(Old West)

by Enid

Ezra was brooding, it had been a wasted trip and he had traveled a long way. It had taken 4 days to get the River Falls, he had gone there to investigate a gambling establishment that was available for purchase. One look at it though and he knew it was a wasted trip, it was more of a run down shack, than the saloon in Four Corners, the owner was asking too much, and wasn't willing to negotiate. So now he was headed back to Four Corners, usually he liked being alone, but right now he could really use some company. He hated failure, especially when it wasted his time. He was not hurrying to get back, but he wasn't taking his time either, he had to admit, the mountain's were beautiful, but he wanted to be back in the saloon playing a good game of poker.

The weather was warm and the sun was hot on him, so he removed his green jacket, it was one of his favorites and he didn't want it getting sweaty. He folded it and put it in his saddle bag, then pulled his flask from his waistband and took a big swig, "Ahhhh......That's good" He said aloud, jumping a little at his own voice as it broke the silence. The only sounds were the wind through the tree's and the water running through the nearby creek. He rode for a few more hours, then he began to feel tired, it had been a long week and he still had 2 day's ride ahead of him. He had dispatched a telegram to Four Corners before he left River Falls, to let everyone know he would be back in 4 days. He decided to stop for the night, it was a good spot, he saw ample wood for a fire and the creek was still nearby, so he had access to water.

It was getting dark, so he started to gather wood for a fire, so he didn't have to do it in the dark. When he was satisfied that he had enough wood to last most of the night, he walked to the creek, to refill his canteen, as he walked he saw a few things that worried him. He saw large paw print's that were obviously a bear's tracks, plus several of the tree's had claw marks, if they were any indication, it was a very large bear, he decided he would have to be careful until he left this area. He returned to his camp, taking the bedroll off his horse and laying it out, by the fire, which was going good now. Then he got the beef stew, that he purchased at the restaurant in River Falls, so he could heat it over the fire, he really was hungry. After he ate, he sat the plate aside, leaving some of the stew for tomorrow. He then took out his deck of cards, from his vest pocket, shuffled them, then to do tricks, trying to keep his fingers nimble. Once it got too dark, he put them back away, then pulled out his flask again, he really wanted some company right now, but alas, there was no one.

He finally laid down to sleep, he had trouble though, because several times it seemed like he heard movement in the tree's, but then it would stop, he finally chalked it up to the wind and drifted off to sleep. At one point in the night he woke, the fire was almost out, so he added more wood and got it going again. That was when he heard it, it sounded like someone breathing hard, he released his derringer into his hand, but just as he turned, his hand and body were struck by a clawed paw. The Derringer flew from his hand and blood began to flow from the gashes on his hand and arm. Then another blow struck him in the side of the head and knocked him senseless, but he did not lose consciousness. The bear was on top of him then, he struggled with it, but it was too heavy, it ran it's claws down his back and he cried out in pain. Then it stepped on him, breaking several ribs, he reached with his fingers for the end of a log that was in the fire, he grabbed it, burning his hand badly, but that was the least of his worries. He swung the burning log around and struck the bear in the head, the bear swayed and took one more swipe at him, hitting him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious, then retreated back to the woods.


Ezra came to sometime later, it was still dark and the fire was still going, so it couldn't have been too long. He tried to move, but every inch of his body screamed at him in pain, his back felt like it was on fire, from the gashes, and blood was running into his eyes from the gash on his forehead. He tried to move again, but the pain was excruciating and he lost consciousness again. He came to again, this time it was light out, he could barely see, from the blood in his eyes. He tried to reach up and wipe the blood away, but his right arm and hand were cut badly, they hurt tremendously. His left arm also hurt, at the elbow, he must have hit it on something, but it wasn't broken, because he could move it.

He finally got his left arm up to his face, he wiped at his eyes with his sleeve, the shirt was ruined anyway. When he pulled his arm away, there was a lot of blood on the sleeve, but he could see now. He discovered, to his horror, that Chaucer was gone, he must have been scared off by the bear, but he usually came back. That worried him for two reasons, one was that the bear could still be around, the other was that something could have happened to Chaucer. In any case, he had lost his transportation, so if he was going to get back to Four Corners, he'd have to walk, which was going to be difficult in his current condition.

He reached for his saddlebags, groaning in pain, luckily he had taken the saddlebags off of Chaucer, or he would have nothing to work with. He pulled out one of his shirts, trying to tear it into strips for bandages. He grabbed his canteen, causing the burns on his hand to throb in pain, but he had no choice, he poured water onto one of the strips, then began to clean the wounds on his arm and hand, it hurt tremendously, but he knew they had to be cleaned. What worried him, were the gashes on his back, he really had no way to clean them. He got his hand and arm bandaged as well as he could, but blood from his forehead was running into his eyes again, so he took the cloth, he'd been using to clean his other wounds, and began to clean his forehead, flinching at the pain it caused. He had trouble getting the bleeding stopped, he had to apply pressure, which caused excruciating pain, then he took another strip of cloth and folded it several times, placing it over the wound, then wrapped another strip around his head, to keep it in place.

All this activity was causing him great pain, his ribs really hurt, he thought he could feel them grinding together. He had never been in so much pain in all his life, he still didn't know what to do about his back. He decided, the best he could do, would be to take what was left of his vest and shirt off, then pour water down his back to clean it as best he could, then wrap the strips of cloth around him, which would help his ribs as well. He couldn't do it now though, he was beginning to lose consciousness again, he lowered his head to the ground and was out again.


Several more hours passed before Ezra came back to consciousness. Each time he woke, he was more and more stiff, he needed to start moving, but the way he felt right now, it seemed impossible. He had gotten the bleeding, from his arm and forehead stopped, but his back was still bleeding and it throbbed from the gashes, some he knew were deep. He began to unbutton his vest, but between the cut's on his right hand and the burns on his left hand, it was difficult and painful. He got the vest unbuttoned and it practically fell off him, it was so badly shredded, he looked at it in shock, there was nothing left of it and what was left, was soaked with blood. That explained why he felt weak, his back had been bleeding heavily. He didn't bother with the buttons on his shirt, he just ripped it off, it came easily, there was nothing left of it either and it was soaked in blood. He didn't want to think about how badly his back was cut up, he needed to do something about the bleeding. He took his canteen and opened it, then began to pour the water down his back, it was cold, so he shivered and it hurt his cuts as it ran over them. Unfortunately not much of the water actually got into the cuts to rinse them out. He then took the rest of the strips of shirt and began to put them around him, the pain as they made contact with the cuts, was excruciating, plus they were almost soaked with blood immediately. Ezra decided to put another shirt on, then lay on his back, to see if the pressure would stop the bleeding, he knew it would hurt, but it was better than bleeding to death.

He finished wrapping the strips of cloth around him, his ribs were really hurting now too, then took the last shirt he had, out of his saddlebag, it was excruciatingly painful putting it on, but he needed the protection against the dirt. Then he laid on his back, crying out in pain, then lost consciousness again. When he woke again, it was much later, the shadow's were growing long, he had really hoped to get out of the area, but the way he felt right and the fact that it was getting late, made him decide to stay where he was. At least he still had firewood, which was good, because he was feeling cold. He sat up slowly, but a wave of dizziness and nausea, still washed over him. He put his head in his hands, carefully, until the feeling passed, then tried to get a fire going. He needed more water, but he didn't think he could walk to the creek. He knew he would have to start moving around or he would never leave this spot. So he slowly tried to stand. it took a while as dizziness kept washing over him. He finally stood, then he slowly started walking toward the creek, using the tree's for support, once to the creek, rather than bending down, which he didn't think he could do anyway, he lowered the canteen into the water, using the strap, then when it seemed full, he pulled it back out. It had gone well, the canteen was full and the trip to and from the creek wasn't as hard as he thought it would be, it gave him some confidence that he could start walking toward Four Corners, in the morning.


Back in Four Corners, no one was remotely aware of what Ezra was going through right now. Buck was having fun with one of the Saloon Girls, as usual. Vin, Chris, JD, and Josiah were playing poker, JD commented, "Gee, it sure has been strange not having Ezra here to play, even though he usually wins, it's still not right without him."

"Yea, but I bet he's enjoying his time away from town, he needed to get away for a while." Josiah said, the others nodded.

"He will be back in a day or so, then things will be normal again." Chris said. Strangely he found himself missing the gambler too, which he thought would never happen. They continued to play poker into the night, at the same time that Ezra was struggling through the pain, to try and sleep.


Ezra could not sleep, he was in too much pain, so he laid as still as possible, as movement caused more pain, especially his back and ribs. He lay close to the fire, he could not seem to get warm. He had taken the shirt off, it had blood and dirt on it, but not as much blood as he expected, so lying on his back had worked, despite the pain. He took his green jacket out of his saddlebag and put it on over his makeshift bandages, then threw the bloody shirts in the fire. He cringed as he watched his expensive shirts burn up. His blood froze as he heard the bear again, he pulled his bedroll over him and laid completely still, trying to play dead, but it was hard, he felt terror rising in him, he did not want to be mauled again, so he laid there waiting.

He must have fallen asleep laying there, because when he opened his eyes again it was light out and there was almost no sign of the bear. There were tracks and the bear had taken some pieces of cloth, that were covered with blood, so it hadn't been a dream. He thanked GOD, that the bear had left him alone, for he would have rather died, than be attacked like that again, granted, he had his guns, but if he only wounded it, then it would have been much worse. He knew how dangerous a wounded animal was, especially a bear that size, so he really hadn't considered using them, plus he didn't know where his Derringer was, it went flying from his hand, when the bear attacked and he didn't feel up to searching for it, plus he needed to get moving, he was a long way from Four Corners and it was going to take forever on foot.

He managed to get to his feet, after several waves of dizziness, once he felt steady he began walking, he had his canteen and saddlebag's. The canteen was full, but the saddlebag's only held shaving utensils, which he'd managed to use this morning, making him feel a little better, and a little bit of jerky, which was all he had left in the way of food. He could immediately tell he wasn't going to make much headway, his whole body ached and his back felt like it was on fire, he just wanted to lay back down and sleep, but he pushed himself to keep walking. He did not want to die and he knew if he didn't push himself, he would never get back to Four Corners and he would die. He walked at a steady pace for several hours, he was starting to feel very weak, but he pushed on, determined to get home, yes home, he had to admit that Four Corners was truly the first real home he ever had.

After a while he took his jacket off, leaving just the bloodied bandages covering him, because the sun beating down on him was really making him sweat. A while later he put the jacket back on, as he became chilled, he was beginning to worry that he was getting sick. He had gone without his jacket a little too long, because any exposed skin was now sunburned, especially his shoulders, at least his hat protected his head and face. He really began to feel weak suddenly, he was trying to find a shady spot to rest, but right now he was in a large, open field. There were trees, but he feared he wouldn't reach them in time, he was right, he took about ten more steps, then collapsed, making some of the cuts on his back, begin to bleed again. He was now laying unconscious, with the sun beating down on him.

By this time Chaucer was half way back to Four Corners, he had run when the bear attacked and kept running. He had been spooked badly, but he still remembered the way back to Four Corners. He had stopped once to graze on some grass and drink from the creek, then began to trot again, wanting to get someplace familiar.

Ezra was still unconscious, but he was becoming more and more ill, as time went by. The sun beating down on him all afternoon had drained him of fluids and now his face was badly sunburned to, as his hat fell of, when he collapsed. He was becoming delirious, "Mother?" He whispers, "Why can't you just leave me alone, let me live my life the way I want." He mumbled. "Mother? Are you listening?"He added, then was silent again. He regained partial consciousness a while later, it was almost dark and he was shivering badly, he knew he had a fever and his back and ribs hurt more than ever. He also realized that his bruised Elbow was throbbing, then in his half conscious state, realized he was laying on it, so he tried to shift position, but no matter how he laid there, everything hurt. He was fairly certain that the cuts on his back were infected, he almost wished he were dead, almost. It would be better than all this pain he was in.

As it got dark and colder, he wished he could get a fire going, but he didn't think he had the strength to get up and look for wood. He decided that he needed to try, between the cold air and his fever, he would be in real trouble, if he didn't get a fire going, so he slowly sat up, putting his hand to his head as a wave of dizziness washed over him. His head was throbbing now too, the gash on his forehead was not that deep and probably wouldn't even leave a scar, but it had bled heavily, as most head wounds did. He needed fresh bandages, but had nothing to use, so he would have to make due, but he feared without fresh bandages, all his wounds would become infected, and that could kill him. He managed to stand, but he was very unsteady, then staggered around, looking for wood. He actually found quite a bit, but getting it back to the spot he wanted it, was a difficult task, he finally got a decent pile of wood and got a nice hot fire going. As soon as he did, he collapsed to the ground, then moved close to the fire, slowly drifting off to sleep.

In the morning, Ezra woke and regretted it, he was really hurting now and his fever was worse, but his determination to get back to Four Corners made him get up, he ate some of his jerky, trying to save some for later, which wasn't hard, he didn't have much of an appetite, he drank from his flask, also trying to save some for later, he hoped it would help alleviate some of the pain he was in. He made sure the fire was out, then he gathered his strength, what there was of it, and stood up. He got very dizzy and almost fell down, but he forced himself to stay standing. He knew he had to get to Four Corners, no matter how much he had to push himself, so he began walking, he decided that perhaps if he rested more often, he could travel longer, but with his fever growing, he didn't know if that would work now.

A few hours later, Ezra slumped down against a tree, his exhaustion taking over, not to mention the fever growing inside him, making him weak and delirious, he kept thinking he saw his mother. He lost his touch with the world and darkness took over, he laid there for several hours, before coming to again, at which time he forced himself to stand and start walking again, he had to get home. Ezra's determination was amazing, if anyone were to witness him, they would be utterly amazed, he pressed on, despite tremendous pain, a growing fever, and incredible weakness. He was not going to give up, he was going to get home, this stupid, wasted trip was not going to be the death of him.


Back in Four Corners, the others were sitting and waiting for Ezra, he should be back at any time now, they were anxious, because he really should have been back already, but they figured he was taking his time, since he had needed to get away for a while, so they weren't worried yet, but they were going to be soon, if he didn't show up soon. Vin actually had his spy glass out, looking in the direction that Ezra would be coming from, no sign of him yet. Vin sighed, "I hope he's all right, he is usually right on time. He said, "Yeah, but he is probly just taken his time." Nathan said.

The others nodded, "If he isn't back by morning, we go lookin." Chris said, the others all nodded. Chris was very worried, but he wasn't saying so, not yet, he just had a bad feeling in his gut.


In the morning, Ezra still hadn't returned, everyone was worried now, but Chris was very worried. He rounded up the others, "Ezra's still not back, so we are going looking for him, we know he has to be somewhere between here and River Falls." Chris said, "Ok, do we all ride together, or split up?" JD asked, "I don't see any point in splittin up, there is only one place to go." Vin said "Right" JD said. "If we find something along the way that might indicate he is somewhere else, then we might split up." Chris said.

The others nodded, then they mounted up and headed out at a run, which the others weren't sure was necessary, but Chris had a very bad feeling growing in the pit of his stomach and felt that no time could be wasted.


Ezra moaned several times, then slowly opened his eyes. He knew he would not be going any farther, his body was screaming in pain and the fever within him was burning hot, he could feel that his skin was on fire and he was sweating heavily, at the same time, he couldn't stop shivering. His back was hurting tremendously, he was certain now, that the cuts on his back were infected. He tried to move, but it was no use, the pain was excruciating. He would just have to hope, the others came looking, when he didn't return and found him before he died, which he began to think would be soon, at least it felt that way. He wanted to get out from under the tree a little, fearing they would not find him there, but he couldn't move.


The others had been riding for hours, they decided to take a break and give the horses a rest. Buck approached Chris, "Why the urgency Chris? Ezra isn't that overdue yet." Buck asked.

"I know, but I have this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I just know something is wrong, I feel that time is of the essence." Chris replied. Buck nodded, he knew that gut feelings were usually right, so he now took on Chris's urgency. They took a break for about 15 minutes, then were off again. A few hours later they found Chaucer, he was just trotting up the trail. Now they knew something was wrong, Josiah grabbed Chaucer's reins and pulled him along, they had stopped long enough to check Chaucer over, but he looked fine.

"God Chris, you were right, something definitely happened to Ezra." Buck said. Chris just remounted his horse, then they were off again, they all had a bad feeling now.


Ezra was extremely delirious now, his mind was out of control and reality was no where to be found. His fevered mind was living some other life and he began to crawl from where he was, out into the field, searching for his mother, "Mother, where are you? I need you, why have you left me again?" He said aloud, in his mind, he was 9 years old again and his mother had just left him with new relatives. He began to cry, "Mother, please come back, I don't want to be here." He said, still crawling around aimlessly.

Then as his mind began to shut down again, he laid down under another tree. As he lay there, he continued to mumble incoherently, as the fever began to take over his mind completely and his back screamed at him. He was in agony now and, with the remaining part of his mind, that still functioned properly, he wished to die.


Chris and the others kept riding until it was dark, then stopped for the night. They were making good progress, as fast as they were riding. Vin had been watching for any signs of Ezra, they were following Chaucer's tracks, trying to trace them back to Ezra, hopefully.

"So what do you think happened to Ezra, Chris?" Buck asked, "I really don't know Buck, it could have been anything." Chris responded. "Well, I am sayin my prayers for him tonight, I think we all should." Josiah said. "Yea, I just hope he ain't hurt bad." Nathan said. "I hope he isn't hurt at all, but he wouldn't have let Chaucer get away otherwise." Chris said.

The others just looked at each other, silently hoping Ezra was all right.


Ezra was curled up in a ball under the tree, he was shaking badly. His dreams were that of terror, reliving things that had happened in his past, but worst of all was the attack, he relived the bears attack, over and over. Then at one point in the middle of the night, he woke with a scream, he was much more lucid than he had been before, but his fever was still bad.

He didn't know how much more of this he could take, the pain and nightmares were getting to him. He forced himself to eat more of the Jerky, then he washed it down with water, almost emptying his canteen, then drank some more whiskey, it had seemed to help some before. He wasn't sure why he was feeling a little better, he knew the cold air felt good on his hot face. He looked up at the stars peeking through the trees, they were beautiful, he hoped it wasn't the last time he would see them. He realized that his vision was blurry when the stars looked fuzzy, at first he had thought it was a thin cloud cover, but realized there were no clouds. This worried him, but he assumed it was a result of the fever. He just wanted the shaking to stop, his jaw was beginning to hurt from the shaking as his jaw clenched.

The longer he was awake, the worse he felt, so he laid back down and tried to go back to sleep, but it took a while, when he did get back to sleep, the nightmares also returned, as his fever began to intensify again. He was in a living hell right now and he felt so alone, he had felt alone most of his life, until coming to Four Corners, but he never felt this alone before, he had never wished Nathan were around, quite so much before either. Finally after several hours, his nightmares stopped and he just drifted in a silent, never-ending darkness.


Chris and the others were up and ready to go at first light. They wanted to cover as much ground as possible, they all had a feeling now, that if they didn't find Ezra soon, he would be dead, when they did find him. They continued to follow Chaucer's tracks, which of course, was not the same way Ezra went, they were about a quarter of a mile away from Ezra when they passed his position under the tree. As they passed Ezra's position, Ezra was suffering some sort of convolutions, which subsided after a few moments, but he remained unconscious. The others were moving quickly, they should reach the place Ezra was attacked, in another couple of hours, which would be late afternoon.


The convulsions Ezra had suffered for a few minutes, had caused a tremendous amount of pain in his back and ribs. He was no longer sleeping, he was unconscious. The morning had been difficult, he was awake for most of it and the pain was so bad now, he had also started to cough, sometimes the coughing came in long fits that only added to his pain. He really found himself wanting to die, rather than enduring anymore pain. So when he lost consciousness, after the convulsions, it had been a blessing, for he felt no pain then.


Several hours later, Vin brought everyone to a stop, "This is it, Ezra was attacked here." He said.

"Attacked by who or what, Vin?" Chris asked. Vin jumped down from his horse and the others dismounted as well.

"A very large bear, I would say." Vin said, pointing to the tracks on the ground.

"Oh God, this is bad, look at all this blood, here were the fire was, and here are a few small pieces of his shirt, covered with blood." JD said, eyes wide with shock and worry.

Nathan moved to where JD was, bending down. "If Ezra lost this much blood, then he must have be cut up bad, that means possible infection, with no means to clean and bandage the wounds." Nathan said, the others faces all became grim.

Vin was still looking around, he picked up Ezra's derringer from the bushes, there was some blood on it. "I found his derringer, he musta pulled it on the bear." Vin said.

"Guys, if he's not here, then we must have passed him." Buck said, they all looked angry with themselves. "Can you track him Vin?" Chris asked, Vin nodded, then started to follow Ezra's foot prints in the dirt.


Ezra was in a coma now, he did not move a muscle, his breathing was shallow, and he was burning up. He was laying on his side, the side without the broken ribs, the cuts on his back were oozing and were very red, under, the now very soiled bandages. If the others didn't find him soon, it would be too late, even if they did, it could still be too late. The high fever could be causing damage to his brain, giving him permanent brain damage. His lips were now very chapped, from the sun, lack of water, and the fever. His lower lip had a small split on it, that bled a little. Mercifully he was in the coma, it spared him from the pain, his body was experiencing.


Vin had started walking to track Ezra, but as it became apparent that Ezra had somehow made decent progress, he mounted his horse and began to move faster, the others joined him. Vin stopped at the spot where Ezra collapsed the first time.

"He either collapsed here, or just laid down, either way he must have really been struggling." Vin said.

"Lets move a little faster then, he obviously needs help." Chris said.

So they picked up the pace, they were all amazed at how much ground Ezra had covered in his condition. A short while later, they found where he had camped for the next night, there was still some burned wood and more blood. Nathan was becoming more and more worried, he did not like the things they were finding. He was jolted out of his thoughts by shouting, he looked around and saw the biggest Grizzly bear he had ever seen.

"That must be the one that attacked Ezra." Buck shouted.

It was headed directly towards them, Vin raised his rifle, took aim, and fired. The bear staggered, but kept coming, to the shock of the men, because Vin had hit it in the head. They all drew their guns and began firing, finally the bear went down. Buck walked up to it and shot it in the head at close range, "That was for Ezra." He said, then walked away.

They went back to searching for Ezra, following his trail, which was easy. They arrived under a tree, they figured he must have been trying to get out of the sun. As Vin looked around, his forehead began to crease with worry.

"What is it Vin?" Josiah asked, "It looks like Ezra was crawling around, there's no direction or pattern to it, like he was delirious or something." Vin said, this made Nathan and the others, very worried. Vin began to follow the tracks again, then he noticed a form laying motionless under a tree, he broke into a run, with the others close on his heels.

Vin reached him first, but froze in his tracks at Ezra's appearance. Ezra was very pale, despite the sunburn he had, he was sweating heavily, from fever, obviously. He had bandages on his arm, hand, and head, they could not yet see the bandages around his body. Nathan moved passed him to kneel down next to Ezra, he began to examine him, a look of great concern coming over his face.

"Is he alive?" Chris asked, "Yes, but barely, his pulse is very weak and his breathing is shallow. He is burning up with fever and I fear he's had it for several days, which is not good." Nathan said.

"A fever from what, Nathan?" JD asked, "I don't know yet, I have to examine him more." Nathan replied. The others remained quiet while Nathan worked, then they heard him gasp and say. "Oh God."

"What is it Nathan?" Buck asked, "Help me get his jacket off, oh I can't believe this." Nathan said. Buck moved to help Nathan remove the jacket. When it was off, they all gasped as they saw the disgusting looking bandages and the deep gashes on his back, which were obviously infected.

"Nathan, my god, I have never seen anything so awful." Buck said.

Nathan carefully removed the bandages, which was difficult, because they were stuck to him, then he took a bottle of alcohol and poured it over his back, the fact that he did not react, had Nathan quite worried, He got as much alcohol as he could into the gashes, he had to get them thoroughly cleaned. Once he was finished he covered Ezra's entire back with Balm, to protect his wounds, then laid a cloth over his back. He was about to wrap fresh bandages around him, when he discovered the broken ribs.

"I can't believe what Ezra has gone through, he has some broken ribs too." Nathan said.

"Is he going to live, Nathan?" Chris asked, "Don't know yet, he's in bad shape and this fever has me very worried, not to mention the fact that he doesn't respond to anything." Nathan responded, "Yeah, I know from experience, what alcohol feels like on a cut, it hurts like Hell, but Ezra didn't even moan." Chris said. "We have to get him back to town as soon as possible, so I can tend him properly." Nathan said. "What's the best way?" Chris asked. "Lay him across his horse I guess, it might hurt his ribs a little, but I don't think he will feel it." Nathan replied.

While the others got Chaucer and brought him over, taking the saddle off, feeling it would be too uncomfortable for Ezra, if he felt anything, Nathan rebandaged his other wounds, applying alcohol and balm, just to be safe. Then they got Ezra draped over Chaucer and headed back to Four Corners, but they knew they would have to spend at least one night out there, they knew they couldn't travel at night, it was too dangerous. They all just hoped they could get back to Four Corners before Ezra died.

It was late when they found Ezra, so they were only able to travel for a few hours, before it got dark, they had stopped several times, to check on Ezra. Nathan would change his bandages and check his breathing and pulse, which were both still weak and his fever was still high. There was also, still no response from Ezra, he was completely motionless and this worried Nathan a great deal, the others were worried too, but tried to hide it. Buck and JD seemed to be the most concerned, they were a little closer to Ezra than the rest. Josiah prayed for Ezra, that he would live and be all right.

Once it was dark, they stopped and set up camp, getting a fire started right away, so they could place Ezra by it, on his side. He needed to be kept as warm as possible. While the others got themselves situated, Nathan tried to get some water into Ezra, but he just choked on it, so Nathan stopped. He soaked some cloth in water and began to apply it to Ezra's face, wiping the sweat away and trying to get the fever down some. He needed his herb's, to get the fever down, but they were back in Four Corners and since he couldn't get any water into him anyway, it didn't really matter. Nathan was concerned, he desperately wanted some sort a response from Ezra, any response, but it wasn't happening. He pulled several blankets over Ezra and got him comfortable, that was all he could do, he changed Ezra's bandages once more before going to sleep, but he was starting to run out of fresh bandages, he had only brought a limited number.

I few hours later, the men were wakened by a blood curdling scream, it came from Ezra, he was still laying where they had put him, but he was on his back, his eyes appeared to be open, but they did not focus on anything. Nathan moved over to him, turning him back on his side and checking Ezra's back, some of the deeper gashes had started bleeding again, Nathan wished he had to tools he needed to stitch up the deeper ones, but he had not brought that with him, he only had room for so much in his bag and he felt bandages and alcohol would be the most important things, but now he was regretting his decision on what to bring. He cleaned Ezra's back again, getting the bleeding stopped, then rebandaged it, by the time he was done, Ezra's eyes were closed again, his breathing shallow, Nathan was afraid that Ezra was very close to death, he just prayed the stubborn gambler kept fighting.

A few hours later, they were wakened again, this time it was because Ezra was experiencing a fit of coughing, Nathan didn't know what to do, he had no idea why Ezra would be coughing, except that one of his broken ribs could be pressing again his lung, but he hoped not, that could be dangerous if it punctured the lung, then Ezra would die.

"What's wrong with him, Nathan?" JD asked, "I'm not sure JD, it could be nothin, I hope." Nathan said. "He seems to be getting worse, Nathan." Chris said. "No not really, his pulse and breathin are bout the same, so is the fever, but he is probly fightin, the fight of his life, which is making him weaker, but his condition really ain't any worse." Nathan said.

"We will head out at first light, so we can get him home as soon as possible." Chris said.

The others all tried to go back to sleep, but it was difficult, they were worried about Ezra. Ezra finally stopped coughing, but he just lay motionless again. In the morning, as soon as it was light enough to travel, they headed out again. Nathan had changed Ezra's bandages again, but he was going to have to wait longer before he changed them again, because he was almost out of clean bandages. Ezra still did not respond to anything. Nathan knew he was in a coma, but did not want to admit it. He was terrified over Ezra's fever, if he didn't get it down soon, Ezra could suffer permanent damage, if he lived.

They had been traveling for about a half hour, Buck and Vin were quietly talking, then Vin said "Chris? Can you get Ezra home without Buck and me?" "I guess so, but why?" Chris asked. "We have something we need to take care of, it is important, at least to us it is." Buck said, "Ok, we'll see you back in town." Chris said, then Vin and Buck went back the way they came.

"What are those two up to?" JD asked, "I don't know JD, I guess we'll find out soon enough." Chris replied. Then they started moving again, as fast as they could, without bouncing Ezra around too much. They got pretty far, stopping occasionally to check Ezra, but they were going to have to spend another night, they couldn't go all that fast, because of Ezra. So it would be another long night, but Nathan hoped that the longer Ezra was alive, the better chance he had of surviving.

They set up camp, again getting Ezra close to the fire, but he was still unresponsive. JD decided he would stay up and watch Ezra tonight, so he could be there if anything happened. Which it did, JD was just staring at the fire, when Ezra's body began to convulse, he panicked.

"Nathan, something's wrong with Ezra, his body is jerking around." JD hollered.

Everyone was up then, Nathan ran over and tried to hold Ezra still, finally after several minutes, Ezra stopped convulsing and lay still again. "I hate to keep asking this Nathan, but is he going to live?" Chris asked, "I honestly don't know Chris, I think his body is trying to fight the infection, but I don't know if that's why he's convulsing or not." Nathan said.

"God, I hope he will live." JD said. Chris noticed how upset JD looked, "JD, get some sleep, one of us will stay with Ezra now." Chris said, "I will stay with him." Nathan said. Then everyone again tried to sleep, but it was very difficult.


Meanwhile, Vin and Buck had gone back to the Bear, they were skinning it and they were going to give Ezra the hide, if he lived. They weren't sure if it was a good idea, "Do you think the hide will be a painful reminder?" Vin asked.

"Well, I hope not, I hope he will like it, because he will know that what did this to him is dead and now he is getting comfort from it." Buck replied.

"Well, I hope so, I would hate to do anything to hurt Ezra more." Vin said.

"We will have to wait and see how he feels about the whole thing." Buck replied. It was not an easy task to skin it, it was a huge bear, so it was taking time. They camped there that night, so they could finish in the morning.


The next morning, Ezra's fever seemed to be lower, not gone, but lower, that encouraged Nathan. "His fever is lower, that is a good sign." Nathan said. But he was still worried, Ezra was still not moving, he didn't react to anything Nathan did, or when they got him up onto the horse. They took off riding again, at the pace they were moving, they should be in Four Corners in 4 or 5 hours. They continued riding, not stopping to check Ezra this time, so they could get him into town. They had been riding for about 3 hours when they heard a loud groan from Ezra, which ordinarily would not be a good thing, but now it made them smile. They stopped the horses and Nathan went to him.

"Ezra? Can you hear me?" Nathan asked, Ezra did not respond, but he did groan again, "How is he Nathan?" Chris asked, "Well, he is respondin to the pain now, but he's still unconscious, I suggest we get movin now, he is goin to be in intense pain now that he is somewhat aware." Nathan replied.

As they headed for town, Vin and Buck were finishing their job of skinning the bear, it had taken longer than they thought, but they were satisfied with the job they had done. They rolled the hide up and put it on the back of Buck's horse, then headed for town also, but they were now at least one day behind the others. As The other 4 rode with Ezra, he was beginning to moan more and more, as he felt more and more of the pain. The others wanted to stop so badly, they hated hearing him moaning in pain like that, but Nathan had said that getting him to town quickly was the most important thing now. So they rode hard, they would be in town in another hour.

When they arrived in town, Mary and Inez both came running over, looking very concerned. "What happened to him Chris?" Mary asked.

"He was attacked by a Grizzly Bear, he's in bad shape, we need to get him up to Nathan's," Chris said. Both Mary and Inez had gasped when Chris told them what happened. They were very concerned. Josiah and Chris gently carried Ezra up to Nathan's, as Nathan went ahead and began to get things ready, Mary and Inez followed behind, wanting to know more. Nathan had them place Ezra on the bed, on his stomach, then he began to remove the bandages, so he could stitch up Ezra's deeper wounds.

"Mary, Inez, you shouldn't be here, this ain't nothin for a lady to see." Nathan said.

"We aren't leaving Senor Jackson, we want to know how he is and offer help." Inez said. But both women gasped and turned a little green, as Nathan exposed Ezra's very infected back to them. Mary actually got a tear in her eye, she liked Ezra, he was a gentleman and always funny, so to see him like this broke her heart. Inez could not believe this was the same man that had hired her as bartender just a short month ago, he had been so alive and strong then, but now he looked close to death, "Will he live Nathan?" Mary asked.

"I hope so, his fever is lower than it was and he is not in a coma anymore, but I am concerned about what the high fever might have done to him, he has a long road ahead of him." Nathan replied, "Let us know if we can do anything, we will go now, so you can fix him up." Inez said. The two women left the room.

Once Nathan had Ezra stitched up and rebandaged, there wasn't much he could do but wait. He managed to get Ezra to drink some water, with herb's for his infection, in it, but he was unconscious again shortly after. Ezra would have to remain on his back for a while, until most of the wounds were healed. His head wound and the gashes on his arm and hand, were not that serious, the burns on his other hand were minor and his bruised elbow was not a problem either, it would hurt for a while but that's all, so the wounds to his back and the high fever he had for so long, were Nathan's biggest concerns. He still didn't know what affects it could have on him.

Nathan went out the door from the clinic, everyone was standing there waiting, "He is about the same, I stitched him up and gave him fresh bandages and some herb's for the infection and fever, but it will be a while before he comes around, so you should all go get some rest." Nathan said.

"He will be all right then?" Mary asked.

"Still to soon to tell, I am still worried about the high fever he had, it could have damaged his brain." Nathan said, both Mary and Inez, who hadn't heard that part yet, looked extremely worried.

"Well, let us know if we can help Nathan, if you need someone to watch him, while you take a break, anything." Mary said, then she and Inez slowly walked away and down the stairs, both talking quietly.

Nathan looked at the men "Boys, there's nothin you can do for now, it's been a long few days, I want you all to get some rest, that's the Doctor's order." Nathan said.

"All right Nathan, but you tell us if anything happens, Ok?" JD responded. "Yep, now go." Nathan insisted. The others all walked away, headed for their respective rooms.

Nathan went back inside and retrieved one of the medical books he had, he needed to find out why Ezra had had those convulsions. He began reading, it could take a while. From what he could figure out, the convulsions seemed to be a result of a combination, of Ezra's body trying to fight the infection and the high fever, which just made his concerns about that even stronger. He moved over to check Ezra, he put his hand on his forehead, it seemed much cooler now, the fever was almost gone, but the fact that Ezra still remained unconscious was worrying him, he should have come around by now. He was going to keep a close eye on him, as he thought this, Ezra began to cough a little, that was something else that he was puzzled about, there was no reason for him to be coughing, except the broken ribs could be pressing against something.

Nathan sat with Ezra the whole night, he still had not wakened, Nathan was feeling very tired, he wanted to sleep, but he hesitated to leave Ezra alone. That was why he was grateful when Mary came by, she had food for Ezra, but he would not be able to eat it, "You eat it then Nathan, then go get some sleep, I will stay with Ezra." Mary said.

Nathan was hesitant, but then nodded and agreed. "Come get me if anythin happens, I mean anythin." Nathan said, "I will Nathan, I promise." She responded. Then Nathan left, with the tray of food. Mary sat down next to Ezra, he looked so pale, but somehow peaceful, which probably wasn't good, because he should be feeling pain. She reached and gently took his hand "Ezra, please come back to us, this place wouldn't be the same without you, I know the others feel the same way, they just don't seem to be able to tell you." Mary said, hoping he would hear some of what she said. She continued to hold his hand, it still amazed her, how soft they were, she had to smile, he definitely didn't engage in menial labor. She began to speak again, but she heard Ezra mumble something.

"Ezra, did you say something?" She asked, moving her ear, just inches from his lips, "Mary" was all he said, so at least he knew who she was and that she was there.

Mary was so happy that he said her name, it meant that he didn't have brain damage, or so she thought. She did not bother to get Nathan, because nothing really changed, Ezra was still unconscious on his stomach. She checked his bandages, to make sure they were all right, then brushed some hair off his forehead, she had to admit, he was very handsome, but she had no feelings for him other than that of friendship, a very strong friendship, that had grown the longer she knew him. She saw through the gamblers, unemotional features, she knew there was a heart of gold inside him and she had seen the soft spot he had for women in general. She cared very much for him, he had done many things to save her life, so she would do whatever she could now, to help him.

As she sat watching him, she felt his hand tighten slightly, around hers, she looked closer, but he still looked unconscious, must just be a natural reaction to someone holding his hand. A few hours later, Nathan came back "How's he doin?" He asked, "The same, he did say my name after I had been speaking to him, but he was still unconscious, otherwise nothing, I checked his bandages, they are fine." Mary said.

"Thanks Mary, you can go and get some rest now, I am fine." Nathan replied.

"If your sure, I really don't mind staying." Mary said.

"No, you go on, I will tend him now." Nathan said. Mary stood and went out the door, as she came down the stairs, she saw Vin and Buck ride up, Buck had a large Bear hide on the back of his horse, Mary went over to them. "Is that what's left of the Bear that attacked Ezra?" She asked.

"Yep, we thought we'd give it to him as a gift, if he's alive?" Buck attempted to ask, "Yes, he is unconscious, but alive, he spoke my name earlier." She said, with a small smile.

"That's great, then his mind was not affected by his fever." Vin said.

"It would seem not." Mary said, then Vin and Buck headed to the livery and Mary went to the Clarion.

Most of the men spent the day relaxing and worrying, but they knew there was nothing they could do and Nathan would come and get them if anything changed, so they tried to think of something else. They tried playing poker, but that just made them think of Ezra, so they just sat around and talked. Vin and Buck had gone to bed, after a long ride back, with the bear hide. Chris and the others had been rather amused at what Buck and Vin had done, but they were leery of giving it to Ezra.

Inez went to sit with Ezra for a while that evening, she managed to get some broth in him, but he was still pretty much out of it. She had grown fond of Ezra, he had hired her as his bartender, after which her life changed completely, for the better, so she was grateful to him for that, she also sympathized with the way his mother treated him, she was grateful to Mrs. Standish, for making her the manager at the saloon, but she did not approve of her treatment of her only son. Inez stayed with Ezra for the better part of the afternoon, then she saw his eyes open, but they looked strangely blank, unfocused.

"Ezra? Can you hear me?" She asked, the only response was a moan, then his eyes closed again. She had so hoped he was back to stay, but apparently not yet. She didn't want to leave him, but Nathan had come back to stay with him for the night, "His eyes were open, but they seemed unfocused and blank, I asked him if he could hear me, but the only response was a moan, then he closed his eyes again," Inez said, "Thanks for tellin me Inez, it is a good sign I think, he is slowly comin round." Nathan replied. Inez smiled and said, "I will be back tomorrow to sit with him some more, I did get some broth in him, but not much." Inez added. Then got up and left Nathan with Ezra. Nathan stayed awake all night, just watching for any sign that Ezra was coming around, but there was none.

The next day, Inez returned to watch Ezra for a while, Nathan was grateful, he left to get some sleep. Inez took Ezra's hand, then brushed hair from his forehead, it seemed to keep falling there. Suddenly Ezra's eyes were open again, there was a little more light in them now, but he still did not seem to focus, "Ezra? Can you hear me?" She asked, Ezra groaned again, she moved closer, thinking he was trying to speak, but not having the strength to do anything but whisper. So she mover her ear to his mouth, what she heard him say, froze her heart.

"What time of night is it, it's so dark in here, I can't see anything." Is what he whispered, then closed his eyes again.

Inez could not believe what she heard, Ezra was either blind or delirious, but she feared it was the first. It must have been a result of the high fever, she decided to go find Nathan, this was serious. She got up and ran out and down the stairs, almost knocking Mary down, "Inez, what's wrong? Is it Ezra?" Mary asked worriedly. "Yes, he whispered to me that it was dark and he couldn't see anything, but there is plenty of light in the room, I think he may be blind." Inez said, tears coming to her eyes.

"No, that can't be." Mary said, also beginning to cry, "We have to find Nathan, help me find him." Inez pleaded. Mary Nodded and they went in separate directions, Inez heading for the Saloon and Mary headed for the Hotel.

Inez found Nathan in the Saloon, she was out of breath by the time she got there, Buck and Vin were with him, they all stood up, looking quite concerned, as she approached, "Inez, what is it?" Buck asked, Inez took a couple of deep breaths. "It's Ezra, he opened his eyes briefly, but it was what he whispered to me that stopped my heart." Inez said, taking in some more breaths.

"What did he say Inez?" Nathan asked. "He thought it was night, he said it was dark in the room and he couldn't see anything." She replied, tears coming to her eyes again. They all headed to Nathan's to check on Ezra. Mary ran into them on the way, she had Chris and JD with her, they all looked very concerned. "I want ya'll to wait outside, while I check him, if he's still unconscious I won't be able to do anythin right now anyways." Nathan said, then went into the clinic.

Ezra's eyes were open again, but they were unfocused, Nathan was worried. He moved over to Ezra with a candle in his hand, he moved the candle to right in front of Ezra's eyes, there was no response. "Ezra, can you see the candle in front of you?" Nathan asked, Ezra didn't really say anything, just moaned and shook his head no, slightly. "Ok, you go back to sleep, you need all the rest you can get." Nathan said, Ezra whispered something, but Nathan had to move his ear to Ezra's mouth to hear, as Ezra repeated himself.

"Nathan, who was that woman that was here before?"

Nathan looked shocked, not that too? "You mean Inez? You know Inez." He said, Ezra shook his head no again, then drifted off. This was getting worse by the minute, Ezra remembered him and Mary, but he seemed to not remember Inez for some reason. He could not find out any more until Ezra was more coherent.

Nathan stepped outside, looking grim, everyone was looking at him in anticipation, "He does appear to be blind, I will have to read through my medical books to find out if it's permanent or not." Nathan advised them. Everyone looked shocked. "There is another problem as well." He said, "What? What else is wrong Nathan?" Inez asked. "He seems to have some memory loss, he did not know who you were Inez, but don't be offended, it's not on purpose." Nathan told her, again everyone looked shocked, Inez looked heart broken, "He doesn't remember me, but why?" Inez asked, "Probly from the fever, it may only be temporary, or just part of him memory." Nathan said.

Everyone left then and headed for the saloon, they all needed a drink, Nathan went back into the clinic to read his books and see if any of this was permanent. Nathan spent hours going through his books, checking Ezra periodically. He had to admit, if nothing else, he was learning a lot from this, but the news was not encouraging. He thought Ezra might have a good chance to get his vision back, but he didn't think he would ever get the memories back, he just hoped the memory loss was not too extensive. He discovered that the high fever caused swelling on the brain, which accounted for the blindness, memory loss, and convulsions, he discovered. So once the swelling went down, the rest should return, except maybe the memory loss, that seemed to vary from case to case, most times it did not return. He wanted Ezra to come around enough that he could question him about what he remembered, but he just wasn't coming around, which worried Nathan, maybe he had the fever too long. The books said that a high fever for a long period of time, more than a day or two, was dangerous and the patient could remain unconscious for a long time. He hoped not, he hoped Ezra would begin to come around.

Finally Buck came to sit with Ezra for a while, he wanted to be with his friend for a while and Nathan needed a break. Buck sat down and began to speak to Ezra, "Hey there Pard, you gonna wake up, so I can kick your butt for scaring all of us like that?" Ezra did not respond, but Buck kept talking anyway. "Vin an me got a present for ya when your feelin better."

Then Ezra groaned and whispered "Buck?" very softly, Buck almost didn't hear him, "Yeah Ezra, it's Buck, you remember me?" Buck asked, Ezra nodded slightly. "How come you don't remember Inez?" He asked, Ezra just seemed to shrug a little, then went back to sleep.

Buck went to the saloon after Nathan came back, he sat down with the others and they all looked at him. "He's about the same, he whispered my name as I was talkin to him, but that's about it, so I guess he remembers me." Buck said.

"Well, that's a good thing, hopefully he remembers all of us." JD said.

"Yeah, but he doesn't remember poor Inez, last I saw her, she was real upset about that. She wasn't blaming Ezra, she was just sorry that he doesn't remember her." Buck said.

"Yeah, she did seem pretty upset earlier, I know she's grateful to Ezra for getting her life turned around and they have a real strong friendship, or had." Vin said.

"Yeah, we have to do whatever we can to get Ezra's memory and vision back, things would not be the same around here, without Ezra as he was." JD said.

"Did Nathan say anything about it?" Josiah asked, "He just said the chances of his vision coming back were pretty good, but the memories weren't." Buck said.

At some point in the night, Ezra woke, he tried to roll over, but was hit with tremendous pain, so he just stayed on his side. His mind began to work, where was he? why couldn't he see anything? He had vague memories of people talking to him, but one woman was a stranger to him. His mind was so fuzzy, his thought's seem scrambled and disjointed and he just felt like sleeping, what had caused him to be like this. The onslaught of thoughts overwhelmed his mind and he drifted off again, his mind not able to take all that yet.

Ezra woke again, everything was still dark, he couldn't see a thing. Oh God, I am blind, this can't be! I can't be blind, my whole life revolves around my eyesight and hands, Ezra thought, starting to feel afraid and angry. Then he realized that a woman was holding his hand.

"Who's there?" He asked.

"It's me Inez, Inez Ricios. I know you don't remember me, but I want to try and help you with that." She said. "No I don't remember you Ms. Ricios, I am deeply sorry for that." He whispered, still laying part on his side and part on his back.

"Don't be sorry Ezra, it is not your fault all this happened to you." She said.

"All of what? I don't understand what happened to me." Ezra said softly.

"What is the last thing you remember?" Inez asked.

"I was happy because I finally had enough money to put a down payment on the saloon, that is the last thing I remember, everything else is a blank." He said.

"I see." Was all she said.

"Speaking of seeing, what happened to my eyes? I need my eyes, I can't survive without them." He said, sighing in frustration.

"That will go away, Nathan is pretty certain your eyesight will return, but you need to rest." She said and started to let go of his hand, but he held onto it, with amazing strength, considering the condition he was in.

"Don't go, tell me how we met?" He asked, his voice becoming scratchy and softer.

"Well, it's a long story, but I can try and shorten it. You put your down payment on the saloon, but at the same time, your mother won the hotel, you both began fighting each other for business. You needed someone to tend bar, that was when I walked in, after proving myself, you hired me as the bartender." She said.

"That is quite impressive, it would take a lot for me to hire a woman to do menial labor." Ezra said.

"Yes, well when your mother beat you, she bought the saloon and made me the manager, and that's the way it's been, we were really becoming close friends Ezra, I so regret that you have forgotten everything, for when you hired me, it turned my life around for the better, I am so grateful." Inez said, Ezra felt very bad about forgetting her and all that apparently happened recently, but his mind kept going back to his vision, he was terrified that it would not come back.

"Tell me what you look like." Ezra said, Inez wasn't sure what to say, she took Ezra's hand and put it to her face, he began to feel it, caressing her cheek and jaw, then running his hand over her eyes and nose, then touching her lips with his fingers, Inez closed her eyes as he did this, his touch was so soft. "I.....I have brown hair and dark brown eyes, I am Mexican so I have dark skin, does that help any?" She asked.

"Yes Darlin, you seem very beautiful, I am truly sorry that I can't look upon your beautiful face." He said, this made Inez begin to cry, the tear that fell landed on his hand, which was still at her cheek. "I am sorry I have made you cry Darlin, please tell me more about yourself, I do want us to be friends again." Ezra said. So Inez sat and told him about herself and everything that had happened over the last month. Ezra did not hear all of it, his mind kept going back to his blindness, making him more angry and bitter. Finally he drifted off to sleep again.

Several days had passed, Ezra's back and other wounds were healing nicely, but his mental state was not, as each day passed he became withdrawn and pushed everyone away, except Inez, he could not bring himself to do that to her, after forgetting her in the first place. She had been somewhat of a source for comfort, she tried to make him forget about his blindness, but that was pretty much impossible, he found that he did not want to live if he could not see. The other men tried to understand what Ezra was going through and not feel offended at the way he treated them, but it was hard, Ezra could be very mean sometimes. JD had come by to see him and Ezra's response was "Get the hell out and leave me alone." Which had really hurt JD. He tried to understand that Ezra was going through a lot and didn't mean what he said, but it still hurt him.

After several more days, Ezra asked if he could go to his own room, he didn't want to be at Nathan's any longer. Nathan had agreed and offered to help him get there, which was a big mistake, "I do not require YOUR assistance Mr. Jackson and I would appreciate it if you would stop treating me like a cripple." Ezra said, but Nathan knew he could not make it to his room alone, he would likely fall and hurt himself. So Nathan had agreed not to help Ezra, but as Ezra got dressed, which was something that took him a while to learn to do, with Inez's help, Nathan went and got Inez. She agreed to wait outside, so it would not seem that she was purposely there to help him. Ezra made it to the door and opened it, he still had trouble dealing with it always being pitch black. Inez stepped up to him, "Ezra, I was just coming to see you, where are you going?" She asked. "I am going to my room, my dear." He said, "Mind if I walk with you?" She asked. Ezra agreed and they left.

Ezra tripped, stumbled, and fell so many times on his way to his room that he was very angry and embarrassed by the time he got there. He finally could not help himself and even got angry with Inez, "Inez, please get out, your smothering me and I want to be alone, go find someone else to play mother to." He said with bitterness in his voice, Inez began to cry, but she knew why he was being like that, she just wished he was not so proud and stubborn, this would be easier for him. Once Inez was gone, Ezra took a whiskey bottle, then sat on the edge of his bed, he drank the entire bottle, then broke it. He took a piece of the broken glass and started to slit his wrists, he did not want to live like this.

Luckily Inez had come back, she wanted to tell him something, but as soon as she saw what he had done, all thought left her mind. She ran to him, taking a towel from the dresser and wrapped it around the one wrist he had slashed, "Oh Ezra, why did you do that?" She asked, crying. She could not believe he tried to kiil himself, this broke her heart. "I can't live like this Inez, I have no purpose now, I can't do ANYTHING." He said, beginning to cry himself, letting out all the pent up emotions. Inez took him in her arms and held him, "Ezra, it will be all right, you just have to give it time." She told him.

"How much time, it's been a week already." He said. "I'm sorry Ezra, I don't know, but please don't try this again, let us help you, please." She pleaded. Ezra nodded and held her tighter as he cried.

Inez removed the towel from Ezra's wrist, he had cut it deeply, so it was still bleeding heavily, Ezra began to look very pale and weak. He was still weak from what he'd just been through, so this loss of blood was not good. He wrapped the towel back around his wrist, it was fast becoming soaked with blood, Inez was getting worried. She took Ezra's other hand and placed it on the towel, "Press hard on that Ezra, your losing a lot of blood, I am going to get Nathan." She said, Ezra just nodded, too ashamed now, of what he had tried to do, to speak.

Inez got Nathan and told him, "Ezra tried to kill himself Nathan, he used a piece of glass from a broken whiskey bottle. The cut on his wrist is deep, he's losing a lot of blood."

Nathan was shocked, he knew Ezra had been down and bitter about his blindness, but he never dreamed that the stubborn, determined gambler, would try to take his own life. They got to Ezra's room, he was trying to keep pressure on the wound, but he was starting to lose consciousness. Nathan and Inez reached him just in time for Inez to stop Ezra from falling to the floor and Nathan grabbed his arm and pressed hard on the wound. Inez gently lowered Ezra's unconscious form to the bed, as Nathan began to clean the wound, it was indeed deep. He stitched up the wound, but it wasn't easy, because it kept bleeding, Inez had to dab a towel on it to remove the blood, finally Nathan was done and the bleeding was stopped. Ezra had winced at the pain a few times, but did not regain consciousness. Nathan then bandaged Ezra's wrist, it would take time for it to heal, he was concerned about the blood loss.

"Get some broth or something up here and try to get it in him, he lost a lot of blood, he will be very weak." Nathan told her, "I will Nathan, he'll eat something if I have to force him." Inez said.

It was several hours before Ezra began to stir, as soon as he did, Inez went out of the room to get some broth, she wanted it to be hot enough, so she waited until he started to wake. He was still in the process of coming around, when she got back.

"Ezra? How do you feel?" She asked, he moaned a little, then whispered "Inez?"

"Yes, Ezra, how do you feel?" She asked again.

"Terrible, I feel weak." He said, "You lost a lot of blood Ezra, please don't do that again, you scared me to death." Inez said, "I am sorry Inez, I did not intend to frighten you, please forgive me?" He asked.

"Of course Ezra, I do understand your despair and desperation, is there any change in your vision?" She asked. "No, I still can't see a thing." He said, but that might not be true, things seemed a little lighter, but he thought it was his imagination.

"I am sorry Ezra, I have some broth here and you are going to eat it." She said, Ezra nodded and tried to sit up, but Inez had to help him, placing some more pillows behind him.

When Nathan left Ezra's room, he went to find the others, they needed to know what Ezra had tried to do. He found all but Chris in the saloon, she he sat down with them, the look on his face, giving him away.

"What's wrong Nathan?" Buck asked.

"I ain't sure how to say this." Nathan said, 'Try just saying it Brother Nathan." Josiah said. "Ok, Ezra...........tried to kill himself." Nathan said grimly. They all gasped and looked shocked, "How? I mean, why? what happened?" JD asked, very worried.

"He broke a whiskey bottle and used a piece of the glass to slit his wrist, luckily Inez showed up before he could do both, but he lost a lot of blood." Nathan replied.

"How is he? is he ok?" Buck asked. "He was unconscious when I left, but I think he will be ok." Nathan said.

They all just sat there in shock. Chris and Mary walked into the saloon, the looks on the men's faces immediately making them concerned, as they approached the men, Mary asked.

"What is wrong? what happened?" Buck looked up at them, "Ezra tried to kill himself." He said "What? When?" Chris asked, watching Mary as she turned pale, then took a seat, she could not speak, she was in shock.

"Just a little while ago, with a piece of glass from a whiskey bottle." Nathan said. "Is he all right?" Mary whispered.

"He will be, but he's unconscious right now." Nathan replied.

"Is he alone?" Mary asked, "No, Inez is with him, if not for her, he would be dead, she interrupted him before he could do both wrists and slowed the bleeding." Nathan said.

"Thank god for Inez." Buck said. Chris also took a seat, then they all just sat there stunned by the news.


Inez managed to get Ezra to take all the broth, which made her happy and he looked better, not as pale and a little steadier. "I want to thank you for saving my life Inez." Ezra said, "You don't have to thank me Ezra, you are too important to everyone, to let you die, anyone would have done the same." She said.

"Well, I doubt that, but thank you just the same." He said, then reached for her face, amazingly finding it without any guidance. He put his hand on her cheek, again the softness of his hand amazed her, then he leaned forward and kissed her other cheek. Inez was slightly startled by the display of affection, but she responded quickly, putting her hand over his, "You are welcome Ezra." She said. "Now get some sleep, you need it." She added. Ezra settled back onto the pillows, it hurt Inez to look in his eyes, the normally sparkling green eyes, that were so full of life, were now blank and dull. He closed his eyes and was quickly asleep, Inez was still concerned about his mood, she had never seen him so down and listless. Inez sat in the rocking chair and fell asleep.

Inez woke in the morning to a knock on the door, she noticed that Ezra was still sleeping deeply. As she walked to the door, she stopped to brush a piece of his hair from his forehead. She opened the door to find Buck standing there, she let him in, indicating for him to be quiet.

"How is he?" Buck whispered.

"He's sleeping deeply, but I think he is ok, physically anyway." Inez said softly.

"What do you mean?" Buck asked, in the same tone of voice. "I am worried about his mood, he is so down, he has no desire to do anything." She said, looking at Ezra's sleeping face.

"Why don't you take a break, I'll sit with him for a while." He offered. She nodded, looked at Ezra once more, then left. Buck sat down and looked at his friend sleeping, he had never seen him so vulnerable and sad. He looked at the bandage on Ezra's wrist, not able to believe that he actually tried to end his life. He tried to imagine what it would be like to be blind, but could not, he knew that it would take a lot of desperation and pain, for Ezra to want to take his life, he felt great sorrow for Ezra.

A short time later, Ezra began to wake, he moaned, which made Buck turn and look at him. Buck had been standing and looking out the window, deep in thought.

"Hey Ezra, how ya feelin Pard?" He asked. Ezra blinked several times, he couldn't believe it, he could see more light, he couldn't make out any shapes or anything, but there was more light, this gave him hope, maybe he would see again.

"All right." He said to Buck.

Buck knew he wasn't, because he wasn't using his usual, hundred dollar words. "Would you like some food or water Ezra?" Buck asked.

"Food? No, Water? Yes." Ezra said, his voice was very soft and low, from his weakened condition. Buck helped him sit up, he cringed as some of the wounds on his back began to hurt and his wrist was throbbing, God how he regretted doing what he did now. Buck brought the glass of water to Ezra's mouth and he drank the whole glass, "Thank you Mr. Wilmington." Ezra said, Buck smiled, Ezra had used his last name, he was starting to feel better.

The next morning, Ezra woke to hear Mary and Chris in his room, they were quietly talking about him, worried as to whether he was going to be all right. As he became fully awake, he realized that he could vaguely make out objects, his vision was coming back, this made him feel so much better, despite still feeling very weak and sore. He knew he would see again, that was all that mattered to him, the rest would take care of itself.

"Chris, Mary?" Ezra said softy, they turned to look at him. He was looking in their direction, but he was still not looking right at them.

"Ezra, how are you feeling?" Mary said as she and Chris moved over to the bed, "I've been better, what are you two doing here?" Ezra asked. "We came to check on you Ezra, everyone has been taking turns, no more ideas about killing yourself I hope?" Chris said.

"No, Mr. Larabee. I regret doing it in the first place. My vision is starting to come back." He said, Mary looked at Chris, pleasantly surprised.

"Are you sure Ezra?" Mary asked. "Yes, everything is brighter and I can vaguely make out objects." He replied.

"Oh Ezra, that is wonderful." Mary said, then moved over and gave him a hug, which Ezra returned.

"That is good news Ezra, we will be glad to have ya back with us soon." Chris said.

"It will be good to be back Mr. Larabee, I just wish I could remember everything, I still don't know what happened to me, no one told me." Ezra said, Chris looked at Mary puzzled, "No one has told you what happened to you?" Chris asked.

"No, Ms. Ricios told me some of the things that happened over the last month and about herself, I still feel bad about forgetting the poor dear, but she did not say what caused all this in the first place." Ezra said, laying back, it didn't take much to weaken him right now.

"You were attacked by a Grizzly bear Ezra, on your way back from River Falls, you went there to look at a saloon to purchase, but it was not worth the money, so on your way back you were attacked. You suffered severe wounds on your back which got infected, you got a high fever, which caused your blindness and memory loss." Mary said, Ezra closed his eyes, trying to remember, but it was no use, "I don't remember any of it, but thank you for telling me Mary." Ezra said.

"Your welcome Ezra, we will go now and let you rest." Mary said. Then they left as Ezra drifted back to sleep.

When Ezra woke again, a few hours later, Inez was in the room, he could vaguely make out her form. "Ms. Ricios?" He asked, Inez moved over to him, "Yes Ezra, I am here, but I should think you would call me Inez by now." She said smiling.

"Well, yes Inez, I have a habit of using people's last names, I will call you Inez if that's what you prefer, Darlin." Ezra said.

Inez smiled, she could tell he was feeling better, he seemed stronger, but it didn't take much to tire him. "Would you care for something to eat Ezra?" Inez asked, "Yes Inez, that would be most welcomed." He said. "I will be back shortly then." She replied.

"Inez?" "Yes, Ezra." "I am much obliged to you for saving my life, I can never repay you." Ezra said.

Inez moved over to him, "You do not owe me anything, I was glad that I could help," She replied. Ezra took her hand and kissed the back. She was stunned, no one had told her that his vision was coming back, "Ezra, you can see?" She asked, ready to cry.

"Somewhat Darlin, I can make out shapes, but they aren't clear yet." He replied, "That is wonderful, I am so happy for you Ezra, now I will be right back with some food." She said, then bent and kissed his cheek before she left to get the food.

Inez came back with a tray full of food, she managed to get Ezra to eat it all, which made her happy, he was getting well. "Have you started to remember anything from the last month Ezra?" She asked.

"No, I don't think I will, which I am sorry for, because it means I forgot you." He said, "It is all right Ezra, we are better friends now than before, so to me it's even better." She said, smiling. Ezra smiled as well, it was the first time she had seen him smile, since they brought him back all torn up. "I am so glad to see you smiling Ezra, I have missed that bright, sunny smile." Inez said.

Ezra smiled again, "Well, Darlin I am feeling better, thanks to you, but I am feeling a bit sleepy now, so if you don't mind, I will take a nap." He said as he began to drift off.

"Sure Ezra, I have to go and do a few things anyway." She said, but Ezra was already asleep, she looked at him before she left, he really was very handsome, she thought, she was so glad they had not lost him.


Several more days passed, Ezra's vision was almost a hundred percent, there was still a little fuzziness, but it was minimal, the point was he could see now, not quite enough to play poker again, but he was still recuperating, so he couldn't play anyway. There was a knock at the door, "Come in." He said, Buck and Vin came into the room carrying a large, bear skin rug, it was quite beautiful.

"Well, gentleman, what is with the rug?" Ezra asked.

"We brought it for you Ezra, it should go perfectly on the floor over here," Buck said, "Well, it is a beautiful rug, but why are you giving it to me?" Ezra asked.

"Because it's from the bear that attacked you, that's why." Vin said, "You killed it?" Ezra asked.

"Yes, it came after us, while we were searching for you and had to kill it, so Vin and I decided to skin it and make a rug for you." Buck said, "That is very kind of you gentleman, I will cherish it." Ezra said. Buck and Vin could see Ezra was getting tired, "We will go and let you rest, you do look so much better Ezra, it's great to have you back," Vin said.

"Thank you gentleman, good day." He said, then they left.

It took several more weeks before Ezra was well enough to be up and around, his vision was back to a hundred percent, he began playing poker again, he was very happy that the ordeal was over, it had been the worst time in his life, but at least one good thing came from it and that was a closer friendship with Inez, he had been stunned by her beauty, when his vision became good enough to see her. He and Inez had a special bond now, not a romantic one, but a special friendship that he cherished. He never did remember the things that happened over that month that he had lost, so he had not recollection of what Maude had done to him or that he had hired Inez and turned her life around, but he thought he could live with all that. He was finally happy again.


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