He was sitting on the porch outside of the saloon, tipped in a chair, sipping his coffee, as he kept his eyes scanning up and down the streets of Four Corners. He thought of everything that had happened in the last year or so, not just the bad stuff but the good things, the words and feelings he never thought he'd ever feel or use again. Home was the first word, he had a place to call home. Four Corners was just a stopping place to earn a little money but with one twist of fate, his quick stop had lasted more than a year. Family was the second word he had begun using, the small group of men had become a makeshift family in every sense of the word, but they shared no blood, until just a few months ago when that all changed.
Brother Vin thought, still not able to hide the smile, like he had that day when they had found out.
Vin caught a figure across the street exiting the boarding house, he stood from the chair, leaned against the post, and raised his cup. He watched as the person patted himself like he was looking for something, put his index finger in the air, and go back into the boarding house. Vin shook his head smiling. The door opened again and the young man exited again. Vin watched as his brother crossed the street to him.
"You been waitin' long?" JD asked apologetically.
"Naw, 'bout five minutes. You hungry?" Vin asked as he dumped out his remaining coffee.
"You're kidding, right?" the younger man smiled.
JD and Ezra had taken a prisoner to Watertown the day before. The ride wasn't long but it had been a hard ride, and the two men were exhausted when they returned. Ezra, of course whining and complaining about his favorite coat and the possibility that the stain would ruin the jacket. JD would have laughed if he'd been awake, he hadn't even eaten when Buck and Vin put him to bed.
"Come on, Buck has probably already ordered your breakfast for ya."
"Probably could eat it today.." JD smiled.
The two made there way to the hotel cafe, crossed the street, and entered the cafe joining the other five men that rode with them. Vin placed his order and all conversation suddenly stopped at the table as the waitress looked to JD.
"The usual sheriff?" Molly asked.
JD, noticing the silence, turned his look to the men, who seemed a bit too interested in what he was going to have for breakfast than he thought normal. He then turned back to Molly.
"Yeah, thanks, Molly," he flashed a look to Vin who rolled his eyes and waited for the torment that awaited his brother.
"The usual? JD you didn't eat supper last night, and now you want the usual?" Buck began.
"He's got a point, JD. You really should eat somethin' besides a biscuit," Chris stated.
"You're right. Hey, Molly?" JD turned to the kitchen. Molly walked out.
"What do you need sheriff?" she asked as she made her way over.
"Can I get two biscuits?" he asked, mischief dancing in his eyes. He turned to the men again, and gave the men a sarcastic smile, and lifting his eyebrows he said, "Happy?" he added more sarcastically than the smile.
"I don't think that's what Brother Wilmington had in mind," Josiah said evenly.
"Well, I ain't all that hungry, Josiah...and no, I ain't sick, Nathan," JD answered unasked questions he knew would be coming
"Fine, have it your way. Vin you talk to him." Vin brought his head up and looked at Buck.
"Me?? Why me?" Vin had never once in the time he knew JD said anything to him about his eating habits, and he didn't intend to start now.
"You're his older brother, he has to listen to you," Buck said with a devilish grin.
"I never listen to you, Buck," JD smiled to the mustached man.
Molly came out of the kitchen with two plates and set them down in front of the younger men.
"Thanks, Molly," Vin smiled.
"Hey, Molly," JD turned to the middle aged woman.
"Is there a problem?" Molly asked in a tone of mock surprise.
"Yeah, this ain't what I ordered," JD said looking at the plate that had ham, eggs, and two biscuits.
"Well, you fell asleep before you ate last night, thought you needed to eat something besides the usual biscuit and glass of milk," she smiled sincerely. The remaining men trying unsuccessfully to hide the laughs.
"That's why I wanted another biscuit, I can't eat all of this," he apologized.
"Well, then.." she said as she grabbed the biscuits off the plate, holding them in her hand, "you eat that..then, you can have these" she said waving the biscuits in her hand and smiling victoriously as she went back to the kitchen.
JD just sat there with his mouth open, not being able to say a word. The men who had been holding their laughter in finally let it go. JD glared at the others and picked up his fork and as he began to eat, he grumbled.
The men erupted again at the statement, JD sent a glance to his brother and then leaned over to him.
"Thanks, big brother." Vin eyed him.
"What did I do?"
"Nothin'," JD said flatly
"What's that supposed to mean?" Vin bit back angrily.
"Well, I thought you'd stick up for me. I thought that's what big brothers were for."
"You'd better watch it, or this big brothers gonna teach ya a lesson!" Vin said as he pointed his fork at JD.
Both men then noticed the silence again and looked to the worried eyes of the others. They looked back at each other and smiled and began laughing. Chris was the first to react. He hung his shaking head and let out a crooked smile.
"Cute guys, real cute," Buck tried not to laugh, but was unsuccessful as the rest joined in. Molly then made her way from the kitchen laughing, holding the biscuits she'd taken from JD.
"Thanks sheriff, that was fun." She sent a wicked smile to Buck and added, "that was for standin' me up the other night" adding a wink. Buck jumped from his chair with wide eyes and went after Molly.
"Molly..oh now come on darlin' I told ya I didn't stand you up I was.." Buck continued as he followed Molly into the kitchen to beg her forgiveness. The others shook their heads and smiled. The quiet was broken by Ezra as Buck disappeared into the kitchen.
"Ten minutes," Josiah said.
"Fifteen," Nathan said shaking his head
"I'll say six." Ezra offered.
"Four," Vin decided.
"Eight," Chris said after a bit of serious thought.
All the eyes stopped on JD, waiting for him to place a time on how long it would take Buck to get another chance with Molly, who was sitting back in his chair staring at the table, like his mind was somewhere else.
"No thanks," he said as he got up from the table, with barely a bite gone, and left the cafe hanging his head and without the usual bounce in his walk.
"I'll get him," Chris started, but Vin stopped him.
"Let him be for a bit." Chris knew the kid was upset and wanted to go make sure he was okay, but Vin had spent time talking to JD, and being his brother, maybe he knew what was bothering the kid. He nodded his head and returned to his seat, five minutes later Buck came out of the kitchen.
"Where'd he go, he didn't finish."
"He wasn't hungry anymore," Vin offered as he stood to go find his brother, Chris saw the look on the tracker's face as Buck had asked where JD had gone. He figured the kid was still bothered by Bucks womanizing.
+ + + + + + +
"You okay?" Vin questioned as JD brought the brush over his horses back.
"Guess," he answered quietly, repeating the motion.
"You keep doin' that and she ain't gonna have any hair there little brother," He said, stepping away from the stable door he was leaning on.
"How long it take him this time?" the younger man asked, a hint of sarcasm present.
"Didn't ask. It still gettin' to ya?" he stated, knowing that seeing Buck chase after a woman hit a nerve with the kid.
"I guess. It shouldn't" continuing the strokes with the brush, his voice still quiet.
"It's Buck being Buck, JD. You told me more than once that that's the best thing about him," recalling an earlier conversation.
"Yeah, I know. It's just.. It's hard, Vin."
"Why?" he asked steadily.
"I just see him doin' that..like with Molly..and ..well.. I get to thinking 'bout my..her. I coulda been his son....it just gets me thinkin' that maybe somewhere..he might..." JD tried to get his jumbled thoughts out.
"Thinkin' what, if he's got any kids somewhere?" he said calmly.
"Yeah..... I mean.. I don't think Buck would turn his back on them or nothin', but I guess.. I figured he wouldn't go back to chasin' so much. I mean...I just hate to have him have to go through all that again."
"What did ya say before, you wish everythin' was back to normal. Well, Buck sure as hell is back to normal. He's a grown man JD, and you can't tell him to stop doin' what he's always done," Vin said, putting his hand on his brothers shoulder, to make sure he understood what he was trying say.
"Guess your right, I still don't have to like it," JD making an attempt at a smile.
"Nope guess you don't," Vin smiled back.
The two men walked out of the stable. JD headed to the jail and Vin headed back to the hotel. Vin entered the cafe again and sat with the remaining men.
"Where's everyone else?"
"Josiah and Nathan headed to the church, he wanted to start before it got too hot, and Ezra," Chris began shaking his head amused, "Is changing before he goes to help."
"Ezra? You have Nathan check him yet?" Vin laughed out.
"JD okay?" Buck asked breaking his silence.
"Yeah, sorry bout the look I gave ya," Vin offered as he hung his head.
"Nothin' wrong with stickin' up for your kin," Buck said with a smile in his voice and beneath the mustache.
Vin smiled, still liking the idea of 'kin'. A tie that he had to someone, that he shared blood with someone he had considered a brother before hand. The men noticed the reaction of the two brothers when the word was used, Vin always smiled, JD was still a bit cautious about showing his feelings, but had come to realize that Vin was happy.
"Well, guess we'd better get over there before Ezra does, sides..I don't wanna miss this," Vin smiled, grabbing the two biscuits from his brother's plate as he started out the door with the other two.
+ + + + + + +
The men were doing various jobs around the church, it had become somewhat of a ritual on Sunday. The men would all eat breakfast together and then go and work on the church, unless there was other 'business' to take care of.
Vin, Josiah, and Buck were on the roof patching up the hole that never seemed to go away, if it wasn't a strong wind it was a heavy rain that would cause the hole to reopen. Josiah and the others started realizing how frustrated Nathan must be sometimes, when restitching a wound of some sorts.
Ezra was sanding down a pew, trying unsuccessfully to keep the wood dust from reaching his nose, that caused him to sneeze.
Nathan was adding glass to the window, each square going in with skilled hands. Chris was cutting pieces of wood to be fitted in the roof so they had something to nail the roof to.
The morning was cool as JD crossed the street and entered the church.
"Sorry I'm late," he said as he made his way over to what Ezra was doing. JD stared for a few minutes as Ezra slowly brought rough paper across the pew.
"You're gonna be here till next week you keep doin' it that way, ya gotta go faster."
"Mr. Dunne, I assure you I am well aware of my pace, in order to keep the wood dust from venturing to my nose I will continue as I am doing.
"Well heck Ezra, all ya gotta do is blow it, like this." JD then blew the pew clean, sending the dust directly into Ezra's face, Ezra stood quickly, backing away from the assault of dust, sneezing constantly he backed into Nathan, bumping him and causing him to drop the glass he held, Chris hearing the commotion turned and knicked his hand with the saw, his yelp of pain alerted the men on the roof who's concentration was interrupted, causing all three to hit their hand with the hammers they held, sending down another chorus of pain.
JD stood there with wide eyes, reacting to each sound with a wince and a turn of his head as the chain reaction of blowing the wood dust, played out. When the dust settled and the men came off the roof and examined and compared wounds the room turned to JD, six sets of eyes looked at the only untouched member, and JD stood there feeling guilty.
"I .. I'm.. I didn't... Sorry?" JD tried, "You guys all right? I mean..are you hurt bad? Do you want me to get someth.." he didn't finish. He hung his head and raised it again, giving the men the sad puppy-dog look that everyone fell for.
"I'm sorry guys," he said softly.
The men just stared at him, fighting with every ounce not to give into the look the kid had used, it always worked, it made grown men crumble like stale bread. Nathan, started to fidget starting a chain reaction through the men.
"Ah hell," Buck let out exasperated. "You got that look too?" he asked Vin.
"What look?" JD asked honestly, he inwardly smiled, 'I have a look?'
"That?" Vin pointing to JD, "Uh uh, wish I had that look."
"What look?" JD wondered again, the hazel puppy dog eye's growing even more pitiful.
"THAT LOOK!" All six men answered at once. Making JD jump a bit. Then smiled at them.
"I have a look? Hah!"
"Hah, nothin'. One day that look ain't gonna help you get out of a mess," Buck stated.
"What's my look?" JD still not having any idea, he never practiced a look, okay he had tried Chris's look, but it didn't look as intimidating. He gave up trying to figure out what it was he had for a 'look' and just shook his head.
"I'm real sorry, Josiah, at least the roof stayed to.." he began as a single plank fell from the roof, landing on the church floor evenly between them with a loud smack that didn't cause any of the men to jump.
Seven men looked at the plank then lifted their heads, one young sheriff looking at six different men, not one of them with any sign of humor on their faces. JD swallowed hard and started to step back to the door, never taking his eyes off the others.
"I'll um.. I'm just.. You guys stay he.. Josiah....sorry.. Bye!" he said and turned to bolt for the door.
The men were smiling as they watched the youngest stammer and sputter as he tried to leave, there laughter stopped suddenly as they saw the young man turn and step on the broken flooring that everyone usually avoided.
JD's foot crashed through the weakened board and as he began to fall awkwardly towards the pews, loud snaps were heard, causing him to scream as he hit the floor hard. JD lay on his back his left leg twisted in the floor.
The men were at JD in a minute.
"Ezra, reach around and see what he's stuck on, Nathan said, urgency very present .
Ezra, although hardly weak, had the smallest arms of all the men. Ezra carefully reached in the gap between JD's leg and the floor boards. His skilled fingers gingerly touched JD's leg.
"Aahhhh!" JD let out.
"I know, it's okay..Ezra's gotta find what your stuck on," Vin tried to soothe as he held his brother's hand while the other laid on his rapidly heaving chest.
Ezra made his way until he came to what felt like a support beam. And once again touched at the boys leg to see if his toes went under it, they did.
As Ezra's hand touched the leg, Vin got a hard squeeze of the hand he was holding, and another piercing cry from JD.
"Hang on kid, he's almost done.." Buck tried as Vin wiped at the tears streaking out of the corners of JD's eyes, while Chris took care of the other side.
Ezra took his hand out of the gap and stood, Nathan, Josiah, and Ezra took a few steps from JD and talked in hushed tones, the lack of big words and usual manner completely gone, letting Nathan and Josiah know that it was bad.
"There's a support beam holding his foot, Nathan.." The gambler faltered. He began again in a shaky voice full of emotion that no one including himself had every heard. "His foot, it's turned sideways, his toes are pointing towards the door!" he said still in a hushed voice but not hiding his fright. "Look," was the last thing he said as he held his hand to the healer, it was covered with blood.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan looked at the gambler's hand and sighed.
"Tell me you cut yourself," Nathan pleaded.
"JD's bone cut through," he said solemnly.
Chris joined the group of men noticing the distress, as he approached he saw the blood on Ezra's hand. He looked back to where JD lay and back at the men.
"He's hurtin' bad, Nate, how bad is it, or should I ask," he nodded towards Ezra.
"Ezra, go to my room and get that bottle of morphine and a needle, bring the carbolic too," he said urgently but quietly.
Ezra never hesitated and left the church in a near run. Buck looked to Vin, who was talking to JD calmly, never lifting his head. This had been the first time JD or Vin had been hurt since they had found out they were brothers, Vin had an ease about him as his hand still held his brother's, Buck noticed that both of their knuckles were white. JD was holding on to Vin as much as Vin was holding onto JD.
The kid was still breathing heavy and fast. Buck looked to the group. He patted Vin on the shoulder, causing Vin to lift his head, Buck saw the tracker's concern for the first time as he nodded, standing Buck went to Chris.
"How's he holdin' up, Buck?" Nathan asked.
"Which one? Kid's hurtin', Nate, bad, his breathin's still fast and he's gettin' paler," Buck shook his head.
"How's Vin?" Chris asked
"'Bout the same as the kid, he almost as scared as JD'" the ladies' man answered honestly.
Josiah had gone to get a hammer and the saw to start cutting through the wood. Vin raised his head and tried to distract JD.
"How ya doin', little brother?" he asked trying to keep his panic hidden.
"Hurts...alot.." he said painfully in between breaths, tears still running out of his eyes.
" I...mes...sed..up..ree...ally..baa..d," he cried
"You didn't mess anythin' up, JD. No one's mad at ya'"
"You weren't even up there, someone just forgot a nail is all," he smiled at him.
"Hey, I don't wanna hear that kinda talk, you was tryin' to help," still talking lightly to the kid.
"Too....much..trouble....sor....." he didn't finish.
"NATHAN!!" Vin cried.
Nathan went to the kid, followed by the others. Nathan knelt down to check out the kid.
"He.. he was talkin', Nate..and he just stopped," Vin gave into his emotions as he talked to Nathan.
The door to the church opened and Ezra ran in and handed Nathan the bag of things he had asked for. Nathan took the needle, filled it with the medicine; JD flinched as Nathan inserted the needle.
"He just passed out, Vin," Nathan answered, Buck put a reassuring hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Josiah, no better time than right now," Chris said as he bent to the floor and began pulling nails, floor boards were ripped away making enough room for the saw blade.
"Josiah, just cut the floor boards," Ezra said.
"I wasn't plannin' on cuttin' his leg," he glared.
"I'm sorry, I meant don't cut the support beam, once the space is rendered big enough, I believe I can pull is foot back."
"Sorry, Ezra," Josiah returned, and started to cut away the floor boards until Ezra could get his hand behind the leg.
"Okay, Ezra, don't grab at the bone, we're gonna try and lift him up a bit, it might ease the tension, just try and get his toes way from under the beam." Ezra never said a word, but nodded his head. "After you get the toes loose, try and keep the foot at the angle it's at."
"Nathan, his foot is.."
"I know, Ezra, we let the foot move and the bones gonna do more damage."
Ezra laid on his stomach, and began following the leg pass the beam. "I have his toes," Ezra's strained voice let the others know he was ready.
Josiah, Nathan, and Buck began lifting JD, the pain surge caused JD to waken enough from the morphine sleep to let his discomfort be known
"Ahhh..no.....no... oh god..stop..stop..." he cried out, Buck trying to calm him while he screamed.
Ezra felt the tension leave the boy's foot and began to push them from under the beam, JD began to kick his free leg at the source of his pain and caught Ezra right under his left eye, Ezra never faltering as he concentrated on his task and soon the foot was free.
"I got it!" Ezra yelled.
The men laid JD down, Ezra doing as Nathan had instructed, holding the foot that lay flat in his hand, toes pointing unnaturally towards the other leg, the young man's bone sticking out where it had torn the pants.
"Don't..Don't touch me.. Please..Buck... make them stop... please," JD pleaded.
"Nathan's trying to fix ya kid, you gotta stay still.. I know it hurts," Buck calmly stated.
Nathan began cutting and pulling the pants way quickly and gently, Ezra moving his hands cautiously around to avoid impeding Nathan's progress, never allowing the broken appendage to move. Josiah handed Nathan the carbolic acid, Ezra moved in between the two legs, squatting uncomfortably making it appear he was almost sitting on the uninjured leg, holding JD's leg in his gently grip like he was holding fine china, never allowing the leg to move to a different angle.
"JD, this is gonna hurt, but I gotta sterilize this and then were gonna have to set it, okay?"
"No, Nathan. Please... don't hurt me anymore..Oh God please, Vin!! Vin, make him stop!! Please!! Make him stop.." JD pleaded for his brother to intercede.
"I can't, JD, he has to.. I'm sorry.. I know it hurts, Nathan's gonna fix ya up," Vin looked at the healer and nodded and continued the banter. The scream JD let out when Nathan cleaned the bone and wound was deafening.
"Almost done, JD, Nathan's gonna set your leg now.. You're doin' good," Vin continued looking into his brother's pain-filled, scared eyes, noticing the mix of sweat and tears on his younger brother's face, still holding his hand, the other feeling the rapid rise and fall of his chest.
Nathan pulled the leg, and the bone slipped back into the leg.
As the leg was pulled, JD squeezed his brother's hand tightly and with a final unbearable cry let it go.
Vin seemed to panic, and looked to Buck for reassurance.
"He just passed out again, that's all," Buck'a weary voice said, adding a reassuring smile.
"Lets get him to the clinic," Nathan's urgency not going unnoticed. Ezra still holding the delicate leg in his hands, Buck on the same side as Ezra. Chris and Vin on the other, they made their way out of the church and to the clinic.
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