By Enola Jones

He felt the leaden weights begin to drag his eyes shut once more. He forced himself to open them and keep moving.

Soon this would be over. Soon he would be home.

After all he’d been through, their warm friendship felt like an oasis in the midst of all the trouble they were consistently in. All the trouble he was consistently in now.

Ah well. At least it was a warm bed and good friends and life was never boring now. The cons now had a purpose, the schemes now had a reason beyond money….

Beyond money. Good lord, his mother would roll over in her grave – or more accurately, this would send her there.

Where were they? Why were they not coming to his side when he was bleeding all over the ground?

Hell, right now he’d even take some of Nathan’s patented horse piss concoctions… he barked an incredulous burst of laughter. Now he knew he thought of the place as home – he was picking up on their speech patterns!

Where were they?

He took a few more wavering steps before the coolness of a shadow fell across his path. Before he could react to it, he was literally scooped from his feet like a toddler.

Astonished, he reached out and felt the grizzled square jaw. “….Jo….siah?”

“I’ve got you, son,” the basso voice rumbled in his ear. “You’re safe now. Nathan?”

Hands touched him, turning his head. “Grazed. Who shot ya, Ez?”

He felt his head – quite out of his control, it was very heavy – tilt into Josiah’s shoulder. “Don’t….remember. He had....horrible breath…”

“Sykes,” Chris’s voice growled from another direction. “Thought I’d killed the son of a bitch.”

“Wasn’t…Sykes,” he groaned. “….too….pretty…..”

There was a pause, then a soft whisper of a voice that could only be Buck. “A pretty man? …. Clarence.”

“Has t’be,” Vin’s tenor now. “He could pass for a woman.”

“The…breath?” he panted.

“Clarence loves them peppers that’ll bring tears t’yer eyes.”

Chris and Buck let out low whistles at that. They’d both run into those before.

“Where’s….JD?” he gasped out, feeling those leaden weights tug on his eyes again.

“Back at town,” Vin said. “He’s watchin’ the town for us while we came an’ got you.”

Nathan’s voice was suddenly sharp with worry. “Josiah! Josiah, stop.” The movement under him stopped suddenly and hands were on him again. This time on his chin, tilting his head up and back into the warmth that kissed his face.

“I thought so,” Nathan whispered tightly. “Oh, shit.”

“Nathan?” Vin’s voice was just as tight. “What is it?”

“Shit,” Nathan repeated. “Ezra’s been struck blind.”

And at that, Ezra let the leaden weights win. His eyes closed and he tumbled into the darkness.

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