Topic #47: Throw down your gun, you might shoot yourself...or is that what you were trying to do?
Pain and Suffering by: Leah
In The Beginning by: Jo
Staring Down the Barrel by: Dede
Darkness by: Cindy
Pain And Suffering
by: Leah

“Throw down your gun you might shoot yourself.” Teaspoon said calmly to the obviously distraught young man in front of him. “Or is that what you’re trying to do?”

“I can’t go on Teaspoon. I just can’t!” Barnett said woefully from the corner of the holding cell.

“Now son, I know it hurts and I know you’ll miss her but ain’t it for the best this way?”

Teaspoon barely nodded but the signal was received and Buck began to slowly inch his way into the room. The bumbling Deputy was so lost in his own head and his own world of pain and sorrow that he never even so Buck slithering slowly towards him from the far side of the room.

“Teaspoon I loved her. You’ve got to understand. I need her. I felt alive when I was with her almost as if I could do nothing wrong. I know I’m not that good as a lawman but she made me feel like I was. I can’t go back to before. I can’t go back to that silent empty room. I need her. I loved her, she was gonna marry me Teaspoon. What did I do wrong? How did I mess everything up this time?”

Buck paused hearing Barnett’s words. He recognized the sadness and desperation. He could see himself in that same place. As much as he liked quiet and solitude too much of it and he became morose, some times dangerously so. He hadn’t been that way in years, not since he and Ike became friends but the ‘what if’ came into his head and he had to stop and thank the great spirit for giving him Ike and through Ike his whole Pony Express family.

Barnett began to weep, slowly, not even seeming to realize that he was. Teaspoon edged forward and laid a hand on the broken man’s arm. “Son, it weren’t anything you did. She’s an unusual woman and she has left a lot of hurt in her trail.”

Barnett’s fingers loosened it’s grip on the gun at the touch of another human being reminded him that he was in fact still alive and someone cared what happened to him. Buck slid his arm through the bars and grabbed the gun from Barnett’s hand and cleared the round in the chamber. He then got up and slowly walked out of the jail. Allowing Teaspoon to do what he does best, dispense wisdom and justice and to help Barnett find a way to move on with his life.

In The Beginning
by: Jo

A prequel to Home is Where You Hang Your Heart

Crack, crack, crack several shots rang out.

“Take cover!” Noah shouted but his warning was unnecessary; Buck and Jimmy had already ducked behind and under the wagon they were transporting Emory Pike in.

“I think there’s three or four, there up in the hills.” Jimmy called out as another shot ricocheted off the side of the wagon.

“Only one” Buck stated with his usual confidence. He crept out from under the wagon and started to go looking for the shooter. “You get him to Fort Laramie, I’ll track the shooter.”

~*~*~

Buck smiled to himself as he remembered that day. He was holding the latest letter from Jane; it smelled faintly of lilacs. She said she missed him and it was signed ‘Love Jane’. Buck jumped when Ike touched his shoulder.

*Sorry, another letter from Jane? Tell her I said “Hi” and draw the hand signs!* Ike smiled as he walked away from Buck. Ike had a good feeling about Jane and Buck; they looked good together and he could see Buck had already fallen for the young beauty.

~*~*~

Buck found the shooter’s camp and crept up silently as he’d been trained to do as a child with the Kiowa. The shooter sat with his back to Buck reloading his weapon. The man wore a baggy shirt and pants, no coat and a flat cap, he didn’t notice Buck. Buck silently drew his knife, moved slightly to the side and pounced on the man, his knife poised to kill. He landed on the man one leg on either side of the man’s hips, his right hand across the man’s chest pinning him down. Buck raised his hand to plunge the knife into the shooter when she screamed.

A pair of crystal blue eyes filled with fear peered up from under the brim of the cap to meet his own very surprised brown ones. Buck looked down at his position on top of the girl and quickly moved his hand, being sure to keep her gun out of reach. He scrambled off the terrified girl and demanded a few answers. She sat up and adjusted her clothing; the cap fell off revealing very long light brown hair that was pulled back into a pony tail. After a few very awkward moments he found out her motive for shooting at them. Pike had killed her father and she only wanted the killer to pay for his crimes. He explained who they were and what they were doing. She agreed to go to Fort Laramie with him and watch the hanging. Buck fought the urge to run his fingers through the long hair that seemed to shimmer in the fire light. He noticed her shivering and handed her his coat.

Jimmy and Noah both laughed when he caught up with them at the Fort and introduced them to Jane. She’d playfully hit his arm when he answered Noah’s question of ‘Is that the sharp shooter?’ He’d said shooter yes, sharpshooter, eh, and shook his head. He could still see the look that passed between Jimmy and Noah; they knew. The day of the hanging she stood beside Buck and had turned to him when the hangman pulled the lever dropping Pike to his death. Buck had put his arm around her and held her tightly as she cried for her father and her own uncertain future.

Later that day she watched in horror as the casket that should have contained Pike’s body, only held sand. She angrily told the boys what she had seen and after the disbelieving looks she got, demanded that they check it out for them selves. The next day she got up and left early going after Pike. Buck, Jimmy and Noah were all left wondering what the pretty young girl from Falls Church would do. Buck tracked them both and they found where Pike had gotten away from Hack there was blood, but no Jane. Buck reluctantly followed Pike’s tail in the hope it would lead him to Jane.

~*~*~

Buck remembered that morning, he’d been scared that she’d be hurt; Pike was a known killer. He didn’t know why but he’d felt a strong connection to her even then. He reread her letter and uncapped the ink bottle to pen an answer to her letter.

~*~*~

He’d tracked Pike and finally came on Jane’s camp just as she and an obviously badly injured Pike, faced off. Her abilities with a gun were beyond bad. He was afraid she’d hurt herself or worse. Pike had been angry at seeing Buck but didn’t put up a fight. Buck had managed to disarm Jane before any wayward shots hit something they weren’t meant for, like himself.

Buck and Jane brought Pike to meet the others and one thing lead to another, soon the whole mess was behind them and the riders and Teaspoon were relaxing by a stream before going their separate ways.

“Please, can I have my gun back now Buck?” Jane asked for the hundredth time. “I don’t have anymore shot for it so I can’t fire it anyway.”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt. Do you know what I almost said when I saw you aiming at Pike?” Buck asked as he turned to face her.

“No, I don’t and unless you tell me I’ll never know.” Jane wasn’t sure about the look in his eyes.

“I almost said ‘Throw down your gun you might shoot yourself’ but I saw Pike…..” Buck’s words died on his lips as he looked at her face. “What?”

“Am I really that bad? You’re making me feel terrible. I wanted Pike dead and yes, I know he’s dead but I still feel bad, you’re not helping… or is that what you’re trying to do?” Jane was so angry at Buck, she was close to tears.

Buck had done the only thing he could think of, he folded her in his arms and held her. “I just want you to let go of your hate for the man who killed your father. It’s going to cloud the memory of the man you loved.” He’d held her for a very long time. Jimmy had finally found them and told them they were ready to move out. Buck had the sudden urge to kiss her but he settled for another quick hug instead.

“I’ll try Buck, will you write to me? I could use a friend…..” Jane asked as he helped her into the back of the wagon Hack was driving; her horse was nursing an injured hoof.

“I’ll do my best… take care….” Buck had squeezed her hand one last time; he regretted not kissing her when he had the chance. Buck watched her ride away and hoped against hope, that maybe, just maybe, they’d see each other again someday.

~*~*~

Buck was startled back into reality when Ike again interrupted his thoughts.

*Are you going to wait until the ink dries before you write anything? I’ve been told it works better when it’s wet……* Ike smiled as Buck stuck his tongue out at him. He stood watching Buck write for a few moments and saw him write ‘Ike says Hi’. Ike patted his chest three times, the signal for look at me I want to speak, and signed *Draw the signs*.

Buck groaned and drew some signs on the paper and followed it with ‘Ike made me do this’. Ike smiled and hopped up into his bunk as Buck finished and signed the letter. He watched as Buck folded the letter into an envelope and placed it with the other outgoing mail for the first run tomorrow. Yup! Ike thought to himself, Buck was in love…..

Staring Down the Barrel
by: Dede

Sitting at the table, he stared at the pistol in his hand and ran his fingers over the intricately carved steel frame. Pointing it at an unseen target in front of him, he cocked the hammer and imitated the noise of firing. Chuckling humorlessly, he released the hammer and pressed the gun against his forehead. The feel of the cool metal calmed him and soothed his burning brow. Turning the gun towards him, he stared down the dark, empty barrel.

"I could just pull the trigger now," he muttered to himself.

"Son," Teaspoon said from the doorway, "I'd put that thing down, you jus' may shoot yourself." The old man entered the room. Cocking his eyebrow, he added, "Or is that your intention?"

He stood so abruptly; the chair fell back behind him. "This is none of your concern," he gritted out. "Go away!"

Still holding the gun, he walked over to the window and, using the barrel, pulled back the curtain, staring at, but not seeing, the town below.

"I killed her," he choked out in a whisper. "It's my fault." He looked down at the gun as if seeing it for the first time. "This," he held it up over his head, "is my claim to fame isn't it?" He laughed, a high-pitched noise that sounded slightly mad to his ears.

Whirling around, he yelled at his old friend and mentor. "My fault! Admit it!" He staggered a couple of steps to the side, still waving the gun at Teaspoon. "She followed me here. She wasn't in any condition to travel but she did. I made her do it!" he cried, hoarsely. "Oh God! I..." he sobbed. Falling back, he hit the wall and slid down the barrier, toward the floor, ending in a crouching position. "I...I..." His body was wracked with the pain and misery of his guilt. He once again pressed the gun against his forehead.

"That's not true and you know it," Teaspoon said calmly, still standing just inside the opened door. "She loved you and wouldn't have had it any other way."

"No," he whispered, "you're wrong. She would've had it another way, if'n she'd known." He placed the end of the barrel to his temple. "This would solve all my problems." Again, he tried to laugh but the sound was hollow.

"I think you should jus' put that thing on the table," Teaspoon said, calmly.

"NO!" he screamed, his face contorted in anguish. "I deserve this! I do," the last two words were unintelligible through his sobs and, as if on its accord, the hand holding the gun fell away from his head. He finished sliding the last few inches to the floor, falling forward onto all fours, still keeping the gun in his hand.

"Son, you need to come with me," Teaspoon said, his tone never wavering, always keeping the same patient quality.

"That's impossible Teaspoon," he said, looking up at the man, "you ain't here!" Laughing hysterically, he fell over on his side, and rolled onto his back. Staring at the ceiling, he shouted, his voice husky with emotion, "YOU AIN'T HERE!"

"Please, get up, you need to do this." Teaspoon reached out.

Grudgingly, he sat up, rolled himself back onto his hands and knees and crawled over to the chair. Using it to push himself up, he sat back down on the seat. The entire time he held onto the gun as if it were his salvation.

"So, where're we goin'?" he asked. Not wanting to look Teaspoon in the eyes, he kept his glued to the gun. Passing it from one hand to the other, he weighed its worth as he weighed his options. Again, he aimed it at the unseen target.

"You know where," Teaspoon answered.

He dropped the gun back into his lap. "I can't go," he moaned, running his fingers through his hair. "I ain't ready...I have ta'..." He stopped suddenly, pulling his hand away from his head. He stared at the sticky substance on his fingers. "Teaspoon," he said, nervously, "did I do that?" He looked up at the man, pleadingly.

"No son, you didn't," Teaspoon replied sadly, reaching his hand out again. "Now, you need to come on, she and the others are waitin' for ya'."

"She's there?" he asked as he placed the gun on the table. "And...is he there too?"

"Yes he is," Teaspoon assured him, smiling. "He's waitin' ta meet ya'. Now, let's go."

He walked over to Teaspoon, the gun forgotten, and took the man's hand. "I'm ready."

"Yes, Jimmy," Teaspoon replied, "I believe you are."

Darkness
by: Cindy

The smoke still swirled around the yard, irritating his nose, his throat – and his eyes. But the tears cleared the smoke there, simply replacing the pain with their own salt- induced sting.

But he barely felt the sting past the pain in his heart.

It was almost more than he could do to make himself look around once more, and yet it was something he had to do. The sight would be burned into his memory for the rest of his days, of that he was sure.

The small farmhouse was smoldering, burned nearly to its foundation. Near the empty remains, Jeremiah’s body was sprawled, his hand forever reaching out in a futile attempt to reach his sister. Just beyond, Theresa’s unseeing eyes still showed the terror she had felt as she was ravaged and then killed.

In the middle of the yard, young Mary Emma lay, forever still now. The tears came faster as he remembered the happy gathering here just a week prior, as they gathered to celebrate the toddler’s second birthday. Near her, trying to protect the child, her father had fallen.

Teaspoon shook his head slowly. “Oh, Kid,” he whispered, his voice breaking even on those two words. “Never figured on this, not here by Rock Creek.” His eyes strayed to another puddle of blood near Kid’s outstretched hand. But just then there was movement from around the side of the barn and he turned his attention there. “Anything?” he asked, afraid of what the answer might be.

Buck shook his head, fighting the bile in his throat as he looked at the scene in the yard again. “Lou’s not here,” he said, the relief evident in his voice. He pointed back around the barn to the east. “I found the tracks where they left – and I found Lightning’s track with them.”

Teaspoon took in the report, considering. “You think they . . .”

“There was no sign of a struggle anywhere near the barn,” Buck said quickly. “They wouldn’t have taken Lou without a fight, not after all this.”

Teaspoon looked over at the loaded wagon still sitting near the remains of the house. “We just seen her in town,” he said, remembering how they had been laughing and joking, sharing the beautiful spring day.

Buck nodded, the memories filling his own thoughts. “From the looks of things, she must have gotten here right after this . . . happened.”

“And took off after them that done this,” Teaspoon added.

“I think so,” Buck agreed.

“Then we’d best be gettin’ after her,” Teaspoon said, his voice firm again. He had a task now, and that was good.

He couldn’t stay in this yard any longer without breaking down.

“Fred’ll be back with help from town soon,” Teaspoon continued, the veil seeming to lift from his sorrowed thoughts now that he had this goal.

Maybe something could still be salvaged from this terrible day.

Buck simply nodded in agreement and headed for his horse. The way the group had ridden out from the farm, they were making no attempt to hide their tracks.

But this was one trail he wouldn’t lose, no matter what.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Blood . . .

There was blood everywhere, everywhere she looked.

And she had caused all of it to be shed in this otherwise peaceful clearing, making the river below run red.

The men who had caused her pain had never stood a chance against her fury. And in their brute ignorance, they’d seen no danger to themselves as a single small woman rode toward them . . .

It was the last mistake any of them would ever make.

She felt numb, and she honestly wasn’t sure if it was days, weeks . . . or mere hours since she had found the carnage at the farm. Time had ceased to hold any meaning.

Her right hand felt heavy and she looked down, her eyes finally focusing on the gun she held. She was vaguely aware that it wasn’t hers, and somewhere in the deep reaches of her mind she recalled prying the gun from a dead man’s hand, using it to finish off the last of the devils who had taken everything from her.

Everything . . .

She watched as her arm slowly rose, barely aware that it even was her own arm. The gun came up, almost of its own accord, until it was pointing at her head. And her finger reached for the trigger.

“Lou?”

Her head moved toward the sound, although her eyes wouldn’t focus. Still, she knew the voice. “Teaspoon,” she whispered, the sound barely reaching her own ears.

“We’re here now, Lou,” Teaspoon pleaded, frightened beyond words at where she held the gun. “Let us help you.”

Help? How could anyone possibly help, when her world had been ripped apart?

“Lou.”

It was another voice, a voice she recognized, but she didn’t turn.

Buck stepped closer, coming up from behind, just to her right. The fact that she held the gun so steady, and wouldn’t respond, had him scared. “Are you all right, Lou?” Of course, that was a silly question, wasn’t it? He remembered all too well the pain of losing a sister as a child, his mother, Ike . . . What would he have done if they had all been taken at once?

Lou could feel herself starting to tremble. How could she possibly be all right after all she had seen – and done – today?

Teaspoon stepped forward, hoping to keep Lou’s attention on him so that Buck could get closer. “Lou, please let us help.” Of course, even for all of the death he had seen in his years, this was the toughest day he had ever had.

Lou just shook her head, unable to speak. She loved these two men, but not the way she had loved what had been taken from her today. There were no words to make them understand.

“Lou, put the gun down now, before you shoot yourself,” Buck said softly. And then, even softer, he added, “Unless that’s what you really want to do.”

His voice was so close, and the gun dropped fractionally as she reacted to the surprise. But then she shook her head again. “There’s nothing left,” she whispered, raising the gun again.

“That ain’t true,” Teaspoon said. Maybe she really didn’t know . . . “James needs his mama.”

Lou shuddered at the name. “He’s dead,” she replied. “I saw him. I saw him, shot . . .”

“He was shot, Lou,” Buck agreed, nearly up to her now. “But he was still alive when Teaspoon and I got to the farm.”

Teaspoon noted the slight flicker of life in her eyes, and he hurried to follow up. “That’s right, Lou. Kid had fallen partly on him, must have protected him. We sent Fred into town with little James to get to the doc.”

The trembling increased, and the gun suddenly seemed to weigh many times more. She was having trouble holding it up. “James . . .”

Buck saw the gun waver, tilt away from her head, and he sprang forward, grabbing the barrel with his right hand even as he steadied a teetering Lou with his left. He met with no resistance as he pulled the gun from her fingers and he quickly tossed it aside to free both arms to hold her.

Lou could feel her knees shaking, and she was sure she would have fallen if not for Buck’s arms around her from behind. “James is really alive?” she asked, her voice shaking as much as her knees. Thoughts of the tow-headed little four-year-old’s antics flashed through her mind.

“He was when Fred left the farm,” Teaspoon replied. He couldn’t truthfully say that the boy was still alive – the wounds had been bad. But with the fighters the little boy had for parents, there was a chance. “He needs you, Louise.”

Buck gently turned her toward him, wrapping his arms around her in a gentle but supporting hug. “I need you too, Lou,” he whispered.

Suddenly her body felt like hers again, and Lou wrapped her arms tightly around Buck, sobbing against his chest. “It hurts so bad,” she whispered.

“I know,” Buck said simply. The thought of going back to bury the friends – family – lying in that farmyard was tearing him apart too. But the thought of losing Lou as well as the others had him shaking in fear.

“Let’s go, Lou,” Teaspoon said – carefully avoiding the word ‘home.’ No, they wouldn’t be taking her there. And he needed to get her away from all the blood here too.

“I need to see James,” Lou said, grasping for the one thing that was keeping her going right now.

“Of course you do, darlin’ – we’re goin’ now,” Teaspoon replied.

Buck scooped Lou into his arms and carried her to where they had found Lightning waiting and then he lifted her trembling frame into the saddle. Then he took the reins and led the way toward his own horse.

When they were all mounted, Buck took one more look back at the clearing behind them. “What about them, Teaspoon?” he asked softly, indicating the bodies.

“Leave ‘em for the buzzards,” Teaspoon answered with a soft growl, the fire in his eyes and the hardness in his voice indicating that he considered that too good a fate.

The sun had set, and darkness had fallen, as the three riders turned toward Rock Creek. But the faint glow of the setting sun still lit the far western horizon as they rode, keeping the embers of hope – drifting on the fate of a little boy -- alive.

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