Even though just briefly mentioned here in my story, a nod to Kristin for naming Ezra's horse.
"Mistah Larabee, Ah must insist that you order Mistah Tanner's germ-infested self to the confines of his room – or his charming wagon," Ezra Standish added facetiously. "You realize the longer he persists in coughing his way through the saloon the more likely one, or worse, all of us will suffer the malady?"
The gambler and lawman had a point, and he knew that his peacekeeping brethren had solid backbones, save for maybe the former buffalo and bounty hunter Vin Tanner, whose spine resembled more the curvature of the letter 'S'. All evidence of any backbones was scarce on this particular day. No one was willing to challenge Chris Larabee, most especially not when their leader was in such a nasty mood. After imbibing a late afternoon's worth of rotgut, said mood was certain not to improve anytime soon. Anyone with any sense would leave it alone; it was obvious that Chris was not going to make Vin steer clear of the saloon or anywhere else the man chose to go. That knowledge, however, had made the gambler none the wiser. What Ezra couldn't understand was why Vin insisted on staying there, spreading his germs, putting the entirety of the lawmen of Four Corners in jeopardy of getting sick. The soft-spoken Texan had proved a thoughtful, caring individual, but Ezra looked on his actions of the last twenty-four hours as anything but considerate. He would go so far as to say that Tanner's actions were reckless and not having the best interests of Four Corners at heart, let alone the well-being of the gentleman gambler from the south.
"Ah recognize that you share a special rapport with Mistah Tanner, but really, is it worth all of us coming down with his cold?" A look around the saloon confirmed that it wasn't just his compatriots who thought him a little shy of a full deck on this particular day.
"Ezra, ya think maybe you could take a hint?" Buck Wilmington asked. Being Chris' oldest friend, he had the most experience reading the former gunslinger; advice coming from the tall, dark and handsome ladies' man on the topic of Chris Larabee was generally heeded. "Chris ain't gonna make Vin leave."
"Maybe you should leave if you're so worried about gettin' sick," J.D. Dunne offered.
Ezra shot J.D. a dumbfounded glare. "Yes, by all means, Ah should leave to avoid Mistah Tanner's plague. That is infinitely equitable."
J.D. scrunched up his face. "Huh?"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Fair. Fair, J.D., as in is it more fair for me to leave than for Vin?"
"Your choice," Chris suggested laconically. The calm tone belied the steely glare. Vin Tanner's hacking, wet cough provided background noise as Ezra answered, "Mah choice?" He shook his head and then looked up as two strangers entered the saloon. "Mah livelihood dictates that Ah remain here." He looked to Josiah Sanchez and silently asked for his support with a pleading tilt of the head Chris' way, but it was clear from the shrug of the former preacher's shoulder that he would get no assistance from that quarter, Ezra's argument not compelling enough to risk the ire of one Chris Larabee. "Fine," Ezra groused, keeping the rest of his thoughts to himself, save for, "Ah believe our fine healer would be appalled by this behavior on all your parts," followed by, "as mah soliloquy has fallen on deaf ears." Per usual was left unsaid. He stood, tidied his waistcoat and the ruffles of his shirtsleeves, greeted the two new arrivals and soon had them ensconced in a game at his regular table.
Ezra played poker from about five o'clock until midnight when he took his weekly turn at the overnight shift. The con man disliked these hours of patrol beyond all others. He could easily estimate that he made nearly half of the money he pocketed playing poker in the wee hours of the morning when his opponents, after a long, hard day of work or travel and a long evening of cards and drink, would make mistakes in the playing of said cards and the loosening of the tells. No, Ezra was no fan of this shift, especially on a drizzly, chilly night at the end of autumn. He cleared his throat as he and Chaucer headed out for the swing south of town.
Five days later, Nathan Jackson returned to town. He'd been gone for two weeks, attending a seminar as the guest of a physician who had passed through Four Corners months ago and had been impressed with the skills of the Negro healer. Nathan didn't have the money to go to school to become a real doctor, and Dr. MacMillan couldn't afford to subsidize Jackson's schooling, either. But the kind physician had footed the bill for Nathan to attend the seminar in St. Louis in the hopes that there might be someone in attendance who would be impressed enough with Nathan that they might be inclined to pay his way to a degree. If nothing else, it gave the healer the opportunity to meet 'colleagues', make contacts and learn about new treatments and techniques in the medical field.
As Nathan stepped off the stage he was met by five of his partners in the protection of their town, all projecting worry that had the black man frowning. He looked around for their seventh and knew immediately where the trouble lay.
"Where is he?"
"In his room," Chris answered as he watched Nathan accept his medical bag from the driver. Josiah took the overnight bag and headed toward Nathan's room with it as the healer headed the other way in the direction of Ezra's rented accomodations above the saloon.
"What'd he do?" Nathan asked as he made his way determinedly up the steps and through the batwing doors.
"Hold on," Vin said as he grabbed Nathan's shoulder to slow him down. "He didn't do nothin'."
Nathan turned to listen to Vin, hearing the slight sound of congestion, the remnants of a cold, and then looked from the tracker to Chris, and then Buck to J.D. He realized now that it wasn't just worry he saw on the faces of his friends. Guilt, too, was playing a part in this drama.
"Is someone going to explain what's goin' on?"
"Ezra's sick. He has a really," Chris started as he looked first to Vin and then quickly to Buck and J.D. When he looked back to Nathan, he dropped his head and re-emphasized as he looked back up, "really bad cold."
"A bad cold?" Nathan shook his head, looked to Vin, who quickly averted his eyes, and said, "You know there ain't much to be done for a cold. It's a virus, I don't … ." He stopped talking as Inez Rescillos stormed down the steps, speaking loudly and agitatedly in Spanish. She stopped as she saw all of the men hovering in a circle. If looks could kill, then Nathan was pretty certain that all five of them would be dead. He figured that was pretty unfair to him considering he hadn't been around for these last fourteen days.
"Thank god!" she exclaimed as she saw Nathan standing at the foot of the staircase. She moved down to the second to last step, where she still had to look up into Nathan's eyes, and said, "He is coughing so hard … I believe it may have turned to lung fever."
"Damn." Nathan looked to his friends. "How long's he been sick?"
"Don't know for sure," Buck answered. "Three, four … " he continued, but Vin interrupted.
"Mebbe five days," the quiet Texan said. He slipped his thumb through his gun belt, slouched against the bar, and looked away once more. Nathan saw the look of guilt before the tracker turned his head. He then took another look at each of his friends.
"All right. I'm headin' up to see Ezra, but when I get back, someone's gonna tell me what you've been avoidin' tellin' me." He stormed up the stairs. Those who remained downstairs heard the pounding of the boots down the hallway, the click of the doorknob, the whooshing sound of the door opening, the coughing as it reverberated down the echoing effect of the hall and staircase, drowning out the reverse-whoosh of the return swing, and finally, the click as the door closed. Josiah Sanchez walked in to find four silent friends and one livid Mexican barkeep.
"What happened?" he asked with a worried tone. Inez barely stifled what sounded like a growl as she pushed her way through to the kitchen, shoving Buck particularly hard, but shooting a withering look Vin's way.
"Ow!" the handsome gunman whined.
"Well?" Josiah insisted.
Buck saw that no one was offering up an answer to the big man's question. He rubbed his sore arm and answered, "Nathan's with him." Josiah could tell there was more to it.
J.D.'s face said everything about how bad it was, save for the reason. The young man enlightened the oldest member of their group. "And Inez thinks he has lung fever."
"Damn." Josiah shook his head and went directly for the stairs that would lead to Ezra's room. Chris grabbed his arm and stopped him from taking the first step up.
"Don't. Let Nathan have some time with him. He'll call if he needs us," the leader of the seven said.
"How the hell'd we let this happen?" Buck asked.
"We didn't listen … " J.D. started. He was quickly cut off by Chris.
"We know what we did," he said angrily as he looked toward Vin. The look they gave each other was so different from the time they had first met. That time, their eyes spoke of determination, a silent vow to save a man falsely accused. It was a look that said they would do the right thing, no matter the cost. The costs of what they'd done this time, or rather, failed to do, were not yet fully known. They knew for sure that it didn't feel right. "God damn it," Chris said as he turned and stormed out of the saloon. Buck headed toward the exit to follow his friend, but Vin spoke and stopped the progress of the locally renowned ladies' man.
"I'll go after 'im. This is my fault."
"Vin, we all ignored Ezra when he was complainin'," J.D. said sympathetically.
"Look, kid," Vin started. "It was a long time ago, near a year now, but it weren't so long ago that we all shoulda fergot how quickly he got sick and how sick he got. He was tryin' to remind us without havin' ta come out and say 'dontcha remember I almost died last time?' It weren't complainin', J.D. It was beggin'. Beggin' us ta think o' him instead of us." The tracker and the young man from the east shared a steady glance, big brown eyes and brilliant blue, both working hard to fend off tears. Vin shook his head, looked down and away from the misery J.D.'s eyes mirrored back to him, and made his way to follow Chris.
Nathan watched as Ezra coughed. One of his pillows had fallen to the floor, but the gambler didn't notice as he leaned forward, his right arm holding himself up as his left pressed against his chest. It was painful just watching; the healer could imagine how much the coughing must hurt. Nathan placed his bag at the foot of the bed, grabbed a cloth from the fresh pile on Ezra's dresser, and then quickly positioned himself behind his sick friend, forcing him more upright. Ezra moaned at the jostling. Nathan rubbed his back, a large repeating circle, and then slapped him firmly. The next cough had Ezra expectorate a nasty, mucousy glob. He caught it in his mouth, though he gagged as he did so. "No, no, spit it out," Nathan ordered and, through a groan of embarrassment, the fastidious gambler did as he was told, the healer ready to capture it in the rag. Ezra took a tentative breath and, with no immediate need to cough more, sagged helplessly against the strong former slave's shoulder. "Just relax a minute," Nathan encouraged. Ezra was more than willing to oblige. He breathed carefully, not wanting to start coughing again, even though it was something that he had been doing, seemingly non-stop, for at least the last day. He'd always been a firm believer in practice, in perfecting anything he worked at, but this wasn't something he desired to acquire any expertise in. He felt ready to welcome the healer back to town, but before he had the first word out, Nathan warned, "No talking. Just rest for a few minutes. Ain't no hurry, we ain't goin' anywhere." He could feel Ezra settle more heavily against him. He resisted the urge to take the sick man's wrist in his hand to check his pulse or to put his hand on the obviously fevered southerner's damp brow; it was more important that his patient … his friend … sit quietly and rest from this most recent exertion. Based on the reactions from his friends downstairs, Ezra being this sick had a story behind it, because Nathan knew that their resident card sharp was fully aware of the risks he took with colds and anything else that might affect his lungs. After a few minutes, Ezra finally did speak.
"Nathan," he started, his voice deeper than normal from the pounding his throat had been taking from all that coughing, "mah apologies for welcomin' you home in such a manner." He breathed heavily by the end, forcing another shorter, less severe series of coughs. "I trust your trip was fruitful?"
"My trip was good, and we can talk about it later. I'd rather you not waste your breath right now, Ezra." The gambler gave the healer an irritated shake of the head since the hoped-for effect of his glare would be lost considering the eyes he was missing on the back of his head. Nathan slipped out from behind the sick man and repositioned the missing pillow. "I'm going to check you over and I'm going to ask you some yes or no questions." Nathan added to the verbal warning physically with a stern look in his eyes and shaking his index finger when he said, "I only want to hear yes or no from you until I'm done. Understand?"
Ezra, if he had been feeling at all well, would have challenged Nathan treating him like a child, but he knew he was at risk of heading into territory that, from his three week illness last year, the memory of which remained painfully vivid, he wished to avoid repeating at all costs. Rather, he would abide by the rules of a man who by rights should be running his own hospital rather than a clinic that, on its best day, despite its surprising cleanliness in this dusty, backwater town, smelled of hay and horse manure and, on its worst, leaked with every heavy rainfall and was nearly impossible to keep warm with the thin walls and cracks between the pieces of wood that made up those walls. It was, after all, a room that was originally part of the livery, something not originally intended to be used by any creatures other than horses, cattle and other livestock in need of temporary shelter in town. For that, Ezra was glad that he got sick while Nathan was out of town and therefore able to make his comfortable feather bed his sickbed this time.
So, in answer, Ezra said, "Yes."
Nathan nodded and smiled at his patient. "That must have hurt," he said. Ezra stuck his tongue out. "I'll check that in a minute. I'm glad you decided to listen and stay quiet." The healer sat on the edge of the bed. "Now, the fellas said you've been sick for three, four or maybe five days."
"Vin … " Ezra started, but Nathan cut him off.
"Yes or no, Ezra. And yeah, Vin's the one who said five days. You been sick for five days?" he asked as he felt for a pulse on the card sharp's wrist.
"Did ya take patrol in the rain?" Ezra looked at his friend and shook his head and sighed, which brought on a cough. "I ain't sayin' that's the only reason you're sick. I could hear when Vin talked earlier that he's gettin' over something. Now, did ya ride out in the rain?" he queried again as he felt Ezra's forehead.
"Was that before or after ya started feeling poorly?" Ezra's expressive green eyes told the healer again that a simple yes or no answer would not suffice. "Let's see … I can re-phrase that. You could tell that you had caught Vin's cold before you went out on patrol?" Nathan leaned over and placed his ear to the ailing man's chest.
Nathan listened in momentary silence to Ezra's lungs before offering the next query. "But you didn't feel poorly until after you finished patrol?"
"No. La … " Ezra tried to answer. He coughed and then finished, "Later."
"Well, that's just because you're too stubborn to recognize when you're getting sick." It was the wrong thing to say, as it required more than a yes or no answer, and there was no way that Ezra would refrain from defending himself.
"Ah take umbrage … with that … ." He had more to say, but what he'd already said brought on a round of coughing much like the one Nathan walked in on. The healer grabbed another towel, lifted Ezra forward and away from the pillow, again rubbed his back and once more smacked him with a firm but somehow gentle whack. This time Ezra had the rag ready and spit the disgusting mess out. He breathed, carefully, and sagged back into the pillow.
"That ain't yes or no, Ezra," Nathan said as he tossed the soiled rag into a bin and went to the dresser to get another pillow. He pulled Ezra forward again and set the pillow behind him. "Need ya to sit up. Layin' down ain't doin' ya no good." Nathan went back to sit at his work area. He had his head leaning in his palm, his elbow on the table. With the added bulk of the additional pillow Ezra could now sit up enough to see his friend. He looked away and then spoke one word: it was not yes or no.
Nathan turned to look at the sick gambler. "Ya got nothin' to be sorry for, Ezra. Ain't your fault."
Ezra raised his eyebrows and then snorted a laugh, which brought on a cough. He said, "Yes and no" with a devilish grin. The healer returned the smile as he turned back to his work area to put together his preferred fixative for fending off lung fever.
"Well, Ezra, I think I got a good idea about what happened; they're all actin' guilty as hell down there, especially Vin."
"Yeah, that's what I figured. You can usually talk circles around those fellas. What happened?" Nathan paused momentarily and saw Ezra start to open his mouth. "Don't answer that." The exhausted con man leaned heavier into the pillows, Nathan's examination and questions and all that coughing enough for him to concede that he really didn't feel up to answering.
"Tired," Ezra said as he closed his eyes.
"I'm not surprised, but you're lucky. You're just this side of lung fever. I think if we work hard we can get you over this without you gettin' sick like last time," Nathan finished.
"Thank you, Nathan."
"I'm sorry I wasn't here, Ezra."
"As am Ah," the southerner said. He was nearly asleep before finishing the sentence. Nathan kept preparing the tea he would be forcing down his patient for the next few days. He also would prepare a honey-based elixir to ease the pain that the coughing was causing to Ezra's throat. He would wake his friend for the first dose before he headed downstairs to give the rest of his fellow peacekeepers a piece of his mind.
"Aw, hell, Nate. I don't know why I didn't jest leave. Maybe it was b'cause he was bein' so irritatin' 'bout pointin' it out," Vin offered, a lame defense at best.
"You tellin' me none of you remembered what happened last year?" Nathan challenged.
"Now Nathan, you know how Ez can be," Buck defended. "He talks and talks and talks and all ya want to do is anything but what he wants."
"That ain't the point and you know it. Ain't nobody wants to shut that man up more than me most days, but he's still my friend. And you avoided the question. None of you recalled how sick he got?"
"To be fair, Chris had been drinking," Buck noted as he looked to his longtime friend.
"Ain't no excuse for what we did, Buck," Chris said.
"I suggested that maybe he should leave," J.D. noted helpfully.
"The saloon? You suggested that maybe Ezra should leave the saloon?" Nathan asked incredulously.
"Don't be too hard on the boy, Nate. None of us stood up for Ezra on this," Josiah added to the conversation.
"Yeah, and y'all feel guilty for it now, and rightly so," the healer countered angrily.
"How is he?" Vin asked. "Does he have lung fever?"
Nathan shook his head. "Just near, but his lungs seem to be holdin' up. I'll be spending all my time with him the next while, unless there's somethin' urgent needs my attention. He's gonna be mighty sick. He doesn't seem too fond of any of you right now. He's real disappointed in you, Vin."
"Disappointed in myself." Sure didn't live up to bein' a Tanner this time, he thought to himself. Ezra's condemnation of him hurt, but it cut deep that his actions would have so disappointed his beloved mother.
"Well, he'll get over it," Nathan assured the tracker.
"For all he's been through, for all we put him through, our brother has an amazing capacity for forgiveness," Josiah noted.
"We still shoulda listened to him," J.D. said, his guilt and sadness evident.
"Yeah, you should have," Nathan said as he rose and took the stairs back up to Ezra's room.
Three days later, the gambler dozed in his rocking chair as he heard the doorknob turn. He kept his eyes shut but offered lazily, "'s rather early for mah next dose of the witch's brew, isn't it Mistah Jackson?" The sweep of the door shutting sent a mild breeze the con man's way, as well as an aroma he recognized, pungent and somewhat unpleasant in close quarters, but somehow also welcome and comforting. "Mistah Tanner, mah apologies," Ezra said as he opened tired eyes. "What brings you to mah abode?"
"Need to talk, Ezra."
"Very well. Please," he continued as he stood, "take this seat. Ah am feelin' rather weary. Mah apologies should Ah fall asleep during our tête-à-tête," he added as he settled himself onto his featherbed. "Please do not take it personally." It was good to be able to speak several sentences at a time again, but that was about his limit before he felt out of breath. He would need to watch his breathing carefully for the next while, but he definitely, finally, felt on the mend.
"Can't sit, Ez," the tracker said as he started to pace in the confined space.
"Lord, Vin. Please. Ah do not have the stamina for this, and Ah certainly do not have the capacity right now to accommodate your guilty conscience." Big blue eyes stared back as though caught in the sights of a bounty hunter's scope. "Ah … Ah am sorry. That was rude of me. But please, sit. I truly do not have the energy to keep up with you today."
The tracker sat, looking uncomfortable in the comfortable chair. "You ain't got nothin' ta be sorry 'bout, Ez," Vin said, looking the gambler square in the eyes. "And I don't see as how you can ever fergive me for how I acted. It was mean and spiteful."
"Well, Ah know you well enough Mistah Tanner to be certain that how you acted was neither of those things." Vin looked away, blinking back what Ezra was certain were tears. "Mistah Tanner," Ezra called, but when he didn't capture the man's attention he raised his voice and said loudly, "Vin." That brought on a deep cough, another of what Nathan liked to call a 'productive' cough. Ezra was forced to spit what his cough produced into a ready towel. "Forgive me. Mistah Jackson assures me that all of this," he held the rag momentarily as evidence before tossing it in a bucket next to the bed, "is good. Ah fear Ah must introduce Nathan to a dictionary in order for our fine healer to grasp the meanin' of the word."
"Ezra." Vin looked pleadingly at his sick friend. "Damn it. You could have got so sick. Ya almost did. And I remember the last time … "
"As do Ah."
Vin shook his head. "I was so sick of hearin' you complain 'bout my cold. It shames me … I didn't leave 'cause I wanted to get back at you."
"So you meant for me to get sick?" Ezra knew it wasn't true, but the truth of the matter, no matter what it was, was clearly troubling the quiet Texan. Maybe forcing the issue would help them both over what had happened.
"No!" Vin said, voice raised in consternation. "No," he said more calmly. "I never meant for this … ." Vin stopped, looked down at his boots and then back up at Ezra. "No. I just didn't want ta have ta do what you said."
"Ah don't know what to say other than, how very twelve years old of you."
"Ez, I am so sorry." Vin continued to shake his head, clearly running through something internally that he wasn't completely confessing outwardly. "My ma … ." His voice caught and then he lowered his head, not finishing the thought.
"Vin, Ah suppose that in your head, as you think of your dear departed mother, you are five years old and seein' hurt and disappointment in her loving face, something that you would never, ever want to be the cause of. And maybe she would have been disappointed in your actions. But certainly, mah friend, the fact that you are here to make amends would prove to your mother what a fine man you are." Vin continued to look to the floor. "Vin?" Ezra's sad, quiet friend looked up. "Are you all right?" the gambler asked.
Vin stood up with the speed reminiscent of Chris Larabee's quick draw. "Jesus, Ez!" He paced the short length of the small room, found little satisfaction in the effort, remembered his friend's request from earlier, and sat once more in the rocking chair. "How can you ask that? How can ya care? You coulda died."
"Nathan says … "
"Nathan says that you dodged a damn bullet!"
"For which Ah am grateful."
"Ezra! Ain't ya mad?"
"Of course Ah am mad. How could Ah not be? Mah wishes … mah pleadings were ignored by all of mah friends. Ah recognize that much of how we associate is a well-worn, familiar path, Vin. Ah absorb the slights, Ah accept that all of you have a role to play, which is to take the opposite stance of mah own." Ezra spoke softly, and somewhat bitterly. But not angrily, his soft, lilting southern accent masking that emotion. "We all take our parts. In all melodrama, there must be a villain."
"Ez, do you really think that?" This time it was Ezra's head that was lowered.
"Ah do not want to."
"And I don't think that's what's goin' on, not anymore."
"Ah did not want to think so, either, but what happened … "
"It reminded you of how it used to be. I can see that it would, but I swear, my word as a … ." Vin stopped, but Ezra finished the thought.
"As a Tanner?" the sick man asked. Vin had confided in Ezra the conversation with Nettie about how she reminded him of his mother. It was a moment between the two men that Ezra cherished, a confidence shared that proved to the confidence man that his background had not stood in his way with these men – or at least with this man – that he had been accepted as a friend. He had wondered of late if that had simply been wishful thinking.
"Yeah. I swear to ya, Ez, it was just a bad day. Chris was in one of his moods and t'weren't no one gonna cross him that day. I was feelin' like shit and I took it out on you. That's all that it was. It don't excuse nothin'."
Little did Vin know that hearing it explained in this way eased the gambler's worry about his place within their group. The care and concern that he could sense, when he was sensible enough to notice these last few days, also told the story. For some reason, Ezra felt the need to ease Vin's pain, even if only a little, despite the pain to body and soul that his friends had caused him.
"Mistah Larabee can be a frightening force when he wants to be," Ezra conceded.
"Mebbe," Vin said in aggravated agreement. "But he should use it against the bad guys, not us."
"That may be … " Ezra yawned widely but continued, " … so, but he, of late, has had no … " another yawn, "bad guys to practice on."
"Yeah, well, he feels pretty shitty 'bout what happened, so you should 'spect a visit from him."
"Heaven forbid. If indeed, then, you really want back in mah good graces, please forestall his arrival here post-haste and Ah will be forever grateful." The short speech, peppered with yawning, robbed him of his last bit of air. A deep breath was followed by a long, painful-sounding and looking cough as Ezra pressed his hand to his abused chest.
"Not sure 'xactly what ya just said, pard," Vin said apologetically.
"He said do what ya can to keep me from bein' here," Chris Larabee translated as he entered the room stealthily, aided greatly by the loud, not-so-productive coughing coming from the man in the bed.
"Good lord!" Ezra exclaimed breathily followed by a jaw-cracking yawn.
"Go to sleep, Ezra. We'll talk when you wake up," Chris suggested mildly.
"Good," Ezra said. "Look it up," he added.
Chris looked quizzically to Vin. "Don't ask," the tracker said with a shake of his head. To Ezra, he said, "Thanks for listening."
"Mm-hmmm," the recovering man said as he lay with his eyes closed, no longer able to keep them open.
"I'm glad we talked."
"Good. Look … it … up," Ezra finished as he nodded off to sleep.
"What the hell's that all about?" Chris asked.
"Tell ya later," the Texan said as he headed to the door. He turned. "You stayin'?"
"Think I might. Need to practice my apology. Give me time to think on it," Chris explained. Shit, he thought, it was going to be just like giving a world premiere performance to an audience of one … a highly critical, opinionated audience at that.
"He's hurtin'. Not from bein' sick but from how we handled this."
"He needs to know … "
"I know." Vin nodded, smiled sadly at his sick friend and then over to his best friend and then left the room.
Chris took a seat in the comfortable rocker, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands fisted together before him. Into the quiet of the room, with the background noise of Ezra's soft snores, Chris said once more, softly but with conviction …
"I know." And so, in his head, Chris took to pen and wrote the next scene of this drama.