Only a Matter of Time

by Kim Maddox

Size: Approx 80K

Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner sat on the porch of the jail. Leaning back, feet propped on the railing, heads resting against the wall with eyes closed, they looked for all the world like they were sleeping. Sleep, however, never came easy for the pair, even now with the town tame and quiet. Vin thought that the wary gunslinger was probably alert even when he was asleep.

Years of sleeping with one eye open would do that to you. Chris thought that the tracker would always be alert, what with that price on his head and all. That´s why it was such a surprise when they were caught totally unaware when Billy Weston rode into town.

Weston rode in from the south, quietly, so as not to raise any dust or suspicion. This had been a long time coming. A long ten years since that night, the night that changed his life forever. The night he lost his freedom, his brother, his life, well his love for life anyway. Now there was just a big hole left where his zeal for living used to be. Prison does that to a man, makes him forget there was ever anything beautiful about life.

Weston laughed to himself, but all that changes tonight. Ten years to the day after his life was destroyed, he was gonna repay the favor. Of course, he did learn some valuable life lessons behind the walls of a prison. Number one being, revenge is sweet, and Chris Larabee was going to learn that lesson quickly, if he let him live long enough.

The smile left his face as he remembered the look on his little brother´s face as he lay dying in the dirt, blood coming from a gaping hole in his chest. Danny Weston had only been a kid, just seventeen years old. Only doing what he had been told to do. Of course what he was told to do was rustle Chris Larabee´s horses out of his corral. It was supposed to be an easy mark. Larabee was supposed to be gone. Imagine the surprise that greeted the two Westons when Chris Larabee came charging at them, guns drawn.

The rest was a blur for Weston. His brother shot at Chris and the gunslinger returned fire, hitting Danny in the chest and killing him. Billy threw down his gun and surrendered. Chris tied his hands and put him on a horse, Billy´s brother's body was wrapped in a blanket and thrown over a horse and Chris took them both to town and turned them over to the sheriff.

That began this chapter of Weston´s life, now he was going to finish it. His old friend Chris was going to be surprised to see him. He could hardly wait to see the look on his face when he took his life. It was only a matter of time.

Chris and Vin had moved into the saloon to continue their ponderin. Chris was drinking whiskey and Vin was having a beer and both were watching in amusement as once again Ezra Standish cleaned out the pockets of everyone at the gaming table.

Ezra absently fingered a poker chip, rolling it back and forth across his knuckles. To look at him you would think his mind was wandering somewhere else, but he was perfectly attuned to everyone and the table, and their movements.

“Gentlemen, I do believe that three of a kind beats two pair, I guess I win this hand.” Ezra announced as his hand moved to the center of the table to draw his winnings toward him. His smile became a frown as a hand came down on top of his and a voice filled with contempt said, “I think you´ve been just a bit too lucky tonight Mr. Fancy Pants card sharp. I think you´ve been cheatin us,” the sore loser stated as a hint of a threat made its way into his voice.

Chris stood up as the wary gambler continued to stare at his accuser. He knew Ezra had a little friend up his sleeve but there was no sense in unnecessary gunplay around so many people. Maybe a show of force would prevent a possible tragedy from occurring if they could get the man outside.

Josiah Sanchez also stood up. A tall man, Josiah overshadowed the drunken cowhand and spoke gently but firmly to him. “Let´s not do something here that you´re gonna regret tomorrow. Why don´t you just go on and sleep it off?”

“Why don´t you just mind your own damn business friend?” With that he pulled his weapon and had it practically in Ezra´s face. Josiah cracked him over the head with his fist and the man fell in a heap at the big man´s feet. “I guess this is my business.” He picked him up and carried him to the jail to sleep it off.

“Well, looks like another quiet night, don´t it?” said Vin.

“I guess so,” replied Chris with a grin. Little did they know that the quiet night was about to explode and neither of them would be the same.


“Chris Larabee.” The quiet was shattered by an angry voice from outside. “Chris Larabee, I´m calling you out,” the voice repeated.

Chris looked at Vin, closed his eyes and dropped his head. This was happening way too regularly. He stood up and started toward the batwing doors.

“Chris, wait, you don´t even know who´s out there.” said Vin, concern obvious in his voice.

“Does it really matter?” asked Chris with a bitter smile.

“I guess it don´t, they ain´t goin´ anywhere.” replied Vin returning Chris´ smile with one of his own.

Chris once again started to the doors. Ezra stood and went to Vin´s side, “Are we planning to intervene in Mr. Larabee´s affairs at this point?”

Vin said, “If you mean are we gonna help him, Yep.”

“Just checking,” replied Ezra with a sigh as he removed the red jacket he was wearing. No sense in getting it dirty or bloody or full of holes.

Buck Wilmington, JD Dunne, and Josiah stepped out of the jail, just as Chris came out of the saloon. “Chris, what the hell is goin on?” asked Buck anxiously.

“Same thing that´s always goin on. Somebody´s not very happy.” said Vin who had come out of the saloon behind Chris.

“Stay out of it Vin, you too Buck.” said Chris, “and before you say anything, that goes for you too JD.”

JD closed his mouth biting off the question before he could even ask it. How does Chris do that? he asked himself.

JD was brought back to his senses by Chris´ voice saying, “All right, here I am. What do you want?”

“I want you to die, Larabee,” replied the stranger that stood at the end of the street.

“Well you ain´t the first that´s wanted that, but I´m not gonna oblige you today. What did I do to you?” asked Chris with his hand resting on his holster. He wasn´t itching for a fight, but he wasn´t going to run from one either.

“You don´t remember me Larabee? What about Danny, do you remember him?” asked Weston with contempt in his voice.

Vin noticed the barely perceptible intake of breath and the blink of Chris´ eyes as recognition washed over him.

“Steady Cowboy, take it easy.” said Vin.

“It´s all right Vin, I´m just surprised it took him this long.” replied Chris.

Chris stepped off the boardwalk and into the street. “Well, let´s get this over with Weston. You´ve been waiting a long time. I wouldn´t want to keep you from it any longer.”

The next few seconds seemed to stretch into hours as the townspeople scurried into the saloon, the church, the mercantile, anywhere they could get away from the melee about to ensue. Josiah and JD helped people into the church and still tried to keep an eye on Chris. Josiah´s thoughts were on the man the darkly clad gungslinger had become since he took on the job of lawman in Four Corners. The haunted look had slowly begun to disappear from his eyes. A slight smile had begun to creep onto his face when he saw Buck and JD clown around, or when Vin made a joke in his own dry way. Gone was the constant shadow of guilt that ate away at him and most noticeable was the absence of the death wish he had carried for so long. Chris seemed to be more careful and less reckless these days. Positive changes for the way of life that he had been forced to adapt to.

Josiah´s thoughts were shattered by the first gunshot. He looked up to see Larabee still standing. Weston had fired and hit Chris, blood already soaking the sleeve of his right arm. Weston stood trembling ready to bolt and run because he knew he was a dead man. He had missed anything vital and knew that the deadly aim of the gunslinger wouldn´t.

Chris was already starting to feel the pain radiating up and down his arm, and all he could think of was a drink. He was losing his grip on the gun in his hand as well as his control. He looked at Weston and waved him away. He turned and started back into the saloon.

Weston couldn´t believe his good luck. He was not going to die today and for that he had to thank Chris Larabee. So he thanked him the best way he knew how. He took aim at the man´s back and fired. About the time Weston´s gun discharged he felt something hit him in the chest. He looked down and saw the blossoming red stain on the front of his shirt and knew it was over. His eyes went to Buck Wilmington and his still smoking pistol, and then fell to his knees and collapsed face first into the dusty street.

chapter three

Chris felt burning pain in his left shoulder and almost laughed when he realized he had turned his back on someone with a gun in his hand. This town must be getting to me; it is making me careless. With that thought he collapsed onto the boardwalk.

He could feel hands on his back, hands gently turning him over and the last thing he remembered was Vin, looking down at him, a grim look on his face, then darkness claimed him.

“Nathan!” yelled Buck, “someone get Nathan, hurry!”

JD ran to find Nathan and Josiah went to check on the stranger they knew as Weston. Ezra walked over to Josiah and inquired, “Is the stranger deceased?”

“As a beaver hat,” replied Josiah. They turned him over to the undertaker and hurried to Chris´ side.

Nathan ran out of the clinic carrying a bag. He dropped to his knees by Chris and started to examine his wounds. Chris had come to and his eyes were open but he was clearly in pain and not really fully conscious. Nathan ran his hands down the length of his friend´s right arm. When he came to the elbow Chris cried out in pain. His rapid breathing told Nathan that the pain was severe. He tore Chris´ sleeve from the elbow down, and gasped when he saw the damage. The slug went in the forearm and came out through the elbow, shattering bone as it traveled. Bone was protruding from the skin at the elbow, and there was profuse bleeding. Nathan wrapped a strip of cloth around it and had Buck apply pressure to it. The shoulder wound was serious as well. The slug was still imbedded and would have to be dug out. “Let´s get him to the clinic. Hurry!” said Nathan.

Buck and Josiah carried Chris up the stairs to Nathan´s room that doubled as a clinic. Vin rushed ahead, opened the door and pulled back the blanket on the bed. They laid him down gently on the narrow bed and hurried to get water for Nathan to clean Chris´ wounds.

Chris was now conscious and in a lot of pain. Nathan put on water to boil and steeped some herbs to help with the pain and the fever that was certain to come. Nathan held the cup to Chris´ mouth and told him to drink. He did but said, “Damn Nathan, I don´t know what´s worse, the pain or that stuff.” but he didn´t sound convincing. He had drunk enough of the concoction to know it did help the pain.

Nathan said “I´m sorry Chris, this is gonna hurt like hell.”

“Just do it Nate!” Chris ground out between his clenched teeth.

“I´m gonna have to set that arm first, and it ain´t gonna be fun.”

“I know, just do it,” replied Chris in a strangled voice.

Nathan looked at Buck and Josiah. He motioned them to move to Chris´ side and help hold him down, just in case. Buck held his friend´s left shoulder, while Josiah held his legs down. Chris was strong, even with the blood loss, there was no sense in taking any chances. Nathan cleaned the wound first making sure to remove all the dirt and bone fragments he could find. Then with a look at Buck and Josiah he pulled hard on the arm and the bone snapped back so that jagged end met jagged end. Chris swore loudly and turned his head to the side biting his lip to keep from yelling. Nathan stitched up the wound where the bullet entered and where the bullet exited and then splinted and wrapped it.

The elbow was a mess, bones were splintered and muscles were chewed up. Nathan shook his head and looked at Josiah. Josiah closed his eyes and turned his head away. This didn´t look good.

Nathan repaired the injury the best he could and went to work removing the bullet from Chris´ shoulder. The bullet was deep but there didn´t appear to be any major damage.

The pain, the herbs, and a bottle of whiskey had finally taken their toll on the wounded man. He blinked his eyes trying to stay conscious, but his strength was gone. He drifted into a restless, uneasy sleep.

“He´s out Nathan.” Vin was sitting at the head of the bed watching the healer work on their fallen friend. He couldn´t help but notice how pale Chris was and that his features were still etched with pain.

“It´s probably for the best Vin,” Nathan replied. “That arm´s in bad shape. The shoulder wound´s gonna do just fine, but his lower arm and elbow are just a mess. I don´t know if what I did is gonna be enough.”

“What do you mean “enough”, Nathan?” Vin asked suspiciously. “Could this kill him? It´s just his arm.”

“Yeah, I know, but it´s the kind of wound it is that´s the problem. Those bones were shattered and there´s a real big chance of infection. I hate to say it, but I´m afraid he may lose it.” Nathan stated sadly.

Chris heard voices through the fog in his brain. Nathan´s words were especially clear. He fought to regain consciousness. “NO!”

Vin jumped up, “Nathan, he´s awake.”

Nathan came up to Chris´ side, “Take it easy now. Don´t get all worked up.”

“NO! Vin, Buck…” Chris was thrashing around and his eyes were already bright with fever. “Vin!”

“Chris, settle down. I´m right here,” Vin replied trying to calm the anxious man, “Buck is here too.”

Buck sat on the side of Chris´ bed reaching for his good arm, “Right here Buddy, what ya need?”

Chris seemed to calm down a bit at the sound of their voices. “Vin, don´t let him do it.” The pain, confusion, fear, and even anger that Vin saw in his friend´s eyes scared him. “Vin, promise me, promise me,” begged Chris.

“Chris, it´s gonna be all right, just settle down, you´re gonna set yourself to bleeding again.”

Chris tried to sit up, choked back a cry of pain and grabbed at the front of Vin´s shirt, “Promise me Vin, don´t let him cut off my arm.”

Vin was really starting to get worried about his friend. He knew that fever had set in and that combined with blood loss could be deadly for the gunslinger. Cutting off Chris´ arm might be the only thing that could save his life. “Vin, don´t let him do it. Don´t you see that without my arm I´m dead anyway?”

“Chris, don´t talk that way.” Vin replied horrified.

“It´s the truth Vin, take off my arm and every two-bit gunfighter or kid trying to make a name for himself will come gunning for me. It´s just a matter of time.” Chris´ voice drifted off as he was being pulled back into oblivion. Vin thought about what Chris had said. It was true. It wouldn´t matter that it wouldn´t be a fair fight. Taking down Chris Larabee would make a gunfighter´s reputation. As hard as it would be to see Chris die like this, it would be better than seeing him defenseless, shot down in the street with no way of defending himself. They would all watch out for him but Chris Larabee would never stand for having a babysitter.

Vin´s thoughts were interrupted by Chris´ ragged breathing and a slight pressure on his arm. “Promise me…” he said, his head falling back on the pillow.

“I promise.”

The others looked at him like he had grown a second head. Buck swore at him, “Dammit Vin. What are you doing? You can´t promise him something like that. Are you crazy?”

“No I ain´t crazy. It´s what Chris wants. I got to abide by it,” said Vin.

‘Well I don´t,” replied Buck. “I want him alive and I´ll do what has to be done to see that he stays that way.”

“Are you threatening me Buck?” Vin snarled as he grabbed the equally angry cowboy by the front of his shirt.

“Nope, just letting you know how things are gonna be Tanner.”

Ezra could tell that things were starting to heat up between the two friends, “Gentlemen, I think before the two of you go about deciding Mr. Larabee´s fate, you should give Mr. Jackson a chance to save the man´s life and worry about his arm after said life is secure. I´m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Mr. Larabee does not look at all well, and an arm is of no consequence if there is no life there.”

Josiah spoke up, “I agree with Brother Ezra, let´s get Chris´ fever down, get the bleeding stopped and perhaps the question of removing his arm won´t have to come up again.”


Chris was burning up. He felt the heat; it was like being in front of an open fire. The flames coming closer and getting more intense. He was struggling to back away from them but something was holding him there. Then through the smoke and flames he saw a shadow. At first it was undefined, but as it came closer it began to take form, and then it became two forms, dividing into a small shape and a taller one.

In that instant Chris recognized the figures. He started struggling to free himself from the bonds that held him at bay. Not to back away from the flames, but to go into them. He struggled harder and screamed “Sarah!” It was the last thing he remembered as the struggles ceased and blackness absorbed him again.

The three men struggling to hold Chris were amazed at the strength the man still possessed. The ragged breathing, the paleness, and the sheen of sweat on his skin were not good signs. Nathan was worried; he knew the wound was becoming infected. It would only be a matter of time before gangrene set in on that arm and he knew that a war was coming between Vin and Buck over what was going to happen to their friend. It really wouldn´t matter what they decided though, because he himself had made a promise a long time ago to preserve life at all costs. He would save Chris´ life if at all possible and would do whatever it took to do so.

Chris was mumbling incoherently. Vin was trying to hold him down on the bed, attempting to keep the thrashing man from further injuring himself. The tortured “Sarah” that came from Chris´ soul ripped Vin´s heart out. He knew the injured man was reliving old memories in his fevered state. Fever had a way of changing recollections of events, making even the happiest of times seem like hell. He could only imagine the torture Chris was living now.

Buck, meanwhile was teetering on the edge of exploding. He wanted to revive Billy Weston so he could kill him again. Chris was suffering and it was nowhere near over. If Nathan had to take off Chris´ arm it would kill him. Chris was proud and wouldn´t accept pity or charity from anyone, not even me, thought Buck with a slight smile. How would Chris react upon waking to discover his right arm missing? He would retreat further into his shell that he had grown around himself. He would climb into a bottle and hide for sure. And then the deathwatch would begin. Carelessness, recklessness, and drunken stupors would become normal for him again. And then one day it would happen, some gunslinger would call him out, and Chris wouldn´t walk away. He would be shot dead in the street. It was only a matter of time.

All of a sudden it came to Buck what Vin had been saying. Chris had told them what would happen and now he realized that the gunslinger was right. Buck looked at Vin and with a slight nod of his head, told him that he would back him regarding Chris´ wishes. It would break his heart to watch his friend die and not do anything to stop it, but at least he would still be the Chris that had slowly come back to a semblance of what he had been before. At least it would be a somewhat peaceful death.

Nathan insisted that they all go to their rooms and rest. “It´s gonna be a long night and you´re all gonna have to help me with him. This fever is gonna get worse and I can´t handle him myself. Now go on, I´ll come get ya if´n I need you tonight. If not, Vin, you come in the morning.”

“All right Nathan if you´re sure.”

“I am. Now go on,” replied Nathan.

“I will stay here with you tonight Mr. Jackson, Chris may become too agitated for you to handle alone,” said Ezra, “don´t worry Mr. Tanner, you either Mr. Wilmington, if Chris needs you I´ll run to get you. Go on, rest yourselves.”

Buck hesitantly left Chris to Nathan and Ezra. Vin stood at the door staring at the man lying on the narrow bed as if he were trying to will him his strength. It was hard to leave but they knew Chris would get worse before he got better and they needed sleep to help care for him in the days to come.

Nathan pulled the blood soaked bandage away from Chris´ arm. The wound was still bleeding heavily and was swelling dramatically. Ezra wet a cloth and washed the fever wracked features of his friend and leader with it. The heat was already radiating from his body. He put another wet cloth on the back of his neck. Chris was tossing and turning in a fever-induced delirium. “How did the fever come on so fast and furious?” questioned Ezra.

“It just happens Ezra. He lost so much blood. He ain´t got nothing left to fight infection and fever. If this arm don´t stop bleeding he´s gonna bleed to death. I´ve stitched it, applied pressure to it, nothing helps. All we can do now is just wait and pray for the best.”

Nathan sat for a moment thinking about the words he would say next. He cautiously proceeded, “Ezra, I don´t know what I´m gonna do when it comes down to taking Chris´ arm. Buck and Vin are at each other´s throats over it and I know Vin´s gonna try to tear my arm off if I try to help him like that. But I have to do whatever it takes to save Chris´ life. Ezra, I made a vow to myself that I would do whatever I could to save a life. Vin has to understand that.”

Ezra contemplated what to say to Nathan for a bit, and then began, “What if Chris doesn´t want his life saved Mr. Jackson?”

“What do you mean Ezra?”

“Well it has been my experience dealing with Mr. Larabee that he tends to expect all aspects of his life to go his way and when obstacles arise he isn´t particularly willing to allow them to stand in his way. Nathan, Chris has been courting death for four years. Maybe he is tired of looking for it around every corner. If that is the case nothing you do will be good enough.” Ezra replied sadly.

“You really think he wants to die Ezra?” asked Nathan.

“I don´t know if want is the right word to use Mr. Jackson. I don´t think he is hiding from it though. And you have to realize that Mr. Tanner has a good point about drifters, gunslingers, and overanxious youngsters, going out looking for him. The fact he has an empty sleeve won´t matter to them. To take down the infamous Chris Larabee is quite a coup, it will make them famous and thus the subject of those crude yellow back dime novels our young Mr. Dunne is so fond of.”

“You may have a point Ezra.” replied Nathan thoughtfully, “but I still feel like I have to do everything in my power to keep him alive. It´s gonna be a hard call.”

“It´s going to be a hard call for you to make because you care my friend.” Ezra flashed a smile at Nathan and the two settled in for what was sure to be a long night.


Nathan had just eased into a chair and closed his eyes when Chris sat up on the bed and screamed “SARAH!” He started trying to get out of bed and Ezra was already at his side trying to hold him down. “Sarah, come back,” Chris called out.

Ezra winced in sympathy for the injured confused man. “Chris, you must calm yourself, you´re working yourself into a frenzy. You´re going to do yourself a grievous injury. Please calm down,” the gambler spoke soothingly. However, nothing could break through the haze in Chris´ fevered brain. He continued to struggle against Ezra and Nathan and continued to call for Sarah. Ezra felt compassion for the man he had come to call a friend. He had always respected the deadly gunslinger´s strength and resolve. His sense of honor and decency were things Ezra had begun to pattern himself after. Chris´ tragic past, the deaths of his wife and son, was enough to make any man bitter and withdrawn. This had happened to Chris and Ezra didn´t know how the qualities he respected in the man had managed to be salvaged.

“Sarah, please come back,” Chris´ voice pleaded. It broke Nathan´s heart to see his friend in this much distress. If it hadn´t been for Chris he would have been dangling from the end of a rope a long time ago. That was why he had to try so hard to keep his friend alive. He owed the man that much.

Chris was on fire. He didn´t know how he came to be this hot; he just knew he had to stop it. He started to push the blanket that was around his shoulders off, only to be stopped by strong hands. Cool hands. The hands now were bathing his face in cool water. He just sank back on the pillow and let the cool water caress his burning hot skin. But the relief was only temporary. The heat came back with a vengeance. It consumed him. The shadows started to form again. This time the images became clear immediately. Sarah Larabee´s face was as clear as it was the last time he saw her alive. Adam, the young boy by her side was as full of life as any living six year old child. He reached for them, but the flames separated them once again. “Sarah, come on, I´m right here,” he called to the figures standing before him.

This time the figure spoke back. “No Chris, you have to get out of here. Go back, you can´t be here.” She turned and took the child by the hand leading him away.

“Sarah, Adam, come back. Come out of there. I´ll come get you.” Chris cried out to them.

Ezra pulled the blanket back up over Chris´ bare chest. He sure didn´t need a chill on top of everything else. Chris calling out to his lost family left an ache in the usually apathetic conman´s heart. The fever must be making him recall the fire. Ezra spoke to Chris trying to ease his troubled mind. “Mr. Larabee, you´re here in Nathan´s clinic. You are going to be all right. Just sleep for now.” If Larabee heard him he made no indication. Ezra decided that Chris´ mind was set firmly in the past. He just hoped that his friend would be able to come back from the dark place he had traveled to.


Chris stepped into the doorway of the burning house where he had once lived with his wife and son. It was strange that he could walk in and not burn. It was hot and the flames were licking at his body but he was not catching on fire. He decided that this was a pretty good interpretation of hell. His own private hell.


He turned around to face the direction of the voice that was calling his name. “Sarah, Oh God, Sarah it´s you.” He went to her and was able to take her in his arms. He never wanted to let go. He was finally with her again and he would never leave her.

“Chris, you can´t stay here. You have to go back,” Sarah whispered in his ear.

“Sarah, I´m never leaving you again. I left you before and look what happened. I´m not going anywhere. I´m staying here with you and Adam. Where is Adam?” Chris questioned.

“He is not with me now. He couldn´t be here for this. This is something you have to do and Adam didn´t need to witness it,” Sarah replied.

“What do you mean something I have to do that Adam can´t see?”

“You have to go back Chris and I didn´t want him to have to see you go.”

“I told you Sarah, I ain´t goin anywhere.” He set his mouth in a hard line and Sarah knew her work was cut out for her.


Ezra noticed Chris become calmer. He was grateful for the period of calm the gravely injured man was experiencing. Nathan had fought the rapidly rising fever gripping the gunslinger all night; and at times even in his weakened state, Chris became quite a handful. Now he seemed almost peaceful. The thrashing about had stopped and the panic in his voice when he called out the names of his wife and child was now replaced by what seemed like relief. The fever was still there though. It seemed to get worse as the night progressed and nothing they did for him seemed to do any good.

Dawn broke and brought Buck and Vin hurrying to the clinic. The sight of Nathan attempting to get water past Chris´ cracked lips greeted them. Ezra was holding the wounded man´s head up as Nathan dribbled small amounts into his mouth. Ezra looked up, a grim expression on his handsome face “Gentlemen, I do hope you had a good nights sleep. You will need it. Mr. Larabee here is being a most uncooperative patient.”

“How is he doin´ Nate?” asked Buck.

“He´s got a bad fever, it kept getting worse through the night. I´ve got to change the bandages now. He´s still bleedin´.

Buck and Ezra eased Chris into an upright position and Nathan removed the bandage from Chris´ left shoulder. He checked it for infection and was relieved to find none. He rebandaged the wound and wrapped white cloth around it from front to back.

Buck and Ezra laid Chris back on the bed. The movement caused the pain to return and Chris´ ragged breathing could be heard through the clinic. Nathan started to remove the layers of cloth from the wound on his right arm. The bandage was stuck to the wound where blood had dried and Chris´ moans of pain became more frequent. When the bandage was finally removed Nathan drew in a deep breath. There were red streaks running up his arm from his elbow and more streaks running down toward his forearm. Infection was setting in and no matter how much Nathan doctored, nothing was helping.

Vin sat on the edge of the bed. He was muttering to himself. “Damn Chris, you got to fight this infection. It´s gonna take ya down.” He looked at Chris´ face. The pained expression and the bright red spots on his cheeks did nothing to ease Vin´s mind. Chris was sliding further into oblivion and Vin could do nothing to pull him out.


Chris looked at Sarah´s beautiful face and wondered how she could even think that he would leave her again. He was where he wanted to be. Home. Home with his wife and son. That was only the most logical, easy decision he had ever made. He couldn´t figure out what to do about the fire though. It wasn´t really bothering him that much, after four years of living in hell on earth there wasn´t much he was afraid of. Sarah, on the other hand seemed to be nervously glancing about, looking into and beyond the flames, fear evident on her delicate features.

“Chris,” she began and froze her eyes on the flames behind her beloved´s back. “Chris, you have to go back now!” Fear had crept into her voice against her will. If she was afraid and let her husband see it, he would never go back, and back was where he had to go.

“Sarah, what´s the matter?” asked Chris as he started to look around the room. The fear in his wife´s eyes spoke volumes without her saying a word. He finally turned around and looked behind him. What he saw made his blood run cold and yet boil at the same time.

Cletus Fowler stepped out of the shadows and smiled evilly at Chris. “So Larabee, you´re finally here, I´ve been waiting for you. I´m thrilled to see you again. We have so much to talk about,” he said. And with a maniacal laugh he started to walk toward Chris.


The room at the clinic was beginning to get dark. Nathan lit a lamp and sat down beside Chris´ bed. His arm was still bleeding and his skin was almost translucent. He had opened his eyes a couple of times but there was no recognition as to his whereabouts at all. They were glazed over from pain and fever. The fever kept rising in him and his skin was hot to the touch. He had stopped sweating at all and that worried Nathan. Dehydration was as much an enemy now as the fever. The willow bark tea Nathan kept trying to pour down Chris´ throat was not enough to help any and everything was spinning out of control.

Buck sat on the floor against the opposite wall of the clinic and laid his head against it. “Damn Chris, don´t do this,” he thought to himself. “I don´t want this to come down to your arm or your life. It would kill me to have to make a decision like that, I know it would Nate too. You´ve got to get better.” He stared at the prone figure on the bed. Chris seemed to be slipping further away from them all the time, and Buck worried that it was only a matter of time before he slipped away altogether.

Vin sat in a chair at Chris´ side. He was totally attuned to his friend´s every movement. His breathing would sometimes become so shallow that Vin would get nervous and reach his hand out and place it on Chris´ chest just to assure himself that he was still breathing. His moans of pain would make him anxious, but the long periods of motionless silence would drive him to distraction. Those moments bothered Vin more because it wasn´t like Chris to be so passive. The Chris Larabee he knew would be fighting with everything he had. The thought did cross Vin´s mind that maybe his friend had nothing left to fight with, or to fight for.

The clinic was dark except for the faint glow from the lamp. Chris had begun to move restlessly on the narrow bed. Nathan was dozing in the chair on one side of the bed and Vin had drifted off to sleep in the one on the other side. Ezra had Buck´s place on the floor. Buck had gone to catch a few hours sleep so he could relieve Nathan, not that Nathan would leave. Josiah had already tried and Nathan would say “Let me check his bandage first,” or “Let me give him some more tea first,” or something that would make his presence necessary. JD had been by a few times, but he was watching the jail and taking extra patrols so the others could help take care of Chris.

Vin awoke with a start. The quick movement from Chris´ direction startles Ezra who jumped up. “Mr. Tanner, is everything all right? Does Mr. Larabee require assistance?” asked Ezra obviously concerned.

“Naw, he´s the same Ez. I guess I fell asleep, I know I did because I was dreaming,” Vin replied

“A good dream, Mr. Tanner?” Ezra asked raising an eyebrow.

“No, more like a nightmare. I can´t remember it all, but for some reason I recall Cletus Fowler being there. I don´t know why.”

“I concur then Mr. Tanner, it was most definitely a nightmare. I just hope Chris´ dreams are more pleasant,” Ezra stated.


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