by Helen Chavez

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, though Lord knows I'd love to ... Got nothin' worth suing me for other than my pick-up that only works when it feels like it, an' a couple of worthless hounds that don't work at all if'n they can help it. Oh, an' a cow or two that do nothin' but cost me a fortune in veterinary bills. If I had my way they'd all end up in the damn' glue factory - My thanks must go to Melody, whose immense patience with my idiot scribblings constantly restores my faith in human nature.

This is just a little piece of nonsense concerning migraines, although I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to demean the subject - I know how appallingly painful a migraine can be. I was curious how migraine problems would translate in the Old West. So this is just an OW and doesn't go by the canon of the show.

Now I don't know a whole lot about the subject, only what I managed to research at short notice, so bear with me. I also don't know how Nathan would deal with it, but any feedback would be most welcome. But be kind - I got a busted rib.

"If that little shit don't turn up in the next few minutes I'm gonna break his goddamn' neck!"

Vin winced at the deadly calm fury in Larabee's voice.

Pissed, huh, Chris?

The muscles jumping along Chris' jaw said it all.

You ain't seen nothin' yet, brother ...

Vin sighed at the unspoken threat on Larabee's face.


As always, it had to be Ezra.

He was late - very late - for his turn to patrol the precincts and byways of Four Corners.


Josiah sat back in the chair, feet propped on the desk in the sheriff's office, watching Chris turn himself inside out with anger, once more wondering what it was about the black-clad man that made Ezra appear to delight in annoying the crap out of him.

And Chris Larabee was not the kind of man you wished to annoy. Ever.

Josiah knew J.D. and Buck were sitting discreetly outside, staying well out of the way, knowing Chris was on the verge of hitting the warpath. Buck knew - all too well - a man didn't get in the way when Larabee had a burr stuck up his ass. Especially when this particular burr was called Ezra P. Standish.

Nathan was nowhere to be seen, Josiah noticed. Probably took himself off to count bandages or some such thing. Josiah knew Nate had little time for the gambler, and didn't have much sympathy for Ezra when Chris got a little too hard on the man - hell, he deserved it, didn't he?

The big preacher watched as Chris finally reached the end of his almost non-existent fuse and exploded.

"That's it! I'm gonna kill the little bastard! The sonofabitch is a dead man!" Muttering even worse epithets under his breath, Chris jammed on his hat and prepared to haul Ezra's sorry ass out of his bed and kick it all the way to hell and back and then some, and then he was gonna make damn' sure Ezra was gonna be talkin' a whole lot higher than usual.

Those fancy words of his ain't gonna get him outta this in one piece ...

Chris growled at the thought.

"Whoa, there, Brother - "

Chris walked into a big hand that planted itself firmly in the centre of his chest and stopped him in mid-stalk. A pair of mild blue eyes watched him calmly, and Josiah tilted his head to one side, studying the irate man closely. Chris suddenly knew that the big preacher was deadly serious.

Chris Larabee was not a man who scared easy, and he sure as hell wasn't scared now. But the look on Josiah's face made the anger dissolve a little - Josiah Sanchez may have been a preacher of sorts, but Chris knew he was solid brimstone when he was roused, and the calmness just belied the storm that raged beneath the surface.

Vin watched the two men face one another.

Looks like Josiah might just get a little 'Old Testament' on ya there, Chris.

Vin Tanner smirked.

"Awww, hell - " Chris exhaled suddenly, explosively, the fury fading to a dull throb in his head. "You go get him, Josiah. I can't guarantee he'll still be breathin' if I lay my hands on him, an' the Judge'll have my ass in a sling if I kill him."

Josiah smiled a smile that didn't quite make it to his eyes.

Dropping his hand, he turned and glanced at Vin. The tracker had to lower his head and hide the grin as he saw the preacher give him a sly wink.

Piss 'n' wind, Josiah, that's what you are, my friend - all piss 'n' wind ...

Vin shook his head.

"Don't you worry, none, Chris - Brother Ezra'll soon be made aware of the error of his ways an' returned like a lamb to the fold." The implied threat in the soft baritone was more than obvious - it was downright terrifyin', if the twinkle in Josiah's eye was anything to go by.

However protective Josiah was of the dandified gambler, he could be as exasperated by the man as Chris - and that was saying something. Vin watched as the big preacher lifted his hat, set it firmly on his head and sauntered out into the street, heading nonchalantly towards the saloon.

God help you Ez - Josiah's comin' to getcha like the Wrath of God Hisself

Vin winced again at the thought.

J.D. was jiggling. He'd been jiggling these past ten minutes, listening to Chris rant like a man possessed at the absent Standish, and because of that J.D. had been thinking - hard. Buck watched his young friend, fidgeting like a virgin caught in a whore-house on a Saturday night.

What in the Sam Hill's wrong with the kid now?

"Buck - " J.D. came to a decision. "I'll be back in a minute."

The big gunman sighed in exasperation as the young man jumped to his feet and headed off after Josiah.

"J.D! Get your butt back here, boy!"

J.D. Dunne just waved a hand back at him dismissively and carried on trotting after the big preacher.

"Josiah!" J.D. called breathlessly after his friend. "Josiah, hold up a second!"

Josiah wandered to a halt and turned to the young man, irritation on his moustachioed face.

"What is it, J.D?"

"Josiah - Ez's never this late."

"J.D. - Ezra's always late."

J.D. held up his hands placatingly.

"I know, I know, but - dammit, Josiah, he always turns up just when Chris is about to boil over. He kinda, well, always knows just how far to push. He's never this late. Somethin's wrong."

Josiah blinked.


The boy was right.

Josiah realised he had been so fascinated at the sight of Chris Larabee throwing a complete and utter coniption that he'd forgotten that Ezra liked to keep Chris on his toes. He was never more than ten minutes late, having expertly calculated Chris' tolerance levels long ago. He never did it to anyone else, and he always made up the time at the end of his shift - no-one - but no-one - could accuse him of being a slacker, not even Chris. Ezra just enjoyed pissin' him off, and pushing Chris right over the edge would spoil the fun.

Josiah placed a hand on J.D.'s shoulder.

"C'mon, son. Let's go see Ezra."

Josiah wasn't sauntering now. He strode along the street, J.D. trotting along trying to keep up, and then he was up on the boardwalk, through the batwing doors, and taking the stairs two steps at a time.

He halted outside Ezra's room. Pausing, Josiah wondered how he was going to handle the situation. First of all, Ezra kept his door locked - due to one too many intrusions of a nefarious and sneaky nature by Messrs Wilmington and Tanner. Secondly - and more importantly - Ezra was wont to shoot first and ask questions later, especially when it came to being rudely awoken from his God-given right to sleep for as long as he liked.

Josiah sighed. He took his life firmly in his two big hands and hammered resoundingly on the door. Then he moved incredibly quickly for such a large man and stepped out of the line of fire.

Nothing. Nada. Nary a sound.

Well, that went better 'n I expected - but then again ...

Josiah was worried now.

He thought back on the previous night's entertainment in the saloon. Ezra had relieved two visiting businessmen and a whisky-drummer of a decent night's winnings, but the man had seemed tired rather than smug, for once. His eyes were glassy, and it couldn't have been the whisky. The gambler had kept a full shot-glass of his favourite Malt beside him all night - but Josiah was damned if he could remember Ezra taking even one sip.

Can't be a hangover, then ...

Come to think of it, Ezra had been kinda washed-out for a couple of days, but the rest of the Seven had put it down to recovering from Maude Standish's visit the previous week. She was a handsome woman, but Lord, she drained the energy and heart out of Ezra somethin' fierce.

Josiah went back to hammering on the door with renewed vigour.

"Ezra! It's Josiah. If you don't open the damn' door I'm gonna break it down!"

"C'mon, Ez! It's J.D! You okay in there?"

The voice that echoed from the room was tired and weak.

" 's not locked - "

Josiah and J.D. exchanged glances.

The big preacher slowly opened the door and crept into the room, a room dark behind closed curtains and stuffy from lack of ventilation. Josiah walked over to the window and reached out for the curtains.

Lord, Ez, let's have some light in this place for once -

"Oh God, Josiah - leave the damn' curtains - Christ!"

Josiah pulled back the drapes and mid-morning sunlight streamed into the room. In that short moment of illumination he saw a bone-white face stare in horror from the bed, hair damp with sweat, dark circles under the glassy green eyes. The yell of obvious pain shook Josiah to the core. Hurriedly, he pulled the curtains shut.

"J.D. - "

"On my way, Josiah." The young man had also seen the pain in Ezra's eyes and was already out of the door and heading out of the saloon to the clinic.

Josiah crouched beside the bed and reached out to feel Ezra's forehead. Hot. Too hot, and drenched with sweat.

"Josiah ... please, leave me alone - I'll be fine, really ..."

Josiah ignored him and went to Ezra's dresser, poured water from the pitcher into a bowl and soaked a towel in the cool liquid. Returning to the bed he sat on the edge and laid the damp towel on the gambler's forehead.

God, he must be sick - he ain't even objectin' a little bit ...

The big man frantically searched his mind trying to figure out what could be ailing the gambler. Scarlet Fever? No ... Diptheria? Mumps? Hell, what about the 'fluenza or even measles ..? Nah. Couldn't be any of those, too many symptoms missing, like spots, lumps and the like. And he sure as hell wasn't shot or perforated in any way.

No, it's somethin' else makin' him look like shit.

Josiah heard a moan of pain from the pale form in the bed, and he lifted the towel from Ezra's forehead, re-soaked it, then began to wipe the sweat from his friend's face.

What the hell's wrong, Ezra - and where the hell are you, Nathan? Ez needs you -

+ + + + + + +

"Fellas - "

Buck's voice brought Vin and Chris to the open doorway of the office. Chris was still fuming quietly to himself, itching to get his hands on the obviously unrepentant Standish.

But all thoughts of revenge disappeared as the three men watched a determined J.D. Dunne erupt through the batwing doors of the saloon and run like hell to the clinic. He charged through the door, emerging moments later with an equally determined Nathan Jackson in tow, medical bag in hand. This time they were both running.

"Somethin's wrong with Ezra ..." Chris' voice had gone instantly from fury to intense concern.

They headed over to the saloon and followed J.D. and Nathan up the stairs to Ezra's room, Josiah greeting them at the door as Nathan dumped his bag on the dresser. The healer cursed quietly then headed for the curtains.

"No! The light's hurtin' his eyes!" J.D. leapt forward and caught Nathan's wrists, dragging them down to his sides.

"J.D., I'm gonna need some light here - "

"The boy's right, Nate. He let out one helluva yell when we opened 'em before." The concern in Josiah's voice was noticable.

The dark healer moved around to the bed and sat beside the recumbent figure. Reaching forward, he felt the hot skin, the damp hair.

"Hey, Ezra. Can you tell us what's goin' on here?"

"Mr Jackson - "

The voice was tired and raw with pain.

"I have ... a goddamn headache!!!"

Larabee's eyes widened. A headache? He's gettin' outta doin' his work 'cause of a headache?? A growl started from his throat.

"Chris! Back off a little, will ya?" Nathan's voice was firm and reamed with concern. "Buck, light that lamp - but keep it real low. Sorry, Ezra, but I'm gonna need a little light to see what's wrong. But I'll try to check you out as quick as I can ..."

Chris heard the worry in Nathan's voice, and realised that there probably was something untoward afflicting the lean gambler. He shut up.

Josiah reached under the curtains and managed to open the window a sliver, letting in a slight breeze of warm, fresh air. The room became less oppressive. Buck lit the small lamp beside the bed and turned the wick down as low as he could, but a hiss of pain came from beneath the rumpled blankets.

"Mr Jackson - Nathan, please ... I've had this before. It goes away after a while ..."

Nathan studied the man curled up in the bed. Ezra looked goddamn awful. Eyes squeezed tight shut against the intrusive glow of the lamp, he looked more miserable and unhappy than Nathan had ever seen him before - and Ezra sure had a talent for looking miserable and unhappy, especially when he was expected to do things he didn't want to do. Like work.

"You got a headache, huh? Where?"

Ezra grimaced.

"In my ass. Where do you think?"

Nathan heard a snort of amusement.

Damn you, Tanner, this is serious.

"Where in your head, you fool!"

Ezra flinched as he turned his head slightly to look at Nathan through slitted eyes.

"Right side - all the way down."

"You pukin' at all?"

"Only when I attempt to move. Which is why I'm not movin' if I can possibly avoid it - shit ..." The gambler winced as another wave of pain lurched through his head.

Nathan sighed. Yep. All the usual symptoms - terrible pain, sickness and vomiting, sensitivity to light and touch, fever and sweats. Probably dizzy as hell, too.

"Well, Ezra. You got a Sick Headache."

"Good Lord, Mr Jackson, I am amazed at your perspicacity - I, for one, would never have guessed. No, siree, Bob ..." The dry voice rasped with sarcasm.

The Standish mouth was still in full working order, Chris realised.

He ain't that sick.

Nevertheless, the man was obviously in tremendous pain, and despite the fact that Ezra was worse than a porcupine quill under Larabee's skin, the gunman couldn't ignore the worry tightening in his chest when the gambler was sick or hurt.

"He gonna be okay, Nathan?" J.D. asked the question, as always.

"Yeah. He'll live. But he's gonna feel a bit sorry for hisself for a couple of days. These things can be tricky to deal with, too. I can't give him anythin' for it other than to help with the pain."

"All I need is for you gentlemen to leave me the hell alone - Oww!!!"

"It's getting' worse, ain't it?"

"Please, Nathan, all of you, just go away ..."

Ezra couldn't understand why these idiots always ignored him. They never listened to him when he was sick, or hurt, or both - they just carried on their merry way, helping Nathan dig bullets out of him, dosing him with that cat piss Nathan insisted he drank for pain, or fever, or whatever the hell it was Nathan decided he had. He hated feeling so damned helpless!

Nathan swung into action.

"Josiah, this damn fool's still in his clothes. Look for a night-shirt an' we'll get him more comfortable."

"I don't need undressin' - "

"J.D., go an' get some hot water and cloths from Inez - hot as you can stand, y'hear? Oh, an' fetch a bucket. He's probably gonna puke when we get him outta bed to undress him."

"Sure, Nate. Be back in a minute."

"Oh, God, no -" Ezra was getting desperate.

"You three can clear out. Ezra's gonna need plenty of rest and quiet for a couple of days, and someone'll have to take his turn at patrols. An' Chris?"

Larabee turned back to Nathan as he began to walk out of the door with Buck and Vin.


"If'n you're in here at any time over the next few days, I don't want to hear any threats, growls, menaces or any other kind of bitchin' while Ez's sick. He's stressed out enough as it is. Probably stress that did it in the first place." He waited a moment. "Y'all hear me, Chris?"

The muscles jumped once more along Larabee's jaw, his concern for Ezra's discomfiture outweighing his urge to flatten Nathan for the sheer hell of it.

"I hear you." The voice was a mere whisper, but the menace was there for all to hear.

Nathan grinned.

"Good. Now git."

Chris turned wordlessly and followed his two friends out of the room.

"Stress! I'll give him goddamn stress ..." The black-clad gunman was incandescent with rage.

"Lord, Chris! Are you okay? Jeez ..." Buck's voice was rich with concern.

"What? Oh hell, Buck, I'm fine, why?"

Buck waggled a finger at Chris' head.

"Well - that itty bitty vein right up there on your forehead is throbbin' like crazy. Thought you were gettin' stressed there, pard - "

A powerful hand grasped Buck Wilmington by the shirt front and slammed him against the wall with a thud that could be heard in the street. A dog howled somewhere on the other side of town.

"Buck - you are so full of shit -" Larabee suddenly let go and disappeared down the stairs into the main saloon.

Buck straightened his shirt and grinned.

Vin shook his head, smiling.

"Hell, Buck, when you rattle his cage he sure hits those bars at a run."

"Yep, he sure does." The Wilmington grin widened. "Fun, ain't it?"

Vin snorted.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was convinced that this time he was going to die. If not from his 'Sick Headache', as Nathan so picturesquely described it, then certainly from a surfeit of extreme embarrassment.

Josiah and J.D. had gently removed his sweat-soaked clothes, and then - God help him - washed him down before drying him off and getting him into a clean night-shirt. As if that wasn't bad enough, he had thrown up twice during the operation, Josiah holding him over a bucket, soothing him as the heaves wracked his body. Then the big preacher had wiped the gambler's face and cleaned him up without a word.

As for J.D. - the boy had been appallingly grown-up about the whole thing, talking softly to him as though he - Ezra P. Standish - was a sick five-year-old with a dose of the croup. All 'Don't worry Ez, we'll take care of you,' and 'There you go, Ez - feel better now?', all of this silliness accompanied by a disgustingly paternalistic brushing-back of the damp hair on Ezra's brow.

The boy's definitely been spending too much time with 'Mother Hen' Wilmington -

At least they had moved the lamp to the dresser so it wasn't shining in his face any more, and, despite himself, he certainly did feel more comfortable now he was clean and in a night-shirt. All he needed now was to be rid of this damn' headache, and he knew that particular prayer wouldn't be answered for another couple of days.

God Almighty, this is a bad one.

Nathan appeared at his side holding a cup of one of his dreadful herbal cure-alls.

"C'mon, Ezra, get this down you. It'll help with the pain an' you can get some sleep."

Ezra opened a bleary eye and perused his so-called 'friend'.

"Is that what I think it is, Mr Jackson?"

Nathan grinned maliciously.

"Oh, joy ..." Ezra reached out a shaky hand, took the cup, and downed the contents without a murmur.

Nathan Jackson was astounded.

Lord, the man must be in pain - that stuff's just goddamn' awful.

Nathan turned to a surprised Josiah sitting beside the bed in an old over-stuffed armchair.

"You sittin' with him, I s'pose?"

Nathan took that as a 'given' with Josiah - every time the con-man was hurt or sick, Josiah sat and watched over him like the 'Papa Bear' he was, living up to the secret nickname given to him by the rest of the Seven - secret, 'cause retribution came high on Josiah Sanchez's list when it came to nicknames.

"Somebody has to."

It was as simple as that.

The big preacher sat back and stretched out his long legs, settling himself into the chair, prepared to stay for the duration.

Nathan shook his head. What was it with these men? You cut one of 'em an' the rest bled, an' while he fought to keep whoever was hurt alive, they got under his feet, wrought havoc with the old chairs in the clinic by draping their sorry asses all over 'em, cluttered up the place like a passel of old women fretting an' whining, constantly asking him if whoever was hurt was gonna be okay ... who the hell did they think he was - God?

A sad smile suddenly drifted over the healer's face. A memory hit him, the memory of a seriously wounded Josiah lying fevered and delirious in the clinic, near dead from blood loss and infection. That had been a tough one - because he also had to deal with a stubborn, fretful - and deeply worried - Standish. The gambler had stayed beside the badly hurt preacher for days, refusing to let anyone else take over. He had nursed Josiah through the nightmares and delirium, wiped the sweat from his body to cool the raging heat, helped Nathan change bandages soaked in blood and foul matter without a murmur. During that time Nathan had seen the real Ezra Standish, a man who lived in terror of losing the tenuous and fragile links he had forged with the big preacher. When the fever had finally broken and Josiah had started on the long road to recovery, the shutters had come down once more, and the gambler reverted to his usual pain-in-the-ass self. But Nathan had caught a glimpse of the man Ezra could be if he tried - a good, kind, caring man with a belief in himself that all of them knew was hidden beneath the diamond-hard shell he had built up over the years.

Damn the man!

He looked down at the sick gambler, now beginning to doze as the herbal drink took hold. At least he would get some respite from the pain for a while. J.D. hovered in the background, worried as hell and unable to hide it.

"J.D.? Landsakes, boy, he's gonna be just fine - it ain't even that serious. It's just downright debilitatin', is all."

Good Lord, I'm beginnin' to sound like Ezra -

The young man's face relaxed slightly. J.D. liked Ezra, he liked the bantam-rooster attitude and the tenacious grip Ezra had on life. Ezra was brave, though he didn't know it - sometimes crazy to distraction and definitely lacking in moral fibre when it came to money. But, Nathan had to admit, he was tough as nails and God help you if you went after one of his friends. The scrappy little rooster would turn rapidly into a very deadly viper. "C'mon, J.D., let's go do some work an' catch some bad guys. Ezra'll be okay - he's got his Guardian Angel over there workin' full time watchin' over him."

Josiah had pulled the brim of his hat down over his eyes, and to all appearances was asleep. Nathan and J.D. crept out of the room and quietly closed the door behind them.

Josiah smiled to himself.

Guardian Angel, huh? Well, that sits a helluva lot better than any damn' 'Papa Bear' ...

+ + + + + + +

Goddammit, you little sonofabitch, I'm gonna peel the hide off you from the ankles on up..."

"Are you intimating, Mr Larabee, that I am somewhat lacking in stature? Because I can assure you, that although I may not be a Behemoth as in the case of Mr Wilmington's sad excuse for a body, I am certainly made of more than adequate proportions."

Josiah could sense the bland, infuriating smile on Ezra's face, and grinned to himself as he sat outstretched in his chair in front of the jail.

The past three days had been hard for the Seven, all of them taking turns sitting with a grumpy and distinctly unwell Ezra - especially Chris Larabee, the man quietly haranguing an exhausted Josiah until the big preacher had finally gone to his bed for a couple of hours.

But that, thankfully, was all over with, and all seven of the regulators of Four Corners were back to normal - which in Ezra's case meant quietly driving Mister Chris Larabee into an early grave.

Josiah breathed in a happy sigh of satisfaction. It sure did an ol' preacher man's heart good to hear the arguments and snide remarks flying with barbed accuracy once more, good to know everything was near as dammit back to normal after three days' worth of being Ezraless.

Ezra. Ten minutes late. Again.

Chris. Climbing the walls with ill-concealed fury.

"Just who the hell are you callin' sad, little man? An' what's all this about a Behemoth, whatever the hell that is?? Are you sayin' I'm dumb - ?"

Buck. Normally slow to anger, but now gettin' feisty pretty damn' quick.

Josiah thought it was about time to throw a rock in the pond and wait to see how far the ripples went.

"Lord, Buck, what's wrong with that? You kinda suit bein' called Behemoth. Leastways it's a lot better'n any damned Papa Bear .."

The baritone voice was soft with menace.

There was a mortified silence.

Josiah smirked and tipped his hat over his eyes, relaxing with a sigh.

Yessiree, now let the games begin -


J.D.'s bowler went tumbling into the dirt, dislodged by a smack on the back of the head from an accusatory Wilmington hand.

"Goddammit, Buck!! What the hell was that for???"

"Couldn't keep your mouth shut, could you, boy?"

"Buck, I never - "

Nathan emerged from the Jail straight into a full-blown Peacekeeper's verbal melee.

"Nate!! It was you!! You told him!!" J.D.'s voice was high with annoyance.

Brown eyes frowned in genuine puzzlement.

"Told who what, exactly?"

"Told Josiah 'bout - well, y'know, what we call him."

"Which one?"

Josiah's eyebrows shot up under his hat.

Good Lord. There's more?? Now this I gotta hear ...

J.D. ducked his head with embarrassment.

"Y'know - the 'Papa Bear' thing - "

"Oh, that. Nope. Wasn't me. I want to live a long an' happy life, an' if'n I'd done that, I sure as hell wouldn't be here right now." Nathan straightened kinks out of his shoulders and headed off to the clinic. Dealing with eight little MacAvoys with a healthy infestation of head lice was infinitely more preferable than listening to this crap.

Chris watched the retreating back, then turned to the remainder of the Seven. And instantly found himself on the receiving end of an accusing Dunne Glare. Now where the hell did he get that from ..?

"Chris! You started it in the first place!! Why'd you tell him??"

Josiah grinned malevolently.

Oh-ho! It was Larabee started it, was it? Well he can kiss his ass goodbye ...

"Me?? Listen kid, I ain't in the habit of tellin' anyone any damn thing, 'specially that - "

"Oh sure." Sarcasm dripped from the boy's tongue. "An' manure don't only come from cows!!"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, could you please desist from these pointless and childish accusations. I'm sure Mr Sanchez is in a forgiving mood - being as he is a so-called man of the cloth - "

Josiah mentally snorted in derision.

Wanna bet, Ez?

The big preacher was beginning to feel distinctly vengeful.

All eyes turned to Vin, leaning nonchalantly against the hitching post, a mysterious smile creeping onto the angular face. As they watched, the smile faded to uncertainty.


Four sets of Glares hit him full force.

"It was you." Larabee's voice was a mere whisper.

Vin shrugged.


If'n you think it was me, cowboy, I'm gonna twist your antsy little head into teeny tiny piles a' shit.

Vin scowled at his best friend.

Just try it, Tanner - an' I'll fix you but good ...

Larabee's green-gold eyes grew cold at the thought.

"Dear Lord - I think I feel one of my 'Sick Headaches' coming on. You know, Mr Jackson did tell you I shouldn't be subjected to any kind of stress for the next few days - "

"Shit, Ezra, are you tryin' to get outta doin' your fair share - ?" Buck's voice went up a tone or two.

The argument dissolved into a messy mixture of insults and yelped defences.

Josiah laced his fingers together over his broad chest and listened benignly to the unholy uproar.

Yes indeed - Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.

And revenge certainly was a dish best eaten cold.

Josiah smiled.


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