Characters: Ezra, Buck, Vin & Chris
Notes: Never suffered from toothache, touch wood, so please excuse any mistakes in symptoms. I also hope that you can understand what I have written later on when someone gets a bit worse the wear for drink.
Ezra winced as he bit into his bread so he moved the lump of food to the other side of his mouth and chewed carefully. It took him a long time to finish his meal but his companion waited patiently for him without comment. When the gambler had finished, he put a hand up to his face and rubbed his jaw gently as he sucked in a shallow, halting breath.
"What's up, Ez?" Buck asked as he studied the gambler's slightly swollen face.
"Toothache," Ezra mumbled painfully. His whole face ached and he felt irritable as well as hypersensitive to noise and vibration. "I expect it will pass in time," he continued hopefully.
The ladies' man shook his head, knowing that wasn't likely to happen but he said, "Hope so for your sake, pard. Nate ain't back 'til next week."
"He's not setting his hands on me, Mr. Wilmington." Ezra pushed his empty plate away from him as he drank the last of his almost cold coffee.
"May have to if it needs pulling out, Ez. He'll see to you alright."
"Not if I see him first he won't," Ezra said vehemently as he winced and sighed.
"Coward. Yer gonna be in pain if you leave it as it is. Best have it out and get it over with," Buck advised seriously but he could see that Ezra didn't look convinced.
"I'd rather cut off my hand than have a tooth pulled. Anyway, the matter is not up for discussion seeing as Mr. Jackson is absent," the gambler replied as he stood up with a hand still clamped to his jaw. "See you later, Bucklin. I feel the need of my bed."
He smiled lopsidedly and wandered upstairs to his room. Every step he took on the wooden floor made him cringe. The vibration from his feet striking the ground traveled right up to his head and increased the pain tenfold. He sighed in relief when he could finally stand still and he stayed motionless for a few minutes in the hope that the pain would subside. When that didn't work he got undressed and climbed into bed with a heartfelt groan. He tossed and turned continually for well over two hours because the pain in his jaw was now constant and he just couldn't get to sleep. Whenever his top and bottom set of teeth touched, a stabbing pain shot up the side of his head making him wide awake again. In desperation he eventually reached for the quarter full bottle of whiskey he kept in the room. He opened it and then took a long drink and kept sipping until he fell asleep under the influence of the liquor.
+ + + + + + +
Buck knocked on the con man's door the next morning to see how he was but walked in when he got no reply. He looked over to the bed and saw the unmoving lump under the bed covers. "Ez? You okay, pard?"
He ambled to the bed when he was met with silence and saw the bottle on the floor nearby. He bent down and picked it up and shook it to find it empty. "Jeez, you must be hurting real bad, pard."
"Bucklin?" Ezra asked in a slurred voice when the ladies' man's words got through the fog in his brain.
Buck stood with hands on hips as he looked down at the man in the bed. "You intend to drink yerself stupid, Ezra? If it hurts that much we need to get you some help."
"No.......no. I'm cured. It doeschn't hurt at all," Ezra replied emphatically as he shifted under the covers so he could look at Buck with blurred vision.
"Only 'til you sober up, pard," Buck retorted quietly. The ladies' man got Ezra up after a slight struggle and dressed him before taking him downstairs. "Come on, Ez. Have some breakfast and some nice, strong coffee. Best not to let Chris see you like this."
He steered Ezra toward a chair and sat him down and then placed a plate of food in front of him. The gambler poked the food with his fork but only managed to eat the egg without trouble. When he tried the bread he groaned loudly and gave up as he put a hand to his face and closed his eyes. The pain cut through the whiskey's anaesthetic qualities and made Ezra feel totally sober. Dammit. Should have drunk more, he thought to himself angrily.
"You okay, pard?" Buck asked when he saw the gambler open his mouth to try and ease the pain.
"Oh good God, Bucklin," the gambler mumbled incoherently.
"Does it hurt bad, Ez?"
Buck put a hand on his friend's shoulder and stated, "Well, we need to do somethin' to rectify it then."
The tall gunman looked at his companion in astonishment. "What do you mean no? You can't go on like this if you can't even eat properly, pard. What's the point of being in pain all the time?" the mustached man asked reasonably.
"What's goin' on?" Vin asked as he approached his two friends from behind.
"Ez has got toothache but Nate ain't here to treat him. Even if he was Ez says he don't want it taken out," Buck informed him when Ezra remained silent except for the occasional groan.
"Jeez, Ez. Yer face is real swollen," Vin said sympathetically as he stared at the gambler before sitting down beside him. "Yosemite could help ya, I s'pect. He's pulled lots of teeth so he told me the other day," the tracker said with a straight face as he poked Buck in the ribs with an elbow to stop him laughing.
"Allowing Mr. Jackson anywhere near my teeth is bad enough without even contemplating your suggested dentist," Ezra complained with a grimace.
Vin burst out laughing at the look on the gambler's face as he held up both hands in front of him. "Sorry Ez, couldn't help myself. I was only joking. Just enjoyed the thought of you being at Yosemite's mercy. He'd have probably dug yer tooth out with his shit shovel."
Buck snorted with laughter at the image Vin's words projected in his mind as he patted Ezra's back comfortingly.
"I can't laugh for the pain, Bucklin," Ezra groaned as he lowered his head so that his brow was touching the table.
"Sorry, Ez. I know yer suffering and I didn't mean to make light of yer problem," Vin said as he smiled apologetically. "We'd better think of somethin' to help ya 'cause you sure look like hell, Ez."
The two men sat contemplating their friend's dilemma for some time without success. They then decided to eat some breakfast while their brains were working in the hope that the food would help by providing a bit of mental energy. Ezra looked on unhappily and eyed the men's food longingly until Vin finally passed over his egg, which Ezra ate gratefully.
Buck suddenly put his fork down noisily and sat with a huge grin on his face. "I've got an idea. Saw someone do this once before," he said as he stood up and wandered to the bar. "Got some string, Inez?" The ladies' man took hold of the bundle Inez gave him and headed to the stairs. "Let's go upstairs and do it. Wouldn't want to frighten off yer clients, darlin'. Just warn 'em that he might yell a bit."
"What are you gonna do to me?" Ezra demanded as Vin pushed him forcefully toward Buck. He didn't like Buck's suggestion that he was going to be made to yell one little bit.
"Cure yer toothache, pard. Trust me."
The gambler fixed the tall gunman with a disbelieving look. "That's hard, Bucklin. Real hard," he replied sadly as he watched his two friends warily.
Vin kept a hand on the con man's arm and led him upstairs and sat him on the bed. He then took up position between Ezra and the door so that the gambler couldn't escape if he was of a mind to.
Buck approached Ezra with the string stretched between his hands when he saw the man was settled. "Open yer mouth, Ez."
"Why?" Ezra asked suspiciously as he tried to back away over the mattress.
"Well, it's yer tooth that hurts, ain't it? I wouldn't be asking ya to drop yer pants to get to it, would I? Bit painful trying to find it from that end to say the least, pard." He smiled at his joke and then held up the string and explained, "I gotta tie this to yer tooth so show me which one is hurting."
Ezra reluctantly did as he was told and Buck tied the string round the troublesome molar. He pulled Ezra to his feet and moved to the door where he tied the other end to the door handle. Ezra watched proceedings in horror but couldn't escape because Vin had got hold of him again. Buck closed the door and then made Ezra move back until the string was taut.
"I don't want to do this," Ezra said almost unintelligibly.
"Tough." Buck surveyed his handiwork before walking back to the door and opening it. He measured the distance between the gambler and the door with his eyes and then made Ezra take a pace backward before slamming the door shut without warning.
"Ahhhhh!!!!!" Ezra yelled as the top half of his body jackknifed forwards in reaction to the fierce pull on the string. He stumbled on a few paces toward the door and pulled the string from his mouth irritably. He poked around his teeth and groaned loudly as he finally straightened up.
"Did it work?" Vin asked from where he'd watched proceedings curiously.
"No it didn't, Mr. Tanner. It only seems to have resulted in me hurting my neck too," the gambler mumbled as he put one hand to the back of his head and the other to his jaw.
"God sorry, Ez," Buck apologized. "Perhaps I didn't get the technique right. Let's try again." Buck moved toward the con man once more.
"Keep your hands off me, you cretin. I'll live with the pain if that's the best idea you could come up with. Trust me, I think were your exact words. Ha! What a hypocrite I was to even contemplate partaking in one of your plans," Ezra retorted as he rubbed his face and neck.
"There must be somethin' else we can try. You've got five days to wait 'til Nate returns," Vin said quietly as he studied the pale man before him.
Ezra stared at him with an agonized expression and reached for another bottle of whiskey and took a large mouthful.
Buck grabbed it quickly. "Oh no, you don't. You ain't getting drunk to ease the pain, pard. Somethin' bad could happen to yer tooth and you wouldn't notice 'cause you were pickled."
Ezra slapped the ladies' man's arm hard. "Something bad had happened even before you got your hands on it. It hurts," Ezra said forcefully and then winced in pain.
"Well, stop whining and let us help ya. Better get you sorted today 'cause then we might be able to get back to normal. Can't stand it when yer in pain, Ez. Yer worse than my horse and you know how ornery he can be," Vin said.
Ezra looked thoughtful. "Perhaps that explains why you get on so well with Mr. Larabee."
"What? What the hell you talking about now?" Vin asked in exasperation.
Ezra turned his gaze to the tracker. "Well, I was just thinking. Seeing as you get on so well with your ornery mount that obviously accounts for your good relationship with our ornery gunfighter. You just seem to get along with anything of a cantankerous nature."
Vin snorted. "If that was an attempt to try and change the subject and make us forget what we were doin', you weren't successful. We ain't that gullible to be sidetracked into discussing the quality of my friendship with Chris. Just shut up and let us help ya," Vin snapped. Silence descended again and then Vin frowned thoughtfully and turned toward Buck. "The solution's easy, Bucklin. Let's ride to Eagle Bend. They've got a doc too and he must be able to help."
"Eagle Bend! Good idea, Vin. You ain't just a pretty face, are ya?" Buck laughed as he patted the tracker's back heartily.
"Pretty ain't quite the word I'd use, Bucklin," Vin complained before turning toward Ezra again. "Come on, Ez. Will ya go to Eagle Bend? You know I'll only follow you around town for the rest of the day until you agree to go so you'd be better off saying yes now."
Ezra held up his hands in surrender and sighed loudly. "Alright, I give in. If only to get some peace and quiet," he agreed.
+ + + + + + +
"Reckon he musta heard you were coming, pard. Looks like he's run and hid," Buck said as the men made their way back to the horses after a fruitless visit to the clinic in Eagle Bend.
Ezra stumbled along beside the ladies' man and continued to rub his face. "You may be right. He must have heard my scream from this morning during your abortive attempt to extract my tooth. Well, let's go home because there seems no point in staying here any longer." Ezra climbed wearily onto his horse's back and sighed. He reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a bottle of whiskey.
Buck saw the gambler take a long sip but decided not to intervene this time. He knew that Ezra was really hurting and needed something to dull the pain. He looked at Vin and raised both eyebrows before pursing his lips and sighing at this friend's continued suffering. The ladies' man and sharpshooter pulled up on either side of the gambler to watch over him on the journey home. They hoped to be able to keep him in the saddle no matter how drunk he got.
They arrived back in Four Corners late afternoon and Chris was standing in the middle of the street looking none too happy.
"Uh oh," Buck mumbled. "Chris don't look pleased, does he? I forgot to tell him where we were going."
The black-clad man scowled and Buck thought he could almost detect his friend tapping his foot in impatience. "Where the hell have you been? I needed you here," the blond barked angrily.
"Chris....." Buck began before being interrupted.
Chris shook his head negatively. "I don't wanna hear it, Bucklin. Even if you were being chased by the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, I don't wanna know."
Ezra coughed and put a finger to his hat brim as he grinned from ear to ear like a maniac. "Greetings, Mr. Labaree," he muttered as he got Chris's name back to front. "How goesch the day?"
The blond turned his gaze on the con man irritably. He looked the man up and down as if he was something that had crawled out from under a rock. "Might have known you'd be at the bottom of this. Are you drunk, Standish?"
The gambler frowned and remained silent for a moment as if considering his answer. He pouted and then turned to Buck and asked quite seriously, "Am I drunk, Mr. Wimlitgon?"
"Yes Ez, I do believe you are," the tall gunman said as he patted the con man's back and smiled broadly at the mess Ezra had made of saying his name.
"There you are then. You have your ansschwer, Mr. Labeera," Ezra declared as if he'd solved the world's hardest puzzle.
"Damned booze hound," Chris grumbled angrily as he shook his head.
Buck held up his hand to get Chris's attention and said, "Now Chris. He's got toothache and we've just been all the way to Eagle Bend to see the doc there. Seeing as Nate ain't here and Ez was in pain, we thought that would be the best thing to do. The doc weren't there though so Ez is still suffering."
Chris couldn't really tell whether Buck was being honest or just making up excuses to get Ezra off the hook for being drunk on duty. The blond gunfighter looked quickly at Vin, knowing he would not lie to him and received a confirming nod in reply.
"He's telling the truth, cowboy. He's really hurting," Vin replied.
Ezra, meanwhile, had somehow dismounted during the conversation but he ended up in a heap at Chris's feet. The blond reached down and put a hand under Ezra's armpit and hauled him unceremoniously to his feet dislodging the man's hat in the process.
"Oh, Mishta. Larbaree. Soooooo kind," Ezra mumbled as he lost his balance and fell against the black-clad man after trying and failing to pick up his headgear.
Chris clicked his tongue in exasperation and ordered, "Go and sober up for God's sake. You ain't no good to me as you are."
"I'll schhober up when I pleashhh," Ezra retorted as he shook his head and wagged a finger in Chris's face.
"You'll sober up now, dammit," the gunfighter disagreed as he pushed the man away from him while still keeping a hold on him.
The con man stood within inches of Chris again and said loudly and decisively, "Schhan't! Ain't takin' orderschhh from you today."
Chris heard Buck and Vin draw in sharp breaths at Ezra's drink-induced bravado. The blond looked at the gambler in disbelief and his face clouded as he barked, "Oh really? Why not?"
"Got better thingshh to do." Ezra hiccuped and then put his finger to his brow and stumbled sideways as he lost his balance. He only managed to remain on his feet because Chris still had hold of him. The gambler grinned broadly and said, "Hello, Mishishh. Travishhh."
Chris whirled round, pulling Ezra with him, and saw Mary was indeed standing behind him.
She smiled at Chris before saying, "Hello, Mr. Standish. Are you alright?"
"Floatin' on air," Ezra answered before poking Chris insistently on the shoulder. "Go on, tell her, Mr. Labraree."
"Tell me what?" Mary asked as she turned to face the blond again.
Chris shook his head and said, "I've no idea. He's real drunk, Mary. Best to ignore him. I'm trying but it ain't proving easy." The gunfighter smiled apologetically and Mary turned and left the four men alone in the middle of the dusty street.
Ezra swung back to face Chris after watching Mary walk away toward the Clarion's office. He belched and then breathed whiskey fumes all over the man as he tried to say something.
Buck grabbed his arm quickly as Chris let go his hold without warning. The ladies' man picked up his friend's hat from the dirt and then said, "Come on, pard. You'd better sleep it off."
"No....no. I wanna schpeak to Kisstofer," the gambler said in a determined fashion as he pulled in the opposite direction to where Buck wanted him to go.
"Kisstofer! Oh boy," Vin laughed as he saw Chris scowl at the mispronunciation of his Christian name.
"Jesus Christ. How much has he had?" the blond asked.
Vin shrugged as he tried to stop laughing. "Fair bit, cowboy. He was really hurting so we didn't see the harm."
All three sober men turned their attention back to the drunken con man. The gambler had now started pacing up and down nearby like a marching soldier. He had managed to struggle out of Buck's grip and was making the most of his freedom.
"Kisstofer. A fearleshh gumfarter but too schcared to tell Mishish. Trashish that he loveshh her," the gambler shouted, slurring and muddling many of his words in the process.
Vin laughed again as Chris turned red in embarrassment.
The blond looked round quickly to see if anyone had heard what Ezra had said before staring at Vin angrily. "You can shut up too, Tanner!" the man complained as he made a grab for the wandering gambler.
"Oh, come on. You gotta admit he's quite funny when he's drunk."
"Mary! Mary!" Ezra yelled. "Kiss......kiss....Kisstofer!"
Buck moved again to get Ezra away from Chris but the gambler shook him off again and continued shouting loudly, "Gutlesshhh Labraree. Schhcared of a woman. Ha! You're an imbecile, Mr. Larbaree."
"What did you call me?" the black-clad gunfighter asked angrily.
"An imcebile... No that'ssch not right, is it? Imc.....Inceb....Imbecile! fool, idiot....." Ezra yelled.
Chris's voice got a dangerous tone in it as he said, "Ezra? I'm warning you. Shut yer mouth. Jesus Bucklin, get him to bed, will ya? He stinks worse than Yosemite after he's been shoveling shit all day."
"Not schhcared of Kisstofer. He's a coward." Ezra grabbed Chris's shoulder roughly to keep himself upright and waved a fist in the air to maintain his balance.
Chris was rapidly tiring of the man's behavior and he drew back his own fist, thinking that Ezra was going to hit him. I'll put an end to this farce once and for all, he thought to himself. He let fly with his fist and hit Ezra hard making the gambler topple backwards to land in a ball at Buck's feet.
"Jesus, pard. What the hell's the matter with you? You didn't have to hit him. He don't know what he's saying," Buck said with a scowl.
"I wouldn't be too sure of that, Bucklin," Vin whispered just loud enough for Buck to hear as he looked up from where he sat beside Ezra. The tracker had dropped to the ground beside the injured man as soon as fist had hit face.
The ladies' man flicked a questioning look at the tracker as he knelt down next to the con man but didn't say anything. He pulled Ezra's hand away from his face and saw lots of blood. "Ezra, you okay? Speak to me."
The gambler put a hand back to his face and sounded totally sober when he said, "I'm cured. I'm really cured this time, Bucklin. He knocked out my tooth." He dug around in his mouth and his bloody fingers emerged holding the dislodged molar in the air as if it was a gold nugget.
"Get him out of my sight Bucklin before I hit him again. Damned drunken fool," Chris said angrily as he walked quickly along to the jail.
"Let's get you to the clinic and cleaned up, pard." Buck pulled the gambler to his feet and Vin helped take the man to Nathan's room.
They sat him on the bed and Vin stood directly in front of him and stared at the man without saying a word.
"What seems to be the problem, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked as a minute of silence passed. He looked up at the tracker and saw the knowing look on the man's face.
Vin shook his head in wonder. "You ain't as drunk as you made out, are ya? Did you deliberately rile Chris?" He'd watched Ezra intently during the fracas on the street and had seen a glint in the man's eye that suggested he'd been more in control of himself than he'd let them believe. That had been proved when the tracker had seen the flash of triumph on Ezra's face when Chris had finally retaliated to his goading.
Buck looked up curiously from where he was searching Nathan's supplies for what he needed to treat Ezra. He was beginning to understand what Vin had meant earlier.
Ezra smiled lopsidedly at Vin. "It seemed too good an opportunity to miss. It gave me the chance to say some things to Mr. Larabee's face that I wouldn't usually dare contemplate. Not that I think those things of our illustrious leader of course but I needed to upset him enough to make him react. I have to admit it was rather enjoyable though. He obliged very nicely too, I think you'll agree, and removed my tooth for me without too much trouble. I got to insult him and he got to hit me. It seemed a fair exchange."
Vin laughed. "Jeez, Ez. You sure live dangerously, don't ya?"
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