They arrived by the warehouse and the teams broke up and headed for their destinations. Once the building was surrounded they waited for the signal. They didn't have to wait long when Konklin called over the radio to move in. They all burst in the door together.
"THIS IS THE FBI! PUT YOUR HANDS UP!"
Most of the smugglers did just that but a few decided to fight. Vin noticed one pointing a gun at an FBI agent across the warehouse. He took aim and dropped him. He swept the rifle in all directions but there were no targets. All the others had surrendered. The all clear was given and the FBI moved in to arrest them. Chris and his team stayed where they were to keep an eye on the perimeter. Buck was talking with his 'partner'. Josiah and Nathan were standing with some of the others. Vin looked around the warehouse and got a bad feeling. Things had gone too easy. Suddenly he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. One of the smugglers had been missed in the sweep and was pointing his gun at Chris.
"Look Out!" Vin screamed as the gun went off and he tackled Chris.
A volley of gunfire followed the single shot from the smuggler. The smuggler was cut down where he stood. Buck ran over to help Vin and Chris. Vin sat up looking a little disoriented. Chris got up also and looked at Vin. He noticed blood by Vin's neck and pulled away his collar. The smuggler had gotten a lucky shot. The bullet hit an area not covered by the vest. It entered where the neck meets the shoulder just below his right collarbone.
"MEDIC!" Buck screamed over the radio.
"Help me get the vest off!" cried Chris.
"Ouch!!! Easy Chris that hurts," complained Vin
By that time Josiah and Nathan had joined Buck and they had taken Vin's vest off. Nathan took a bandage out of his pocket and applied pressure to the wound.
"Jeez Nathan! Not so hard," Vin hissed.
"Well if he's complaining it can't be that bad," laughed Buck.
"Nathan how bad is it?" Chris asked.
"I'm fine!" protested Vin
"Not sure," Nathan admitted, ignoring Vin. "I don't see an exit wound."
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" asked Chris angrily as he looked at Vin.
"Saving your sorry hide."
"Yell next time. I can get out of my own way."
"I'll try to remember that next time," he smiled.
"OK, sir, we'll take it from here," said one of the medics.
The medics made Vin lie down so they could check him out. He protested that he was OK but Chris gave him a look and he did as he was told. The medics placed a nasal cannula under his nose and started him on 8mm of oxygen. He then started an IV and put pressure on the wound. The second medic checked his vitals, and got him ready for transport. They got him on the gurney and they started to wheel him to the ambulance. Chris stayed close to the gurney as they walked out. The others followed close behind.
"We can take one of you in the rig," said the medic.
"You go, Chris," said Buck. We'll meet you there."
They loaded Vin into the ambulance. The two medics and Chris climbed in the back. The driver shut the door then climbed in and pulled away with lights and sirens blaring. Shortly after they were in the ambulance Vin started having trouble breathing. Chris held on to Vin's hand and watched in concern as his breathing became more labored.
"Can't you do something to help his breathing?" demanded Chris.
"We're doing everything we can, sir," replied the female medic.
"His..bark is.....worse....than his bite," gasped Vin.
"Please don't talk Mr.?"
"Tanner," said Chris.
Chris watched as they checked his vitals and added another bandage to his shoulder. Vin was conscious and looked towards Chris and told him to quit worrying. Chris squeezed his hand. After a few more minutes Vin's breathing was getting worse. The medic was going to place a mask on him when he looked towards Chris. When Vin looked at him his gut clenched into a knot.
"Something's wrong," Vin said as he tried to catch his breath.
"BP dropping!" cried the male medic.
"Shit!" cried the other one. "Heart rate increasing."
Suddenly Vin's eyes went wide as he gasped for air and couldn't get any. The medics shoved Chris out of the way. Chris watched helplessly as Vin stopped breathing. The male medic lowered the gurney so Vin was laying flat. He placed a mask and bag over Vin's mouth and nose and started resuscitation.
"Nothing!!!" cried the female as she listened with the stethoscope. "Heart rate's increasing! BP 70/50! Damn! He's cyanotic. We're going to have to intubate him."
She grabbed a tube and handed it to her partner. Chris watched in horror as they tilted Vin's head back and inserted the tube down his throat. He placed a bag on the end of the tube and started squeezing. Chris watched as Vin's chest rose and fell only when he squeezed the bag. Chris sat huddled in the corner for the five minutes left to the hospital. Once at the hospital they unloaded Vin and rushed him into the ER. Chris tried to follow but was stopped at the door. He was forced to wait in the ER waiting room. He was there for less than ten minutes when a gurney burst out the door and down the hall. Chris saw it was Vin and watched as they raced him to the elevators. He tried to follow but was stopped by the nurse.
"You'll have to wait here sir," she said.
"What's going on?"
"I don't know sir," she admitted. "Someone will tell you shortly."
"Chris!" Buck called.
He turned to look at Buck and the others. Buck stopped in his tracks. He had only seen that look in Chris's eyes once before. He never thought he'd see it again.
"Oh God, no!" cried Buck. "He isn't...."
"I don't know. They just rushed him up to surgery." said and anguished Chris. "They won't tell me anything."
"Let's have a seat," suggested Josiah.
They led Chris over to some empty chairs. Most of the people in the waiting room gave them a wide space. They had all rushed over directly from the bust and were still armed. Chris looked the most menacing of the bunch in his bulletproof vest and armed to the teeth.
"Chris what happened in the ambulance?" asked Nathan.
"I don't know," Chris ran his fingers through his short blonde hair. "He stopped breathing. They said something about his BP dropping and his heart rate. Also he was cyanotic."
"Well, brother Nate?" asked Josiah.
"Not sure but something was putting pressure on his lungs. Cyanotic means he was turning blue from lack of oxygen."
"Damn!! He was only shot in the shoulder," yelled Buck.
"Excuse me," said a female voice.
The four agents turned as one and advanced on her when they saw she was a nurse. She backed away with her eyes wide.
"It's all right," Josiah soothed. "We didn't mean to frighten you."
"Well!" demanded Chris.
"They told me to bring you up to the surgical waiting room. The doctor thought you might be more comfortable up there. I was also sent to bring you these."
She held out a bag and Josiah opened it. Inside were Vin's weapons and badge.
"Thank you," said Josiah.
"If you'll follow me."
She led them down the hall to the elevator. They got off on the fifth floor and she showed them to the waiting room. They had the room to themselves. Chris went in and slumped in a seat. Nathan and Josiah joined him. Buck on the other hand prowled the room like a caged animal. They stayed in the room for almost four hours before a nurse walked in. Chris jumped up and rushed over to her .The others weren't far behind. This nurse was made of sterner stuff and didn't back away.
"I was sent to tell you he's still in surgery," she said.
"Can you tell us what's wrong?" asked Nathan.
"The bullet nicked the subclavian artery. It was bleeding slowly but steadily into the chest cavity. That's why he appeared all right until the cavity started to fill up pushing his heart and lungs against his rib cage. This also was the reason he stopped breathing. There was no place for his lungs to fill. The doctor's doing everything she can to get the bleeding stopped and to remove the bullet. I'm afraid you'll just have to be patient. I'm sorry."
"But how is he?" asked Chris.
"I'm not going to lie to you. He's pretty bad. I'm sorry"
They watched her walk away. Buck could see the news had been hard on Chris.
"Hey, Pard don't worry. He's strong," Buck said to reassure Chris.
"I should never have let him on the team," said Chris.
"This ain't your fault Chris," said Nathan.
"Yes it is!" cried Chris. "If I hadn't taken a liking to him none of this would have happened."
"What if you hadn't," said Josiah. "You'd be dead now. What if he hadn't been in that warehouse to save Nathan? You can't win at the 'what if' game my friend."
Chris walked away to be by himself. Chris's thoughts were running wild. If I hadn't let him join I would never have begun to care for him, he thought. If anyone had told him a month ago he would become attached to this long-haired blue-eyed kid he would have laughed in their face, or punched them. I never wanted to care again. Didn't want anyone getting close. I don't want to have to go through all that pain again. He leaned his head against the wall and sighed. I guess it's too damned late.
"We might as well get comfortable," suggested Josiah. "We're going to be awhile."
Josiah and Nathan went back to their seats and tried to amuse themselves. Buck watched Chris and could see the emotion paying across his friend's face. If anyone else had looked they wouldn't have noticed anything. Buck had known Chris for a long time and he knew when his friend was hurting. He walked over to Chris.
"It's going to be all right Chris. You'll see."
"We can't lose him Buck."
"No, you can't loose him."
Chris gave his oldest friend a scowl. Yeah he's right I can't loose him. Buck knew his friend would never admit out loud he cared for the sharpshooter and Buck didn't push him
"All we can do now is wait," suggested Buck.
Three hours later Chris noticed a weary doctor walk towards them. He waited for the doctor to have a seat in the waiting room. Chris stared straight into her eyes and demanded an answer.
"WOOEEE! I told you!" cried Buck.
"Hold on there's more. He's in the critical care unit. He's' not breathing on his own. He's hooked up to a ventilator."
"Damn!" said Nathan.
"What?" asked Chris.
"When the blood filled the chest cavity it caused some damage to his lungs," said the doctor. "With rest and quiet the damage should heal itself, but it's going to take awhile."
"Can we see him?" asked Chris.
"Are you family?"
"He doesn't have any," said Chris. "So yeah I guess we are."
"Alright but only for a few minutes."
She led them down the hall to a nurse's station. In front of the station was a bank of windows. Vin's slight form could be seen directly behind the nurses. As they entered the room the first thing they noticed was how pale he was. He was almost the same color as the sheets. His lips were a pale gray. The second thing they noticed was the sound of the ventilator and all the other monitors Vin was hooked to. The young agent looked like an extra from Frankenstein. The tube leading from his mouth to the ventilator just about covered his whole face. As Chris got closer he could see they had taped his eyes shut. From underneath the bandages on Vin's right side Chris could see tubes leading to another machine. His right arm had an IV attached to it and his left was hooked to a unit of blood. Chris reached out and brushed Vin's hair away from his forehead.
"He looks like something the dog dragged in," said Buck.
"At least he's alive," said Nathan.
"Amen, Brother," said Josiah.
Chris pulled up a chair and sat next to Vin. He took his right hand in his left and got comfortable. The doctor was about to protest but knew she wouldn't win. The others brought in chairs and the vigil began.
Buck walked down the hall to CCU. It had been two days since Vin came out of surgery and there was no change. The doctor assured them he was doing fine. She had warned them that it would take some time for the damage to heal but they never expected this long. Buck knew what he would find when he walked into the room. Vin Tanner looking like a ghost lying in a bed hooked to every machine imaginable. Next to him would be a haggard Chris. He hadn't left the sharpshooter's side for two days. As he got closer to the nurse's station he could see Chris through the window pacing. One of the nurses saw Buck and smiled.
"How's he doing?" he asked.
"The same," she answered in sympathy.
"Well at least he isn't worse," Buck smiled. "Has he left at all?"
"No," she answered. "He hasn't slept or eaten anything either."
"Well, looks like I've been elected to pull him out of there," sighed Buck.
"Thanks. I'm going to need it."
Buck walked in the door and went over to Vin. He got the willies every time he looked at the younger man. All the tubes and wires leading from Vin to the machines surrounding the bed made him squeamish. Buck touched Vin's right leg to let him know he was there. He was afraid to touch him anywhere else. Buck turned to look at Chris. His friend looked terrible. He had two days' worth of beard on his face. Buck looked into his eyes and saw they were blood shot and had dark circles under them.
"Chris, why don't you take a break?" Buck suggested. "I'll keep an eye on him."
"Don't be a fool Chris!" exclaimed Buck. "You think the kid would want you to do this?"
"Beat yourself up about this. It was an accident Chris."
"No it was my fault. I brought him on the team. He's my responsibility."
"The others sent me down here to get you to leave. Are you going to come peacefully or do I have to drag you out?"
"Try to take me out and you'll have a fight on your hands."
Buck moved towards Chris and was about to grab him when an alarm sounded from one of the monitors. Chris moved to Vin's side. A nurse came in and checked him over. It was the heart monitor registering an increased heart rate. She couldn't find anything else wrong.
"What's wrong?" asked an anxious Chris. When Vin heard Chris's voice the heart monitor went off again.
"Talk to him Mr. Larabee," said the nurse when she noticed the response. "It's you he's hearing. You have to get him to calm down."
The ventilator was the next alarm to go off. It was set to deliver the oxygen at a particular interval. With Vin's increased heart rate his body required more oxygen, which the machine wouldn't give him. Chris moved quickly to his side.
"Vin listen to me," soothed Chris. "Everything's all right. You need to calm down."
Chris stroked Vin's hair and talked to him until his heart rate started to settle down. While Chris was talking to him the nurse left to get the doctor. The doctor walked in and checked him over. Chris looked at her and she smiled.
"He's starting to come around," she said. "It might take him anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to be fully conscious."
"Knowing Vin, my bet's on a few hours," laughed Buck.
"I'd like to talk to you outside," said the doctor.
She headed for the door with Buck following. Chris let go of Vin's hand to follow and he panicked. The heart monitor's alarm sounded again.
"Whoa, easy Vin, I'm not going anywhere," said Chris as he squeezed his hand. Vin relaxed and the monitor quieted.
"I was afraid of that," said the doctor as she walked back to Chris. "Looks like he's going to want someone around while he's awake."
"His eyes aren't even open," said Buck.
"Ok, let me rephrase that," she smiled. "He's aware now. He's starting to respond to what's going on around him."
"No problem," Chris said. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Oh, yes, you are," Buck argued.
"Don't start Buck!" Chris said angrily.
"Gentlemen, Please!" she cut in when she saw Vin getting agitated. "Mr. Wilmington is right. You need a rest."
"If it's alright with Vin, will you leave?" Buck asked.
"How are you going to ask him?" Chris countered. Buck made Chris let go of Vin's hand and took it himself.
"Hey Pard," Buck said in a quiet voice. "Chris is going to go get a few hours of sleep. I'm going to sit with you OK?"
When Vin stayed quiet Chris finally gave in. The doctor showed him to the surgeons sleeping room. She gave him some scrubs and showed him where the showers were. She wished him a good sleep then left. Chris decided to sleep in his clothes and save the shower for later. He crawled into one of the beds and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
After six hours of sleep, a shower and a new change of clothes Chris felt better. He walked back to the CCU. He nodded to the nurses as he went by. Through the window he noticed Nathan and Josiah had joined Buck. When he entered they all looked up. He saw Josiah sitting holding Vin's hand. He walked towards him.
"Feel better?' Josiah asked as he got up and placed Vin's hand in his.
"Yeah," Chris answered taking the seat Josiah had vacated.
"He sure looks better," laughed Buck.
"I have to agree," said the doctor as she walked in.
"Hello Dr. Elliot," Nathan greeted her. "He's been quiet."
"Good, I've come to turn the ventilator off. See if he's ready to do this on his own."
She walked over to the machine and turned it off. She looked at her watch and they waited. Vin didn't respond.
"Come on, Vin!" Buck cheered.
"Breathe, Vin," Chris urged him.
Dr. Elliot shook her head and was about to turn the machine back on when Vin gasped, took a breath, and let it out. They waited patiently and he took another. He slowly began to breathe on his own. Buck cheered and grabbed Josiah and danced him around. Nathan smiled at the doctor and thanked her. Chris stroked Vin's forehead and brushed back his hair.
"So are you going to take that horrible thing out?" Buck asked.
"No," she answered. "I'm going to leave it for now. It will be less traumatic if I don't have to put it back if he stops breathing again."
"Is that likely?" Chris asked in concern.
"It's a possibility," she said. "He's still healing and he might get tired. Then again I didn't expect him to do start breathing this first time. He might just be stubborn enough to keep going."
"He's stubborn alright," Josiah agreed.
"Yeah, he'll be just fine," Buck smiled.
"He's far from being all right," she disagreed. "The biggest thing we need to watch out for is infection. His lungs are very weak."
"You're afraid he'll catch Pneumonia," Nathan stated.
"We'll have to be careful and watch him," she said. "Well gentlemen I'll see you later. The nurses will beep me is if anything happens."
Vin stayed quiet for the rest of the day. When dinner rolled around Josiah took Chris out. Nathan stayed with Vin while Buck got something then they switched. Josiah and Chris came back late from dinner to find the others asleep. Buck was next to Vin holding his hand. What caught Chris's eye was the small oxygen mask covering Vin's mouth and nose. As he walked closer Buck jerked awake and looked at him.
"Hey, did the two of you enjoy dinner?"
"It was fine," answered Josiah. "Inez sends her love."
"I see she's finally coming to her senses," laughed Buck.
"Not to you," Josiah corrected. "To Vin."
"Smart girl," Nathan laughed as he sat up and stretched.
"I see she decided to take out the tube," Chris said.
"Yeah," Buck shuddered. "It was horrible. This huge long tube being pulled out. Thank God he was unconscious. It still had to hurt."
"She wanted to make sure it was out before he came to," Nathan explained. "It's not pleasant to have that pulled out when you're awake. If he does wake up she doesn't want him talking and she wants the mask to stay on. She left a pad and paper for him to write on."
"Which should be real interesting," Buck laughed. "He's so drugged we'll never be able to read it."
"Well I don't think we have to worry about him waking tonight," Chris said. "Why don't you all go home. I'll stay with him."
They knew they couldn't argue with him so they wished him a good night. Chris settled in for the evening. He hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep when an odd feeling came over him. He opened his eyes to see blue ones staring back at him. A croak came from the abused throat and Chris jumped up.
"SHHH don't talk," Chris warned. "It's going to hurt for a few days."
Vin blinked and weakly squeezed his hand. Chris knew he had been given drugs for the pain and a sedative to keep him calm.
"You're going to be all right," Chris smiled as ran his fingers through Vin's hair.
He could see the younger man smile through the mask and drift off to sleep. Chris felt like a weight had been lifted from his heart. When he had seen those blue eyes staring at him he wanted to shout for joy. He gave the unruly hair one last brush then got comfortable. He held on to Vin's hand as he drifted off to sleep.