PHOENIX
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Buck looked at the man standing beside his bed and tried to voice the questions running through his mind. He needed to know how the others were, but right now he knew he needed help just to keep breathing. He looked at the doctor who was speaking to him, but did not recognize her.

"Mr. Wilmington, you have a punctured lung and I'm going to need to put in a chest tube and give you something to help with the pain..."

"Been th...there...done th...that," the rogue answered and soon felt her freezing the area she'd be placing the tube. "Please... friends...o...okay?"

Joan Fremantle knew this man had been brought in with three others and that they were a close group. She'd been at Saint Vincents for less than a month, but had heard stories about Larabee and his team. They were legendary according to the doctors and nurses and even some of the cleaners knew about the seven men who seemed to grace the medical facility. "I don't know how they're doing, but as soon as we have you fixed up I'll check on them for you."

"O...okay...thanks, Doc," Wilmington managed and relaxed as the pain eased with the medication the nurse injected into his IV.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Stacey Midland knew there was nothing more she could do for Tanner until they had the test results back. Because of the unknown drugs in their system, Chris, Vin, and Ezra were all being given Narcan in an effort to negate the effects of any narcotics that had shown up in their blood tests. Chris and Vin were also being given Dilantin to stop the convulsions that seemed to plague them both. She hurried to the main desk to check on the conditions of the others and was not surprised to find Josiah and Nathan standing there.

"Doc, how are they?" Sanchez asked worriedly.

"Vin is still unconscious and portable X-Ray is in there with him right now. He's being treated for drug overdose and possible internal injuries. We'll know more once we have the test results," Midland answered as Roy Simmons joined them.

"How's Chris?" Jackson asked.

"Stubborn as ever and yes he was awake for a few minutes. There's evidence of deep bruising of his chest and right thigh as well as a deep knife wound in his right shoulder. He's had a couple of seizures since he was brought in, but we're treating him with Dilantin. It's going to be some time before we know anything definitive," Simmons explained.

"What about Buck and Ezra?" Sanchez asked.

"Dr. Fremantle is taking care of them, so give me a minute and I'll check with her," Midland explained and hurried to treatment room one. She opened the door slightly, but let it close when she noted that Wilmington seemed to be resting comfortably propped up in the bed.

Stacey moved to the adjoining room and found Fremantle checking the readouts above Ezra Standish's head. "Joan, how is he?"

"He's still unconscious, Dr. Midland, but his blood work looks good. I did remove a broken needle from his shoulder," Fremantle explained as she checked the IV line.

"Are you admitting him?"

"I already signed the admitting papers," Fremantle answered and knew she'd done the right thing as Midland nodded slowly. "I've also admitted Mr. Wilmington and asked that they be put in the same room if possible."

"You learn fast, Joan," Midland said.

"Thank you," Fremantle said as she returned her attention to her patient.

Midland returned to the desk as Orrin Travis joined Jackson and Sanchez. "Hello, Orrin."

"Stacey, how are they?" Travis asked.

"Battered and drugged, but that's nothing new with this bunch, Orrin. It's going to be harder on my staff than a disaster of the century," Midland teased.

"Dr. Midland, we need you!" Sharon Newman called from Trauma One.

"Doc?"

"Not now, Josiah," Midland said and hurried toward the trauma room. She had no idea what had happened, but the nurse's call told her things had just gotten worse for Vin Tanner. "What's wrong, Sharon?"

"His blood pressure keeps dropping and his temperature is dangerously high," the nurse answered.

"Damn it, Vin, don't you do this now!" Midland said and was glad when Brandon Silverman stepped into the room. The duo went over the X-Rays and blood test results and both knew surgery was in the Texan's future.

"Could be his spleen," Midland suggested.

"Probably, but whatever it is he's bleeding into his abdominal cavity and we need to find out where it's coming from," Silverman told her.

"I'll call ahead and make sure they're ready for us," Midland said as Silverman double checked the test results.

"Doc, what's going on?" Sanchez asked and listened as the physician explained what was happening with the Texan.

"Damn it," Jackson cursed as Midland hurried away.

"Maybe we should go wait with Buck and Ezra," Sanchez offered.

"What about, Chris?" Jackson asked.

"You two go ahead. I'll wait here for word on Chris," Travis told them.

"Thanks, Orrin," Sanchez said and moved to follow Standish's stretcher as it was pushed toward the elevators. Wilmington was already in a semi-private room on the third floor and Ezra would be his roommate for the duration.

Orrin watched until they disappeared and strode toward Trauma Two. He knocked lightly and entered to find Roy Simmons checking the semi-conscious blond.

"Judge Travis," Simmons greeted as Larabee struggled to open his eyes.

"How is he?"

"In true Larabee fashion he's a mess," Simmons observed. "We'll be moving him to ICU in a few minutes."

"ICU?" Travis asked.

"Because of the drugs, convulsions, fever, blood loss, and head trauma just to name a few...as I said, true Larabee fashion," the physician explained.

"Orrin," the voice was weak, but Travis was glad the man knew who he was.

"Easy, Chris," the former judge warned as the lean body shifted on the bed and a hiss of pain escaped.

"Where...? Vin okay?" Larabee asked as he finally found the strength to open his eyes.

"Vin's going to be fine, and so will you as long as you do as the doctors tell you."

"That'll be a first," Simmons said gruffly.

"Hell..."

"Glad to have you back with us," Simmons quipped as he adjusted the flow of oxygen to his patient's lungs.

"Orrin...Teresa and her son...safe?"

"Yes, they are, Chris. JD is staying with them until the proper authorities arrive. Now that Browner's dead she doesn't need to testify, but she will need to go into the program because of his partners," Travis explained.

"Poor kid's...been thr...through..."

"All right, Larabee, it's time to be quiet and breathe," Simmons ordered, not liking the low oxygen readings he was getting.

"I just..."

"Do as he tells you, Chris, I'll see you later once your settled in your room," Travis ordered and left the room.

Chris closed his eyes and realized whatever they were giving him was making him feel loopy. He hated the feeling, but he knew from experience that without it he'd be unable to stand the pain. Still, he needed to know how the others had found and rescued them. He forced his eyes open and watched the physician writing on his chart.

For all intents and purposes, Roy Simmons looked the part of an elderly curmudgeon right out of an old John Wayne western, yet the man knew what he was doing.

"All right, Larabee, we're going to move you upstairs and let you get some rest. The nurses will be watching you closely, but if you need anything just let them know," Simmons ordered as an orderly and a nurse stepped into the room.

Chris closed his eyes as the equipment was removed and placed on the gurney. He felt his body relax as the drugs and exhaustion pulled him under.

"Let's get this done while he's out," Simmons ordered and took control of the stretcher.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Buck turned his head and looked at the man in the next bed. Standish was still unconscious, but the doctor had assured him that he was going to be fine.

"Buck, you should be sleeping," Jackson advised.

"Hell, Nate, no one sleeps in here except when they wake you to ask you if you want a sleeping pill," Wilmington groused, trying unsuccessfully to find a comfortable spot. "Damn tubes!"

"Those damn tubes are there for a reason," Jackson mock scolded and plumped the pillows behind Wilmington's head.

"So they keep telling me," the irritated patient snapped and looked toward the door as Orrin Travis entered. "Orrin, how's Chris?"

"He's in rough shape and they're moving him to ICU," Travis explained and went on to tell them what Simmons had said.

"What about Vin?" Wilmington asked.

"He's in surgery and it could be several hours before we know anything so you might as well get some sleep," the former judge said.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

He was sure those sounds were voices, but why did his head hurt so much? Was his mother in town again? Had she come to ask him about his 'God given talents'? Didn't she understand he'd already made his choice and would not run out on the team again? God, his head felt like it really was going to explode, but the voices wouldn't stop even as he managed to peel his eyes open. He heard someone moan and felt a hand on his shoulder as he realized the sound was coming from his throat.

"Easy, Ezra, you're in the hospital, but you're going to be fine," Jackson said once the gambler's eyes finally focused on him.

"What happened?" Standish managed.

"You and Buck managed to find Chris and Vin, but not without a few dents and bruises," Sanchez explained as the younger man turned toward the other bed.

"How do you feel?" Travis asked.

"Dreadful. I believe someone should decapitate me before my head explodes," the gambler answered.

"Hang on and I'll get the nurse," Sanchez offered.

"Jesus, Ezra, you look like I feel," Wilmington said with a slight grin.

"Then I must be dead because you look like a corpse," Standish sent back and got a smile from those present as a nurse entered the room.

"Mr. Standish, how do you feel?" Jenna Norman asked.

"My stomach is churning and my head feels ready to explode," the gambler answered.

"I have something here that will help with the pain and nausea," the nurse said and injected the prescribed medications into his IV. "That should help and it will make you sleepy so don't fight it."

"Thank you," Standish said and waited for her to leave before facing the others. "Are Chris and Vin...are they okay?"

"Chris is in ICU and Vin's in surgery," Jackson answered.

"Damn...how bad?" the gambler asked and listened as Jackson explained the serious injuries to both men. He sighed tiredly and relaxed toward sleep as the medication eased the throbbing in his skull.

"I'm going up to check on Chris," Jackson told them.

"Tell him if he sees any pretty nurses to send them my way," Wilmington said.

"I don't think he knows you and Ezra were hurt," the medic said.

"Hold up, Nathan, I believe it's time I called JD and gave him an update." Sanchez followed the younger man out of the room knowing Orrin Travis would stay with them until they returned.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Stacey Midland took a deep breath before entering the ICU room where Chris Larabee was a patient. Nathan Jackson was also present and stood up as she moved to the bed.

"Has he been awake?"

"Not since he was brought up from the ER, Dr. Midland," the nurse answered as Midland checked Larabee's chart.

"Does Dr. Simmons know his fever is up?"

"Yes, he was in a little while ago and ordered new medication."

"Doc, how's Vin?" Jackson asked.

"He's being settled in SICU as we speak, Nathan. Dr. Silverman found a couple of problems, but they were fixable and we should be able to treat the infection with antibiotics. He'll probably spend the next 24 to 48 hours in the SICU," Midland answered.

"What about Chris? How long will he be here?" Jackson asked.

"That depends on how well he responds to treatment. Most of the drugs should be flushed from his body by his kidneys and liver and we should know more by then," Midland explained.

"Damn," the medic said tiredly.

"Damn is right, but they should both be fine, Nathan," the physician said. "As for you I'd say you're a candidate for a nice warm bed and..."

"Doc, I need to..."

"Nathan, I believe there's someone here to see that my orders are carried out. Go home with Rain and get at least eight hours sleep," Midland ordered. "They'll be well taken care of, Nathan...you know that."

"I know, Doc...thanks," Jackson said and stepped out of the room, smiling as he gave himself over to Rain's care.

"Come on, Nathan, let's go home and take a nice hot shower before we get you in bed," Rain ordered.

"Only if you join me," Jackson said and wrapped his arm around her waist as they walked toward the elevators.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

JD didn't resent being stuck at the safe house with Teresa and Joey Browner, but he wanted to be with the others. Josiah's call had done little to reassure him that Buck, Ezra, Chris, and Vin were okay, because all four had been admitted to the hospital. There were several agents from the FBI on their way to take over the Browner's protection and although he knew they would be safe, he wanted to see things through for Chris and Vin's sake.

"JD, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Mrs. Browner. Are you ready?"

"I've packed everything we brought with us, but I wanted to see Chris and Vin...to thank them for everything they've done for us."

"I know, but with your husband dead his partners are going to try and make a move on his assets and that means they'll need to get you out of the way. The FBI has already arranged to have you and Joey disappear and you'll start a new life where these people can't find you. Chris and Vin will understand," Dunne explained.

"I know. I just...will you give them this from me?" Teresa asked and handed him an envelope with their names on it.

"Sure," the Bostonian said and smiled as Joey Browner came out of the room with his blanket and bunny clutched tightly to his chest.

"Mommy, when are we going on the plane?" the boy asked.

"As soon as JD's friends get here," Teresa answered and hugged her son. She'd explained to him that they were going on an adventure and that JD's friends would be there to pick them up and drive them to the airport where they would board a plane and start a new life in the country. She hadn't told him they'd be changing their names, but would explain all of that once they reached their destination.

"JD, will you and Chris and Vin come visit us?" Joey asked innocently.

"I wish we could, Kiddo, but sometimes it's best to just say goodbye and make new friends. We're all going to miss you, but I bet you won't have a chance to miss us because you'll meet new kids your age and go to a new school..."

"Like that boy in Kindergarten Cop?" the boy asked.

"Yes, like him, but you won't have to worry about anyone coming to take you from your mommy," Dunne explained. "You'll be the man of the family and your mommy will want your help."

"Is that true, Mommy?"

"Yes, Joey, it is," Teresa said as the sound of several cars reached their ears. She watched JD check through the doorway and saw him nod that it was okay.

JD opened the door and shook hands with the lead agent. He'd met the man on several occasions and owed the man for saving his life during a time when he'd been drugged and brainwashed into joining a cult.

"Hey, JD, how's it hanging?" Peter Wellington asked with a grin.

"Same as always...on the right," Dunne answered.

"Are they ready to go?" Wellington asked.

"As ready as anyone is in this situation," Dunne told him and made the introductions before taking the Browner's bags and escorting them to the waiting cars. He shook hands with Wellington and watched them drive away before locking the safe house and heading for his motorcycle parked inside the garage.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Chris opened his eyes and blinked several times as the bright light stabbed at his eyes. He saw a nurse standing at the foot of his bed and tried to make sense of his muddled thoughts. That he'd been hurt was a given, that he was in ICU told him it wasn't something he'd be walking away from any time soon. The fact that he was alone told him he wasn't the only one injured and his brow furrowed as he tried to remember exactly what had happened to land him in the hospital.

Chris shifted slightly and realized that was a mistake as pain slammed through his bruised and abused body. His eyes clenched tightly as he tried to ride out the waves of nausea churning through his gut. He had no idea how long it lasted, but when he managed to open his eyes again he was no longer alone with the nurse.

"Let that be a lesson to you, Larabee..."

"You should talk to Buck about getting up on the wrong side of someone else's bed," the blond groused as the pain finally eased with the medication that entered his blood stream.

"Glad to see those blows to the head didn't affect your sense of humor," Simmons said, chuckling softly at how easily he could goad this man and find out how he really felt. "All right, Larabee, let's get serious for a minute..."

"I thought I was..."

"I'll ignore that. How do you feel?"

"Not much of anything."

"Damn, guess we really are giving you the good shit."

"When can I get out of here?" the blond asked, sighing as sleep reached out for him.

"Not until we find out what's causing this fever," Simmons said seriously and reached for the bandage covering the shoulder wound as his patient lost consciousness.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

JD knew it was late, but he needed to see the others and make sure they were okay. He trusted Josiah to tell him the truth, but he needed to see with his own eyes. Chris and Vin were in ICU, but Buck and Ezra were in a regular room and that meant visiting hours were over for them.

Dunne knew if he was quiet he could probably sneak past the nursing station and peek in on the two men. The room was at the end of the hall and JD was glad the lights were turned out as he made it to the door. He pushed it open and stepped inside, relieved to see there was no one there, except his injured teammates.

"Come in, Kid," Wilmington said when he turned to see the young man standing in the doorway.

"Hey, Buck, you look like hell," Dunne said softly.

"Now you know that's just not possible, Son," the rogue said. "I take it the FBI finally got there?"

"Yes, they did. The Browners should be on their way to a whole new life," Dunne answered, and winced at the sight of the tube leading into Wilmington's chest. "I should go."

"You okay, Kid?"

"I'm not the one with the accessories, Buck."

"Don't let these worry you. Don't you know the nurses just love to hover over me. Maybe even kiss it better."

"You're so full of it, Buck," Dunne said.

"Thanks for coming, JD, go home and get some rest," Wilmington ordered.

"You just get some sleep and don't go hitting on the nurses..."

"Don't go spoiling my fun, Kid," the rogue said and shook hands with the younger man before closing his eyes and allowing the medication to lull him to sleep.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Stacey Midland hurried into the SICU and smiled as she watched Vin Tanner slowly fighting to wake up. She knew how hard it was for him and was glad they'd already removed the ventilator. She heard a soft moan and reached for the basin as the nurse eased him onto his side. She rubbed circles on his shoulder as again and again his body shook with the force of the retching. The Texan had always had a bad reaction to the anaesthetic, and she knew the Zofran should help as they eased the injured man back on the pillow.

"Feel better?" she asked as he seemed to focus on her.

"Depends on what'cha mean...feel like shit," the Texan answered.

"I bet..."

"Chris okay?"

"He's a mess, but you both should be okay as long as you take things easy and sleep when you need to."

"So damn tired."

"I expect you are. That's probably because you've just had major surgery and are on some pretty heavy medications so stop fighting it and go to sleep."

"Sounds like...like a plan," the Texan said and let his eyes close as the physician adjusted the oxygen mask over his mouth and nose.

"Sylvia, I'll be back to check on him before I leave, so have me paged if anything changes," Midland ordered before leaving the room.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Buck silently cursed the injuries that kept him confined to the bed. Since waking for the second time since being admitted, Ezra had been up and even managed to find some decent clothes to wear instead of the hospital garb. The gambler was sitting in the chair by the window silently shuffling a deck of cards while he waited for the nurse to remove his IV.

"Sonofabitch!"

"Problems, Buck?"

"What the hell do you think? I'm stuck in this fucking bed and..."

"I'm sorry, Buck, I know you want to check on Chris and Vin, but right now there's nothing you can do for either of them," Standish offered. "If I could I'd change places with you, but..."

"Thanks, Ez," Wilmington said seriously. "Are you going to see them before you go home?"

"Yes, and I will come down to fill you in on their conditions," Standish vowed as a nurse entered the room and first checked the bedridden patient before moving to the second man.

"Dr. Midland signed your release papers and said to tell you she expects you to go home and rest..."

"I will..."

"As soon as you see Chris and Vin," the nurse finished with a smile. She knew these men and their reputation and understood it would be pointless to argue with them.

"Damn, I think she's got your number, Ez," Wilmington said as the nurse finished removing the IV and taped some gauze over the site.

"I believe you are right," Standish agreed and smiled at the pretty woman before heading for the door.

"Don't leave without your discharge instructions," the nurse ordered.

"I won't. I'll be back shortly, Buck," the conman said and hurried toward the elevators. His blood test results had shown whatever drug she'd used was out of his system, but the headache had yet to go away completely and he looked forward to getting home and getting into his own bed.

Ezra reached the ICU and was not surprised to find Josiah Sanchez standing at the desk speaking with one of the nurses.

"Are you AWOL, Ezra?" Sanchez asked.

"No, I've been officially released," Standish answered.

"How's the headache?"

"Tolerable. How is Chris?"

"Simmons is in there with him now."

"Is he all right?"

"He's still got a fever, but you know Chris, he's never been a man to make things easy on the medical staff," Sanchez said.

"He does tend to live on the edge..."

"And you don't?" the ex-preacher asked.

"I believe we all suffer from that malady. It's what gives us the edge when we need it most," Standish said as the door opened and Simmons walked toward them. "How is...?"

"Did Stacey sign your discharge papers?" Simmons interrupted.

"Indeed she did..."

"Then what are you doing here?"

"I...I..."

"Hell, Standish, you boys are just so damn easy to read, but I will say this. As soon as you see Larabee have someone take you home and stay with you for the next day or two," Simmons ordered.

"I will."

"See that he does, Sanchez," the physician ordered. "Now, before you ask you can see Larabee, but keep the visits to a minimum for today. He's as grouchy as a pissed off grizzly and I'd hate to have to treat you boys because he decided to take a bite out of your hide."

"Thanks, Doc," Sanchez said and walked toward Larabee's room. He entered to find the nurse putting away some supplies and knew the blond was awake before he opened his eyes. "Good morning, Chris."

"Morning, Josiah," Larabee said, frowning when he took note of the man standing behind the ex-preacher. "What happened to you, Ezra?"

"Noth..."

"Cut the crap and tell me," Larabee warned.

"Simmons was right," Sanchez said with a chuckle.

"About what?" the blond snapped.

"He said you were as grouchy as a pissed off grizzly," the older man answered.

"You try lying here and be poked and prodded and see how grouchy you get," Larabee said and turned back to the gambler and repeated his question. "What happened to you?"

"Ezra got in the way of one of her needles," Sanchez answered..

"Damn... Are you all right?"

"I assure you I'm fine. Dr. Midland released me this morning once she saw the drugs were out of my system," Standish explained.

"Glad you're okay, Ez, now who else was hurt?" Larabee asked, yawning tiredly.

"Buck tangled with Browner and wound up with broken ribs and a punctured lung, but he's going to be fine," Sanchez answered.

"That explains why he hasn't been here," the blond said. "Tell me Browner and that bitch were denied bail!"

"Browner is dead and Natalia Barshefsky is in jail, and she was denied bail," the ex-preacher explained.

"What about Teresa and Joey?" Larabee asked.

"The FBI picked them up last night and by now they've already been given new identities," the older man answered and watched as the blond's eyes closed. "They're safe, Chris, you and Vin saw to that."

"No, Josiah, the team saw to that. Vin and I getting caught was not part of the plan."

"How did you fall into Browner's hands?" Standish asked.

"We were headed out to Vin's place to pick up a few things before meeting with Vin's snitch," Larabee answered tiredly.

"That was just after you left Buck and I with the Browners?"

"That's right, Ez, but we never made it to the ranch. About a mile outside Billings a truck pulled up behind us and rear ended us several times before someone shot out the tire on my truck. Vin hit his head and was out cold by the time Browner's men got to us. The rest is history," the blond answered.

"We found the truck and Vin's informant. He's dead," Sanchez told him.

"Damn..."

"Mr. Larabee, I believe it's time your friends left and you got some sleep," the nurse said.

"She's right, Son, you go ahead and rest. I'm going to take Ezra home and put him to bed," Sanchez said and ushered the younger man out of the room as Larabee's eyes closed and he relaxed into the pillows. M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Vin heard soft whispers and opened his eyes to find Josiah and Ezra watching him. He knew they were worried about him, but right now he just wasn't in the mood for conversation. Truth was he felt like hell and was tired of feeling as if he was higher than a kite. The nausea had finally eased and Stacey Midland had already been in to see him and told him exactly what they'd done and how long he'd be in the SICU.

Josiah had been in earlier and told him Buck and Ezra had been injured and Vin studied the conman before speaking. "You gettin' outta here, Ez?"

"Indeed, I just wanted to stop by and see if they're treating you all right," Standish answered.

"Can't say fer sure...keep sleepin' most of the time," Tanner answered.

"Then I shall leave you to it," the gambler told him as the injured man yawned tiredly.

"Thanks...damn," the Texan said and sighed as the medication took affect and sleep beckoned to him.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Buck watched as they maneuvered the second bed into the room. He knew it was Chris and had been told Vin would be joining them the next morning. He'd been moved into this room the evening before and knew it was large enough to accommodate three beds and any equipment they'd need. He listened as the nurse took the patient's vitals and made sure he knew how to use the PCA before pushing back the curtain and leaving them alone.

Buck turned on his side, wincing as the movement tugged on the tubing and smiled as Larabee turned in his direction. "You look like I feel," Wilmington said.

"That bad," Larabee asked. "Thanks, Buck. I don't know how much more Vin and I could take."

"Anytime...besides I still owe you ten or twenty more," the rogue said with a grin. "But who's counting?"

"The Browners are safe..."

"I know. JD was here last night. He snuck in after visiting hours were over," Wilmington explained, frowning when Larabee pushed back the blankets and sat up. "Going somewhere?"

"SICU to check on Vin," Larabee answered.

"Hang on I'll go with you," the rogue offered.

"Just how do you propose to do that with those accessories?" the blond asked.

"Damn, I forgot I was chained to this damn bed. You know I don't mind when there's ladies involved and..."

"Buck, do me a favor," Larabee said seriously.

"Name it."

"Don't ever change."

"Now why would I do that when I've got such a great life...well except when this shit happens," Wilmington said and watched as Larabee stood on shaky legs. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

"No, but I'll do it anyway," the blond said. "Anyone comes looking for me just tell them I needed some exercise."

"Yeah right...they'll know exactly where you are," the rogue said and sighed tiredly. He wished he could go with Larabee, but there was no point in even arguing until they got rid of the tube in his side.

"I won't be long, Buck, just hold down the fort," Larabee said.

"You got it," Wilmington said, relaxing as he pressed the button on the PCA pump and felt the medication enter his blood stream. He knew it wouldn't take long to work and watched through hooded eyes as his long time friend left the room. The man looked like hell, but Buck knew there was nothing short of restraints that would keep him from going to check on Tanner.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

"Ya look like an old man, Larabee," Tanner said as he watched the blond make his way into the room.

"I could have stayed in my room and got this kind of abuse," Larabee spat.

"Still cantank'rous too...need ta invest in some prunes ta keep ya reg'lar," the Texan quipped.

"Is that your secret?" the blond asked, smiling at the nurse who pushed a chair close to the bed.

"Don't need that stuff...reg'lar as clockwork...it's why I always got a sunny dis...disposition," Tanner offered with a hint of a smile as his visitor reluctantly sat down.

"Seriously, Vin, how are you feeling?"

"Probably better than I should be...they still givin' ya the good stuff?"

"Think so...haven't had to use it yet," Larabee said.

"Yer not foolin' anyone, Chris," the Texan said.

"Wasn't trying to..."

"Then push the button and get some rest."

"Jesus, Vin, I just got here and you're tired of my company already?"

"You tell anyone ya were headin' this way?"

"No...well just Buck...why?"

"Looks like yer 'bout ta be busted," Tanner said as Simmons and Midland entered the room.

"Larabee, I'm sure I told you what I'd do if you..."

"Yeah...something about restraints," the blond said tiredly.

"Come on then. Tanner needs his rest too and he'll be joining you and Wilmington tomorrow morning as long as he doesn't try any foolhardy stunts like you just did," Simmons lightly scolded as Midland returned with a wheelchair.

"I can walk..."

"Sure you can. How far do you think you'll get before you fall flat on your face? Where's Standish when you need him?"

"Why do you want Ezra?" Larabee asked.

"Isn't he the one who sets up the wagers?"

"Hell, Simmons..."

"Not yet, Larabee, but it will be if I find you here again. Stacey, I'll see you this afternoon."

"Thanks, Roy," Midland said and turned to the Texan as Simmons wheeled his patient from the room. "I must say you look better than you did last time I was here, Vin."

"I feel better, Doc, when can I go home?"

"Don't you think we should get you out of SICU first?" Midland asked.

"Hell, Doc..."

"Hmm, didn't I just hear Chris say the same thing?" Midland asked softly as she checked the readings above his head. "Look, Vin, I know you guys hate the hospital, but there are times when you need to be here and let us do what we do best."

"I know, Doc," Tanner said with a weak smile. "Ya know I've never been a patient..."

"Patient," Midland finished for him and heard a soft chuckle. "You're doing very well, Vin, but you still have a ways to go so lie back and rest. Tell the nurse if you need anything."

"I will," the Texan said and surrendered to his body's need for sleep.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

"All right, Larabee, into bed," Roy Simmons ordered and watched as his patient slowly stood up and sat on the edge of the bed. He could easily read the lines of pain on Larabee's face. "No one will think less of you if you push that damn button...it's there to help you."

Larabee lay back on the bed and pressed the button before awkwardly pulling the blanket up over his body. He knew it wouldn't take long for the medication to take affect and he looked at Simmons. "Thanks, Simmons."

"Just doing my job, Larabee." Simmons looked at the second patient and smiled before leaving the room. These men were damn good at their jobs and he admired the way they stood up for each other no matter what anyone else thought. Larabee had handpicked his team and each man brought something unique to the 'brotherhood'. He briefly wondered where his own brother was and hoped someday they'd be able to get past their differences and mend fences. Without a word he turned and left the room.

"You all right, Chris?" Wilmington asked.

"Think so...drugs have kicked in," Larabee answered.

"Good stuff...but it makes my head spin," Wilmington offered.

"I know," the blond said.

"How was Vin?"

"He seemed okay," Larabee answered.

"I bet he's anxious to get out of there?"

"Wouldn't you be?"

"Hell, yes...well it would depend on the nurse," the rogue said, wagging his eyebrows.

"Jesus, Buck, do me a favor?"

"Name it."

"Don't ever change," Larabee sighed heavily and closed his eyes.

"I couldn't change, Chris, 'cause I'd be letting all those ladies down if I did," Wilmington said and smiled when he heard his friend's soft laughter. His job was done, he'd made Larabee laugh and that was the best medicine possible right now.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Vin lay back against the pillows as the orderly pushed his bed into the new room. He knew Larabee and Wilmington were already there and was surprised when his bed was moved to the spot by the window. It took some maneuvering, but when all was said and done the three beds were in place and they were alone.

"How are you doing, Vin?" Wilmington asked.

"Better...ya look like crap, Bucklin."

"How many times do I have to tell you guys that's just not possible," Wilmington said as the door opened and the remaining members of the team joined them. "Morning, Boys."

"Good morning," Sanchez said as he studied each man's face, relieved to find them pale, but not in pain.

"How'd ye manage ta get past the nurses?" Tanner asked.

"WE took a page out of Buck's book," Dunne answered.

"Charm and elegance," Wilmington said with a smile.

"More like crap and bull," Tanner said.

"Fuck you, Vin!"

"Sorry, Bucklin, but I don't swing that way," the Texan said.

"All right, Boys, let's have it," Larabee said.

"Have what, Boss?" Sanchez asked.

"I know you've probably already told us what happened, but I know I don't remember half the shit I was told because half the time I was out of it. What happened with Browner and that bitch he brought in?" the blond asked and raised the head of his bed.

"Wouldn't you rather wait until you're out of here?" Jackson asked.

"Not really," Larabee answered.

"JD found several of Browner's holdings and we split up to cover more ground while JD stayed with Teresa and Joey..."

"Are they okay?" Wilmington asked, silently cursing as he moved and was reminded of the tube still embedded in his chest.

"They were picked up by the FBI a couple of days ago and are already starting their new lives," Dunne answered.

"Browner's dead," Sanchez told them. "The woman is Natalia Barshefsky and it's safe to say you boys were lucky Buck and Ezra found you when they did."

"Would have been nice if ya'd found us a little earlier," Tanner said.

"We could have left you there a little longer," Wilmington quipped.

"No, thanks. I's jest sayin'..."

"I know, Vin, and you're welcome," the rogue said.

"What about Barshefsky?" Larabee asked.

"The woman is from Russia and she holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and physics," Jackson explained. "She has a reputation for getting what she wants and being well paid for getting the answers her clients want. There were several deaths associated with her, but no real evidence to convict her..."

"Until now," Wilmington offered.

"Until now," Standish said and sat in the chair next to Tanner's bed.

"You okay, Ezra?" Larabee asked.

"I'm fine, Chris, just relieved to see all of you out of ICU," the gambler explained.

"Thanks, Ez," Tanner said.

"Chris, Teresa Browner asked me to give this to you and Vin," Dunne said and handed Larabee the sealed envelope.

Chris took a deep breath and cursed his inability to open the envelope because of the wound to his shoulder. "JD, would you read it?"

"Sure," the young man said and opened it, pulling out the single sheet of paper and reading the neatly written words aloud. "Dear Chris and Vin, I feel that I can call you that now because you have both given so much to make sure Joey and I have a new life. I wish I could tell you in person how much I appreciate what you've done, but the FBI will be here shortly and we must leave. Words are not enough, but they are all I have right now and I just wanted you both to know that Joey and I will never forget you. Keep fighting the evil of this world and maybe someday it will be safe for us to thank you in person. Thank you....Teresa and Joey Browner."

"They did get away okay didn't they, JD?" Tanner asked.

"Yeah, Peter Wellington'll make sure they're safe," Dunne answered as the door opened and Stacey Midland and Roy Simmons entered the room.

"Stacey, when did they change visiting hours?" Simmons asked.

"I don't believe they did, but these guys seem unable to understand hospital policies," Midland observed.

"I don't think that's the problem, Doc," Larabee offered.

"Care to tell us what is?" Midland asked.

"We understand policies, Doc, we just don't agree with them," Dunne told her.

"Perhaps it's time we had security..."

"Don't think it would matter, Doc, they'd just find another way," Larabee told her.

"By any chance was that part of the requirements of their jobs, Larabee?" Simmons asked.

"That...plus stubbornness...bullheaded..."

"Cantankerous..."

"Ornery..."

"Sounds like something straight out of an old western," Simmons observed.

"He got that right, Cowboy," Tanner said with a grin.

"Did you just call me a cowboy?" Larabee asked.

"That he did, Mr. Larabee...at least once," Standish said and placed his feet on Tanner's bed.

"I believe you boys were born a hundred years too late," Simmons said.

"They're all a bunch of cowboys, Roy," Midland said with a grin.

"Ain't that the truth," Tanner said with a grin.

"All right, Gentlemen, you can stay for a while, but remember these three are patients and need to rest," Simmons said and followed Midland out the door.

"What's happening at the office?" Larabee asked.

"Orrin said to tell you not to worry about anything," Sanchez answered.

"He's got us working on updating the files," Dunne said in disgust.

"Chris, maybe we could talk to the doc," Tanner said.

"About what?" Larabee asked.

"Stayin' here until they finish up," the Texan answered.

"Hell, Vin, we'd be here for a year," the blond said. "I'd rather face the files."

"We could bring in a few...dozen," Sanchez offered.

"No, thanks, I already have a headache," Larabee said with a grin.

"All right, Boys, we'd best get to the office and get started," Sanchez said.

"Ezra, you should go home and rest," Jackson said.

"I'm fine, Nathan," Standish assured the medic.

"Files, Ez," Dunne said.

"Then again, perhaps I should stay and keep an eye on our injured comrades," the gambler explained.

"We'll be back later, Boys," Sanchez told them and held the door for the others. He knew Standish was still not one hundred percent and was glad the younger man was staying with Chris, Vin, and Buck. "See you boys later."

"We sure as hell ain't goin' anywhere," Tanner told him.

M7M7M7M7M7M7M7

Chris had never been so glad to be home. Buck had been released after a week, while he and Vin had been forced to spend ten days in the hospital. They'd uncovered an infection in the wound to his shoulder and he'd be wearing a sling for at least another week, but at least he was healing.

Chris glanced sideways at the Texan and was glad the man would be spending the next week at his ranch. Nathan would be checking on them, but he knew the whole team would be joining them. That wasn't so bad when you considered they'd become more like family than co-workers. A unique team that meshed in every conceivable way, and Larabee knew without a doubt they were the best in the business.

"What're ya thinkin' 'bout?"

Chris shifted on the patio chair and reached for the glass of lemonade as he answered. "Just thinking about the team."

"Ya picked 'em, Cowboy, ain't none finer," Tanner told him.

"I know...that's why it's so damn hard to see any of you hurt by bastards like Browner."

"It's our job, Chris...ain't ever gonna be an easy one as long as there are bastards like Browner."

"Seems like we get rid of one and a dozen takes his place."

"Ya sorry ya ever got inta this?"

"No," Larabee said thoughtfully. "Not when what we do means people like Teresa and Joey Browner get a whole new start without having to worry about men like her husband. Don't get me wrong, Vin, I know damn well they had to give up everything and she'll probably always be looking over her shoulder, but at least now they have a chance."

Tanner nodded and lifted his glass before speaking. "Here's to new beginnings."

"New beginnings," Larabee agreed and turned to see the rest of the team walk around the side of the house. It never failed to amaze him that this bunch was family to him and he hoped and prayed he'd never have to face losing them because he wasn't sure he could say goodbye.

"You boys ready for chicken and ribs?" Wilmington asked as he made his way to an empty chair.

"I'm starved," Tanner said.

"There's a big fuckin' surprise," Larabee said and relaxed as the members of his team took seats around the table. They were home, and right now that's what counted...the assholes of the world could wait until they were whole again.

The End

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