by Tiffiny

Disclaimer: Ho Hum. Not mine. Sure wish I could claim them. I'm making no profit from this venture. Unless feedback counts. Hint Hint...

Warnings: Contains death of a minor character in series. Also contains mention, more implied than explicit, of rape and violence.

Comments: I've always thought Nathan and Ezra could learn a lot from each other. (NO. Not that way. Get those minds out of the gutter. <g>) Nathan's character is probably the most difficult for me to write though. Let me know what you think, if you're so inclined.

Archive: If you'd like.

I'm a healer. I fix things. I've struggled for hours, days sometimes, to put broken bodies back together in one piece. And yet, for all of that, it took me just minutes to shatter one of the most precious gifts I've ever been offered. Friendship. Comfort. Trust. Focused only on my own pain, I destroyed everything you gave me with just a few words. Fixin' bodies is easy compared to mendin' hearts and souls. I don't know if I'm healer enough to do it. But I aim to try, if you'll give me half a chance.

I always thought of myself as the sane one outtta all of us. Not that it's sayin' much, given this bunch. But still...I had that notion. Carried it around with me until the day Rain died.

I went kinda crazy for awhile, I guess. Couldn't seem to let go and start healin'. The image of her haunted me. Beautiful face covered with filth and battered almost beyond recognition. Thighs caked with blood. Blood I couldn't stop.

We found her just a few miles outside of town. She was on her way to see me. I'd had every intention of going up to see her the week before. But things bein' the way they are in this town, I'd never gotten around to it. It had been a long time since my last visit. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Now I know why.

We caught up with the murdering bastards a few days after buryin' what they left of her. I'd a killed 'em in cold blood. I was out of my mind with grief and guilt. You wouldn't let me do it. Who would've thought that it would be you, of all people, that could see straight to the heart of matters.

"Don't do it, Nathan." You told me softly. "They've already robbed you of your heart. Don't let them steal your soul."

The others were prepared to look the other way, if need be. They understood the power of revenge. But not you. It took a selfish, mercenary, southern gambler to understand the power of healing and the essence of a healer.

Even after all we've been through together, I think the rest of us have a tendency to underestimate you. The truth of you is hard to figure. I'm guessin' that you even try hidin' it from yourself.

I watched Rain's killers swing from the end of a rope. It didn't make me feel no better, but at least my hands weren't guilty of blood. I suppose that's something. I don't recollect thankin' you in so many words, so I'm gonna say it now. Thank you , my friend.

I got something else to say, as well. I'm sorry. Sorry that I took the comfort and friendship you offered and then threw it back in your face. Sorry I didn't offer you the comfort you so obviously needed in return. You aint the type to let on when you're hurtin'. But I know you were. I just figured I'd have plenty of time to ask you about it later. After I was done sortin' out my own feelings. I'm sorry for that. I hope I'll get another chance to find out what's wrong. This time I promise I'll ask. I want to help.

You helped me more than you'll ever know. Three months after Rain's death I was still full of hate and anger. And guilt. It was the guilt feedin' all the rest of it. Guilt that I let her die. It was my fault she was dead. I couldn't deal with that. It was so much easier to hate.

When you found me in the clinic that night- Was it really only a few days ago? - I'd already polished off half a bottle of whiskey. I was startin' to understand the attraction it had held for Chris. It didn't kill the pain, but it did numb it some. You didn't say anything at first. Just sat down beside me, on the floor. Of course, you grabbed my coat off the chair before you sat down. So's you wouldn't get them fancy clothes of yours dirty. I can remember thinkin' how you that gesture was and before I knew it, I was laughin'.

You just regarded me thoughtfully for a moment. Then you began talkin'. About anything and everything under the sun it seemed like. I'd never seen you, the absolute, honest-to-God, real you before. I suspect it's been a long time since you took off that mask you're so fond of wearin' and let someone see the man underneath. Bein' part of our group had put some cracks in that mask, but you still wore it proudly, even around us. Until that night.

I sat there for a while, drinkin' and listenin'. Anything was better than the bitter taste of my own thoughts. I'd forgotten how subtle you could be, though. Before I knew it, you had me talkin'. I could feel some of the weight on my soul lift as we spoke. I felt like a drowning man must feel when he's able to get a lungful of air. We were both stretched out on the floor by that point, heads pillowed on our coats. I felt like I'd been ridden hard and put away wet. Completely and utterly exhausted. The whiskey was gone, my voice was hoarse and the floor was harder than hell. But I felt better than I had in a long time. I glanced over and caught a glimpse of what looked like gutwrenching sorrow in those green eyes of yours. But it was gone so quickly, I couldn't be certain. And I was so tired. I reckoned we could always talk tomorrow if need be. Damn me for a selfish bastard. If I'd only said something then. Something besides "Goodnight."

I can't remember which one of us reached out first. Guess it don't really matter. All that mattered at the time was the comfort of your touch. As the town "Doc" I touched folk all the time. Treatin' wounds and checkin' for injuries. It wasn't until that night that I realized how much I needed someone to touch me. I have memories of a warm body, intoxicating in its blend of contrasts. Rough and smooth. Hard and soft. Gentle and demanding. All at the same time. It was very different from anything I'd ever known before. Different enough so that I wasn't reminded of Rain. There were no ghosts haunting us then. The ghosts came later. Afterwards.

Sleep eventually overtook us and with it came the dream. In it, I could see Rain, screaming and struggling with her attackers. I was leaning casually against a tree, listening to you expound on something or other. I'd glance over every once in a while to where Rain was fighting a losing battle. But every time I did, you'd draw my attention back to you. My sense of guilt and unease began to grow until finally I couldn't stand it anymore. I started over to Rain. She lay crumpled on the ground, her attackers nowhere in sight. I could see blood everywhere. I began to run. Falling to my knees, I rolled her gently over. My stomach lurched when I saw the extent of damage they'd done. Her eyes stared up at me accusingly. "Why didn't you come?' she whispered.

I woke up screaming. The first thing I saw was you leaning over me as you patted my shoulder soothingly. "It was just a dream, Nathan." you said.

I focused on your voice. It was the same voice that had kept me from going to Rain in my dream. Still caught up in the aftermath of emotion I felt, I let all of my guilt and anguish find a target in you.

"Get your hands off of me!" I spat angrily. "Did you really think some southern white boy could waltz in here and make everything better? It was men like you that killed her!"

Ruthlessly, I took every vulnerability you'd shown me just a few short hours ago and used them against you in the most hurtful manner I could. Within a few minutes, it was all over. You didn't say a word the whole time. Just nodded your head jerkily and exited the clinic on shaky legs. Your face was so pale you looked like a ghost.

I stood there in shock after you left. The dream induced anger was slowly draining out of me as a pair of wounded emerald eyes replaced the accusing brown ones. The unfairness of my anger towards you struck me like a blow and I was forced to confront the guilt in my soul. It was like a festering wound had been drained of poison, now that I had admitted to the emotion. Now I needed to find you and see if I could come up with an antidote for the poisonous words I'd just inflicted. You deserved an apology, if nothing else. I had almost reached the door when I heard the sound of gunshots.

That was three days ago. Dammit, Ezra! You'd best not die on me. Not before I get a chance to make things right. And Buck still has a few dollars that you haven't won yet. Chris has threatened to kill you if you run out on him like this. Come on, Ezra. You helped heal me. Now help me heal you. Please wake up...


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