Will You Mop My Fevered Brow?
Notes: This fic is primarily for Steffi who asked if I could do another version of Who Will Mop My Fevered Brow?, but with the positions reversed. Am I a Fairy Godmother, or what? This is also for Pat who likes the combination of Vin and Buck, which apparently doesn't happen often in Mag7 stories. Hope you enjoy it! I found the remedies on www.thehawknest.com. I have no idea if the plants mentioned grow in the part of the US that the Mag7 is set, but they do now!
The rain didn't seem as though it was ever going to stop. It lashed into the faces of the two peacekeepers as they rode back to Four Corners, and made them ride with half-closed eyes. As it hit their exposed skin, the rain stung like shards of glass and it eventually turned the abused areas numb. The men tilted their heads down as far as they could so that the brims of their hats took the brunt of the punishment. Their horses also had their heads tucked into their chests as they too tried to avoid the onslaught.
The two peacekeepers had just escorted a family to their new home on the other side of Eagle Bend. They'd stayed overnight at the homestead because it was a good day's ride to get back home again. Vin had known that rain was imminent as soon as they headed back to Four Corners, but he'd hoped to get nearer home before it started. The two men had decided to push on and not stop in Eagle Bend on the way back, and one peacekeeper was now bitterly regretting that decision.
Vin looked over at his companion and reached out a quick, worried hand when Buck seemed to wobble in his saddle and tip sideways.
"Buck?" he yelled against the roaring wind. "What's up?"
"I don't feel so good, pard," the ladies' man admitted.
Vin studied the man's face as best he could in the conditions and saw that he looked pale and uncomfortable. He could tell that his friend wouldn't last the journey all the way back to Four Corners. Although it wasn't too far, the prevailing weather conditions were slowing their progress and making things very difficult.
"Jeez, okay, don't fret. I'll try to find somewhere that we can shelter for a bit."
The tracker kept a hold on his friend to help him keep in the saddle while he looked around the area and tried to decide where to go. He wracked his brains and finally remembered the recently abandoned Gomez homestead. It was a couple of miles away but it was the nearest property available and better than going back to Eagle Bend, or on to Four Corners. Vin certainly didn't want Buck to have to stay out in the open when he was sick, so the homestead seemed the best option.
"Think you can make it?" he asked Buck once he'd explained where he was going.
"I'll sure try, pard." The ladies' man knew it was only a relatively short distance to travel but in his current condition it would feel more like a two hundred mile trek.
The tracker moved his horse in the direction that he wanted and Buck's horse automatically kept pace with it.
"How do ya feel exactly, Bucklin?" Vin asked as he stole another quick look at the man.
"Sick and dizzy."
The tall gunslinger was also cold and shivery and he grasped the horn of the saddle while concentrating on staying on his horse's back. The world around him swirled and bobbed up and down and the horse's movement beneath him made matters rather worse.
The rain continued and it also began to thunder ominously in the distance. Although it was only mid- afternoon, it seemed more like evening because of the poor level of light available. The horses strode sloppily through the mud; each step making a sucking, slurping sound. The animals slipped every so often and Vin had to grab Buck each time because his balance wasn't up to keeping him vertical.
Finally, Vin spotted their target and he sighed in relief, knowing Buck was reaching the end of his tether. The tracker pulled up outside the house and quickly dismounted. He threw his reins over the hitching rail and hurried round to his friend who now looked on the verge of passing out. He pried the reins from Buck's hands, which were still clutching the saddle horn weakly, and put them over the rail too. He then reached up and pulled the man down to the ground, although it was more of a case of Buck falling into his arms uncontrollably. Vin put Buck's arm round his shoulder and held it in place, while putting his own free arm round Buck's waist. He took his friend indoors and sat him on the floor in the living room. He then hurried out to the horses and collected both bedrolls from the saddles and ran back indoors again. He undid them and laid them out quickly on the floor near the sick man.
He took off his friend's hat and felt his brow gently. "Jeez, yer burning up, Bucklin. Let's get you to bed."
Vin undressed the man awkwardly, the wet clothes sticking obstinately to Buck's body and making it a hard task. Despite the man having had a slicker on, the rain had managed to find its way under it and soaked through every layer of clothing that Buck had on. The tracker threw each soggy piece aside once he'd managed to peel it off. When he got down to the man's boots, he actually had to tip rainwater out of them. Buck's socks had changed from tan to gray and they stretched to twice their length as Vin tugged them off. When Buck was finally naked, Vin dried the man as best he could with a blanket. He then helped Buck to lie down before wrapping him up warmly in some dry blankets.
"Buck? You okay?"
"Hot, but I'm cold too," the ladies' man said in confusion.
The tracker felt the man's brow and wiped his hair off his brow gently. "I'll make up a fire in a minute, if I can find some dry wood to do it with, that is. I'd better see to the horses too. I'll try not to be long but give a yell if you need me."
Vin went outside and unsaddled the horses, leaving their tack on the porch to take inside with him later. He then put the horses in a nearby grass corral so that they at least had food and were safe. Next, he ran across to the tumbledown barn and found some wood inside that he could use to create some warmth in the house for his friend. He headed back to their temporary accommodation and put the wood ready in the fireplace. He then collected the tack from the porch and placed it just inside the door where it would be out of the rain. The tracker headed back to the firewood, sat down on the floor nearby and finally managed to get a really good fire going.
Just looking at the fire seemed to make Buck feel a bit warmer and he rolled over to face it. Red flames continually flickered up the chimney as the wood crackled and spat. The ladies' man stared at the glow and his eyes glazed over as he became slightly hypnotized. He rubbed a hand over his face after a while and his head began to throb. He closed his eyes and felt a bead of sweat trickle slowly down his cheek so he lifted a weary hand and wiped the drop away. His fever seemed to be increasing and it wasn't just as a result of the heat from the fire. He was feeling increasingly sick and his body reacted to the infection he had in the only way it knew how: sweating.
Vin, meanwhile, picked up the scattered wet clothes and put them near the fire to dry out, along with a few of his own. He worried about the damp atmosphere that they would create but that couldn't be helped and it wouldn't be for long anyway. Vin then wandered round the rest of the house to see if he could find anything of use. Other than a couple of pots and pans and some more blankets, there was not a lot.
"Better than nothing, I s'pose," he muttered to himself. "Least we've gotten a roof over our heads."
He wandered back to the living room and found some beef jerky and his canteen of water in his saddlebags. He then sat down beside Buck and reached out a hand to feel the man's brow again.
"Fancy anything to eat?"
"No, thanks, pard," the feverish man replied shakily as he clutched the blankets tightly under his chin.
Vin gave the man a drink and then sat back and chewed on his own sparse meal as he watched over his friend. As he continued with his vigil, the tracker listened to the sound of the rain pattering on the porch. It was like the noise produced when someone drummed their fingernails on a tabletop. Short, staccato and loud. The sound of the rain was beginning to lull Vin to sleep and that was the last thing that the tracker wanted at the moment. Vin shook himself and looked round the room and then down at his sick friend worriedly.
It was getting darker by the minute because the fire provided the only light in the room. The flickering firelight highlighted the sweat on Buck's face as the man moved about on the bedrolls feverishly. Vin picked up his water bottle again and tipped some of the liquid out onto his neckerchief. He then wiped Buck's face in an attempt to cool him down.
"Vin?" the ladies' man said as his friend worked.
"I feel sick," Buck admitted as he lifted a hand to his lips.
The tracker helped the man sit up and supported him as he threw up. Vin had brought one of the pans that he'd found in the kitchen with him and it made a suitable receptacle. Once Buck was done heaving, Vin eased him back down and pulled the blankets up gently. Buck shivered and groaned as he rubbed his stomach before turning on his side again.
Vin patted his arm in comfort and then stood up, walked to the door and looked out to see the state of the weather. He saw that the rain was easing, so he stepped outside and emptied the vomit-filled bowl, as well as filling the second pot with fresh water from the stream. He went back to the house and set some of the water to boil and put the rest aside for Buck's use. He headed back outside again because on his previous trip he'd spotted a few plants that he could use to treat Buck's symptoms. He collected yellow root, dogwood and some pennyroyal leaves. He took them back in and sat down by the fire so that he could see what he was doing. He put his ingredients down on the floor beside him and then began to work with infinite patience. He'd learnt about medicines from the times he'd spent with the Kiowa and other tribes, and he had as good as, if not better knowledge of them than Nathan. He took the roots from the yellow root plant and prepared a tea from it. Next, he stripped the dogwood so that he could get to the inner bark. He set it to boil beside his first brew. Finally, he took the leaves of the pennyroyal plant and after washing them, made another medicinal tea to use later on. He cleaned his hands and took a last look at his preparations to make sure that they were okay. He poked one pot with the handle of his knife and smiled in satisfaction. Buck would be on the mend soon if only he would agree to drink the resulting brews.
He took up position beside Buck again and sponged him down because the sick man was still terribly feverish. The ladies' man twitched continuously as he snorted and mumbled while lost in some nightmare or other. Vin worked tirelessly wiping the sweat that continued to leak out of Buck's body. He filled the bowl from the stream several times and dipped the cloth into the liquid before squeezing out the excess and shaking his hands to rid them of droplets. He then ran the cloth gently across Buck's brow and then over the rest of the man's face and neck. He dipped the cloth back in the water and then bathed his friend's chest and arms.
"Better, Buck?" Vin asked as he pulled the blankets back up once more. He left a cool cloth on Buck's brow after soaking it in water.
"Bit," the taller man muttered.
Buck calmed for a short time but then began tossing and turning again as the cooling effect of the water wore off. The sick man shifted from feeling very hot to freezing cold and alternated between hugging the covers closely, to throwing them aside, depending on his current temperature. Vin always covered the man up immediately when he discarded the covers but within seconds he was doing the same thing again.
Buck continued throwing up periodically throughout the evening and couldn't even seem to keep the water down that Vin made him drink. The tracker wondered what had brought on the man's sickness. Wait a minute, he thought to himself. One of the kids in that family said he weren't feeling well yesterday. Bet he passed this sickness onto Buck. The tracker didn't think that the health problem was a result of being caught in the rain. Buck hadn't been out in it long enough to cause sickness, although it certainly hadn't helped his condition.
"Oh, God," Buck complained as he sat upright rapidly and swayed dramatically.
Vin thrust the pan under Buck's chin with one hand as he held the man's arm to keep him steady. "Alright, Buck. Easy does it," Vin said as he wiped his friend's mouth and then mopped his brow again. Vin eased the man down slowly, trying not to make him dizzier in the process. "Get some rest."
Finally, late evening, the sick man fell asleep and Vin dozed fitfully on the floor beside him all night. When he woke at dawn, he wandered to the window and stared out while Buck continued to moan and mutter behind him.
The tracker went to check on his herbal brews and was glad to find them now ready. He poured some out into a pot and went to wake his friend. He made Buck drink some, hoping that the man's stomach would now accept them.
"God, you Nate's blood-brother, or somethin'? That was vile," Buck grumbled, still half asleep.
"Well, as Nate would say, shut up and drink it 'cause it's doin' ya good."
"That's debatable, pard, but thanks for makin' 'em. How come if you can make these brews yerself, you still make such a fuss when Nate gives you one of his?" Buck asked curiously.
"If I didn't complain, he'd think there was something really wrong. I just like to tease him," Vin grinned.
The tracker moved away and stoked up the fire again as he hoped that Buck would sleep again for a while. The sharpshooter made himself a drink and sat down beside his friend to continue his vigil. The ladies' man quieted for an hour before scrambling upright with a groan, and Vin was just in time to pick the pan up and thrust it into the right position. Buck bent forward and threw up noisily several times.
"God, Bucklin. How can you keep this up? You ain't done nothing but puke since I got you here," Vin said as he rubbed Buck's vigorously.
"Gotta have a talent for something, pard. Puking's my forte," Buck mumbled faintly as he patted his stomach softly.
Vin smiled and pulled Buck's hair back from his face gently when the man threw up again. "Well, I wish you'd find something else to specialize in. Something a bit nicer," he commented dryly.
Buck shivered from head to toe and rubbed his face. "Jesus, I feel like crap."
"Look it," Vin said as he eased the man down. He made his friend comfortable and then disappeared to empty the contents of the bowl again. He had a feeling that Buck would be needing it again shortly. "Bet Chris thinks we've run out on him," Vin said as he stepped back inside the house after completing his chores and answering nature's call.
Buck just groaned softly in reply so Vin squatted beside him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's alright, Bucklin. Although he won't take the fact that yer sick as an excuse, I'll make sure he don't take out his revenge on you."
Vin stood up and went to check on the clothes by the fire. They were now dry so he folded them up and put them near their saddles, ready for when they left. He then retook his position next to Buck and continued to wipe the sweat from the man's body.
Two hours later, Vin changed the blankets covering Buck for the ones that he had found in the house. He put the old ones near the fire to dry because they were damp with sweat. He could keep alternating the material until Buck's fever had passed. After seeing to his friend, Vin picked up his now dry coat and struggled into it. It was like putting on a sheet of metal. The coat's material was stiff and he knew it would take some time before it fitted his body's shape properly again. It was just like wearing a suit of armor.
He checked his sleeping patient once more and then went outside to see if he could catch some food. It was easier than he expected. He stepped out onto the porch with his rifle ready and saw rabbits lolloping around the front yard. They'd emerged from their burrows now that the rain had gone and the ground had dried out enough for them. They seemed unconcerned by Vin's presence; until he started shooting at them that is. Almost before they'd had time to prick their ears at the sound of unexpected gunfire, three of their number was dead. The rest scattered down their burrows with a flick of their white tails.
"What's all the shooting, pard?" Buck mumbled from inside the house.
"Just catching dinner. Nothin' for you to worry about. Sorry to wake ya, but it was too good an opportunity to miss. Ain't often that bunnies offer themselves up so close and so easy."
He collected the rabbits and sat on the porch and skinned his kills and got them ready to cook. He decided to make a stew with them so he added some vegetables to his concoction. He'd found the food growing in the back yard on one of his previous visits outside. Gomez had obviously left in too much of a hurry to collect all the food he'd grown and Vin wasn't surprised by that fact. He knew what it was like to live with a price on your head. Food, though, was hard to come by and a really good excuse was needed to just leave perfectly good crops to rot. He sighed and shook his head, wondering if the family had made it to safety. There was nothing he could do for them, so he turned his attention back to the matter at hand. He stirred the pot's contents a few more times, and once he was satisfied, he set the pot over the fire to begin cooking. He decided to put some of the resulting broth aside for Buck when the man was up to eating.
Vin then went to check on the horses. The equines whinnied in greeting as he strode toward them. Both animals were soaking wet and their coats shone like satin in the soft sunlight that had appeared. He picketed them outside the corral so that they could eat new grass but couldn't stray.
"Hey, guys. Sorry you ain't had no shelter. Yer nice and dry underneath all that wet, ain't ya?" Vin said as he ran his fingertips through their hair to feel the dry, soft hair underneath the waterproof top layer.
He patted them both and then made his way back to the house to check on his stew. The tempting aroma that greeted him set the juices running in his mouth. He hoped it would have the same effect on Buck. He stirred the contents of the pot slowly and took a quick sip to make sure that it tasted as good as it smelt.
"Not bad; not good neither, but it's edible," he said to himself softly with a grin.
He checked on Buck, who was dozing again. He felt the man's brow and ran his fingers lightly through his hair to calm him when the man stirred uneasily at the touch. He rubbed his hand up and down Buck's arm and then moved to make gentle circular movements on the ladies' man's back instead. It always surprised Vin what a simple touch could do. It could be used in so many ways: encouraging, comforting, loving or just plain friendly.
Vin smiled as Buck whimpered in his sleep. "Easy there, Bucklin. I'm still here."
Buck settled and snuggled down under his covers as he mumbled incoherently.
Vin smiled again and just sat watching his friend sleep for a while. He then wandered out onto the porch to study his surroundings. His eyes were drawn toward movement and he spotted a horseman riding along the valley. He squinted and shielded his eyes and recognized Ezra. Hallelujah!
"Ez?" he yelled as he waved his arms in the air frantically. He saw the gambler turn his head and then watched in relief as the man kicked his horse toward him.
The con man pulled his mount to a sliding halt a short distance away, and said, "Mr. Tanner? Mr. Larabee has been rather concerned. He expected you back two days ago."
Ezra frowned in concern. "Do you require assistance?"
Vin shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair wearily. "No, it's okay. I just want you to tell Chris why we're late. Buck still ain't up to riding yet."
"May I see him?"
"Sure, but he was sleepin' a minute ago. At the moment, he's either sleeping or pukin," Vin said wryly.
Ezra dismounted and entered the house behind Vin after securing his horse to the hitching rail. Once inside the house, his eyes settled on the curled up form of the ladies' man and he smiled when he saw that he was awake. "Hello, Mr. Wilmington. How are you faring? I hope Mr. Tanner is tending you well enough," the gambler commented as he squatted down nearer eye level.
"Yeah, he's been real kind, pard," Buck replied with a yawn. He'd heard Vin yell the gambler's name earlier and had woken up in the expectation of having some company.
Ezra looked up at Vin. "Do you require any supplies? I have a small amount of food that I can give you."
"Thanks, Ez. That'd be great. I've just made rabbit stew but that won't last too long."
Ezra patted Buck's back and stood up. "Speedy recovery, Bucklin. I will see you in town soon, and I will pass on your message to Mr. Larabee, Vin."
"Thanks, Ez. Sure was lucky that you came by."
The tracker followed Ezra out and took possession of the man's food. He waved farewell to the gambler and then entered the house to put his store of refreshments somewhere safe. Next, he stoked up the fire and made sure that his stew was cooking properly. The tracker then sat down beside Buck and began to clean his rifle, just for something to do. He worked quietly and steadily until the weapon was gleaming. He felt eyes on him and saw Buck watching him.
"Hey, Bucklin. Feel okay?" Vin asked as he touched the man's cheek with the back of his hand to test his temperature.
"I'm still cold, bit dizzy and I've gotten gut ache too."
"Well, have some more of this," Vin said as he stood up and collected the herbal brew that he'd made earlier.
He'd made three in total. One for nausea, one for fevers, and one for stomachache. He'd been plying the man with the ones for fever and nausea mostly and they seemed to have worked because Buck's skin was no longer sweaty and hot to the touch. He also hadn't puked for quite some time, which was a good sign.
Buck took a sip of the offered drink and then consumed as much as he could handle before lying back down again. He sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily as he turned over onto this side and clutched the blanket tightly. Although he'd been sleeping most of the time, he didn't feel any better for it. He'd lost all his energy and even found sitting up hard to accomplish without help.
"Get some more rest, Bucklin. Reckon you're on the mend, though."
"Tell that to my stomach."
"Jeez, give my magic potion time to work. Yer so impatient," Vin said with a grin.
"I'm cold," Buck said again as he shivered.
"Ain't gotten no more blankets, Bucklin, and the fire's blazing away as hard as it'll go. Now, don't complain, but the only thing I can offer you is a hug."
"A hug," the tracker said with a smile.
"Oh, God. Wish I'd never said anything now. Think I'd prefer to shiver," Buck said, although he didn't stop the tracker when the man lay down beside him and enveloped him in his arms.
The ladies' man leaned against Vin and tried to gain some of his body heat. The tracker rubbed a hand continually up and down Buck's back, and it seemed to have the desired effect. Buck closed his eyes and was asleep in minutes. Vin stayed in position until he was sure that Buck had warmed up properly. He then gently disentangled himself, stood up and headed toward the fire. He picked up a bowl and spooned out some of his stew and ate that quietly out on the porch as he watched the sun go down. He loved this time of day. There was a certain quietness during evening times as some bits of nature got ready for bed, while other parts were just waking up.
The tracker finished his meal and put the bowl aside. He leant back in his chair and balanced the heel of his right boot on top of the toe of his left. He tipped his hat forward and closed his eyes with a contented sigh. He dozed outside until morning, just taking pleasure in hearing the sounds of night; ranging from the owls and coyotes, to the continuous running water of the creek, which sounded twice as loud during the hours of darkness.
Vin woke at dawn and stretched with a groan as he began to regret sitting in a wooden chair for so long. He then heard movement from inside the house and he turned just in time to see Buck open his eyes and sit up in bed.
"Reckon I could handle some food, Vin, if you've gotten some of that stew handy," the gunman admitted as he rubbed his rumbling stomach.
"Made you some broth to start with," Vin said as he moved to the fire and spooned some of the liquid out in a bowl for his friend. He placed it on Buck's lap and handed over a spoon after feeling the man's brow. "Sorry, ain't gotten a mug or nothing, which woulda made things easier for ya. Just have to make do with what we've got."
The ladies' man scooped up a spoonful but he'd lost most of its contents even before he got near his mouth. His hand shook so much that a broth waterfall cascaded from the spoon within seconds.
Vin gently took the utensil from Buck's fingers and filled it again. He raised it to Buck's lips and their eyes met. Buck smiled before wincing so strongly that he made his mustache wiggle.
"Come on, open up, Bucklin. It's getting cold." Vin moved the spoon forward as he spoke in an attempt to get Buck to open his lips.
The ladies' man slurped the liquid in until every drop had gone. "Thanks, pard. Never thought I'd have to be fed at my age."
"Don't get all embarrassed, Bucklin. I won't tell no-one," Vin said with an understanding smile. "Better get some rest, 'cause you old timer's need yer sleep, I reckon."
Buck laughed and lay down again, knowing Vin would keep his word about not talking to anyone about his weakness. Vin pulled the covers up over his friend again and smiled.
"Not joining me?" Buck asked wryly.
"Nah, that was just a one off and don't you dare say anything to the others," Vin said sternly, hoping his friend would return the favor. "Give a yell if ya need me. Yer looking much better but we'll have to see if that food stays where it's supposed to."
Buck lay and stared at the ceiling. Herbal brews were definitely an acquired taste but the ones Vin had given him certainly weren't the worst he'd ever had. Nathan's remedies could burn a hole in your stomach with just one sip. Vin's, on the other hand, were much gentler on the body.
The two men dozed companionably and when Buck woke properly a couple of hours later, he had to admit that he felt better.
"Vin?" he called quietly in the darkness.
"Yeah?" the tracker asked sleepily as he sat up, anticipating another bout of sickness from his friend.
"I feel okay, pard. Yer brews ain't gonna be making a reappearance, I reckon. My stomach don't seem to be complainin' at all," Buck said softly.
Vin turned over to face the man and smiled. "Good, we'll see how you are in the morning and decide if yer ready to head home or not."
+ + + + + + +
The tracker helped Buck get dressed the following day when the man professed his desire to return to Four Corners. Vin held up Buck's coat and the tall peacekeeper threaded his arms into the sleeves slowly.
"Okay? Yer sure yer up to riding home? We can stay longer if ya want 'cause I don't want Nate after my hide if you get sick again," the tracker said worriedly.
"I'm fine. It ain't far, is it?" the ladies' man said as he turned to face his friend.
"Not really," Vin agreed as he studied his tall friend anxiously. The man certainly seemed stronger and he'd eaten another meal that morning, so Vin gave in. "Okay, wait here and I'll get yer horse ready. Riding home is gonna be hard enough for ya without you having to do extra chores to start with."
Vin smiled and went to saddle the animal and bring it over to the house. He quickly rechecked the animal's tack to make sure that the girth was tight enough then held it steady while Buck mounted it slowly.
"Okay?" the tracker asked once Buck was settled. Vin patted the gray's neck as he looked up at its rider questioningly.
"Fine." Buck nodded decisively.
Vin let go of his friend's mount and sprung up onto his own cantankerous gelding. Both men turned their animals away from their temporary abode and headed them in the required direction. Vin kept a close eye on his companion at the start of the journey but the man seemed to be coping well.
"Everythin' alright, Bucklin?"
"Yeah, just a bit weak in my legs but my horse knows the way home without any urging from me."
"Okay, but say if ya wanna break."
"Rather keep going, pard. If I stop, I might not start again, if ya get my meaning," Buck said with a grin.
Vin smiled in reply and kicked his own horse onward.
A couple of hours later they drew up outside the saloon with a sigh of relief. Made it.
"Ah, the wanderers return. Hey, Bucklin. Recovered, have ya?" Chris asked as he pushed out through the batwing door and stepped off the boardwalk to greet his friends.
"Near enough," Buck said as he shook his oldest friend's hand. He had to admit that the ride had been hard and he would probably have to go straight to bed as a result. Perhaps this time though, he'd ask a nice young lady to accompany him and massage his aching muscles. He sighed and shook himself back to the moment when he saw JD exit the saloon. "Hey, kid. Miss me?"
"Yeah and trust you to get out of seeing Maude. She's only just gone home, ya know?" JD grumbled as he remembered losing his meager wages to the woman during an intense game of poker.
"Shame," Buck said, sounding happy, not sad, at having missed her. "P'raps there are advantages in sickness after all."
"I heard that, Bucklin," Ezra muttered, lipstick still adorning his cheek from where his mother's lips had kissed him.