To Heaven And Hell And Back
by Sammy Girl
Disclaimer: None of these lovely men belong to me in any way, which is a shame, because I'd cherish them a good deal more than those who do own them.
Note: Betad by a good friend.
Written for: Dail
"Hallelujah, what kind of a place is called Hallelujah?" Ezra asked as he and Buck rode into the place that bore this improbable name.
Hallelujah was not much more than a glorified camp. "Presumably some place they found gold," Buck commented. The whole town was dominated by a sprawling mine that seemed to take up most of one side of the steep valley. The town, a long single street, took up the other side.
Ezra took another long look at the town. "What say we collect supplies, find a meal and keep going until we find ourselves some secluded spot, a long way from civilisation, just you and I - alone?"
Buck had been looking at the town as well. "Good plan, this place stinks."
The general store was small, but well stocked; though the choice was somewhat limited. Buck cheerfully purchased some bacon, coffee, sugar and flour. While Buck was purchasing their supplies, Ezra headed down the street in search of an eating establishment that looked and smelt as if it served even moderately edible food. He eventually settled on a small cookhouse who were offering stew - beef or rabbit - or steak or fried chicken. The smell of fresh baked corn bread and the smiling face of the owner and cook, a formidable looking black woman who was about as far around as she was high, made the final decision and he headed back to the store to find Buck.
As he walked he realised Buck was right, the town smelt, it smelt stale, tired and unwelcoming, the mountains that towered over it were spectacular, perfect in their pristine glory, the miserable little settlement of Hallelujah, where men made money by tunnelling in the dark, just didn't belong. Ezra suddenly needed to get away as fast as possible. They had been on a delivery mission for the judge, taking documentation confirming mineral rights to the land office in a small town north of Hallelujah. That town, Lincoln's Cut, was a little more than a miner's camp, the land office and the jail were the only buildings that didn't have canvas walls. Ezra couldn't help but think that sooner rather than later, Lincoln's Cut would descend into the kind of hellhole he now found himself in.
As he neared the store he could hear the unmistakable sound of Buck Wilmington's voice in full 'mad as all Hell' mode coming from behind the building.
"And I'm telling you to apologies to the lady - now!"
Yup, that's my Buck alright, Ezra admitted to himself as he picked up his pace. Half an hour, we are here just a paltry thirty minutes and he finds a damsel in distress to save!
Buck was squaring up to a much younger man, who was better dressed than most Ezra had seen in town. Behind Buck was a young woman, who was clearly not a saloon girl.
"Now," Buck continued, "I ain't saying workin' in a saloon is necessarily a bad thing, but a respectable widow like Mrs Martin here, she don't take kindly to you callin' her a whore, so take it back - now!"
Trust Buck to know her name already, Ezra mused.
"Look Mister, I don't know who you are or where you came from, but around here if a woman loses her husband and she doesn't take a new husband straight off, there ain't nothing else for her to do. All I want is first crack at her 'services' I'll pay top dollar for a fresh one."
Now see, that was a mistake, now you made him mad!
"Boy, you apologise for that or I'm gonna have to tar your hide till you can't sit down for a week! Do you hear me, you miserable little shit!"
Boy's got a death wish.
With that he pulled back his fist and took a swing at Buck.
Faster than rattler's strike Buck's arm flew up to block the incoming blow, then his other fist flew out and impacted solidly with the boy's left cheek, snapping his head back. He staggered a few paces back, hit the wall behind him and sank to the ground. Paying him no more heed, Buck turned back to the unfortunate Mrs Martin.
"Are you okay Ma'am?" he asked gently.
She nodded. "I'm no shrinking violet, my husband was a miner. All I want is to get out of this place."
"We too are eager to leave," Ezra confirmed.
"Do you have a horse or a mule maybe?" Buck asked.
"No, there's a freight company, Mr Cruz said he'd take me to Preacher's Cross, that's south of here, but I'd have to pay him as if I was freight."
"Ten cents a pound."
Buck cocked his had on to one side. "A little over ten bucks?"
She gasped. "Ten ninety, with baggage. How did you know?"
He shrugged. "It's a talent. What's in Preacher's Cross?"
"A stage line stop, I have a ticket. Jack, my husband, he gave it to me just after we were married. 'It's a dangerous job' he said. 'If anything happens, get out'. I have half what I need to get there, but Jake died the day before payday. The mine company say they won't pay me for the four days he worked, they only pay for a full weeks' work." She shrugged. "By the time I'd paid for a coffin and the preacher, six dollars was all I had left."
Buck didn't hesitate, he pushed his hand into his pocket and pulled out his money pouch, even thought ten cents shy of five dollars was more than a month's pay. Unfortunately he didn't have five weeks' wages.
"Darn it, I spent close to a buck fifty in the store, all I've got it four seventy."
There was a long pause while Buck looked at Ezra and Mrs Martin looked from one to the other. Finally Ezra put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some bills.
"She'll need eaten' money," Buck pointed out firmly.
Ezra raised an eyebrow, then peeled off two fives.
"You are both very kind," Mrs Martin, told him hesitantly as she took the money. "Please, who are you and were do you live? I promise I'll send you the money as soon as I can."
"Buck Wilmington ma'am." Buck tipped his hat. "This here is Ezra P Standish, we're from Four Corners."
Just then the crumpled form in the mud behind them groaned.
"Oh my, you need to leave town, that's Jason Dudley, his father owns the mine."
Buck looked over his shoulder at the young man. "I'm not afraid of him."
"You should be, there's no law here but mine law, and his father is the mine."
"It was clearly self defence," Ezra pointed out.
"From what I've heard, he's done a lot worse than that, but he's still free to do what ever he wants."
Buck and Ezra decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Mrs Martin convinced them she would be safe. She would go directly to the freight line's office, purchase her passage for dawn the next day and then lay low at a friend's house. The two Four Corners peacekeepers quickly purchased some fresh food they could cook easily, and headed out of town. Leaving the well marked trail they moved east for some way before turning southeast again. It was a warm night, with clear skies and an almost full moon, so they continued for some time after sunset, finally stopping when they reached a small lake.
The small clearing on the banks of the lake had thick, soft grass that made sleeping on the ground a lot more comfortable they were used to. Putting the potatoes they had purchased on the edge of the fire to cook, they took a moonlit swim in the lake, indulging in a little aquatic sex. After eating their fried steak and onions with pit roasted potatoes, they shared the cherry pie they had purchased. Buck broke off a chunk and fed it to Ezra.
"Your technique requires some practice. I have pie filling all over my cheek," Ezra admonished.
"Oh don't fret, I can take care of it." With that Buck leaned in and licked and kissed the offending sticky residue away. "See? Good as new."
"Hum, would like some more pie?"
"That would be nice."
Ezra placed a chunk of pie in Buck's mouth, letting a dribble of sauce run down his chin. As Buck savoured his pie, Ezra slowly licked his fingers clean.
"You made a mess," Buck commented, referring to his chin.
"So I did, let me take care of that."
They weren't to know that the posse following them from Hallelujah would ride all night, nor were they to know that one Jimmy Bearclaw, a full blood Cheyenne, was tracking for them. The first they knew about the posse, was being woken by shouted insults, as they lay naked, entwined in each other's arms, under the same bedroll.
"Oh my God, will you look at that!"
Buck and Ezra had rolled apart, both making a grab for their guns, only to hear a dozen guns cock all around them.
"If you two 'ladies' were planning on dying here and now, and I can see why you would want to, you're going to be disappointed, believe me." The speaker was a burly man with a full beard and a deep scar to his cheek. "Boy, if they move, be sure to shoot something painful, but not fatal."
One of the younger members of the posse lowered his gun to point at Ezra's groin.
"Not there son, as right as it would be, I don't want them bleeding to death just yet. Try for a knee."
"Mac get their guns, make sure you get all of them."
Mac, an older man with a hook-nose, moved forward, gun in hand. He was no amateur, he never let his guard slip hand after kicking the visible guns away, he picked up their clothes and located both Ezra's second gun and the derringer, not to mention Buck's knife. All the time the other men were making lewd jokes and tossing out insults.
"What's the matter boy, haven't got enough to keep a woman happy, so you get your boy to…"
"I've got more than you can handle!" Buck snarled back at the man.
"Shut the fuck up!" the leader snapped, swinging his rifle at Buck's head. Fast he was Buck was faster and the blow aimed at his eye impacted painfully, but less harmfully, on his
They were permitted to dress and mount their horses. Once mounted, and with at least seven guns on them, their hands were tied behind their backs. It wasn't done quietly or painlessly. Casual kicks and blows from fist and gun rained down on them without warning. Having endured this and bided their time until they were dressed and their horses were saddled Buck and Ezra exchanged a look and acted. Without warning they turned on their captors. The plan, a plan they had formulated with nothing more than meaningful looks - some of which had earned them more blows - was to get on the horses and make a run for it. They almost made it. Surprise was on their side, and superior skill, but numbers were against them and in the end the maths defeated them.
Having been instructed to bring their prisoners back alive, their captors had to meet fist with fist. Four of them piled into Buck while the other three made the erroneous assumption that because he was smaller Ezra would be easier to subdue. It took three of them to hold Buck down while the other pounded his ribs and midriff. Ezra, putting his hard learned boxing skills to good use was still standing - just, until the man hitting Buck broke away and brought the butt of his revolver down on Ezra's undefended shoulder.
Victoria Martin had been told the freight wagon would be leaving at dawn, in the end it was almost ten before they left. Right up until they set out she was worried that one of Dudley's henchmen would try to stop her. The wagon was half empty, far more came into the town than left it. Wanting to keep a low profile she made a space for herself at the back of the covered wagon. Less than an hour out of town she heard Mr Cruz curse in Spanish as the wagon rolled to a halt. As she peeped out from the back she saw a group of riders passing them on both sides. She barely managed to stifle a gasp of horror as her saviours were lead past, battered, bloody and captive, headed back to the hellhole that was Hallelujah.
"What do you reckon their gonna do to us?"
Ezra didn't bother to get look up. "Well I suspect it may well involve tar and no doubt there are feathers aplenty in this hell hole."
Buck didn't response, he already knew the answer. Fear knotted in the pit of his stomach.
"No doubt they intend the tar to be hot and to deprive us of out clothing first. Of course we won't have long to suffer the pain as it burns our most sensitive skin, because by then we will either be hanging from a rope or dragged behind a galloping horse. Personally I vote for the hanging."
Ezra's voice sounded monotone, resigned, yet Buck knew he was as scared as he was.
"I never thought to die this way," he finally admitted, still staring out of the window of the small jailhouse.
Buck pulled his eyes away to look down at his lover, who was playing solitaire, seated cross-legged on the dirt floor.
Life had changed so fast, in less than a day they had gone from blissfully happy, to facing an agonising, humiliating and ignominious death. Dusk was falling and their captors were now drinking heavily.
"There's still time…"
"There is no time, even if our friends knew of our predicament, they are at least three day's ride away, even if they rode non stop." Ezra finally looked up. "This is it my love, this is where it ends. I count myself most fortunate that I even had the few short months we have enjoyed. There are many people who live their whole lives without ever knowing what it is to love or be loved."
Buck finally left the window and eased himself down onto the floor next to Ezra, wincing as the movement pulled on his many bruises.
"I don't wanna die, not now anyway, but when I do die, wherever, when ever." He glanced back at the window for a second. "I want you to be there with me. Damn that didn't come out how I meant it to. I don't want you to die, I…"
Ezra reached over and placed his hand over Buck's, it was trembling. "I know what you mean, and I feel the same." He tightened his hold on Buck. "However this plays out, however ignominious, embarrassing, painful and humiliating our demise is to be, we know we are better then them and we have each other."
Buck spread his fingers, letting Ezra's slip between them, then he turned his head to face his love, and gaze into his eyes, amazed not for the first time how much love he saw their or how deeply the sight of those eye effected him.
"I love you Ezra P Standish." With that he lent in and captured Ezra's lips for a long, soft, loving kiss that neither man wanted to ever end.
"Oh my God! I see it but I still don't believe it!" At the sound of a stranger's voice they broke apart in an instant. "That is just the most disgusting, perverted thing I've ever seen!"
Neither man in the cell bothered to stand, they just sat back and regarded the two men who had entered balefully. The one who had spoken was the large bearded man who had led the posse. Jason Dudley stood beside him, the huge swelling and deep mottled bruising to the side of his face made it clear why he hadn't spoken and how much damage Buck's single blow had done.
"Scum like you should be exterminated like rats, and believe me we're gonna have fun doing it, but..."
"But?" Ezra finally prompted.
The jail house door opened again and two large men came in, all but filling the small room.
"In the meantime, young Jason's entitled to some payback."
Ezra had never felt so sick or so helpless. They handcuffed him to the bars while the three henchmen held Buck so that Jason could work him over. Buck, as always, gave as good as he got, matching physical blows with verbal insults. Some would say Buck was just making his own situation worse, but Ezra could see that he was using his words to unbalance the younger man. The more angry Buck made him the more Jason lost control, he telegraphed his punches more, making it easier for Buck to roll with them and as they came faster and faster there was less power behind them.
While it could have been a lot worse, it was still bad enough, by the time Jason was too bored or too tired to carry on and the men holding his victim let go, Buck just slumped, semi-conscious and bleeding against the wall.
"Let me go!" Ezra demanded.
"Why should I?" Jake asked.
"Because you need us alive."
"I don't need anything to do with you two."
"You do, you need us alive so that your lord and master, not to mention the mob, can enjoy the spectacle of our public humiliation and death," he sneered. "Mobs are unpredictable and dangerous, if you don't produce the two of us they're likely to turn on you," he warned with the voice of authority, then he turned his attention back to Buck. "It's in your own interest to keep us alive; so, get me some water and a clean cloth."
Jake shrugged, then collected a jug of water and a semi-clean rag. He placed them in the cell, locked the door then released Ezra.
"Have fun." With that he left, slamming the jailhouse door behind him, plunging the whole place into darkness, but for a meagre of moonlight.
Ezra managed to get most of the cuts washed out. Buck's left eyes was already all but closed, he had a split lip and a deep cut to the side of his right cheekbone. Blood continued to pour from his nose for a full twenty minutes, forcing Ezra to sacrifice both shirt sleeves, and moustache, which was now soaked in blood, at least kept the blood from running into his mouth. Once he was clean and the blood had stopped flowing, Ezra moved behind Buck and pulled his unconscious love back against his chest.
"I'm here, I've got you," he murmured, as he once more placed his hand on Buck's neck, reassured by the still steady pulse. "I've run from angry mobs more than once, tar and feathers too, some how I always knew they'd outrun me one day. I'm just sorry you have been dragged down with me. All this for defending a lady's honour." He shook his head. "Yet I would not have you any other way, my knight in shining armour, my hero, my friend, my love."
Buck murmured something unintelligible, then relaxed back against Ezra.
"Rest while you can, from the sound of things, it won't be long."
Outside the mob was getting louder as the whiskey flowed.
Despite his prediction it was another five hours before they were dragged from the small cell. Buck had regained his senses, though he was still somewhat groggy as they were manhandled out into the street, to be greeted with jeers and flaming torches.
Ezra surveyed the mob before them. "Buck, have you ever read a book called 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley?" Ezra asked Buck.
"Nope, never heard of it."
"Probably a good thing."
"You don't want to know."
"Stop your yammering and git!" A gun barrel was rammed against Buck's shoulders.
"Why should I? It's not like I'm in any hurry."
"You get going down the street, or I'm gonna beat the shit out of your pretty boy here."
Conceding defeat, Buck stepped down on to the street, Ezra at his side. The crowed parted before them. The mob that now surrounded them jeered, insulted and spat at them as they passed, yet kept their distance, it was as if they feared that the apparent 'unnaturalness' of these men might be contagious. They had gone no more than twenty yards when Buck, still somewhat dizzy, stumbled, on instinct Ezra reached out and steadied him. This simple gesture enraged the crowed, first one then two missiles were thrown, soon rocks, bottles, pennies and chunks of wood were raining down on them. Fortunately so drunk were the men that most missed their target, but not all.
"Ouch! Damn it!" Buck cursed as a bottle smashed against his leg.
"We may not have to worry about the tar and feathers, or whatever else they have in mind, we may not make it that far," Ezra observed, just as a coin hit him on the cheek, drawing blood.
"Don't much matter how it happens, we're still gonna be dead," Buck reminded him, ducking to avoid a rock, only to step too close to the crowed and earn himself a kick to the shins.
Despite the missiles, they made it to the livery and blacksmith's where, as Ezra predicted, the unmistakable smell of hot tar drifted out from the forge. A buckboard stood in front of the livery.
"You two get up there and get yer clothes off," Jake ordered them. "And before you ask why, if you don't I'm gonna shoot out your knee caps and cut them off you anyways, so get on with it!"
"I do so hate being right," Ezra commented as he followed Buck up onto the wagon.
"Off! Off! Off!" the crowed chanted, among other things.
Buck had just got to his third button, he noticed Ezra, with deliberate slowness was just only just placed his cufflinks in his vest pocket. That was when it happened, just as Ezra gave the pocket a reassuring pat, a shot, from somewhere to the right and behind them. It hit one of the torches, sending it flying back over the crowed, showering them with sparks and embers, before falling among them, scattering the rabble like hens when the fox is in the coup. In what felt like no more then a breath a second shot took Jason Dudley's hat off.
"Any one of you moves an inch, I'll blow his worthless head off!"
"Damn, I'd know that voice anyplace," Buck commented with a grin.
"That accent is quite unmistakable," Ezra agreed.
"Well don't jist stand there! Git over here!" Vin bellowed from the livery hayloft.
They leapt from the wagon as one and sprinted to the barn. Beau, Chaucer and Peso were saddled and ready to go, their gun belts were hanging over the saddle horns. As soon as Buck and Ezra were mounted and had their guns on the crowd, Vin grabbed the pulley rope hanging form the hoist arm and lowered himself to the ground, before swinging himself up onto Peso and wheeling him away.
"Let's ride!" he called.
"Amen to that!" Buck agreed.
They rode at a flat out gallop, grateful for the clear skies and strong moonlight for as long as the horses could keep going. As soon as they'd put some distance between them and the town Vin lead them off the trail.
"They got themselves a tracker, Indian, looked like he was full blood too," Buck told Vin as soon as they took a breather.
"Figured as much."
"You two ain't dumb enough to get caught else ways."
"Thanks, I think."
"May I ask how you found us and got here so quickly?" Ezra asked.
"Wire came, said you was in danger in Hallelujah."
"Four Corners is three days ride from here," Ezra pointed out.
"I was in Profit Falls, another errand for the Judge, Chris wired me. Rode all afternoon to get here. Ol' Peso's plum tuckered out on your account." He leant down and patted his horse.
"We are eternally grateful, believe me, to both of you," Ezra assured him.
"Had a quick look around as soon as I arrived and spotted your horses in the livery, so I put Peso in there too, your gear was in back. There was crowd was outside the jail, so I headed down there, saw them drag you out. With everyone watching you guys I snuck into the jail, got your guns and circled back to the livery - the rest you know."
They had reached a wide shallow creek, probably the one that led down to the lake Buck and Ezra had camped beside. Vin lead them out into the middle of the water then turned north, walking against the flow.
"Mr Tanner, while I understand the concept of travelling in water so as to leave no trail, you are taking us back toward the unpleasant little burgh we just vacated."
Vin just carried on riding.
"He knows that. They know that," Buck told him. "They'll assume we went south, so they'll split up, and search each bank, trying to find the place were we came out, mean time we'll be putting a good distance between them and us, before we turn southeast and head home."
"Ah, of course, I hadn't thought of it that way."
They rode in silence for sometime, only the splashing as the horses ploughed on through the water and the sounds of the night accompanied them. Finally Vin drew level with Buck, dawn was breaking, and with better light he was more able to see just how badly his friends had been treated.
"Looks like you riled them fellas up some."
"You could say that."
"Is it true, what they were saying, about you and Ezra?"
Buck looked over his shoulder at Ezra, who gave him the slightest of nods.
"Yeah, it was true," he admitted.
"Yeah, figures, darn it!"
"Figures?" Buck asked, unable to discern just how Vin was taking the news.
"Chris said you was a month back, but he couldn't prove it. You've been real careful, I'll give you that. I reckoned he was wrong, 'specially about you. You just cost me five bucks."
"Chris knows?" Ezra asked.
Vin shrugged. "Don't know."
"And you don't mind?"
"Hell no, it ain't that unusual, the tribe I was mostly raised by didn't pay it no mind. Course I know proper Christian folk are against it."
"I wouldn't call those gentlemen back there either 'proper' or 'Christian'," Ezra commented.
"Not hardly," Vin agreed. "Chris said what two full grown men do in private ain't no concern of his, so long as they can still do their job."
"Sounds like Chris," Buck agreed.
"If only others were so enlightened," Ezra commented.
Buck laughed. "Chris and enlightened, now those are two words I never would have put together."
"I wonder who sent the wire?" Ezra asked.
"Here," Vin pulled the telegram from his pocket. He didn't want to tell them he'd had the man at the Profit Falls telegraph office read it to him, so since he couldn't be sure of remembering the words exactly, he handed it back to Ezra. "Read it yourself."
"BUCK AND EZRA IN DANGER IN HALLELUJAH - STOP - INFORMANT NAMED MARTIN IN PREACHERS X - STOP- CHRIS."
"Well I'll be, Mrs Martin! She must have been in that wagon we passed when they brought us back into town," Buck realised.
"Who's Mrs Martin?" Vin asked.
"A damsel in distress, whom Buck felt honour bound to save," Ezra explained.
"That how you two came to be in that fix?"
"Figures." With that Vin picked up the pace.
"Figures? What does that mean?" Buck asked. "Vin, hey Vin?" he pushed Beau on to catch up to Peso.
Ezra just shook his head. Damn I love that man, though the Lord knows why. Then he kicked his horse on and followed them down the creek.
If you enjoyed this story, we're sure that Sammy Girl would love to hear from you.
HOME | SAMMY GIRL'S FIC | TITLES | AUTHORS | UNIVERSES
This website is maintained by Donna and Barb
with corrections and additions