Just Drunk Enough

by Laurel

WARNINGS: Lots of liquor

SUMMARY: No reason for this little ficlet other than I love Keith Urban's song and I get severe allergy attacks whenever I hear it and have wanted to write something. Hopefully I've captured what was in my head.

He stared at the glass filled to the top with the amber liquid, stared at it until everything else faded from sight and all he saw was the shot glass. Slowly and deliberately he reached out, picked up the glass, lifted it to his lips and downed its contents in one movement. The whiskey burned its way down his throat into his stomach.

Setting the glass back on the bar he poured another shot and sat staring at until it everything dimmed around it and all he saw was the whiskey then, repeating the actions of before, he downed it in one gulp, set the glass down, poured another shot and leaned back in his chair staring.

Across the saloon JD kept his vigil from a vantage point that gave him a clear view of the Saloon's entrance and the solitary figure drowning his sorrows. Behind him at the circular poker table sat Ezra, mindlessly shuffling cards and dealing hands to imaginary players. It was just after 1:00 p.m. and no one was looking to play cards at the moment, such activity would occur after the sun set and the scorching heat of the day abated. For now it was quiet except for the muted sounds of the cards in Ezra's hands being shuffled, the whisper as they slid across the surface of the table and the quiet scrape as he gathered them again and began to shuffle.

JD watched amazed, saddened and a bit disillusioned as the dusty figure, alone but for the whiskey bottle, tossed back another shot. He'd taken it upon himself to keep an eye on his fellow regulator since the others were either guarding prisoners at the jail, out on patrol, or tending to some ill children out of town.

JD readily admitted to a certain amount of hero worship and knew he tended to think of some of his fellow lawmen as larger than life even though he knew they sometimes missed when they shot, or said curse words, lost their temper and bled just as regular folk. Still, there were some things he just couldn't help but take for granted, and when those things disappeared, he found himself a little disappointed.

Even though he knew it wasn't right, he felt that disappointment now as he watched the fourth shot get thrown back and watched as the hand holding the glass was no longer as steady as it had been an hour before when its owner first walked into the Saloon, ordered the bottle of whiskey, plunked the money on the bar and shuffled into the corner and slowly and deliberately began to get drunk.

Another hour went by and a couple more shots followed. JD was astonished that the man could manage to stay sitting upright having consumed so much whiskey. He heard the approach of footsteps and slid his hand to his gun, noticing out of the corner of his eye Ezra doing the same. The instant the profile was framed in the Saloon's doors he dropped his hand from his gun: Buck.

Slowly Buck pushed through the doors, stopping just inside to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the interior. His eyes swept through the Saloon noting his three fellow regulators, a couple of cowhands seeking shade from the afternoon sun, and Inez stocking and organizing behind the bar. He tipped his hat at her, noted the solitary drinker who didn't spare him a glance, and walked over to JD. As he reached JD, Ezra stood up, pocketed his cards and saluted them both before slowly exiting the Saloon.

JD just shook his head sadly when Buck's eyes met his. "I don't get it, Buck. Why?"

"I don't know all the answers, JD, but I do know that sometimes a man's got to let go of all the burdens he carries before they break him. That man over there carries a lot of burdens and, if he don't let go of some of them, he'll break.

He knows you and Ez were here keeping watch on him so he felt safe to get drunk enough to let 'em go. Now it's time for you to let me take over. I've got experience in watching others lose their self control, let go of their pain. Sometimes the strongest thing a man can do is lose his self control, sometimes the strongest thing one can do is let their feelings show, let go of their pain."

Nodding without fully understanding Buck's words JD stood up, stared sadly for a few moments at his friend and hero, and then slowly left the Saloon.

Vin Tanner was pretty far drunk, drunk enough to know he could let go of his barriers, his pain, his self control. He wasn't so far drunk he didn't hear Buck's words or hadn't been aware that Ezra and JD were guarding his back. Staring unseeingly at the amber liquid before him, he felt the rain begin. He was drunk enough to cry.

I've never been the kind to ever let my feelings show
And I thought that being strong
Meant never losing my self-control
But I'm just drunk enough to let go of my pain
To hell with my pride
Let it fall like rain from my eyes
Tonight I wanna cry
"Tonight I Want to Cry" - Keith Urban

May 2007