Chris sat in his office filing reports. He looked at the clock then back at his reports. The clock struck 3 and then stopped. He sighed; it was the clock Sarah and he had bought when they had seen it in an antique shop. He kept it around as a reminder of her in his office. He yawned and stretched. He couldn't wait to go home and just soak in a hot tub then go to bed. The day just seemed to drag on endlessly. The Foster case had come to a close successfully, almost without a hitch. No one had gotten hurt and even AD Travis was impressed.

Foster had been a hard case to crack. Both he and Ezra had been under a lot of stress. He had to play a go between Ezra's ATF boss and his mob boss. Twice their cover had almost been blown. He grinned at how fast Ezra switched it around to their favor.

He looked up at the clock again. Damn, it was only 3:05. He sighed. Maybe he would forgo the usual hanging out at Inez's with the guys and just head home, brush Storm down and hit the sack early. He shook that thought out. There was no way he was missing the latest ribbing of Buck over his latest conquest.

Chris snickered; conquest is not what the guys had called it. The poor guy had found himself the wrong kind of girl. What had Vin called her? A he-she? The woman who Buck had taken a shine to used to be a man. Chris had to laugh about it.

He turned back to his reports and signed his name on the line. Then he slid them into the folder and stretched. He looked at the clock again, registering the time at 3:08. To hell with it, he was the boss. He was going home early. He picked up the file, grabbing his coat and strode out his office door shutting it. "I got my cell if you need me." He tossed the file into outbox and walked out of the office.

Vin looked up as he watched Chris's tall form stride out of the office. "Lucky SOB," he mumbled. "He's got his work all finished and he's the boss, so he gets to go home early." Vin still had three reports to finished and he was damned if he could get the damn computer to work right for once. He sighed and thought of what had transpired since the last case. He thought of how he was feeling about Chris. When Chris had almost been shot when their cover had almost been blown. He thought Dear God, don't let him get hurt... I love him. Then when Chris hadn't gotten hurt, Vin had just sighed in relief. Vin closed his eyes and thought back to the day in the warehouse.

Chris had been striding right in front of Foster and was snarling about some stupid issue. Vin's breath nearly caught at the sight of him in those tight pin stripe pants that showed his behind off. When that gun came up, Vin nearly thought he was going to lose Chris without even telling him exactly what he had been feeling the last few weeks. Hell, since he met him, if Vin were being honest with himself. Vin was confused and he didn't want to cross the line and ruin a terrific friendship. He didn't know if Chris felt about him like he did.

Without being able to stop it, that horrible day started to replay right in front of Vin's mind's eye...

Ezra strode in front of Foster, his charming manner trying to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Foster Gang. "Now Mr. Foster, you said you had the special accoutrements that I wish to buy. I have the money where is the merchandise?"

Foster glared at the southerner with a gleam in his eye, "Don't think so 'cause you're a fuckin' fed. Jimmy 'ere saw your badge."

Ezra glared back at him. "Sir, I am abashed that you would insult my person as such. I am not a Fucking fed as you would put it. I use that badge when I wish to pull a swift job off without worrying about the real feds tracking me down. However, if you do not wish to assist me in appropriating the necessary armaments, I shall take my business elsewhere." He shuffled his coat and brushed off an imaginary piece of lint. To the gang it looked like he was disgusted with Foster, but to the men of Team Seven it knew he was in trouble and was signaling for Chris.

Chris Larabee strode out into the opening. "Hold it right there." The sunlight washed his face in its light,showing off his finely chiseled features and sharp hazel eyes.

Foster's men leveled their guns on him. "Who in the hell are you?" Foster demanded.

Chris cleared his throat and shifted his coat. "His boss. Told him to go and buy the goods then get back." Chris snickered. "Guess if you want something done got to do it yourself." He moved forward and stood next to Ezra.

Foster sneered "You a fed too?"

Chris looked at Ezra. "Fed hell, fucking no. What would I want to be a fed... be shot at and get jack-shit for money?"

Ezra looked at Foster. "I have told you before I was not a federal agent and neither is my boss. You can search us if you like. Though it would be fruitless as you would find nothing."

One of the biggest men in Foster's group moved forward and frisked both Chris and Ezra, then he shrugged to his boss. "They're clean."

Hiram Foster shrugged and brought the guns out. Setting them on the hood of the car, he flipped open the lid. He moved aside so they could look at them. "I got the goods, you got the money?"

Chris looked at Ezra as he traced the one gun with his finger, "give it to him." Just as Ezra was handing the money over they heard "ATF FREEZE!"

Chris found himself in a chokehold with a gun to his head. Son of a bitch... he hadn't noticed the guy moving so fast. The guys stomped into the warehouse, guns blazing.

"Let him go and maybe I won't kill you," Buck hissed between his teeth. His gun aimed at Hiram's head.

Hiram grinned and looked at Buck. "So's you both was feds huh." He cocked the hammer on the gun.

Vin could see the gun pressed against his best friend's head and thought this was it, he was going to lose Chris because of some son of a bitch. He gulped and took aim. He noticed Chris looking up towards him as if to say goodbye. The sun glinted off his rifle butt.

Hiram noticed it, but it was too late.

There was a gunshot, and Hiram slumped against Chris. Chris stood up and cleaned the blood off his face. The clean shot that Vin got from his vantage point had hit Hiram and got Chris free...

Buck's waving his hand in front of his face brought Vin back to the present. "Hey pard, you in there ready to go?"

Vin frowned. "Go?"

Buck laughed. "Yeah its time to go home. Well, to Inez's."

Vin thought a minute. "Naw y'all go on without me. I got work I need to finish or Chris'll have my head on a silver platter." He thought a minute, maybe he would drop off at the ranch for a bit to see Chris, maybe talk him into taking a ride so they could talk.

Ezra walked by. "He might do that to us, Mr. Tanner, but I do not think our illustrious leader would even think of doing that to your person," he quipped as he walked out of the office.

Vin was so caught up in his own thoughts he didn't notice that everyone had left. He finished up the line on the report then shut off the computer determined to stop at Chris's ranch.

While back at the ranch, Chris finished cleaning out Storm's stall and brushed him down. He stretched and yawned. He picked up the brush, again thinking to himself. He had come to some pretty close calls these past couple weeks. And each time that he did it, was Vin who saved his ass. He yawned, threw the brush in the box, fed Storm some oats, then turned in for the night. His last thought before sleep claimed him was that he might need to talk to Vin.

As the weeks wore on, Chris just kept feeling more and more tired. He found he couldn't do as much as he liked. The days felt like they were dragging more and more. He would go to sleep and wake up more exhausted than he was before he went to bed. He hoped the guys didn't notice. Miraculously, they didn't seem notice at all with the caseloads they were receiving. The normally observant sharpshooter seemed to be distracted, though Chris didn't know why. He just knew that he was grateful that Vin was distracted or he would be noticing a lot more about how he was acting. With all that, they hardly noticed the warning signs that anything was wrong with their friend and co-worker.

Chris walked into the office, looking at the time and shook his head. It was 8 am. "Damn it!" he thought to himself. He was late and had slept through his alarm clock again. He hoped that the guys were too busy with work to notice it again. He frowned, thinking up an excuse if they did. He shook his head, cursing as the familiar lethargy pulled at his aching limbs. Damn it, he was tired of being tired. He was tired of oversleeping and having to sneak into the office so the rest of his team didn't notice. Maybe with the hectic case schedule, he hoped they wouldn't notice anything different about him at all. He didn't say hello to JD, just by passed the kid's office without a word. He didn't say anything to anyone, pretending to be in a horrible mood so everyone would leave him alone.

They really would have been worried about him if they had known he was going to the doctors after work. They all knew he never went to the doctor's-ever. It was hard enough to get him to go to one when he had been shot in the line of duty. If they had known he was going willingly, they would have been shocked and concerned. Not to mention that Buck and Vin would be like hound dogs and mother hens, not allowing him one minute to himself. He set to work, hoping the day would move slower. He hated doctors.

Hours later as he pulled into the driveway of his ranch from the doctor's appointment, he shook his head. He growled and hit the dashboard with his fist. "Damn it." He was tired and irritable. The doctor couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. So what did he say? "It's all in your head. I can't find one possible thing wrong with you." If it was all in his goddamn head then why was he so tired he could hardly sit up lately? So tired that it took all his concentration just to get one damn report done? He laid his head on the steering wheel and closed his eyes, trying to regain the strength to crawl out of his truck. He pulled himself out of the truck and stormed into the house, determined to get a second opinion. He wasn't going to give up.

Vin sat dejectedly in his seat and stared at the TV screen. Here he was at home instead of spending time with his best friend. He couldn't figure it out. After the bust, they seemed inseparable then suddenly Chris wasn't around much. He avoided them at work. He refused to go out and hang at Inez's. When Vin would show up at the ranch, Chris was already in bed. His face shown the hurt he felt that Chris was pushing him away. He dug in deep inside himself, trying to figure out what on earth he had done that made Chris avoid him like the plague. Maybe he somehow slipped with his feelings. He thought back and shook his head. No, he hadn't done that. He slouched further in the couch, sipping on a beer. Then what in the hell had he done to warrant this kind of treatment? His blue eyes were full of torment and confusion as he turned back to his TV.

Weeks went by; Chris went to doctor after doctor. He would sit there and listen as each one of them told him something different. The answers were always the same: it was either all in his head, he was overworked, or they would tell him he was just getting older. After each appointment, Chris would get more and more discouraged. He kept it all to himself, not telling anyone what he was doing. Sometimes, the doctors would refer him to someone else. Then he would end up doing a run around, as that doctor would send him to another. He was getting more and more distressed and more and more exhausted. He would go from work to home then to a doctor's appointment without once letting any of the guys know what he was going through. Chris started avoiding them by not going out with them to Inez's or making excuses like he had extra work from AD Travis or that he was going to see Mary. Sometimes he lied, saying that he had a meeting. He didn't notice the hurt look cross Vin's face each time he would make an excuse that he was busy. Chris would miss the jealous look in those baby blue eyes when he said he was going to spend another night with Mary.

It all came to a climax one day when Chris had gone home early because of another doctor's appointment. Vin was sitting in his office working on a report when AD Travis came in carrying a folder, looking annoyed upset or angry. Vin couldn't tell which. He stood up. "Can I help ya, sir?" He was confused as to what he was doing down here considering Chris was supposed to be in a meeting with him.

AD Travis looked at the lanky sharpshooter, knowing that Chris depended on this man when he wasn't around. "No that's alright I just need to talk to Agent Larabee."

Now Vin was even more confused and worried as hell. "He ain't with you? He said he had a meeting with you two hours ago, I haven't seen him since." Vin frowned deeper.

AD Travis looked at Vin, "I haven't seen him in days and there was no meeting."

Vin looked at him. "Haven't seen him in-" He looked at his computer. "Excuse me, sir, but I have to go." He grabbed his coat and headed out the door. His expression was angry and upset all at once.

Chris was tired. Hell, more than tired, he was exhausted. Anyone who knew him and got close enough to him should have known that there was something seriously wrong. However, being the man he was, he was avoiding his friends, hoping not to worry them unnecessarily. It was getting harder and harder to keep how he was feeling from them. Especially Vin. That tracker had a knack of getting anything he wanted out of Chris, and Chris was helpless to stop it. Now that he was home once again, all he wanted to do was crawl into a nice hot bath then go to sleep.

He pulled the Ram into the drive, so dead tired from the latest doctor's tests and appointment that he didn't notice the battered jeep parked by his ranch. Chris slid his long legs out of the truck and then followed them out to a standing position, way too tired to just climb out. He rubbed his tired eyes, cursing that no matter how much sleep he got, he was still so exhausted when he woke up. He reached in and grabbed his heavy leather coat from inside the truck; it felt like it weighed a hundred pounds to his already-exhausted body. He made his way to the front door, getting ready to unlock it. He looked up as it swung open, and Vin stood there looking as angry as a swatted hornet.

"Pard, we need to talk. NOW." Vin's soft Texas drawl was gentle but demanding in its order. He was surprised when Chris merely shrugged and followed him into the house. His stern features softened when he got a good look at his friend. He pulled the door open wider to allow Chris a way in.

Chris was too tired to argue with Vin and he wasn't bothered by the fact that Vin was in his house when he wasn't. He had given the tracker a key a long time ago to the ranch. He knew that he could trust him, and that Vin only used it occasionally when he wanted to get away from the city. He slowly walked into the living room, not looking at Vin, keeping his face completely what he thought was neutral.

Vin watched him sink down onto the couch gracefully, but then he noticed something different about him. Chris was moving as if every movement he made was a struggle. He started noticing the worn, dark circles under his eyes and the pale, haggard features of his face. Then he knew that something was seriously wrong with Chris. He kicked himself for not noticing this earlier.

Chris looked up at Vin, seeing him watching his every move and sighed. He put his head in his hands, letting the tears fall down his cheeks. He was so tired... so very tired. He was tired of the doctors and the specialists. Tired of them telling him it was either all in his head, that it was just him getting older or, worse yet, telling him it was his job.

This last doctor's appointment had been the last straw on the preverbal donkey's back. The man had the audacity to tell him to see a shrink-a psychiatrist. Chris wasn't crazy and it wasn't all in his head. He was just tired-really, truly tired and scared as hell.

Vin was, to say the least, shocked. He had never seen Chris break down before and hurriedly rushed to his side.

"Whoa...Hey, cowboy, what's going on?"

Vin touched his friend's shoulder, feeling the sobs wracking his lean frame. He put his hand under Chris's chin and lifted his face to his. He asked softly, his voice imploring him to trust him, to tell him. "What's wrong?"

Chris looked into Vin's baby blue eyes and gave in. "I'm sick."

Was that all he could say? What else could he say? That the doctors said it was all in his head, that he's imagining it? That he's getting old? NO, damn it that is not what's going on. Chris was sick and he couldn't do a damn thing about it.

Vin frowned. He knew that Chris was sick. That was nothing new to him, considering the way Chris looked.

"What do you mean, you're sick? Sick with what? Is it serious?" His words tumbled out after each other, worry etched in his face.

Chris shrugged and looked at his hands again.

"That's just it, I don't know." Chris shakily got to his feet but hurriedly sat down when his legs threatened to collapse under him. He looked back up at Vin. "And what's more I am scared as hell. They told me it's all in my head that it's just me getting older. Vin, I am only 40 years old."

Vin took his hand, feeling him shaking like a leaf blowing in the wind. He quickly came to a conclusion.

"Chris, don't fight me, but I am calling you another appointment for right now."

He grabbed his cell phone, watching Chris shake his head but not even bother to try to stop him.

"Vin, it won't work. They can't figure out what it is. They keep saying that it's all in my mind. Going to another damn doctor won't work or help."

Vin looked at him, then back at his cell as he cleared his throat. He talked for a few minutes, growling angrily a couple times, and then hung up his phone.

"Lets go, pard. We got a doctor's appointment right now."

Vin's frown deepened when Chris didn't even protest as he pulled him to his feet. He helped Chris into the Ram so he could stretch out a little, and then took off for the doctor's.

They arrived safely and a young-looking blonde-haired nurse came out pushing a small wheelchair. Chris instantly balked at the idea and shook his head.

"NO WAY. I am not getting into that thing-there's no way, no how. I can still walk so you can forget it."

Vin quickly put up his hand.

"Take it easy, pard, just take it easy. The doc only thought it would be easier for you, considering you're having a hard time with walking and all."

Vin saw the small exertion of fighting against using the wheelchair made Chris slump inside the seat, and he knew he was going to have to fight Chris to get him into that chair.

"Look, pard, you're tired-I know you are. I know you don't feel good, too, but right now, so you don't get worn out further, just use it. Please?" He asked softly, trying to sooth and comfort Chris.

Chris sagged in the seat. He knew he didn't have the energy to walk out of the Ram on his own, and he didn't want the indignity of falling on his face. He also didn't want Vin having to carry him in, considering he was taller than Vin was. Hell, he didn't even want to come to the doctor's but, for Vin, he would. He looked at Vin and nodded sadly that he would use the chair.

Between the nurse and Vin, they got him settled into the wheelchair and wheeled into the doctor's office. After about 7 hours' worth of testing, the doctor called Chris and Vin into his office and sat down. Dr. Lee cleared his throat.

"I have your results back, Agent Larabee."

Chris waited with baited breath, hoping this time it would be different, that this time they would tell him what was wrong with him. He was tired, he was sore; he wanted to go home and fall asleep. Dr. Lee put the folder on the desk and looked at them both.

"Agent Larabee, there is no possible thing wrong with you. All the tests came back negative. Your oxygen levels are fine. Everything points to you being of good health. Maybe you have been working too many long hours and this is your body's way of telling you stop, wait, I need a break. Or it could be a systemic problem."

Vin frowned. "What does systemic mean?"

Chris sighed softly. "He means it's all in my head." Chris slid in the chair his head resting on his hands. He was so tired of everyone saying that to him.

Vin watched Chris slump in the chair and felt anger boiling up inside him. How could they do this to him? Couldn't he see how sick his friend was and here this DOCTOR they trusted told him that it was all in his head.

"BULLSHIT!" he exclaimed, jumping out of his seat. The normally calm, cool, and collected tracker was furious. His blue eyes were blazing with anger and resentment.

Chris's head snapped up in shock at how angry his friend's voice sounded. He hadn't seen him angry like this before. All he could do was just stare at him.

The doctor looked at him, startled. "Excuse me?"

Vin growled, "You heard me. Damn right, it's BULLSHIT. Do you even see him?" He pointed his finger harshly at Chris. "He can hardly keep his head up! He's exhausted beyond belief! He's told you and me more than once that even if he sleeps the whole day, he's still exhausted when he wakes up. He's lost more than 10 pounds, making him underweight. He's pale YET YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO TELL HIM IT'S ALL IN HIS FUCKIN HEAD?!" He screamed at the doctor, pounding his fist on the desk. "I suggest you run those FUCKIN' tests over or do another test, and I don't give a flying shit how much it costs! You are going to find out what's wrong with him if it takes all fuckin' day. Until you do, we aren't leaving." He sat down, his chest heaving.

Chris just stared, open-mouthed at Vin, not sure of what exactly had happened with Vin that he would start screaming at the doctor. He knew that if he had the energy, he would have been the one yelling at the doctor. As it was right now, he just didn't have the energy to lift his head, let alone go on a full-blown screaming fit at the doctor. He leaned back in the wheelchair. He just wanted to lay his head back and close his eyes.

For a moment, the doctor was speechless. He had never, in all his years of practicing medicine, had a man attack him verbally like that before. There was something between these two that made him want to help them. He cleared his throat.

"Yes, I think there is more tests I can run, but they are just investigative and, with the current symptoms, I don't think I can help you BUT-" He held up his hand to halt a new rush of harsh words from Vin. "-There is a doctor, a Doctor Nuyen. He's relatively new. I think he might be able to help you."

He picked up his phone and talked for a few seconds then hung up.

"He's waiting for you. His office is right down the hall. I am sorry I couldn't help you."

Vin growled, "Well, thanks for nothing."

He grabbed the handles of the wheelchair before Chris could protest and pushed them out of the office, down the hall to a small office with little lighting and read the name Dr Nuyen. He pushed them through the door to a small, meager office where a young Oriental doctor sat flipping through some files. He looked up and pushed his glasses back on his face.

"Come in, come in. You must be Mr. Larabee." He smiled softly. "I am Doctor Nuyen. I feel that I can help you." He sat back down, after shaking Chris and Vin's hands. "I can help where other doctors I see have failed. You, with the symptoms that you have described to the other doctors, I feel have a perfect case of CFS."

Vin and Chris looked at each other, unsure of what he was talking about. Vin was first to speak.

"C.F.S.?"

The doctor smiled understandably and nodded. "Yes. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or C.F.S. Its symptoms include short-term memory or concentration problems, sore throat, multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness, muscle pain, non-refreshing sleep, and/or post-exertion malaise lasting more than 24 hours."

Chris's head swam with this information. Here was a doctor that could help him, actually telling him what was wrong with him. His heart leapt that maybe they could find out what they could do and make him feel better. He wasn't paying attention very well; His brain just didn't want to concentrate today. Damn it, he wanted to understand what this doctor was saying.

Doctor Nuyen stopped when he saw Chris was having trouble concentrating on what was being said. He moved closer to help him understand.

"There are other symptoms, Agent Larabee, that will help me to find out if you have this. You just have to tell me. Concentrate on what I'm saying and tell me yes or no."

Chris nodded slowly, trying his hardest to concentrate. He gripped Vin's hand when the tracker reached out to him. Chris held onto it, tightly. He held it to keep his confidence and feel his support. He nodded.

"All right, have you experienced poor sleep?"

Chris nodded.

"Achiness?"

"Yes."

"Recurrent infections?"

"Yes."

Dr Nuyen nodded again.

"All right, one final thing. Have you experienced short-term memory or concentration problems, sore throat, multi-joint pain without joint swelling or redness, muscle pain, non-refreshing sleep, and exhaustion after minimal exertion?"

Chris looked at the doctor and nodded slowly. "Yeah, all of the above. Please, can you help me?"

His voice sounded so tired and so worn out that the doctor frowned. He knew for sure, without even running a test, that this man had CFS and had been through one hell of a trying time with it.

"Yes, Mr. Larabee, I can. Let's just get these tests run and then we will find out what to do next in the course of your treatment okay?"

Chris groaned at more tests but figured that, if they were going to help him find out what was wrong with him, then he wouldn't complain. Plus the doctor did say he could help him. Three hours after a barrage of tests, an even-more exhausted Chris was wheeled back into the doctor's office. He looked ready to drop. Dr Nuyen stepped up.

"I'll give you a short run-down, then you can go home, Mr. Larabee. He sat down. "I was right with my diagnosis. You do have C.F.S., and a rather severe case of it, I might add."

Vin held Chris's hand tightly in his own. "Good. You know what he has, then you can cure it, make him better."

Dr Nuyen sighed. "That's where the hard part comes in. As of this moment, there is no known cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Just therapies and medications and exercises the patients can do." He looked at Chris "I will advise you right now-the best thing you can do for your body right now is rest. Don't over exert yourself and don't walk much anywhere. I know by the way you look now you might very well refuse my suggestion, but I would suggest you use that wheelchair. Your body's exhausted. It needs time and energy to rest. You can go home now. However, I want to see you next week on Wednesday."

Vin watched his friend, knowing he'd be in for a hell of time when they get home.

"Thanks, Doc. We'll be here on Wednesday."

He got up, wheeled Chris out, and put Chris and the chair in the Ram. He drove home in silence. The only sound was the even breathing that meant Chris had fallen asleep, his head resting on Vin's shoulder. Vin shook his head and kept driving. They pulled into the drive. Chris was still sound asleep but woke up the instant Vin moved his arm to get out of the truck.

Vin reached for the car handle when Buck pulled the door open. Vin cursed again. Damn it, they had shown up at the ranch without him even seeing the cars as a warning.

"Easy does it, pard. Ole Buck's got ya."

The usually jovial man's face was marred with a frown as he easily lifted Chris out of the truck. His face creased with more concern when Chris didn't even protest to being lifted up and carried like a child. Buck walked over to where Vin had the wheelchair and placed Chris safely into it, then wheeled him into the house and went to the couch.

Vin shook his head. "No, Buck. Right now what we need to do is get him into bed. Then we can talk."

Vin grabbed the handles of the wheelchair, not even hearing if Chris protested or not. Then he pushed it down the hall and to the left where Chris's room was. With as much help as Chris could muster up at the moment, Vin got him into his nightclothes and into the big, soft bed.

"You stay here, pard. When it's dinner, I'll come and get you. Get as much rest as you can right now. Doc's orders."

Chris was too tired to even argue at being treated as if he was a child. He curled up in a small ball in the bed and drifted off to sleep.

Vin shook his head with concern that Chris was beyond fighting anymore. All Chris's energy was drained and he could see it in his face. Vin went back out to the living room to discuss what was wrong and what they were going to need to do.

Meanwhile, in the living room, the guys were discussing what was going on after Vin told them what was wrong with Chris. Buck kept hovering between the hallway and the living room, watching Chris sleep. Vin cleared his throat.

"I have decided to move into the ranch with Chris. I'll take care of him. Do what needs to be done."

Buck stood up. "What about us? We'd like to help somehow. He's our friend, too, Vin."

Buck was angry with himself for not noticing, and with Chris for not telling him, that he was so sick. Hell, he'd been friends with the man for-how long?-and yet Buck had failed him again when he didn't notice Chris was so ill.

Nathan stood up. "Listen, Buck, right now Chris don't need us arguing on who's going to take care of him. Right now he needs us just trying to figure out what we need to do. With what Vin's telling us, he's real sick-hell, we can see that just by looking at him. Vin also said the doctor said he's going to need lots of rest." He looked over at Vin. "If you are the one that's going to be taking care of him, then you're going to have hell of a time trying to convince him to use that wheelchair. We all know what he thinks of those things."

Vin sat down and sighed. "The doctor told us right now Chris needs sleep, no exertion at all, to use the wheelchair, and then a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about medications he'll need to get and other things." He looked up at his friends. "I should have seen this. Why didn't I notice this before?"

None of the guys knew what to say after that.

The following day, Vin got up early and made some coffee quietly, so as not to wake up Chris. He took his shower, scrubbing the sponge over his chest, trying to figure out what today was going to be like. He leisurely washed his hair, and then tied it in a tail. He threw on a pair of briefs and his jeans, leaving his chest bare. He grabbed a towel and pushed the wheelchair into Chris's bedroom.

"Rise and shine, pard. Time to get up."

Chris sat up wearily and looked over at Vin.

"No." He looked petulant, his mouth in a sulk at being woken up. "I'm not using it."

Chris leaned back against the headboard, his arms across his chest, his hair tousled, and his eyes sleep-heavy. Vin had to catch his breath at the way he looked. Even as ill as Chris looked, he looked sexier than hell, but Vin wasn't about to utter that thought in the room. The man would think he was downright nuts.

Chris suddenly frowned. "What are you doing here? I thought you went home with the guys." He threw back the covers to get to a standing position.

Vin walked over, threw the covers aside, and lifted his friend carefully in his arms, frowning slightly at how light Chris felt right now. Not that he had ever been heavy or fat, just that he felt like he hardly weighed anything at all.

Chris growled, "Vin, put me down I can damn well move around by myself. What are you looking at?" He shifted, trying to get out of Vin's arms, feeling some weird feeling of comfort-like he wanted to stay there forever. He shivered. "Damn it, Vin put me down."

Vin shook like he was suddenly coming out of a dream.

"Yeah, right, put you down." He settled Chris into the wheelchair and started wheeling towards the bathroom.

Chris growled again, this time low and hardly noticeable.

"I didn't mean in this." He indicated with his finger pointing at the chair. "Where in the hell are you taking me now?"

He growled irritably. He was tired of being treated like a child and he wasn't going to put up with it in his own house. He yawned, rubbing his face. Damn it, he was so tired. Why couldn't Vin just let him stay in bed and leave him alone? His eyes opened wide when Vin stepped in front of him, after wheeling him into the bathroom.

Vin kneeled down and undid the footrests on the wheelchair, forcing himself not to look up at Chris. He finally did and gave him what he thought was a reassuring smile. He moved forward gracefully, like he was born to do it, and lifted Chris's legs and hips up slightly. He noticed how round and firm Chris's behind was. He cleared his throat and shook his head, turning back to his task at hand. He tugged a little, then pulled Chris's pants down. With one swift move, he had them off and folded neatly on the sink. He then bent down and, lifting Chris up, set him on the toilet.

"Just holler if ya need help." He closed the door, giving Chris a little privacy.

Chris just whispered as Vin closed the door. "Thanks, Vin. I just need to be alone for a bit."

Vin nodded his head in understanding and closed the door softly.

Chris just sat there in shock. He could not believe that Vin had efficiently gotten him out of his pants without even one word of protest from him. He finished relieving himself, then went to get up. His hand slipped off the sink, and he crashed off the toilet, just missing cracking his head on the cast-iron tub. He lay there and hung his head, humiliation filling his face, but damned if he was going to cry or call for help. Fortunately he didn't hit anything, but Vin heard the crash and came barging in.

"Damn it, Chris, I said to call." He got Chris up and finished undressing him, distressed that Chris wouldn't look at him, or couldn't even manage to help him at all in finishing getting his clothes off.

He lifted his best friend up and laid him into the warm bathtub, then stripped down to just the briefs, when Chris started to slide in the tub, almost hitting his head on the edge. Vin climbed in behind him, the steam and his nervousness making him sweat a little.

Chris was so humiliated and exhausted that he didn't notice Vin till he felt the strong, lean thighs brushing under his armpits. Then he was being lifted up till he was lying back against Vin. His eyes flew up open in complete shock. "V-VIN, what are you doing?"

Vin tried not to smile. "Just making sure you doesn't crack your fool head against the bathtub and drown. Just lay back and relax; let me take care of it." He grabbed a sponge and started the bath, a frown on his handsome face as Chris just closed his eyes and didn't fight him.

Chris relaxed and let Vin rub the sponge over his chest and arms, relishing the feel of his long fingers massaging out the kinks in his sore back and arms. He rested his blond head back against the lean expanse of Vin's chest. His breath caught when he felt Vin's hands go below his waist.

Vin looked at Chris and rubbed his hands along his groin and down his thighs, feeling the bones through his chest. He tried to ignore what he was feeling below his own waist, and suddenly felt incredibly guilty for feeling this way when Chris was so seriously ill. Here he was, getting pleasure from the simple task of giving his sick friend a bath. His face flushed with embarrassment, but he couldn't move to stop himself as Chris still needed a bath and there was no one else to do it.

Chris's eyes flew open and he sat up as he felt a slight movement by his ass. He felt the telltale bulge between Vin's legs knowing full well what it meant. He looked at Vin, his eyes questioning what was going on. He couldn't wait for what Vin was going to say. His body gave in to the exhaustion and fell back against Vin. Chris cursed his body's inability to keep him upright.

Vin quickly finished with Chris's bath, his embarrassment clear on his face by the red tint, and wrapped Chris in the towel after getting himself dry and dressed. Vin wrapped Chris in the terrycloth bathrobe and set him in the wheelchair. He went to Chris's room, got him a pair of briefs, sweatpants, and shirt, and then went back into the bathroom.

Chris glared at him, fully aware that Vin was going to dress him because he couldn't do it himself. "WHY are you doing this?"

Vin looked him in the eye. "Because I care."

He moved forward and opened the terrycloth bathrobe. He dressed Chris, then wheeled him out to the living room. On a second thought, Vin turned the chair around and wheeled back to his room. He lifted Chris up and set him into the bed.

"Stay here. I'll be back with your breakfast." He left the room, folding up the wheelchair and setting it by the door. A few minutes later, he came back with a tray and sat it over Chris's legs.

"Here's your breakfast. Eat up."

Chris stared at the food and tried to get his hand up to pick up the spoon. He grimaced. He had hated oatmeal ever since he was a kid.

"Damn it all to FUCKIN' HELL." He swore when his body didn't respond to his orders. He dropped his head back to the headboard.

Vin looked up from his own breakfast. "Chris, do you need some help?" he asked softly, putting his own fork down. He moved the tray from in front of him and sat down on the bed.

Chris looked at him, asking him again. "Why are you doing this, Vin? Why?" He looked into the one man he would lay his life down for, the one he could trust with all his secrets.

Vin summed it up with one single phrase yet again. "Because I care, Chris." He picked up the spoon and fed him, carefully and gently.

It was becoming a routine for them. Vin got up, got dressed, and started breakfast. Then he would go and wake up Chris, help him through the barest necessities: his bath, the bathroom, then back to his room to eat breakfast and go back to sleep. Chris just didn't have any energy for anything else and that's what bothered him the most. Sometimes, he would have his good days where he could get around without much help. Vin would find him sitting in his chair and reading a book. Then there were the days that scared Vin to no end. Chris would lay listlessly in the bed with no energy to even lift his head. Those days he did everything for Chris from getting him into the bathroom to feeding him.

Vin had called and told them he was taking a leave of absence from work. He filled out the paperwork unsure if or when he would be able to come back to work. He hoped with the treatments that Dr Nuyen prescribed, along with the exercising and rest that Chris was getting, would help. With each passing day that he helped and took care of Chris, they seemed to be getting closer and closer. His feelings were getting stronger but he still wouldn't admit it to himself or to Chris.

Chris was starting to rely on Vin without hesitation now. He noticed some kind of feelings was starting to surface between him and Vin. He became more aware that his heart would leap every time Vin would smile that slow half crooked grin at him. If he were gone more than an hour or so, he would miss him and worry about him.

Chris leaned back in the wheelchair watching out the window as Vin worked on the fence post, hating that he wasn't able to help out lately with the work on the ranch. He sighed and rubbed his face. He knew the doctor said not to do too much but he hated to rely on anyone for things. He constantly asked Vin why he did it, and Vin would always reply to him "Because I care.". He wheeled himself to the window to take a closer look at Vin working then pushed himself to the kitchen.

He had adamantly refused to use the wheelchair at first until Vin got him realizing some more things. He had convinced him to use it because it was better than having him carrying him around or worse yet falling on his face. Chris did realize that it made getting around a hell of a lot easier. When he had his good days, as Dr Nuyen had taken to calling them, he could get around by himself, pushing himself to the kitchen and helping out at dinner or even going outside to see his horses. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. On the bad days, it was different. He didn't even have the strength to sit up let alone push himself around. On those days, he really did have to rely on Vin for everything.

Chris sat at the table and made some lemonade. The hot sun would make Vin thirsty after all that work. He thought back over the time that they had spent together since he started getting very sick. There was a certain look in Vin's eyes when he was helping Chris do things. Chris's breath caught he realized that when Vin said he cared it he meant he did it because he loved him. He suddenly felt very confused at the emotions running inside. Chris gripped the arms of the chair and took a deep breath. He thought to himself, "do I feel the same, what if I let him get close and he gets hurt? What if he gets close to me and I get bad enough that I can't be there for him?" He closed his eyes, as he got suddenly very tired from worrying about what he just realized. He leaned back, his head resting on his shoulder and fell asleep.

That's how Vin found him when he came in. He knelt down by the wheelchair. Warm feelings of love and protectiveness overtook him. Chris looked so vulnerable and innocent sleeping there. He gazed at him softly and lifted him out of the chair carrying him to his room. Laying him softly in the bed, Vin lay next to him and stroked his hair with the palm of his hand moving it out of his eyes. He heard Chris softly say his name in his sleep and he felt warm all over. He leaned down tracing the lines of Chris's mouth. Feeling the firm supple bottom lip, he bent down and kissed him on the mouth.

Just as he was pulling back, Chris's eyes flew open to stare into his. He licked his lips and stared up at the sharpshooter. His eyes showed a variety of emotions, all turbulent. His eyes asked why he did it. Why did he kiss him? But he couldn't utter a word out of his mouth.

Vin touched his cheek and whispered, "Because I care." He pulled back fearing that Chris would hate him now and withdraw from him.

Chris reached out shakily with his hand and touched the golden locks of his best friend and new love. He whispered softly his voice barely carrying, "So do I cowboy. So do I."