Morning greeted Four Corners in its usual manner, the town coming to life like nothing had happened. Ezra walked out of the jail house, straightening his jacket, then stretched his arms in the air as he yawned. It had been a long night for the gambler, with little rest.
Josiah crossed the street as he saw Ezra step out of the jail, he then proceeded to give him an update on JD, going into great detail of the muscles spasms and the liniment cure, then filling him in on what Chris had decided to do with the bounty hunters. Ezra then took the reins of the conversation and divulged what his night had been like.
He had separated Stan and Morris from the leader Sweetser, when the man had told Morris one too many times that he sounded like a baby, nearly sending Stan into a fit of rage. Ezra told the preacher that he then proceeded to tie and gag Sweetser when the insults didn't stop, and the man was still in that state, just for entertainment purposes.
Ezra did leave out the part that he had kept himself amused with a word game of sorts..adding 'ish' to the others names, then finding a word that it resembled. He stopped when he came to Buck..knowing that the word that first came to mind that sounded the same ..pretty much described what the ladies man was noted for.
"What's the smile for Ezra?" Josiah asked, noticing the grin that tugged on the gamblers face.
"Hmm?" Ezra sung out, "Oh..I was..just thinking about ..our jailed persons, they must be nearly famished from lack of food," he covered.
"Ah- huh," Josiah doubted, "I'll go see about breakfast for our 'visitors'," the preacher smiled.
+ + + + + + +
Vin sat quietly next to the bed where JD was still sleeping; Vin had held out most of the night but when his head leaned against the side of the bed, his eyes closed and he'd fallen asleep, Buck and Chris were both reluctant to leave.
They had agreed to do just that and were even heading out the door when JD had woken with an attack on his back muscles and shoulders, causing him to be painfully sat up and rubbed down with the liniment; all the men had quickly decided that sitting JD up, or moving anything at all that had cramped up, was harder and more painful on him then the actual cramping..but not by much.
He would instantly fall asleep before he was laid back own on the bed, the time between attacks growing, it had been almost 3 hours since his legs and toes had cramped.
Nathan smiled as he entered the room with a tray of coffee and food, seeing the positions of Vin next to the bed, Buck leaning his head against the foot of the bed and Chris in a chair, arms folded, all asleep.
He set the tray on the small table, pushing the liniment to the side to make room. He turned to heat the coffee pot that Molly had sent with him but stopped as he realized JD was awake.
"They all sleeping?" JD whispered, his voice raspy and gravely.
"Yup, how ya' feelin'?" Nathan questioned, putting the pot on the stove, then returning so JD wouldn't have to raise his voice and possibly wake the others.
"Sore as all out," JD said, sending a weak smile to Nathan.
"Can't imagine why?" Nathan smiled back, glad to see JD seemed to be in good spirits.
"Ya' hungry,?" Nathan asked, hoping against all hope that JD would say he was, Nathan knew he should be.
"Not really," JD said, trying to bring his hand up to wipe the sleep from his eyes, he failed in his mission.
"It's gonna take awhile to get you back up, not eatin' is just gonna make it take longer," Nathan said, knowing that no amount of sleep would help build up the strength JD needed.
"I know that Nate..just..Nate..I'm real sore," JD informed.
"Just your stomach muscles JD," Nathan said, JD would have nodded his head if he could, so he chose to sigh through a half a sideways smile. He then turned his eyes to where Vin's head was leaning, his head slowly following.
"Is he really okay? I mean..his head an' all?" JD asked.
"He's fine, ya' done a real good job taken care of him ya' know," Nathan praised, the statement coming out more like a question, wondering if JD was aware of just how much he did do.
"Cut weren't all that bad Nathan, an' all he did was sleep," JD smiled, sending the praise back as unwarranted, "Didn't do nothin' but wait for everyone to come and 'rescue' me...again," JD explained.
"And who rescued me?" Vin asked with a smile, he had heard the praise Nathan had given him, and JD's return comment.
"Like I said 'fore, if I had listened to what I was told, none of this woulda happened," JD said, turning his head to the wall slowly, his eyes would have filled if he had any left, he had used them all up during the night.
"JD..I'm glad ya' came after me, cause it showed me somethin'," Vin said.
"What's that?" JD asked, his head slowly coming back to face the tracker.
"After I did what I did, this," Vin pointed to the day old bruises without touching them, "You still came after me," Vin finished.
"You're my brother Vin, none of that mattered," JD said.
"That's my point," Vin smiled.
JD was about to smile, but sudden pain from his body tensing wiped that away.
"Not again," he cried out.
Buck and Chris jumped awake as they heard the familiar pleading cry. Vin jumped to his feet, he reached for the liniment on the table and after taking some, he gave it to Nathan as he passed by the healer to start working the liniment into the legs, Nathan then passed it to Buck, then Buck to Chris as the ladies man and the healer worked on the arms, Chris took the tin, dipping his fingers into the ointment and began massaging JD's other leg.
"Hell of a way to wake us up there kid," Buck teased.
"Sorry, Buck..but Nathan brought..Breakfast," JD tried to smile, the pain making the effort look pitiful.
"As long as he's got coffee son," Chris chimed in.
The muscles stretched against their will as Nathan and Chris set him up, that particular cry of pain had not lessened at all, Nathan thought as Chris and Vin proceeded to apply the liniment. JD's eyes diverted from the others as he felt hands massaging his chest and abdomen, wondering if he was going to be like this for the rest of his life.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah and Ezra sat out on the porch of the jail house eating their breakfast, while their prisoners were eating their's. The two had chosen to stay out due to the fact that every time Sweeter paused to take a bite, or chewed, he would make some comment to Morris about his previous behavior or make a jab at Stan for the way he handled the boy, Ezra afraid he was going to loose his much missed appetite, opted to sit outside, Josiah joining him.
Both were enjoying the somewhat quiet streets until they heard a piercing cry, Josiah acknowledged it, but went back to eating. Ezra on the other hand was unsettled.
"What on earth..?" Ezra asked.
"I'm guessing they're sitting JD up, must of had some more cramping," Josiah said evenly.
"Good God," was all Ezra could say, he suddenly found it very difficult to eat, and put his plate down on the porch.
"You done with that?" Josiah asked, remembering that when the southerner had started eating it was like the first meal he'd had in a week.
"No, I'm Vin-ished," Ezra stated, then realized what he'd just said.
"Excuse me?" Josiah asked, not missing the mispronounced word.
"I said, no..I am 'fin'ished," Ezra exaggerated, hopping he wouldn't slip again.
"Ah-huh," Josiah said with a sideways glanced and a smile on his face, slightly chuckling.
Josiah was going to say more, say that he noticed he had said Vin instead of 'fin', but his attention was drawn away as he saw Chris step from the last step of the clinic and head towards the jail. Both men stood as he came closer to them.
"They eat yet?" Chris asked as he stepped up onto the jail's porch, his tone sharp and impatient.
"In the process," Ezra smiled.
Chris smiled tiredly and entered the jail, Ezra followed, as did Josiah after placing his plate in the chair he stood from.
"Sleep well?" Chris asked loudly.
"Y..y..y..yes sir," Morris stuttered, putting down his plate on the cot next to where he sat, swallowing hard knowing that this was his 'judgment day'.
Chris then noticed that Sweetser was in a different cell, looked back to Ezra and Josiah with a questioning look on his face.
"It was a necessary measure I'm afraid, under the circumstances of our young prisoners 'confession', Mr. Sweetser was, shall we say, aggravated with the boy," Ezra revealed.
"I ain't a boy!" Morris yelled through the bars, Stan tried to calm him with a steady hand on the shoulder.
"No..you're a baby Morris! Crying and carrying on like you did!" Sweetser retorted from his cell.
"Shut up Alex!" Stan defended.
"All of you just shut up!" Chris yelled, he been here 2 minutes, he could only imagine what the other two had been through.
"Mr. Larabee, we had know idea about the pardon," Stan said calmly, Chris knew it to be true, mostly due to the fact that there wasn't a pardon. His face on the other hand didn't let the 3 bounty hunters know that.
"What about what you said in the saloon, about using Vin's brother as a way of keeping him in line?" Chris asked.
"Just a tactic, we wouldn't have hurt the kid," Alexander said boldly.
"And the part of him being sheriff? That mean nothing to you?" Chris asked, understanding that they knew who the brother was.
"Yes, kidnapping a sheriff has a harsh punishment," Josiah sighed, shaking his head.
"Correct Mr. Sanchez, and the conspiracy to do so..well, the punishment for that is just as harsh," Ezra revealed.
"Mr. Larabee, please.. I swear..I only did what they asked, I didn't know the bounty wasn't active..I swear!" Morris pleaded.
"Who's idea was it to have you step in my line of fire, son?" Chris asked, it sickened him to a point that the youngest would be used in such a dangerous manner, if it had been anyone besides the seven that he'd stepped out in front of, he would have been dead.
"Mine, you gotta problem with that?" Alexander boasted, his face in a smile, proud of the idea.
"Yeah, I gotta problem with that..thought you were teaching him something, not using him, he could've been killed," Chris sneered, he hadn't any reason to hate this man, he was just a man doing his job and even if it was Vin they had been after, he couldn't deny the man the right to be a bounty hunter; but to use someone like he had, he had a problem with that.
"An expendable loss, there'd be another wide eyed kid anxious to fill the spot," Sweetser stated matter of factly.
"Where's the keys?" Chris said, looking at Sweetser, who smiled smugly, he knew they would be released.
Josiah retrieved the keys from the peg in the beam that held them, he gently tossed them to Chris, who fumbled to find the key to the cell he was looking for.
"You got plans?" Chris asked as he fingered the keys, then shooting a glance to Stan and Morris to let them know he was asking them.
"Yes sir," Stan answered, "Me and Morris been talking, we're heading to Frisco, I have family there, they can put us up for a bit till we can get work," Stan said honestly, his hand squeezing the boys shoulder.
"You'll wire us when ya get there, let us know you made it..that way I know I won't have to see your faces here again," Chris said, unlocking the cell door when the two prisoners nodded.
Chris opened the door and the two prisoners, one feeling relief, the other showing his relief that he wouldn't die young.
"Don't be stepping into anymore gunfights son," Chris said, grabbing at the youngsters arm gently as he passed by.
"I'll keep him outta trouble," Stan offered.
The 3 peace keepers and one bounty hunter watched as the two ex-bounty hunters left the jail house.
"You made your point Larabee, now let me outta here," Alexander ordered.
"Ezra?" Chris asked, his head titled back towards the occupied cell as if he was listening.
"Yes, Mr. Larabee," Ezra answered, knowing what the leader was suggesting.
"Did you hear something?" the leader wondered.
"Hmm," Ezra seemed to listen carefully.
"You have nothing on me! You have to let me out!" Sweetser bellowed.
"I'm afraid not Mr. Larabee, but I do detect a rather annoying stench," Ezra said.
"I suggest we go check on our young friend," Josiah said, wrinkling his nose, "the odor is definitely uncomfortable."
With that the 3 men left the jail house, leaving Sweetser alone, yelling and screaming that he was being held without cause.
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