Mopuro (info here
Slash!, language, eventual smut and M rating
Don't own. No profit.
Previous/Continuing chapters found here
Comments/Questions very welcome! email me
It was a long walk back to the Ranch for Ezra P. Standish. He and Vin had covered a rather excessive distance in their scouting, now he had to double back to get to the Ranch house. His ankle still throbbed with protest but he completely ignored it as the severity of the situation coursed through every fiber of his being. Just this morning he'd been sitting at the breakfast table with the others, trying hard not to smile as Buck regaled them with a rather raunchy tale recalling a past encounter with a paramour. He was unable to stop the laugh at the end of Buck's story, as unable as he was to stop his face from coloring at the sweet, loving smile Buck threw his way after. The man was surely a cretin. How could he so casually throw away smoldering looks so easily in that manner? It was only hours ago. Mere hours. He'd gotten up to hobble to Buck's bedroom and gather himself a cigar - one of the Mule's of course. Buck didn't mind that he'd taken a few; he was so looking forward to enjoying a smoke on the porch in the crisp morning air.
Buck appeared out of nowhere in the bedroom behind him. He'd snuck up so silently, not surprising the alert half breed as much as he would have liked but he went with the flow as was his nature. Ezra found himself in a heated kiss and before he could even think to complain he was suckling Buck's tongue hungrily while it explored his mouth. When they'd pulled apart he was panting for breath, trying to shake the lust cobwebs from his brain. Buck gave him a wink and a smile, and then with a jovial hoot of pleasure he loped from the room with a spring in his step. Hours, mere hours ago.
JD had come in midday, excited beyond all repair to tell Ezra of his adventure with Josiah. A young cow had wandered too far, startled by some predator most assuredly and became entangled in some fencing. JD's eyes glistened as he loudly told his tale, gesturing widely, his volume increasing the more he went on. He alone had been small enough to traverse the bramble and save the young cow. He had been so proud of himself; Josiah had been proud and heaped praise on the young Mopuro who beamed with it. Ezra had been proud and couldn't help but smile and laugh when he told JD this, seeing the boy almost burst at the seams. Hours, mere hours ago.
Now? Ezra had no idea where JD was. The boy hadn't been shot but they'd taken him, someone took him for what gain or purpose? He was somewhere out here in these woods with who knows what type of men. The smell hadn't altered too much though, and it allayed Ezra's frazzled nerves. JD wasn't hurt though, not yet and at least that was something.
Buck on the other hand? He frowned as he carefully made his way down a steep incline, noting how rapidly night was settling on him. At least he could see decently in the dark, even if not he'd follow his nose home, follow it right to Buck. He was almost afraid to smell the air, he longed for the faint traces of Buck's comforting scent but what if it simply were not there? He'd seen the amount of blood on the dirt under the injured man. Buck was so limp and lifeless when Nathan and Josiah had lifted him onto the horse. His long limbs dangled uselessly like a ragdoll and it was a sight so terrifying to Ezra he had to turn away from it and hold his churning stomach. Buck was always so full of life and mischief, how could he be so dormant and lifeless? Even while asleep Buck was a mass of energy, a source of warm light and movement. He'd sprawl his long limbs every which way, shift and smile, coo in his sleep at whatever particular dream he was having. It was just so unnatural to see him any other way.
Did Buck wish to save JD? Or had he merely jumped in the way because of the promise he made? Ezra had made him promise to keep an eye on JD, and Buck had done so. Had that been the only reason? Ezra's ears flattened against his head as guilt washed through him. This was all his fault. Why did he make Buck promise such a thing? He had no reason to risk his life for Ezra or JD, it was a stupid thing to say and he wished with all his might he'd kept his mouth shut. If only he'd ridden out when he thought to, if he left that damn Ranch Buck wouldn't be in this situation right now. He wouldn't be fighting for his very life.
Stars appeared in the twilight of the sky, warning of the approaching darkness. Despite his current state of mind the Mopuro had to note how beautiful the land was, quiet and serene, hiding the horror of the day somewhere unseen looking so peaceful even a wandering man might get the urge to settle down.
A month or so ago, he'd been in a particular dive of a town smiling with almost impish delight as he straightened and counted his money in the poorly lit hotel room. These tables were a particularly easy win, fate smiled upon him this time landing him in a ramshackle that dared call itself a town right before some miners had struck gold. Liquored up and simple as they were, winning their money had been no hard task. They'd come in with a lot and left with plenty - enough so they held no hard feelings toward the gambler who now also had a considerable amount to his name. He knew not to push his luck in one locality so he'd planned to head out in the morning. Another new town, new faces and new money. It was the life he'd built for himself and it was fine, he had more than he needed to survive and he never went hungry.
Thinking back to that night now set a strange tick in the Mopuro's face. It felt like forever ago, but it wasn't so long. He'd just gotten used to life at the Ranch house, letting Buck wait on him hand and foot... He'd heal eventually, even if he decided to stay on the Ranch he'd have to start pitching in to earn his keep. Manual labor? The idea made him frown. After that little luck with the gold boomtown he'd ridden into Four Corners - a move that changed his life and he'd had no idea.
It wasn't much of a town and in his haste to leave he'd collided with the man that now dominated his thoughts. That first moment on the street he'd felt fear again, a fear like when he'd been held captive. His ears exposed out there in the bright sunlight for all to see... When he'd regained his hat and let himself breathe, taking in the man before him he had no way to know what was in store. Buck had smiled at him then, ducking his head, fidgeting and shifting to make himself less intimidating as he apologized. That should have been the end of it. The half breed had called him a Mule and left, time for another town.
The Trading Post came first, food and shelter and a move that changed everything. One long, oafish limb thrown in his path and down Ezra went, hitting the floor hard. It wasn't just literally that this happened to him either. Ever since he'd been in Buck's company he felt he was still on that floor, dazed and confused, unable to get back up to where he had been. He'd fought it at first, trying to pick himself up, dust himself off and get back on the trail. What changed? The fall had hurt, but there was something about laying there that seemed relaxing. He was well aware by now that the Mule had tried to trip him on purpose to get his hat off, however he'd not meant to hurt him.
It seemed a fitting punishment that Buck should have to wait on him while he got a sort of vacation, free nights in a feather bed not having to watch his back - a man could get used to that. And he did get used to it, so used to it he let a human close enough that his secret was revealed; but the world hadn't ended then. He wasn't put on display or sold to the highest bidder. He wasn't chastised or criticized. He was kissed and hugged, pet and fondled, poked and prodded in ways that made the words take on a good meaning. The thought made him blush, the Mule was so unabashedly affectionate, he had no shame.
The sky was darker now, almost black as pitch with only the faint starlight and moonlight to light his path. The moon gave a blue ethereal feel to the land around him as he progressed slowly. He was anxious to get back to the Ranch, to check on Buck and yet his feet drug. He'd have to see the others; he'd have to face Chris who might hold him responsible for this. He'd have to face the possibility that they might lose Buck, that the wound could possibly kill him.
As soon as the idea hit him, Ezra's knees buckled and his stomach heaved. He had to turn from his path, clutching his stomach and willing his throat muscles to stop contracting. He wanted to throw up but fought the urge, whimpering softly to himself. All he had to do was get on his horse days ago, he should have left. It was so simple, saddle your horse and leave, don't look back like you've done a hundred times before. Why couldn't he? Why couldn't he leave Buck?
The memories of cool nights nestled into that warm bed by a warm fire assaulted his mind. Curled up in that comfortable nest, reading out loud to the Mule who sat nearby, gripped in excitement by the story, blue eyes wide and anxious, moustache twitching in anticipation. It was so comfortable, it was nice. He liked it. He liked it very much in fact. He hadn't been ready to leave it. Maybe in a few more days, a few more weeks? Hell, he hadn't expected something like this to happen. Would it have been so bad if he'd stayed a little longer before moving on? Why shouldn't he be able to? Buck told him he was free to leave at any point in time.
Oh Ezra, what is wrong with you? He scolded himself and crunched softly through the rocky gravel. Why did he continue to try and lie to himself? No one could hear his thoughts. Was it so horrible to admit that he liked the attention? That once he realized the Mule had sexual inclinations toward him it made him smile and flush? Buck was a good looking man after all. Why shouldn't Ezra have enjoyed his advances? The games between them, the flirting and tension began to take their own effects on the Mopuro, leaving him hard and aching at inopportune times. Namely the tub incident where Buck first put his hands on him. Those hands! His body wanted it, craved it, and desired it even if he tried to scold himself for behaving in such an uncouth manner.
Being denied touch for so long would have many bodies responding, but it wasn't that. For Ezra spent many a night in a Saloon, fighting off the advances of Saloon girls while he tried his hand at cards. Sometimes, he'd let a girl perch on his knee for show, and she'd fondle him in a similar manner to Buck. But it hadn't felt like Buck's touch, not at all, not in the least. It didn't make him burn and ache and yearn with every ounce of his very being. It was the affection, that attraction and desire that made it feel so good. Buck cared about him immensely for whatever reason, he couldn't quite figure that out yet, but it was that care that made his touches and kisses feel so sinfully wonderful.
But there was something else there that he couldn't deny. That look that the Mule would give him, that deep longing gaze when their eyes would lock - the stare that seemed to penetrate him and ask for permission, Buck saw the walls Ezra had built to protect himself and wanted in. He'd tried to break them down but they were strong, instead he simply vaulted his long self right over and claimed the prize. Ezra felt vulnerable at first, being so exposed as he was but something about it excited him. He wanted it, wanted to let Buck in, wanted that affection on the deepest level possible. Damn it all to hell, it felt good. He liked feeling good.
Hesitant as he was when the Mule made an advance, he'd still given in on some level, letting the other man in more and more. They were down to the last hurdle before everything went to hell. Buck was so close Ezra could feel that warmth and care, the affection and love close enough to his heart that he reached out for it - afraid to take the step himself, afraid of being hurt and rejected eventually but Buck persisted. He'd been right there on the edge, trying not to stand there with his arms open to welcome the Mule but he was unable to resist it. Buck was warmth and love, humor and loyalty; he was affection and understanding, comfort and safety. Buck was a warm white blanket, bathed in familiar welcoming scents. Buck wasn't a place you started, he was a place you came back to, a warm home... and Ezra wanted desperately to come home.
"Admit it, you prevaricating bastard." he shook his head as he came out onto a precipice seeing the valley below with the Ranch house nestled safely. The porch lanterns were lit and smoke poured from the chimney in a welcoming manner. "You care about him, you great fool." Ezra frowned; he didn't want to leave Buck, not yet. The other man had come so far, how much further could he go? How much further could Ezra possibly allow him to go? He longed for Buck now, wanted to curl up next to him and simply lay there, listening to that strong beat of his heart and think of nothing else. With no worries or cares, no thoughts of someone shooting him in the back, no thoughts of where his next meal would come from or if any of the louts at the table were card sharps in disguise. Just Buck's warmth and his heartbeat. Strong and steady.
Growing up, Ezra had never really had one place he considered a home. He'd moved far too much, different hotels with his mother, different relative’s houses, a new husband's estate... the buildings were just that - buildings. Four walls and a roof to keep the rain off but not welcoming, not a place he yearned to be or was particularly glad to come back to. Through his adult life he'd never known such a home either, taken to the wandering life of a gambler, hotels became his dwelling.
Just seeing the Ranch house now made him feel somehow more tired and yet it renewed him. He longed to be there. He could envision Buck's room so perfectly, every piece of furniture, every small trinket though few they were that belonged to the other man. The books, the desk, the rocking chair and bed. The spare pair of boots standing neatly next to the dresser, the smell, the taste of Buck so strong in the air just thinking of it gave him a little chill.
Why hadn't he realized just how much he liked Buck? How much he needed the Mule and craved his affections and company? Why now and only now had it come crashing onto him? It sounded so ridiculous in his mind to think about it his human rationale scoffed with bitter laughter. What was this nonsense of homes and affection? It's lust and sex and nothing more. Though his Mopuro instinct warbled loudly in protest, a caterwauling wail that suddenly left his lips before he could stop it. Ezra stood, his ears flat as his tail tucked between his legs, crying out in distress and grief so deeply from his chest. It surprised him he could make a sound so loud, that he even allowed himself to do so but it continued, echoing in the otherwise quiet night, reverberating off some distant canyon like cannon fire.
The Mopuro within him fought hard, seizing and silencing the human rationale. The Mopuro had tried hard to give in, welcoming Buck with open arms, sensing on some other level the affection and connection between them but the human fought it. But now the Mopuro was angry, grief stricken, worried, concerned and scared. The Mopuro wanted to go home but knew there may not be a home to return to now. For a moment Ezra worried his hand would raise and strike himself from the sheer rage he felt between his two sides. It startled him, but he rather agreed with the Mopuro.
Letting out another sorrowful bellow he started forward toward the Ranch. There was a twitch within, a tingling rush that filled his blood. His fingers itched, making fists involuntarily before releasing them while his tongue ran over his one remaining fang. The air was crisp, the sounds became louder and the smells vivid, he could taste the smoke from the house and the smell of Buck invaded his senses. He was still alive, holding on and fighting. Well, Ezra could fight too - and fight he would. Ezra Standish had never been more of a Mopuro than he was now, stepping forward to face the uncertainties that had frightened him for so long.
JD kept himself curled into a tight ball. There's no way he could escape, not at the moment, not with his hands and feet bound as they were. They'd threatened him, if he tried to run they'd shoot him anyways and he knew he couldn't hobble far enough away without one of them seeing. An opportunity might arise but he'd wait for it, wait for the perfect moment... unless Vin got to him first. He had great hope that his feral friend would come to his rescue.
Just thinking about Vin brought the young Mopuro's mind to Ezra. The half breed would surely come looking, that is, if... He swallowed hard, replaying the scene in his mind. He'd been walking with Buck, arguing as usual, suddenly Buck yelled and jumped in front of him, then he was down. JD heard the rifle shot and saw Buck fall but his mind had trouble putting the pieces together. He'd looked up the mountain side, trying to see where the shooter was located then looked down at the taller man in shock. He remembered calling to Buck, kneeling and touching him, seeing and smelling his blood. What happened, what happened?!
Then he woke up in this camp with these strange men, somewhere too far to smell the Ranch. He sniffed, inhaling with all his might but it was no use. The men had to know Mopuro, they just had to, for they surrounded the area they'd placed JD with lavender satchels. It would mask his scent and hinder his own ability to smell and yet not be a suspicious scent on first notice. They knew though, they knew a war was coming. There were guns, a lot of guns. So many he lost count.
Was Buck dead? He'd wondered this a thousand times already but it still made his ears flatten and his tail tuck between his legs. Did the bullet kill him? If not, did he catch an infection? Was he ok? JD hoped he was ok, he whimpered and begged for Buck to be ok. The idea of Buck not being at the Ranch if he ever returned filled him with a great sorrow, pulling a silent sob from his chest. Who would he wrestle, if not Buck? Who would he spy on and harass? He missed Buck already, feeling that invisible fist clench around his heart again. He hated that fist!
What made it worse was, if Buck had... he swallowed. If something serious did happen to Buck, Ezra would be furious! He'd probably be so cross with JD he'd never speak to him again. This was all his fault after all. Buck had jumped in front of him; the bullet was intended for him, not Buck. He should be hurt or dead, not Buck. If he hadn't been arguin' with Buck, they would have never been sent outside. Buck would have stayed indoors, probably trying to kiss up on Ezra, but he'd be ok, he'd be alive.
"Oh Buck," JD warbled mournfully in his throat, a pitiful animal cry that got him a good kick from the nearby guard.
"Cut that out, don't you go tryin' to alert your friends to where you are. Don't make me gag you."
JD could only manage a small hiss and curl tighter into himself. How could he ever make this right?
Something sure smelled and sounded right nice, but where was it coming from? Buck felt groggy, dizzy and clouded but he fought to see through the haze. There was something on the other side of that haze, something that he really wanted but he couldn't be sure of what it was. It was sure beckoning to him, pulling him along gently, trying to get his attention.
Everything hurt. Was that possible? He groaned softly to himself, shifting restlessly. Damn this couch, maybe he'd be better sleepin' on the floor? Everything felt twisted and bent in unnatural angles, his side especially ached - even breathing hurt. His eyelids felt heavy, far too heavy to open no matter how he tried. What the hell? He tried to lift his arm, to bring his hand to his face but it didn't move on his command.
"I want who did this." Chris' stern voice was in the room but further off. Now what the hell was Chris doin' in here? Oh shit, did he sleep in and miss out on making breakfast? Chris was cranky if he didn't get a good meal first thing.
"You can trust Vin." Josiah's voice was smooth, deep and even but there was an underlying sense of worry that Buck had learned to pick up on over the years; something was bugging the Preacher.
"We got all sorts of problems without addin' anymore." Nathan was in here too? "We need a plan; we need to know what we're up against before we go ridin' in guns blazin'."
Now there was something warm on his hand, he could feel it surrounding his fingers and palm, it felt nice. The soft smell of ginger and chestnuts assaulted his senses - damn, that was Ezra's smell! The Mopuro was right there, must be holdin' his hand and leanin' close. Buck's heart swelled with hope as he steeled his nerves, come on Big Dog, he growled to himself, open your damn eyes.
Ezra for the most part ignored the discussion going on behind him, sure he'd heard it but he knew the other men were just anxious, tired of sitting around waiting. He didn't like it anymore then they did but with one false move endangering JD's well-being he had to stay put. Besides, he had enough to worry about here. For once it was near impossible to remain expressionless; he stared helplessly at the still form on the bed. Buck wasn't opening his eyes yet. It worried Nathan though the healer did a good job of keeping himself calm but Ezra could smell it. There was a good chance Buck might not pull through this. It was a side shot, right above his hip. Every man in the West knew a gut shot was the worst and hardest to survive.
The half breed watched Buck's face, just holding that large hand gently clasped between his own hands. He didn't know much about medicine like Nathan nor did he feel he had a good relationship with God like Josiah did - so all he could do was sit and stare, willing Buck to open his eyes. The helpless feeling that assaulted him was unwelcome and most unkind.
"Come on, Buck." he whispered softly, enough that the injured man could hear him yet not loud enough to interrupt the others.
Buck heard soft words whispered, straining to hear more. A great rush of air surrounded him as he felt suddenly plummeted over the edge. He was falling, falling hard and fast toward the ground. Oh God, he was going to hit it! His face screwed up as it had done numerous times from the pain and his struggling efforts. He was fighting to hold on which was apparent to everyone in the room. He was a fighter that's for sure, but would it be enough to overcome this?
Now he was getting angry. Buck could hear his Mopuro and he so very badly wanted to answer him but he couldn't move his mouth. He swore in his head, willing his muscles to move, fighting the unseen spectre that had him pinned and mute. Concentrating made him tired but he fought, thrashed and swore until finally his body jerked on the bed. His eyes popped open as the word he'd been trying to yell suddenly left his lips in a strangled cry.
The four men in the room jumped as Buck cried out loudly, thrashing on the bed. His eyes were wide open now, a sweat had broken out along his forehead and he was panting for his breath - but he was awake. For a long moment Buck couldn't see anything but light, deliria swept over him. What was going on? He couldn't see, couldn't move, where was everybody else?
The word pulled him back to reality. Buck flopped back against his pillow, his eyes lidded heavily but they slowly started to focus. A form was next to him, leaned close and while he couldn't make it out yet he knew it was Ezra, he knew that from the sweet scent alone. A different blur was at the end of the bed, judging by the shape that had to be Nathan. He was in his bed then? He dug through his memory, trying to figure out what happened. This couldn't be good.
"Buck, can you hear me?" the blur he figured was Nathan spoke, confirming his suspicions. Buck just blinked, letting his eyes focus a little more - trying to wet his lips though his mouth was bone dry.
"Buck, you alright?" That was Chris, he couldn't see his blur but he knew that voice anywhere.
"Where's JD?" Buck asked suddenly, realizing he heard every voice but the kid's. He was having a hard time remembering what happened or why he was in bed at all for that matter. Why the hell did his side hurt so badly? Finally he was focused enough to see the concerned look on Nathan's face and the worry dancing across Ezra's eyebrows. "Oh," he groaned softly, frowning himself. "Shit. 'm hurt, ain't I?" There was no other reason for this situation.
"Easy now, easy Buck." Nathan moved closer to the head of the bed, trying to ease the transition. "You been hit bad, been out of it for a while."
"Can't remember..." he felt tired, hell he was tired before this, couldn't a man just get some rest around here? "Gotta get up..."
"You gotta stay put." Nathan's voice was stern. "You got lots of healin' to do."
Buck shook his head, crying out softly in his throat with his attempts to sit up. "Gotta ... f..find Ezra."
"Mule, I'm right here." Ezra said softly, unable to help his frown. The man was delirious.
"He's missin'!" Buck coughed, still trying to sit up. He had to get out of this bed and get out there before it was too late.
Suddenly two hands were on his shoulders, pinning him to the bed, gripping tightly. "Buck, Ah'm right here." Ezra held Buck down gently, squeezing to assure the other man. "Ah'm not missing. Ah'm right here."
"Oh." Buck saw the Mopuro now, smiling sloppily. "...Missed you."
"He's a little off from the laudanum I had to give him." Nathan explained, seeing the worried looks increasing on his friend's face. "His body needed the rest."
Ezra glanced back down at those swimming blue eyes, giving Buck a soft smile. "Don't worry, Ah'm here."
"You hurt?" now Buck looked worried, frowning. What had happened? He remembered feeling scared, but not about the situation - not his own. He'd been scared for someone else. Was it Ezra? How did he get hurt? If he was hurt, was someone else hurt? Where was JD?
"Ah'm not hurt." Ezra closed his mouth tightly to stop the exasperated cry that threatened to come out. Buck was laying here injured beyond possible repair and thought to ask about his own well-being? Why was this man so generous?
"JD..?" Buck tried to sit up again, getting frustrated with the way Nathan held his legs down. "Lemme up, where's.." Goddamn his mind was spinning on him. Was this a dream?
"He's not here, they took him Buck." Chris filled in the blanks. "Do you remember walkin' with the kid? Someone took a shot at him."
"He's shot?!" Buck cried out in distress now, successfully sitting up despite Ezra and Nathan's hands on him. Damnit, JD was hurt? What the hell was he doing in bed? They had to go kill the bastard that hurt JD!
"No sir, you are the one who is shot." Ezra's voice was cool as he pushed the taller man back to the mattress. "Do you not recall foolishly stepping in front of a bullet?"
He didn't recall that. Suddenly he couldn't recall much of anything. He'd taken a bullet? Taken it for JD? Well if the kid wasn't shot where the hell was he? Why wasn't he here teasin' Buck about being bed ridden? It worried him, gnawing at the back of his mind. "..'m sorry, Ez."
"Sorry? Whatever for?" Ezra was taken aback.
"I said I'd take care of him but..." he trailed off, swallowing hard. But what? No one had told him anything about JD. Oh God, what if the boy was dead already and buried? "We didn't hear 'em comin'." Buck gripped Ezra's sleeve, pleading as he stared into the Mopuro's eyes. "Ez, I didn't protect him."
"Mr. Wilmington," Ezra wrenched his sleeve free, shaking his head. "You really are a big, oafish fool on occasion." Disbelief and anger laced the Southerner's words. Wet, sharp green eyes glared down at the injured man on the bed. Of all the stupid things, Ezra swallowed hard, trying to control his emotions. He wanted to grab Buck in a large hug and squeeze him until the strength of his own body flowed into the other man's but he also wanted to slap him across the face. How could he feel both these things at once? Why was Buck such a stubborn Mule?! He'd never meant to imply Buck should risk his life for someone else. "You..." his words trailed off as his fists balled in anger. "You almost," he wet his lips, fighting back those certain few emotions he tried so hard to never display. "If that bullet struck higher..."
Josiah stepped forward now, resting his hands on Ezra's shoulders. He gave the Mopuro a reassuring squeeze to calm him down, smiling softly at Buck. "I believe you scared our Mopuro friend, Brother Buck. We thought we'd lost you."
Buck stared at Ezra, feeling guilty, tired and sore. JD was missin' and it was all his fault, after Ezra had trusted him too. He had to get up and find the kid, he knew that much. What's worse he got Ezra all upset. He could see the water gathering in those pretty green eyes threatening to spill over but the Mopuro refused to allow it to do so. Hell, he didn't want to make the other man this worried. Boy, he could stick his foot right in it sometimes.
There was warmth around his hand again; Ezra kept his gaze to the side on the wall as he fumbled to control himself but he gripped Buck's hand tight. Stupid Mule, how dare he make him so emotional. Buck smiled weakly, squeezing that hand back as best he could, he really wanted to hug Ezra and comfort him but he just couldn't find the strength to sit up.
"Vin's on the trail, once we hear from him, we're on this." Chris grimaced hard. Damn but he hated sitting around!
"..s'he hurt?" Buck swallowed hard, fighting to clear his head.
"There was some blood but it wasn't a bullet wound." Ezra sighed looking at the window with his ears flat. "We don't know why they didn't attempt a second shot after they'd hit you. They just took him." he trailed off a moment. "Ah can still smell him, he's still alive."
It was like a weight had been lifted off his chest, Buck exhaled shakily, letting his gaze round on Chris. "Why we ..w-waitin'?"
"We're waiting on Vin, you're waiting on nothing. You're not going." Chris wasn't ready for this battle. He was still reeling, thankful his oldest friend had woken up, but it was only half the battle. Buck needed to heal, to fight infection and fever now. The man was definitely roostered on that laudanum, but it wouldn't last. There was still a good chance he couldn't shake this off. Sometimes bullet wounds took a few days to finish a man. He could seem normal, on the mend and all of the sudden it just took him.
"..hell I ain't." Buck growled, feeling his anger mount. How could they expect him to just lay here while JD had been kidnapped? There's no way in hell, even if it killed him.
"Mule," it was Ezra's calm voice that stopped him. The Mopuro smiled gently, petting a soothing hand through his hair. "Ah don't believe you realize how close to death you were."
"Or how serious this still is. You been hit in the side, Buck. If you don't mend properly we'll be diggin' your grave." Nathan gave him a stern look. "You gotta do everythin' I say if you want to heal up right."
"We have to wait," Josiah gestured to the window. "Vin says there's a Mopuro tracker involved. If we go out there, they'll smell us coming before we even leave the Ranch. We can't risk it."
"What?" Buck paled a little more. If it was just men they had to go against it'd be easier, a Mopuro added a whole new angle to the problem. What would a Mopuro want to kidnap another Mopuro for? He wished he'd asked a bit more about the creatures, maybe then he wouldn't feel so damn lost.
"Mr. Tanner is one of the most primal Mopuro Ah have ever seen," Ezra kept his grip tight on Buck's hand.
"He'll find those men and we'll get JD back. If anyone can do it, it's Vin." Josiah smiled reassuringly at Buck and Ezra, noting their hopeful looks. They trusted him; they believed him when he spoke. Josiah placed great faith in Vin, he just wasn't sure he had as much faith in man at the moment. If those men got scared they might hurt JD just to be rid of him. What's worse, they might catch Vin too. At that thought a small smile graced the Preacher's face, catch Vin? Not in this life time.
Nathan frowned deeply to himself before he even realized he was emoting. Quickly, he steeled his nerves and focused on the task at hand. Buck had awoken, talked fine though in pain and seemed on the mend. The healer knew better. The injured man's body was still in a state of shock, bodies could be funny that way so he expected the worst was yet to come. Once that shock left Buck's system, his body would be trying to handle everything at once; it was going to take a lot out of him, maybe all he had to give. Torso shots were always a hard gauge.
There was something else, something he didn't want to mention in front of Ezra. The Mopuro was still coming off his own shocks and scares, getting used to the others knowing his secret. Now he had a missing friend and a shot... and here Nathan fumbled, what was Buck to Ezra? Maybe not his lover but they certainly weren't just friends, well whatever he was, it was affecting that Mopuro badly. It almost seemed cruel not to tell him, it would give him time to prepare in case something did happen, but it just seemed wrong to take that hope away.
He'd have to tell Chris and Josiah though, and now he found himself standing in the kitchen with the two silent men. Ezra stayed by Buck's side while he slept, Vin was out looking for JD so now only the three of them were in the room. Funny, three hadn't ever felt like so small a number before.
"Give it to me straight." Chris held his jaw firm, not looking at Nathan but definitely addressing him.
The healer was thankful for Chris' perceptive nature, he wasn't sure how best to bring it up otherwise. "Buck lost a lot of blood, that's certain." he looked down at his hands as he spoke, almost cursing them for being unable to do more. "His body... I'm not sure why," now he looked up, meeting Josiah's inquisitive gaze. "I can't stop the bleeding."
Josiah's face fell but he turned to regard Chris instead, pushing his own feelings aside for the time being. Chris and Buck had been friends for a very long time; this news would affect the blonde more. At least he tried to convince himself of that and ignore the burning ache the idea of losing Buck set in his heart.
Chris showed that he was bothered by the news but the extent of how it affected him wasn't displayed clearly. Nathan and Josiah were used to this by now, Chris had an amazing poker face. "What can we expect?"
"Maybe nothing," Nathan began, giving the good news first. "His body was in shock and maybe it's just too excited and it can't calm down, when it does I might be able to stop the bleeding or it could stop on its own after he rests."
"If it doesn't?" Josiah knew the answer to this but asked anyways.
"He could bleed out in a day, a few hours maybe. If I can't get that bleeding to stop," Nathan felt his heart drop, somehow saying it out loud made it worse, made it seem like much more of a possibility then just thinking it in his head. "If he don't stop bleedin', he ain't gonna make it."
<-- Chapter 16
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