by Tonny

Part 4 of the Stupid collection

“Nate? Will he be alright?”

“I don’t know guys. Let’s jist see if he makes it through the night first. See if he’ll live ta make it ‘til morning.”

The subdued silence, the anxious glances, the hand of Vin Tanner clutching Chris’ hand, Nathan saw it all but he couldn’t tell them anything else. He could only pray that Chris would live through the coming night. If the gunslinger made it through to the morning, then maybe, maybe, there was a chance. Now he only knew that the bullets were out and the wounds were stitched and the bleeding had stopped for the moment. Thank God the bleeding had stopped!

Thank God Chris had finally lost consciousness when he was working on getting the last bullet out. Small mercies sometimes meant the most....

Looking at the blond gunslinger laying unconscious on the bed, Nathan heaved a deep sigh. This time it had really happened, that which was always at the back of his mind when he saw his fellow peace keepers jump into a saloon fight, or when he heard gunfire. It was the knowledge that the next moment he could be setting the broken bones of his friends or be fishing bullets out of them, or worse.

What if this time it would be worse?

Nathan looked at his patient, laying so still and pale on the bed. So... vulnerable. That had been a word he’d never associated with the black clad gunslinger before, vulnerable. Chris always seemed on the verge of a fight, ready and poised and he never let anything stop him.

Like in this last gunfight, when he had walked straight up to the outlaws to save Miss Potter’s young daughter. Or on that faithful day when he’d told a lynching mob to cut Nathan loose.

Chris had become more to Nathan than the man who had saved his live though, he’d become a friend. After Josiah, Chris was the one he felt able to talk too. And he had, about his past, about his feelings of loss and his fear to commit to Rain.

Chris didn’t say much, but he listened. He kept his distance, but when you talked to him he looked at you, really looked at you and heard you.

Not many white folks did that, really look at him. Josiah did, he’d been the first. Vin did, being sort of an outcast himself. Chris did too, right from the start.

Later the others that joined their little group did as well, even Ezra. It may have taken that maddening Southerner a while, eventually Ezra did see him as the person he really was and not as some black ex-slave. It made their quarrels all the more worth while.

Thinking about his latest quarrel with the gambler made Nathan smile for a moment. Although it sure seemed stupid now, it was still fun to remember how riled the Southerner had been.


Nathan looked up at Vin who sat slumped in the chair at the other side of the bed. The tracker hadn’t left the clinic even for a second and had stayed put when everyone else had finally left. Well, had been kicked out would be more accurate. It was just that the clinic was so small and Nathan felt enough pressure as it was....

“Vin? Ya don’t look so good. Why don’t ya go and git some sleep? He’ll prob’ly be out the rest of the night.”

Vin’s eyes were tired, but determined. “Leave? Leave while Chris is fighting fer his life? Can’t do that, Nate. I gotta watch his back, now more ‘n ever. I jist hoped... when I saw ya smile...”

“Sorry Vin, was jist remembering something.”

“Really? I was remembering things too. Strange, I remember the little things the most. You got that too?”

For a moment Nathan didn’t know what to say. He certainly didn’t want to tell the worried young man across from him that he’d been thinking about Ezra of all people!

Then it struck him that he hadn’t. It had been Chris’ impact on his life he had been pondering. Not the fact that he wouldn’t have been alive at all if it hadn’t been for Chris and Vin, but the ease with which the gunslinger had accepted him as someone he wanted to ride with, and what that had done for him.

Ezra had been one of those impacts....

“Nope, was thinking about the big things, actually,” he told the tracker truthfully.

“About how he saved yer life...”

“Was more about how he changed my life and became a real friend even if he didn’t say much. And you saved my life too, Vin.”

“If Chris lives, you’ve paid that ten times over. Aw, hell, forgit I said that Nate, y’ already did pay that ten times over!” Then softly, wistfully, “He sure don’t say much, does he? Wish he’d say something now though....”

Nathan didn’t have time to think up an answer. A moan came from the bed and the gunslinger began to writhe. Hastily he grabbed the lean body and held it down.


“Shit! Was afraid of that. He’s getting a fever and it’s rising fast. Go git me fresh, cold water!”

Vin hurried away and soon returned with a large bowl filled with crystal clear water.

“Git some water at yer own side and some cloths. No, not those, they ain’t clean! Git them from that pile over there. We gotta keep that fever in check, keep wiping him down.” Hastily Nathan started wiping the sweaty brow himself. It made Chris calm down immediately.

Soon it became clear that wiping Chris’ brow and face wasn’t enough and Nathan pulled the sheets down, so they could also wipe the damp cloths over the gunslinger’s chest and arms. Silently the two men worked.

Silently they worked all night. They wrapped the gunslinger in wet sheets when he went into convulsions to get the fever down faster. They gave him water when he opened his eyes for a moment without really seeing them. They cleaned up the mess when he puked it all back up.

The first light of morning came and Chris was still breathing. Nathan was cleaning the wounds and changing the bandages, Vin a silent help at his side, when the other four peace keepers entered. Quietly, one by one they came, their presence filling the tiny clinic. They didn’t say a word, just waited.

After the last bandage was in place, Nathan stood up and stretched his back. He was tired beyond belief and the deep fear in his gut hadn’t left yet. Chris was still alive, but he also was still so weak, his breathing so shallow....

“Nate? He made it, didn’t he? He made it ‘til morning. Does that mean he’ll live?”

God, he hated to say this, but he didn’t have anything else he could say to them. He only knew that despite all odds at least Chris was still breathing.

He heaved a deep sigh.

“I don’t know, guys. I really don’t know. We’ll jist have ta help him live through the coming day.”

5. The Way Things Are