CHASING SIGNALS

By Jackie

The Magnificent Seven -ATF / Rated PG-13

 

Part 2

 

 

Chris Larabee sat next to the fire in a miserable heap, fearing that he would never be warm again.  Groaning lowly as a violent shiver shook his body; his muscles screaming their protest to the frequency of tremors, “Damn Vin, where’d you go Siberia?”  The snapping of twigs in the direction he’d seen the sharpshooter go drew his attention.  He could almost imagine some hideous creature materializing from the darkness; gore dripping from its fangs as it came looking for fresh meat.  Desperately, glancing around the ground where he was sitting, he looked for something to use as a weapon, in the chance that his soon to be visitor was exactly as he imagined.  “Vin, I will haunt your ass if I get eaten tonight!” he called as he scooted further away from the log he’d been resting against, in the hopes of finding something, anything to use as a weapon.

 

Growling in frustration, when he couldn’t find anything; he struggled to pull himself to his feet.  No one was going to catch him unaware.  Wincing as his ankle protested his sudden movement he finally managed to hop over to a nearby tree and brace himself against the trunk out of the area lit by the fire.  He waited silently out of sight as the rustling increased, his teeth chattering loudly enough that he was afraid someone or something might hear.

 

Vin’s voice suddenly came from the darkness on the other side of the fire, “Chris, guess who I found.  I found Ezra and Josiah; they’re going to give us a lift down the mountain.”  As Vin stepped closer he noticed the thermal blanket lying on the ground and Chris was no where to be seen.  His heart stuttered to a stop, what happened to Chris?  He hadn’t been gone that long.  “Chris! Chris where are you!”  Vin shouted at the top of his lungs, looking around the campsite desperately.

 

“Here, I’m over here.” Chris groaned as he limped around the base of the tree, “Didn’t know who was coming, didn’t have any weapons.”

 

“Well Cowboy, there ain’t nobody here except us four.  I told you there weren’t no Bogeymen out here.  You ready to get out of the cold?” Vin grinned when Chris flipped him ‘the Bird’ and dropped down onto the log he’d been sitting on before.

 

“Mr. Larabee, I’m sure you, like myself would prefer to get off this mountain as quick as possible.”  Ezra suggested as he zipped his jacket higher, “It’s gotten rather frigid this evening and you look about done in.”

 

Vin and Josiah covered over the fire and made sure it was out completely, while Ezra scooped up the thermal blanket and tucked it around their team leader, noticing that his lips had a blue tinge to them and he was shivering violently.

 

Once Vin and Josiah indicated that they were done, Chris made the effort to stand once again; Josiah hurried over, “How’s the ankle?  It obvious you are not getting out of the woods without assistance.”  The profiler draped one of Chris arms over one shoulder, while Vin did the same with the other.

 

“Let’s get a move on, I just know there’s something waiting out there, that’s just the way my luck is going this evening.”  Chris complained as he tried to look over his shoulder back the way they’d come.

 

Ezra led the way back to the Suburban with the flashlight lighting the way, he could hear Chris’s every harsh breath as he moved along with Vin and Josiah.  “How are you fairing back there, Mr. Larabee?  I believe the truck is only a few more minutes away.”  Ezra stopped and turned to look at the trio.  Vin and Josiah were both breathing heavy from carrying more and more of Chris’s weight as he was worn down from the pain in his ankle and trying to keep it elevated as they made slow progress toward the truck.

 

“How much further?” Chris groaned as his ankle throbbed in time with his heart.  At least he wasn’t freezing anymore, all he could think of was his ankle and how much it hurt.  He would have taken his jacket off if they’d stop for just a moment; he was starting to feel rather warm.

 

“Not far now, Cowboy.  We’re almost there and then you can rest.” Vin breathed out as he labored to get his friend out of the woods.

 

“Stop. Stop, this is not working any longer.”  Josiah replied as he stopped their forward progress.  Vin looked at Josiah questioningly, until the profiler swung the team leader up into his arms and resumed walking.

 

Chris’s protests fell on deaf ears as Josiah trudged on toward the truck, “Ezra, go start the truck and get the heater going.  Vin, you take the flashlight and lead the way out; Chris, hush and try to relax.”

 

Ezra hurried ahead to where they had left the Suburban, thanking any who would listen that it was only about one hundred yards ahead of them, by his calculations.

 

~o~

 

As the undercover agent was climbing up into Josiah’s vehicle his cell phone started ringing, grumbling as he fished it out of his inside jacket pocket, he answered without seeing who it was, “Hello?”

 

“Ezra, it’s J.D., Nathan and I were wondering if you’ve had any luck yet?” J.D.’s voice faded in and out as Ezra tried to concentrate on what the younger man was saying.  He hoped that the signal would stay strong enough for them to at least finish the conversation.

 

“J.D., we found Chris and Vin.  They ran into some trouble.” Ezra answered as he started the truck, cursing as his phone trilled; informing him that the signal was lost.  “You would think with today’s technology, that someone would figure out how to keep signals from being lost.” He griped out loud as he put his phone away; glancing over toward the trees he could see the beam from Vin’s flashlight.  So much for getting the vehicle warmed up before they arrived; now if they’d had his Jaguar, there would have been heated seats and he could have remote started it when he’d gotten within range of the vehicle.

 

When the sharpshooter opened the passenger side rear door, Ezra called out, “J.D. just called, I told him we found you, but then the signal was lost.  We’ll have to try again once we get moving.”

 

“No problem, I can call them.” Vin moved out of the way when Josiah finally made it to the road with Chris.  “Hurry Josiah, all the heat is getting out.”

 

“What heat?  This thing takes a century to heat up; we’ll be off the mountain before we can knock the chill off.” Ezra shouted out as he flipped all the dials to their maximum settings, shivering as the cold air permeated the cabin.

 

Helping the team leader onto the bench seat, Josiah blew out a tired breath, “Putting on a little weight there, Chris?  All right, Ezra quit your complaining and shift over, I’m driving.”  Once he was sure Chris was all the way inside, he slammed the door shut.  Moving to the back of the vehicle he opened the lift gate and dug out a blanket, tossing it up to the back seat.  He slammed the backend shut and trotted around to the driver’s door and hopped in his seat.

 

Chris moved the blanket and lifted his leg when Vin slid in on the other side, promptly setting it on the sharpshooter’s lap when he’d settled himself on the seat.  Sliding a glance at Chris, Vin sighed, “So now I’m your ottoman?”

 

Chris tiredly laid his head back on the seat back and groaned as he shivered violently, “Yup.  You got me into this mess, so I think you owe me at least that.  Oh, and you owe me dinner.”  He shook out the blanket and burrowed down into it, sniffing slightly at the odd smell.  “Uh, Josiah, not to sound ungrateful or anything, but this blanket has a funky smell to it.”

 

Josiah let out a sudden laugh as he turned the Suburban around and headed down the mountain.  “Sorry, its been living in the back for I don’t know how long. Just hold your breath.”  Glancing up in the rearview mirror, he watched as Vin picked up the edge of the blanket and tentatively sniffed at it, the sharpshooter pulled a face and pushed the blanket away, tucking it in tighter around the team leader.

 

“Think your blanket needs a bath, Josiah, it’s taken on a life all its own.” Vin retorted while waving his hand in front of his face.

 

“Well it’ll have to wait, our next stop is the ER; no excuses.” Josiah glanced back in the rearview mirror, looking for some type of reaction from the team leader, he wasn’t disappointed.

 

Without cracking open an eye, Chris Larabee raised his right fist into the air and gave Josiah the thumbs down.  “I do not need the ER.  Just take me home and I’ll be fine.  Nothing a roaring fire, steak dinner and a cold beer won’t fix.”  He supplied around chattering teeth.

 

“No arguments, Cowboy.  It’s the ER, now hush up and let me call the others and let everyone know we’re okay.”  Vin shot Chris a meaningful look when Chris meant to comment.  “Hey, J.D. it’s Vin.”

 

“Vin, hey you okay?  I was talking to Ezra and we lost the signal.”  J.D.’s excited voice could be heard coming through the earpiece.

 

“We’re all right J.D.; we’re coming off the mountain with Ez and Josiah, as we speak.  The Jeep broke down and we couldn’t get a cell signal to call you all.”  Vin looked out the window, but couldn’t see much through the darkness.

 

J.D. rambling drew Vin’s attention back to the conversation, “So where did you all want to meet up?  Did you want to go to the Saloon or somewhere else?  I don’t know about you but I’m starving.”

 

“Well Chris took a spill during our trek through the woods and hurt his ankle, frozen through too.  We’re going to make a quick stop by the ER and have them give him the once over.”  Vin grinned as Chris adamantly shook his head “No.”

 

Vin could hear J.D. relaying the information to Nathan about Chris and the ER, after an extended pause J.D. advised the sharpshooter, “We’ll meet you at the ER, Nathan said to make sure you tell the staff everything that happened, he said Chris just plays everything down.”

 

Vin laughed heartily, “Don’t I know it, he’s already crying about going.”

 

“Okay, see you soon, I’ll call Buck and have him meet us there too.”  J.D. supplied before ending the conversation.

 

Vin looked down at his cell, noticing that he had one line left on his battery, “Hey, Josiah you got a charger that might fit my phone?  It’s almost completely dead.”

 

“Hand it up, I’m sure one of the chargers up in the console will fit.” Josiah pulled to a stop at the end of the mountain road before turning out into the evening traffic.  “How’s the ankle doing Chris?”

 

Chris lifted his head and stared at the back of Josiah’s head blearily, with a large yawn, “It’s still there, complainin’ all the way.”

 

Ezra turned in his seat so he could see the team leader, “Mr. Larabee, at our current speed we should arrive at our destination in about fifteen minutes, is that satisfactory or should I advise Mr. Sanchez to get the lead out?”

 

“No, this is fine because you all are just going to take me home.  I will reiterate, for those of you having trouble grasping what I am saying.  I do not need to go to the hospital.”  Chris growled and turned his glare out the window at the passing motorists.

 

“Well Chris, I hate to burst your proverbial bubble, but this vehicle is going to the hospital whether you want to or not.  So sit back and enjoy the ride.” Josiah retorted as he hit the button to lock all the doors.

 

Chris just snorted, “Like that’s going to stop me, all I have to do is pull up on the lock and I can get out.  I’m not a little kid.”

 

“Really, you could have fooled me.  With all your whining, I thought I had picked up a small child.”  Josiah stared at Chris through the rear view mirror.

 

Chris frowned and burrowed down into his jacket and the blanket, refusing to rise to the bait.  They had another thing coming if they thought he was going into that ER without a fight.

 

~o~

 

Buck made a hard right into the hospital’s parking lot, grimacing as the tires squealed their protest and pulled into the first available parking spot he could find.  He jumped from the truck barely taking the time to lock and close the driver’s door, before bolting across to the Emergency Room entrance.

 

The hospital wasn’t very busy at the moment and he slid to an abrupt stop at the Information Desk, “A friend of mine was brought in just a little while ago, name’s Chris Larabee!” he huffed out breathlessly, startling the young woman sitting at the computer.

 

Smiling politely at the ladies man she asked, “What was your friend’s name again?”

 

“Chris, Christopher Larabee.  It’s spelled L-A-R-A-B-E-E.” Buck impatiently tapped on the counter top as she typed slowly on the keyboard.

 

Chewing on her lip she scrolled down the list of names of people currently being attended to, “I’m sorry, bear with me one moment.  I’m not seeing any Christopher Larabees.” Seconds ticked by slowly and Buck glanced around the waiting area, not seeing anyone he recognized.  The woman’s sudden outburst returned his attention to her, “Oh, I think I just found him.  He’s in under the name Christina Larabear.  The man who was giving me the information had such a strong accent, I could barley understand him.”

 

“Seriously?” Buck stared down at the young woman in amazement, “Well, you might want to update your records.  His name is Christopher Michael Larabee.”  Leaning forward Buck whispered to the woman, “I don’t really think he would appreciate you referring to him as ‘Christina’, just a suggestion.”

 

“Oh, yes I’ll definitely fix it; of course, you’ll have to wait out here.  He already has three visitors at the moment, and really only two are usually allowed.” The woman remarked and wrote down the correct name to be entered into the computer.

 

“Can I at least run back and let them know I’m here?” Buck smirked at the woman, but she frowned and shook her head.  Raising a skinny arm she pointed to the waiting area.  Buck scowled and bit out, “Fine!”  He realized he probably should have sweetened her up a little and she might have let him slide back there.  Now he had to wait until someone came out so he could go back.

 

Dropping down into an available chair, he glanced over at the television mounted on the wall.  It was some news program talking about the economic situation of the country.  He’d seen the broadcast earlier so he just zoned out, alone in his thoughts.

 

Buck had become so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t notice Nathan and J.D. coming through the entrance, after a quick stop at the information desk they moved toward the waiting area.

 

Finding an empty seat next to the ladies man, the medic dropped down beside him, “Any news on Chris?” Nathan asked startling his friend.

Laughing loudly to cover his start Buck asked, “When’d you get here?  Where’s J.D.?”

 

Nathan couldn’t help himself and let out a loud laugh, “We’ve been here for about ten minutes, tried to get your attention but you were in you own little world.  J.D. is over at the vending machine getting a soda.”

 

Looking up he saw J.D. coming back with a water, and two cokes, “Here,” J.D. handed Buck a Coke and Nathan the water, “Thought you might want something to drink.  I know I was pretty dry.”

 

“Thanks, J.D.  Vin, Ezra, and Josiah are in the back with Chris.  Hopefully someone will make an appearance sometime soon and let us know what the heck is going on.”

 

“Oh look! ‘SpongeBob’ is on, I love this show.” J.D. slapped Buck on the arm, “You love it too, you know you do.”

 

“That was our little secret, J.D.” Buck groaned and looked at Nathan, “You better not say anything.”

 

Nathan held up his hands, “Your secret is safe with me.”  Nathan seemed to think on that a second before adding, “Well for now anyway, you never know when blackmail could come in handy.”

 

Buck looked toward the doors leading to the treatment area trying to ‘will’ one of the three into appearance, just so their worry could be alleviated.  “What is taking so long?  I thought it was just a hurt ankle and a little freezer burn.”  Buck asked impatient for information, “This place is quieter than a graveyard, you’d think they’d move faster.”

 

“Relax Buck, getting excited is not going to make the doctors work any faster.” Nathan explained as he took a swig of his water, “Watch Sponge Bob with J.D. and they’ll be out here before you know it.”

 

Buck growled at Nathan, “What did I tell you?  Don’t be talking about ‘Who lives in a pineapple under the sea,’- Ah, no!” he cried out.

 

“Sponge Bob Square Pants!” J.D. cried out and started laughing like a crazy person, slapping his leg.

 

“You realize no one in their right mind would mistake you for ATF agents.” Josiah called out, as he joined the three men currently occupying the relatively empty waiting room.

 

“So, how’s it going? Is he going to live?” Nathan asked as Josiah sat down across from the trio.

 

Josiah scrubbed at the back of his neck with one beefy hand, “He’s being difficult, been fighting us and the doctor’s tooth and nail.” The profiler leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands between them, “They want to take his core body temperature.”

 

J.D. looked at Josiah in confusion, “Ok, what’s wrong with that?  Geez we’ve all had our temperatures taken.”  Josiah just raised his eyebrows and looked to Nathan to explain.

 

Nathan sighed, “They want a core body temperature.  That’s not done orally; they can even check it by using an electronic thermometer in your ear.  But the tried and true way is-”

 

“Up the caboose!” Buck choked out, trying not to laugh, “I’m sorry, I know this is serious stuff, but I can just imagine Chris’s expression when they said how they were going to do it.”

 

“Really, okay that’s just wrong.  I thought they only did that to little kids and animals, wow, yuck.  Glad it’s not me.” J.D. cringed in his seat, feeling sorry for their team leader.

 

~o~

 

“I told you I’m fine, just fix my ankle and I’ll be on my way.” Chris growled at the doctor who was insisting that he needed additional medical attention.  He was developing a raging headache, and along with the screaming his ankle was doing he just wasn’t in the mood for a battle of wills.

 

The doctor crossed her arms, giving the team leader a hard look, “You’ve been out in the elements since sunset, you fell down the side of a mountain which has resulted in a severe sprain of your left ankle.  You came to the ER looking half frozen; I just want to check you over, make sure everything is functioning as it should.”

 

“Yeah, Cowboy, just let her check.  It’s just a little thermometer, it’ll be in then out and you’re done.” Vin commented from where he was sitting in the corner of the exam room.

 

Chris turned to shoot Vin a glare and almost pitched off the gurney, as he righted himself he snapped, “If it’s so easy; you do it.”  Turning back to the doctor, “And just to clarify, I did not fall down the side of a mountain.  I slipped on wet leaves and lost my balance.”

 

“Mr. Larabee, the longer you fuss with the doctor, the longer we have to wait.  Do us all a favor.  Suck it up, bend over and take it like a man.” Ezra hissed as he grabbed up the thermometer in question, handed it to the doctor and stared down his team leader.  “You sir, would demand the same from any one of us.”

 

Chris looked at the undercover agent in surprise.  In the time that he’d known Ezra he’d only raised his voice a handful of times.  Glancing at the doctor he noticed her smirk, and scowled right back.  The room was uncomfortably silent for several moments until the team leader finally, realizing he was fighting a losing battle dropped back onto the gurney; sighing in resignation, Chris flopped an arm across his burning eyes, “Just get it over with, I have no dignity left.”

 

“Wise decision, Mr. Larabee,” The doctor turned to Ezra and Vin, “If you gentlemen will step out for a few minutes we’ll get this over and done with.”  She shooed them out, before calling in a nurse that was waiting nearby.

 

Ezra moved to stand further down the corridor, glancing down at his cell phone he groaned, “It’s now almost midnight, none of us have eaten and he’s sulking.  If he’d just relinquish some of his pride we could get out of here and get this horrid night over.”

 

“It’s okay, Ez.  Everyone is just out of sorts; you know Chris can be a handful when he’s hurtin’ or sick.  Hell, I’d think something was really wrong if he wasn’t being just plain ornery.” Vin soothed as he looked back to the curtained off area of the treatment room.  “He’s got his tail feathers ruffled and that’s a good sign, I’ll be happy if we can get outta here before the clock strikes midnight.”

 

A few minutes later the nurse poked her head out and motioned that they could return.  As Vin ducked back in he noticed that Chris was scowling even more, if that was even possible.  “Don’t tell me the Doc lost the thermometer?”

 

“No she didn’t lose the thermometer.  Like I said.  I’m fine.” Chris remained on the gurney, waiting as the nurse and doctor worked at splinting his ankle.  “Go tell the boys to get ready, because as soon as they’re done we’re blowing this Popsicle stand, and getting some food.  I, for one, am in desperate need of a beer.”

 

Ezra was about to make a comment when the doctor interrupted him, “Mr. Larabee, the only place you should be going is home to bed.  I’ve got some prescriptions here for you and they do not include alcohol.”  She turned to Vin and Ezra, “Your friend here,” she turned giving Chris a smile, which he ignored, “he’s not hypothermic.” The team leader snorted in reaction to her remark, “In fact, he’s actually running a temperature of 101.  I believe he’s come down with the flu, a very good possibility considering the rash of outbreaks in the area recently.”

 

“Told you to stop kissing toads, Cowboy.  Now look at you, you’re going to be one miserable S.O.B. to be around.”  Vin laughed now that he knew the diagnosis wasn’t so bad.

 

“So, what are you doing about the ankle?” Ezra asked the doctor she stood up and went to wash her hands in the sink.

 

“Well, I’ve been in contact with the orthopedic doctor and he wants to see Mr. Larabee in his office on Monday.  An appointment was made for ten in the morning.”  She moved her gaze back to her patient, “Ok, so here’s what’s happening.  I’m giving you crutches, use them.  Do not put any weight on that ankle, at least not until after you’ve seen the orthopedic doctor.”

 

Ezra rolled his eyes; they were in for some fun this weekend.  The man was a horror when he was out of sorts.  “I can assure you that Mr. Larabee will have plenty of caretakers this weekend.”

 

The doctor nodded and picked up some papers, “Okay, good.  Keep an eye on his temperature; make sure he has plenty of fluids, the non-alcoholic kind.  He needs to take his meds, keep the ankle elevated; ice would help, and make sure he keeps his appointment.”  She slid a look back at her patient, before again returning her attention to his friends.  “He, of course, knows all of this, because I’ve already tried to explain it once.” She held out the papers to Ezra, “Here are the discharge instructions, the orthopedic doctor’s information and most importantly, the prescriptions.”  The doctor moved to leave the cubicle, “Take care Mr. Larabee, if you have any questions feel free to call the number on the discharge instructions.  Oh, and I’ll have Peggy bring you some pain medication in a moment, just enough to get you through until tomorrow, most of the pharmacies are closed this time of night.”

 

“Thanks.” The three agents called out in unison as the doctor and nurse stepped out.  Vin grabbed up Chris’s shirt and tossed at to him.

 

“Hey, what’s your issue?” Chris growled as he pulled the shirt over his head and settled it over his lean torso.

 

“Got no issue, Cowboy, I’m starvin’ and no one has eaten yet.  I’m just a little pecky right now.” Vin moaned grabbing onto his growling belly.  “At least McDonald’s is open late.”

 

Glancing down at Chris, who was struggling to pull his pants on over the ankle wrappings, Ezra sighed, “Mr. Larabee, please stop.  You know those pants are not going to fit over that bulky dressing, we’ll just have to ask for some scrubs.”

 

Chris reached down, determined to get his foot into his jeans, “I am not wearing scrubs, just give me a moment and I’ll have them on.” He gritted out as his ankle began to protest the abuse, “Damn it.  You all could give me a hand instead of just standing there like bumps on a log.”

 

Vin grinned and clapped his hands, Chris gave him the finger, “Testy, aren’t ya, Cowboy.  Be right back, I’ve got an idea.”

 

Ezra reached down to pull the pant leg off as Chris was reaching down to pull it up.  Chris tried to knock Ezra’s hands away, but Ezra reached up and slapped the inside of the team leader’s leg right above the knee.

 

“That hurt, Ezra.” Chris snapped out as he grabbed the offended leg.

 

“I know.” Ezra grinned wickedly and quickly pulled the pants off and set them in a nearby chair, “You certainly are tenacious.  You’ll just have to wear a pair of scrubs home.  And as Mr. Tanner would say, ‘Suck it up!’  Now behave, before I have to take matters into my own hands.”

 

“You can be replaced.” Chris ground out as he waited on the gurney for Vin to return.

 

Ezra leaned back against the counter, “No you won’t.  I’m too good at what I do; besides no one else would put up with my expense reports.”

 

A few minutes later, Vin sauntered back in with a pair of dark grey sweats tucked under one arm. “I’m back.  You are in luck, because for some strange reason Buck had a pair of your sweats in his truck.  Is there something you’d like to confess?”

 

Chris gave Vin a withering look and held out his hand for the sweats.  “There’s nothing to confess, the sweats could have been sitting behind his truck seat for months.”

 

Vin handed over the sweats, watching as the team leader pulled the pants up over lean hips, “Damn, Cowboy, you losing more weight?  Tie them things tight, I don’t want to be blinded.”

 

Once Chris was completely dressed, Ezra handed him his crutches.  As they were about to make their escape the nurse showed back up.

 

“Oh no, you don’t; first you take these and then you can go.” Peggy, the nurse, held out a packet of pills and a small cup of water.

 

“No. I’m good.  Pain killers make me loopy.” Chris replied as he pushed ahead and out of the cubicle.

 

“Mr. Larabee, you are going to want these sooner rather than later.  Once you start moving around, the pain that settled down is going to rear its ugly head, tenfold.  Trust me.” Peggy followed Chris down the hallway as he crutched himself toward the exit.

 

“Ma’am, I’ll take those, he’s beyond listening to reason at this point.  Better to let him have his way, and pick up the pieces later.”  Ezra took the pills from the nurse and pocketed them, “Have a wonderful evening, thanks for all your assistance.”

 

Peggy stood speechless in the hallway as all three men walked out into the waiting room.

 

 

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