In Sickness and in Health
Sheriff Jalen Brooks came into the Sheriff’s office wiping his brow with his handkerchief. It was late summer and the last few days had been cooler than usual with a chilly wind blowing through the town. Deputy Brett Montgomery looked up as the man entered. “Are you sweating?” He asked a note of incredulity in his voice. He had lit the stove to take off the chill.
The older man said, “I get warm walking around town doing my rounds.”
Brett studied his partner with a critical eye. “You looked flushed to me.”
Jalen waved a hand at Brett. “It’s nothing. I guess the cold wind reddened my face.”
The young Deputy said, “A cold wind made your face red and you’re sweating? That doesn’t add up Sheriff.”
Jalen tried not to bite his lower lip like he used to when he was younger and caught not being quite truthful. He hadn’t been feeling very well and hadn’t wanted Brett to worry. “I’m all right.” He insisted.
Brett shook his head. “No, you’re not and you’re goin’ over to Doc Mac’s office right now and get checked out.” The young Deputy replied firmly.
Jalen raised an eyebrow. “I’ll go if I feel the need to and right now I’m just fine…, see I’m not sweating anymore and I’m not as flushed as when I walked in.”
Brett looked the Sheriff over with a critical eye. What he had said was true. He still didn’t like the way the older man looked. “All right.” He said and returned to his paperwork.
The Sheriff began taking care of some mail he had retrieved from the post office at the General Store and sifted through it. He posted a couple of newly arrived wanted posters on the wall as he usually did, took down ones that were no longer needed as the person had been caught and either killed or imprisoned.
Brett looked up from time to time and still didn’t like the looks of his partner. “I’m goin’ over to the Café for one of Miss Maria’s tasty pastries. Want me to get you anything?” He asked.
The Sheriff shook his head. “No thanks, you go along.” He said.
Brett did just that, heading for the Diamond Café.
Doc McNamara had stopped at the General Store and after making a few selections brought his items to the counter for Jim Duncan to check him out. “Doc…I think you should stop over at the Sheriff’s office and take a look at our esteemed Sheriff. He didn’t look very well and insisted he was all right. We can’t have our Sheriff falling sick. I know we have a perfectly capable Deputy, but I’m concerned.”
Doc Mac quirked an eyebrow. “Well…as he is an official of the town and hired by us I suppose it would be our duty to check in on him…I’ll stop by and have a look at him.
Jim nodded. “Thank you, Doc Mac.”
The doctor nodded. “You’re welcome.”
Jalen was sitting in his chair at the desk and glanced up as the doctor entered. “Somethin’ I can do for you Doc Mac?” He asked.
Doc nodded. “Yes, young man, you can come with me into your back room and let me have a look at you.”
Jalen got to his feet. “That little snitch!” He growled. “I told him I was perfectly fine!”
Doc raised an eyebrow. “Sheriff, if I didn’t know better I’d say you are close to having a tantrum.”
Jalen blushed red at the rebuke. “It’s just that I’m perfectly fine and everyone seems to think otherwise.”
Mac said, “Then why don’t we go into the back bedroom and have a look so we can tell everyone you are just fine then?”
Jalen knew he was caught and had no choice but to go with the doctor. If he refused then the man would be suspicious and demand he submit to an examination as he was a town employee and he as the town doctor had the right to check his fitness for his duties and going with him would reveal he was having problems and not feeling well. He sighed and followed the doctor obediently into the room he had used as a bedroom for most of the time he had lived in Diamond Springs.
The doctor examined Jalen and discovered he had a temperature of one hundred and one. He shook his head and said, “Young man, I should take you over to my infirmary. I want you to go home and get into bed.
I want you to stay there and drink plenty of fluids and not come back to work until your fever is gone.”
Jalen tried not to pout at the doctor’s instructions, and nodded. “Yes Doc.”
Brett walked into the office, having had his treat and heard voices in the back room. When he got closer to investigate he heard the tail end of the doctor’s orders to his partner. “I’ll make sure he stays in bed Doc and does everything you said.” The young Deputy and former outlaw told the doctor.
Jalen couldn’t help but glare at his young partner. “I can handle it myself.”
Brett shook his head. “I’ll help you and I’ll get Mrs. Hawkins to make sure you do as Doc Mac here has told you while I’m here in town takin’ care of things.”
Jalen looked from Brett to the doctor and back and realized he wasn’t going to win this battle. “Okay.” He said resignedly.
Doc smiled and nodded. “I’ll let Mrs. Hawkins know and when she arrives you can come back to finish out the day.”
Brett nodded. “Thank you, Doc.,”
Later that evening Mrs. Hawkins stayed with Jalen while Brett took care of things in town as well as the barn chores etc.
When Brett came home that night he came to Jalen’s room. He watched as the man slept and was relieved to see his color better and him sleeping peacefully. He was glad his partner was on the mend.
Three days later…Brett smiled at Jalen as they went out to the barn together to do the barn chores. The Sheriff was well again and Brett was happy. “Jalen, don’t scare me like that again. If you’re sick I need to know so I can help.” He told the older man.
Jalen pulled Brett into a hug and kissed him soundly. “I promise I will…I have a feeling that if I don’t the whole town will come and make sure their Sheriff is taken care of.” He grinned.
Brett smiled back. “If that were me you’d have swatted me.” He pouted.
Jalen nodded. “Yes, I would have.”
“Sometimes I wish Dallas were still around to swat you when you don’t do what you’re supposed to. I think you need someone like that.”
Jalen looked a bit shocked. “I don’t need someone to be watching over me like that. Dallas was my mentor, not my partner like you are.” He told the younger man hugging him tight. “He taught me things I needed to know so when you came into my life I could be just the person for you.”
Brett smiled up at Jalen. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I still worry when you don’t take care of yourself like I’m expected to.”
Jalen gave this some serious thought and then nodded. “Yes and I promise it won’t happen again. I want to be around for a long time with you at my side.”
Brett snuggled up to Jalen and sparks began to fly between them.
Jalen said in a husky voice, “Let’s take this into the barn.”
Brett nodded and the two men made their way into the barn and into the loft which was one of the places they liked to engage in the age-old activity they were both very fond of.