Disclaimers: Once again, I am borrowing the boys and sharing them with friends.
Comments: This is a birthday gift pretty light and harmless - well, except to Vin and Chris, of course.
Main characters: Vin and Chris
"All right now, you two stay put. Im gonna leave the lantern turned down low, but that dont mean you need t be movin about. You just keep still and Ill see you in the morning."
"Yeah, we hear y."
"Well, okay then. Good night."
Twin voices called out, "Good night, Nathan."
Hesitating for several moments, the dark-skinned man finally turned and exited through the door of the clinic.
Only to return thirty seconds later.
"This aint a good idea. I think I best just stay another night."
"Nathan youve been here for two nights already. Well be fine. Now go on and get some rest," Chris instructed from the bed near the wall.
"Yeah, well be fine," Vin reinforced from the cot by the window.
Nathan huffed and muttered under his breath as he turned to leave once more, "Sure you will. Yep - youre just fine. Youll be okay. Well see come morning. Think I was born yesterday? I know how you two are."
"Gnight, Nathan," Vin called out.
"Good night, Nathan," Chris repeated as the healers footsteps finally echoed down the stairs.
Chris breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought hed never leave."
"Me neither," Vin responded.
After several moments, Larabee asked his friend, "How you feeling, Vin?"
Several more minutes passed when Vin spoke up again. "Truth is - I feel like shit."
"Me, too," Chris admitted.
"Probably wasnt one of the smarter things weve done."
"Seemed like a good idea at the time, though."
"Reckon well be payin fer this fer a long time."
"If Buck has anything to say about it, we will."
"Aw hell, Ezra aint likely to give it up right quick, either."
Vin tossed his friend a wicked grin. "Sure was fun while it lasted, though."
"Sure was," Chris agreed, a wide grin splitting his face, as well.
"Think maybe Ill try sittin up a spell," Vin said.
"I dont know, Vin. You sure thats a good idea?"
"Tired of layin" the lean sharpshooter said as he lifted his shoulders up off the bed. "Feelin kinda dizzy, though."
"Yeah knocking your head off your shoulders will do that."
"Oh . . . maybe this wasnt such a good idea. Im feelin sick again."
"Damn Vin, dont be getting sick now. Well have to put up with the smell all night."
"Thanks fer yer concern, Larabee."
"Take some deep breaths."
The gunman could hear his friend gulping down air greedily. "Not so fast, Vin. Take slow, deep breaths."
"Yeah . . . okay," Vin replied weakly as he lowered his head back onto the bed.
With a sigh, the tracker muttered, "Uh, think maybe we could talk some t take my mind off it?"
"Anything to keep you from puking again, Tanner."
"Yer all heart, Larabee."
"It was your idea."
"You didnt have t follow me."
"I figured you might bust your head open which, by the way, is exactly what happened."
"So . . . what? So you thought breakin yer leg and bustin a few ribs would help me out?"
This time, Chris sighed. "Were both idiots. At least the horses are all right. Cant quite figure how they came out in such good shape but Im glad they did."
"Me, too, Cowboy. As bad as this is, I dont reckon either one of us couldve stood it if wed hurt our horses."
"Dont call me Cowboy. My horse could have made that jump, if Peso hadnt gone first and messed it up so badly. Scared the good sense right out of Pony - seeing you and Peso take that fall. Its Pesos fault Pony lost his footing."
"Yer full of shit . . . Cowboy."
"That outlaws horse had no problem making the leap," Chris said, with a shake of his head.
"He was fast, too we were damn near flyin."
Chris nodded, then turned to grin at his friend, "Except when we tried to cross that ravine then we kinda lost our wings."
"You call that a ravine? Seemed more like a canyon t me."
"Thats because you fell farther."
"You fell harder."
"How you figure that?"
"I didnt break my leg."
"Nope. Just your arm and your wrist and . . . your head. You win."
"Feels more like I lost."
"You still feeling sick?"
"Think Ill be okay if I dont move."
Vin peered at his friend from the corner of his eye, not wanting to risk fully turning his head.
"Oh . . . what?"
"Well, its just that - I cant reach the water, and Im getting thirsty," Chris hinted guiltily. He didnt think Vin could get out of bed, but Tanner had a better shot at it than he did at least he had two working legs.
"Aw hell, Larabee. If I get sick, I dont want t hear it."
"Uh, Chris - how do y suppose Im gonna git it fer y? I cant use either arm," Vin reminded the gunman.
The blond peered over at his friend. Vin had one arm held tightly in a sling across his chest, and the other was splinted and wrapped from his palm to his elbow. "Hell, Vin between us, we almost equal one whole man," the gunslinger said disgustedly.
"Guess we kinda do need Nathan."
"Probably so but if you ever tell him that, Ill shoot you."
"You dont have t tell me that - I aint stupid most of the time, anyway."
Both men were quiet for a several minutes before Vin spoke up again. "Aw hell, now y got me thinkin Im thirsty. You reckon if I can get a hold of the pitcher, you could pour it fer us?"
"Hell, yes, Vin. My arms aint broke. Just get it within reach of me."
"Yeah, okay," Vin replied dubiously.
Gingerly raising himself into a sitting position, the tracker groaned as his head began to pound.
"You all right, Pard? You want me to keep talking?" Chris asked, feeling the need to help out in some way. Hed been the one to bring up the water issue, after all.
"No," Vin managed to rasp. "Just . . . give . . . me . . . a . . . minute."
Larabee resisted the urge to say that at the rate Tanner was moving, it would be morning before he reached the damn water and Nathan would be back to get it for them.
Vin wasnt sure how a room that he normally felt hemmed in in had suddenly grown huge. It seemed to be ten miles to that water pitcher rather than ten feet, especially with the room swaying beneath his feet. But he finally managed to stumble to the small table near the door where the porcelain pitcher innocently sat. Now all he had to do was pick it up and carry it to his friend.
"Maybe if you sort of put it in the crook of your arm the one thats not in the sling. You know, cradle it between your elbow and your chest," Chris offered helpfully.
"Thanks for the advice, Larabee. I hadnt thought of that," Vin said, his eyes rolling which only increased the double vision he was already experiencing. He was having trouble even seeing the damn pitcher, let alone pulling it against him.
"Ow!" he cried out softly, as the action of pulling the vessel near put pressure on his aching wrist. But at least it was in his grasp . . . sort of.
Turning back towards the injured gunslinger, the room began to spin in earnest. He tightened his elbow against the astoundingly heavy pitcher in the crook of his arm, and tried to take a deep breath.
Vin had taken a few steps towards him, when Chris saw his friends face pale to a ghostly shade. The trackers eyes rolled up in his head, and the gunman knew his friend was going down.
It was instinctive. Of course hed try to catch Vin as he fell completely forgetting about his leg and those aching ribs that screamed in protest every time he took a breath.
Hed forgotten - until he was up teetering on one leg with an unconscious tracker aiming straight for him.
Somehow, the pitcher hit the floor first, shattering into a hundred jagged pieces of various shapes and sizes.
Vin came next, although Chris never could figure out how that happened. Once the pain that coursed through his body let up enough for him to take his bearings he was surprised to find himself on top of the sharpshooter.
With a long low moan, he rolled himself over, his broken leg sending waves of misery from his toes to his hip. He and Vin lay in a tangled knot on the floor between the bed and the cot.
Turning his head back towards his friend, he noted that Vin was lying on his back in the midst of the broken remnants of the pitcher. He was shirtless, and Chris added the new worry that Vin had been cut by the glass shards to his growing list of concerns.
He shook the trackers bare shoulder. "Vin? You with me, Pard?"
Moaning, Tanner remained still, his eyes closed. "What the hell happened now?" he whispered, even that small sound increasing the agony in his head.
"We had an . . . accident," Chris replied.
"Looks that way," the blond answered dejectedly.
"Nathan will kill us."
"Yep. Of course, at the rate were going, we just might manage that on our own."
Finally opening his eyes a slit, Vin peered over at his friend on the floor beside him. "You all right?"
"You think you could help me get back in this bed? I sure dont want Nathan to find us here on the floor," Chris stated.
"I got no arms here, Chris. How y think Im gonna get you in bed? I reckon I could kick yer ass, if y think that would help," Vin responded, more than a little sarcastically.
"Forget it. Ill get there on my own." But he couldnt even sit up without his ribs screaming. If hed botched up Nathans handiwork, the healer would know for sure that something had happened. Of course, the broken pitcher would be another sign. Damn. They were in trouble.
Vin groaned again. "Chris?"
"Oh God, Im gonna be sick. Im sorry," the younger man gasped as he rolled onto his side away from is friend and threw up the meager contents of his stomach.
Suddenly, Chris felt bad about snapping at his friend earlier for his unruly stomach. It sure wasnt Vins fault. Turning as much as he could manage, he reached over and rubbed the mans back as he wretched. "Its okay, Vin. Dont worry about it."
When the tracker finally stopped, the blond instructed him. "Just stay over on your side for a minute, Vin. Youre laying on all kinds of glass here. Got a few pieces stuck in your back, too. Let me see if I can get them out."
"I wondered what I was layin on," Tanner answered shakily. "Guess gettin a drink of waters out of the question?"
"Sorry, Pard," Chris answered as he leaned over further, biting back a groan when fire spread across his chest. He brushed the glass as far away from Vin as he could muster. "Hold on, now Ive got to pull a few pieces out of your back."
"They in deep? Nathan gonna have to get out his needle and thread?"
Chris shook his head, then remembered that Vin was turned away from him. "No, I dont think so. Think you got lucky this time. Does it hurt?"
"Nah, not compared t everythin else."
"Okay. I did the best I could. You can roll back over now."
"Thanks? Its my fault. If I hadnt asked you to get the water . . ."
"If I hadnt tried t make that crazy jump . . . neither one of us would be here," Vin interrupted.
"That outlaws horse made it," Chris reminded him again, with wonder.
"He sure did. You think he trained that horse t do that or it just came natural?"
"Dont know, but horses are like people, I reckon. Were not all made the same."
"Thank goodness fer that. Can y imagine if we were all made like Ezra?" Vin snickered.
"Damn, Vin that thoughts just . . . too scary to contemplate."
Vin chuckled lightly then groaned, "Shit, Chris dont make me laugh. Im likely t get sick again."
"We sure . . . dont need . . . anymore . . . of that, Tanner," the blond replied, suddenly breathless.
"Y okay, Chris?" Vin questioned as he turned closer to his friend. His nausea was forgotten when he noted the blue tinge of Larabees face.
"Y need t be propped up some those ribs of yers aint makin it easy t breath with you layin flat like that."
"I . . . noticed."
Fighting off the dizziness once again, Vin raised himself up and twisted over the top of his fallen friend to reach the pillows on the nearby bed. After trying repeatedly, and failing, to latch onto the pillows with the swollen fingers of his splinted right wrist, he leaned in farther and managed to snag a pillow case with his teeth. With a quick toss of his head, he pulled the pillow onto the floor, before repeating the action with a second pillow.
Chris quickly grabbed the thick feather cushions and pushed them up under his head, sighing gratefully when the effort granted him some welcome relief from the pressure on his lungs.
Vin remained sitting up, half way leaning over his friend with his useless arm hanging loosely by his side. His head was spinning wildly now, and he hardly had time to gasp, "Sick . . ," before he was sick again.
Thankfully, Chris saw it coming, and just managed to push his green-gilled friend far enough away that he wasnt caught in the eruption.
It was close, though too close.
"Maybe you should just lay still, Vin."
"Y think?" the tracker grumbled wearily as he gingerly laid his throbbing head back onto the floor.
"Yeah, I do. But . . . uh . . . you think you could grab a couple more pillows for me before you do? My leg is really throbbing think I need to raise it up some," the gunslinger concluded sheepishly.
Vin had his own version of a steely glare, and he used it now on his friend.
"I aint followin no more outlaws on fast horses . . . and you aint followin me!" He huffed and sat up once more, this time inching closer to the cot and grabbing the pillows there in the same fashion as before.
"Wish Id been the one to break my leg let you be doin all the work and gettin sick fer yer trouble," he muttered crossly.
There was no way Chris could bend down to lift his leg, with his ribs acting up the way they were, so he carefully lifted his bad leg with his good one, while Vin used his feet to shove the pillows underneath. No words were said as the men worked together in sync to accomplish the goal.
"Thanks, Pard," Chris mumbled.
"Yeah," Vin sighed as he laid down for the third or maybe fourth time. Hed just closed his eyes, when he heard the man in black speak softly.
"What?" the tracker asked tersely. What could his friend possibly need now?
"Hows your head?"
"Your stomach any better?"
Several minutes passed when Larabee spoke once more. "You want to talk?"
Chris Larabee the man who never spoke more than three words in a day, just couldnt seem to shut up. It figured, considering the way the past few days had gone. With a heavy sigh, Tanner answered, "Long as I dont have t move nothin but my lips."
Chris matched the sigh with another of his own. "You ever wonder about it all, Vin?"
"Aw hell, Larabee. I aint even sure my heads attached t the rest of me, and yer wantin t talk about the meanin of life?"
"No. Not the meaning of life - the meaning of . . . us." Realizing how odd that might sound, he added quickly. "I mean, the seven of us."
"Oh. Kinda one and the same question, aint it?"
"What do you mean?" the gunman turned a puzzled frown towards his friend.
Vin kept his head perfectly still and his eyes remained closed as he answered. "Well, I mean right now, the seven of us is our life. What were doing here, is what life at least our lives is all about. Probably what we were meant t do all along. Bein here, takin care of this town, takin care of each other guess thats about as meaningful as life can get."
"Aint that simple, Vin. Cant be that simple."
Chris could tell that Vin was genuinely puzzled by his response.
"Well, because. Things just dont happen that way. Its just not that easy."
"Can be. If y let it."
"I dont think so."
"Why do y always gotta make everything so damn complicated, Chris? Why does it have t be hard?"
"Because it is. Life is hard, and most of the time theres no rhyme or reason to any of it."
Or at least, thats what hed thought, until the seven of them hooked up. Now they fit together so well hed actually started wondering hoping that maybe there was a rhyme and a reason and a purpose. It wasnt something Chris could express out loud, though, for fear of sounding foolish or sentimental. And then there was the nagging belief that if he allowed himself to accept contentment and happiness, it would be ripped away again.
"Cant argue about life bein hard, Pard. Weve both seen more than our fair share of that side of it. But when I saw you across the street that day that we helped Nathan out I just knew it was the right thing t do. Knew I could trust you from the day we met, Chris. It was that simple. And its been that simple ever since ridin with you and the boys. You wanna talk about a rhyme? Well, the seven of us together is pure poetry, when y think on it."
"Now Vin dont you think thats going a bit far? I mean, yeah, we get along most of the time but weve had some pretty rough moments that I sure wouldnt call poetic."
Vin laughed lightly. "Maybe so. But when you think about how different we all are, the fact that we can ride together at all let alone get done what needs t be done well, there has t be a reason fer it."
Chris cocked his head towards his friend and smiled. "Poetry, huh?"
"Just that simple?"
Chris thought on the men that made up his group of peacekeepers. Every one of them added something different something unique to the mix. JDs enthusiasm made it all new again, while Bucks exuberance reminded him that life could be fun. Josiahs deeper perspectives inspired him to ponder things hed long put behind him, and Nathans compassion in spite of his past gave him hope for the good in man. Ezras wit and cunning were advantageous in most situations, but mostly, the con man reminded the gunslinger that what you see is not always what you get he was still finding out there was much more to Standish than what met the eye.
And then there was Tanner. Vin was the heart of the gang. Hed probably argue with that. Probably blush and stammer and say he wasnt much more than a tracker and sharpshooter. But it wasnt so; he was the heart behind the rhyme and they all knew it.
Chris thought about how he and Vin had been taking care of each other all night. He thought about how they had worked together to get the pillows up under his leg . . . without words or even conscious thought. Thats how it had been from the beginning for the two of them. It was that simple.
"You go t sleep on me, Chris?" Vin asked when several minutes had passed.
"Nope. Just thinking."
Chris hesitated, before blurting out, "It wasnt Pony who was scared when you fell, Vin."
Vin finally turned his head and met his friends eyes. "I know," he said softly.
With a subtle nod exchanged, no more words were necessary.
"You reckon we should try to get back in bed?" Chris asked after several more minutes had lapsed.
"I dont reckon itll matter much. Nathan will tan our hides anyway."
"Yeah. Might be fun to see his reaction when he finds us like this."
Vin grinned. "Hes likely t be all fired up, all right."
"Hope he doesnt bring any of the boys with him, though well never hear the end of it."
"Course, theyve all got some stories of their own theyd rather not remember we might just have t help em recall a thing or two if it gets rough."
Chris laughed. "Thats what I like about you, Vin youre always thinking a step ahead."
" Cept when I go flyin over cliffs."
"It was more like a ditch, Tanner."
"A ditch? You think wed be layin here all busted up in a pile of glass if we fell into a ditch, Cowboy?"
"Dont call me Cowboy. Okay how about a gully? You like that better?"
"It was a damn canyon Cowboy."
Chris shook his head and smiled. Maybe life wasnt meant to be understood or contemplated. Maybe you were just supposed to grab the moments and hold them close. Moments like this one.
Moments of pure poetry.
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