"I said take it easy." The voice definitely sounded perturbed. "Trying to ride out of town is the exact opposite of taking it easy."
Chris Larabee didn't respond to the lecture; just grit his teeth as the needle pierced his flesh again. It was the second time in less than twenty-four hours the doctor had stitched the wound on his thigh closed, and the second time was no more pleasant than the first time had been.
There were some things in life that never got easier no matter how many times one had to suffer through them. Being sewn up was one of those things. Feeling the sickening sensation of catgut running through his skin again, Chris clenched his hands into fists and cursed the saddle tramp who'd stuck him, the horse he'd rode in on, and the bloody hog sticker the man had carried.
"Rest," the doctor continued. "I don't know why you people find it so hard to understand the word. Bad enough when I have to patch one of you up after those weekend brawls without having to turn around and do the same thing the next day."
Again Chris said nothing. Honestly, he was afraid if he opened his mouth to reply to any of the doctor's statements he would give voice to his not inconsiderable discomfort. Already certain that the man was getting too much enjoyment out of this episode, Chris was determined to remain silent.
A slight altercation in the saloon had earned Chris his latest war wound. Last night the doctor had cleaned it, sewn it up, and then given instructions for Chris to take it easy. Chris had done just that, for a few hours anyway. Earlier today he'd decided that he was fit enough to ride, and had been ready to head on down the trail. He'd quickly found out he was no near as hale and hardy as he'd thought. By the time he'd gathered his things and got to the livery, he'd popped about half of the dozen stitches Doc had put in the night before. Now here he was, getting sewn up again, and getting chewed out for having to get sewn up again.
"Rest," the doctor said again as he tied off the last stitch. "And I mean that, young man. I don't want to see you in here again tomorrow."
"Yeah," Chris muttered trying, and failing, to ignore the burning in his leg. He wasn't in the mood for conversation, particularly this conversation.
"Uhhh, how long should he take it easy?" The question came from Buck Wilmington.
Chris had met up with Buck during a brawl at a saloon in Texas about six months ago. Buck had pulled his tail out of the fire that night, and they'd been riding together ever since.
The obviously irritated older man turned from his patient. Of the two young men in his office, the dark haired one definitely seemed to be paying more attention to him. "That leg has to have time to heal. He needs at least a couple of days to make sure those stitches hold. I'd prefer he stay put for three or four days anyway."
Chris sighed heavily as he sat up. Being told he needed to stay here another three or four days wasn't what he had wanted to hear. There was no reason they had to leave town, he was just getting antsy and ready to move on. This wasn't the most exciting place they had ever stopped over in.
The doctor whirled back around. "That's a minimum. Unless you want to fight off an infection. That could mean fever, cauterization, or amputation at the worst. So rest."
Chris nodded curtly not believing things would get nearly that dire but willing to agree to what the man said to keep from having to make another trip to his office.
The doctor heaved a sigh of his own and walked over to a cabinet in the corner of the room. As soon as his back was turned Chris glanced over at Buck.
Buck smirked and moved up alongside Chris. "Real lovable fella, ain't he?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "Next time I might just tell you to let me bleed out."
"Do you have a room?" the doctor asked coming back to them.
"Yes, sir," Buck answered flashing the man a grin. Chris remained silent and stoic, more than willing to let Buck try to smooth things over with the crotchety old man.
The doctor nodded his approval and passed a cup over to Chris. "Drink that."
Chris warily eyed the glass and its contents. "What is it?"
"Something that will hopefully keep you off that leg tonight and make you do what you're supposed to be doing."
In other words, it was something that was going to knock him out. Chris tried to hand the glass back. "I don't want it."
The doctor crossed his arms and leveled him with a look. "Young man, this isn't about what you want, but what you need. Sleep won't come easy as much as that leg's painin' you now, and don't you dare sit there and tell me it ain't. Sleep is what you need."
"I don't need it." Chris' voice had become a low growl.
The doctor said nothing, simply continued to stare. Having enough of the stare down, Chris slammed the glass on the exam table. "I'm goin' back to the room," he snapped before jumping off the table.
It was at that moment Chris' leg decided to betray him. As soon as his foot hit the floor his knee buckled. Both the doctor and Buck made a grab for him and between the two of them, Chris managed to stay upright. Shaking off the hands that were trying to help, Chris steadied himself against the exam table, his teeth clenched against the sudden spike of pain in his thigh.
"I'm sure that was helpful," the doctor said with no small amount of sarcasm in his voice. Picking up the glass, he again offered it to Chris. "Care to rethink your earlier statement?"
Hard green eyes glared at the doctor, and the older man glared right back.
"Just take it, Chris."
Chris sent his glare in Buck's direction, not that it would do any good. Buck was one of the few people who seemed completely unaffected by the Larabee look. "I don't want it," he said his voice low.
"Why? It ain't gonna impress nobody for you to hurt all night."
Chris sighed. It wasn't about him impressing anyone; he just didn't like taking things that put him to sleep like that. He didn't like being in a sleep so deep he couldn't come out of it if he needed to.
"Come on, Chris, I'll make the time go by faster anyway."
"Fine," Chris growled. It was doubtful he'd get out of here unless he did take it, and his leg was hurting. He took the glass from the doctor and threw it back, not quite concealing a shudder. Whatever the stuff was, it tasted terrible.
"Get him to bed," the doctor told Buck. Something that almost resembled a smile was on the man's face. "And don't take offense when I say I hope I don't see either one of you anytime soon."
Buck laughed as he slid his arm around Chris. "Yes, sir." He turned to the blond, "Ready, stud?"
"Can walk you know," Chris groused, not keen on Buck helping him out, but not feeling up to making the trek alone either.
"Sure you can. Thanks for the help, Doc."
The doctor made a noncommittal grunt as they left.
Once they were outside, Chris shook off Buck's support. Buck didn't try to maintain his grip but stayed close having the feeling Chris would need him again before they got to their room. As it turned out Chris did need the help, although he did all right until they got to the stairs in the hotel. At that point, Chris stopped and just stared at the steps separating him from his bed. Moving in behind him, Buck lightly gripped his friend's elbow and kept him steady for the short climb.
Arriving in their room, Chris wasted no time getting to the bed. Whatever the doctor had given him, it worked fast and sleep was quickly coming for him. He barely managed to get his boots off – Buck had to help with that too – before he felt his eyes drifting shut. Snapping his eyes open Chris shook his head trying to clear it of the rapidly approaching cobwebs.
"What?" he asked noticing the smirk on Buck's face as he started to fumble with the buttons on his shirt.
"Leg still hurtin'?"
Chris scowled. "Shut up, Buck." No, his leg wasn't hurting and maybe taking whatever Doc had given him had been a good idea, but Buck didn't have to rub it in.
Buck laughed and helped Chris pull his shirt the rest of the way off. "Get some sleep, Chris."
Chris lay back on the bed, not sure he was capable of anything else at the moment. "Buck," he mumbled.
"Don't havta stay with me."
The last thing Chris remembered was another laugh coming from his friend. "Good, cause I wasn't plannin' to."
A/N: Going to do my best to keep this one short and lighthearted.