkling sounds as he moved. The depths one stooped to for one's weekly pittance of a paycheck.
Vin took the medicine and after a few more outbursts, all was quiet for about an hour. The other five in the bullpen enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then the relative silence was broken by a new sound.
"What the hell is that??" asked Buck as he cocked his head at the strange whistling sound that was wafting through the room.
"Is there a mouse in here?" wondered Josiah as he too looked around in curiosity.
"Nah, it's not a squeak. More like a tea kettle or something." offered JD as he peered at his computer equipment with concern. Hopefully something wasn't going to explode . . .he'd have to stay late to fix it and miss the team's night at the saloon.
Nathan was trying to identify the unusual sound, head tilted as he analyzed the uneven but regular noise.
Ezra's green eyes rolled at the obtuseness of his compatriots.
"There is no need to search all around the room, gentlemen. That is Mr. Tanner making that infernal racket."
The others turned to stare at the sniper in amazement. Vin seldom snored when he was feeling well, but apparently the Benadryl had made him go from drippy to congested and he was now making a sound somewhere between the kettle JD had mentioned and a sick goose as he lay with his head resting on his desk, sound asleep.
"Oh, good Lord." muttered Standish in frustration. He couldn't concentrate with that din behind him and had typed the same line three times. "Enough is enough!"
Getting up with more crinkling of the poncho, the expensive shoes carried the gambler to the unaware sharpshooter. Taking Vin's shoulder in his hand, Ezra shook with a bit more intensity than he'd intended.
Startled, Tanner jerked up from his desk, eyes wide. He was just opening his mouth to ask what was going on when he felt the familiar tickle in the back of his throat.
"Ah . . . not again!" he sighed, then burst out in an explosive fit of sneezing that actually made his chair scoot backward on its rollers. Ezra didn't get out of the way fast enough and stood looking down at the dripping mess on the front of his raingear with something akin to revulsion. The rest averted their eyes and covered their ears as the sniper continued in a string of ten or more fast and furious sneezes. Nathan was beginning to be seriously concerned about the slender figure passing out. But at least he'd stop, thought the medic guiltily.
Suddenly the sound of a chair being pushed back into the wall was heard from Chris' office, as the lean form of the leader stood and stalked to his door. Jerking it open, green eyes speared the form still going off like a geyser.
The surprise and Larabee's tone of voice was enough to cause Vin to sputter to a soft wheeze as he wiped his running eyes with one hand and held his aching side with the other. The runny blue gaze flew up to meet the hazel one aimed at him.
"Shut down your computer and get your jacket. You're through for today."
The smaller form looked like he might try to argue, but the set of Chris' lips and the hands on the dark-clad hips made it plain the blond had made up his mind.
Nodding, Vin rolled himself back to his desk and saved his work. He then reached for his leather jacket. "Alright, Cowboy. I'll head home."
The taller figure shook his head. "Nope, I'm takin' you out to my place. You won't take care of yourself if you're alone, and none of us sleep as well if one of the others isn't there to watch our backs. Give me five to turn everything off and let the Judge know we're leaving early."
Tanner nodded again, then sighed when Jackson started making a list and putting supplies in a plastic bag. Carrying them to Chris' office, the medic gave Larabee instructions on what to give Vin when, not that the information was really necessary. The team had been together for so long now and were enough like family that everybody knew what everyone else could and couldn't take, etc.
Chris gathered up his own stuff and then strode out and stood at Vin's desk, waiting while the sharpshooter slipped into his jacket. Another sneeze escaped as the sandy-haired form reached for the last of the tissues.
"Bless you." said Larabee reflexively. A wry smile then curved the chiseled mouth. Vin had been blessed enough times just that day to last him a year, thought the blond. However, considering how alone Tanner had been in his youth, all those 'bless you's were actually a good thing decided Chris with a hint of affection. So was having someone to take care of you when you didn't feel well enough to do it yourself . . . or even when you did.
Reaching to steady the sniper, Chris let him get his balance back after the sneeze, then the two friends walked toward the elevator together. Another two sneezes punctuated the slow stroll. One hand went up to his temple as Larabee absently rubbed his forehead. It was gonna be a long weekend!
Monday morning . . .
Chris and Vin walked into the bullpen together. The sniper's eyes were clearer and his nose wasn't trying to outdo Rudolph's, nor was it dripping like a leaky tap. They made it all the way from the elevator to the office without a single sneeze disturbing the air.
The rest of the team gave a sigh of relief. They did worry about Tanner, but that incessant racket had been annoying.
Buck looked Vin over, then turned his cobalt gaze on Chris. The blond was moving a bit slower than usual and looked tired.
"Ya get any rest, Stud? Or were ya up all weekend nursin' Junior there?"
One corner of Larabee's mouth turned upward in what could have been a smile or a grimace . . .it was hard to tell.
"Didn't get a lot of sleep. Tanner either sneezed, or did that whistling thing when he was out of it. Bet I said 'Bless you' a thousand times. Finally just said 'to infinity' and let it go at that." answered Chris in a voice that was a bit rougher than usual as he stopped by the sniper's desk to give him the last of his meds.
Nathan looked the smaller figure over carefully. "How are ya feelin' this mornin', Vin?"
"Right as rain now, Doc. Haven't sneezed once since I got up. Nose and eyes are all better too."
"Good." said the medic with a smile.
"Amen." added Josiah with clap of a big hand on the smaller figure's shoulder.
"Glad you're all better, Vin." added JD with a grin. He hated it when his adopted brothers were sick almost as much as he disliked being under the weather himself.
"Thank the Lord. Now I can throw away that disgusting rain cover and enjoy some peace and quiet while I work. I never wish to hear such an annoying racket again." proclaimed Ezra as he prepared to dispose of the plastic poncho with little ceremony in his wastebasket. He paused with it halfway to its destination however at the sound that echoed through the room.
"Ahh . . .ahh . . ..achoo."
A chorus of six voices wearily called "Bless you".
"Ah, hell . . ." came in the muttered seventh voice.
Standish looked at the droplets on the rain gear that he still held in his hand, then at the perpetrator who had splattered it. Opening the maligned object back up, he held it in front of himself as a second sneeze began winding up in the figure near him.
"Really, Mr. Larabee! Could you please aim your germs elsewhere?? I've endured more than enough already."
"Ahh . . .ahh . . .CHOO" answered the blond with a gust that made those watching wonder if anyone had ever actually blown a wall down.
Ducking to avoid the spray, the rest gave resigned sighs as they muttered "Bless you . . .to infinity . . ."
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