azombiewrites: (The Magnificent Seven)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: Cave-In
Twelth story in 'The Continuing Ezra Standish Saga'
Rating: PG
Warnings: Bad writing ahead!
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Summary: Chris, Vin and Ezra are returning to Four Corners when they are caught in a rainstorm. They take refuge in an old mine but there is a cave in and they become trapped.
Main Characters: Ezra, and the rest of the seven.
Disclaimers: The guys are owned by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, and The Mirisch Corp.
Beta: Not betaed – written in the early days when I didn’t know what the words grammar and edit meant. *is ashamed but no longer care*
Notes: Twelth story in the ‘Continuing Ezra Standish Saga’.
Spoilers: None.
Total Word Count: 15,288



Part One


Ezra hated the rain, he hated the way it felt on his skin, the way his clothes got wet and clung to his body, the way it made him feel cold even when the weather was warm. And that was the way he felt now. The rain had soaked through his clothes and they now clung to him making him very uncomfortable. He could hear them making noises as they rubbed against the saddle and his skin. The rain dripping off his hat made it hard for him to see, he could barely make out the two hunched figures in front of him. All he wanted was to get home so he could dry himself off and drink enough whisky to put the warmth back into his bones but instead Vin was leading them to an old mine so they could get some cover from the rain. What was the use of that, they would not be able to light a fire. All that would happen is that they would stay wet, cold and then to add to it they would become dirty when all the dirt on the mine floor would attach itself to their wet cloths. Ezra was not impressed.

They were returning from Bitter Creek where the Judge had sent them on a job. The Judge, which was another situation he was not happy with. He had been unable to give a good enough explanation as to his absence from town so the Judge did what he said he was going to do, he arrested him and put him in jail, well Nathan's room and as far as he was concerned that was worse than jail. Three weeks he had to stay there and he hated every minute of it. The Judge had put him under what he called house arrest and it was the job of the other hired gunmen to make sure that he stayed there which was their punishment for allowing him to leave town in the first place. They also hated every minute of it. During those three weeks Ezra had become very arguementive and unpleasant. They lost count of how many times they had asked the Judge to allow him to leave but he would not listen. Nathan had pleaded, JD had begged and Buck had even tried to bribe him.

And when he finally did get out of Nathan's room he had to go to another town and watch a prisoner until he was tried and taken to prison. This meant that he had to spend even more time in an enclosed space, which caused him to become very irritable. He was grateful when they left the town behind but now he just wished he were back in the confined space of four walls. The last six weeks had not been kind to him.

Ezra looked up into the sky and pulled his collar tighter around his cold body as he shivered. He knew that when they did get back to Four Corners Nathan was going to insist on checking on him to make sure he was okay after spending all this time in the rain, he was going to make sure that didn't happen. He tried to wipe the moisture away from his face but it was just replaced by more rain. He watched as Vin turned his horse in a different direction with Chris following him. Ezra leaned his horse towards them and allowed him to follow the other horses. He looked up ahead and saw the tree covered hill in the distance, it must have been where Vin was headed.

He watched as Vin stopped his horse at the entrance to the mine and got off. He tied his horse to a nearby tree and left the saddle on to give the horse some sort of protection, not that it would be enough in this awful weather. Chris joined him at the opening of the mine. Ezra got off his own horse and felt his feet sink into the mud, he silently groaned and walked into the mine seeing what the others saw.

The shaft of the mine seem to go all the way into the hillside, the wood pilings that held the solid ground above it seemed to be weakening with the weight that was pressing down on them. He walked into the mine after the others with the loose dirt blowing around his feet and sticking to the mud that surrounded his boots. He saw them stop and throw their saddlebags to the ground. Neither of them had bothered to bring their blankets as they were soaked by the rain. Chris and Vin sat down and made themselves comfortable.

"I must say Mr Tanner that this is a wonderful idea." The sarcasm was clearly showing in Ezra's tone.

"You can always stay out in the rain Ezra." Vin retorted.

Ezra threw his saddlebags on the ground against one of the thick wood pilings. He was clearly annoyed with the whole situation and was making sure that the other two men knew it. He paced around the floor of the mineshaft trying to wipe off the dirt that had already begun to gather on his dark green coat but it just turned into mud and now his hands were dirty as well.

"Why don't you sit down Ezra." Chris told him.

"It's only dirt." Vin could never understand why Ezra always worried so much about his appearance. It wasn't like there was anybody around to see the state they were in.

Ezra took his hat off and ran his hand through his hair leaving a trail of mud. He heard Chris and Vin laugh. "What's so funny?" he asked them.

Chris nodded at Ezra's hands and he looked down at them and realised what he had done. He looked up in exasperation at the sky that he could no longer see and the others laughed again as the dust from the mine's roof fell to his face. Ezra's chin fell to his chest. "Great idea." he muttered. He used the cuff of his white shirt to wipe the dirt away. He then spread his saddlebags out and sat down on them. "Is there any chance we could at least start a fire?" Ezra asked them both.

"There's not a lot of ventilation this far into the mine. The smoke will only build up." smiled Vin knowing that Ezra was not accustomed to spending a lot time in this condition.

"This just keeps getting better and better." Ezra growled.

"It's going to Ezra, the rain will continue through the night so were going to be here for a while." Vin was beginning to enjoy Ezra's annoyance at the situation.

Ezra tried to make himself more comfortable but it was hard, the saddlebags were lumpy, his clothes soaked and he was cold. He hated this and then to be stuck here with two men who were not conversationalists was going to make it worse. He watched as more dirt fell from the ceiling above him. The beam above him was sagging.

"I don't think that it is very safe in here." Ezra commented.

"Stop making excuses Ezra were staying here where it is dry." Chris looked in the direction that Ezra was staring and saw what he was talking about. "If you’re that worried about it we can move go back a bit." Chris smiled at him.

Ezra saw the smile and took it as a challenge. He looked back up and thought that the beam had moved. More dirt came down from the roof and this time it included a few small rocks. He decided to no longer take the challenge. "I think that it is going to come down so I am going back to the front of the mine."

"I'm going to agree with you now Ezra." Chris also began to get up as a large crack sounded above them. They all looked up to see the ceiling fall down on them. They began to run as the beam, dirt and large rocks came crashing down around them. After the dust and silence had settled around the mineshaft, Chris lifted himself up from the ground and looked around.

"Vin, Ezra you guys okay?" he called. He heard movement just behind him.

"I'm fine." Vin answered. "Where's Ezra?" he asked.

"Ezra!" called Chris. "You okay?" There was no answer. Chris moved towards the rubble. "Ezra?"

Vin grabbed his arm and pointed towards an area where Ezra had been sitting. They could both see the leg sticking out from under the rocks at an awkward angle.

"Oh shit!" groaned Chris.

"Ezra!" Vin yelled as they ran to the pile of rocks and wood that covered their friend. They began desperately to remove the rocks that had fallen onto his body, causing what damage they did not know, they could only hope that he was still alive. They could not see any other part of him under the rocks. They needed the strength of both of them to lift the heavier rocks and each sighed with relief when there was not a part of Ezra's body underneath them because if there was it would have been crushed under the weight. They could not see his face and feared that he was not able to breath, they worked faster and finally removed all the rocks from his lower body. They didn't stop to check the leg that had been protruding out from under the rocks but continued to lift the heavy beam that was laying across his side. They saw how it had partially landed on a larger rock that must have missed Ezra by inches, it had taken most of the weight of the beam but they were sure that it would have caused some damage to his ribs. Once they had done that they began to remove the smaller rocks and a few larger ones from his upper body, one that was covered in blood and found Ezra underneath them, his face covered in dust and blood.

While Chris checked for a pulse, Vin continued to remove the other rocks that still covered parts of Ezra's body. He saw his twisted right arm laying underneath his body and swore under his breath. He then made himself look at Ezra's leg and saw that it must have been his shin that was broken because his ankle looked okay. He knew Chris was taking too long to let him know if Ezra was still alive but he didn't ask him. Vin quietly waited while he watched Chris's back, which he did because he didn't want to look at Ezra, not until he knew if he was still alive.
"He's alive." Chris allowed the emotions to show in his voice. "Let's lift him up and carry him to the front of the mine and then check him over." Vin nodded, he knew he couldn't talk yet or his emotions would also show. Just as they were, about to lift Ezra they heard another loud crack from the ceiling and four feet towards the front of the mine the roof caved in a second time blocking their only way out.

Chris made his way to the new blockage, there were gaps in between the large rocks that allowed some light to shine through but he knew that they weren't large enough for a man to escape through and too heavy for him to remove. They were blocked in with no way to get out and Ezra was seriously hurt. He hung his head and took a moment to get himself back together, he had to stay in control for Ezra's sake. He walked back to Vin.

"There are holes so the light and air can still get in but we won't be able to get out." Chris reported. He bent down and carefully lifted Ezra into his arms and walked towards the wall that blocked their escape. Vin grabbed the only saddlebag that he could see and followed him. Chris gently laid Ezra down then took off his own jacket, rolled it up and placed it carefully under Ezra's head.

As Vin watched, Chris began to examine Ezra to find out the extent of his injuries. "Vin watch his face and let me know if he responds to any of this." Vin nodded his head, as he still couldn't find his voice. Chris started with Ezra's left leg, he turned the ankle, it felt alright under his touch, he moved up to the shin and could feel the broken bone under the skin. He knew that Ezra had not responded to the pain his touch must have caused as Vin also kept quiet. He checked his knee then his thigh and hip, all were undamaged. He examined his right leg and found that to be okay, there was not anything else broken but there would be plenty of bruises. He then opened Ezra's waistcoat and shirt and saw quite a few red blotches that he knew would soon turn into ugly bruises. He gently applied pressure to the ribs, he felt a movement on the left side so he applied more pressure and felt the bones rub together under his hands. Because Ezra had still not responded he continued to examine them and counted five broken ribs on his left side, none on his right.

Chris checked his left arm, he felt nothing broken but there was a large amount of blood dripping out from under Ezra's jacket sleeve. Ezra's shoulder was fine so he began to examine the right arm and found both bones in his forearm broken. His right shoulder was unharmed so were his collarbones. Chris looked at his head last. The wound to the left side of his head was obvious but he used to hands to feel the rest of Ezra's skull for any other injuries that were not visible. He found none. He sighed and sat back on his ankles.

"He must have fallen on his left side which took most of the damage. Ezra's left leg is broken, his right arm is broken in two places, he must have fallen on it, there's a cut on the left arm because there is a lot blood. Five broken ribs on his left side and then the wound to his head." He looked up at Vin. "He didn't respond to anything?"

"No." Ezra's face had been slack the whole time. "What the hell are we going to do Chris, we can't get out of here?" asked Vin.

"There's nothing much we can do Vin but wait. We can do what we can for Ezra but that's all." Chris kept his voice steady and began to remove Ezra's jacket.

Vin sat down on Ezra's other side and helped Chris remove Ezra's upper clothing. The cut was on his upper arm and it was deep, it was going to need stitches. Vin took off his own coat and tore a large strip off his shirt and wrapped it around Ezra's arm, he then applied the pressure that would be required to stop the bleeding. Chris tore a strip off his own shirt and pressed it against the wound on the left side of Ezra's head.

Neither Chris nor Vin said anything, as they knew the situation and how bad it was going to get. Their first concern would be to stop the bleeding so Ezra would not go into shock and then they would do what they could for his broken bones. The bones could be set but they would not be able to put any splints on the arm or leg, which would mean too much movement from Ezra would put them out of place again so they may need to set them more than once. Chris got the bleeding head wound to stop and reached over for the saddlebag that Vin had rescued and saw that it was his. He reached in and brought out the canteen that he knew was in there. He place the blood soaked strip of shirt against the opening and soaked it more with water, he then cleaned the wound as best he could.

Vin removed the strip of material from Ezra's arm and then took the canteen off Chris so he could also clean the wound. They both knew that it would not be enough and that an infection would eventually start in both wounds. Once Vin had cleaned it, he wrapped the cloth around Ezra's upper arm again and this time tied it tight.

Chris came around to Vin's side. "Hold his arm tight Vin and I will set the bones." Chris waited while Vin took a strong hold of Ezra's upper arm. He then took Ezra's wrist in his right hand and his elbow in his left and pulled with all his strength until he heard the bones grind together. He also heard Ezra moan at the pain that it had caused.

"Ezra?" Vin called him softly. Ezra moaned and moved his head to the side. "Ezra?" Vin called again.

There was no answer so they then decided to deal with his broken leg. Vin leaned against Ezra's thigh while Chris did the same as he had with the arm. He pulled until he heard the bone come back together. Ezra groaned again but did not regain consciousness.

"Vin why don't you go and see if you can find yours and Ezra's saddle bags, I'm sure that he would have another shirt or two in there and maybe his flask." Vin walked back towards the pile of rubble that they had removed Ezra from. Chris placed his hand against Ezra's forehead, there was no fever but he knew that it wouldn't be long until it did start. He knew the others were expecting them back by this evening and when they did not show up they would begin to worry and then decide to come looking for them. They would be easy to find as they did not go far from the road and their horses were tied out the front. The only problem would be time. They wouldn't come looking for them until the morning and then it was going to take more time to remove the rocks that kept them prisoner within the mine and during all that time Ezra would get a lot worse.

The first thing that Ezra noticed was the darkness and then the pain. 'Aw Hell, not again'. He thought to himself, he knew what it meant, something had happened to him again but he did not know what. He couldn't remember what he had been doing or where he was, he would have to wait until he came out the darkness and ask whoever it was that was with him. He just hoped that Nathan was there because there was a lot of pain. His whole body was hurting, the pain was coming from everywhere, his legs, side, chest, arms, back and his head. If felt like he had fallen off a cliff or was run over by a stagecoach but he didn't think that was the case, as neither of those ideas made him remember anything. He was grateful for one thing though and that was not feeling sick, he couldn't go through that again.

He did feel cold though, very cold. He wondered why they hadn't built a fire to keep him warm. He thought that he was leaving the darkness but could not understand why it was so dark, he expected some light to break through into his mind, and surely, they must have lit some lamps. He tried his voice to see if it would work. But it didn't, he tried moving his head and suffered a lot of pain for his efforts. Then he heard Chris's voice. He took his time and then tried again.

"Chris, where's Nathan and why is it so dark?" he whispered.

Chris had been watching Ezra carefully and saw the grimace of pain as he turned his head to the side. He called his name and had to wait a few minutes before Ezra answered him. "Nathan's not here. Do you remember what happened Ezra?" He asked him.

Ezra frowned in thought. "No."

"Were in a mine, the roof collapsed and fell on you." Chris did not know how else to put it. "There was actually two cave-in’s. The second one has blocked the exit and where stuck here." Ezra continued to roll his head as though he was trying to wake himself up. He wasn't too concerned about his comment about it being so dark because Ezra still had his eyes closed. When he did finally open them, Chris could see that they were full of pain and confusion.

"Mine?" He still couldn't remember anything. "Is there anybody else with us?"

"I'm here to Ezra." Vin told him. It had taken him half an hour to find the other two canteens. Ezra's had extra shirts, his flask and even some food but no canteen. That was just typical of Ezra. His own bags though did have a canteen and some food. They had tore up Ezra's shirts into strips and rebadged his arm and forehead with the clean material.

Ezra opened his eyes and looked towards the voices, he could make out both Chris and Vin in the small splinters of light that seemed to break through the darkness of the mine. Just the two of them. He wanted to try to sit up but couldn't managed to move anything. Even his fingers hurt.

"Ezra you’re going to have to stay as still as you can. You have some broken bones and we haven't been able to find anything to use as splints." Chris warned him.

"No problem there as I don't seem to be able to move anything." he muttered aloud.

"Can you feel anything?" Chris had become worried that Ezra's back had been injured.

"Everything." moaned Ezra. "And it hurts like hell."

Chris placed his hand against Ezra's forehead feeling the heat that was beginning to build in his body. He knew that the pain was going to get a lot worse for Ezra. When a fever gets bad, there was usually uncontrolled shivering or convulsions and this would cause him a lot of pain due to the broken bones that were in his body and then these bones would need to be reset after the spasms had caused them to moved around. Ezra was going to be in a lot of pain and there was nothing they could do to help him get through it. Of course, they would be here for him but that was not going to help the pain go away. He and Vin were sitting on either side of Ezra so they could easily grab him and hold him still if he tried to move.

"And why is it that I hurt so much?" He was becoming even more aware of the pain now.

Chris went through the list of injuries for him and watched as Ezra's face contorted at the thought of what he was going to go through. "This no doubt means that I am going to have to spend more time in Nathan's room." He groaned.

"Yeah well at least we can just visit this time." Vin commented.


Ezra could not stop the small laugh that escaped from his mouth. It was quickly followed by a sharp cry of pain as his ribs and chest voiced their protest at the slight movement. As the pain tore through his side, he tried to sit up so he could grab his side but he felt gentle hands on his shoulders holding him down so he instead tried to bring his legs up to his chin. The agony tore through his left leg and another cry came from his throat.

"Ezra stay still, please." Chris allowed the concern to show in his voice. He no longer felt that he needed hide it from Ezra. They were friends now and he also knew that Ezra would not try to push him away as he had begun to accept the friendship and concern that they all now showed towards him. Except for Nathan when he was kept in the confined space of Nathan's room when recovery from an injury. He was still very stubborn during those times.

Ezra groaned and closed his eyes. He waited hoping that the worst of the pain would leave him but it didn't. For some reason he could now feel his chest rattle each time he took a breath. Chris and Vin could also hear the sound coming from Ezra's chest as he breathed. Vin pulled their coats back up over Ezra, they had fallen off when he tried to sit up. Chris had emptied one of the saddlebags and placed it under Ezra's head and then put his coat over him trying to keep him warm. Vin had also placed his own jacket over Ezra. They were both now cold but Ezra needed them more than they did, they had to keep him warm. They had thought about trying a fire for short periods of time but if the smoke built up then it would cause Ezra to cough and they didn't want that. It would cause him too much pain and maybe a more serious injury.

"Do you want some water Ezra or would you prefer your flask?" asked Chris.

"I'll leave the flask until I really need it." Chris took that as a yes to the water. Vin grabbed one of the canteens and handed it to Chris. Vin gently lifted Ezra's head and heard him groan at the movement. Chris quickly helped him drink the water and then Vin laid him back down. They both sat back and waited to see if he was going to throw it back up.

He didn't but he did go back into the darkness.

Chris tucked the coats tighter under Ezra's chin, they didn't cover his legs but that did not worry him, as it was Ezra's upper body that they wanted to keep warm at the moment. Vin placed his own hand on Ezra's forehead. "His fever is starting to get worse." He told Chris who just nodded in acknowledgement. They both knew what that meant. They sat against the cold wall of the mine and watched Ezra carefully. A quick reaction was needed in case he started to shake or woke up and began to move. Neither of them wanted to go through the process of resetting his bones. They also waited as the rain continued to fall outside.

It was now dark in the mine as the sun had gone down outside and the moon's light was not strong enough to reach into the mine to replace the light that was now gone. Vin and Chris could not see Ezra clearly, so they had both placed their hands on his shoulders feeling the heat that was beginning to radiate from his body through his coat. They felt him shiver on occasions but they were only slight but they knew that the shivers would get stronger and the pain worse. Ezra was very cold as his clothes had not completely dried, they would have taken them off him but the floor of the mine was also cold and that would have been just as bad for him as the damp clothes were.

They felt Ezra move beneath their touch. Chris shifted his position so he could keep a firm hold on Ezra's shoulder and he placed his right hand on Ezra's forehead so he would be reassured that they were still here with him. He felt Ezra move his head away from him but he kept his hand where it was, he didn't know why Ezra always tried to move away from the human touch of comfort, it was as though he feared it for some reason. He heard him groan and felt his forehead frown underneath his hand as he grimaced as against the pain. Ezra was coming around again, Chris was not looking forward to that. He wanted Ezra to stay unconscious so he didn't have to go through the pain.

Ezra continued to move his head away from the hand that was against his forehead. It was a touch he hated, it made him feel venerable that someone could get so close to him and he couldn't stop them. He felt it emotionally and physically and he had never wanted anybody to get that close but he found that it happened all the time now with the other six men of the group that now considered him as a friend. He felt a tremor go through his body and held back the cry that wanted to escape his throat. A second tremor went through him but this time more violently. He couldn't stop his body from voicing the pain this time. He wanted to roll over on to his side and draw his knees up but he knew that the pain would be worse if he did that.

Vin could feel Ezra shivering underneath his hand, he wanted to help him, do what he could to stop the shivering that kept going through his body causing him even more pain but there was nothing he could do. And it was going to get worse. He could make out Chris moving next to Ezra.

"Something wrong Chris?" He asked with concern. He began to feel Ezra move around as though he was trying to get away from something and then heard him groan. He could hear the pain that was in that quiet sound as it came from Ezra's shivering body.

"He's coming round." It was a simple statement from Chris but his tone said everything.

Ezra moaned again. Chris and Vin had to press down harder to try to keep him still. Vin moved his hand down to Ezra's uninjured leg and leant down on him. He tried his best to keep his body from moving around too much but he was unsuccessful. Ezra tensed up under their grip and they heard him as he hissed in air through teeth that were now clenched against the pain. They felt the tension slowly leave Ezra's body as the shivers finally stopped torturing him.
Ezra couldn't control the movement that went through his body. He felt the pain as it tore through him as the shivers caused his bones to grind together. He just wanted to go back into the darkness so he couldn't feel it any more but it wouldn't come back for him. He knew he was awake but he didn't want to open his eyes and see the concern on Chris and Vin's faces. It would make him realise how much worse this was going to get. He heard them talk to each other but tried to ignore them as he could now hear the worry in their voices.

Chris and Vin waited for Ezra to say something as they could tell that he was awake. His breathing had been easy while he slept but it was now becoming forced and ragged. Chris removed his hand from Ezra's forehead wiping the sweat that was now on his hand onto his own clothing. Chris felt Ezra shiver again but it then turned into a violent tremor and he screamed out as the pain exploded in his body.

"Hold on Ezra it will pass in a minute." Chris tried to comfort him as he held him down.

"That's easy. . . for you to. . . say." Ezra gasped. He groaned, his teeth clenched and his face contorted in pain. It took a few minutes for the tremor to finally ease but the pain didn't as Ezra's rapid breathing caused the pain to continue to flow through his left side and chest.

Vin felt the tremor leave Ezra's body. "Better now Ezra?"

"No!" He said a little too harshly.

"Just try to breathe easy Ezra it might help." Chris told him. He could feel Ezra staring at him but he didn't say anything.

"Oh no." Ezra tensed up again as he felt another tremor aggressively attack his already pain filled body. His left arm flew up and grabbed Vin's forearm. Vin nearly voiced his own pain as Ezra squeezed his arm but kept it to himself as it also told him how much pain Ezra was in. He felt Ezra's hand quickly let go of his arm and heard the small thud as it hit the ground. The pain had been so intense it had caused him to lose consciousness. Vin let out the breath that he had been holding.

"I'm going to check his breaks, make sure that they are still in place." Chris told Vin. Chris was as gentle as he could be as he first felt Ezra's left leg and then his right arm. "I have to reset his arm, the bones have moved."

"I'll hold him down in case he wakes up." Vin muttered. He leant over Ezra's chest and put enough of his weight on him to keep him down if he came to while Chris set his arm. "When you’re ready Chris." He heard the bones as they crunched back into place. Ezra moved slightly at the pain but did not wake up. Vin was grateful for that.

Vin sat back down against the wall and lifted Ezra's hand, he was going to put it on Ezra's stomach but instead he held it in his own for a while. He didn't know why, he and Ezra had never been close. They joked around sometimes but that was all. Even when he was hurt, Vin stayed in the background and let most of the others do the caring and show their concern. But watching as Ezra went through all this pain caused him to feel the need to show more concern for him, he felt he had to show it or else Ezra was going to have a harder time getting through this. He needed both him and Chris to help him. Ezra's hand felt very warm, his fever was getting worse.

"The others would be expecting us back by now." Chris broke through his thoughts.

"If we don't show up they will think that we have taken cover somewhere and then ride into town tomorrow." Vin told him. They wouldn't come looking for them now not while it was still raining. They probably won't ride out until lunchtime and then they won't find them until late afternoon. It would then take a few hours to unblock the mine and during all that time, Ezra was going to continue to suffer. He hoped that Nathan would join the search and that way he would have something to help Ezra with the pain. He felt a tug at his heart as he felt Ezra's hand twitch in pain within his grip. Even though he was unconscious, he was still feeling the pain that racked his body. He wanted to do something for him, anything but there was nothing. He kept Ezra's hand in his thinking that he could at least do that for him.

***

Buck was sitting on the porch of the saloon watching the rain turn the dry ground of the main street to mud. He held a warm cup of coffee in his hand instead the usual glass of beer. He was thinking of Chris and the others wondering if they were going to try to find some cover or continue on to Four Corners through the downpour. He knew that Chris and Vin would be okay with that but they would not allow Ezra to ride in it, not after what he had been through lately. The last thing any of them wanted was for Ezra to get sick again and have to spend more time in Nathan's room. The three weeks that he had been under house arrest was hell for all of them. He looked up as Josiah came out with his own coffee.

"You think that they will hold up somewhere." He asked as he sat down in the seat next to Buck.

"Yeah I do." Buck was watching as JD tried to cross the main street. "I don't think that they would want Ezra to stay out in this weather."

"So we won't expect them back tonight then?" It was a question that Josiah knew the answer to.

"No they probably won't be back until mid morning." Buck noticed that JD had made it to this side of the street and was now walking towards them.

"Five dollars says that Nathan won't be able to check Ezra over when they get back." Josiah challenged him.
Buck turned to him and smiled. "You're on." He knew that Nathan could be pretty persuasive when he wanted to be.

"Are they back yet?" Asked JD as he shook the water out of his long hair.

"No and we don't expect them back until tomorrow." Josiah told him. JD nodded, as he understood the answer and its implications. He sat down in the third empty chair and watched the rain as it fell wondering where the others were and if they were under some sort of cover away from the nasty weather. After the three weeks, Ezra was kept in Nathan's clinic he was told that he was in perfect health but under these conditions, they were all worried that he might get sick. And that was the last thing any of them wanted.



***

Chris and Vin listened to Ezra's ragged breathing, as he lay unconscious between them. Vin still had his hand in his and had felt the heat become even stronger as Ezra's fever had become worse. The tremors had continued to rage through his body. Vin had first felt Ezra's hand twitch but his whole body had also begun twitching as if in some sort of protest against the pain. He had tossed his head from side to side and Chris had tried to place his hand on Ezra's forehead to try to calm him down but the touch only seemed to make him worse so he had taken it away.

But now Ezra just lay still, the tremors had finally left him alone allowing his body a reprieve. They used this time to check his injuries again and found that both his leg and arm needed resetting. Ezra groaned and moved his head to the side as Chris reset his leg but he jerked awake the scream leaving his throat when the bones in his right arm were put back into place. Ezra's eyes sprang open and he squeezed his left hand not realising that it was in Vin's in hand. Vin gasped at the pain thinking that Ezra was going to break it.

Ezra was enjoying the darkness now as he no longer felt the shivers that were causing him so much pain. He wanted to stay there and not leave, as he knew what was waiting for him when he woke. Pain. And he didn't want that, he'd had enough it lately and did not want anymore. He felt something pull at his leg and it caused the pain to flare up. He voiced his protest but it had only come out as a moan and then he felt the agony that brought him out of the darkness into the waking world of pain. He opened his eyes and saw a form leaning over him.

"Chris. . . would you stop. . . doing that." Ezra's voice was shaking.

Chris moved back to Ezra's right side and place his hand against his forehead, he couldn't help but notice Ezra's lack of movement at the touch. He could also feel the burning heat of the fever, which was adding more distress to Ezra's already tormented body.

"I'm sorry Ezra but it had to be done." He heard the emotion in his own voice. He hated causing Ezra any more pain.
Ezra struggled to breathe as he felt a stab of pain in his chest and side each time he took in a breath. He wanted to go back to the painless void that he had just been savagely pulled from. Ezra licked his dry lips.

"You want some water Ezra?" Vin asked him.

Ezra turned to the sound of Vin's voice and noticed that he was holding his hand. Ezra weakly pulled his hand from Vin's grip and let it fall to the ground beside him. He nodded in response to Vin's question and then felt his head being lifted and he groaned in complaint at the movement which caused more pain but he did not hesitate to drink the water that he was given. He then felt the warm flow of whiskey that filled his mouth and swallowed grateful for the feel of warmth as it ran down his throat. He coughed slightly at the taste wincing at the pain it caused in his chest.

"What time. . . is it?" Ezra managed to ask.

"It's nearly midnight." Chris answered him.


Ezra tensed up as he felt the pain flow through him, he felt their hands on his shoulders trying to keep him still, trying to give him comfort that they thought he needed for some reason but it didn't work. They didn't stop the involuntary movement of his body and their hands were not alleviating the pain that he was feeling, he just wanted them off him but he did not say anything, as they must have thought they were helping him. He wasn't use to this sort of comfort and it was something that he would never accept, he had accepted their friendship and concern but their comfort. His mother had drilled it into him that it comfort was another word for pity and he hated anyone pitying him. And to him their touch was comfort, which meant that they were pitying him.

"The others will come looking for us soon Ezra." Vin had felt the slight tremor in Ezra's body and was worried that they were going to get worse again.

"And in the. . . meantime." Ezra was beginning to find it really hard to breathe as the pain was becoming unbearable again. He at least knew that once he passed the pain threshold he would pass out and be back in the darkness that held no pain for him. He heard the silence that answered him.

Ezra lay shivering, the unbearable pain flowing through his body as he listened to the silence that surrounded him. He could feel his broken bones grinding together as the fever that raged through him caused violent tremors, which in return allowed the explosion of pain to erupt, causing him to cry out. Each time this happened Chris and Vin tried to comfort him by placing their hands on his shoulders or his forehead but he tried to shrug them off. This only gave him more distress and he struggled harder to stop them. They had thought that it was the pain that made him do this so tried to show more concern for him. He wanted them to stop as it was bringing back to many bad memories from his childhood.

On the other occasions that he was hurt he was able to fight them off with the darkness, his anger and his hands but the darkness was not taking him away anymore, he was in too much pain to be angry and too weak to use his one good hand. It had shocked him when he was brought out of the darkness when Chris reset his arm to feel Vin holding his hand. He hadn't said anything to Vin but instead pulled his hand away from him.

The memories of his mother were running out of control in his mind. She had always degraded him when he was sick, never showed him any sort of comfort but gave him plenty of verbal comments about being weak. Maude had driven it into his soul that he was only seeking attention and that this meant he was wallowing in self pity, so any attention he received from being sick was only pity in return and not the comfort and attention that he so often needed and wanted because his mother never gave it to him. She often denied that there was anything wrong with him until he actually collapsed and even then, someone else would take care him. This made the families who took care of him angry as they were burdened with a child that they didn't want to deal with.

Maude also became angry when his illnesses stopped her from doing any cons that she needed him for and she did not hide her anger from him. All of this had started to make him hide how he felt physically as well as emotionally. He would not show these feelings as the only thing he received in return was anger and pity as his mother had convinced him that this was all he would get emotionally from other people. He became so good at hiding his illness that he often made it through the sickness without anyone knowing his was sick. It had become a way of life for him to do this.
All through his life, he had hidden everything from everyone, his emotions, and injuries and when he was sick. The time had also come where he hid these feelings even from himself. The first time that anyone showed him any sort of concern to the things that he had hidden so well from people was when he came to Four Corners. And he didn't know what to do with it the first time it happened. He wanted to think that they did care for him, worried about him and were concerned for him but once he had regained his health, they no longer showed those feelings towards him. Instead, they were replaced by anger, suspicion and mistrust. When he was hurt a second time those feelings of concern came back and he was beginning to think that all the things his mother told him were true. That the other men were just showing pity towards him and not concern.

His thoughts were interrupted by a brutal tremor that caused him to cry out at the excruciating pain. He felt someone's hand come down on his forehead and he weakly tried to move his head away from it but the hand stayed where it was. He tried to lift his left arm so he could remove the intruding touch. Someone else pushed his arm back down to his side. He hated the touch as he thought it was a touch of pity instead of comfort.

"Don't . . . touch me." He croaked aloud as he continued to try to move away them.

"Were trying to help you Ezra." Chris tried to reassure him.

"I . . . don't want . . . your pity." Ezra tired to allow the anger to show in his voice but couldn't carry it off. He wanted to be angry but he was too weak. He groaned as another shiver went through him.

"It's not pity Ezra." Vin told him.

"Try telling . . . that to my . . . mother." Ezra gasped as he still struggled to breathe through the pain that filled his chest.

"Your mother is wrong Ezra, she always was. It's not pity were showing you its concern." Chris knew that Ezra's mother had a lot to answer for and she would when he saw her again.

"Really."

"Yes Ezra, really." Chris kept his hand on Ezra's forehead as he tried to move his head away. He was becoming angry, not at Ezra but at Maude. He couldn't understand why she had brought him up like this. She was the reason for him not being able to show any sort of emotion but anger and stubbornness, the latter being his own trait.

"Then why do you . . . only show it . . . when I am hurt?" Ezra asked him. The pain was getting worse in his chest with each breath that he took and talking was not helping him. He began to cough and automatically tried to double up and was gently pushed back down but not before the pain flared up in his arm and ribs. He was unconscious again before he his head was back on the ground.

"Ezra?" Chris quietly called him. When Ezra didn't answer, he realised that he had blacked out again.

"What was that all about?" Vin asked.

"He still thinks we don't care." Chris said quietly.

Chris could still feel Ezra shivering under his touch. It would be dawn soon and they hoped that they would see the sun come through the gaps of the rock wall that blocked their exit as the rain had stopped hours before. If the sun did shine through then they would try to move Ezra into the areas of sunlight to see if it could warm him up and ease the shivers that kept racking his body.

Chris and Vin listened as Ezra began to mumble in his semi-conscious state, he spoke of places and people they had never heard of. His voice was angry and sad when he talked of his mother. He talked about the times she had left him alone with relatives, they heard the negative remarks that she had given him when he was sick. Comments that included how weak he was, how it was only self pity that he was feeling and not a sickness, that it was only pity that people gave him in return.

His ramblings eventually turned to the other six men of the group that he was now a part of. But his words gave Chris and Vin the impression that Ezra still did not believe they cared, that they still didn't trust him. He talked about being alone, about how he thought that he was not accepted as part of the group, that they seemed to pair off and he was often left on his own. He also talked about how the only time they showed him pity was when he was hurt and not during the times when he was healthy. Chris and Vin did not fail to notice that he still used the word pity instead of comfort or caring. The two men could hear the hurt and anger in Ezra's voice and they felt ashamed. They obviously had not done enough or said enough to have convinced him otherwise. They continued to listen to Ezra and hoped that the others would soon come looking for them.

The light began to shine through the holes of the wall as the sun rose to start a new day, the fact that the light was shining showed that the sky was now cloudless and the storm had moved on. Vin watched as the streams of light slowly made their towards them. He was finally able to make out Ezra's still form on the cold floor of the mine. Ezra had stopped shaking an hour ago and there had been no movement from him since. The light revealed Ezra's pasty white face to him and he saw the redness of the fever that flushed his cheeks, he saw the sweat that now soaked his hair causing it to cling to his scalp. Vin looked across at Chris and saw that he too was looking at Ezra taking in the same sight that he was seeing.

"Do you still think that we should move him closer to the rocks?" Vin asked. They had moved Ezra closer to the wall after they had managed to free him from the rocks that had covered him after the cave-in. Chris had suggested earlier that they move him into the light to try and warm him up but as he watched the light dance across the floor he started to think that it was not a good idea anymore.

"No. The light may be there but as the sun keeps rising the strength of its warmth will keep moving as well. We will keep him here." Chris had thought that it was a good idea but then he remembered the times when on a cold day he would sit in the sun but as it rose higher the shadows would take its place and he would only have to move again chasing it's warmth. He realised that they would have to do this to Ezra and it would be bad enough to move him once let alone keep doing it. He also thought that because they were not in the direct sunlight that the warmth of the sun would only be weak anyway.

They both looked down as they heard Ezra moan, his eyes slowly opened revealing the pain that they held but they did not seem to focus on anything. Chris leaned over until he was in Ezra's line of sight. Ezra blinked a few times and then finally focused on him. Chris used his hand to wipe the damp hair away from Ezra's face and grimaced as he tried to move his head away from him.

"The others should be coming soon Ezra and then we can get you out of here." Vin told him as he patted his shoulder.

Ezra did not say anything. He was in too much pain, it even invaded his subconscious now. He closed his eyes and felt
Chris and Vin still staring at him. "What?" he groaned.

"Just watching is all Ezra." Vin stated knowing it wasn't true. They were worried. Ezra was in a lot of pain and his breathing was becoming rapid. The sound that his chest made with each breath was also becoming louder which told them that the simple act of breathing was causing him a lot of pain.

"Then . . . stop." Ezra winced and tensed up at the flow of pain as it went through him. "Just . . . stop . . . it"

"Ezra don't talk, it's causing you too much pain." Chris told him.

"What do you . . . care." Ezra gasped as the pain became worse.

"We care Ezra so stop listening to your mother and listen to us for a change." Chris growled at him.

Ezra opened his eyes and looked back at Chris. "My . . . mother?"

"We more or less know why you push us away when we try to show concern when your hurt." Vin decided that he was going to deal with him as well. If they were going to convince Ezra that it was not pity they showed him but concern it would need the both of them to do it.

Ezra frowned at them. He was about to retort with a nasty comment but Chris spoke first. "When you were semi-conscious you talked and it was mostly about your mother and how she treated you when you were sick or hurt." Chris looked over at Vin then back down at Ezra whose expression had turned to one of anger. "It's not pity that we are showing you Ezra its concern."

Ezra just wanted the darkness to take him there and then. He closed his eyes, he wasn't going to look at them. "It doesn't matter . . . what it is . . . I don't . . . want . . .it" Ezra began to cough and the pain tore through his chest. He clenched his teeth against the scream that wanted to escape.

"We won't talk about this now Ezra." Chris reached for the canteen. "Do you want some water?"

"Yes." Ezra allowed them to help him drink from the canteen but that was all. When Chris had placed his hand back on Ezra's forehead, he roughly turned his head to the side but Chris did not get the hint. "Please . . . don't." he groaned.

Chris removed his hand and sat back. "For now Ezra but we are going to talk about this later when you’re feeling better." He looked across at Vin who was still looking at Ezra. He was thinking the same thing that Chris had been, that Maude had a lot to answer for.

"No . . . we won't." Ezra argued.

Chris didn't argue with him, it was not the time. Talking was causing Ezra too much pain so he did what was needed to be done. He agreed with him but he agreed with silence. He stood up and walked towards the wall of rock and looked out through the gap. "They should be coming soon. I just hope Nathan is with them."

"You . . . and me . . . both." Ezra moaned through the pain.

"Don't talk Ezra." Vin put his hand on his shoulder but then removed it before Ezra tried to.

Chris came back towards Ezra and as he did this, he saw Ezra's body violently shake causing him to scream at the pain. Without Chris there to stop him Ezra instinctively rolled onto his side causing him to scream again as his broken bones separated once more. Vin quickly grabbed Ezra's shoulders but was not quick enough to stop him moving. He pushed Ezra back onto his back hearing him scream again.

Chris reached him and with Vin's help, they kept him as still as they could. Chris leant on his thighs while Vin leaned heavily on his shoulders. It took a few minutes before Ezra was still again. His face was contorted with the pain and the sweat was dripping off his face. When the tremors had stopped, they took their weight off him.

"Ezra?" Chris hoped that he was no longer awake as he was going to have to set his broken bones again.

"What." Ezra's voice was full of pain.

Chris lowered his head and wondered if he really had to do it. He decided to wait a while. "Just making sure that you were still with us.," he muttered.

"I . . . wish I . . . wasn't." Ezra shuddered again and gasped at the pain. He was sick of it. He couldn't understand why the darkness wouldn't take him. It had all the other times when he was hurt, why not now.

"It won't be for much longer Ezra." Vin hated this. Ezra was going through so much pain and they couldn't help him. And the little things that they could do, such as comfort him, he wouldn't allow them to. He looked towards the blockage and silently prayed that the others were on their way.





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