Hurting the Ones We Love
Notes: My first fic.
|No one knew when he cried. Alone in his room, silent tears streaked his
face. Chris Larabee didn't notice the tears as they fell upon the music box
in his hands. His vision was filled with images of his wife. The tears continued
as he set the small box down and picked up the wooden horse he had carved
for his son.
Sarah and Adam Larabee died together in a fire, and had taken Chris' soul with them.
As his tears finally subsided he returned the cherished items into their box. After wiping his face on his shirtsleeve, he picked up the box and put it back in his closet. The heart broken man then made his way to the saloon.
Chris had been drinking for almost 24 hours straight. At first everyone had kept their distance out of respect, and because he tended to become short tempered when drunk. As time past and the drinking continued no one dared to approach the volatile gunslinger.
During the second day his men began to worry. Slowly, over a period of time, one at a time they made their way to his table to see if they could help and offer support. All except Buck Wilmington. He was worried of course, but he had seen his friend like this before.
Over the span of six months it had only taken two black eyes, three bloody nose, and the last time a concussion, one broken rib and two cracked ones to convince him. Buck was stubborn but he eventually learned, worrying at a distance is best when trying to look out for Chris Larabee.
The only answer Nathan Jackson and Josiah Sanchez received when they asked the temperamental gunslinger what was wrong was a cold glare. They thought since Buck had known him the longest he should to try. "Maybe you should go and talk to him." The ladies' man slowly shook his head. "Ya'll just leave him be."
Ezra Standish could not believe he had let himself be talked into this. His new found concern for his friends apparently overwhelmed his good sense of self-preservation. As he slowly crossed the saloon, he mused 'This must be how a condemned man feels as he travels to the front of a firing squad.'
On their best day he and his troubled leader barely tolerated each other.
Standish tried to appear casual as he approached the table.
Cold green eyes looked up at him, as he was interrupted.
Surprise showed through the normally neutral expression. Even expecting it had not prepared the gambler for the intense anger radiating off Larabee. Ezra saluted the gunman with two fingers and a tip of his head. "Please remember, we will be here when you need us." Standish felt the icy glare boring a hole in his back as he walked away.
Vin Tanner returned from his patrol and headed for the saloon. The first thing he noticed was the unusual quiet. The only ones he found in the bar were the other seven peacekeepers. The second thing he noticed was the state his best friend was in. After getting a beer at the bar he walked over and sat down beside Chris. "Hey Cowboy."
Larabee looked up at him yet said nothing. Vin sat and drank his beer, concern showed on his face. Silence between the two men never felt uncomfortable. Until now. Tanner could feel the tension in Larabee. He could feel the anger around the other man as if it had a life of it's own.
During the last half an hour, Chris had only moved enough to drink three shots from his bottle. He hadn't said anything or even looked at Vin again. "Chris, what's wrong?"
Chris looked over at Vin; the quiet voice was nearly his undoing. It was almost enough to inspire him to talk. Taking a deep breath and another shot he said, "Nothing I can't handle." The answer and the low growl it was delivered with set Vin on edge.
"Come on Chris, what's goin' on?"
Larabee looked at the tracker. "It's none of your business. I want you to leave me alone. Now." Tanner just shrugged his shoulders.
"Fine. I'll be around if you need me."
Buck and JD had come in and joined Standish, Jackson and Sanchez at their table. Vin came over and pulled up a chair, and poured himself a drink.
Nathan asked, "Did you find out anything?" "Naw, just what we already knew, he's as cranky as an old bear."
The six regulators quietly played a few hands of cards. While they kept an eye on Chris. When the interest in poker waned, Ezra passed the time playing solitaire. The others continued to slowly finish their drinks and worry.
Wilmington had been sitting hunched over a beer that he wasn't drinking. He stared at the table as if he were in a trance. "Say, Buck." When the older man didn't answer JD nudged him to get his attention.
"Hmm?" Deep blue eyes tore themselves away from the tabletop and focused on the young man.
"Why don't you try to find out what is wrong with Chris? No one else has had any luck."
Buck looked over at the man who was once his best friend and said, "If ya'll will leave him alone he'll pull out of this. It just might take awhile. If ya keep crowdin' him, things will just get worse."
Several hours later in the saloon. The others had started in on Buck again about an hour ago. Insisting he should talk to Chris.
"I am not going over there. I've seen this all before. He will stop when he's ready."
JD didn't understand, to his way of thinking if one of your friends has a problem. You help them. He looked at Buck with confusion and irritation. "Fine. If you won't do it then I'll go over there and talk to him."
The Sheriff strode confidently across the saloon. He sat in the chair closest to his hero. "Chris, I want to help. If you'll tell me what is wrong, no matter what it is me and the others will help you."
Larabee raised his eyes and looked directly at Dunne. "Listen boy. If and when I decide I need help I'll let the men know. Until I tell you otherwise you need to keep your scrawny ass as far away from me as possible."
The others were watching and saw when JD's face flushed red. They also saw him go slightly pale underneath the red. Dunne stood up and walked away with his shoulders slumped and his head hanging.
By the time he returned to the other's he had regained most of his normal coloring. "What did he say Brother Dunne?"
"He umm, he uh, just said he would let ya'll know when he needed you. I'm gonna get some air." He quickly turned and made for the doors. All of the men knew more than that had been said.
Buck said, "I'll go talk to the kid."
Buck found JD sitting in front of the sheriff's office. "Hey kid." "Does everyone think that?" JD asked in a defeated tone. Buck sat in the chair beside his 'little brother.' "Does everyone think what JD? What did Chris say to you?"
Dunne looked Buck in the eye, thinking to himself. 'I trust him, even when he gives me a hard time. In a fight or when he's trying to teach me something he treats me like he respects me and cares about me.' "Chris is drinking, he doesn't mean anything." JD tried to make an excuse for their leader.
"Son, I've known him a lot longer than you have, what did he say?"
The young man sighed, "He just called me a boy and said if he needed help he would call on you guys." He paused, he face reddened at having to repeat the rest. "And he ugh. . . told me to keep umm, my scrawny ass as far away from him as possible." JD quickly looked over at Buck. The expression on his friend's face made him wish he hadn't said anything.
"That asshole. Me and him are gonna have a discussion."
"No Buck, just leave it, it doesn't matter."
"It damn sure does matter son. No, I don't think of you as a boy. Your young but you're not a child. I would just as soon have you beside me in a fight as any of the others. And I'd be willing to bet they feel the same."
JD couldn't help but smile. He had sort of known that already, at least about Buck. "Thank you." JD replied. Still it hurt to think one of the men he most respected, thought of him as a child.
Buck watched JD's face. 'That kid couldn't hide his thoughts if his life depended on it.' "That's it. JD you stay here I'll be back in awhile."
"Please don't Buck. He didn't mean it."
"Now look here, ya'll wanted me to talk to him, so now I'm gonna talk to him." Buck stood up and stepped off the boardwalk, JD started to rise to follow. "Just stay here kid. Whatever does happen or doesn't will be between me and Chris, it's not gonna have anything to do with you."
"But I. . ."
"JD, Please! He is a mean son of bitch, especially when he has been drinking this long."
"OK, ok. Just be careful." Wilmington nodded and walked away. The young sheriff waited until the other man went through the swinging doors of the saloon before he followed.
The other four regulators watched Wilmington as he came in and made his way back to his seat. He met each man's eyes and said "I'm gonna talk to him and no matter what happens, ya'll stay out of it. Okay?"
The men glanced at each other, and then Vin spoke up. "What's gonna happen?"
The ladies' man looked at the former bounty hunter with sad eyes. "Now Vin, I know you and Chris have become good friends. And I think that's great. But, this ain't the same man you know. This is the Chris, left right after the fire that killed his family. In some ways he hasn't changed much, in other ways he is completely different. You guys promise to say out of it?" Reluctantly, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra nodded. They all had worried expressions on their faces. Buck looked directly at Vin, they stared at each other for a moment. Wilmington said, "Vin please don't interfere. He will need someone he's not mad at to talk to after all this is over." He downed what was left of his beer, then stood, and left the table.
Buck went to the bar. He leaned against it and watched the moody gunslinger. Larabee refilled his shot glass, then went back to staring at the bottle in front of him. Seemingly unaware of anything going on around him.
The ladies' man decided now was as good a time as any. He walked over and pulled up a chair, not bothering to ask permission. With a false air of happiness Buck said, "Hey Pard. How ya doin'?"
"Get away from me." Larabee told him in a low voice.
"Aw Chris. Now you got the boys worried about ya. And, I want to know why you said those things to JD. He thinks a lot of you and just wanted to help."
"Alright, you want to help me? You explain to me why we just had to stay that extra night? What made you decide then was when we needed to stay? Were you in on it? How much did you make to kill your best friend's wife and child?"
The blood drained out of Wilmington's face when he heard this. He pushed a shaky hand through his hair, and tried to collect his thoughts before he began. "I knew you blamed me, but I can't believe that you think I could or would do something like that. Let alone do it for money." Buck stopped; taking a deep breath he shook his head. "My God Chris, I would never have hurt. . ."
Larabee jumped to his feet. Before Wilmington could react, Chris had pulled back and gave him a quick jab in the mouth. "You bastard, don't you even think about saying their names again."
Buck straightened up in the chair, wiping the blood off his busted lip onto his sleeve. He looked at Chris; "After all we have been through, how in the hell could you think that? Damn it Chris, Sarah was like..." Before he could finish Larabee hit him in the face again.
Buck shook his head as if to clear it and staggered to his feet. By the time he could see clearly Chris had his gun pointed at him. He dropped his gaze down to the pistol and then back to the man who was holding it. "Well great. You want to shoot me now? Hey, if that will make you feel better go ahead." Buck's voice dropped to a harsh whisper. "You blame me. I blame me. So go ahead, I won't fight ya. I never did before. I'll even draw on ya if ya want." Larabee stood listening, swaying slightly. "Go ahead, honestly it will be a relief not having to feel the guilt everyday, everytime I see you."
Chris growled, "Don't push me Wilmington."
"Aw hell Chris, just shut up and shoot."
The others watched as Buck approached the drunken man. All were hopeful he could find out how they could help or at least find out what is wrong. Tanner and the other regulators could not hear what was being said. They thought it was going well. Up until the ladies' man paled, very much like JD had earlier.
Nathan, Josiah, and the others jumped to their feet the first time, Chris hit Buck. Vin started towards them. Josiah grabbed his arm. "We promised brother, let them handle this."
"I didn't promise." Vin replied, but let himself be stopped.
No one noticed JD re-enter the saloon. He watched the others to see what they were going to do, and then he too stopped.
When Larabee drew back and hit Buck the second time, Vin began walking towards them. He was shocked to see Larabee draw on Wilmington. "Aw hell Chris, just shut up and shoot."
Upon hearing this Vin immediately stepped in between the two men. "Now come on Chris calm down
"Vin you better get him the hell away from me."
JD had followed a few steps behind Vin to the table when Chris drew his gun. He had never seen Chris like this, and he didn't mind admitting that it scared him, at least to himself. Cautiously he walked around to stand by Buck.
When Vin stepped in between them Larabee promptly pointed his weapon at the floor. He continued to stare at Buck with a look of loathing on his face.
In order to try and defuse the situation Vin suggested "Bucklin, why don't ya go with JD on patrol?" Buck, who had been looking at the floor raised his head and looked at the tracker. The intense guilt and sadness in the deep blue eyes, caused Vin's chest to tighten.
Dunne came up beside Buck; he lightly touched his arm and said, "Come on Buck." Slowly the lanky gunslinger turned away from his oldest friend. Taking a deep breath he looked back at Larabee. It seemed as if he might say something. Instead he turned back and walked away. JD followed closely behind, worry written all over his face.
Larabee didn't holster his gun until Buck was out of sight. He went to sit down in his chair when he lost his balance. He pitched forward headfirst
Vin caught Chris right before he fell headfirst into the table. After righting his friend, he guided him into his chair. Tanner sat in Buck's empty chair.
Chris looked at the tracker as he poured himself a drink. "You should have let me shoot him, would have saved me the trouble later."
Vin asked, "Why do you want to shoot Bucklin?"
"The same reason I have wanted to for the last two and a half years."
"You don't mean that do ya, Chris? He has covered your back for twelve years."
"I damn sure do mean it. You weren't there. I knew when we found them he was to blame, I just couldn't figure out why he did it."
Tanner couldn't believe what he was hearing. This man who had so quickly become his best friend, was actually sorry he hadn't shot. . . "My god Chris. It's just cause your drinkin' that ya feel this way."
Larabee slammed his glass down and looked at the tracker. "I don't give a damn how drunk you think I am, I know what I believe. Now you can sit there and shut up or you can get up and go."
Vin stood and looked at Chris. "I'm your friend, Cowboy. But I still think yer wrong." He turned and walked over to the table the others shared.
Nathan shook his head, "I don't believe what I just saw."
Standish looked from his game of solitaire. He had seemed unconcerned as the events unfolded, now he sounded a little guilty. "Mr. Wilmington did try to warn us."
Vin nodded in agreement, "And ya can't get much worse than having your closest friend try to kill ya."
JD followed Buck out to the boardwalk. The young sheriff was angry, hurt and confused. One of the reasons he came out west was because of Chris Larabee and men like him. He considered the man his hero. Only his hero had nearly shot his 'big brother'. The hurt on Buck's face broke JD's heart. He wasn't use to seeing anything but a smile there. 'I have never seen him look so sad or defeated. I respect Chris; well I think I still do. But I'm not going to let him hurt Buck.'
"Buck? Hey Buck." Dunne had waited knowing the older man was trying to calm down. However, after nearly ten minutes he was getting worried.
Wilmington exited the saloon. He used his bandanna to wipe the last of the blood from his face. Taking a deep breath trying to calm himself, he thought 'I can't do this again. It feels as if Sarah and Adam have just died. After the shock wore off, he acted the same as tonight.
I know it is my fault, and as long as Chris is doing all right I can handle the guilt. If all the progress he has made has been destroyed; well, I just don't think I can go through it again.'
Wilmington looked over at the sheriff. 'Kids upset. I guess seeing your hero pull his gun on a friend will do that.' "Come on kid, we need to do our rounds."
JD assessed his friend's expression. He was still pale and his eyes had a haunted look. "Aw Buck, you don't have to come with me, unless you just want too."
Buck smiled and put his arm across JD's shoulders. "I want to JD."
The two didn't talk as they checked the town. Finding everything within the town limits in order, they went to the livery to saddle their horses for the patrol outside of town.
Chris continued to drink through the night. No one else tried to approach him. Nathan and Josiah decided to leave around 2am. Ezra and Vin remained playing cards off and on; until Vin had to leave right before dawn to do his patrol of the outer ranches. "Ez, will ya' stay and keep an eye on him?"
The gambler smiled gently, "Of course Mr. Tanner. Now that he has finally fallen asleep, Mr. Larabee will be a pleasure to look after."
Vin looked back at Chris. The gunman had laid his head down on his folded arms. "Well, I still wouldn't get to close."
"Do not fear. I endeavor not to get too near Mr. Larabee, even when he is sober." Vin quietly snorted, gave Chris one last look and left.
The southern con man had silently kept watch for the last three hours. JD had been in an hour ago looking for Buck. "I went to his room and he wasn't there." "I'm sure Mr. Wilmington has found some fair maiden to occupy his mind." JD nodded and wandered out of the saloon. 'That boy worries as much about his big brother as his brother does about him.'
The sound of a very ill calf or a sobering drunk pulled Standish from his musings. 'Mr. Larabee is not going to be in good humor this fine morning.' Ordinarily Ezra didn't care for mornings. He hadn't been to bed yet, so technically this was still the same night for him. He continued to watch as Chris raised his head and tried to sit up. The younger man decided he would allow the man ten minutes before he approached his table.
Not halfway through the time limit, the surly leader of the seven poured himself another glass of whiskey and picked up where he had left off.
Standish made his way to the table. Larabee looked up and tried to give the gambler a glare. Although, between the pain in his head, and his blood shot eyes squinting in the bright morning sunlight it was not very threatening.
Seemingly unaffected Ezra said, "Mr. Larabee, I would be happy to go to the cafe and procure a morning repast for you."
Chris looked at him without saying anything, long enough to almost cause him to begin fidgeting. Finally Chris growled, "Go Away."
Standish smiled as though he had inherited a gold mine. He knew he was taking his life in his hands, 'I can't seem to help myself. The man is entirely too easily annoyed.' Not actually having a death wish he turned and walked out of the saloon.
'Well that went well. Mr. Tanner asked me to watch after our fearless leader and I will do just that.' The con man made his way to the cafe and bought breakfast for Chris. It only took a few minutes for the waitress to bring the food. Ezra took the tray and went back to the saloon.
Larabee was exactly where he had left him. An empty bottle on the table and a half full glass in his hand. Standish walked up and set the tray down on the table.
Chris looked at the food and then looked at Ezra. "I told you to go away."
"Yes you did. And I did leave. Then, I came back and brought you breakfast." Standish paused for a few seconds, only to continue with, "Your welcome."
Without slowing he said, "You see, Mr. Tanner is concerned about you. He asked me to watch out for you until he returned. So that is what I am doing."
"I don't want anyone watching out for me."
"Perhaps not. Although, I have been here in the saloon as long as you have. You have not eaten in almost two days. You continue to drink without regard to your health." Standish looked Larabee in the eye and said, "Vin is very worried. If you continue to miss meals and drink as if there is no tomorrow, there won't be one. Alcohol poisoning is not a very dignified way to die. So for Vin's sake if no one else, Please eat your breakfast." He turned and walked back to his table without even glancing back.
Tanner returned to town and went straight to the bathhouse. He quickly bathed and dressed. While making his way to the saloon he noticed Ezra standing on the boardwalk staring off into the distance. Stepping up next to the gambler he asked, "Whatcha' lookin' at?" Ezra glanced at him and said "Mr. Larabee." He nodded in the direction of the darkly dressed man headed toward the livery.
Vin looked back at Ezra. "He awakened in a foul mood. I brought him breakfast, we, well I talked for a couple of minutes then went back to my table. After a while he ate most of the meal. Then stood and left. He did not say what his destination was." Vin nodded, patted Standish on the shoulder, and headed toward the Livery.
As he entered the stables he saw the gunman saddling his horse. Making sure to make enough noise so as not to surprise him, he walked up and asked, "Where ya' headed?"
"Out to my cabin. You got a problem with that?"
"Hell No. I was just wondering. Do you want some company?"
Larabee sighed, and in a more civilized tone answered "No, I just need some time alone. I'll be back in about three days." Tanner watched as his friend left town.
Vin and JD were in the café the next morning eating breakfast. They had been talking about Chris and Buck when Wilmington walked in.
He approached the table and sat down. JD said "Buck you want some breakfast?" "No thanks, JD. I'm not very hungry." He turned to look at Vin "Where's Chris?" Tanner thought about lying, until he realized it would be too easy for Wilmington to find out where Chris was.
"He went out to his cabin, probably be back tomorrow or the next day." Wilmington stood, Dunne said, "Are you okay?" Buck looked at the younger man, reached around, and flipped the sheriff's hat off his head. "Yeah, kid. I'm fine." JD smiled as he watched his friend leave the café.
Tanner spoke up "I hope he doesn't do anything crazy"
"Like going out to talk to Chris."
With a worried look now covering his face JD said, "Aw, he wouldn't do that." Neither man spoke for a few minutes. "Didn't you say Chris was mostly sober when he left?" Vin didn't answer. They both knew it wouldn't matter.
Larabee was sitting on his porch watching the clouds darken with an approaching storm. He had his chair leaned back against the wall and a quarter of a bottle whiskey in his hand. When he noticed Buck riding up, he slammed his chair forward. Dropped the bottle, and stood up. "What the hell are you doing here Buck?" The angry man watched him dismount, with hate burning his gut.
Buck walked close to the porch and said "Chris, we need to talk. I. . . "
"I, don't give a shit. Get off my place."
"Come on Chris, if we could just talk for a while I'm sure we could. . ."
"You sorry bastard. You don't have anything to say I want to hear." Larabee stared with his hand hovering over the butt of his gun.
"Listen Pard, Sarah and Adam were. . ."
Before Buck could finish, Larabee was over the rail and standing in front of him. "Don't you ever speak their names again."
Chris drew back and threw a right cross. The blow nearly knocked Buck to his knees. He didn't have time to regain his balance before Larabee hit him again. Chris' rage took over; as he continued the one sided fight.
It had been almost two years since the last time Chris had hit him. Up until yesterday that is. Buck wouldn't fight back, he never had. He couldn't bring himself to hit a man who was already suffering so. His guilt prevented him from defending himself against Larabee. 'After all' he thought 'I deserve it.'
After years of drinking, the gunslinger could appear and move as if he were sober. The fact that the alcohol did impair his judgment was undeniable. At this moment, twelve years of friendship never existed. Twelve years of knowing someone would be there to cover his back without question meant nothing. Killing the person whom he thought destroyed his family meant everything.
It had started to rain, yet it did not slow Larabee down at all. Wilmington
managed to block some of the punches as he tried to move closer to the furious
Larabee was blinded by rage. He continued to struggle, ignoring Wilmington's pleas. Realizing he could not break the other man's grip he tried to reach his gun. He couldn't lift his arms high enough to unholster the weapon. In his fury and determination to inflict pain he tried for Buck's gun, still unable to lift his arms away from his sides to raise the gun.
Larabee was like a man possessed. Being trapped by Wilmington only increased his resolve. Suddenly he remembered the knife Buck usually kept at his waist. Chris grabbed it. He had to pull it sideways from its scabbard, but he got it out. Hate filled his mind as he vengefully rammed it into Wilmington.
Buck felt like he had been punched in the gut. He lost his hold on Larabee. The blow took his breath away. The force of it causing him bend forward. When the pain registered, he felt an intense burning, tear through him from front to back.
Wilmington looked down and was shocked to see his own knife sticking out of his lower left side. It was in up to the hilt. He saw Larabee's hand holding the carved bone handle. Buck looked up into Chris' eyes. Without thinking, he stepped away from the other man. The pain of the blade being pulled out caused him to moan and grab his side. Wilmington gasped, "Chris, its okay. It's not your fault. I. . .made you mad. I talked you into. . ."
With legs unsteady from the pain, he stumbled back a couple of steps only to trip. Buck cried out as he landed on the edge of the stump Chris used for chopping wood. He rolled off and landed on a small pile of firewood where he lay on his right side unmoving.
Chris stood frozen, knife in hand. As Buck stepped back, the pained filled sound coming from his friend slowly brought him to his senses. In the fading sunlight Larabee's face paled when he saw the blood stain that was growing on the front of Wilmington's shirt.
He listened as Buck absolved him of blame for what he had just done. He watched as the man that he once thought of as his brother collapsed.
Chris dropped the knife and he went to his knees beside Buck. He could hear ragged breaths being taken. He leaned over and said, "Buck? Buck answer me."
When there was no answer, he reached out and laid a hand on his friend's back. Moving his hand to Buck's shoulder, he put the other on his hip, to try and turn him over. Chris stopped when he felt bones grind together in Buck's left shoulder. Pulling his hand back, he stared at the blood covering it. He quickly looked back at his chopping block, seeing the ax sticking out it also had blood on it. He realized Buck must have hit it when he fell. Replacing his hands, carefully avoiding the shoulder wound he gently turned Wilmington over. Buck let out a groan of pain with the move. His eyes were half-open but Chris was unable to tell if he was conscious.
"It's gonna be alright. I'm going to help you stand and we'll get inside out of the rain." Chris slowly straightened Buck's legs, wincing at the whimper of pain he heard. He took a deep breath, and reached behind his shoulders, again avoiding the wound and sat him up. Buck's head lolled to the side only to drop to his chest. Chris saw the blood running from a gash above the right ear. His gut tightened and he thought to himself, 'Damn it to hell Larabee.'
He moved in behind Buck, reached down, and grasped his belt and pants on either side. Getting a firm handhold he counted to three and stood up. Chris quickly slipped around to Buck's right side and carefully as possible made way to the porch. Grateful for the one and only step, he used his hip as leverage to help lift and move the other man onto the porch. This movement caused a severe pull on the knife wound, the resulting yell, that caused Larabee to flinch and curse.
Every pain induced sound from the ladies' man went straight through Larabee's heart. In the back of his mind, he tried to rationalize what happened. 'Buck always pushes too hard.' 'He's known me long enough to know when I need my space and to leave me alone.' These thoughts continued spinning in his head as he made their way into his cabin.
Once they were in the house Chris laid the wounded man down on his bed. Lighting the lamp on the table beside the bed, he received his first good look at the damage that had been done.
All other thoughts were pushed out of his mind as the reality of what happened began dawning. The blood on Wilmington and what was pooling on the bed beneath him was a gut wrenching reminder of what he had let himself become.
Buck began to tremble and moan quietly. This jerked Larabee's attention back to the more immediate problems. Due to the amount of blood coming from the gash on Wilmington's head Chris quickly removed Buck's bandanna and used it as a temporary bandage.
Chris went to light a fire in the stove and start a pan of water heating. Going back to the bed, he began taking Wilmington's wet clothes off. He examined the wounds as he came to them. The wound on the left shoulder looked bad. The ax had had a double edge. Chris could see bone pieces mixed with the blood and ragged tissue. The sight made his stomach turn. He grabbed a couple of his clean shirts and put one under Buck's left shoulder.
The hardened gunfighter had a very hard time making himself look at the wound that he had intentionally caused. The entrance was in the middle of Buck's left side. 'Only two inches towards the middle' Larabee thought to him self, 'maybe it's not as bad. . .'
Being unable to lie to himself anymore, he said, 'Right in his gut.'
They had both seen men die from abdominal wounds. Chris could remember every one of them. The pain and anguish those men went through were the things some of his nightmares were made of. Now he had condemned Buck to that. He used the other shirt to cover the front and back of the wound. Then he covered the still trembling man with two quilts.
He gathered a couple of towels and his extra set of sheets to use as bandages. Going to stand by the bed as he tore the sheets into strips, Chris thought about what he needed to do.
'Need to go into town and get Nathan. There's no way Buck can ride. I can't, I won't, leave him here alone. I might be able to rig a travois. That sounds like the best option. But it's dark now and finding the right wood'll be next to impossible. We'll have to wait till morning to leave. And hope it stops raining.'
The scene before Chris sent a shiver through his frame. He had never seen the boisterous ladies' man so still. For the first time in years, the hardened gunfighter began to pray.
'Please God, don't make him pay for what I've done. He doesn't deserve to suffer, but I can't take the thought of him dying. Please help him.' Still watching his friend, one tear made it's way down his face. Guilt and despair began to take over and the one became many. 'My God, how could I have done this?'
After a few minutes the grief stricken man wiped at his face with his shirtsleeves and said, "I have got to pull myself together."
Larabee made three different trips gathering the things he needed, a straight back chair, a bottle of whiskey to help clean the wounds, the pan of now very warm water, and another unlit lamp.
Chris lit the lamp and placed it on the nearby shelf. He sat down in the chair and tried to collect himself. With a deep breath and trembling hands, he pulled the quilts down to expose the knife wound. The shirt was saturated with blood. When he lifted the makeshift bandage, dried blood caused it to pull at the wound. Buck jerked then grunted and attempted to curl up around the pain. This movement sent unbearable pain through out his shoulders and back. With a yell, Buck straightened back on the bed, but immediately tried to sit up.
Chris jumped up, dropping the bandage when Buck started to curl up. He pushed the bigger man down trying to be gentle. All the while talking to Buck in a shaky but reassuring voice. "Easy Buck. I am so sorry. Come on Pard, be still now."
As Wilmington strained to sit up, his right arm pushed against Chris. No matter how he moved he couldn't get away from the pain and he was starting to panic.
"God Buck, Please relax." Chris was also starting to panic. Pushing in the middle of Buck's chest and yelling, "BUCK! DAMN IT, BE STILL!"
The wounded man's movements stopped instantly. He turned his head towards the voice. Gasping he said "ch-chris?"
Larabee relaxed his hold "Yeah, Buck."
"God Buck. You're hurt. Real bad."
"i d-don't remem. . .gonna be s-sick."
Chris quickly turned him on his right side just in time. Buck puked in the floor; the pain of his muscles contracting caused him to groan.
"Do you think you're finished?"
Larabee helped him get settled back down on his back. Chris cleaned up the mess as quickly as he could, so he could get back to Buck.
"ch-chris, what happened?"
Larabee didn't know what to say or rather he didn't want to say it. "You were stabbed."
"are ya. . .alright?" Buck asked.
Larabee sat down hard in the chair, dropped his head into his hands, and moaned softly "Oh God."
The wounded man reached out with his right hand and laid it on Chris' knee. He weakly repeated "Chris. . .alright?"
Taking a deep breath Chris looked up "Yeah Buck. He cleared his throat "I'm fine."
The knife wound was bleeding more. Chris quickly grabbed the whiskey and a towel. Buck was watchin' through half closed eyes. "This is gonna hurt, but I got do it." The weakened man nodded slightly. Larabee poured the liquor directly into the wound and immediately applied the towel to it. He kept pressure on the wound to try and stop the bleeding.
After about 15 minutes he gently lifted the towel, the bleeding had slowed considerably. He needed to check Buck's shoulder next. "Buck can ya' hear me?" The ladies' man slowly turned his head to Chris. "Buck I need to turn you over again so I can clean your shoulder."
In a weak voice Buck replied "chris what hap-pened? i. . .i been tryin' to remember."
Taking a deep breath Larabee replied "Let me finish with your wounds and then I'll tell you." Wilmington nodded slightly and helped as much as he could to turn back over to his side. Larabee used the warm water to flush out as much of the tiny bone slivers and dirt as he could. Warning his friend on what he was about to do he poured the whiskey with one hand and tried to hold Buck steady with the other. The scream of pain went sharply through his heart. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." His apology going unheard as Buck slipped into a pain free sleep.
He quickly put several pieces of sheet he had folded into pads and held them in place by wrapping strips around Buck's arm and chest. Larabee cleaned the small exit wound the knife had left. This too caused some pain but not as much as the others. Putting more of the pads he had folded on both sides he wrapped strips around his friend's waist to hold them in place.
Finally all that was left was the gash on Wilmington's head. Chris removed the bandanna and examined the area. It had quit bleeding; it had swollen a bit though. He cleaned and bandaged it as he had the others.