Vin and Buck lay JD on the bed that Vin had vacated just moments ago, Nathan walked directly to the kettle, grabbing a tin cup to pour the mentioned 'stuff' into. Chris walked in behind the group after making sure his horse was secure, he wrinkled his nose as the herbal mixture as the hated tea's aroma assaulted him.
Can't be that bad he remembered telling JD, If it smells this awful, can't imagine what it taste like he thought, fighting a small wave of nausea, not sure if it was because of the smell of the tea or due to the fact JD had given him the idea.
"Get him sittin' up," Nathan instructed, heading to the younger man with the dreaded tea.
Vin and Buck did as they were instructed and sat the verbally protesting JD up, leaning him against the headboard. He could see JD trying to fight, but didn't have the strength or, what appeared to be, the coordination to do, so he fought with his mouth..the only thing he had that still worked.
As the tin cup came closer to the bed, the protest stopped.
"Oh, now..Dang it JD! Don't be like this," Nathan sighed, seeing that JD had pressed his lips tightly together.
"JD, open up," Buck ordered, JD shook his head.
"Nate's just tryin' to help ya little brother..come on," Vin pleaded, again he shook his head.
"Dammit JD..you're sick..you nee.." Nathan said harshly, his patience had long gone.
"I ain't sick! The only thing that'll make me sick is that!" JD attempted to point at the cup, but instead knocked it out of Nathan's hand.
"No need of that JD," Buck reprimanded.
"I'm sorry..I didn't...it was an accident," JD pleaded for forgiveness.
"Buck, it's just the fever talking and actin' out..don't worry 'bout it ," Nathan explained.
"Nate! I ain't sick! You said it yourself I was just wore out is all..nothin' warm dry clothes and a good night sleep won't cure!" JD protested as another tin full of the tea approached, JD felt Buck and Vin holding down his wrists to insure that another 'accident' didn't happen.
"It'll help ya sleep," Nathan said, his voice a restrained.
"I'm tired as all hell right now Nathan, only thing that stuffs gonna do is make me throw up! It always does..Dammit Nathan I ain't sick! Tell him Chris!" JD defended, then sent the 'look' to Chris.
When am I gonna learn? Chris thought, "He ain't sick Nathan," Chris said evenly.
"And it does taste pretty awful," Vin added, the look had not missed him either.
"He looks like he could fall asleep pretty easy there Nathan," Buck added, if JD ever knew how much power he possessed with that 'look', he would be hard to live with.
"I know it smells bad guys...but.." Nathan said.
"You drink it!" JD and Vin declared at once.
"But I ain't sick," Nathan stated.
"So?" Chris shrugged, the brothers had a valid point.
"Ya' gotta admit they got a point there Doc, I mean..if you say it don't taste all that bad...why don't ya' show them?" Buck resolved.
"Ya' might not be able to tell ya'll are brothers from the outside..but Damn..you sure can tell by the way ya' both carry on!" Nathan shot back.
"How's that?" they both asked, causing the brothers to share a smile.
"You're both stubborner than 10 mules!" Nathan revealed, heading back to the kettle and deposit the tea back into it, never taking a sip from the tin.
"Get him some dry clothes..you're gonna stay here tonight," Nathan gave in.
"I miss MY bed..unlike Buck here..I know what it's like to sleep in you're own bed," JD said sarcastically.
"And with you're history...that's the way it'll always be," Buck smiled mischievously as he left the clinic to retrieve the requested dry clothes.
"Nope, you're room don't have much heat, this room's small enough that it'll keep you warmer," Nathan justified.
"So will blankets," JD reasoned.
"JD, you went and got yourself good and chilled, you need to get real warm and stay that way," Nathan said with authority, leaving no room for argument.
JD pushed himself from the head board, feeling more coordinated he tried to unbutton his shirt, to no avail, his fingers just seemed to fumble the button. He sighed heavily, laying back against the headboard, sending a quick look of humiliation to where Chris stood, then turning back looking blankly at the ceiling.
Chris turned to the door hearing the gentle knock, he opened the door slightly, inspecting the visitor. He opened it wider as he saw Ezra.
"I met up with Mr. Wilmington on his way to confiscate some more appropriate clothing for you, and he suggested I bring ..a gift if you will," he smiled, lifting the cup of coffee.
"It ain't tea is it?" JD asked quietly, his pitiful gaze hitting Ezra for all it was worth, making the gambler tilt his head and frown, as he saw what was causing the look.
"Coffee," was all Ezra could manage.
"Thanks," JD said, before he turned his head completely as Vin and Nathan continued to fight with the wet buttons.
"Laudanum's next to the stove," Chris whispered to Ezra.
"I doubt that will alleviate his discomfort," Ezra whispered, handing Chris the coffee as he reached into his jacket pocket, bringing out, then opening the silver flask he hid.
"Don't think Nathan would prescribe this type of medicine," Chris said with a half a smile.
"Perhaps the good doctor doesn't always know the appropriate medication for the distressed," Ezra said, the seriousness of his tone unmistakable.
"You may be right," Chris sighed, casting a sympathetic glance back to the bed, in time to see Vin fight JD's hands as the tracker began to unbutton the pants.
"I can do that myself!" JD argued, trying with failure.
"JD, you couldn't manage the buttons on your shirt..there's no way you can do these," Vin reasoned, knowing he was right.
JD grabbed at Vin's wrist, the grip was far from restraining but it had the effect the youngest wanted, it made Vin stop.
"Can't you just wait..till Buck gets here ..and make them all leave?" JD pleaded, he had the same affliction as his brother..they both hated being stripped and making them feel like newborns unable to take care of themselves.
Vin looked up into his brother's pleading eyes, full of unshed tears and looking heavy with the lack of sleep; Vin sighed heavily, then nodded his head understanding his younger brother's plea. He reached up and mussed his hair and smiled, he stood from the bed, then covered him with one of the blankets the others had brought up earlier.
"Thanks," was all he said, his head still leaning against the head board, but his face turned towards the wall, feeling that if he couldn't see them, they couldn't see him.
"Mr. Dunne, your coffee," Ezra said, taking a step to the withdrawing JD.
"Thanks," he said, his head turning to face the gambler, he attempted to lift his arms, willed them to work, all they did in response to the request was shake until he ceased the effort.
"Never mind," JD said dejectedly, the eyes hiding the small amount of panic that had started to creep in.
"JD you need somethin warm, to get you warmed up inside," Nathan reminded, from where he stood next to Chris and Vin.
"I will be more than happy to assist," Ezra said softly, giving the impression that it was just he and JD that heard.
"Ezra... nothin's workin' right.." JD relayed, the panic not hiding this time, as his eyes filled again.
"Mr. Dunne...JD, in the last two days you have subjected yourself to one task after another, with no rest, your body is just telling you it needs rest," Ezra said confidently.
"I dunno Ez. I done all those things 'fore..ain't nothin like this ever happened," JD said.
"You have pushed and pulled full grown horses to gullies before this particular time?" Ezra seemed to point out.
He and Josiah had come across a dead horse once on patrol..someone was poisoning the water supply near a ranch, and the men had split into groups, Nathan had requested that anything they found be brought back. They had found the horse..not much bigger than the one JD had to hide, and it had taken Josiah and himself all the strength they had to merely roll the animal over so they could make sure there were no obvious injuries.
"Well..no but.." JD said hesitantly.
"Drink, trust me when I tell you there is nothing more to this paralysis than strained muscles protesting to cooperate," Ezra smiled, his hand cupping JD's face.
JD nodded his head slowly, leaving it hanging.
"Besides, I suspect we would be more worried if your limbs worked efficiently..and your mouth did not," Ezra said with mock seriousness, the tactic worked, JD lifted his head, a small version of the smile they had become familiar with crossing the bruised features.
"Now that we have established that, you have succeeded in causing your coffee to be more cold than the hot drink was intended, I'll retrieve another.."
"No Ezra, just help me with the one ya got..I mean, if ya' don't mind," JD said, the last part softer than the first words that he seemed to say sharply.
Ezra smiled, JD sat up, the gambler put a steadying hand against JD's bare back when the steadiness seemed to fail the young man, with the other he lifted the cup to JD's lips and allowed him to drink a few swallows at a time until JD choked, coughing and sputtering.
"Geez, Ezra! That's almost as bad as the tea!!" he shot out, after catching his breath, "What did you do to it?" JD asked, wondering if the others had pulled one over on him.
"What makes you think he done somethin to it?" Nathan asked, sending a suspicious glance to Chris.
"Cold coffee don't burn on the way down..tasted like whiskey..or somethin," JD said.
Ezra was about to defend his actions, but Buck decided to enter the clinic at that moment with a dry nightshirt and blankets from JD's room. Buck noticed the glares of accusation exchanged in the room by everyone but the young man who was sinking down into the bed.
"What'd I miss?" Buck asked lightly.
"Nathan tryin' to poison me..and Ezra trying to get me drunk on that fancy whiskey stuff," JD replied as he rolled to face the wall, leaving his back to face the others.
"No I was here for the poisonin' part..but I missed the whiskey..how'd ya .." Buck asked with a wide smile, not asking the question fully as he saw the answer in Ezra's hand.
"I should have allowed it to heat up again, he wouldn't have suspected a thing otherwise," Ezra said, making a mental note of that information, in case the situation came up again.
"Well, lets get ya changed kid," Buck said, taking a step forward.
"No..just leave me alone..all of ya'," JD tried to sound menacing, but all the others heard was a plea.
"Why don't ya'll just let me do this," Nathan said.
"I'll do it, I'm his brother," Vin said, leaving no room for argument.
"Take him off that bed when you're done, more 'n likely I'll need to flip the mattress and change the beddin'," Nathan said, knowing that even if JD had dry things on, the bed being wet wouldn't help at all.
Vin nodded, he smiled as he took the nightshirt and blanket from Buck.
"Give a holler when you're ready to move him off the bed, I'll give ya' a hand," Buck offered.
"We'll be fine," Vin said, letting Buck know, and the others that he'd do it by himself.
Vin shut the door behind Chris, as he joined the others to stand patiently on the decking, wondering how long this would take. He looked over at Ezra, who pulled a piece of telegram paper from the inside pocket. He saw Ezra fold the paper in half and began diligently rubbing the sides together, Buck and Nathan followed the direction that Chris looked to curiously.
The two men seemed to reach the same place, just as Ezra crumpled the paper loosely, he put it in the coffee and carefully swished the tin in his hand, he then removed the once crisp and clean parchment, and lay it out on the railing.
"What in 'hell' are you doin?" Buck asked, his exaggerated tone breaking the silence
"Aging Mr. Tanner's pardon of course," Ezra seemed to snort out, didn't everyone know how to do that?
"What pardon?" Chris asked, standing to look at the paper.
"The one that I retrieved from the telegraph office, you see..our esteemed guests requested proof of the pardon that I suggested Mr. Tanner had received," Ezra said, taking the paper from Chris, feeling that it was dry enough, he folded the paper again, rubbing the sides together.
"Okay..I can understand he coffee..makes it look yellowed and older..but I don't get rubbin' the paper together," Buck said, fascinated at what the gambler was doing.
"You see, rubbing the paper together, gives it a softer feel..not so stiff, making it appear that the paper had been taken out and unfolded several times on a regular basis.." Ezra said his tone light.
"Like every time a bounty hunter or lawmen wanted the proof.." Nathan began with a smile.
"He or one of us would reveal the declaration," Ezra smiled.
"Well, see..I guess some of the things Maude taught ya' weren't all bad," Buck smiled widely.
"Although staining the paper was a lesson I learned early on, the softening of the paper I learned from some where else," Ezra smiled.
"Where? Who?" Nathan asked.
"Where? Four Corners and as to who..well, that would be our innocent sheriff," Ezra smiled, pleased by the reaction from the others.
"JD?" Buck laughed out.
"JD," Ezra said, " Although his discovery was out of total boredom on a rain filled day when he was..6 I believe," the gambler smiled.
"And people believe it? They buy into it that the paper's older than it is?" Chris asked.
"We'll see," Ezra stated and left to head to the jail and show Sweetser and his companions the promised proof of the pardon.
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