By Thalia


He couldn't breathe, he couldn't speak, hell, he couldn't even think, he was so scared! They were going to kill him this time. And for what? He had been so engrossed in his anatomy book, he had missed his stop… and the next one had been on the edge of Little New York… just the edge… yet, too close to the local gang for comfort! He had hardly stepped out of the bus when he had been spotted. Not even ten minutes later, they were on him, screaming insults, showering him with blows and kicks, seizing his hands and tying him up but good. And then, they had started to walk him back to Little St Louis, shouting threats to the Fists for their daring to send one of their own into this part of town. Of course, he had tried to tell them of their mistake. He didn't even live in Little St Louis, but on the main street of Four Corners, above the dentist's shop. All he had gained was a filthy rag in his mouth to shut him up and more abuse, physical and verbal. And fear had kicked in. He just couldn't believe that he would die today, when he hadn't even blown the candles on his 17th birthday cake that he knew his friend Mary would offer, just like last year… No, there wouldn't be any cake this year.

Suddenly, the unfairness of it all struck him with such force that he started to struggle, both against his bonds and against his guards. There was no way he would be led to the slaughterhouse like some brainless cow. If they wanted to kill him, they would have to fight and fight good. Those were his last thoughts before a suddenly splitting headache reached his mind fogged with fear and grayness invaded his sight. And he fell, like a tree. He didn't even notice when two of them pushed an arm under his and dragged him forward, toward the looming crosses of the cemetery. The only thought still pounding in his head was that all was lost.

He didn't notice when all his tormentors suddenly stopped and quieted. He didn't hear their sudden intake of surprise nor their raucous, incredulous laughs. Nor did he hear the exchange of pleasantries between the two parties.

"That's far enough, Kane," Chris said slowly, but loud enough to be heard by all the party.

"What, Larabee? You figure you can take us all? You the Lone Ranger or what?" the leader said amidst his followers laughs.

"He ain't alone…" Vin softly drawled, swinging his bat nonchalantly.

"Nope, he sure ain't…" Buck added, a wide delighted smile on his face daring them to push on.

"This here ain't your territory, Kane," Chris stated in a strong tone. "It's ours. And we certainly don't want the likes of you walking around with your markings and all…"

"So what? You wanna stop me, Cowboy?" Kane laughed at him.

"Buck? Did he call me a cowboy?" Chris asked, his left eyebrow inquisitive.

"I believe he did, Chris…" Buck slowly stated, shaking his head and looking in pity at Kane.

"Ya'll don't know what ya just did…" Vin added, looking at Kane sorrowfully.

"So what? You figure you can take us all, here and now?" He leered at them mockingly.

Chris just looked at him. Then a smile graced his lips, and when Buck saw that smile from the corner of his eye, he knew Kane was in deep shit. That was the smile Chris always had before attacking full speed ahead on the football field. The smile that always scared the shit out of their adversaries, 'cause deep inside, they knew he had figured out their weakness and was about to use his knowledge at full blast.

"Kane? You. Me. Here. Now. The winner gets to decide who crosses Four Corners territory and the loser walks away with the followers…" At the other band's laughs, he added, "Unless of course, you're scared of me," his smile turning sarcastic and mockingly taunting.

The taunt worked. Kane stepped forward, warning his gang to stay back.

"I ain't yellow, man… and I'm gonna show you, pretty boy. You won't be so pretty, once I'm finished with you." Then he turned to his followers, seemingly to take off his jacket. "When I have him down, don't wait and jump the others. They gotta understand it's not good crossing the Grey Coats anywhere," he whispered.

A few feet farther, Chris was shedding his leather jacket, not taking his eyes off his opponent.

"Chris, you better be carefull. You know Kane is on the wrestling team at school," Buck warned worriedly.

"He's right, Chris," Vin drawled softly. "Don't trust the sonovabitch. I'm sure he's gonna try everything in his book to get you down…"

"Hell, I know he won't fight fair, guys," Chris snorted, "I surely won't… besides, I sure didn't take all those courses these last months to be taken down on the first blow. First, he'll have to land his hands on me," he smiled sneakily… then stepped forward to call out Kane.

"Courses?" Vin asked.

"Boxing courses," Buck sighed. "One of our wranglers back at the ranch saw him brawling last summer and told him he was gifted at it. Was even willing to start teaching him… I remember…" and suddenly he stopped, smiling, "why, I remember the first things he taught him were the things not to do in fair fights," he laughed softly.

"Sneaky bastard, I take it," Vin smiled.

"Oh, boy, you have no idea… he's been captain of our football team the first year he was in… and that was three years ago. And lemme tell you, whatever he puts his mind to, he gets it. And if right now he wants to stall them so his father and 'siah can get here in time, believe me, he'll give them the best show they've ever seen," Buck smiled proudly.

Vin nodded in understanding, but still, he decided not to trust the gang, watching them closely in case they had sudden strange ideas… sudden cheers had him shift his eyes to the fight and worry tightened his chest. And so, he missed the slow but decisive maneuvre…

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

"Ez, I'm not sure we should be here," JD muttered worriedly. "What if they see us? We're gonna catch hell, you know..."

"My dear Mr. Dunne, there is no way I'm gonna miss such a fight! I'm wondering how long it's gonna take the big bully before he takes Mr. Larabee down…"

"What? You think Chris can't win?" JD exclaimed, incredulous.

Ez sighed. "Mr. Dunne, please, just look at the odds here. You have one big strong overmuscled wrestling young man fighting because of hate and revenge against one big muscled football captain trying to stall until the cavalry arrives. Frankly, the odds are not good, my friend," Ez stated, shaking his head slightly.

"Well, I say Chris is gonna win!" JD said firmy, crossing his arms stubbornly.

One eyebrow lifted amusingly, Ez asked in a honey-smooth voice, "Would you care to make a wager on that?"

But before JD could even answer, the sudden roar of cheers from the battle site diverted him. And as both boys were looking, they saw Chris lying in the dirt, trying to push on his arms to get up and shaking his head to clear it… and as JD was suddenly scared that one of his idols had fallen off his pedestal, he never noticed the movement of the crowd. But Ez did. And before he could shout to warn Buck and Vin, they were assaulted by the other Grey Coats, while the two young boys were looking on speechless in front of the sudden, well-oiled maneuvre.

"Jesus, Ez, we gotta do something," JD screamed in fright, not seeing their friends anymore.

Fear clutched at Ez's heart. What could they do? Joining the fight would doom them! 'Think, Standish, think… that's what you're good at, aren't you?' his mind was shouting at him. His eyes were roaming around, trying to find a way out of the mess for them all. And then, he saw it. Pebbles, pebbles all around.

"Tell me, JD," he mumbled while looking through his pockets, "are you any good at shooting?"

"What?" Asked the bewildered boy, still looking at the fight, his eyes widening when he caught sight of the busty blond jumping on the back of one guy and trying to bash his head in from the back.

"I am asking, are you any good with a slingshot?" Ez asked patiently, all the while gathering pebbles beside him.

"Yep, quite good… lotsa fun too," JD answered.

"Ok, my friend, then I suggest you use this," he said, putting a home-made slingshot in the boy's hands. "Here, I've gathered munitions for you. I suggest you use them sparingly… I won't be long, but who knows…"

"What d'you mean you won't be long?" JD asked, his voice shaking with fright, his left hand holding onto Ez's sleeve.

"Look there, they've left their prisonner laying on this side of the fence. Nobody is taking notice of him right now, so I'm gonna find him a safer place to hide. And then, we'll signal our side that there's no reason to fight anymore and they can make a run for it," Ez explained.

"'Kay, but be careful, Ez… don't want you to get hurt," he murmured shyly to the boy.

Ezra just smiled and nodded, then he left.

JD took a deep breath and looked back at the battlefield. Surprise had him lift both his eyebrows. Chris, Buck and Vin were fighting back to back, forming a triangle allowing them to protect each other… and they were fighting good too. Maybe Chris had been stunned by the first attack, but the result was a true pleasure to watch. Fists swinging, tongues lashing, smiles tauting, the boys were in the middle of the battlefield, having one hell of a good time! And since they didn’t need his help, JD decided to watch out for Ez. And smiled. The teenager was negotiating the tombstones wearily, getting closer to his goal with each step he was taking. Quickly looking over some, then promptly ducking out of sight, he soon neared the black boy's location, hiding behind the low wall and crawling on his stomach to reach him. JD smiled. Maybe Ez was a bit peculiar abouth his clothes, but he sure was ready to forget about them when he had to help someone.

Ez carefully looked over the small wall and catching Vin's eye, he winked mischievously and disappeared again. Neatly, he whipped out his swiss knife and sliding the blade free, he bent over Nathan to cut his ropes. It took him some time to register he was now lying in the dirt, the breath knocked out of him by the sheer force of the blow… and the black boy had his hands around his throat, his eyes wild with revenge. Fear raced through him. He couldn't speak, explain he was here to help… 'Just my luck,' he thought, 'the only time I try to do good, it bites me in the ass!' and suddenly his world went black.

From the other side, JD had seen it all and was in a quandary at what to do. Get out of hiding, help Ez out and pray nobody would see him, or stay hidden and pray for Ezra and the guys? The decision was taken out of his hands by the sudden arrival of whailing sirens. The cavalry was here.

Everything became a blurr. Thugs trying to evade the cops, the boys trying to place in some more blows. The sounds, the screams… though it lasted no more than five minutes, it seems hours had passed to JD when everything seemed to be normal again. And then, he winced. There, in the middle, standing side by side with a smile quickly fading from their faces, Buck, Chris and Vin were facing Lieutenant Larabee's wrath and Josiah. From the quick gestures, he understood they were trying to explain what had happened, even though the Lieutenant wasn't really wanting to hear it. Mostly, he wanted to scream. He didn't like it at all that his son would put himself and his friends in such situations… but he had to admit, the boys had done good this time. And they were not too worse for wear either… for now!

Seeing everything was okay from this end, JD went in search of Ez… and found him lying in the dirt, the black boy by his side, hatred written all over his face. And when he saw how irresponsive Ez was, JD got really scared… and jumped on the boy.

"What have you done to him?" He yelled. "You killed him, you bastard. You killed my friend." He almost threw himself at him, but all he could think of was cradling Ez's body in his arms… or at least, trying to. And so taken was he by his grief that he didn't see the others approach them, not even the black boy trying to help him, saying he knew CPR…


To Street Gang VI