The Way Things Are

by Tonny

Part 5 of the Stupid collection

Buck and JD jumped down the stairs from Nathan’s clinic where they’d checked on Chris. The gunslinger had been unconscious and very, very pale. Buck hadn’t liked seeing his oldest friend like that at all. He guessed two bullets in your body would do that to a person though.

Let’s just hope this‘ll teach ya and next time you’ll dive for cover when bullets fly, you idiot hardhead, he thought with a sigh.

He looked at JD walking silently at his side, for once not talking non stop about everything and everyone. He saw the strain and worries on his young friend’s face and that’s when he remembered how the Bostonian had bolted from the clinic last night. With a sigh he knocked JD’s ridiculous bowler hat off his head.

“You okay, kid?”

“Ow, Buck! Cut that out! And don’t call me a kid! Yeah, I’m alright, what the hell kind a question is that? Ya don’t see me bleeding anywhere, do you?”

“Ya seem ta take this awful hard, kid.”

“Well, shouldn’t I? I mean... Chris looks really bad. And... and I think Nate expects him ta... ta... die....” The voice of the youngest peace keeper trailed off. Picking up his hat from the ground and putting it back on, he asked, “Why ain’t you worried, Buck? Don’t ya care if Chris dies?”

The remark stung Buck. “That’s a mean thing to say, JD. You know how I feel ‘bout Chris. Fact that I don’t expect him ta die don’t give ya the right to say that.”

“I’m... I’m sorry Buck. I really am! It’s just... I thought he wouldn’t die either, I mean, it’s Chris! I knew those outlaws couldn’t kill him! But yesterday... all that blood... And he screamed so much, Buck. It was a... awful!”

Buck knocked the hat from JD’s head again, annoyed now. “Damn it kid, of course he can be killed! He don’t duck the bullets and take cover, he’s gonna get killed! But when Nate took them bullets out and he was aware and screaming, I just knew he’d give the odds one hell of a fight. And he sure did! He was still breathing this morning, wasn’t he? That means he won’t stop breathing, it means he’ll live. Bastard better take cover next time though, or I’ll blow his head off myself. I don’t need this kind of aggravation, it ain’t healthy. Last night I just couldn’t get interested in the ladies and I’ll make damn sure he won’t do that to me again!”

“Oh Buck! That’s gross! Hey, you really think he’ll live?”

“Kid, I just told ya! He was alive this morning, he won’t die on us now. You got any, I mean any, idea how stubborn that darn fool is?”

“Nathan seems so worried.”

“Nate’s a fine doctor JD, but he don’t know Chris like I do. Nope, Chris ’ll live, you mark my words. I’ll even bet ya on it!”

“I ain’t betting on a friend’s life! Geez, Buck!”

“Do I hear the word betting?” a Southern drawl suddenly asked behind them. Buck and JD turned around.

“Hey Ez, still up?”

“It seems that I am, Mister Wilmington, or you had better check yourself for having illusions. I was just on my way to eat a hearty breakfast. Somehow sleep seems to elude me at the moment.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep either last night. So, heading towards the hotel?”

“Yes, I am. Would you two care to join me?”

Buck rubbed his hands together. “Don’t mind if I do. Didn’t eat much last night, what with the worry and all. Still can’t believe Nate wouldn’t let me stay!”

“Didn’t you want to stay now, Mister Wilmington?”

“I’ll stay this afternoon. Josiah is busy then, promised old Jake some help with his barn, so we decided he helps out this morning, gives Nate a chance ta sleep. It’s alright now to leave fer awhile, Chris ‘ll live. But last night...”

Buck decided to shut up. He did understand that Nathan hadn’t wanted too many people in the small clinic, but he’d been so afraid that he would loose his friend and wouldn’t even be there. The thought alone made him shiver. Only when Nathan swore he’d call him the minute he thought Chris would take a turn for the worse, he’d agreed to leave.

He had spent the night in the comfortable chair Nathan had on his balcony for patients that were allowed outside, too afraid to go further away from the clinic and Chris. He’d been dozing when he’d heard some commotion during the night and had been very tempted to go inside. He hadn’t though. A glance through the tiny window beside the door had convinced him that Nathan had everything under control and wouldn’t appreciate him bursting in. So he’d stayed outside, keeping an eye on things from there. After all, Vin was already helping Nathan.

Vin, not him.

He knew there was something special between Chris and the silent tracker, but damn it, no one knew Chris like he did! Not even Vin.

Normally it didn’t matter to him, he was there to watch Chris’ back if it was necessary and he knew Chris was there to watch his. Words weren’t needed, it was just the way it was, like it had been for many, many years. Having fun like they used to have wasn’t needed either. Those nights filled with practical jokes, drinking and laughter would never return and he was fine with it, he really was. Now he had JD for that and you could sure have a good time with Ezra as well, or Josiah. It wasn’t something he’d expected at first, but damn, that ex priest could party!

Being forced from Chris’ side because Nathan would allow only one other person to stay, that had hurt though.

No, that wasn’t exactly right. He knew Nathan had wanted to throw all of them out, it was just that nobody could root Vin from his spot next to the bed short of shooting him.

Actually, Buck was pretty sure that Vin wouldn’t have minded a bullet in his body if it was the only way to stay in the clinic with Chris.

That boy could sure be an idiot.

“Buck? Buck, you alright?”

Someone was pulling at his sleeve and he realized he’d been so deep in thought he had walked right by the hotel. He looked into two worried brown eyes, staring at him with concern.


Buck sighed again. “I’m alright JD, I’m alright. Just thinking about the way of things.”

“It seems that you were contemplating some very deep thoughts, Mister Wilmington. Perhaps you are less than pleased with the way things are?”

That made Buck pause for a moment. He looked thoughtfully at the gambler. It was impossible to read the man though, because Ezra kept his eyes on the cuff links he was busy adjusting. He looked at JD, who was still studying him worriedly. Affectionately he made a grab for that ridiculous hat again.

JD didn’t move away or try to stop him. His young friend kept a hold on his arm and clearly wasn’t going to be distracted from finding out what was wrong. The trust Buck saw in those young eyes that had already seen too much touched him and made him suddenly feel all warm inside. So did the concerned glance he noticed Ezra giving him when the man thought he wasn’t looking.

He turned his eyes away from JD and took a moment to watch the town’s activities going on around him. They had become familiar, he realized, just like the people doing them. He thought about Josiah and Nathan, about Vin and Chris, and suddenly he knew that he liked where he was.

Giving JD his hat back he laughed. “I’m alright kid, really I am. And no Ez, apart from Chris being hurt, I am more than pleased with the way things are! Come on, let’s eat! I’m starving!”

Yep, he WAS very pleased with the way things were now in his life. Normally... When he didn’t have a hardheaded friend bleeding in a clinic bed.

6. Colleagues