A Weight to
Bear - Vin
Thanks to Kelly A for the beta.
Children die in this fic. If this upsets you, please don't read it.
Tanner shook his head and pulled Peso’s
reins over his head, looping the ends over the hitching rail. He slapped
his Buck-skinned coat and a plume of dust fell from the garment. Damn!
Where the hell did those young kids get to? Vin and the others had spent
the better part of the day scouring the town and the surrounding area searching
for the five-year-old Molson twin boys. Dusk was settling over town and he
worried about the safety of the young boys. They’d already spent a night
out in the open; to have to fend for themselves a second night caused the former
bounty hunter to frown.
What did two young boys know about
surviving the night in the wilderness? Alone, in the woods, hungry, cold
and scared. He could hear their childlike voices calling out for their
mama, wanting to be safe in her arms and bosom. What would they know about
finding food? Or knowing where to find water? What if one of them
was hurt? Or both?
So long as they were returned to their
mother’s frantic arms, he was certain they’d never wander off by themselves
Ava Molson lost her husband seven months
ago to the fever and now she was terrified of losing her twin boys. The
panicked widow paced frenetically at Gloria Potter’s; worried she’d never
see her darling angels again in this world. Their mop of sandy brown hair
fell endearingly into their eyes, and each was a mirror image of the other.
Marty and Sam were cherubic and fun loving children. And they were particularly
fond of Ezra and he of them. Vin had seen the pair just the other day,
totally engrossed in listening to a story that Ezra weaved for them.
Two little faces looking up and believing every single word that came out of the
gambler’s mouth. How was Standish going to cope if something bad befell
the Molson twins?
Vin glanced up the length of the street,
looking for signs that the Southerner had returned. Tanner was late back
to town, deciding to check an old well site before abandoning his search for the
night, but he hadn’t found the missing twins at the well. When Tanner
rode into town, Chris was waiting at the entrance to the saloon. Vin
watched the gunslinger give a weary shake of his head and head inside.
So lost in thought he barely recognised
shapes that emerged from the south end of town. Vin squinted and a quick
smile curled at his lips. He stepped off the sidewalk and jogged a few
steps toward the man leading the horse. But the quick smile that had drawn
his face to a smile vanished as he gazed into the expressionless façade of Ezra
Tanner sucked in a desperate breath and
looked past the walking Southerner and to the two small bundles tied over the
saddle of Chaucer. “Oh, God,” Vin exclaimed.
Ezra slowly plodded along the well-used
road. Travelling at least was much easier under foot now that he could
just follow the road and not have to contend with the dips and ruts gullies and
holes. His mind wandered, but he knew Chaucer would not allow him to
detour off the path; he at least would render them home. Home. When
did Four Corners come to mean so much to him? And when had he allowed it
to become home? The gambler glanced back at the bundles attached to his
mount. He swallowed hard and sniffed back the tears that threatened to
fall. Two beautiful little boys, how had he let them wrap so tightly
around his heart? His chest tightened and he shivered in his shirtsleeves,
as the wind lapped seductively over them. He’d draped his jacket over
Sam, unable to look at the empty and lifeless eyes. Marty was rolled up in
his bedroll. So much blood! And twisted and broken bones.
The gambler had checked on an abandoned
mine, fearing the twins had ventured into the unsafe tunnels, but it wasn’t
there that he’d discovered the Molson twins. It was down an embankment
that he’d found first Sam and then Marty.
Ezra glanced up at Tanner and closed his
eyes wearily. “I brought them home,” the gambler choked.
Vin stopped, standing by the
Southerner’s side, he gripped Standish’s arm and lowered his head. “That was right good of you,” Vin commended.
Standish dropped his head and the low
crowned hat shielded his face. “I was too late, Vin,” he shuddered.
“Now, I’m sure ya done everythin’
ya coulda,” Tanner pried open the gambler hand and took the horse’s reins.
“We’ll get ‘em fixed up nice, then I’ll go tell Mrs. Molson that her
kids are back.”
Ezra shook his head. “No,”
Standish countered. “I should be the one to inform her…she’ll want
to know where I found them…”
Tanner nodded in agreement, and led the
gelding to the undertakers.
Vin watched silently, standing a foot
behind the Southerner. He’d never seen the gambler so distraught; Ezra
was normally vivacious and happy, that the image just didn’t gel for the
bounty hunter. They’d stood in the shadows outside of Mrs. Potter’s
home for the past ten minutes. Ezra seemed unable to move from the spot,
frozen with inaction. “Ya want me to do it?” Vin whispered, but the
gambler still flinched at the softly spoken words.
“I can do it,” Standish replied.
He wiped the moisture from his face and knocked at the front door.
Ava Molson flung open the door with a
ready smile on her face. Her smile faltered at not seeing her missing
offspring and she looked hesitantly at the gambler and then past him to Tanner
behind. “My boys?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Molson,” Ezra
started, reaching for her hand, he cupped it in his own. “Marty and
Sam,” he swallowed past the rising lump. “Your boys,” he started
again, “they didn’t…they’re not…Marty fell…and, and Sam…”
Ava knew what the gambler was struggling
to say, she’d expected bad news all day long, but the longer it took for Ezra
to get it out the longer she could hold on to the minute chance that her sons
were alive and well. The older woman shook, terrified and uncertain and
she felt Gloria standing behind her offering support.
Vin stepped up on the porch and squeezed
the gambler’s shoulder. He’d been there at Silis’ when they
unwrapped the young twins and watched Ezra pale even further. Marty looked
very bad. Broken bones protruded from his leg and arm and blood matted his
scalp, legs and arms. There were dried stains about his mouth, but Vin
presumed Ezra must have cleaned the boy’s face up some before bringing them
home. It hardly seemed fair. Sam was unhurt except for two small
puncture wounds on his bare leg. “Your boys didn’t make it, Ma'am,”
Tanner finished for the gambler. “They’re over at Silis’ when you
want to see them.”
The widow wailed in torture and sank to
the floor, crying inconsolably. Gloria stepped round the distraught form
and briefly clasped Ezra’s hand and then Vin’s. It was a hard job to
inform someone that their child had died. “I’ll look after her, now.
We’ll come over to Silis’ in half an hour. Could you tell him to keep
the lamp burning for a while longer?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Vin agreed.
Tanner tugged Standish off the landing and pushed the compliant man ahead of him
and toward the saloon. “I’ll buy you a drink. Just gonna let
Silis know he’s gotta wait up. I’ll meet ya inside.”
Standish nodded and stepped up to the
swinging doors. Without opening them he looked inside at the raucous
atmosphere. He couldn’t cope with that right now. He needed time
alone to think, in silence. Ezra turned from the saloon and disappeared
around the side.
Vin entered the saloon only a short while
later and was disturbed at not finding the Southerner inside. He craned
his neck and looked through the crowd, hoping that he’d just missed the
gambler on the first glance around the room. He snaked his way toward his
friends. “Where’s Ezra?” he greeted, concern evident on his face.
“Ain’t seen ‘im yet tonight,”
Buck shrugged. “Something happen?” he asked seeing Tanner’s worried
“Yeah, ya could say that. He
found the Molson twins…”
“That’s great!” JD interrupted
clapping the palm of his hand flat on the table.
“They’re both dead,” Vin solemnly
announced, and Dunne sank back in his seat, crumpled.
“He didn’t come in here, Vin,”
Chris shook his head.
“Thanks. Got a few places I think
he mighta gone. Catch ya later,” Tanner nodded distractedly at the group
and left out the back door of the saloon, snagging a bottle of redeye from under
the bar as he left. “Put it on Ezra’s bill,” Vin ordered the
“Thought ya might be here,” the
tracker slid down beside the gambler, lying down on his back against the cool
metal roof of the mercantile.
“Your tracking skills are astounding,
Mr. Tanner,” Ezra slurred slightly.
Vin patted Standish on the thigh,
“Couldn’t find those youngun’s,” he admitted in desolation. “Musta been pretty rough, finding ‘em, by
“And how must have they felt, watching
one another die?” Standish sneered, staggered at the very image this
“There was nothin’ nobody could of
done. Marty was so broke up, even if ya’d got him home afore he’d
died, ain’t nothing Nate woulda been able ta do. And Sam…he was bit by
a snake. Don’t know too many folks that can fight snake venom.”
“If you’re trying to make me feel
better, you’re not succeeding,” Ezra drawled and swallowed down a healthy
dose from his flask.
“Know ya had a soft spot for those
“And I have no right to feel anything
but sorrow for their grieving mother,” Standish angrily shot back.
“They were your friends, Ezra.
You’re entitled ta mourn their loss. No one will think any less of ya if
Ezra stared up to the night sky and was
thankful that the darkness hid the growing wetness on his face. He turned
his face into his shoulder and wiped a large portion onto his shirt. He
couldn’t bring himself to don his jacket, after it had wrapped so intimately
against the dead child. He heard the tracker ask if he was cold and he
automatically shivered at the question. “No, I’m fine,” he lied and
tilted up the flask emptying the last of his whiskey down his throat. It
burned a path from his mouth to his stomach and the fire from inside kept the
cold night air at bay.
Vin drew the bottle from his pocket and
waved it at the Southerner. “Want to share this one?”
Ezra licked his lips and eyed the bottle
with anticipation. “By all means.”
Vin opened it and took first swig before
handing the bottle to Standish. “They were good kids,” Tanner
“That they were.” Standish drew
his knees up and rubbed at his tear stained face. He drank in relative
silence, sharing the liquor with his friend, he barely noticed when the bottled
The tracker returned the empty
bottle to his pocket, and slid the soles of his feet flat on the rooftop.
A contented smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Oh,” he sat up
abruptly, belatedly remembering a deal that was struck before coming out on the
roof, “we ain’t allowed to come down from here, unless we let Chris know
“Huh?” Standish blinked owlishly.
“Larabee says we gotta get help ta climb down.”
“Reckon he thinks we’ll get so drunk
that we won’t be steady enough to do it safely,” Tanner answered.
“On only one bottle shared between
us?” Standish queried in bewilderment.
“You’ve had a head start on me,”
“Ya gotta agree,” Tanner bargained.
With a dramatic sigh the gambler nodded
“Glad we got that sorted out, ‘cause
Chris, he gave me a bottle to bring up here as well.” Vin smiled mischievously
producing a second bottle from beneath his coat.
Standish grinned and stole the bottle out
of the tracker’s grip. “He know you already had one?”
“Yep, but he didn’t know that Buck
and Josiah both sent me up with one, also,” Tanner chuckled.
“So we have four?”
“Yep. That drunk enough for ya?”
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A Weight to Bear - Series
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