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
Chris Larabee sat on the porch of his ranch house, enjoying the quiet of the morning and a thick, hot cup of black coffee. The morning air was still cool, the frost from the evening glinted on the ground in the rays of the still rising sun. It was perfect out here, the view, the stillness, the woods and the nearby mountain ranges; a man couldn't ask for more in this life. It had taken awhile to get the money for this place; the start had been slow too; though if it just fell into his lap and he didn't have to work for it, he doubted he'd enjoy it as much. He and Buck had spent a long time scouting out the perfect land for their ranch, building the house, barns and stables all by hand, picking out the perfect horses to breed and getting a few head of cattle to fatten up on the side.
They wanted their life to be good, business to be profitable but also they didn't want to get into a position where they had to hire many others to help them out. Though both men enjoyed going into the bigger towns from time to time, they also preferred to live away from the ruckus and element towns seemed to invite. That is why the area where their ranch now sat was perfect. The closest thing to civilization to the ranch was a trading post a few good miles away. It sold basic essentials, some tools and had a counter that served as a bar with the worst whiskey Chris had the misfortune of ever tasting, but it'd do in a pinch. Aside from that, a few other houses or cabins were scattered about in a hundred mile radius but not much. Their closest neighbors happened to be one ex-preacher now a woodsman, Josiah Sanchez and the Doctor Nathan Jackson. The two men had a rather good sized house where Nathan had a small practice, helping anyone who was injured that happened by. Both men also spent a good deal of their time on Chris and Buck's Ranch, helping with the horses and cattle.
It was a good life and they had all worked very hard for it. Chris couldn't think of any place he'd rather be then here in the rugged wilderness, enjoying his work with his good friends.
A noise stirred from the house behind him, growing louder by the second until he could clearly make out Buck's voice. "What do you know about werewolves?"
An answered voice, deep and melodic indicated that Josiah had already arrived to help with work for the day. "Werewolves? There are a few different legends that I've heard, different coming from the Indian tribes and white man, of course."
The two men exited the house, coming out onto the porch with their own cups of coffee. Josiah nodded to Chris, taking his place in the big wicker rocking chair that he built himself while Buck bounced at his heels.
"Here we go again." Chris muttered, glancing out of the corner of his eye at Josiah. "Don't let him rope you into this nonsense."
Josiah sat back, blinking slowly in disguised amusement. "Nonsense?"
"He thinks he saw something yesterday, but I'm not convinced he didn't smack that hard skull of his into something." Chris took a sip of his coffee, enjoying how the liquid warmed him up. "Now he won't let up about it. It's best not to encourage him."
"I know what I saw." Buck licked the coffee from his moustache.
"You saw a werewolf?" Josiah leaned forward. "Where did you see it?"
"He didn't see no werewolf." Chris muttered.
"I don't think it was a werewolf," Buck finally took a seat on the railing, though his leg jiggled excitedly. He had barely slept last night, excited and eagerly curious about his possible discovery. "At least I hope it wasn't a werewolf, I don't think he had a very good impression of me when we parted ways."
Josiah turned to Chris, hoping to be filled in by the less excited of the two.
"Yesterday in town Buck knocked a man over," Chris began. "His hat fell off and he acted a little strange about it, Buck seems to think so anyways. I say he was just pissed that he was knocked down into the dirt."
"The ears," Buck scoffed, leaning forward slightly. "You're leaving out the part about his ears on purpose. Josiah, I didn't notice it at the time but I got to thinkin' on it some. He didn't have no ears!"
"A war tragedy?" Josiah was about as convinced as Chris it seemed.
"Oh no," Chris grinned. "He could hear alright."
Josiah sat digesting the information, furrowing his brows before turning to Buck. "What does this have to do with werewolves, son?"
"That's the best part." Chris interjected, leaning back smugly. "Tell him Buck. Tell him your theory."
"You won't be laughin' when you find out how right I am," Buck murmured, making a show of leaning back to drink more coffee and contemplate his next words. "Josiah, I think that the man had different ears, not like we humans have. I think he had ears nestled atop his head in those fine, kinda chestnuty locks of his."
"Chestnuty?" Josiah raised an eyebrow at Chris.
"Looked a little reddish to me." the blonde countered.
Buck chose to ignore their banter. "I figure he acted strange about his hat being knocked off because he didn't want us to see his ears."
"Were his ears also chestnuty?" Josiah smiled widely.
Chris held up his hand to silence Buck's forthcoming reply and turned to the older man. "The way I figure it, Josiah, is Buck was embarrassed that he knocked into the man. He told me he was going to sweep the next pretty thing that crossed his path off its feet and well I just figure he reckoned that pretty little thing to be a woman, not a man."
"Ah," Josiah nodded sagely. "So he creates an elaborate fantasy in his mind."
"To disguise the fact that he found that man so pretty." Chris finished. Now both men looked up at Buck, smiling knowingly at the currently flustered man.
"Horse's ass!" Buck interjected, getting to his feet and slamming his coffee cup down. "You both know I have no problem admitting that a man is handsome. I'm secure enough in my manhood and well, maybe you aren't. I'll admit, he was a fine looking man and I never said he wasn't and I never tried to hide the fact that he was. Hell Chris, I'da told you that if I was thinkin' it and you both know it. I'm rather taken in by pretty things and gender don't matter much where that's concerned to me, a man can be just as fine lookin' as a lady. Now in your twisted little vision here," Buck paced the porch, using his hands to gesture. "It wouldn't make any kind of sense for me to pretend or imagine that I saw a Mopuro."
Josiah's smile fell suddenly. "What? A Mopuro?"
"That's right," Buck leaned back against the porch railing. "It was a Mopuro, I'm sure of it."
"In town?" Josiah's expression was now concerned.
"Town?" Chris put his coffee down. "You don't believe him, do you?"
Josiah blinked now, seeming to remember where he was. "I don't think if Mopuro did exist they would be anywhere near a town, Brother Buck." his voice was softer now, the jesting tone missing.
The men grew silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Buck pouted, crossing his arms like a little boy who had just been scolded. Josiah tried to hide the troubled expression on his face, his cheek twitched slightly from the action.
"What do you know about Mopuro, anyways?" Chris scratched his cheek thoughtlessly, and then ran his fingers over his chin more thoroughly. Shoot, he'd have to shave later.
"I know what stories I've heard and I've heard a lot from all different sources." Buck looked thoughtful. "They look the same as you and me, though instead of human ears they have furry, animal like ears atop their heads. Sometimes the ears are pointy and sometimes they are rounded, there's supposedly different types."
"They have tails, don't they?" Chris asked no one in particular. "That man didn't seem to have a tail."
"Maybe he hid it?" Buck shrugged. "I didn't see his real ears but I know I didn't see human ears either, you can laugh if you want but I know what I saw."
"Were his eyes intense?" Josiah looked down at his mug, idly fingering a chip in the ceramic handle. "Did they seem cat or wolf like?"
Buck nodded, thinking back to the encounter. "That's a good question, I'm not sure about that but they were green, a real pretty green that was kind of pale and creamy."
"And chestnuty?" Chris almost snorked in his coffee, laughing at his own joke.
"You know about Mopuro? What else can you tell me?" Buck inched closer, looking at the Preacher expectantly.
Josiah winced, as if figuring he may have said too much but couldn't really take it back now. "This is all folklore and legend remember. Mopuro are apparently an old race, a mix of man and animal, though more man like in appearance. Some Indian tribes believe in Mopuro whole heartedly, and it is said they are tribal like the Indians. They don't much like man and tend to avoid him, so I think you wouldn't see one in town," Josiah gave his friend a sympathetic look. "If they were real, that is."
"Tribal, huh?" Buck stroked his moustache thoughtfully, ignoring the parts of the conversation that pointed to it being a myth. "What else, I mean, what else do they look like?"
"Legend says they have fangs, their teeth are normal like a man but their fangs are more pronounced. I think they have retractable claws like a cat would."
"Morning boys." a voice called from around the corner of the house. The tall, dark healer appeared a few moments later, leading his horse toward them. "I'm not late, am I?"
"You're right on time; it's nice to have someone else sane to talk to." Chris stood up, finishing the remainder of his coffee in one gulp. "What do you say we ride out and check on the mare, Nathan?"
"Sounds good, Chris. I figured you might wanna do that first. You treat them pregnant horses almost as good as a pregnant lady."
Chris gave him a nod, turning to the other two. "There's some parts that need mendin' on the east fence, can I trust you two to stop with the fairy tales and get them patched up before lunch?"
"Of course." Josiah raised his cup.
"Weren't fairy tales." Buck mumbled, sinking slightly at the look his friend gave him. "The fences will be patched, don't you worry."
"Good, we'll see you back here for some grub later." Chris strode to the end of the porch, his spurs clanging in a gentle rhythm. "Oh," he glanced back, looking slightly concerned. "Try not to do anything chestnuty while you’re out there."
Josiah hid a big grin behind his cup, watching the tall blonde walk off the porch. Buck wrinkled his nose and shook his head. Chris didn't take much stock in fairy tales or legends but there had to be some truth behind every myth, right? How else would the legend get started? If somethin' was plumb made up people wouldn't repeat the stories now would they? He glanced out of the corner of his eye at the big Preacher. Now Josiah here, he seemed to know a little more than he was letting on and ol' Buck had a notion to get that information out of him, one way or another.
It had been a week since Ezra left Four Corners; he had been to two towns since. Well, he scoffed to himself, one town and a shack filled with the most loutish assemble of men he had the misfortune of ever laying his eyes upon. Needless to say, he absconded rather quickly from the vicinity. The gambler was in a slump and he knew it. Fact of the matter was, he had enough money to last awhile so there was no pressing or dire need to get to a poker table with urgency. Now he was just wandering, no purpose and no intent and that thought made him shudder inwardly. How is it that Ezra Standish, gentleman and cosmopolitan was reduced to wandering aimlessly through the country side? Perhaps he should have listened to JD and followed him back to the camp for awhile, just for a change of pace?
Keeping a steady gait, his horse plodded onward toward his next destination. This was a small trading post he'd heard that had a bar and a few beds for let. Certainly not anything he was used to as far as class or standards went, but he'd been traveling a long time now and he was tired. Some whiskey, perhaps a few pages out of his favorite book and he could sleep for a week he felt.
He groaned slightly to himself, taking his hand from the pommel of his saddle and flexing his fingers. Why had he bothered to wander so deep into the woods? He paused to sniff the air, wondering who was around. Maybe young Mr. Dunne had been following him? For not the first time he cursed his half blood, he could smell better than humans by a fair piece but he knew his sense of smell could not match JD's by comparison.
Life was unfair at most times. Now, he had been blessed with the skills of being good with a gun and a fair hand at a game of cards but it was a lonely life and being a half breed he didn't really feel that he belonged to one side or the other. He wasn't sure that even if he were normal by either standard he'd fit in.
He shifted in the saddle, delicately sniffing once more. The air was changing now; he was coming up on the trading post. The scent of horses and men slowly permeated his nostrils, he had to smile with relief, within an hour or two, he should be settled in a nice bed, much warmer than he was now - for he hated the cold and he could see his breath in the air.
"A little while longer, my good sir." he spoke to himself, noting that his accent was a bit thicker and slower than usual. Lord, he must really be tired.
An hour and a half later Ezra rode up to the lodge like building, noticing it was a fair piece bigger than he imagined. To the right sat a barn and livery, he could smell the horses inside and noticed there were also some horses at the hitching post. That did not bode well, with any small amount of hope there'd be at least one bed left for him. He could ride on and make a camp but the idea of the hard ground had his stiff body protesting with aches as it were. Well, he better check inside first, no use getting the horse settled in if there were no room for him. He rode the few feet to the hitching post and dismounted gracefully, looping the reins loosely to the post.
Habit died hard and Ezra was a man of class. He could not, even in his tired state, allow himself to enter any establishment, no matter how questionable, covered in trail dust. Reaching into his saddle bag for the small brush to dust himself off, his eyes trailed to the door which had opened. He heard boots on the porch, a loud clearing of throat and the shifting of leather. On instinct he sniffed the air, leather, beer, a cigar; another sniff had his eyes narrowing in confusion. Something smelt familiar, he knew this scent.
Buck took in a lungful of fresh air before swallowing another sip of his beer. That lodge could sure get rather smelly with so many men inside it. He ducked out to fill his lungs with mountain air and step away from the poker game before he lost any more money. Damn that Josiah was having all the luck this evening. Taking a drag from the cigar, he noted movement by the horses. Another horse had joined theirs and he could see boots on the other side as the dismounted rider fussed with something in his saddle bags. He didn't recognize the horse, though the post got a fair amount of strangers riding through.
"Evenin'." he decided to be friendly. "Long ride?"
"Longer than I care to remember." Ezra answered, frowning to himself. So it was the Mule! What are the chances he'd run into that man again? Of all the luck. He swallowed and kept himself busy, there was no need to panic now, the Mule hadn't seen his ears, he was sure of that. All he had to do was act natural, get a bed and get some rest.
Buck froze in place a moment at the sound of the voice. A thick Southern drawl? That had to be a coincidence, there were a lot of Southern boys in the West now, and it couldn't be the same man.
"Lookin' to stay? You're in luck then, there's still a bed or two left." he attempted to stand on his tip toes and look over the horse, desperate to get a glimpse of the rider now.
"Lord be praised," Ezra answered dryly, hoping the Mule would go back inside and leave him be. "I suppose I can be setting up in the livery without incident then?"
"Oh," Buck mock stretched and ambled slowly to the edge of the porch, craning his neck trying to see. "I don't reckon you'll have much problem with that unless you got a circus trailin' you that I don't know about."
"I didn't see any other riders." he answered honestly, having finished dusting himself off, he placed the brush in his bag once more. "Thank you for the information."
"Don't mention it." Buck poured himself down the few steps, trying to be casual about it but if anyone were looking on, his intentions would be highly obvious.
He could delay no longer and he could smell the Mule getting closer to him. His voice held a hint of suspicion so Ezra knew the Mule must be on to him. A simple greeting would suffice; they did not know each other after all so there was no need to spend time in conversation. With a sigh, he stepped out from behind his horse, watching Buck stop dead in his tracks and straighten up, plastering an innocent look on his face. A second later it seemed to dawn on him. Buck's eyes widened and his jaw dropped open; a breath later he snapped it closed soundlessly, straightening up and walking stiffly back up the porch before disappearing inside without a word.
Ezra narrowed his eyes in disbelief, looking after his retreating figure a moment. "What an odd Mule." he whispered, shaking his head before leading his horse toward to livery.
Buck's heart hammered wildly in his chest as he stumbled back into the trading post. He glanced over his shoulder toward the door, backing toward his friends in his excitement. It was him! The Mopuro, here! He wanted to shout for them to come to the window and look, though Chris had gotten tired of hearing about the whole ordeal a few days ago and forbade him to talk about it anymore; didn't mean he had to stop thinking about it though.
"You alright, Brother?" Josiah looked up from his hand of cards in time to see Buck trip over a chair. He danced a moment, stumbled and caught himself.
"No more whiskey for you," Chris dropped three cards onto the table. "I'm not trying to haul your long, gangly ass back home again."
"He's here!" Buck hissed sharply, fumbling to sit in a chair. "Of all the luck, he rides up to the Post a night we come down for a game!"
"Who?" Nathan accepted the two cards Josiah dealt him. "You look like you seen a ghost, Buck. You're white as a sheet."
"I don't know, he looks a little chestnuty to me." Chris grinned, enjoying his abuse of the word Buck had foolishly slipped into conversation the other day. Buck had to frown, sure he was forbade to talk about the Mopuro but Chris could talk about chestnuty all he wanted.
"That's who I mean, it's him!"
The door pushed open across the room, quieting the men at the table. Buck fidgeted and busied himself picking up the discarded cards as if they were his own hand, avoiding eye contact. Chris sat up a little straighter, recognizing the gambler instantly.
Ezra could feel all the eyes on him without looking up and that had nothing to do with his animal instinct. The few at the bar were looking, naturally as any man in the West would, to know who exactly was entering the room they occupied. The others at the table however, were staring in wonder except for the Mule who was trying very hard to look preoccupied.
"May I inquire as to who is the owner of this fine establishment?" he hooked his thumb casually on his gun belt, feeling the weariness settle in his bones.
"Need a bed for the night, stranger?" An older man waved from behind the bar. He was older than most in the room but definitely tough, he'd have to be to own his own business here in the middle of nowhere.
"I am in need of a bed and some vitals if you have anything hot." Ezra crossed the room, keeping one eye on Buck as he did so. "I have no design to be any trouble, my good sir, I've been riding a long way and I'm rather over taxed."
"Pull up a seat," the man shuffled to a pot on the fire. "Beef stew alright with you, stranger?"
"Wonderful, some whiskey too please, if you have any."
Buck dared to peek now, seeing those green eyes watching him. He started slightly, pulling his hat brim down to break the eye contact. Shoot, he was caught.
"Is that your chestnut, son?" Josiah spoke softly; the others at the bar had resumed their loud banter though he knew if the man at the bar were a Mopuro, he would be able to hear them anyways.
"That's him." Buck cleared his throat.
"He is a fine looking man." Josiah smiled at Chris, seeing where the blonde got that train of thought. The gambler was of good height and what seemed to be firm build but it was hard to tell with his clothing. Well kept, tailored clothing, clean tended hands... and his face, well Josiah only caught a glimpse but it was a face he knew Buck would find appealing.
"Don't stare." Buck coughed out, shuffling the cards in his hands.
Chris scoffed, shooting his friend an incredulous look. "Yeah, you've done a real good job of that so far. He knows you're looking at him, I can tell."
Ezra pushed off the bar and strode over to the table; best to get this out of the way now then maybe he could settle in for the evening with no more interruptions. "Well, well," he smiled slyly, nodding his head at Chris. "We meet again, sir. How are you and the Mule this fine evening?"
"Mule?" Buck pouted and sat up straighter, setting his cards on the table.
"Just fine, yourself?" Chris leaned back in his chair, eyeing the other man easily.
"I'm just capital," Ezra answered, picking at an imaginary string on his jacket sleeve. "What a small world we live in to bump into one another like this, though," he looked down at Buck, pouting his lower lip out as he spoke to the man. "Not literally bumping into one another this time."
"Yeah," Buck drew the word out, finally looking up at Ezra. He grinned cheekily, trying to pour on the charm once more. "Sorry about that."
"Nonsense, the past is irreversible; we can put the incident behind us." Ezra tipped his hat. "Gentlemen." he nodded to the others, then eyed Buck giving him a separate hat tip. "Mule." with that he walked back to the bar, satisfied with the exchange.
Nathan laughed outright, flashing his friend a rather wide grin. "Mule, huh? He got you down, Buck. That's the fellow you ran over the other day?"
"Didja look, didja see..?" Buck ignored their grins, pointing to his ears, not wanting to say it out loud.
"Hell no, I'm not going to look.." Chris dug a cheroot from his jacket pocket. "I toldja to drop that, Buck."
Buck ignored Chris too, looking to Josiah for support. "Josiah, did you see?"
Josiah gave him a sympathetic smile and shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing out of the ordinary there, Brother. Seems like an average man to me."
"Aww hell." Buck threw his cards down and pushed away from the table in frustration. "You guys wouldn't know your heads from your own ass sometimes!"
Chris scoffed. "I don't know about you, but I've never tried to sit on my head before."
"Can't say that I have either." Josiah looked back at his cards. He was sure of it, there was something different about that gambler but he didn't want Buck to know. Best to just let it drop, sooner or later, Buck would forget about it and move on to something else.
"Now I've seen Buck try to sit on his head, you get a bottle in him and..." Chris trailed off; smirking at the look Buck was giving him.
"Fine, you guys wanna act that way and pretend, I don't care. It don't bother me none. I still know what I saw and I still say you're a bunch of horse's asses. I'm going outside." Buck gestured widely with his hands and turned; in a few strides his long legs had him across the room and out the door.
Ezra finished his conversation and dealings with the owner and eyed the table surreptitiously, the Mule was gone but the others remained. Oh well, far be it for him to keep his eye on that giant every second of the evening. He gathered his whiskey and bowl of stew, settling in an arm chair by the fire; time to warm up. He wished desperately for a blanket to snuggle in but would probably refrain from doing so in current company. There were some things a gentleman did not put on display, after all.
Ezra jolted slightly awake, his eyes going wide as his surroundings came back to him. He was in the Trading Post, still sitting by the fire though it had died down considerably. He could smell there were less people in the room now though his heart still hammered in his chest. How had he fallen asleep? Was he sleeping deeply or had he merely dozed? Lord, he was letting his guard down far too often. He shifted, trying to stretch the kinks out of his body while sniffing the air in an unobvious manner. The Mule was still here, so were his friends, in fact... he looked up finally the short distance to the chair across from him. Buck sat there, staring directly at him, a puzzled look on his face.
Ezra started, jolting slightly in his chair as his hand rushed to his chest. "Good Lord, you startled me." This was beginning to happen far too often.
"You been sleepin' awhile, guess you were pretty tired." Buck spoke softly, his eyes flitting up to steal a glance of the black gambler's hat that was perched neatly in place. Damn that hat!
On instinct, Ezra threw his hand upward, sighing in relief feeling his hat brim. It hadn't fallen off, thank God. He had to get away from this Mule and fast, suspicion laced his blood and narrowed his eyes.
"Lost all your money, have we?" he cleared his throat and rose to his feet, wincing at the kink that seemed to form in his lower back. He must not have been sleeping very well for he still felt terribly drained and tired. Perhaps he was even beginning to be under the weather? He was usually far more alert and careful than this, yet while he suspected Buck, he didn't exactly feel threatened by him either.
Buck shifted anxiously in the chair, trying very, very hard to sit still. He had waited two hours for this, Two hours just sitting here, staring, getting laughed at and teased by his friends but it was about to pay off. Now, he could have just yanked the man's hat off and taken a look but he figured if he did that he'd be leaving with a chest full of lead. You didn't make any sudden move on a man in the West who wore a gun, no matter how soundly you thought he was sleeping. Now that the gambler stood, the pay off was about to be big and the giddiness that coursed through him was barely contained.
"Have a good night." he whispered teasingly, trying to hide his grin behind his moustache.
Ezra turned abruptly, eyeing him in a suspicious manner. Whatever did he mean by that? Why was he sitting over here by himself, just watching him sleep? Now, it's quite reasonable to fathom that the Mule was simply warming himself by the fire as well, though a man like that usually did not let the cold bother him. "You're rather unusual, sir." he muttered, working his leg to get the stiffness out of it. He gave Buck a stiff, two fingered salute and turned to walk toward the stairs.
Now, the moment was now! Buck faked a stretch, suddenly throwing his long legs out in front of him. His action had his legs directly in Ezra's path and before the rather agile man could react, it was far too late. His feet tangled with Buck's and he felt himself falling before he could stop it.
Time seemed to slow for Buck. No, shit! That's not what he meant to have happen! He tried to scramble to his feet, tried to catch the falling man but he wasn't fast enough. He was only trying to jostle the man, hoping that in his off balanced state the force of stumbling would knock his hat off once more. Instead, he seemed to have tripped the man completely.
Ezra fell forward hard, his legs still entwined with the Mule's. The floor rushed up to meet him as he caught his weight on his wrist. A bark of a protest left his lips as the pain surged through him but that was simply incomparable to the pain that hit him next. The toe of his boot nestled firmly between Buck's limbs, his ankle twisted in a horrid, vicious manner and another groan of protest left his lips when he felt his muscles twist and pop. Then suddenly he was simply on the floor, laying face down in shock as his wrist and ankle throbbed in a wicked tempo together.
Chris watched from the table, he had seen Buck throw his leg out to trip the man but he seriously doubted this is what he had in mind. He threw his hand out and gently touched Nathan's shoulder, nodding his head to the scene at the fire place. Nathan jumped up quickly, knocking his chair over as he hurried to the fallen man. Josiah and Chris exchanged grim, bemused looks. What had Buck done now?
"Hold on, now." Nathan knelt next to Ezra, resting a hand on his lower back. "Don't try to move, you may have injured yourself somethin' fierce."
Buck retracted his legs, throwing a look back to Josiah and Chris; he ducked his head and frowned, sulking like a kicked dog. Oh, he was going to hear it for this one.
With a hard swallow, Ezra attempted to address the man that came to his aid. "Are you a Doctor, sir?"
"I ain't no doctor but I have a lot of experience healin' sick folks." Nathan eyed him. "Does anything hurt?"
"I landed rather hard on my wrist and I do believe my ankle is bent in a most unnatural manner." he retorted, turning slightly to look at Buck. He glared hard at the man. "You sir, are the most oafish, bumbling, inelegant Mule I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. Will you not be satisfied until you've broken me entirely?"
"I'm real sorry!" Buck swallowed, and he was. That's not how he planned or envisioned that scenario in his head at all. "I didn't mean to."
Nathan helped Ezra roll slightly and was working on removing the man's boot. "I'm gonna check your ankle first, try not to move and keep that wrist real still."
Chris stood by this time and walked over to the others, puffing another cheroot thoughtfully. "Buck," And Buck knew he was in the dog house now. "You get his gear and saddle his horse up. Pay for his meal and the bed he was gonna use."
Buck frowned. "What? Why?" Chris gave him a sturdy gaze and Buck jumped to his feet, hurrying to do as he was told.
"Seems like my friend has done it again, Mr...?" Chris fished for a name.
"Standish. Ezra Standish." Ezra grimaced, clenching his jaw as his boot popped off. Damn, if that didn't hurt! He sat up slightly, leaning on his good hand, cradling his wrist close to his body. "Are you attempting to run me off to forgo an incident, Mr..?" Now Ezra fished.
"Larabee. It's Chris, and no, no one's runnin you off. You're hardly in the shape to ride and that's Buck's fault. I figure he at least owes you a meal by now. Nathan is a good Doctor, he'll fix you up."
"And the need to saddle my horse?" Ezra gripped the bear pelt that he sat upon as the Doctor turned and wiggled his ankle. A fine sweat broke out upon his forehead from the pain.
"That looks pretty bad," Chris nodded to Ezra's ankle which had already started to swell. "I don't think you'll be in much condition to be riding any time soon; I figure you'll come back to the ranch with us. We can put you up for a few days and Nathan can keep an eye on you."
"It's sprained, that's for sure." Nathan frowned. "He may have tore it up pretty good inside, it's gonna swell up real nasty and bruise. Don't move it, let me see that wrist now."
"And shall I pay you for the honor?" Ezra flashed his gaze warily to Chris's hard stare.
"Oh don't you worry about room and board or meals. You're welcome to stay as long as it takes to heal up and ol' Buck the Mule is going to be working extra hard to pay off anything resembling debt in your name."
"Much obliged." Ezra gritted his teeth as his wrist was bent back and forth.
"The wrist ain't too bad, I'd use it sparingly but it should be back to normal in a day or two. This ankle though," he stood up, frowning at Chris. "We need to get him to a bed; he shouldn't be walkin on this for a week or more."
"A week? Nonsense, I'm perfectly fine." Ezra huffed out, suddenly feeling helpless. Laid up in bed for a week? Unheard of! Still, if it were a feather bed and there was a nice blanket or a roaring fire involved...
"Josiah, Nathan? Can you help Mr. Standish to his horse? I'm going to go find Buck." Chris nodded at the two men, turning on his heel before heading for the door. If he knew Buck, and he did, he'd find him sulking in the livery. He hadn't had enough whiskey to deal with this, not by a long shot.
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