by Twyla Jane

The disclaimer is and always will be I don’t own ‘em and never made a plug nickel off ‘em. Wish I did. Tweeked a little 11/22/01.

Ezra Standish woke up. He had a mammoth headache wondering just where the hell he was and how the he had gotten there. Without opening his eyes he could tell he wasn’t in his room above the saloon nor was he in Nathan’s clinic. Feeling like he was at the wrong end of a three-day drunk, his stomach rebelled the notion of opening his eyes let alone moving his head. A small groan escaped as he shifted slightly.


Gawd he didn’t want to talk. The mere thought caused his stomach to roll.


The insistent whisper made him realize he wasn’t inside at all. He was lying on his back in the dirt and couldn’t remember why.

“Ez, can you open yer eyes?”

The voice was back again. Ezra was starting to shiver uncontrollably trying to figure out why he was cold and wet.

“Come on pard…”

A light tap on his cheek finally mustered an almost inaudible response.

“Go… away...”

His normally eloquent drawl was slurred and coarse.

“That’s it can you open those pretty green eyes fer me?”


The southerner’s eyes fluttered open to find a slightly pale and damp Vin Tanner leaning over him bleeding, the blood was trickling down the side of his neck as well as above his right eye.

“Can you get up?”

The normally sharp con man blinked owlishly at the scruffy man confused.


“Cause we can’t stay here... “


“Come on let’s get you sat up…”

Not having the strength to argue, he let Tanner sit him up. Leaning heavily into the tracker he managed to stay that way as the white-coated world spun around him.

“Don’t feel good…”

His uncomplicated responses worried the former bounty hunter, the pain from his own injuries were making themselves known as the cardsharp shifted against him.

“I kinda figured that when ya fell off Chaucer like you did. Think you’re ready to get on your feet?”


“Well Ez we gotta to get out of here…Ready?”

Ezra didn’t get a chance to reply when Vin hauled him to unsteady legs and started dragging him up the slippery hillside. Growling, pulling, shoving and slipping for next ten minutes before they reached the crest of the hillside. The horses were still tied and waiting patiently for their riders to return. A loud rumbling sound had the confused man looking for the sound sending sharp pains through his head. He held tightly to Vin as his knees gave way while the man pulled him away from the edge. The snow covered hillside they had just climbed up started to crumble away so Vin pulled the bewildered man farther from the edge as it tumbled away.

“Let’s get you up.”

Tanner pushed Ezra up into saddle after tying Chaucer’s reins to the pommel swung himself up behind the weakened man. Vin sucked in a quick breath as he pulled the southerner back until he had his whole weight against him. Satisfied he wouldn’t lose his passenger, he let the breath out before he set Peso off on a steady pace. Vin didn’t think they would make it to Four Corners before the worst of the storm hit. Larabee’s place wasn’t that far. The snow began to fall in earnest as Vin carefully picked his way along the trail not wanted to lose his grip on the ill southerner.

Ezra was sliding off the horse as they neared the ranch. A stiff and sore Vin was having a hell of a time trying to keep him seated. Chris had seen the pair and rushed out to their aid catching the slippery gambler before he hit the ground. The sudden movement caused Ezra to snap his eyes open as Chris steadied his grip before carrying him back towards the cabin while staggering Vin led the horses off to the barn. The dark clad man glanced down and saw the confused eyes.

“I got you.”

Before he finished the words the lids had fluttered shut. As Larabee got to the door he kicked it open. The only thing that was clear he had a fever as he carried him inside, Chris gently lay Standish atop the blankets on the bed he quickly stripped the unresponsive man of his wet filthy partially frozen clothing and had him settled under several thick blankets by the time Vin had entered the room. Tanner had taken the time to bring in a bucket of cold water. The pail hit the floor with a thud as he unintentionally let go of it when a bolt of pain shot through him. Larabee snapped his head up and looked at the man, Vin didn’t look much better than Ezra. Tanner knew the unspoken question the man was asking and he dismissed it with one of his own.


The dark gunslinger knew the stubborn man wasn’t going to given an inch if he thought someone needed more help than he did. He wouldn’t ask and since he still was walking Chris wasn’t going to push… at least at the moment.

“Vin was he like this all day?”

“Dunno he’d been real quiet since we started back, said something about having a headache and when we were riding up a steep ridge he fell outta the saddle and slid down the hill a bit hasn’t really been awake since. He said he didn’t feel good.”

“He’s got a fever…”

“Threw up a couple times, said his stomach was unsettled…”

“Damn man is worse than you at times when it comes to being sick… I guess we won’t be able to make patrol tonight.”

“Yeah Chris. Gonna fetch some wood.”
”Might as well don’t think we’ll be going anywhere soon.”

Vin left Chris to tend to Standish only after he had brought in another bucket placing it by the bedside.


He tried to rouse the fevered man, it took a few tries but he got the man to open his eyes.

“Ezra, look at me?”


“Look at me…”

“Light… hurts…”

Larabee turned down the lantern. The glazed green eyes finally opened and focused in on the seven’s leader.


“Ez, you have to tell me what’s wrong…”

“… sick …”

The darkly dressed man quickly rolled Ezra over helping him as he emptied the meager contents of his stomach into the bucket, the bout ended with dry heaves and the southerner’s face clenched in pain. The incident did little for his headache. Chris wrung a damp rag out and wiped down his face eventually draping it over the back of his neck deciding against laying him on his back.


The gambler whispered a No.

“What’s wrong …”

“Head hurts…”

“Where does it hurt?”

“Mah whole head…”

“Neck hurt too?”


“I’m going to brew up some tea that Nate left here should help…”

Larabee hadn’t even finished the sentence and Ezra was asleep again.

The cabin door slammed open with the force of wind as Vin entered with an armload of wood.

“Tanner git yer ass over here by the fire…” He didn’t get to finish as the man stumbled in dropping the wood on to floor as he collapsed. Larabee shot across the room and helped Vin up into a chair, noticing for the first time the blood caked hair.

“Hold still….”


Chris just glared at him and he stopped protesting.

“I’ll take care of him in a minute… want to tell me what happened?”

“Jist slipped is all…”

“Uh huh…knocked you out?”

Vin didn’t answer.

“What happened then? You were supposed to back last night…”

Truthfully he hadn’t known how much time had passed, his head still hurt and Larabee cleaning the would out didn’t help with the pain. He torn up an old shirt to use as a bandage, Vin hissed as he tied it in place. Chris threw a blanket at his trembling friend after a moment of fumbling through a chest he handed the man a dry set of clothes. Vin nodded as he began to pull off the outer layers of damp clothing. Not a time to argue with the dark gunslinger, visibly shaking he removed his wet boots watching as the man put a kettle on.

The tracker was afraid. Ezra was very ill and had left that morning feeling a little out of sorts. Few sicknesses came on so quick. Vin’s fear of what the gambler had was reinforced by the symptoms. The man in black was startled by their appearance at his cabin. He looked at the gambler who lay in his bed, only a pale face peeked out from under the blankets. Sweat glistening off his face in the low light.

Vin had just finished dressing, pulling on the dry socks, when Chris motioned for his assistance. Together they propped up the southerner, Vin had slowly climbed in the bed behind Ezra supporting him while Chris coaxed the semi conscious man to drink the bitter brew followed by a half a mug of tepid water before he would take no more.

“Chris, this ain’t good… ”

The blond man nodded a grim scowl etched across his face. Damn southerner couldn’t do anything easy. At least Vin was looking better, some color had returned to his face and although he was still shivering it wasn’t as bad. The tracker had made a move to get off the bed but Larabee had stopped him.

“Might as well stay put Tanner… don’t need you collapsing again.”

Vin didn’t argue. This surprised Chris who stared at his friend as he whispered into Ezra’s ear looking surprising young and troubled as he did.

“Hey Ez, we’re at Chris’ now you’ll be feeling better in no time…”

Chris threw another log on the fire trying to bring up the temperature in the room. The wind howled as the intensity of the storm increased. Lord how he wished they were in Four Corners now, that Ezra’s was in Nathan’s capable hands. He cast a look back towards the blanketed forms on the bed. Vin had finally succumbed to an exhausted sleep huddled down with arms around the deathly still southerner. Standish hadn’t moved since they had brought him in. Larabee returned to the bedside chair, removing the damp cloth from Ezra forehead, dipping it into the cool water in the basin before wringing it out. Then he began to gently wipe the droplets of sweat away from Ezra’s face. The steady shallow breathing reassuring him the man was indeed alive.

He awoke sometime later not realizing just when during the long night that he had fallen asleep in the chair, although not entirely awake an uncomfortable ache caused him to rise up slowly and stretch. After blinking the sleep from his eyes Chris noticed that Ezra was watching him through dull confused eyes.


He whispered as he sat in front of the gambler, reached out touching his fevered face causing the man to wrinkle his brow and slowly blink several times. Tanner was still asleep an outstretched arm limply lay across Standish’s chest. Ezra tried to focus his uncooperative eyes on the man before him. A monstrous pain remained enveloped around his skull. It hurt, it bored through him as the nausea returned with a vengeance causing powerful bout of agonizing retching waking Vin. Chris shoved the bucket by the bed as Vin rolled him over, firmly holding on as every bit of water and tea came up. Ezra continued to painfully dry heave for another ten minutes before he weakly lay his head down on the edge of the bed.

Chris left Vin to sooth the sick man while he emptied the vile contents of the bucket outside. It was still snowing heavily with no sign of letting up. He returned to find the tired tracker gently trying to force some water into Ezra with some success.

“How’s it out there?”

“Still snowing. Don’t look like it’s going to stop soon.”

“He needs Nate…”

“I know…”

“I kin go…”

“You up to it?”

Vin nodded, but a quick shove from Chris sent him to the floor. Tanner glared at him as he helped to his feet.

“I didn’t think so… I’ll go when the weather lets up a bit…. Until then we wait and you can me tell what happened out there.”

Larabee set about making coffee and a simple meal of biscuits and beans. The tracker grumbled as he took up the seat by Ezra’s side and began wiping him down with a cool clothe.

The explanation that Vin had given hadn’t surprised him. Tanner and Standish had gone to bear witness in a trial in Ridge City. It was late by the time they were finished, Vin had expected Ezra to get a few hands in before he turned in for the night but instead the southerner went straight to the hotel and into bed. Tanner had decided to join him later after he had stopped in the saloon for a few quick drinks. Ezra woke the next morning insisting that they return to their own dusty little town. Except Ezra got quieter as the day wore on, admitting that he had a headache, it ended with the ailing man falling from his horse. Vin himself was injured trying to help Standish, he slipped down the slope after Ezra had fallen hitting his head and bruising himself almost head to toe.

By mid morning there was a break in the weather and Chris decided to take the chance to return to Four Corners, he had left enough firewood by the door and brought enough water inside to last a few days. Leaving Vin word that he would return with Nathan as soon as he could, he wasn’t worried that Vin would try to leave the cabin the man was a mule when it came to being hurt but he wouldn’t wander far from the sick man’s side. Assuring his best friend he would return with help soon, he mounted up on his black and run slowly through the thick blanket of snow towards town.

Since the violent bout of retching Standish hadn’t stirred, Vin did his best to keep the fire going and stay awake but by late afternoon he gave into a fitful slumber laying next to Ezra, a hand resting on the man’s chest.

He woke because his body was screaming for a drink, wanting anything to quench his immense thirst. Ezra heard someone lightly snoring next to him, as he shifted his aching head he bumped into the source of the noise.

“Mister… Tanna?”

The words barely passed his lips but Vin heard him as he pushed himself up off the bed, grabbing a cup of water for his friend before he carefully lifted Ezra’s head up to give him a drink. A little dribbled down the man’s chin as he finished. The tracker tenderly wiped the drops away with a shirtsleeve.


“Hmm… ”

Ezra had drifted into a fevered sleep as a weary Vin rose from the bed to throw a few more logs into the fire didn’t help matters that he could see straight but he managed to accomplish what he set out to do before climbing back into the bed next to Ezra falling into a deep slumber.

Four Corners came into Larabee’s sight by late evening. It had begun to snow heavily after he had set out slowing his progress tremendously. Chris was almost frozen when he got out of the saddle walking down the main street, it was dark and empty the buildings looked like they were locked down for the night. So he headed towards the sheriff’s office leading his horse behind him. The snow fell down in sheets. He could barely make out the lights in the jail as he trudged through the drifts of accumulated snow.

Buck sat tipped back in a chair against the wall lightly dozing as the gunslinger stomped in causing the mustached man to draw on his old friend. A second later and he was re-holstering the piece and cussing the man out, mid curse he realized Chris was wet and chilled to the bone.

“Had trouble…”

Was all Chris managed to say between the rapid chattering of teeth. Wilmington wrapped a blanket around his faltering friend before throwing him over a shoulder and heading towards the clinic.

Nathan woke to pounding on his door. Opening it revealed a distraught Buck carrying Chris Larabee. The healer ushered the man in and flipped back the covers on the bed he was just sleeping in.

“Lay him here…”

“No… No… No…”

Came as a steady stream from Larabee’s lips.

“Why not?”

“Vin… Ezra… “

“He said there was trouble...”

Buck added in as he helped Nate pull off wet boots and clothes then wrapping up the gunslinger in several layers of blankets while the healer set about make one of his infamous teas. Chris’ shivering intensified and wasn’t long before Nate was forcing hot tea down Larabee. Which he staunchly refused trying desperately to explain what had happened.

“Ezra’s… bad…very sick…Vin’s hurt… gotta go back…my place…”

“Okay we go as soon as we can… now please drink that for Nate.”

Larabee finally relented quickly drinking down the foul brew it wasn’t long before the man succumbed to its effects slipping into an exhausted sleep.

“Nate… I don’t like it but there ain’t much we can do ‘til morning… I’m going take Job over to the livery and let the others know what’s going on….”

Wilmington was gone, leaving Nathan alone to reflect on what Chris had said. There had to be something mighty wrong for Chris to brave the frigid weather. The ladies man was right they couldn’t do a thing until it was light.

The storm had finally passed. In the morning while Chris still lay in a tea-induced slumber watched over by a concerned Mary Travis while Buck, Josiah and Nathan headed out towards the cabin at first light not sure what waited ahead of them. The cabin showed no outward signs of life as the approached, no footprints in the snow and the chimney didn’t even have smoke coming from it. Buck was off his horse chugging through the snow. He threw open the front door revealing the cold dark interior of Larabee’s home the sunlight revealed the two forms huddled together in the bed.


Wilmington didn’t have to scream the healer had entered right after he did.

“Buck, get a fire going…”

Nathan sat on the bed next to Ezra touching his hot skin. Vin was curled up again the gambler was cool to the touch because unlike the southerner he laid atop the heavy covers instead of under them. Josiah was searching the small cabin for more blankets, when Buck pointed out the chest. The large man tossed several folded blankets to the ladies man who proceeded to warm it by the fire before tossing them to Nathan. The dark healer flicked open the blankets, laying them over both, men before he continued his examination of the scruffy tracker, lifting each eyelid revealing uneven pupils. A concussion… he began to softly call Vin’s name when that failed to bring a response he tapped his cheek. Confused blue eyes opened staring at the healer. Josiah sat down in the chair next to Jackson.


The healer nodded and the tracker accepted the fact as his eyes drifted around the room.


“Back in town, sleeping still I should think… he had a rough ride back.”

“Oh…’m cold.”

“Buck’s working on warming the place up…”

“Sleeping… should have been taking care of Ez…”

“Don’t worry you did fine. I’m gonna take a look at Ezra.”

Tanner was just exhausted, had the remnants of a slight concussion and was cold because the fire had gone out. The shared body heat had helped them both. Ezra had a fairly high fever.

“Nat, he has a bad headache been throwing up bad last few days…”

“He wake at all?”

“Yep… din’t say much though… could tell his head hurt...”

Nathan did a careful once over of the gambler noting the fever, clammy skin, tightness in the neck muscles, and the slight rash the covered his skin. He tried gently roused the sick man.


He was rewarded with a slight grimace across the gambler’s face.

“Come on son…”

Josiah gently coaxed him as well. Ezra slowly turned his head to find the preacher’s rumbling voice. Buck had crouched down beside the bed as well.

“Come on pard, I wanna see those beautiful eyes…”

The ladies man was rewarded for his effort as Standish opened his eyes to see several blurry figures surrounding him. Although the intense pounding in his head hadn’t ceased it was still there but it had lessened.

“Sur… I am not one of yah paramours…”

The soft southern voice slurred the words but his biting humor was back.

“Ez you still have a headache?”

“Yes...better than it was.”

“You sick to yer stomach?”

“A bit…”

“I’m gonna to make up a tea that’ll help…”

“Wasn’t bad enough… Mr. Larabee… forced one of your vile concoctions down me… in your absence….”

“Glad your feeling better… but you still gotta have the tea…”

Ezra shut his mouth. He should have stopped while he was ahead. All of his friends were laughing quietly around him genuinely relieved the conman although still very sick was indeed better.

Three days later, a day after the gambler’s fever had broken the men returned to town where Ezra was quickly sequestered inside the clinic, Tanner had been recovered enough to return to his unused room at the boarding house along with Larabee, a compromise that the healer and tracker had both reluctantly agreed to keep the peace.

The southerner had been sleeping on and off since, he woke to find the seven stalwart leader sitting next to him reading a book only to look up to notice that he was indeed awake. Larabee had waited until Nathan’s say so, but he was going to confront the man’s actions.

“How are you doing?”

“Much improved…”

“Good want to tell me why?”

“Why what Mr. Larabee?”

“Why you let yourself get so sick with saying a word to anyone?”

“It was just a headache...”

“That headache just ‘bout killed ya, Vin and me...”

“I apologize for any trouble I may caused…”

“Only trouble you caused was worrying us all…Next time you have a headache Ez, you better damn well let us know….”

“I’ll endeavor to comply..”

After looking at the serious expression on Chris’ face the weary man merely smiled and closed his eyes.

“That’s all we’re asking.”

Larabee patted his sleepy man’s shoulder before shifting back in his seat as he continued to keep watch over his friend.