"Joshwa? Awe you dead? Joshwa?"
Waking up with a headache, a shoulder ache and an everything ache really made a body want to go back to sleep. Heyes grunted but didn't open his eyes.
"Joshwa, it's Cora. Want somethin' t'drink?" the childish voice asked.
Heyes was torn out of his dozing when lukewarm water splashed over his face. Spluttering and muttering an oath, he propped himself up on one elbow and used the other hand to wipe himself off, careful not to hit his forehead. Cora Sterling was on the edge of the bed next to him, glass tilted in her hand, frozen in the act of trying to give someone a drink.
"Sowwy," the four year old said, lower lip preparing to wobble.
Heyes managed a smile. "No problem, Cora, I like to wash up first thing in the morning. You just helped me skip a step."
Cora giggled and put the glass down on the side dresser. "I'm glad your awake, Joshwa. Momma's been real worried 'bout you an' Thaddus."
Kid. Heyes turned to his good side, minding his shoulder and the bruises on his torso, and sure enough Kid was still lying there as pale as a frog's belly. His shivering had lessened but it was still present and the breathing was still too rapid. It was the blood loss. Serious blood loss did that; Heyes had seen it often enough as an outlaw. It had been some time since he'd seen his cousin this bad off, though. I bet this is how Kid felt in the cave, Heyes thought. Absolutely helpless.
"Cora, can you go find your mommy or Mrs. Johnson? Either one will work."
The little girl nodded and left the room. Heyes planned on getting answers from whichever woman came in. A doctor had been here and he wanted to know what he'd said.
"Kid, you need to wake up." Heyes put the back of his hand on his partner's forehead; his skin was still too cool. "C'mon partner, you missed getting a bath from a pretty girl," Heyes teased, seeing if that approach would work. He didn't mention the girl was all of four years old and had emptied a glass of water on him. "Wake up and I'll see you get one, too."
Curry didn't even twitch, reaffirming he was bad off. Shaking that thought from his head, Hannibal pulled the covers up around his cousin's shoulders. Keeping him warm was all that Heyes knew to do but judging from Kid's wan, still face it wasn't doing much good.
"Kid, if you die, I will kill you." Not the most eloquent threat Hannibal Heyes had ever thought of. His brain was probably as bruised as the rest of him. "You need to wake up." His voice faltered when he heard someone approaching. "Sara?"
"Yes, it's me." Sara came in with her skirts swishing. Her dress was black linen and cotton with a tailored bodice and a wide skirt that had a small bustle on the back. It was clean and neat and probably second hand but the grieving woman made it look beautiful. "How you feelin'?"
"Like I'd like to know what the doctor said about my friend," Heyes replied charmingly, managing a smile even with all the bruises and cuts on his face.
"I'll tell you after you tell me how you're really feelin'," she retorted, going over to Heyes and scrutinizing him.
"Like He-heck, ma'am, and I'll wager that's a sight better than Thaddeus feels."
"You've both been through so much it isn't fair," Sara said. "I like the Bennetts, I do, but they came after the trouble was already started an' they shoulda took the sheep on their own an' not hired nobody, just let the ranchers burn down their house. The people ain't comin' back but the house coulda been rebuilt."
"A bit late for that," Heyes said ruefully. "Though I do have some intentions on voicing my…feelings…to our employers."
"I wouldn't blame you at all." Sara bit her lower lip and hesitated before she moved over to Thaddeus and gently smoothed his dark blonde hair from his forehead.
"Sara, you're starting to make me worry," Heyes said. "You haven't said what the doctor said."
"You've got a concussion an' hurt ribs. You lost a sight of blood but your fever ain't back an' the doc thought your shoulder looked pretty good considerin' how many times it's been re-sewn. You need to rest."
Heyes hit her with the most earnest expression his dark brown eyes could give her. "Sara, please just tell me what he said about Thaddeus."
"There ain't much we can do, Joshua," she finally said.