A Stitch in Time
Note: Based on a true story, course more has been added to flesh it out, but the basis is true. I would like to thank my friend Jim for the use of his ah misery for this story.
Hot, hot, hot. There wasnt really any other way to describe the weather this day. Except for maybe miserably hot. And wouldnt you know, this had to be the day that Larabee would decide to clear off some of his property from unwanted tree branches and rocks. And why the hell did he agree to help? Couldnt turn the man down thats why. Damn soft spot he had for the gunslinger. Was going to get him into trouble one of these days too. But then, they pretty much decided from day one that they were going to do things together; work together, drink together, even die together figuring theyd be in hell together. So why not suffer together in this miserable damn heat too? And they were suffering. Both stripped down to just jeans and boots by mid morning already, working hard and steady throughout the heat of the afternoon. Neither man wanting to give up and quit, neither one wanting to admit that they were probably going to be sick from all the heat. Just plain stubborn, both of them. Bull headed enough to keep on going, never mind the consequences. They did take plenty of water breaks and they werent working so far from Chriss "shack" that they couldnt soak themselves down once in awhile from the watering trough. Larabee just wanted to get it done because in a day or so four of the towns peacekeepers would be taking some prisoners north to the Potter prison and that would leave only three watching the town and surrounding areas. Wouldnt leave much time for anything else so today was the day. Just turned out it had to be so damn hot.
The long day was coming to a close, it being near supper time. Chris headed to the corral to feed the horses and check their water. Vin, in the meantime, finished picking up small branches adding them to the larger pile the two men had built. If there were to be any rains coming in the near future then the branches could be set on fire, but for now it was just too dry to even think about. Squatting down to pick up the last few branches the Texan heard the squeal of the horses as they fought over the special feed Larabee gave out to them. Grinning to himself he thought of how the others always thought he spoiled Peso so much by giving him treats when his friend did the very same thing whenever he came out to help or stayed the night. He always figured Chris was just trying to prove the point that there wasnt a horse alive that he couldnt get close to or ride, him being an ex-rancher and all. And Peso could test many a mans patience, even the gunslingers. Throwing the sticks onto the pile his head jerked around at the sickening sound of flesh being hit.
Taking off at a run, the trackers adrenaline kicked in when he saw his friend on the ground trying hard to get up, one hand held to his bleeding face. Vins left hand hit the top rail of the fence and he vaulted over coming down next to the fallen man.
"Easy Chris, Im here. Just stay down," he told him as his friend fought his way to a knee, the other leg already trying to push him up into a standing position.
"Leme see, cowboy leme help," Vin said softly as Larabee turned to sit back down on the ground, letting his friend support his back with his leg.
Blood flowed freely from between Chriss fingers as he held his left hand to the same side of his face.
"Damn," he heard the gunslinger murmur as he took the bloodied hand away from the face slicking his own hand with the mans life flowing substance.
He couldnt really tell where the damage had been done, there was too much blood and he didnt want to cause any more pain to his friend or more injury.
"Whered ya get hit," he asked, knowing the injured man had to have been kicked somewhere in the face.
"Un under my eye I think," the gunslinger answered, groaning lightly as Vin began to tenderly wipe at his face, mouth and neck with his neckerchief. He could feel the sticky wetness drip onto his chest and some ran down his neck onto his back. Damn, but he must be losing a ton of the stuff. He wanted to get up, needed to get up, needed to get to the water trough before he drown in his own blood.
"Need want to get up Vin help me up," he said as he began to struggle, pushing off of Vin in order to raise himself.
He felt his friend oblige him by putting his hands underneath his arms and help him up from the back.
"Hold this ta yer face Chris," he heard the tracker say to him as the neckerchief was pressed into his left hand and then both put up over his injured eye and cheekbone and held there a moment as if to tell him just like that. Then he felt Vin come up under his right shoulder and pull him to him taking his weight and leading him out of the corral. It was a little tricky unlatching the door and re-hooking it back so that the horses wouldnt get out, but his friend managed it without a word. Through his one good eye he could see Vin leading him over to the water trough and when there, he was eased down with all the care of a fine piece of china. Hed a laughed if he didnt think it would break his face in half. Leaning back against the rough wood, he gave in to his need to have his good friend take care of him.
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Vin took his neckerchief and ran it under the pump to clean it out and get it good and cold to give back to Larabee. Damn, he thought, shaking his head. We need Nathan, and fast. Just the thought of Chris being down and injured was bad enough but not knowing how bad hurt he was, was even worse. And the damn thing kept bleeding so much. Hard to see anything with so much blood. His one biggest fear was that damage had been done to the eye. He was hoping that hadnt happened.
"Here Chris, keep this over yer eye," he said, as he handed the cool and wet cloth to his friend. "I need to get some clean rags from the house. Ill be right back, jest hold tight."
"Guns Vin. We need our guns just in case " Chris said to him, grabbing the trackers arm before he headed to the house and leaned back again as the man went to get their weapons. He didnt even move when Vin came back and laid his holstered gun across his lap within easy reach of his right hand. He also felt his friend lay his own sawed off close to his leg, the comfort of both guns easing his mind some. He could never be too careful. Its what kept him alive all these years and he was sure Vin was of the same mind.
Seemed like only a heartbeat and the Texan was back kneeling right next to him. He could hear Vin wetting rags in the water trough and squeezing them out and then felt as the man ministered to him as tenderly and quickly as he could.
"Jest gonna clean this up abit Chris. Damn, cowboy, but I aint fer sure where you got hit. Dont want ta hurt ya more."
Larabee could hear the concern in the softly spoken words and did what he could to ease the mans worries.
"Doin fine Vin believe me, Ill let you know if if you hit a sore spot. Dont hurt much, just throbbin some. Your doin good. Make someone a good wife some day," and the corners of his mouth did lift some with that remark.
Vin shook his head and a grin touched his lips. "And here I thought you was hurtin after lettin' a horse use your head as a kickin post. Bleedin like a stuck pig and all you can do is make jokes," although he did have to admit he felt a little better knowing Larabee was still capable of making any kind of remarks. Just havin him talk and walk took a great deal of stress off the Texan. He didnt know what to think earlier when hed heard that awful sound of flesh being struck. 'Bout made his heart jump into his throat and he had felt a flash of panic knowing instinctively that Chris had been hurt. Scared him, truth be told and he wasnt a man to scare easily. Hed take a gun fight or a knife fight over this any day. Hell, hed
His thoughts were interrupted by Chriss voice.
"Bring whiskey?" The question was answered as a bottle was put to his lips. He took a good long draw making Vin think he wasnt all that honest about not hurting so much.
"That bad huh?" he said as he heard Vins whispered "Damn."
"We need Nathan ta sew this up cowboy. Wont quit bleedin."
"You can do it cant ya?"
"Hell Chris, my sewins as bad as my scribin. Youll scare the ticks offn a dog ifn I do this."
"So what are our choices? Ride to town, stay here or you do the honors. Personally I aint up to ridin one eyed all the way to town and since you wont do it, reckon you best be headed to town and get Nathan," Chris told him. "Just help me inside and Ill be fine till you get back."
Vin took his friends arm and helped him to stand, steadied him and then guided him into the shack. He helped Chris get comfortable on the bed making sure the colt peacemaker was near his hand. Leaving him water and whiskey and clean rags on the bed table, the tracker made ready to leave.
" Be back quick as I can Chris, sure youll be alright?"
"Be fine Vin, dont worry on it," he said as he waved Vin towards the door.
But he did worry on it. Leaving the man behind when he was injured went against everything he stood for. And this wasnt just any man. This was Chris, a man who he reckoned was the best friend hed ever had. Striding toward the corral his footsteps slowed as he thought about what he was going to do.
Damn, I cant do this, cant leave him like this. But he needs Nathan. No, he needs stitchin up. Hell, its right under his eye, what if I what if I mess up? Damn it ta hell, I can do this, I gotta do this, cant leave him alone in there someone might come and
Hearing the door to the shack open he looked back to see Larabee standing there, gun holster over his shoulder, holding a bloodied cloth up to his face.
Vin retraced his steps coming to stand in front of his friend.
""Didnt hear ya ride out. Whats wrong?"
"Caint do it Chris. Caint ride off an leave ya like this. Dont feel right."
"Go Vin. Ill be fine. Hell it aint the first time Ive been hurt and alone. I can make it till you get back with Nathan."
"Would you leave me?"
"Aint the point Vin. You said we need Nathan so I need you to go and get him."
"Would you leave me?" he asked again.
Chris shrugged and said, "Maybe probably."
"Like hell you would. Get back in the shack Larabee and Ill see what I can do. Youll likely bleed ta death 'fore I get back here.
Chris went back in and laid down telling Vin where his needle and thread were.
Coming over to his friend and kneeling down beside the bed, he spoke softly. "Gonna hurt cowboy, aint got nothin' to numb the area with."
"Be okay Vin. Ill just finish this bottle and that ought to put me out of any misery." He sensed the trackers main concern was the pain hed be putting him through, not the fact that he wouldnt do a good job. Hell, he knew Tanner would do the best job he could and that it would be just as good as what Nathan could do. He had every confidence in his good friend even if he didnt have it in himself.
Vin nodded his head, stood up and went over to the stove to find one of Chriss lucifers in order to sterilize the needle. He glanced over to see the gunslinger down the last of the whiskey. Taking a deep breath he went over to begin his task.
"Youll do fine Vin. I trust ya," Chris said sleepily, right before closing his eye and drifting off, the whiskey doing its job.
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Two hours later Vin woke from a light nap hearing a moan coming from his patient. His patient? Hell, he was beginnin' ta think like Nathan. Catching the hand that was making its way up to the injured area, he told Chris that everything was okay, he just needed to rest.
Opening his good eye, the gunslinger looked at his friend trying to gage his expression.
"Looks pretty damn good Chris. Reckon I didnt mess up yer looks too bad."
"Better not have. Buck needs competition. Knew you could do it. Seen some of yer stitchin in those Indian pouches youve made. You do good work Vin. Ya stitched me up just in time. Thought I was gonna bleed out." Closing his eye he stifled a yawn, grimacing as the stitches pulled just a little. Damn, but it felt like the left side of his face was blowed up twice its size. He heard a chuckle and looked at his friend.
"Sorry Chris. Its just that you look like a little pocket gopher with too much seed in his cheek." He watched as the eye narrowed into a glare. He wet down and squeezed out a cloth to lay over the sewed up area. "Well keep puttin on a cool cloth and the swellin will go down in a day or so. Boys aint expectin us for at least another day and by then you should be glarin out both eyes, he said with a grin.
Chris just squinted at him but gave a sigh as the tracker lay the cool damp cloth over his eye and then looked as though he would go back to sleep.
Getting up and stretching his sore muscles Vin headed over to the stove to make something for them to eat. Hell, it was way past supper time, but his stomach had been tied up in knots for the past few hours and only now did he begin to feel some pangs of hunger. No doubt Chris could probably eat a little something too, only having whiskey in his belly.
"Vin?" he heard softly.
"Yeah Chris," he said, turning his head to look at his friend.
"I wouldn'a left ya."
Giving a slight nod he answered, "I know cowboy, I know."
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