Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing of Magnificent 7. I'd love to borrow a couple of the guys though…pretty please?
That was the only word that came to mind when Ezra blinked his eyes open. He knew that ceiling. Somehow he had managed to end up in Nathan's clinic again. Glancing around the room, he felt a trifle surprised to be alone. Usually at least one of the others would be sitting in with him. Concerned over their absence, he pushed aside the sheet and began levering himself to a seated position.
He hissed as his side protested, and the door flew open. Ignoring his pain, he rolled to the side, trying to put some distance between himself and the newcomer.
"What in tarnation do you think you're doin'?" demanded Nathan as he hastened through the door.
Ezra did not bother to answer; he just slumped against the wall behind him. The healer hurried to his side and helped him to sit on the bed.
"Now, this time, you just stay there! I didn't spend all that time sewin' you up for you to go gallavantin' off and pull them stitches."
As the man fussed, Ezra gave him a tired smile.
"My apologies, Mr. Jackson," he said. "I felt a bit unnerved to find the room empty upon my awakening. When the door flew open, I must confess that I assumed the worst."
With a slow nod, Nathan settled down.
"Yeah, I can see where you'd have thought that," he replied. "It just happened to be some bad timin'. Chris has been here all night and I walked him to the saloon to make sure he got somethin' to eat. Vin's with him, while Buck and JD are ridin' patrol. Josiah's over at the church."
"I see," the Southerner said slowly. "If I may ask, exactly how did I end up here this time? And how did I manage to acquire this particular scratch?"
"You don't remember?" Nathan frowned. "I didn't think you'd hit your head. What's the last thing you remember?"
Ezra shrugged, careful of his side.
"I recall returning from afternoon patrol, talking with Vin for a few moments, and then going up to my room to prepare for the evening. Everything gets a bit hazy after that."
Stepping forward, Nathan placed one hand on the gambler's forehead. He felt around the chestnut hair, and bit off a curse.
"It's a small knot, but it's there. Damn, sorry about that Ezra. I just thought it was the blood loss, not a knock to the head."
"That's quite all right, Mr. Jackson," Ezra replied. "As I can make no claim to perfection, I certainly cannot complain when someone else falls short of such an unattainable goal. Perhaps though, you might jog my memory?"
Still upset with himself, Nathan shrugged.
"You came down and had supper with the rest of us before settin' up at your usual table for the night. Vin and Josiah headed out while the rest of us stayed to watch for a bit. After a few hands with some locals who have enough sense to stop before they lose all their wages, some folks came in who were stayin' at the hotel and catchin' the stage in the mornin'. Apparently don't have the same sense as our folk. They ended up bettin' a bit too much and got themselves all in a fuss about their losses."
Ezra rolled his eyes, and Nathan just grinned. Although the relationship between them had been tense and occasionally antagonistic during the first couple of years, the two men had found common ground in taking care of their friends. They simply expressed themselves in different ways. Nathan would patch up their hurts while Ezra watched their backs.
"I take it their 'fuss' grew to such a height that one felt he had to argue with his weapon?" asked the gambler.
"Not exactly," the healer answered. "They did start to get belligerent, but Chris and Buck shut that down right quick. They left, grumbling the entire time, so Chris sent JD to keep an eye on them for a bit to make sure they didn't try anythin'. Things settled down for around an hour, and then a new stranger came in. He just took a seat at the bar, and after a few minutes, we ignored him for the most part."
"Yep," snorted Nathan. "Vin came back in and the stranger confronted him."
Ezra frowned and a memory flashed across his mind.
"A stocky man? Straggly dark hair and a scar across the cheek?"
"You rememberin'?" Nathan eyed him carefully.
"Not really," replied Ezra, shaking his head. "It just came to me."
"Well," he said, "you're right about the man. That was him. Turns out he's a bounty hunter and came to town lookin' for Vin. Any way, he confronted Vin and kept him distracted while three more men tried to sneak up on him."
Biting back a chuckle, the Southerner shifted and grimaced as the movement pulled at his side. He shook his head as Nathan's eyes narrowed.
"Never mind, I moved too quickly. I believe you said they 'tried' to sneak up on Mr. Tanner?"
"Mmm, hmm," smirked the healer. "Tried bein' the word. The four of us challenged 'em, and they realized that they'd bitten off more than they could handle. Doesn't mean they didn't try. The first fellow started shootin' his mouth off and got Chris' back up. It wouldn't have come to much, but we missed one."
"Naturally," Ezra drawled out. "It would simply be too easy for us to completely have the upper hand."
"Yeah, and this fellow in the back pulled a gun. I'm not sure how he thought he was getting' out of there, but he was aimin' for Vin."
Nathan stopped talking and leaned against the window sill, giving him a grin. The gambler stared with an expressionless face for a long moment before his lips twitched.
"And apparently his aim was off by quite a bit," he finally answered.
"Nope," Nathan said, grin growing wider. "You pulled your usual stunt of getting' between one of us and a bullet – you pushed Vin out of the way. Obviously it didn't hit anything vital, but it bled a lot. Thought I'd never get you to stop losin' blood. Well, while I was working on you, the others dealt with the strangers. It would've been worse, but Josiah and JD both picked that moment to walk back in."
"A fortunate chance," smiled the gambler.
"Fortunate, nothin'. Everythin' we've been through in the past few years? I'm thinkin' we've got an entire set of angels just watchin' over us."
"Perhaps," Ezra deliberated. "I can certainly believe that a handful of our associates have earned heavenly guardians."
"Humph," huffed Nathan, disliking his friend's self-depreciating attitude.
It had taken him a long time to recognize this side of the con man. At first all he had seen was the sarcastic, cynical and cheating sides. He had assumed the man was as shallow and careless as he portrayed, and it had taken time and experience to realize that Ezra wore layers upon layers of masks. In fact, he would wager that he could count the number of people who had seen the 'real' Ezra on less than two hands.
The Southerner gave a deep yawn, covering his mouth with his hands. He pulled himself to a standing position and shot his friend a quick grin.
"My apologies, I cannot imagine why I am suddenly so tired."
"I can," the healer answered. "Get yourself back in that bed and let your body rest. It's been workin' to heal you, and you need sleep for it to do that."
"I have a much better idea," started Ezra.
"No," Nathan interrupted without looking in his friend's direction. He continued preparing a medicinal tea, ignoring the sputtered complaints coming from behind him. "You're not goin' back to your bed right now. You're goin' to stay right where you are for a couple of days. You even try movin' and I'll tie you down."
"Now, really, Mr. Jackson," Ezra protested.
When Nathan stated his name in that voice, the gambler gave up. Climbing back into the bed gingerly, he settled against the pillows. When a cup was thrust into his face, he frowned.
"I don't believe…" he started.
"I didn't ask," replied his friend.
Narrowed green eyes met amused brown. Taking the cup, Ezra tossed back the tea as quickly as he could. Shuddering dramatically at the taste, his lips twitched as Nathan let out a low laugh.
"Mr. Jackson, I do believe you are enjoying this!"
"And you wouldn't be far wrong."