Alternate OW Universe
This is a new AU that I am working on I call it the Con's Sons. Chris, Ezra, and Vin are all half-brother's with the same mother. Buck and JD are brothers as well and Josiah and Nathan are both adults.
This AU is open to all who want to use it with these guidelines; Chris, Ezra, and Vin are running from their mother. Chris was abused by his mother in some form (Not feeding him, beating him, locking him up, etc.) to keep the other two in line. Ezra and Vin are both very good poker players. Chris can't read. Adam was another brother to Chris, Ezra, and Vin but he was killed by a card sharp six months before they ran.
Buck and JD's mother was a saloon girl and she was killed by JD's father. Judge Travis gave Josiah and Nathan guardianship of the two of them.
So after all that here is the story.
Chris stopped on the hill above the little town. He didn't move until another horse bumped into his horse from behind. Chris then turned to glare over his shoulder at his younger brother's.
"Sorry Chris," Vin said with a grin.
"Yes terribly sorry Chris," Ezra said with a sly grin.
"Sure you are," Chris replied as he dismounted.
Ezra and Vin looked at each other normally their antics got more of a rise out of Chris.
"What's wrong Chris?" Ezra asked.
"We need money." Was the only response they got from Chris as he continued to watch the town below them.
"Me an' Ez can try to get some by playing in the saloon," Vin said as he too turned his eyes on the little town below them.
"No! She'll be waiting for that," Chris yelled. He normally didn't raise his voice to his brother's, but he was tired and frustrated and worried about how he was going to keep his brother's out of her clutches.
"Sorry Chris," Vin said in a quiet voice that let Chris know he'd scared at least one of his brother's.
"Hey it's alright little brother. I shouldn't've yelled at ya." Chris was trying to keep his temper even as he spoke softly to Vin. "I'm just worried how I'm going to keep you two out of the spotlight while we're in town."
"There's a church down there maybe we could stay there until you find a job," Ezra suggested as he too watched the town.
"Good idea Ez." Chris said, "While you're there you might be able to teach youngest brother here a little bit out of the lessons." Chris was referring to the lessons that he'd been able to "borrow" from schoolhouses along the way.
"Aw Chris..." Vin started but stopped when he saw the glare sent in his direction.
"No Vin you need to learn how to read and write better an' the only way you're going to do that is to be taught by Ezra." Chris said regretting the fact that he himself only knew how to recognize and write his name and those of his brother's.
"But why can't you Chris?" Vin asked.
Chris winced, his brother's didn't know that he didn't know how to read or write and when the question came up why he wasn't teaching them he always shied away from the real answer, not wanting his brother's to know that he was pushing them to do what he couldn't.
"Because Vin I've got to work to make sure we have enough money to buy what we need to live." He said knowing it was a lame reason.
"But you don't have to do that me an' Ez could make enough at the poker tables to have us set for life." Vin still didn't realize why Chris was keeping them away from the saloons and poker tables.
Chris sighed in frustration and ran his fingers through his hair, "No and that's final. The two of you are going to go stay in the church until I get us a more permanent place to stay."
After he'd said these words Chris turned and mounted his horse and started down the hill towards the town below.
Josiah Sanchez looked up from sanding the seats of the church when he heard the door open. Three young men walked through the door, one looked to be about twenty, one looked to be about twelve, and the last one looked to be about ten.
"Can I help you?" Josiah asked as he got to his feet.
The oldest of the three spoke, "I was wondering if my brothers could stay here for the day while I look for work in town." He said his voice was so soft that Josiah had to strain to hear him.
"That would be fine young man, my name is Josiah Sanchez, and I'm the preacher here," Josiah said holding out his hand.
Chris hesitated just a second before he took the hand, "Thank you sir. My name is Chris Larabee, my brothers Ezra and Vin." He said pointing to each in turn.
Josiah smiled broadly as each boy nodded his head and mumbled, "Nice to meet you," before turning back to look at Chris.
"If you need any help don't hesitate to call on me," Josiah said as he went back to his work.
Josiah couldn't help but over hear the brother's conversation, "Do we have to do lessons Chris?" The one called Vin asked.
"I already told you that you had to didn't I?" Chris asked his voice stern.
"Yes sir," Vin said as he hung his head and refused to look at Chris.
Chris knelt down on one knee to get a better look at his brothers face, "Tell you what Cowboy, when you get two of your lessons done you and Ezra can go outside and play for a little while, but then you gotta come right back in here and get more work done 'kay?"
Vin nodded slightly then looked into Chris' eyes, "What about you Chris you won't get to play."
Josiah saw the look on Chris' face and choked up at the hurt and guilt he saw on the face of one so young.
"That's alright I'll be working at getting us some money okay? I'll be back later and we can play together then, 'kay?" Chris said as he looked into Vin's eyes.
"Okay Chris," Vin said before he sat down on the floor and opened the bag he'd brought with him.
Chris turned to Ezra, "Teach him what you can Ace," Ezra rolled his eyes at the nickname, "And don't let him out of your sight. Oh and under no conditions are you to go any where near the saloon you got that?"
Ezra nodded he understood that they were trying to get away from Mother and the first place she would look for her sons at would be the saloon.
Chris wandered the town he didn't know what any of the signs said and he was too proud to ask someone to tell him what the signs said so he tried to figure out what they were using the letters he knew, he stopped and stared at one of the signs, he stood far enough in the shadows that no one noticed him as he tried to decipher what the sign said. He recognized the first three letters T-H-E but the next few were more confusing C-L-A-R-I-?-N was that right? He wondered then he tried to figure out what the next few letters were, N-E-?-S-?-?-E-R what were the other letters in there? Chris hung his head as he gave up trying to figure out what it said. Just as Chris was about to walk away a child of about six almost ran into him, instinctively he reached out and grabbed him before he fell on his rear.
"Sorry," A small voice said as a brilliant smile glared up at him.
"That's okay," Chris said, as he couldn't help but smile along with the boy.
"JD?" A voice called, Chris recognized the voice from when he was younger.
Sure enough around the corner came his once best friend Buck Wilmington. Buck stopped in his tracks when he saw the man dressed in black holding onto JD. "Let 'im go mister." His voice was stronger than he thought it would be but it still wavered a little.
Chris' smile dimmed Buck didn't even recognize him, 'course no one from home would have recognized him either. "It's okay I ain't gonna hurt him." His voice was low as he released the kid's arm and started to turn away.
"Chris?" Buck was stunned to hear his friends voice coming from this wraith-like man.
"Thought ya wouldn't ever acknowledge me again Buck," Chris' voice was flat as he remembered the last time he and Buck had seen each other.
It had been five years ago and to Chris another world, they had been eleven and were riding out to the Larabee farm after they had finished working in town, they were supposed to go fishing. When they came into sight of the house Chris nearly fell out of the saddle. The house was ablaze and Chris' father was stumbling out of the house with his sister Sarah clutched to his breast, both were on fire and before Chris realized what he was doing he was out of the saddle and rushing into the house for the woman he called mother even though he knew she wasn't his mother. Just as he was about to dive into the fire he felt arms thrown around him and Buck was pulling him away from the burning house.
Chris had fought like the devil to free himself from Buck's grasp until he glimpsed the pale face of his half-sister. Then he punched Buck in the gut and raced to her side, "Sarah? C-come on B- brat t-talk to m-me, p-please?" His eyes filled with tears when she didn't respond and he couldn't stop crying. When he looked up at the face of his father it was twisted with grief and anger.
"You're going to her," His father had said in a matter of fact way with that he jerked his son to his feet and dragged him towards the still standing barn. Chris' last glance at his best friend revealed him turning away and walking back to his horse. Chris had spent the next five days tied, like a dog, in his father's barn and then she showed up and took him with her to New Orleans and a totally different life.
"Chris?" again Buck's voice came to him breaking through his thoughts about the past. "Is it really you Pard?"
"Yeah Buck, it's me," Chris once again turned to go but this time Buck grabbed his arm.
Buck was stunned by Chris' appearance, he looked to be about twenty when in reality he was sixteen his face was shadowed by his hat and what Buck could see of it showed no emotion and to look into Chris' eyes was a torture in itself, Buck had never seen that much pain in anyone's eyes before. What surprised him as well was Chris' new accent it was a southern accent and seemed to be natural to a boy that had grown up above the Mason Dixon line. "Chris what happened to ya pard?"
Chris looked at Buck but instead of answering he hung his head and once again turned to leave.
"Chris answer me." Buck insisted as he kept hold of Chris' arm.
"Let me go Buck," Chris' voice was low and menacing as he glared at his once best friend. At the sound of Chris' voice the boy called JD started crying and both boys turned toward him.
"It's okay JD," Buck said as he picked the young boy up and tried to comfort him.
Chris took a step back he'd never made anyone cry before and he was once again feeling guilty. Chris took another step back and turned to flee, but before he could he ran into a solid chest and an arm snaked out to grab him and keep him from falling. Chris felt the hand tighten on his arm and he was dragged down the alley back to where Buck stood holding JD.
"Buck, JD you two alright?" The big black man that was dragging Chris behind him asked.
"Yeah Nate we're fine," Buck said before he registered that Nate was dragging Chris. "Nate you can let him go he didn't do nothin'."
Nathan Jackson released his grip on the man in black, "What happened?"
"Nothin' Nate honest." Buck said trying to spare his friend, but JD had other idea's.
"Tha' man sound like the man tha' beat Mama," JD said pointing to Chris.
Chris was shaking and ready to run at a moments notice, but he was taken off guard by the kid's words. Chris turned to flee once more but once again he was grabbed and held there.
"Buck?" Nathan asked.
"Chris was just gettin' a bit testy with me."
"So you know him?"
"Yes from before we moved out here and before JD was born," Buck replied looking Chris in the eyes.
For the first time since this started Chris spoke, "Please let me go," his voice held the hint of desperation and Nathan let go.
This time Chris held still as Nathan turned to look at him, What Nathan saw concerned him this man was thin, almost sickly thin and his eyes had shadows beneath them. "You don't look to good why don't I..."
"NO!!" The fear in Chris' voice cut him off.
Nathan held his hands up, "Okay I was just saying you look like you could use some rest."
Chris nodded a second later then turned to Buck, "Sorry Buck."
"Thas' okay big dog. Since what happened to Mama he gets scared easy." Buck smiled a true Wilmington smile that made Chris smile as well.
"What happened to you're Mama?" Chris was hesitant to ask but he wanted, no needed to know what had happened to the woman that had been more of a mother to him then his birth mother or his step mother.
A shadow passed over Buck's face, "She was killed by a customer almost a year ago, and JD was in the room at the time so every deep voice he associates with his...with Mr. Dunne."
Chris was shocked but hid it well, "I'm sorry Buck I really am. Where you been living?"
"Well the Judge made the preacher and healer," Buck gestured to Nathan, "here our guardians."
Chris nodded as he thought back to the man that had greeted him and his brother's when they entered the church; this thought suddenly jerked Chris back to the present and what he'd been doing before running into Buck. "Um could you excuse me." He said as he turned back and walked to the main street.
Buck watched his friend walked away and silently followed him to the main street where Chris paused and looked around then headed over to Watson's store where Mr. Watson was sweeping his porch.
"Sir can I do that for you?" Chris' voice was polite and schooled just like she'd taught him.
Virgil Watson looked up in surprise then smiled and said, "Why sure young man you can even do more if you want."
Chris grinned then thanked the man and took the broom to start sweeping.
Buck shook his head, no one was dumb enough to approach Mr. Watson and see if they could help but Chris had done it and he had a job. After watching his friend for a few more minutes he headed toward the church.
For Vin the hour since Chris had been gone had dragged on even though Ezra tried to make things fun for him.
"Can we go outside yet?" Vin asked for what seemed like the billionth time.
Ezra rolled his eyes but didn't really blame his brother, after weeks of hardly ever seeing the inside of a building could get you to feeling claustrophobic. "Not yet Vinny." Ezra was the only one that ever called him Vinny and for some strange reason Vin liked it.
Just as they were getting back to their lessons the doors of the church were opened and a boy of maybe six ran up the aisle and right into the preacher's arms.
"Hi 'siah." The little imp said with a giggle.
"Hello yourself JD. Where's Buck?" The preacher asked looking toward the door just as Buck puffed into the room.
"Right there 'siah." JD said pointing towards Buck.
Josiah suppressed a chuckle as he saw the look on Buck's face. "Did you get lost Buck?" He asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Buck snorted then said, "No I just can't keep up with him."
Josiah laughed as he sat JD down and said to Buck, "Well you two can keep our visitors company or you can help me sand the pews."
Buck was surprised by Josiah's words and turned to find two boys staring at him and JD, then Buck smiled and grabbed JD's hand and walked over to the two, "Hi my name's Buck Wilmington and this is my brother JD Dunne."
The two boys didn't seem surprised that the brother's had two different last names like most folks were, they just looked at each other then the oldest of the two offered his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Wilmington and you as well young Master Dunne, I'm Ezra and this is my little brother Vin." Ezra notably left out their last names.
JD giggled at the way Ezra addressed him, "He sure talks funny don't 'e Buck?"
Buck smiled then turned serious, "JD you shouldn't make fun of the way other people talk." He said sternly.
"I's sorry Buck."
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to JD."
JD turned to Ezra, "I's sorry Ezra."
Ezra smiled oh how much this boy reminded him of a young Vin, "I accept your apology young Master Dunne."
JD grinned, "You wanna go outside an' play?"
Exra saw Vin's excitement so he spoke before Vin could, "We would be delighted but alas we must finish our lessons for the day."
"But Ez..." Vin said.
"No but's Vin you know what happened the last time that we didn't get our lessons done as promised." Vin nodded. "Well do you want a repeat of last time?"
Vin hung his head, "No."
"Alright then we only have to get one more problem finished then we can go," Ezra said then turned to Buck and JD, "It shouldn't take us long to get our problem done then we can join you outside."
Buck nodded wondering what had happened the last time they hadn't completed their lessons, but not willing to push it, "Then we'll go over and help Josiah for awhile when you're done call us."
Both boys worked on their problems together and then they walked over and waited for the two that had invited them to play outside to finish what they were doing.
Buck looked up and smiled then turned to Josiah, "We're going to go out and play now alright Josiah?" Josiah nodded and kept sanding.
The four boys played behind the church for nearly an hour before they all sat down on the steps of the church and just talked.
"So how old are you two anyway?" Buck asked.
Vin spoke up, "I'm nine and Ez is..."
"I'm thirteen, so how old are you and JD?"
JD had conked out almost instantly after they sat down, "Well I'm sixteen an' JD here is four."
Ezra smiled Vin had just turned four when the two of them had first met.
Buck's words cut through Ezra's musings. "So where are your folks?"
Ezra's poker face remained intact but for a brief second Buck saw a look of pure terror cross Vin's face before he too put on his poker face and let Ezra answer. "Our mother has succumbed to sickness in New Orleans and our father is going to meet us in California." Ezra told the lie so easily so smoothly that Buck believed him. And didn't push any farther.
"So how did you come to be spending the day in the church?"
"We were kicked off of our stage and so our older brother decided to ride on but in the last town we ran out of money and so he decided that we needed some money and he went to find some work." Ezra looked innocent as he told this mostly truth.
Buck smiled at the two boys then said, "We best get inside Josiah told us to play for only a little while."
"Yes and we'd best get back to our lessons or we could get into trouble."
The four boys parted company as Ezra and Vin went over to one corner and Buck and JD to help Josiah.
It was around ten that night when Chris returned to the church to get his brother's. He hadn't been able to get a decent roof over their heads so they would have to settle for sleeping in the haystacks behind the livery, or another night on the ground. Chris' shoulders were slumped with exhaustion by the time he slipped through the doors of the church. Chris immediately noticed that both his brother's were asleep on the pews and someone had covered them with thick blankets. It was only when he saw those blankets that Chris realized how cold it was, and he regretted moving them from the warm church out into the cold night but he had no choice. Chris sighed as he took the blankets off his brothers and slowly picked them both up at the same time, Vin snuggled closer to his brother's chest and Ezra snuggled closer to Vin. Even though his brother's together weighed more than he did he was still able to carry them both at the same time.
Chris paused for a second wondering if he should take the blankets when Vin shivered against him he decided to take the two blankets with them. He'd return them in the morning before he had to go to work. As Chris slipped out the door he was unaware of the man that followed him as he carried his brother's to the haystack. Chris knew that he'd have to get them out of there before the livery man woke up and caught them, he was more concerned about making sure they were warm and as comfortable as he could get them.
Chris slowly lowered his brother's into the hay making sure not to wake them as he brought the hay around them and scattered it on top of them then added the blanket's he'd borrowed along with their own and his. Seeing Vin shiver despite the many layers on top of him Chris shrugged out of his duster and laid it on top of his brother's. He then walked a little way out far enough that he could keep an eye on his brother's and an eye out for danger, but at the same time he was far enough out of the wind that he could barely feel it.
Josiah watched the young man from the shadows of the livery. He had stayed awake to tell the young man that they could stay at the church for the night, but had decided against it when he saw Chris pick up his brother's and walk out the door. 'Maybe he got them a room for the night,' Josiah had thought and he decided to follow and make sure they got to the room. Instead of heading toward the hotel or boarding house Chris had turned and headed for the livery and when he got there he easily tucked his brother's into the haystack, but instead of lying down next to his brother's Chris had moved out a little and sat down.
Chris shivered as the wind hit him and he wished he could have found them a place to stay tonight, he didn't fancy one of his brother's catching a cold. Chris shivered harder as the wind whipped through his shirt. Chris suddenly caught a movement in the corner of his eye and he reacted instantly drawing his gun so fast that Josiah didn't even realize he'd drawn it until he heard the cock of a hammer.
"Whoever's back there you better come out or I'll blow you in two," Chris' voice was hard and cold just as she'd taught him.
Josiah had never seen any one draw a gun that fast and he decided he didn't want to see how accurate the man could be so he stepped out with his hands shoulder high. "It's alright son," his voice was low as if he was calming a wild colt.
The gun slowly lowered, "Mr. Sanchez?"
"Yes that would be me," Josiah said as he watched for an emotion on the young man's face, any emotion would do, but none showed as Chris continued to watch him warily.
"What do you want?" Even though his voice was steady inside Chris was shaking.
"I was going to have you and your brother's stay at the church tonight," Josiah's voice was still low somehow he knew if he made the wrong move this young man would spook and could possibly blow him apart. "It feels like rain and you don't want them to catch a cold do you?"
Chris looked from his brother's nestled deep in the hay to the preacher that stood in front of him, "Alright," He said slowly as he bent to pick his brother's up once more, but the preacher was there already picking up Ezra.
A few minutes later they were all back in the church. Chris set Vin down where he had been and then moved over to make sure Ezra was okay. Since his brother's were used to him moving them in the night neither one stirred the entire time this was going on. Chris made sure that his bothers were both comfortable before he sat down on one of the pews. Josiah brought him a blanket and he declined.
"Do you want to catch a cold?" Josiah asked at the same time he wondered why he felt so concerned for this young man.
Chris looked at the man that towered over him and replied in a voice that said he wouldn't be coddled. "No thank you sir," Chris' accent was thick with weariness, "I don't need a blanket I'm not cold."
Josiah shrugged, "If you need anything you wake me." He said as he walked back to his quarters.
The next morning Chris was stiff and he had to go outside and stretch. He looked around town and a peace settled in him it was as if he...no they belonged here. Just as Chris was about to turn back into the church he spied Buck and JD walking towards him. Chris waited and as he did he heard a stirring from inside and knew it was Vin when he heard excited footfalls coming towards him.
"Chris!!!" Vin flew out of the church and would have fallen down the steps if Chris hadn't caught him.
"Well hello yourself Cowboy. How was your day yesterday?" Chris asked just as Buck and JD reached the steps.
"It was fun Chris we met JD and Buck and they's brother's just like us." Vin went on excitedly but Chris drowned him out when he saw the shocked look on Buck's face. "Chris hey Chris?" Vin voice broke through to him.
Vin frowned, normally Chris listened to him he also noticed that Chris face was flushed, he put his hand to Chris' forehead and his frown deepened. "You have a fever." It was a statement not a question.
Chris smiled down at Vin, "It's nothing Cowboy just my sleep trying to catch up with me. Now why don't we go in and wake Ez up?"
Vin's smile returned as he raced through the door. "Hey Buck," Chris said as he turned to go inside.
"Those are your brother's?" Buck asked he suddenly didn't believe Ezra's story.
"Yeah they are," Chris said.
Neither Chris nor Vin had noticed the black healer who was standing behind Buck when Vin had made his declaration that Chris was running fever. Nathan frowned, the man before him did look sick.
They were all in the church when Josiah lumbered out of his quarters, "What's all the noise?"
Chris looked panicked as he put his hand on Vin's shoulder instantly quieting his brother, "I'm sorry sir. We didn't mean to wake you."
Josiah looked at the young man and he felt a sting of compassion when he saw how flushed he was, "That's okay son. I reckon I would've been woken in a few minutes anyway seeing as JD is here." Josiah smiled at the four year old that stood there trying to look innocent.
Chris looked relived and released his hold on Vin's shoulder and silently encouraged him to wake up Ezra.
"Come on Ez wake up. Chris is going to have to go to work soon and you do want breakfast don't you?" Nothing Vin did could wake Ezra and Chris sighed. Vin stepped aside as Chris approached Ezra. Everyone waited with baited breath as Chris looked down at Ezra.
Chris suddenly grabbed his brother by the foot and lifted him up so his head was brushing the floor and started walking towards the door. Vin giggled as he followed his brother's out the door and into the street. The other followed as well and those that were close enough to see what was going on stopped to watch. Chris approached the nearest water trough and dangled Ezra over it. "It you don't wake up right now I'm going to drop you." Chris was calm as he said this and Ezra's eyes suddenly shot open.
"No Chris wait," Ezra cried as he struggled in his brother's grasp.
"What was that did you here something Vin?" Chris said an evil smile on his face.
Vin giggled as he said, "Nope alls I heard was the wind."
"Well then Ezra here is going to get an unexpected bath." With that Chris dropped him into the trough. Ezra sputtered to the surface and gave his best rendition on the Larabee glare to his brother's who were roaring with laughter. Then he sent the glare on to everyone else that was laughing at his expense.
"That was not funny," Ezra said as he climbed out of the trough.
"You shoulda seen the look on your face when Chris dropped you, it was priceless," Vin said between laughs.
"You were a sight to behold Ace," Chris said as he once again got a straight face even though his eyes still sparkled with merriment.
Ezra snorted then he too chuckled as the three of them walked back to the church to get changed.
Buck had been surprised when Chris had told him that these two were his brother's, but now he really believed him after seeing the camaraderie between them.
When Ezra had changed and Vin had quit bouncing up and down Chris finally took them to get breakfast. Knowing his brother Ezra took their lessons with him to the café. When they got there the others were already sitting at a table and Josiah waved them over. Chris hesitated for a second before he went over and sat down in the chair that was furthest from the others, Vin and Ezra sat on either side of him. As soon as they sat down Ezra handed their work over to Chris to examine. Just as Chris was about to look at their work the waitress came over.
"Here's some menus. Would you like something to drink?" She seemed tried to Chris and he looked at his two brother's and nodded they both put on their best smiles and answered in turn.
"Why miss I would like some milk but only if it is no trouble," Ezra said as he gave his best disarming smile.
"You look tired ma'am and I hope I'm not putting you out if I request a small bit of milk," Vin smiled just as he'd been taught to at moments like this.
The waitress was weak in the knees by the time she looked at Chris. Chris smiled a small warm smile, "Only if it's no trouble I would like some coffee." The waitress nodded mutely and hurried into the kitchen before she fainted from the smiles and compassion that the three young men had bestowed upon her.
"The triple threat works every time," Ezra said cheerfully.
Vin's grin broadened, "That was fun."
Chris looked at his two brothers and smiled, "I just hope the young lady got the message to go home and rest instead of giving us extra of everything."
The other end of the table was silent with shock. They'd never seen anything like that before, Nathan wondered if the young waitress really was sick, Josiah wondered where ones so young had learned to manipulate like that. Buck wondered what had happened to his old friend and JD was really concerned about the waitress.
Before the others could say anything Chris picked up the lessons that looked like garbly-gook to him and tried his best to look like he actually understood what it said.
"Good job you two and since today is Saturday you get the choice of doing more lessons or exploring town. Which do you want to do?" Chris asked already knowing the answer before he asked.
"Explore town," both boys said excitedly.
Before Chris could say anymore their drinks arrived carried by a different waitress, "Sorry, Leann got sick so I'm your new waitress my name is Truly, but most folks around here call me Tru. What do you want to eat?"
Chris smiled and ordered for them all, "Three eggs, one poached, one scrambled, and one sunny-side up."
Tru smiled at the young man, "Anything else?"
"That will be all thank you," Chris said.
When the waitress left Josiah cleared his throat, "So Chris are you and your brothers just passing through?"
Chris looked at Ezra and saw the slight nod; "Yes we are on our way to California to meet our father."
"But Chris your Pa's in Indiana." Buck pointed out.
"Not my father, Buck. Vin and Ezra's father," Chris said calmly.
"So how long are you going to stay in town?" Nathan asked.
"Until we have enough money to move on without having to stop again."
"But Chris..." Vin started but was cut off.
"NO," Chris' voice could be heard across the café and people turned to look, "You and Ezra will not and if you do I will take my whip to you...again." The last was said in a voice only the people at the table could hear.
Both Ezra and Vin blanched, Chris was so experienced with his whip that he could inflict the maximum amount of pain with minimal damage.
"Sorry Chris," Vin said hoarsely.
Chris saw the fear in Vin's eyes and turned in time to see the same look in Ezra's eyes, "Look you two we've had this discussion before and I'm sorry I raised my voice and threatened you. Will you forgive me?"
The two looked at each other and smiled, "We forgive you Chris and I promise we'll never mention it again," Ezra said
"Okay then it's a deal you won't ever mention it again..."
"And you'll get some rest," The other two finished together.
"I don't need rest you two," Chris objected before he saw the identical looks on the healer and preacher's faces.
"Oh yes you do," Nathan put in before the two boys had a chance to speak, "I can tell you're sick by just looking at you."
Josiah had just been about to say the same thing but let the healer take over. He just leaned back in his chair and grinned as he watched.
Buck watched Chris warily knowing his temper the way he did he didn't want Chris to hurt Nathan but if Chris was sick he needed to be in bed and not working.
"You need to be in bed young man," Nathan said as he stood up.
"But I have a job to do," Chris said as he tried to rein in his temper before it got the bit in it's mouth and ran away with him.
"I don't care I'm going to put you in bed and tell your employer that you're too sick to come in," Nathan said as he reached towards Chris.
"No," Chris said firmly, his glare in place. "I don't need to rest I need to get some money so we can move on."
Vin and Ezra looked at each other knowing that Chris was close to exploding.
"Chris calm down," Vin said his Texas drawl coming to the front he hadn't drawled like that since the first week they'd met him.
Chris stared at his brother mouth open with shock and he looked around as if making sure that someone hadn't heard him speak like that. "Vin," he hissed.
"What Chris?" Vin asked, "You said that I could when you needed to listen to me and everyone else." Vin was referring to his accent that had Mother heard it he would have been whipped.
The other four were curious about Chris' reaction to the way Vin had spoke. Before anyone could say anything more the waitress came back with their food. A chorus of thank you's sounded from the three brothers.
Chris shook his head as he handed the poached egg the Ezra, the scrambled egg to Vin, and kept the sunny-side up one for himself.
"You amaze me sometimes little brother. So I was being stubborn huh?"
Vin nodded as he took another bite of egg. He swallowed before he spoke, "You need to rest Chris me an' Ez both know you ain't been sleeping or eating well since we left New Orleans. Even before that she wouldn't... I mean, you didn't eat that much or that often."
Nathan and Josiah exchanged looks at what the words 'she wouldn't' implied. Buck was appalled by what Vin had said and JD just looked from one end of the table to the other.
Chris sighed finished his egg then sat back. "If I agree to rest and let Mr. Jackson check me over will the two of you hold to your promise and behave?"
Vin and Ezra nodded.
"Alright then," Chris said then he looked up at Nathan, "Do your worst Mr. Jackson." Vin and Ezra giggled at Chris' phrasing before he once more turned to them. "Why don't you two have Buck and JD show you around town?" He looked at Buck for confirmation and was thrilled when he saw him nod.
"Yeah," was all Vin said.
Nathan pulled Chris out of his chair already feeling that Chris had a high fever. Nathan shook his head and wondered how this man could even be standing let alone acting as if nothing was wrong. "Come on Chris let's get you in bed. Josiah could you stop by... Hey Chris where do you work?"
Chris smiled, "I work for Mr. Watson."
Nathan and Josiah exchanged stunned looks and then Nathan finished his sentence, "Josiah will you stop by Watson's Hardware and tell him that Chris is sick and won't be coming to work until I say he's fit?"
Josiah nodded and left.
As Nathan started to pull him towards the door Chris spoke to his brothers, "You be good Cowboy, Ace look after him will ya?"
Ezra smiled for once not irritated at being called Ace, "I shall endeavor to keep our youngest and dearest brother out of harm's way."
Vin rolled his eyes and Chris laughed as Nathan finally got him out the door and headed towards the clinic.
Nathan examined Chris and found that he was running a temperature of 100.2. Nathan immediately had Chris strip down and get in bed saying, "You shouldn't even be awake let alone on your feet now I want you to get some rest, but before you do I want you to drink this." Nathan came forward with a cup of tea and Chris sipped before he spit it out.
"What's in that boiled skunk?!" Chris asked as he tried to get the taste out of his mouth.
Nathan sighed, "No it's just some herbs that will help you relax now drink it."
Chris was about to refuse but then remembered his promise to his brothers and he grudgingly drank it. Chris started to drift off and his last thought before he fell asleep was maybe they belonged here. Maybe, just maybe they had finally found a home.