Alternate OW Universe
This is the second story in my Con's Son's AU. I don't own any of the characters in this story other than Joe Brooks and One-Armed Pete. (Though if Chris or Ezra's available I'll take them.;) )
Follows "Finding Home"
After Nathan had led Chris away Vin turned toward Buck. "Can you show us around town now??!!??" He nearly shouted.
Buck laughed, "'Course I can Vin. Just give me a second to finish eating."
Vin stopped bouncing in his chair but he started drumming his fingers on the table until Ezra said, "Vin if you don't stop we will be doing lessons for the rest of the day."
Vin immediately quit and just stared at Buck instead. Ezra sighed if Chris were present Vin wouldn't be doing this, he'd be hauling Vin out of here and making him do lessons for the rest of the day.
Ezra and Vin looked up when the door to the café opened and both of them nearly jumped out of their skin when a woman with blonde hair walked in. They both tensed but then Ezra took a closer look and caught Vin's eye and shook his head. The effect on Vin was obvious; he slumped down in his chair and tried but failed to stop his hands from shaking.
Buck had seen the reaction from the boys and was about to ask them what was wrong when the blonde walked over.
"Buck where is Josiah?" The woman asked when she was close enough.
"I think he went down to the hardware and then he's headed back to the church. Why do you need to know Miz Travis?" Buck asked curiously.
The woman smiled, "Oh nothing important I just wanted to ask him a few questions." Then for the first time she noticed Ezra and Vin. "Who are your friends Buck?"
"Oh this is Ezra and Vin. They're staying here while Nate takes care of their brother." Buck answered. "Boys this is Mrs. Mary Travis, she runs the Clarion Newspaper."
Ezra smiled, "It is nice to meet you Mrs. Travis."
Mary was surprised by the boy's manners then the other one surprised her as well.
Vin smiled just like his brother, "It is a pleasure to meet you ma'am."
Mary smiled, "Why thank you boys, and let me say your mother should be proud of your manners."
The fear showed on Vin's face for the space of five seconds and his eyes darted around the room as if looking for someone. Ezra just smiled and said, "That she was madam, but alas she has succumbed to an illness in New Orleans."
"I'm so sorry I had no idea," Mary said feeling terrible that she'd even mentioned it.
"That is quite alright madam you did not know." Vin hadn't spoken yet he was afraid if he did that he would break down and cry.
"Alright then I think I'll head down to the church to talk to Josiah," Mary said as she turned away. "It was a pleasure meeting you both."
"The pleasure was all ours," Ezra said with a smile that even though he was only a child almost made Mary swoon.
After Mary left Buck wanted to ask the brother's why they had reacted the way they had when Mary walked in, but he decided not to. Instead he took an excruciatingly slow time finishing his breakfast and wiping his mouth.
"So you two want to see the town huh?" Buck asked the two brothers.
Vin grinned as he answered, "Yes!! We do, we do!!"
Ezra smiled as he said, "I think that Vin has made my sentiments known as well."
Buck shook his head still marveling that these kids had such a wide variety of words, some of which even he didn't know the meaning. "Alrighty then let's head out. You coming short-stuff?" Buck asked JD.
"Yeah," JD said excitedly.
Once they were outside Buck turned to them and asked, "What do you boys want to see first?"
"We don't care," Vin said as he fidgeted and looked around him.
"Alright then we'll start right here," Buck said, "This here's the café but you already know that." Buck continued on through town coming to a stop in front of the saloon. "And last but not least the saloon Miss Inez's ma owns it."
"Miss Inez?" Ezra asked as his eyebrows rose in question.
Vin grinned catching onto the fact that Buck obviously had a crush on the girl.
Buck stammered for a second before JD said, "Buck really likes her."
Buck turned bright red as suddenly the doors to the saloon opened and a dark haired Spanish beauty walked through. Ezra could tell by just looking at her that she was a least fifteen, but she had a beauty beyond her age.
"Inez," JD cried as he ran up the stairs and threw his arms around her.
"Why hola JD," Inez said with a smile, "Hola Buck. What brings you two here?"
"Well ah That is we were ah " Buck stammered.
"We was showin' Ezra an' Vin around 'cause they's new in town," JD said enthusiastically.
"Oh," Inez said as she smiled down at the two boys, "Well welcome to Four Corners Senor Ezra and Senor Vin."
"It is a pleasure to have been brought to this town lovely Senorita," Ezra said as he bowed low.
"May I say pretty Senorita if nothing else your beauty alone would have brought me here," Vin said as he too bowed low before her.
Inez blushed at the flattery bestowed on her by these two boys, "Why I don't know what to say, I know come in and I will give you a sarsaparilla on the house."
Vin looked at Ezra and Ezra shook his head. "Alas pretty Senorita we promised our brother that we would not enter into a Tavern. So we must decline or he will break has promise to us."
Buck looked confused then he seemed to understand, "If you wanna say no just say it will ya."
Inez smiled at the two brothers as she ignored Buck, "Well then you sit right here and I'll bring them to you. I'll bring one for you and JD too Buck."
"Why thank you Inez," Buck said as Inez walked back into the saloon. "So what do you think of her?" Buck asked as he turned back to the brothers.
"She is a very pretty girl," Vin said, "But I've seen better."
"Where?" Buck asked as his eyes lit up.
Ezra grinned, "Where we used to live we saw pretty ladies every day you turned a corner and they were all standing around chatting at least five to a group." Ezra looked back to Vin.
"Yep the girls wuz always fawnin' over us 'specially Chris an' Ad " Vin paused as his voice broke and he had to look away as a tear fell from his eye.
Buck's curiosity was piqued, but just as he was about to ask Inez came back carrying a tray and being followed by a man who was saying, "Come on pretty, come and dance hic wit' me hic," The man was obviously drunk and smelled like vomit.
"No! I will not now leave me alone," Inez said as she sat the tray down.
"I won't leave hic ya 'lone 'til ya dance hic wit' me," The man said as he swayed unsteadily.
"I'll dance with ya now leave the lady alone," Buck said as he stood up and glared hard at the man who swayed and staggered before him.
The man turned to look at the boy that challenged him and laughed, "You an' wot hic Army?" he asked as he staggered towards Buck.
"Us," Vin's calm voice came from behind him and he slowly turned to look and laughed when he saw Ezra and Vin with JD hiding behind them.
"Jist a buncha hic liddle kids," He roared and as he did so he nearly fell over.
Vin grinned as he produced a derringer from somewhere, pointed it at the man and said, "Yeah," His slow Texas drawl more pronounced as he grinned like a Cheshire cat. "A buncha kids with guns."
Ezra grinned as he too triggered his sleeve gun and brought it up to point right between the man's eyes, "Can you beat that?" His eyes danced with merriment as he saw the look of pure terror cross over the man's face, which was soon replaced with shock.
The look on Buck's face mirrored the look on the man's. The man had been shocked sober, 'cause he never figured that two kids that were that young would have guns. Buck was shocked "cause he at the age of sixteen wasn't aloud to have a gun, but they at nine and thirteen each had a gun.
"I I d-didn't m-mean anything," The man stammered as he backed into the saloon, "I just w-wanted to d-dance."
Once the man was gone Inez stared at the two of them in shock, "Where did you get those guns?"
Vin looked down at the gun in his hand and shrugged as he slipped it back into place, "I've had it as long as I can remember."
Ezra continued for him, "When you live where we've lived it's essential to have a gun at all times. If you don't then you won't survive, but sometimes even having one doesn't make a difference." His eyes took on a far away glazed over look as a tear threatened to spill over. Then he seemed to snap out of it. "Even the women there have to carry a gun decent and "working girls" alike."
"Where is it that you lived?" Inez asked even though she wanted to ask what put that look in his eyes.
"We lived in New Orleans," Ezra replied as he took a sip of his sarsaparilla.
Buck drank in all this information as a scene from the past entered his mind.
It had been a week since Mrs. Larabee and Sarah had died, and Buck decided to find out how Chris was holding up. So he rode out to the Larabee farm and found Rob Larabee crying over the graves of his wife and daughter.
"Mr. Larabee, Sir?" Buck asked.
When Rob looked up to see his son's best friend standing in front of him the reality of what he'd done to his son hit him.
"What have I done?" He cried out.
Buck was confused he didn't know the answer to that and he really wanted to know where Chris was because Rob was starting to scare him. "Sir, where is Chris?"
"He's not here Buck," Rob said as he looked at the boy, "And he never will be again."
That really scared Buck, "Where is he? Did he run away?" Would Chris run away without telling his best friend? Buck didn't think so.
"He's half-way to New Orleans and his mother by now," Rob said in a voice full of woe.
"What?? Why's he going there?"
"Because I sent him there so he would be safe Safe from what I might do to him," Rob said.
Buck took a step back. He remembered Chris saying that he had three mothers. His birth mother, his stepmother, and Buck's mother, but Buck remembered something else as well. Chris had never wanted to see his birth mother.
"Now go Buck leave and please don't come back," Rob said as he turned away.
As Buck rode away he vowed that he would one day travel to New Orleans to see Chris even if it took him forever. When Buck returned and told his mother what Rob Larabee had said she cried. Even though she hadn't been Chris' true mother she felt like it more often than not. A week later Buck and Tessa Wilmington moved down to Four Corners New Mexico.
Buck came back to the present and realized that JD was talking to him. "Buck why don't we move his horse?"
"Who's horse?" Buck asked.
"The mean man's horse," JD said impatiently.
"Ohh," Buck grinned, "Good idea. You two wanna help?" He asked Vin and Ezra.
"Sorry we promised Chris we'd behave," Ezra said with a grin, "But we won't tell anyone it was you if they ask us. Isn't that right Vin?"
Vin chuckled, "We know how to keep secrets like nobody else."
Inez smiled, "I wouldn't let Josiah or Nathan catch you, but if they ask I will say you had nothing to do with it."
Buck's grin broadened as he rushed up to the horse untied it from the hitch- rail and moved it to in front of the Newspaper. He chuckled as he started to walk back towards the saloon then his worst enemy showed up.
Lucas James was spoiled by his rich Uncle and got his way every time. When he saw Buck messing around with a horse that wasn't his, a horse everyone knew was the fastest horse in town he decided to challenge Buck to a race. "Hey Wilmington." Lucas called as he rode up. "You wanna race that horse you just had against mine?"
Buck turned and disgust showed on his face, "Anytime anyplace," Buck said forgetting that the horse wasn't his.
"Right now down main street," Lucas said with a sneer.
So Buck went back and untied the horses reins swung up into the saddle and rode to the end of the street where Ezra, Vin, JD, and Inez all stood.
"Mr. Wilmington the horse is not yours you shouldn't be doing this." Ezra said
"Buck you really shouldn't be doing this," Vin said.
"Buck you's gonna get in trouble with 'saih an' Nate," JD said.
"Buck if you do this I will never give you a free sarsaparilla again," Inez said.
But no matter what they said Buck was bound and determined that he was going to race against Lucas. As people started gathering around the noise floated up to the room Chris was sleeping in. Chris woke up and looked around then heard the noise grabbed his pants and shirt put them on then went to see what was going on.
When he reached the street the first person he saw was Vin coming towards him. When Vin saw him he rushed forward, "Chris you got to stop Buck!! He's gonna ride a horse that isn't his in a race."
Chris sighed Buck had done this more than once when they were growing up. "Vin, go get my whip," He said as he moved to where the finish line was.
Vin didn't hesitate he ran and got Chris' whip. It didn't even occur to him that Chris still had a fever and that he should be in bed resting, not breaking up a race. Just as Vin grabbed the whip and started back the horses took off.
Vin broke into a run and reached Chris in no time, Ezra was already there and when he saw the whip he knew what Chris was going to do. He was going to stop the race by snapping the whip in front of the horses and if that failed He was going to turn his whip on the rider's.
As the rider's came across the line after the first lap around town there was a tremendous crack. Vin and Ezra flinched, Nathan that had just figured out what was going on ducked, the horses reared, and Lucas James wound up in the dirt. Men rushed in to see what had happened when another snap came stopping them all in their tracks.
The horses had calmed down and Vin and Ezra held their reins, Lucas was dazed as he looked up at Chris and the cloud that had entered Buck's mind at the beginning of this thing left his mind. Chris stood in front of them; he could have been carved in stone for all the moving he did his glare was firmly in place as he spoke.
"I seem to recall you promising to never race another horse that wasn't yours," Chris said as he looked at Buck then he turned his eyes on Lucas. "And you young sir need to learn better manners while you're in town. I don't know who the hell you are but I will take this," Chris lightly snapped the whip, "To you if you don't learn to behave. Now you will get out of my sight, and you," He turned to Buck, "Will put this horse back where you found it."
Nathan and Josiah had just arrived on the scene as Lucas James got back in the saddle and rode out of town and Buck was retying the horse to the hitch-rail in front of the saloon.
"Bucklin Wilmington!!" Josiah yelled as he approached, Buck winced, and JD said "Told ya so."
"Yes Josiah?" Buck asked.
"Don't you 'Yes Josiah,' me young man you are in deep trouble and you will be cleaning and fixing up the church for the next week."
"And," Nathan added, "You will be helping me for the week after that."
"And," Josiah added, "You will not be riding your horse for that entire time unless it's to help us you got it?"
Buck hung his head, "Yes sirs."
Suddenly Vin's voice full of panic called, "Chris!!"
The three turned to see Chris lying on the ground unconscious. And Nathan took charge, "Josiah help me get him up to the clinic, careful don't let his head hit anything. Buck I need ice and lot's of it he's burning with fever. Why was he even out of bed? No don't answer that I know why."
Once they had Chris up to the clinic Nathan moved to take Chris' shirt off but he suddenly found two boys between him and his goal. "Boys you need to move I have to take care of him."
"No," Vin said knowing that Chris wouldn't want his body seen by strangers it was hard enough on him when he showed his brothers so Vin wasn't about to let this man see them.
"Ezra get your brother to move," Nathan said starting to lose his patience, just as Buck walked in the room with a bucket full of ice.
"I am truly sorry sir but I cannot allow you to undress our brother or for you to see him in the buff," Ezra said this while remembering why each one of those scars were on Chris' body.
Nathan was about to lose his temper with the two brothers when Buck grabbed Vin and Josiah grabbed Ezra and they pulled them out of his way. Nathan stepped forward and started to unbutton Chris' shirt while Ezra and Vin were crying, "No don't."
When Nathan pulled the shirt away he staggered back as Josiah let go of Ezra to cross himself and Buck let go of Vin in shock. For the chest of Chris Larabee was a myriad of scars and on top of those the words 'I own you' were burned into his chest. Not a single piece of skin was left untouched. Some of the scars were white, others were red, and one was obviously only a couple months old.
Buck was white and starting to feel sick. Who had done that to his best friend and why? Nathan had seen many bad scars in his time but these were the worst he'd ever seen. Josiah was disgusted by the cruelty in man.
Ezra and Vin hung their heads knowing that each one of those scars on Chris' body was a direct result of something they or Adam had done wrong. They remembered the days where Chris was locked in the tiny 2x2 closet that had only been big enough for him to stand in. He would get locked in there for days on end without food or water, for things done by his brothers. They remembered the times when Chris had been tied to a post and they forced to watch as a man that was bigger than most took a whip to Chris and tore the flesh from his skin.
Suddenly Chris cried out shaking them all from their daze. "Adddaaaammm NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You son of a bitch I'll kill you for this. Come on little brother talk to me, no don't say that you're not going to die I won't let you. I'm here little brother I won't let you go. Yeah they're here too Adam, we won't leave you." Chris' voice was full of tortured pain as he continued. "Don't leave us little bro what about the Pacific you said you want to see that, you just can't die on us. No you bitch I'm not leaving his side. No you can't be gone!!! It's okay Vin, Ez, I'll get you out of here we promised Adam we would leave and we won't break that promise."
The three others in the room wondered about Chris' words, but Vin and Ezra knew that Chris was reliving Adam's death at the hands of a card sharp in one of the classiest taverns in New Orleans. It had started out like any other night.
Chris' job was to watch out for his three brothers and to make sure that they didn't get hurt or in a fight during a game. Vin was in one of the back rooms in an exclusive game that had it's own bouncers and since the bouncers knew what Chris' job was they assured him that they would watch over Vin for him. Ezra was in another back room in another exclusive game again with it's own bouncers and they too had assured Chris that they would watch out for Ezra. That left him Adam who was playing in the main room so by standing at the bar next to the table that Adam was playing at was a good place for him.
Everybody in the French Quarter in New Orleans knew the four brothers and they knew that despite their mother's best efforts they were honest gamblers that never had to cheat. Adam was the best out of the four and Chris was the worst, of course Chris wasn't a professional he just played for fun and he won more often than not. But of course some people didn't judge the boys by themselves they judged their mother and decided that the boys were just like their mother. Their mother was the biggest con in all of New Orleans and even the smaller con's avoided her. She also had a sadistic streak that made most of the most hardened killers sick. She beat and starved her oldest son for things done by her younger sons. And she was also know to have Chris whip somebody that didn't please her, that was how Chris got so good with his whip because he didn't want to really hurt someone.
One-Armed Pete was the bartender that night and he sometimes felt as if these boys were his own sons, who had died right here in the very bar he was at. He more often than not undercharged them or gave them free drinks. Of course Chris had to stay alert so he only had one real drink then after that he had the concoction that the working girls had to stay sober, and Pete was very discreet about giving it to the boy. Later One-Armed Pete said he didn't know what had started the argument that wound up with Adam Halmer fatally wounded and sure not to make it through the night, and one of the most prominent gamblers in New Orleans dead on the floor by Chris Larabee's hand.
When Joe Brooks walked in the tavern that night Chris had gotten the feeling that something bad was going to happen, but since he knew Mother would have a fit and lock him in the closet for a few days if he brought the boys home early. So Chris just let it slide even though he was more alert than he had been, especially when Brooks joined the game that Adam was in.
Brooks was one of the few that judged the boys by their mother so when Adam won four hands in a row he called him a cheat and stood up as he released his sleeve gun. Adam had also let his sleeve gun out the two guns went off simultaneously; Adam was shot in the chest and Brooks in the arm.
As the shot's echo faded Chris Larabee spoke into the dead silence. "You Son of a bitch I'll kill you for that." And he fired hitting the man between the eyes. The man didn't have a chance to even move, but no one would have said that since Adam was a well liked and well loved man.
Before Brooks even hit the ground Chris was at Adam's side and holding his hand and for the first time since Sarah had died Chris Larabee cried. "Come on little brother talk to me." Chris begged.
"Hey Chris," Adam said in a halting voice that now instead of a southern accent held a New England accent. "I'm done for older brother."
"No don't say that, you're not going to die I won't let you." Chris spoke in and haggard tone as the tears ran unchecked down his face."
"Don't cry Speedy," Adam said using his nickname for Chris just as Vin and Ezra rushed up both of them had tears running down their face as each one laid a hand on their brother. "Vin? Ezra? Is that you little brothers?"
"Yeah their here too Adam." Chris said as Vin and Ezra both chorused, "We're here."
"Chris I'm scared, it's getting dark. Don't leave me guys please don't leave me." Adam begged as he suddenly coughed and blood appeared on his lips.
"We won't leave you," Chris said.
"Good, Hey I know I'm not going to make it, so Speedy, Rambler, and Injun promise me you'll go see the " He was cut off by a cough that put more blood on his lips.
"Don't leave us little bro, what about the Pacific you said you want to see that," Chris knew he was begging, but he didn't care.
"You see that for me 'kay brothers. I can feel I'm not going to be here for to much longer," His eyes drifted to above Chris' head, "Good bye mother." Adam said as he closed his eyes.
"Come Christopher, Ezra, Vincent we will have your brother's body collected," Maude Standish said as she stood there feeling no pain for losing her son.
Chris stood up and turned on his mother his hand going to the gun on his hip and the look in his eyes causing her to take a involuntary step back, "No you bitch I'm not going to leave him not until he's buried properly not down in the harbor like I know you'd have him put." With that he kneeled back down and took his brother's hand.
Adam smiled at his brother and with his last breath said, "Promise me that you'll see it for me."
Chris sobbed out, "I promise you," Chris knew that he meant more than the Pacific he meant their little brothers freedom. When Chris said that Adam looked one last time at each of his brothers and then closed his eyes and let out his last breath.
Chris wiped his eyes and bent down to pick up his brother's body and followed by his two younger brothers and the whole saloon. They went all the way down to the undertaker's and one of the players from the game that Adam had been in went in and roused the undertaker. It was one o'clock in the morning by the time that the man had gotten Adam cleaned up and half the people from the saloon had dug a hole in the graveyard and ten other's had held the stone mason at gunpoint until he had given Adam the right epithet on a rock that was bigger than most other's in the graveyard.
By 2 o'clock in the morning more than three-quarters of the French Quarter had turned out for Adam's funeral. After another hour a quarter of the decent population had come to pay their respects as they lowered Adam into the ground it suddenly hit the three brothers that Adam had been well liked despite the fact that he had been nothing but a fourteen year old gambler. Once the service was over the people only lingered for a little while then dispersed to let the brothers alone. The decent folk went back to their homes and the others went back to their nightlife. The men and women from the tavern went back and then took Joe Brooks' body searched the pockets and then tossed him into the bay after that they took up a collection and One-Armed Pete delivered more than one thousand dollars to the three boys who still stood over the fresh turned grave.
After Pete left them Chris shoved the money in his pocket and gave the grave stone one last look before he hung his head and said in a quiet voice, "Read it out loud for all of New Orleans to know him."
Vin and Ezra complied, "Here lies Adam Halmer. Best loved brother and an honest Gambler. Shot in the chest by Joe Brooks and avenged by his brother. May he rest in peace and make it to heaven." As their voices died down the brother's turned away unaware of the sign in the harbor that said, 'Here lies Joe Brooks murderer of Adam Halmer, killed by Chris Larabee Adam's brother. May he burn in hell.'
When they were out of the graveyard Chris stopped and put an arm around each of his brother's shoulders. "It's going to be okay Vin, Ez. I'll get you out of here, we promised Adam we would leave and we won't break that promise."
The two younger boys nodded mutely as they walked towards the house they'd all lived in for the past four and a half years. Chris wondering what kind of reception he would get after what he'd said to Mother last night.
After two days of battling Chris' fever they were all exhausted and Josiah, Nate, Buck, and JD knew a little bit more about the boy's lives. Though it was just bits and pieces derived from Chris' feverish rantings.
Vin and Ezra had finally fallen into an exhausted sleep, when Mary Travis and Gloria Potter walked through the door each leading a child that was scrapped and bruised.
Nathan smiled as he got up, "Got into another fight huh?"
"Yes," Mary said then she saw the two boys asleep in cots by the wall and the young man sleeping in the bed. "I'm sorry we didn't realize."
"That's okay Miz Travis. The boy in the bed has had a pretty nasty fever for the last couple of days and those two are his brothers. They just got to sleep they been up for two day's trying to take care of him." Nathan smiled, "I've never seen anyone more devoted to each other than these three."
Gloria Potter smiled at Nathan, "We won't keep you then and I think I'll bring up some stew for you and these boys."
Nathan smiled at her, "Thank you Gloria, I'd really appreciate it."
Just as this was happening in Four Corners one town away in Eagle Bend a pretty blonde woman named Maude Standish was getting off the stage.