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"Mr. Larabee, why me?" Ezra asked impatiently.
"Judge asked for ya." Chris never wanted to explain more than he had to.
"And why, pray tell, would he have done that?" Ezra wanted more information.
"Seems that his brother-in-law has transacted some business and he believes that your expertise will allow you to determine the validity of that business." Chris read most of it from the telegram he had received from the Judge.
"Ahh, he wants to know if he's been conned." Ezra nodded his head in understanding. "Give me directions and I'll leave in the morning." Ezra added, resigned.
"Vin'll be going with ya. Don't want you to starve or get lost." Chris enjoyed saying that.
Indignant, Ezra returned, "I'll have you know I am quite capable of fending for myself."
Chris raised an eyebrow, but said seriously, "Know that Ez, safer if two of ya go."
Ezra conceded, he always felt comfortable with the tracker. "Fine, I'll discuss our leave taking with Mr. Tanner." Ezra knew there were some universals, and Vin Tanner being ready to hit the road in a moments notice was one of them.
+ + + + + + +
The two men set out for Witford, a four day ride from Four Corners. Sensing Vin's mood for quiet, Ezra obliged and they rode in a companionable silence. Vin would point out the deer, fox and hawks he saw that Ezra missed. Ezra enjoyed Vin's connection to the natural world. Ezra realized that he actually enjoyed the time he spent with Vin alone. He wasn't sure why, though. He'd never made friends as he was growing up and figured it went with friendship. It was just different than the way he felt with Chris or JD. He also found himself watching Vin, he was so fluid, so at piece with the outdoor world. Ezra envied that at times. He envied the easy friendship that Vin had with their illustrious leader.
They stopped for the night, Vin caught the food and Ezra made the fire and coffee. Vin liked it real strong, and Ezra liked it strong if he made it himself. After they were through with their supper, Vin looked over at Ezra, catching his eye before he asked with a sly grin, "What book did ya bring ta read?"
"Well, Mr. Tanner, I thought I would introduce you to Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer is the title of the book. It's his most recent story. It's about a youth that loves the outdoors as much as you."
Vin smiled, Ezra would always bring a book to read aloud if it was just the two of them. They did include JD once and he seemed as enthralled as he was himself. Ezra's voice was smooth and he was able to wrap his tongue around all the different words. Vin figured he could listen to Ezra read just about anything.
Ezra sat near Vin, with his legs stretched out. The firelight on the pages as he began, "Tom, no answer. Tom....." Ezra read four chapters before he put the book away. That way it would last for the whole trip.
"Sure smart of him, getting the other kids to do his work for 'im." Vin smiled at the memory. "I'll take first watch. Can think on all the things that happened in the story."
Ezra smiled at Vin's enjoyment of the story. He, himself didn't know how this one was going to end.
They rode to make good time, but each time, as they rested the horses, the tracker would show the gambler how to find small game, how to prepare snare traps and what foliage to look for to find water. Ezra paid attention, never knowing when the additional skills would come in handy.
By the time they made it to Witford, Ezra was half way through the book and he was pleased that the often silent tracker was enjoying it.
In town they met with Richard Pender, Judge Travis' brother-in-law. He and Ezra met in the hotel lobby and the conman followed him up to his room. Ezra perused the contracts, statistical information and the bank records.
"The proposed deal actually appears sound. The investor, however, I would not trust my funds with. You truly should seek an alternative funding source." Ezra handed all the documents back to Mr. Pender.
"Thank you Mr. Standish. Orrin said you would be able to see all the components of the transition." They shook hands and Ezra departed.
The gambler was hoping to meet up with Vin at the saloon. They had planned to replenish their supplies and start right back due to the length of the journey. Before he reached the saloon he heard gunfire coming from the livery. He followed along with the other spectators. To his dismay, the man that had been apprehended was the sharpshooter himself.
He ran around to the back and crept in quietly. With two weapons drawn, he calmly requested, "Unhand that man. NOW."
Vin felt both relief and fear on seeing the gambler enter with guns drawn. He wasn't sure if the conman could pull off a rescue and he didn't want to see him hurt on his account.
The large, hairy man with Vin in his grasp answered with a sneer in his voice, "This is my bounty!"
Again, Ezra answered calmly, "Not today. I will collect my friend and depart this deplorable town. On the count of three." Ezra hoped that Vin understood. "One."
The man pulled Vin in closer, tightly, "No, I'm collecting the bounty."
"Two." Ezra kept one eye on the man with Vin and the other on the man at his left. "Three."
Vin stepped on the man's foot and ducked as Ezra shot him. Vin rolled to his right as Ezra shot the gun out of the other man's hand. Vin was already at their horses and Ezra threw down a dollar to the hand, "For board." They rode out as fast as the horses could go.
The bounty hunter's weren't giving up and shot at the two departing backs. Vin cried out, but kept riding. They rode for an hour 'til they came to a creek, then Vin had them walk the horses upstream. By this time, Vin was leaning on his right side, his shirt and jacket were blood soaked and the pain had become overwhelming.
Ezra asked, "Vin, tell me, where are we now?" The gambler knew that Vin didn't have much in him left and he at least wanted to be faced in the right direction.
Vin made a weak attempt to convince his friend that he was okay, "Ez, I'm okay, really."
"Then just humor me, what is the right direction to head back to Four Corners? Vin, just in case it takes us too long to return and the others come hunting, I would like them to be able to locate us."
Vin was looking pale and sweating profusely. He pointed back the way they came and off to the south. "If you travel straight across with that peak directly in front of you.....you'll git to the main road we used. Keep moving to the southwest." The tracker tried to shift himself in the saddle upward. The effort caused him to grimace with pain. This did not go unnoticed by the conman. Again, the tracker tried to make his voice sound strong, and again he failed, "We need to make for that thicket of trees, we should be able to find shelter there........Ez, you gotta take out the bullet." He slumped in his saddle, barely able to hold on.
Ezra moved Chaucer along side Vin's horse and grabbed the reins, gently guiding both horses up the bank of the ravine. The gambler kept his eyes pealed for a sheltered spot, still close enough to the water. If he had to remove the offending piece of lead from the tracker's chest, he wanted enough water on hand.
He finally found an area that would suit his needs. He loosely tied the horses and removed both bedrolls. He laid them out and returned to the horses, to delicately remove Vin from the saddle. Vin was alert enough to throw his arms around Ezra's neck and hold tightly. He rested his head on the broad shoulder and sighed as he breathed in Ezra's scent.
Ezra slowly walked over to the bedrolls and tried to deposit his friend gently down, but unfortunately he jarred the chest and Vin cried out in pain. He removed his jacket and placed it under Vin's head. Ezra brushed Vin's hair off his sweaty face as he looked tenderly at the injured man, wishing it were him instead of the tracker that was hurt.
The gambler wet his handkerchief with the canteen and mopped Vin's brow and neck hoping to cool him off. He tapped his friend's face, needing Vin to awaken. He knew he had a hazy idea of what to do, but he would have preferred for Vin to run him through it. He took the canteens down to the creek to fill them. He gathered wood to make a fire so he could heat the water.
When he had the water boiling, he tried again to wake Vin. "Mr. Tanner, Vin, I need help here." Ezra sat looking, hoping for a response.
His efforts were rewarded with a weak, "Ez?"
The conman tilted Vin's head up to give him some water and then asked, "How do you want me to do this?
"Clean the knife, dig in and take it out......Ez, you're gonna have to cauterize it or I'll jus' keep bleeding. Heat the knife in the fire and press it against the wound."
"Dear lord, Vin, that will hurt like hell."
"Yeah, but it's the only way." Vin hoped he be unconscious for most of it.
Ezra pulled Vin by the bedroll into the sun for the most light. He rolled up his sleeves and gathered a couple of his clean shirts to use as bandages. He cleaned his hands and the knife in the boiling water. He tore up one shirt to use as a towel, as the one he had, he deemed too dirty to use on his friend. He put everything close at hand and was prepared to start.
But first he leaned over to Vin's ear and whispered, "I give you my word, I will do the very best I can Vin." Ezra never more sincere than in this moment.
With an undoubting confidence Vin said, "I know you will Ez."
Ezra took a deep breath and cleaned the hole first, then inserted the knife in the wound, pushing down until he came in contact with the bullet. He had to dig below it to push it up enough to let his fingers grab it.
Vin bit on a stick that he had picked up to prevent him from screaming aloud. Ezra was aware of every twitch and moan that he caused the injured man.
Finally he got his fingers on the piece of lead and tossed it down. He tried to clean the wound, but the blood was coming out rapidly so Ezra steeled himself to close the wound the only way he could. He placed the knife blade in the fire and said, "Here goes, yell as loud as you want." He held the knife firmly and placed the searing hot blade on top of the hole, burning the flesh, melting the sides together. The smell of the burning flesh was as horrific as the sight of the burned flesh.
Vin screamed at the first touch, but fell unconscious soon after. Ezra wetted more of his torn shirt and lightly placed the cool cloths over the burn, knowing he had to keep the cloth moist so it wouldn't stick to the wound. He wet it again, then using the time before it dried, the gambler set a pot of coffee to cook and cleaned the area of the bloody cloths and tried to make him self comfortable. He knew he had a long night ahead of him. He kept his Mark Twain book by his side, in case Vin awoke.
He kept the wound covered and moist, wishing Nathan was here to do this. He must get Nathan to show him simple things. Vin's life was in greater jeopardy due to his lack of knowledge. And the thought of losing Vin, it was as though a large hand had just reached in his chest and squeezed his heart. The fear that Vin would die sent a shiver of apprehension that surrounded him. To lose this special man would kill him. Vin was necessary. Ezra was surprised by these feelings. He worked so hard at keeping people at a distance. It was safer that way. But, obviously this man had worked his way into the inner confines of his emotions.
An hour later Vin awoke with a groan. "What wagon ran over me?"
Ezra smiled at his friend. "It was a bullet, just feels like a wagon. Here, let me give you some water." His actions matched his words. He raised Vin's head and let him sip the water.
"Thanks, Ez." He grimaced as he tried moving.
"You must lie still. The wound is no longer bleeding, but I don't want to split it. I don't think I could do that to you again. Hurt you in such a way." He brushed the hair that had fallen into Vin's face. He was unaware that he continued to pat it after it was to the side.
Vin smiled, "Thanks, friend. Read to me, your voice is soothing." Vin's voice revealed how tired he was.
"For you, anything." He rewet the cloth, gently placing it, then picked up the book and began reading. Vin fell asleep shortly after Ezra began, but he continued reading, in case Vin could hear his voice and know that he was not alone.
+ + + + + + +
The long night gave way to day and Ezra knew they would need to move, get closer to the road. If Vin was to suffer from infection, Ezra figured they had until tonight before it would be too difficult to move Vin. He readied the canteens, watered the horses. He soaked some of the bread he kept in his saddle bag and had Vin suck on it, just to get something into his stomach. Vin actually consumed the entire chunk.
Ezra loaded all their belongings onto Peso, so to lighten the load for Chaucer. He was going to have Vin up in front of him as he did not believe Vin's assertions that he could stay on a horse. He got Vin up first and mounted behind him. With Peso's rein in hand he set Chaucer off at a slow walk in the direction they wanted to go. He would have to stop to wet the cloth bandage and to give the tracker water. He didn't want dehydration on top of what he already had to deal with.
By late afternoon they were parallel to the main road. The conman started to look for shelter for the night. Vin was beginning to feel warm to the touch and the fever that Ezra had feared had arrived. Moving close to the cliff face he looked for an opening. Vin had rambled such information on their ride out. Just before darkness, Ezra found what he was looking for. A small cave. He got the horses as close to it as he could.
He dismounted as careful as he could manage, then he lifted Vin down. Glad that the taller man weighed less than he did. He moved slowly. He searched for rocks that could trip him, he just could not let any more harm come to this man. Fear of losing started to enter his thoughts and he tampered them down, knowing he would be useless if he gave into his fears.
He entered the small cave and laid Vin down. He returned to the horses, collected all the gear he could carry and took it into the cave. He again went back to the horses. He loosely tied Peso, but mounted Chaucer. He rode out to the main road, once there he ripped an inside pocket out and attached it to the bush facing the road. That would be his best chance of letting the others know that they were close.
Ezra knew they would come looking. Vin was with him. The others, particularly their leader, would not let Vin's disappearance go unchallenged for long. He realized that if it were him alone, it would be a month or more before they would begin to wonder about him. That in itself did not guarantee that anyone would actually go searching for him. Ezra accepted this. He was the last man, a conman, an untrustworthy man in the eyes of their silent leader. But he would come for Vin. Vin touched them all.
He rode back to the cave, getting water and catching a rabbit for a meal. He tied Chaucer next to Peso and collected sticks for a fire. He checked on Vin before building it. He rewet the bandage and also wiped his face, in effort to cool it down. The fever appeared to be getting worse.
He built the fire closer to the entrance so the smoke could not come back and irritate Vin. He got the rabbit slow cooking and set upon making Vin as comfortable as possible. He got the tracker onto the bedroll, then he changed his shirt. Before putting a clean on, the gambler checked the wound. It wasn't bleeding, the cauterization did its job. But the entire side of his chest looked an angry red. Ezra could not tell if it was from the burning or infection. Probably some of both. He cleaned the area as best he could and refreshed the bandages. He put his last clean shirt on Vin, then brushed his hair as best he could. He squeezed droplets of water onto his lips and his tongue would snake out to capture it. Ezra repeated this as long as the tongue emerged. Ezra was fascinated with the pink tongue. The shape, the texture, he began to wonder what it would feel like...he shook himself out of his reverie. This was not the time for musings, he must be more tired than he realized, dwelling on pink tongues and what....the desire that hinted of its presence was again squashed. This time not thinking of the topic at all.
He placed the blanket atop Vin as he removed his gunbelt and boots. Keeping both close enough in case they were needed for a fast retrieval. Vin's weapons were safely in his saddle bags. Ezra knew it would at least four days before the rest of the peacekeepers become concerned. Vin's live was in his hands.
By evening Vin was worse, he was muttering in delirium and moving about. Ezra took the shivering body in his arms and held him close. He'd whisper in his ear, nothing of any real consequence, just words, hoping to let him know that he was not alone. He seemed to calm as Ezra rocked him in his arms, talking to him. As he passed into a restful sleep, Ezra couldn't stop the different emotions from making themselves known. He hugged the man closer, resting his head gently on top of the tracker's. The conman mused aloud in rare emotional honesty, "When did you become so important to me? When did you start occupying my daily thoughts?" Ezra was truly puzzled. He was deriving great pleasure in holding the tracker's body close to him. Great pleasure.
When the gambler woke, it was dark and the wind was howling. The fire was out and as he checked Vin, he could see that Vin was shivering. He moved closer to him and wrapped the blanket tighter about him. The touch of Vin's skin was hot, but the man was cold.
Vin moaned, "Cold, so cold." Ezra lifted the blanket and brought his body next to Vin's. Lying next to the man, trying to share his heat. But the shivering grew worse even though the thrashing had stopped as soon as Ezra held him. He then snuggled the man drawing him as close as he could get him. He leaned over and kissed his forehead. Vin seem to completely settle down then. Ezra figured it must remind him of his mother's care.
Ezra found he actually enjoyed holding this treasured man in his arms, and fell back to sleep with a smile on his face. A while later, Vin began thrashing about again, caught up in his fever. When he began shivering, Ezra moved in close again. Pulling him close. But Vin continued to shiver, tremors racking his body. Ezra knew that only direct body heat would work. He stripped himself, then did the same for Vin. Drawing him close to his chest, Ezra pressed himself as close as he could get the two bodies. Vin's head rested on his chest and their legs were intertwined. Ezra rolled them from side to side, trapping the blanket around them. Ezra whispered in Vin's ear that he had to fight. Had to hold on and beat this.
Vin's shivering grew less until the tremors stopped. But Vin continued to wiggle his body against Ezra's. Ezra was shocked to discover that Vin's wiggling caused him to grow hard. Vin's movements were arousing him. As Vin continued his movements, Ezra noticed that Vin was also hard as a rock. When their erections brushed against each others, desire flooded the gamblers body. He reacted instinctively and thrusted back against Vin. Somewhere in the back of Ezra's mind he figured that this might warm up Vin's body and then lost himself as Vin thrusted hard against his shaft and Ezra lost connection to reason. The two bodies, knowing better what they wanted, continued their dance.
Vin now pinned below Ezra, rubbed hard against him and the speed increased as the desire crested out and their moment of climax drew close. Instinct took control as the release began, neither body willing to stop, thrusted against the other 'til every drop of fluid was expended. Vin then settled in against Ezra falling into a restful sleep. Dismayed at his own wantonness, Ezra, nevertheless, held Vin as close as he could get him, as he too, drifted off to sleep.
Both men slept through to morning. Ezra woke with a naked Vin still in his arms. The stickiness connecting them was evidence enough that Ezra hadn't dreamed it. Shamed that he had taken advantage of Vin that way, he drew no real comfort from the fact that Vin had warmed up and slept better. He could no longer ignore the feelings that he had been avoiding. He had feeling for Vin, an illusive bounty hunter. A man that could kill in silence with ease. This is the person that has claimed his heart. Someone that would probably kill him if he knew.
'Ezra, Ezra, Ezra, have you learned nothing in all your years. Do not give your heart away. Especially to a man, a sharpshooter, bounty hunter and tracker. This was like a get-dead quick scheme.' Then Vin moved within his arms and Ezra melted again. He looked down at the soft and beautiful features on the face below him. A face he.....loved, there, he admitted it to himself. Never aloud. But inside his thoughts, he could speak this truth.
He laid the tracker back on the bedroll and reached for the canteen. He washed the sticky evidence of his desire off the tracker and them himself. He hardened as he cleaned the golden curls the framed the soft and flaccid cock. He ran his fingers threw the curls, knowing this would be his only opportunity to do this.
He checked his wound and redressed it. It still looked angry, and from the heat that Ezra could feel, the fever still raged on. He tucked him in tight, before he dressed himself. He went outside to relieve himself and check on the horses. He moved them to a better grass area and returned to the cave. He had enough jerky for several days and Vin didn't look in any condition to consume it at all. He dripped water drops on to the tracker's lips and watched, enthralled as the pink tongue darted in and out, taking the drops with it. He knew he was a goner as he felt his hard-on strain against his pants. He contented himself with just kissing Vin's forehead and tucking him in. He made a new fire and washed some of the toweling and let it hang dry. He may need more.
By evening of this third day, Vin's skin was on fire. Ezra bathed his face, neck, chest and arms with cool cloths. He'd start at the head and when he finished the arms, he'd start anew. Almost two hours later Vin's body seemed to cool a little, which was just as frightening as then the chills could set in.
The gambler held him close as he settled in for sleep, Vin really seemed to rest easier when he was close, or at least his wishful thinking had him believing that. Vin woke him with his moaning. He was cold and was shivering. Ezra removed his clothes and pressed his body next to Vin's. The blanket tight around them, Vin still wiggled his body on Ezra's. Ezra knew this settled Vin last night, and knew that this would never be if Vin were conscious. So Ezra moved against the thrusts of Vin's, enjoying this moment with the man he loved. He rubbed the skin on Vin's lower back and thighs, warming them up as Vin wiggled hard against Ezra. Ezra couldn't hold out any longer against the desire created and gave himself up to the sensations Vin's movements wrought in him. Ezra came just as he felt Vin's fluid spill. Both men moaned in delight.
After a bit, Ezra cleaned them, then rested Vin's head against his heart and both men fell into a restful sleep.
The forth day out was much of the same for Ezra. He cared for the horses, brushing both down. Gathered fire wood and snared a rabbit. He cared for Vin with a diligence that would have impressed Nathan. By himself, looking at the trees around him he would let himself feel all that he felt for that elusive tracker. Revel in the feeling that he was capable of a deep love. A love that he would, without thought, give his life for. He drew some comfort from the honesty of this admission.
Evening brought a surprise, "Where's Tom now?" Ezra heard Vin ask.
Thinking he was talking in fever, he didn't answer. Instead he sat next to the tracker and wiped his forehead. "You'll be okay, Vin. You'll be okay."
"Still want to know about Tom, Ez." Vin said with a soft voice.
"Vin." Ezra said his name with delighted surprise. "Here, sip some water." And he lifted Vin's head and he drank the whole cup of water.
"Thanks. Felt good." Vin was weak, but he felt strangely contented. Blue eyes searched the green ones for worry or strain. But all he found was comfort. Sighing, he enjoyed the comfort they conveyed. He asked, "Read to me some more."
"My pleasure, Vin," and Ezra picked up from where Vin had last left off. Vin drifted to sleep with his thoughts wrapped around Ezra saying his name. It sounded so good on those lips.
But the night did not go easy, Vin had nightmares. Vin called out, punched out with his arms, then moaning in pain at the movement. Ezra woke and tried to wake Vin, but he was hot and Ezra suspected he was feverish again. He held the now whimpering man close and tried to give whatever comfort he could. After the thrashing about stopped, Ezra dropped more water into Vin's mouth and wiped his head and neck with a cool cloth. Vin was still muttering, though most words were hard to make out. The only clear words saddened Ezra to his soul. Vin had called out, "Chris...he's mine."
Ezra didn't release his hold on the tracker and he as Vin nestled closer to Ezra's body, Ezra held him tighter. Knowing that he never would again. Vin settled into another restful sleep. But for the gambler, sleep eluded him as he replayed the words that cut to his heart. Vin calling out for Chris.
+ + + + + + +
"Hey, Chris," JD yelled out to the dark clad man. "This message is odd."
Chris looked up as JD approached, knowing it was faster to ask direct, "How so?"
"Well, the store keeper said that Vin and Ezra never picked up the supplies they ordered for their return trip. And no one has seen them since Tuesday." JD was bothered by this news. "Something has happened to them, I just know it."
"Could be right, JD. Go get Nathan, I'll get Buck. We'll find them." Chris left his coffee cup on the table.
Half an hour later Chris joined Nathan as he walked to the livery. He was surprised to see Josiah ready to go. "Thought you has a service set, wasn't gonna pull you from it."
"Lost friends are more important than another set of words." Josiah stated.
Chris nodded, "Let's go then." Five men rode northeast.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra bathed Vin down, cooling off the feverish body. Vin seemed to like having his arms rubbed and Ezra would do that in between times of cooling him down. Ezra liked touching Vin, and used each opportunity to store a memory. These tidbits would have to suffice for a lifetime. He knew it was foolish to give his heart away, the pain that came with it was almost too much to bear. But with that, came the truth that he would rather have this little bit, knowing he could love. It was the being loved that he had never experienced. Not even his mother had been able to do that.
Now he wasn't fooling himself into believing that Vin was going to return his feelings, but his calling out for Chris was like a dagger still. Chris didn't even like him, not really. But he and Vin had a special connection, he knew that too. Ah, life. Seems that road is forever tempestuous. At least for him.
He gave Vin more water and tried to settled him down, but it seemed that only the sound of his beating heart would work and he enfolded Vin tight to his chest, ear over his heart.
+ + + + + + +
Five men had been riding hard for two days. Wanting to get Witford to begin their search for their missing friends there. JD's loud, "Hey you guys. Looky here." He jumped off his horse and retrieved from a bush, a red piece of cloth. "Look, this is Ezra's."
"How could you know that, Kid? Way out here, it could just about belong to anyone." Buck answered out.
"What about these initials.....E S? JD asked triumphantly.
"Well there, you might have something." Buck smiled ruefully at JD.
Nathan and Chris got off their horses and looked around. Chris pointed toward the mountain, "Looks like a single horse rode that way, away from the road. Josiah, JD, you two ride down the road a bit, see if you can find anything. We'll follow these tracks and see it we get something. Fire three times in a row if you find them."
About forty five minutes later they found the two horses, and both Chris and Buck started shouting out Vin and Ezra's names. Nathan fired three rapid shots and joined in the calling.
The three men were elated to hear, "Here, we're over here."
Buck cried, "Ezra."
A bedraggled and tired looking Ezra looked to Nathan and begged, "Vin's hurt, please come quick."
Nathan grabbed his bag as Chris followed closely on his heels with an alarmed looked on his face, but not before Ezra saw the scowl that Chris threw at him. Didn't matter, he just wanted Nathan to get to Vin.
Nathan took off the bandage and inspected the wound. He looked at Ezra and demanded, "Tell me what happened and anything you did."
Ezra related their exit from Witford, Vin getting shot, and the pursuit. Vin's bleeding, extraction of the bullet, cauterizing it. Treating the body for fever. He looked at Nathan, his exhaustion evident, "I did whatever I could to keep him in the land of the living. I would bathe him for the fever, then warm him up for the chills. I did the best I could, I'm just afraid I did him harm."
Nathan looked closely at Ezra, saw his fatigue and his sincerity. "Sounds like you worked real hard. Let me check him over." Nathan removed the shirt completely and inspected the entire area. He was surprised at how clean the wound was, the burned area was small and neat, and most of all, the burned area was moist instead of dry and chapped. That alone took constant tending. He didn't suspect that the conman could give like this to someone else. The only problem was the small infection, which under the circumstances, could have been a lot worse. "Ezra, you did an amazing job. Vin will be fine, just need to get some of these healing herbs in 'im."
Ezra nodded and went to make a fire. He got his canteen and poured some water into the small pot.
Chris leaned down next to Nathan, "How is he really?"
"He'll be fine, he's gone through the worst of the infection. Ezra did a fine job, really." Nathan thought it funny, here he was rallying behind Ezra.
Ezra signaled Nathan that the water was ready for him. Nathan went by the fire and started fixing his herb concoctions. Vin started to get restless and Ezra was at his side faster than the man in black. He didn't ask just pulled Vin into his arms and rested his head on his chest. Vin settled immediately, to the surprised looks from the healer and Chris. Ezra ignored the others and relaxed, knowing that Nathan would take over and he fell asleep holding this special man.
+ + + + + + +
It was slow going, getting Vin back to town. JD and Buck rode ahead to get a buckboard and that made the last day easier. The fever still had a hold on the tracker but gambler could calm him when the dreams grabbed him.
Ezra actually breathed a sigh of relief as Vin was deposited in Nathan's office. Nathan shooed him out of there. Told him to get some food and sleep. Josiah took it upon himself to lead Ezra to the saloon. Making sure he ate before he slept.
Later that afternoon, Ezra made his way back to Nathan's, to check on Vin. He was surprised to see that Chris wasn't there. Just Nathan and Josiah.
"You are looking much better, Ezra." Josiah remarked as he smiled at the gambler.
"Just removing the dust would improve one's appearance a hundred percent." Ezra returned. He looked to Nathan, "How is Mr. Tanner?"
"Better, the fever seems to be goin down. I've been putting some salve on the wound and it's allowing the skin freer movement. Infection appears to be almost gone too." Nathan checked Vin as he was spoke.
"Well, if you desire a respite, I will stay by his side 'til you return." Ezra offered as he pulled a chair along side the tracker.
Nathan nodded and left with Josiah. If either man thought it odd, neither mentioned it.
Ezra pulled out a book and began reading aloud. By supper time, JD and Nathan were also listening to the antics of Tom Sawyer.
As Chris entered, JD realized it was his turn at the jail and left straight away. Chris asked, "How's he doing?"
"Think the fever's almost gone. Should be resting easier tomorrow." Nathan told him.
Chris nodded and turned to go. Ezra stopped him.
"Mr. Larabee, are you not going to stay awhile and keep Mr. Tanner company?" Ezra was surprised.
"I'll be back later, having dinner out at Katie's." Chris answered.
Ezra moved closer to the door to intercept their leader before he left. In a lower voice, "Mr. Larabee, while Mr. Tanner was in delirium, he called out for you. You should remain 'til the fever breaks."
Chris half smiled, "I'll be back after a while," he said quietly.
"But, Mr. Larabee it would..."
Ezra didn't finish his thought as Chris barked at him, "He probably wouldn't be like this at all if it been for you." He stormed out of the office.
Nathan caught most of it and let Ezra know, "You took good care of him, he'll only have a small scar. Anyway, Ezra, he seems more calm when you're by him. Prob'bly all that care you gave out on the road." Ezra sat back down beside Vin.
+ + + + + + +
The sun peeking in the crack of his curtain awoke Nathan. He looked over at Vin and noticed right off that he was resting easier. He thought back over the night and it wasn't that easy, at least not for Ezra. Vin had two episodes of fevered dreams and both times, Ezra was able to calm him. The first one, he tried to tend him, Ezra had just fallen asleep, but Vin wouldn't stop his restless moving. But once Ezra laid the tracker's head on his shoulder, he calmed right down.
The second time, Ezra was right there, but couldn't calm him before Vin had called out for Chris again. Ezra never stopped brushing Vin's head or whispering in his ear. But Nathan had glimpsed the hurt in Ezra's eyes before he masked it.
The healer bent over Ezra and tapped him gently, but Ezra woke with a start, "Vin?"
"Shush....Vin's fever broke. He'll be fine now. He's sleeping restful and much cooler. Ezra, go back to your room and sleep 'til you wake on your own. You really need some sleep." Nathan was moving the gambler toward the door.
"But Vin..." Ezra began.
"I'll call you if I need you. Go." Nathan smiled at the man before he closed the door.
+ + + + + + +
As Ezra passed through the saloon he heard Chris remark to Buck, "I shouldn'ta sent Vin with Ezra. Fool drags others into his problems."
Buck answered, "Well he sure is in involved in more than his share of mix-ups, but to be fair, not all are his fault."
Chris mumbled something in reply but Ezra was too far to catch it.
Ezra got back up to his room and changed his shirt. He was tired of the others figuring that every altercation was his doing. He needed some piece and quiet and he need to deal with his newly discovered feelings. How would he handle this situation. He packed a few clean shirts and made his way down the back.
The streets were empty, as it was still very early. The bluish sky was clear, unlike his own emotions. He saddled Chaucer and silently rode out of town. He knew he wouldn't be missed. He headed west, there were several serene spots with water close by that he could rest at.
On to: Ambiguous Disclosure Part 2
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