Don't Know From Adam
The next eighteen hours were as difficult and unnerving as Nathan had predicted. Chris awoke early the next morning to the smiling faces of Josiah and Vin, but he seemed unable or unwilling to communicate. For the most part, he stared out the window beside his bed. There was nothing to see out the simple panes of glass, especially from the angle he laid, but it proved a perfect distraction from the distant voices that called to him. Chris felt detached and alone. He was also confused, angry and oddly enough, a little scared.
Minutes after it was discovered that Larabee had regained consciousness, Nathan was summoned. The dark healer examined his patient and came away shaking his head.
Buck, who had arrived with Jackson, stepped close and whispered, "Did he say anything to ya, Nathan? Does he know where he is? That hes back with us?"
Nathan looked into his friends worried face. "He grunted at me a couple times; Im not real sure if he was trying to answer me or not. Right now, I dont think he understands much of anything. He hears voices but he cant make out the words. He sees colors and movement but he doesnt know what hes lookin at."
"He looks sad."
"Probably feelin real depressed about now, and worn out. His mind and body are both in shock. Were just gonna have to wait and see what happens over the next couple of hours." Nathan went back to Chris and put a cool rag to his forehead.
Buck looked on as everyone in the room chose their own vantage point to keep watch. Even Phillips, who had returned just before dawn with JD, stayed to hold vigil. There was no shortage of folks who cared; he just wished he could relate his observation to the poor soul who needed it most.
+ + + + + + +
"Buck?" Chris mumbled.
Buck looked up when he heard his name and moved to sit on the bed beside his restless friend. "Right here, buddy."
"Buck, lets head on back now."
Wilmington looked over at the only other two people in the room, Vin and Ezra, and shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever you wanna do, Chris, is fine by me."
"We need to head back to town too blame hot out here." The man on the bed struggled against the blanket that covered his sweating body.
Vin handed Buck a cup of water and pointed to Chris.
"How bout we get us a drink. You thirsty?" Buck asked as he propped Chris damp shoulders on a pillow and eased his head forward. The blond head bobbled a bit, but his mouth finally reached the water. He drank greedily for several seconds before he fell away from the empty cup.
In another moment, Chris eyes focused on a friendly mustached face. "You dont look so good, Buck."
Wilmington grinned from ear to ear. "Only to the ladies, pard. How are you feeling?"
"Hot. Where are we?" Chris asked as he looked around the room. "Whys it so hot?" He reached down to pull the covers away so he could get up.
"Whoa, there. You might wanna hold off leavin that bed for another minute or two? You aint got a stitch on."
Chris raised the blanket and looked down the length of his body. When he caught sight of the bandage on his stomach, a flash of memory returned. "The prison," he said softly as he pulled the cover back over his chest. He twisted his hands in the fabric he held and pain from his wrists registered in his mind. He grunted and Vin came to sit on the bed opposite Buck.
"Do you remember much about what happened to ya, Chris?" Vin asked gently.
Chris stared at the white cloth wrapped around his wrists and remembered seeing another pair of bandaged hands, reaching out to help him. "Ezra! he shouted as he shot straight up and tried to wiggle past the two men who blocked his exit from the bed.
"Right here, Mr. Larabee." Ezra sat on the side of his bed, trying to pull a shirt onto one arm.
Vin saw that Buck had Chris in hand so he moved to help pull the conmans shirt up and around his bound shoulder. "Ezra, if youd holler, Id be happy to help ya out."
Thank you," the gambler answered, "but I decided to dress before anyone could object."
Chris, feeling as if his brain was missing huge chunks, couldnt understand where he was or what was happening. "Ezra, the spear! Your shoulder!"
"Efficiently separated, thanks to you. I apologize for allowing myself to stumble into the wardens trap. Had I been more careful, Im certain we could have escaped a second capture."
A confused look crossed Larabees face. Buck reached a hand out to touch Chris arm.
"The warden and a couple of his men caught up to you after you got out of the prison."
Chris scooted back to lean upright against his pillow. "I remember sneaking out. A guard was harassing Ezra pissed me off."
Vin saw Ezra shudder.
"Ezra and I got around the guard and found a way through the fence. We were running. I heard him scream, he was pinned to a tree thats all. I dont remember anything after that."
"Its okay, Chris," Buck said calmly. "Youve been through a lot. Right now, you and Ezra just need to rest up. Well get you home just as soon as you feel up to it."
"You never said. Where are we?" Larabee asked sleepily.
"Were still in Jericho, Mr. Larabee," Ezra informed. "Disgusting little place."
"Whyre you doing that, Ez?" Chris asked, stifling a yawn and shutting his eyes.
"Doing what, Mr. Larabee?"
"Callin me mister you aint done that for a while now." He settled deeper into the pillows. "Reckon theres no need to start that up again "
"Oh, and just how is it that you can remember the way Ive been addressing you?" Ezra wondered.
Chris tried to fend off the fatigue that was claiming him, but he didnt have the strength. He managed to just make his point before he drifted off. "A man who risks his life to save my ass," he slurred, "dont need to be callin me mister."
Buck watched his friends head drop as he fell asleep. He then looked at Ezra and saw a puzzled look quickly surrender to a small smile.
"Hey Ezra," Buck said. "The mans got a point."
Ezras smile grew; he just couldnt help himself.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan pulled at the blanket that was twisted around Chris legs. "Lets go ahead and get some clothes on him, Josiah. He aint gonna lie under this cover while hes feelin so warm."
Josiah and Vin began dressing Chris while Nathan and Buck talked near the dresser.
"Come on, Nathan, we need to be takin these boys home. Ezra insists hes ready and Chris seems much better." Wilmington had filled Nathan in on what happened during his friends last spell of consciousness.
"Buck, just because he seemed better the last time he was awake, dont mean hes through this yet. Hes gonna have some good moments, hes also gonna have some real bad ones. Since we dont know what the warden drugged him with, we have no way of knowing how long itll take for Chris to shake it off," Nathan explained.
"I know all that, Nate, but he was stronger. I swear he seemed almost normal."
"Almost, Buck. You said he only stayed awake a few minutes, remember?"
Buck looked at Chris, who now wore pants and was about to receive a shirt. "Yeah, yeah. To tell ya the truth, I just dont like this town. Chris aint safe here, neither is Ezra. These people lied to us about knowin em and they havent lifted a finger to help us rescue em or tend to em."
"I have to agree with you about that. This town aint friendly at all." Jackson looked into Bucks hopeful face. "Tell you what, if I can get everyone in this room to eat and sleep, and those two are better in the mornin, well get a wagon and head back to Four Corners."
Buck looked up, worry stamped on his face. "You know how Chris acted the last time we tried to put im on a wagon."
"He was real sick then, Buck. Im hopin he wont remember much of that. I dont want him sittin a horse. Ezra cant take that kinda ride either. Its the wagon or we stay on another day or two."
"No, no, thats fine. As long as we get em home." Buck looked again at Chris. Sorry, pard. Ive got a feelin you aint gonna like it, but Id agree to anything to getcha out of this place.
Chris nor Ezra were up to eating much, but they did manage to get some broth and tea down. JD sat with them while the others went to grab a bite and get a little sleep.
The gunfighters mood swings had been hard for the young sheriff to understand, but Nathan had warned him to pay them no mind and just make sure his patients rested. JD watched Chris toss violently in his sleep and eyed him as he fell quietly into what appeared to be severe depression when he was awake. Ezra on the other hand, slept most of the day. At least, that is what he would have JD believe. He had actually spent the better part of the afternoon listening to his tormented friend and trying to figure out the meaning of his confused mumblings.
Ezra knew that JD was uncomfortable around Chris and decided to help out the young man. "Youre probably getting hungry yourself, arent you, misteuh, JD?"
Buck had told JD about what Chris had had to say to Ezra. He smiled as he went over to sit on the foot of the gamblers bed. "Its alright, Ezra. Im sure Buckll be back soon with some supper."
Standish pulled himself into a sitting position. "There really is no need for you to be here. I can look after Chris. He hasnt done much more than fight with his pillow these past few hours."
JD saw that Chris was indeed sleeping again and Ezras color did seem better. The Southerner noticed the uncertainty on Dunnes face. "Really, JD. Go and get yourself something to eat. Youll be back here before you know it."
"Are you sure, Ezra? I dont like the idea of leavin you two alone."
"Were big boys. I think we can handle a little quiet time on our own. Go now. Get something to eat before you fall over from hunger." Ezra smiled convincingly.
JD, hearing the rumbling in his stomach, decided that Ezra was right. He wouldnt be gone long. Hed also remember to bring more food back for Ezra and Chris. "Okay, thanks. Ill be back as quick as I can."
"Take your time," he said as JD grabbed his coat and left the room. At last, time alone. Chris groaned. Well, very nearly alone.
"W-what? I heard " Larabee awakened disoriented.
"Its alright, Chris. That was just JD leaving."
The blond man eased himself up and sat on the side of his bed. He slowly dropped his head into his hands. "Too many too damn many..." He began to rock in agitation.
Ezra had an idea that Chris wasnt completely awake, so he sat on the edge of his own bed and faced his friend. "Are you alright? Whats the matter?"
"Too many things going through my head. Cant understand them cant seem to grab a hold of just one. Whats goin on?"
Larabees words were muffled, but Ezra did make them out. He answered in a soft voice. "A lot has happened these past few weeks. You just need to take some time and not try so hard to understand everything at once."
"I cant understand anything right now What happened to me?" Chris voice shook.
Ezra looked away and wondered how much he should tell the nervous man. It appeared that Chris was back from the dreams, but if he wasnt, and the gambler said the wrong thing He knew he wouldnt be able to handle an out-of-control Chris Larabee if he triggered the wrong memory. Still, the tormented man deserved to know what had been done to him these past few weeks.
Standish glanced at the trembling hands that Chris tried to hide by folding his arms. "Maybe you should start by telling me what you do remember about the past couple of weeks," the Southerner suggested. "Do you recollect what happened before the prison?"
Chris didnt look up. He stared at the rug on the floor and tried to force a single thought to settle in his mind. "I was in Landon just passin through. I came in to Jericho for a drink. I was plannin on staying one night and then head back to Four Corners, but he tried to sell me a watch."
Ezra raised an eyebrow when Chris faced him. "A watch? Who tried to sell you a watch?"
"Just a man. He didnt mean any harm. The sheriff came in and tried to arrest him. The law in that town was a joke."
"This town, were still in Jericho," Ezra advised.
Chris was startled by the fact and stood up. He walked to the door before he realized he didnt know where he was going. His stride was smooth despite his ill health.
"Its alright, Chris. We know all about how you were grabbed by the sheriff and dumped in the prison outside of town. You recall the prison, dont you?"
Larabee turned away from the door and focused on the gambler. "Yeah, I remember the prison."
"How much of what happened there can you bring to mind?"
Chris studied the question a moment before he answered. "The inmates, the guards, the work the warden."
"Do you know what the warden did to you?" Ezra asked.
An angry look crossed Chris face. "He beat the shit outta me Kept me in the hole more often than not."
"And?" Ezra prodded, hoping the gunslinger might explain some of the memories that had been resurrected thanks to the warden.
Standish saw the distress etched on the gunfighters face and decided he had to tell what he knew. "Chris, the warden at the prison did more to you than beat you and lock you away."
Larabee eyed the man seated on the bed cautiously.
Ezra took a deep breath. "He wanted to make sure that he had control of you."
"Well, it wasnt like I was goin anywhere."
"Personal control, Chris. He drugged you," Ezra stated carefully and waited for a response. None came, so he continued. "Before I was captured and thrown in with you, you had already been given several doses of peyote. When I found you, you were not yourself. I didnt know what he had done to you until after we escaped the prison together."
Chris went to lean on the dresser near the door as he processed the information. He didnt make a sound until he looked back at Ezra. After a moment, he found himself struggling for breath as he tried to understand the shame he felt. "You were with me you saw did I say something, do something did he win? The warden I mean."
Ezra saw disgrace shroud the mans entire being and he berated himself for having stated the situation so indelicately. "You did yourself no dishonor, Chris. I promise you that. At no time did the warden, or anyone else, win."
Standish watched as Chris closed his eyes in relief. When the gunfighter walked over to the window, Ezra noticed that he did so without a limp. Before he could inquire about Larabees absence of pain, Chris spoke. "You said I wasnt myself. How did you mean that?" he asked as he pulled the curtain away from the window.
Ezra used his free hand to press against the pain in his shoulder as he eased off the bed. He took a step or two towards Chris before he said, "You were angered and frightened by something."
"Somethin in the prison?"
"No, I think it was by something from your past," Ezra corrected.
"Youre joking, right?"
"You know Im not. I think you even know, or at least suspect, what it was the drugs made you remember. The thoughts that keep filling your mind, the images and the feelings that seem to crowd out whats happening here and now. You said there were too many thoughts in your head. Thats because what happened to you in that prison forced you to relive something that happened to you a long time ago."
Chris looked over his shoulder at Ezra. "Youre talkin crazy."
"I dont think so," he said, squaring his shoulders before he forged ahead. "Its difficult to be here with your friends in the present when theres a bear and a dead child from the past who will not allow you to forget them."
"How?" Larabee turned and spoke sharply. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Chris, I dont know all of the details, I dont even think you understand everything about your memories, but your demons are staring you squarely in the face. When you were in that prison, you were visited by events from your past. They terrified you. Hell, they terrified me "
"Ezra, shut up! Just shut up!" Chris shouted as he glanced again at the door.
Standish saw the look on Larabees face. "Time to run?"
"Are you going to just run off again? Disappear for another couple of weeks?" Ezra stepped closer.
The words rang in Chris ears run off again. Run away Soon the images began to rush through his mind, images of a young boy clutching at Chris arm, of a bear reaching and slashing with his claws and teeth, and of the finger of blame pointing straight at him. He ran a hand across his forehead and stated with certainty, "I have to go."
"What is it? What are you afraid of?" the gambler asked, hoping to force Larabees attention back on the memories and away from the possibility of taking flight. "Its there, Chris, just say it."
"No," he replied under his breath. "You dont know you werent there "
"Youre right, I wasnt there. You have to tell me. Tell me what youre remembering. Just say it," Ezra urged.
Standish watched as the pressure began to build and before Chris had even realized hed spoken the words tumbled from his mouth. "It was all so stupid. No sense in it at all Adam followed me; he had a bad habit of doin that. I sent him back, but not soon enough. There was a bear Adam and I were running, to get away. The bear was coming after us. We headed up No "
Larabee scanned the room nervously. He reached to pick up a light coat hanging over the chair near the window and stepped towards the door. "I have to go. I have to get out of here."
"Chris, wait!" Ezra called, but Chris had already left the room. "Damn!" He took a deep breath before he followed the limping man into the hall.
+ + + + + + +
Buck saw JD walk into the dining room of the Inn. When he asked why the young sheriff had left his post, JD stated his reluctance at having left the two injured men and related his conversation with Ezra.
"Damn that Ezra, he could charm a rattlesnake," Buck fussed.
"I knew I shouldnt have left em. Ill go on back and wait for you to relieve me like I shoulda done," JD said with shame.
"Its alright, kid. I just finished up and you look like youre done in. Ill go sit with Chris and Ezra for a while."
"You sure, Buck?"
"Yeah, go on now before I have to haul your hungry carcass off the floor." Buck smiled at JD and watched him walk over to take a seat next to Josiah. Hes a good boy, if not just a little gullible. The tall cowboy shook his head and headed back upstairs.
+ + + + + + +
Chris made a quick exit into the hall, but once there he was lost. He looked up and down the corridor and soon spotted a stairwell off to his left. The familiar urge to run was overwhelming, but it didnt feel aimless this time. There was someplace he needed to go; someplace he needed to be. He hurried to the stairs and began his descent, gripping the wall for support.
Ezra saw Chris in the dim light of the lantern near the stairs and tried to catch up to him. The pain in his shoulder was intense but his desire to stop his leader from disappearing was even more powerful. In Larabees state of mind, Standish knew he could do himself tremendous harm.
Ezra staggered clumsily to the top of the stairs before he called out. "Chris, stop."
Larabee heard the voice in the darkness and turned to find it. When his eyes couldnt locate the person he sought, he turned his thoughts inward and tried to focus on a particular blue-eyed memory. "Please, dont follow me. Im askin you."
Ezra caught sight of the gunfighter on the landing below, backed against the wall and looking like hed seen a ghost. The gambler took the stairs slowly. "Why, Chris? Where are you going?"
The blond man backed away, beginning his climb down the next flight of steps as Ezra came towards him. Each step down tightened the knot in his stomach. Each step awakened an old, familiar, sinking feeling as he was drawn deeper into the shadows. "I have to get out of here I dont want to be down here I have to go have to go back "
"Back where? Chris, its me, Ezra. Do you know where you are? Do you have any idea where you think youre going?" Standish had managed to close the distance between them by several feet. Chris didnt seem keen on the idea of letting the smaller man too close, but his desire to flee appeared to have lost its direction. He was confused and flustered.
"Do you know me?" Ezra asked as he moved closer. Even in the dim light, he could tell that Chris looked ready to keel over. His skin glistened and his eyes burned brightly with fever.
Larabee shook and fidgeted. "Stay away from me! Just leave me alone!"
"Im not leaving, Chris, and neither are you. Wherever you think youre going, youre not well enough to get there."
"I have to go!"
Ezra stepped down a couple more stairs and reached out for Chris. "You are not going anywhere. Theres no where to go."
The instant the Southerner laid a hand on his friends arm, Chris swung wildly and caught him on the jaw. Ezra dropped onto the landing like a rock, and before he realized it, Chris was on top of him.
"I said leave me alone!" the gunslinger screamed. "You are not going to do this to me! I cant let you do this to me! You hear me, you son-of-a-bitch? Not again!"
"Chris!" Ezra howled. The man on top of him didnt strike, but the renewed agony in his shoulder was enough to carry him over the edge. "Get off! Aggghhh!"
Larabee grabbed the shirt of the man beneath him and jerked him back to his feet. "I " he started, but the words that had come to his mind disappeared. He stumbled to the wall and took Ezra with him.
"Why, Chris? Why are you doing this?" Ezra wheezed as he looked up into the crazed features of his leader. He was propped against the wall; Chris body and hands the only things holding him up. "Youve got to break free please. Look at me just look at me," he pleaded.
The emotional explosion that had driven Chris to attack slowly subsided. The fury that had fueled his aggression gradually became nothing more than a hitch in his breath and a deep-seated desire to disappear from the face of the planet. Memories were returning, and what they told his conscious mind was more than he felt he could deal with. "Ezra," he said to the man pinned beneath him. "I cant do this. I cant "
Standish wanted to answer but clamped down on his words and gave Larabee time to collect his thoughts.
Chris took a good long look at the face near his. He saw the pain and fear that he had caused. "Oh, my God. What have I done?" He slipped his arms around the smaller man and lowered him to sit on the stairs.
Ezra tried to regain his composure before he spoke again. "Im alright, Im alright." He pressed his hand against his shoulder.
"Ezra, Im "
"Its not your fault. Can you understand gasp that none of this is your fault?"
"Whats happening to me?"
The gamblers heart skipped a beat when he saw the near-defeated look on Chris Larabees face. "I wish I knew exactly," he answered with a shaky voice. "The drugs, the fever, the beatings your past."
"My past," he said sadly. "I want to leave all this in the past," he gripped the top of his head, "but its not going to happen. I have to go back. I know you dont understand, but I need to go."
"Where, Chris? Where do you need to be right now? What are you remembering?" Ezra asked in a tone that was tinged with support rather than obstruction.
"Up high. Theres a place near here thats up high," he tried to explain but knew he was failing the attempt.
"High? Like a cliff?" Ezra dreaded the answer he knew would come.
"Rocks; a rocky cliff. We were there. I dont know how I know. I just " Chris said, squeezing his hands into fists.
"I know, Chris. I know where the cliff is."
Larabee raised his head and looked at the gambler. Ezra saw the determination and knew that this night would be spent seeking out a bear and a little boy named Adam. He gritted his teeth and offered a bandaged hand to the man who needed his help. "If youll help me up, Im sure we can borrow a couple of horses and ride out before the sun sets."
"I cant ask you to come, Ezra. Youre in no shape to do this. Just tell me where the cliff is," Chris replied, knowing what his past had already cost his friend.
"Itll be dark soon, you wont find it," he said. "I assure you, I can manage. You need my helpthats an uncommon occurrence where we are concerned. I think Ill just follow through if you dont mind."
Chris took Ezras arm and hoisted him to his feet. "Uncommon? My memory isnt good right now, but it seems like Ive been needin your help pretty regular lately. Im grateful."
Ezra didnt answer; he just leaned on the gunfighter and allowed himself to be led out onto the street. If they survived this night, he was going to have to take a serious look at these new concepts that had worked their way into his lifeconcepts like friendship and gratitude.
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