(Old West)

by Sophia Moon

Written for: Helen
Pairing: if you really use your imagination (and really want to read slash) Ezra/Nathan, but the main character of this little fic is Nettie.
Rating: totally safe
Warning: angst, with a happy end.

The moment Nettie Wells stumbled and fell, she knew that time had finally crept in on her. She could have fooled herself that the accident happened because she was in deep thought about coming Christmas, that it could have happened to anyone, and it would have worked if she could get up. Which she couldn't. The pain was sharp as a knife, but being the woman she was, that was hardly a problem. No, she simply could not get up. Somewhere, somehow her mind and her body had gotten on a different trail.

And now she couldn't get on her feet again.

Even when she called for Casey, she realized her niece was in Bitter Creek to visit cousin Louisa, a girl about Casey's age. Well, at least there hadn't been a witness to Nettie's tumble. But it also meant there was no way of knowing when someone would ride past the homestead. And time really didn't get any slower when you are on the ground with a truly nasty pain.

It didn't got any warmer either. In fact, she got so cold that the shivers almost hurt her bones as much as whatever was the matter with her. She couldn't believe the small whimpers that came from her own mouth, and yet she almost stopped caring she could be this vulnerable.

She was in pain, she was cold: everything else was as unimportant as yesterday's broken dish.

So she lay there, steps away from her own front porch, no longer caring about not being able to simply correct a simple misstep, and by far not ready to even contemplate if this was her time. She wasn't a woman of dramatic gestures, and dying so close to Christmas, so close to home, simply wasn't a Nettie Wells thing to do.

No matter how much the seconds took their time, all of a sudden it was dark. The pain wasn't as bad anymore, but she wasn't quite sure if that was a good sign. Pain wasn't nice, but it meant something. It talked about a day's good and hard work, about babies that weren't to be, about a kettle of boiling water. Now it only whispered while it should be screaming, like she should be screaming on top of her lungs. Because once someone heard her, she would not be ignored. But to be heard, she had to make as much noise as possible.

She should make noise. She should move.

She thought she did both, and still the porch wasn't any closer and the night was as quiet as anything.

She had been awake every moment since she fell, no doubt about that, still the hand that touched her shoulder startled her. "Casey?"

"Just your local provider of all entertainment as long as it has something to do with gambling, dear madam."

A day before she would have told him he used too many words, now she just felt tired.

Ezra's voice became more businesslike. "Nathan, tell me what you need to do your job and I'll get it for you."

Nettie wasn't as relieved as she thought she would be when the pain hit her with storm like force, as soon as both men carried her inside her house. There was this immeasurable short moment of warmth and almost comfort, then everything just happened. There was pain, but the amount did vary so much, that she had nothing to hold on to. There were large, patient hands, feeling carefully for broken bones, and when they found what they where looking for, she hated them, even though right in the middle of the worst agony she knew those hands belonged to the best healer Four Corners could ever hope to have.

Then, very unexpected, there was the smell of coffee and a voice asking her how she was doing. She turned her head slightly to see the gambler enjoying what she assumed was his breakfast. Before she could ask anything about the animals, Ezra assured her that Nathan had been very good in ordering him around to make sure miss Nettie would wake up with her livestock in excellent health.

"I tripped and I couldn't get up." Nettie suddenly didn't know what else to say.

"Sooner or later it happens to all of us, in one way or another." Ezra smiled briefly. "Would you care for a drink of water?"

Nettie felt strangely passive and accepting of the assistance she was offered. She didn't like that feeling, although the water did her much good. She wasn't awake long enough to decide whether she was hungry or not, because she fell asleep again even before she could ask Nathan, who just stepped inside, about what exactly had been the matter with her leg.

During the rest of what seemed to be a full day, she slipped in and out of a strange mixture of very real talks and dreams that better not be true. But she wasn't a moment alone, as if Nathan and Ezra knew without her telling them that for the first time in her life being alone was the one thing she could not bear.

By the time she was fully awake, and as hungry as any healthy homesteader, Nathan probably had told her half a dozen time about how she had dislocated her hipbone and broken her right leg, but that he thought she was be able to walk again if she took the time to properly heal.

"You are good with your hands, Nathan Jackson, but still I don't like the idea of not being able to get around for weeks."

"We were lucky to have found you in time, miss Nettie. You were so cold, we though we could lose you, right before Christmas," Nathan said.

"Nah, I couldn't do that, too much work still to be done and all." Nettie thought she sounded her tough old self, and she liked that very much.

"Talking about too much work: Casey is on her way, so be prepared for the end of much of the quietness in your home," Ezra informed her. "And just in case you are slightly worried about Christmas dinner, let me say I had never realized there were that many ladies in and around our lovely little town with culinary aspirations."

Nettie looked from one man to the other. She wasn't one bit surprised about Nathan. He simply couldn't see a suffering soul without at least trying to do something about it. But what almost shocked her, was the realization that she wasn't all that much surprised by Ezra's behavior. Or even by the easygoing almost friendship between the two men. Nathan ordered and Ezra made sure it happened. Ezra made a smart remark and Nathan smiled. It made her wonder what had happened.

Perhaps there was no more to it, than that for them too time had passed, and things had changed. No big, dramatic changes, not even important enough for the Clarion, but changes none the less. If it was impossible to do anything about your age, the color of your skin or the way your mama taught you right from wrong, you could perhaps best accept life without making too much of a fuss about it.

"I guess I owe you gentlemen a big thank you." There was so much more she could have said, but it would never be enough anyway. Even if Nathan and Ezra hastened to say they were only sorry they had not found her sooner.

Then Casey stormed inside, all arms and legs and worried eyes and wide smile.

"I guess we can safely conclude that we have done our good deed for Christmas and we have been amply rewarded," Ezra remarked.

Nathan nodded in agreement, before he took Ezra's arm and steered him out of the room.


If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that Sophia would love to hear from you.


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