Questioning the wisdom of his actions but unable to ignore his injured friend's request, Chris Larabee hefted the younger man closer to his chest and carried him up to his room in the boarding house and laid him on the bed. He used his hand to gently wipe the sweat and grime from Tanner's forehead, soothing him with his words. "I ain't gonna let them hurt you no more, cowboy. You're safe. You have my word on that."
With the slightest touch, Chris gently traced the purple and black bruise that covered the majority of his friend's cheek. He wouldn't allow the anger, the rage, he was feeling to translate to his hands. He kept it corralled up inside him, unwilling to let the overwhelming feelings touch the wounded man.
Chris made sure the tracker was comfortable, then headed for the wash stand and poured a pitcher of water into the waiting basin. Carrying it back over to the bedside table, he set it down before grabbing one of his cleaner towels. He dampened it, laid it across the bedpost, then sat down on the bed beside Vin.
"How ya doin'?"
Vin heard the question, knew he should respond, but finding the strength to do so seemed beyond him at the moment. Squinting through blackened eyes, he managed to open them wide enough to assure Larabee that he was conscious and had heard him. Needing the reassurance of his friend's touch, Vin slowly raised his bloody and torn wrist just enough to grasp the cuff of Chris' shirt.
Chris caught the questing hand and gave it a light squeeze. "Easy, Vin. Easy. You're safe and I'm gonna take care of you."
A slight nodding motion was enough to let Larabee know he'd been understood. "I need to check you out, Vin, see if Nathan needs to take a look at you."
"No," Vin gasped.
"No, you don't want me to help you?"
"Not Nate," Vin struggled to get out, "not....clinic."
Chris studied his young friend's face. The pain he saw there was quickly being replaced by panic. "Why Vin? A body's been hurt this bad, they need to go where they can get tendin'."
"Can't........near the others........danger."
"Okay, easy. Take a deep breath. That's good, now another one." Chris' mind was whirling. What had Vin got himself caught up in? Who could have done this to him and how would letting Nathan examine him put the other men in danger?
"I don't understand, Vin. What's going on? Who did this?"
Vin sank back into the pillows, allowing Chris to
push the suspenders off his shoulders and
unbutton his shirt. Sighing when the cool towel
began to skim over his bruised and swollen side,
he felt some of the tension leave him for the
first time in days. "The men...said they work
It All Comes Down to...