Alternate Universe For the Larabees
Follows the events of the series Beginnings and the story A Brotherhood is Formed
My thanks to Maryann for the beta work.
Nathan Larabee entered the dimly lit train car, and closed the sliding door behind him. He waited for a moment to let his weary eyes adjust to the dimness, after having just come from the well lit dining car where he had warmed his baby brother's bottle. When he could see well enough to walk, Nathan started slowly down the narrow aisle of upholstered seats, filled with slumbering occupants.
It didn't take him long to reach the back of it. This was the section that the seven brothers had claimed as their for the duration of their trip west. They only had a few more days to go before they reached their final stop on the railroad line. He couldn't wait to get off the train, and knew his brothers felt the same way. It had been a hell of a week for all of them.
Their problems had begun the moment they boarded the train in Boston.
"Just where in the hell do you think you're going boy?"
A wool clad arm unexpectedly shot out across the narrow aisle,effectively blocking Nathan's way. His sudden stop caused a domino effect with his brothers, who were following closely behind him. He felt Vin bump into his back and let out a muffled ‘ow'.
He gazed from the arm to the man it was attached to. The man had thinning dark hair, strong angular features, and mean eyes, His black wool suit was of fine quality, but rumpled.
"Please Sir, withdraw your arm so I may pass."
"Lookie there, Silas, the Nigra boy has some manners."
Nathan's eyes drifted onto the speaker who sat across from the first man. This man was dressed in a blue suit. He had salt and pepper hair, mustache, and a wore a patch over his left eye.
Silas snorted. "Don't mean nothing. Most Nig-"
Before Nathan could react, there was swift movement from somewhere behind him. He felt someone shove past him, and then Buck was suddenly crouched over Silas, his hand twisted in the man's shirt. The man's collar tightened under the pressure Buck was applying, and Silas's face turned a mottled shade of reddish-purple, and he let out a strangled gurgle. He clawed at Buck's hands to try and loosen the teenager's hold on his throat.
"Hey!" Patch tried to go to Silas's defense, but froze as he heard the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking.
Out of the corner of his eye, Nathan saw Chris leaning over the seat on his right, his Colt aimed at the man with the patch. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Nathan felt his upper lip curve momentarily into a smile at the scared look that settled over Patch's face.
"Buck ease up on his throat before you kill him." Nathan ordered his younger brother softly, aware that they were gaining the attention of the other passengers who were already seated or had boarded the car behind the brothers, and were waiting to find seats of their own.
Buck reluctantly released his hold on Silas's neck and straightened up. Silas glared up at him as he gasped for breath.
"Hey! What's going on here?"The train conductor pushed his way through the passengers behind the brothers.
Buck stepped back into the aisle, as Chris quickly holstered his gun. Nathan half-turned in the aisle, using his free arm to push Vin behind him, as Josiah handed JD's basket to Ezra, before turning to face the conductor.
"Only a misunderstanding." Josiah assured him in a calm manner. "Isn't that right, gentlemen?"
Patch started to say something, but paled under Buck's glare, and the remembrance of Chris's gun pointing at him only moments earlier.
"Well, go on about finding your seats, and be quick about it. Train will be leaving in five minutes." The conductor gave them all a lingering glance, before turning to assist other passengers with their seats.
Nathan smiled as he remembered what his brothers had done for him. Their quick defense of him reminded him again that he wasn't alone anymore. He truly had brothers who would do anything for him, as he would do for them.
He and his brothers had quickly ‘claimed' their area at the back of the car. They established seating arrangements and sentry duty. No more were they settled, and the train had left the Boston station, than JD had awakened.
The sweet baby Chris had found in the trash, turned into a tiny terror. Every shuddering motion of the train, combined with the occasional shrieking whistle and screeching brakes as the train approached a depot, conspired to keep their baby brother on edge.
JD's distress was unsettling for his older brothers, and disturbing for the other passengers on the car. Nothing they did seemed to soothe JD's high pitched screams, hiccuping sobs, and fretful cries. For three days and nights, JD had carried on, until finally he had fallen into an exhaustive sleep, much to the relief of his older brothers and their fellow passengers.
He slept through the night, and much of the next day.When he awoke after his restful sleep, JD's attitude turned into a more contented, congenial one. The brothers didn't care so much as to the why their baby brother had ceased his crying fit, only that he had.
Nathan smiled down into JD's cherubic features as he slept contentedly in his basket. He placed the bottle he had warmed at JD's feet, before adjusting JD's blanket around him. JD's arms flailed and a whimper escaped from his tiny lips.
Nathan froze, holding his breath, feeling a moment of panic seize him as he waited to see if JD would awaken. A moment passed, then two more,and JD didn't let out another sound. He let out the breath he was holding with a sigh of relief. He knew it was silly, but all of them were still fearful that JD would once again turn into the holy terror he had been only a short time earlier.
He grinned at his foolishness and stepped over to the seat opposite the one JD's basket rested on. His smile faded away as he pressed his hand to Ezra's forehead. He was relieved to find that it was still cool. It appeared that the third youngest Larabee brother was on the mend for good.
The second night into their trip, Ezra became seriously ill with a mysterious stomach malady. Even with his days spent helping his former master care for patients during the War Between the States, Nathan couldn't recall seeing someone vomit as much as Ezra had. For four days and nights, Ezra had been unable to keep anything down. His brother's temperature had spiked dangerously high as well.
JD had been given over to the care of the rest of the brothers, as he and Josiah worked around the clock to tend to Ezra. They bathed Ezra often with water they obtained from the dining car, spooned water, broth, and herbal concoctions into his mouth. With each moment that passed, with none of his concoctions working to break Ezra's fever or ease his stomach, Nathan's heart grew heavier, and Josiah's prayers more fervent.
Just when he felt as if they would need to bail off the train at the next city they came to, to find a doctor, Ezra's fever finally broke. That had only been yesterday morning. With his temperature returning to normal, Ezra's retching ceased. He was only now finally able to hold down some broth, water, and medicine, much to the relief of all his brothers.
Josiah had led them all in a thankful prayer, and Nathan truly believed that the Almighty had had a hand in turning Ezra on the mend. Ezra was still incredibly weak and didn't move off his seat unless it was to make the walk to the privy, with the assistance of one of his older brothers.
Now that Ezra was slowly recovering, and JD had settled down, all the brothers were catching up on missed sleep. As he settled on his pallet on the floor between JD and Ezra's seats, he pondered whether or not he should wake up Chris. It was his blond brother's turn for sentry duty. Except for an assortment of annoyed grumblings from the other passengers on their car over JD's fretful crying and Ezra's endless retching, the brothers hadn't encountered any problems since their first night on the train.
Thankfully, the two men who had raised a ruckus about his presence on the train, had moved to another car that same night. The brothers had periodically seen Patch and Silas in the dining car or elsewhere, until Buck had reported seeing them depart the train.
It was a relief to know the men were gone, but the brothers hadn't given up sentry duty. His healer's heart almost won over his practical mind, but in the end, it didn't. Nathan sighed. They had rules for a reason.
After tugging off his boots, he crept over to the other side of their area. He was careful not to step on a snoring Josiah, where he lay on his pallet on this part of the floor. Nathan spared a glance at Buck, who was sprawled in a half-sitting, half-laying position on his seat. How Buck could sleep like that was beyond him.
Nathan knelt down in front of the seat where the dual forms of Chris and Vin lay..His brothers wore almost identical, peaceful expressions on their faces as they slept. The seat was not built for two, but Chris would endure anything if it eased Vin's mind.
Their six-year-old brother was extremely sensitive toward his siblings. When one was hurt or upset, it set Vin's usual calm, quiet personality off balance.Having Ezra sick and JD so upset at the same time, had thrown Vin totally off kilter. Add to it that they were totally surrounded by strangers, trapped in a moving metal box, and Vin was a tightly wound ball of nervousness.
The only thing keeping Vin from having a total breakdown was sticking close to Chris.That included sleeping with their blond brother, which was something the six-year-old hadn't done since the group came together as a gang. Nathan wasn't so sure if Chris would make such allowances for the rest of the brothers,as he did for Vin.. The two boys shared a special bond between them.
"You gonna keep gawking at us or are you going to say something?"
"Christ!" Nathan started, then swore at Chris's question, even though the younger Larabee spoke in a whisper.
Chris grinned at him over Vin's chestnut curls. Nathan scowled back. No matter how deeply asleep he might be, Chris had the uncanny ability to know when he was being observed or whether there was a threat to his brothers or himself.
"You're up." Nathan said.
Chris carefully extricated himself from Vin's grasp, and slid off the seat. He stepped carefully over Josiah's slumbering frame, where the eldest brother lay sleeping on his pallet. He turned and straightened the blankets over Vin's slender form. Vin moaned and rolled over, clutching the blankets to his chest.
He and Nathan exchanged troubled looks.
"I can't wait to get off this train." Chris admitted to Nathan.
"Me too. I don't like how its affected all of us. Vin's tense and clingy, Ezra getting so sick, and JD being so upset like he was."
"I've got to hit the privy. Stay with Vin 'til I get back?"
Chris was back before too long. Nathan told him where he'd placed JD's bottle, and that Buck was up next for sentry duty after him. Then Nathan went back to his pallet and stretched out, falling asleep the moment his head hit his knapsack.
Chris moved restlessly back and forth along the narrow aisle between the seats.He was careful not to make any sounds that would awaken the other passengers. They had been disturbed enough by JD's earlier crying bout, Ezra's incessant retching, and the anxious maneuverings of the rest of them as they tried to care for their ailing and upset brothers.
Vin's anxious cry had Chris hurrying back down the aisle to their area, before the six-year-old could cry out again.
"I'm here Vin."
He sat down on the seat beside Vin, who was no longer lying down.
Vin scooted closer and let out a shuddering sigh as Chris slung his arm over his younger brother's shoulder.
"You think I'm actin' like a baby, don't ya?"V in hung his head as he spoke.
"No, I don't."
Vin lifted his head to gaze up into Chris's face. Green eyes met blue ones and held.
*I really don't*
"Best try and get some rest." Chris told him. "I'll be close by."
Chris slid down to the edge of the seat so that Vin could lay down again. Vin settled with his head on Chris's lap and closed his eyes. Much to Chris's relief, his brother fell easily back to sleep within a few moments.
Not wanting to disturb Vin, Chris remained seated. He leaned his head against the back of the seat and thought about the ranch he and his brothers would own one day. Slowly his eyes closed as the rocking of the train lulled his weary body back to sleep.
Chris's eyes suddenly popped open. He didn't know what had awakened him, but he was glad it had. He wouldn't live it down if his brothers knew he had fallen asleep while on sentry duty.
Slowly, he slid out from under Vin's head and onto his feet. He yawned and stretched, listening intently to his surrounding. Above the kaleidoscope of slumbering sounds emitted by his brothers and the other passengers on their car, Chris could just make out the sound of...hooves?
Chris frowned. He must be hearing things. They were out in the middle of nowhere, on a moving train. Why would he be hearing the sound of horses' hooves?
He strained to listen again, certain he was imagining the sound of approaching hooves, only to hear them again, only much louder. He also heard what sounded like voices. Moving to the closest window, he stumbled over Josiah's legs and almost fell on top of the eldest Larabee Brother.
He caught himself in time, and using the seat Vin slept on and the wall, Chris straightened into an upright position and pushed back the curtains lining the window. He peered out of it in time to see several dark shapes flash by.
Horses with riders.Lots of riders. Chris drew away from the window, his heart racing. He let out an ear piercing whistle they used for emergencies and watched as all of his brothers, except for JD, came instantly awake.
A chorus of questions ensued from the rest of the Larabees, amid a half dozen annoyed complaints from the brothers' fellow passengers. Josiah let out a loud ‘ssh' effectively quieting his brothers and everyone else on the car.
"What's wrong Chris?"
"Horses and riders. Lots of them outside the window."
Buck snorted and ran a hand through his tousled hair."Horses and riders? You must have been dreaming Chris."
Chris's brow furrowed at Buck's words, but before he had a chance to respond, he was thrown off his feet as their car gave a violent lurch.
A loud explosion rocked the train, filling the car they were traveling in with what sounded like a thousand lightning bolts clashing together! More thunderous explosions followed the first, causing the train to jerk violently, throwing people madly around, as it shuddered and twisted about.
Nathan caught JD's basket as it was flung from the seat, and held on tight to his wailing infant brother as they were jostled about.
Chris's body flipped over the seat he'd been sharing previously with Vin, where he collided with his younger brother.
Buck was slammed back into his seat hard enough that he struck his head on the wall and let out a string of curses.
Josiah was thrown off his feet and landed with a loud ‘oof" on his backside a top Nathan's pallet of blankets. He had time to register Nathan's startled features from inches away, before Ezra landed on top of him and his breath left him in a rush.
All around them there were startled cries, pain filled moans, loud shouting, and the unmistakable sound of gunfire!
"Everyone okay?" Josiah called out once he was able to speak again.
"I'm good." Chris said, and Vin added, "Me too."
" ‘Sides from the goose egg on the back of my head, I'm fine." Buck rubbed the tender spot as he spoke.
"You cushioned my fall so I did not incur any injury." Ezra told him.
"JD's a little shaken up, but otherwise we're both okay." Nathan held JD cradled in his arms, as JD drank from his bottle.
"Chris and Buck go try and see if you can find out what's going on. Nathan hand JD over to Ezra to look after, while you and I check and see if any of the other passengers are in need of help. Vin stick close to Ezra." Josiah directed his brothers who moved to do as he instructed.
"Now do you think I'm still dreaming?" Chris whispered to Buck as the two brothers stepped out onto the small platform connecting their car with the one before it.
From their vantage point they could see several horses milling about on either side of the now still train.
Startled cries, followed by harsh shouts, and an occasional round of gunfire in the next car, had the two teens hurrying back into their own car.
Chris shot Josiah an urgent look as he passed by the eldest Larabee, who was helping a shaken up elderly woman back into her seat. Buck tapped Nathan on the shoulder and signaled his healer brother to join them in the back as soon as he was finished bandaging a male passenger's leg.
Both of the older Larabees were quick to finish up their tasks and join their brothers.
"What did you find out?" Josiah inquired.
"Train robbery." Chris told his brothers.
"How many?" Nathan wanted to know.
"About ten, I'm guessing." Buck provided the information. "We counted about that many horses milling about on either side of the train."
"Fork over most of the money you all have on you."
Josiah had given each of the brothers pocket money to carry in case they got separated from each other, prior to them boarding the train in Boston. The majority of the large bundle of cash they had discovered in JD's basket had been stuffed into the padding of his bed.
The brothers quickly handed Josiah the money he requested. He quickly shoved it into a sock and stuffed it under Nathan's pallet beneath JD's basket.
"The robbers are going to demand money from us. Give them whatever you have left in your pockets. Don't give them a reason to shoot any of us." Josiah told his brothers.
"I'm not going to stand by and let any of you be threatened" Chris protested heatedly.
"Josiah's not saying that Chris." Nathan spoke quickly, "If the need arises, we defend each other like we always have. But we have to think of JD and Vin, and Ezra's still recovering."
"Don't discount me from a fight brother," Ezra admonished Nathan. "I may not be fit for fisticuffs, by my aim is still good."
There was no more time for talking. The door to their car was yanked open and four men wearing bandannas over the lower half of their faces, dusty clothing, and brandishing revolvers, burst in.
"This is a train robbery. Hand over your money and jewels, and we won't have to hurt...anyone else." The lead outlaw announced in a lethal voice as the other men moved at once to carry out his orders.
The four older Larabee brothers shifted into defensive stances around their ‘area', moving subconsciously to keep Ezra, Vin, and JD hidden from the outlaws' view. They watched and waited in tense silence as the robbers worked the rest of the car, swiping money away from the other male passengers, and ripping cherished jewelry away from their weeping wives.
Chris's eyes were locked on the outlaws, his right hand hovered over the butt of his Colt, his finger ready to seize it if any of the bandits threatened one of his brothers.
Josiah prayed silently for the safety of his brothers and for the other passengers as well. At the same time he called down God's wrath on the train robbers for their cruel acts of violence.
Nathan felt his hands curl at his sides. He wasn't one to resort to anger or violence unless his sense of injustice was provoked or those he cared for were threatened. The train robbers had evoked both within him. He would not strike first and risk endangering one or more of his siblings, but was be ready to fight if the need arose.
Buck was coiled for action, ready to strike at a moment's notice. He hated bullies and the four men currently working their way toward their section of the car, were definitely bullies. Let just one of them threaten his brothers, and it would be the last thing they did.
Vin huddled close to Ezra, where his Southern brother sat on Nathan's pallet. His heart pounded and he trembled slightly as his anxiety ratcheted up, but he was ready to fight if his brothers needed him to.
Ezra swayed with weariness, but his hand was steady on the butt of his Colt where it lay hidden under the blanket which lay across his lap. He felt Vin's slender body tremble beside him and wished he could offer his younger brother words of comfort. Gratefully, JD had fallen back to sleep once he was finished with his bottle, and now lay in his basket, oblivious to the chaos going on around him.
"Fork over your money boys." A burly man with graying temples ordered, stepping up to Josiah.
He and Josiah eyed each other for a moment, before the eldest Larabee reached into the pocket of his denims and removed the few dollar bills he had in it. His eyes locked with the bandit's, Josiah tossed the money into the burlap sack held by the other man.
One by one, Nathan, Chris, and Buck handed over their money as well. The outlaw tried to brush past Chris to see what passengers remained in the car, but the blond moved instinctively to block his path. Though he could not see his younger siblings, he could sense the anxiety thrumming through Vin from the mental bond they shared.
"Chris!" Josiah hissed a warning, out of the corner of his mouth, as the rest of the outlaws closed in on their location.
Chris ignored his older brother and kept his attention focused on the outlaw standing before him. The man's brows furrowed, and the blond imagined he was scowling beneath the bandanna he wore around the lower half of his face.
"Move out of my way pup!" The man growled.
Chris held his ground. The tension ratcheted up a notch as Josiah, Nathan, and Buck shifted closer to Chris, ready to defend him and each other if the need arose.
"Step aside boy or we'll make you." One of the other outlaws snarled at him.
Before Chris could say or do anything else to provoke the outlaws, Josiah gave a slight nod, signaling Nathan and Buck into action. The two brawny brothers wrestled a scowling, cursing Chris out of the way, while Josiah addressed the train robbers.
"Forgive my impulsive brother. He seeks only to protect our younger siblings." Josiah shifted to his side, giving the outlaws room to look down the aisle toward the back of the car.
He met Ezra's ashen face and Vin's frightened one. Josiah felt anger flash through him at seeing the terrified looks on his younger brothers' faces. He worked to keep his anger under control as he waited to see what the outlaws would do.
Two of the men stalked past him, down the aisle, and he heard JD elicit a whimper as they rummaged through the brother's belongings, and jostled his basket.
Vin let out a startled cry as the toe of one of the men's boots made contact with his side.
"Shut up!" The man snapped at Vin, glowering at the seven-year-old as he leaned over them to go through Ezra's knapsack.
Vin shrank away from the man, evoking Ezra's anger. The older boy's gun cleared the blanket and was aimed at the train robber's face.
"Don't you talk to my brother like that...you uncouth miscreant!" Ezra's words were laced with all the contempt the weary ten-year-old could muster.
The man froze as he caught sight of the weapon aimed at him. The second train robber, who had entered the brothers' ‘space' behind his friend, leveled his gun at Ezra and a gun shot rang out...
Chris had shrugged free of Buck and Nathan's grasp, and stood angrily between them as two of the outlaws moved to the back where their three younger brothers were located. He shifted position, taking a step in front of Buck, and angling himself along the wall so that he had a clear view on Ezra and Vin, as well as JD's basket.
His eyes were not focused on his three siblings though, but on the men invading their area and frightening at least two of his brothers. Baby JD seemed blissfully unaware of what was going on around him.
Chris's body tensed and his teeth gritted together as he felt, more than heard, the fear in Vin's voice.
*Easy Vin. They'll be gone soon and we'll be okay.*
Chris hoped his words were reassuring to his younger brother. A moment later, he saw one of the men stumble as they searched through the brothers' belongings and he heard Vin cry out in pain.
He saw Ezra raise his hand, his slender fingers wrapped around the butt of his new gun. A surge of pride over Ezra's instinctive move to protect Vin filled him, mixed with a lightning flash of fear. Ezra had never shot or killed a man before and likely the outlaw would realize that.
Chris's attention was pulled toward the second outlaw, whose gun was rising to aim at Ezra. His Colt cleared its holster and he was firing it before anyone else sensed what was happening. He watched with grim satisfaction as the first outlaw fell, before he turned it on the one Ezra was currently holding at gunpoint. He fired his weapon again, just as his younger brother squeezed the trigger on his own gun. The second outlaw went down as well.
Chaos erupted as the remaining outlaws reacted to their companions being shot. Josiah, Nathan, and Buck tackled them, while Chris vaulted over the seat in front of him and landed on the one that JD had slept in his basket on. He jumped down onto the floor, giving his younger brothers orders as he moved.
"Vin, see to JD! Ezra, help me with him!"
Vin scrambled around Ezra and onto his knees beside JD's basket. He lifted a now wailing JD out of his basket, pressed his baby brother against his shoulder and tried to soothe him, even as his wide eyes watched the chaotic actions going on around him.
Chris faced off with the outlaw who had previously knocked Josiah to his knees. He didn't risk drawing his gun as Josiah and Buck were still in his line of fire as they tousled with the other train robber. Ezra dashed around Chris, nearly falling over the limbs of the two deceased outlaws, who lay sprawled on the floor, and readied himself to help Chris in any way he could.
The outlaw lunged at Chris, who dodged away from the man's grasping arms, and Ezra dashed forward, swinging his leg out, and effectively tripping the man. He fell forward onto his knees, allowing Josiah, who'd reclaimed his own standing, to slip an arm around his neck and squeeze until the train robber lost consciousness.
"Find something we can tie him up with." Josiah said, lowering the man to the floor of the train car, and turning his attention onto Buck and Nathan who were still tousling with the remaining outlaw.
Vin settled a now quiet JD back into his basket, and then rummaged around in his knapsack for a ball of twine. "Here Josiah."
"Good job Vin." Josiah took his eyes off the fight between Buck, Nathan and the outlaw, in order to tie the hands of the unconscious man at his feet.
Buck fell backward onto the seat closest to him, his jaw stinging, and his head ringing from the blows he received from the outlaw he was fighting with. As the man advanced on him, Nathan whipped his gun out of its holster and slammed the butt of it against the back of the outlaw's head. The man slumped to the floor, unconscious.
"Go check out the front and see if any of the other train robbers are heading back here for their friends." Josiah ordered Buck. "Chris, keep a watch on these two...they make any attempts to try to break free from their bindings, knock ‘em out. Ezra start rolling up our blankets and putting our stuff together. Vin, help Ezra. Nathan and I are going to go find the conductor and see if we can be of help to him somehow."
His younger brothers set to work on their individual tasks, Buck keeping guard at the front of the car. There were no more shouts or gunfire, but he did hear the thunderous sound of several horses riding away from the train and he assumed that the two remaining outlaws were being left on their own to face whatever fate had befallen them.
It made Buck glad that he had found his six brothers. He didn't want to think how his life would be without them. If Chris's Ma hadn't known his, he would have been alone when his ma died. He and Chris had leaned on each other after both their mas had died, and if not for that, they would have never had the guts to leave the orphanage, and take Vin with them.
One by one, they had found the rest of their brothers. Each time had seemed by chance, but Buck was beginning to believe what Josiah had told them. The eldest Larabee talked of fate having had a hand in the lot of them finding each other. That it was predestined for them to all be together.
Buck didn't know anything about Fate, destiny, or God for that matter. All he knew was that he was mighty lucky to have his brothers. After watching out the door for several moments, and none of the other outlaws had made an appearance in their car, Buck deemed it safe to go make a report to his brothers.
Buck made his way down the narrow aisle between the seats, nodding occasionally to the other passengers he passed, noting how shaken and pale some of them were, but none appeared to be seriously injured. He paused to help an elderly woman collect a variety of items off the floor, that had spilled out of her purse, during the train's abrupt stop. The woman thanked him profusely, her gnarled hands shaking slightly as he assisted her back onto her seat.
As he continued on his way to the back of the train, he couldn't blame the other passengers for still being scared. They had all been through an ordeal. Truth was, he was still feeling a bit rattled himself.
If Chris hasn't been so quick with his gun or he and Josiah hadn't subdued the other outlaw, they could have easily lost Ezra. Or Vin. Or both of their younger brothers. Luck had been with them though, and all seven of them were safe.
When he reached the back of the train he reported , ‘The rest of the outlaws are gone."
"Looks like you and your unconscious friend here are on your own." Chris taunted the outlaw who Nathan had hit with the butt of his gun.
The outlaw glared silently up at him. His unconscious buddy lay at his feet, while the bodies of his dead friends lay sprawled on the floor between the two seats where Buck and Ezra had slept.
"Not so tough are you now?" Chris nudged the outlaw with the toe of his boot, hoping the man would give him a reason to shoot him.
"Back off Chris!" Nathan ordered his hot headed younger brother.
He had returned to their area to retrieve his medical satchel, as he and Josiah were making their way up to the front car to talk to the conductor. The engine had been smashed by the dynamite the train robbers had used to stop the train, and the car directly behind it was a terrible mess as well. Several passengers on it were dead, while others were injured. With no other doctor on board, the conductor had been grateful for the offer of any help that he and Josiah could give their fellow travelers who had sustained injuries.
Chris turned a green-eyed glare on Nathan. Nathan met his younger brother's gaze evenly, and waited. A moment passed,then another, before Christ blinked and backed away from the outlaw.
After Buck had filled him in that the other outlaws had left, Nathan picked up his satchel, and strolled purposely down the aisle, calling over his shoulder that he and Josiah would return as soon as they were finished assisting with the injured.
Chris settled on the bench opposite the outlaw, and kept his eyes locked on the man. He wanted to do more than taunt and glare at the man.He wanted to kill both him and his unconscious friend for frightening his younger brothers.Hell, for frightening them all.
His eyes drifted downward to rest momentarily on the man Josiah had choked into unconsciousness, and then over onto the two dead men. He knew he should feel guilty about killing them, but he didn't. Both men had pointed guns at his brothers, and he had shot them to protect Ezra, Vin, and JD.
Vin's concerned voice drew his attention away from the dead men.
*I'm fine Vin. You?*
*I was scared.*
Chris heard the hesitancy in Vin's answer. His younger brother was worried he would think he was a baby for being scared. He knew better. Though Vin was only six, he was a tough, and never failed to come through for his brothers, whenever he was given a task to complete.
Besides, he had been scared too. Scared that if he hadn't been fast enough, Ezra, Vin, and possibly even JD would have died.
*I was too.*
The surprise in Vin's voice made him smile.
*Really. All of us were scared, even Josiah and Nathan.*
Vin fell silent again. Chris wanted to glance over to where he knew Vin now sat with Ezra and JD, but he didn't dare take his eyes off the outlaw. He would not give the other man the opportunity to try and hurt another of his brothers or possibly flee.
"What a wild night!" Buck exclaimed as he plopped down onto the bench beside Chris.
A commotion at the front of the car, had the four remaining brothers suddenly turning their attention in that direction. Buck sprang up from the bench and went to investigate what was going on. Chris took the opportunity to glance quickly over at Ezra and Vin. Ezra clutched his Colt tightly in his right hand, while he rested his left hand on Vin's slender shoulder. All three waited for Buck's return.
"The conductor says a couple of men were sent out to get the marshal in the next town over from where we are." Buck shot Chis a worried look as he rejoined them at the back of the car.
A spark of alarm shot through Chris and spiked its way into Vin and Ezra. Lawmen tended to ask a lot of questions that none of them wanted to answer. Now that Chris had killed two men, albeit it was in defense of his brothers, he really didn't want to have anything to do with no lawmen.
"Make sure everything is packed and ready to go." Chris said. "So that when Nathan and Josiah arrive back, we can leave."
While Chris continued guarding their prisoner, Buck helped Vin and Ezra check to make sure that all of their belongings were packed and ready to go. They were. Now all they had to do was wait until Josiah and Nathan returned to their car from helping to assist the conductor in caring for the injured passengers.
"Josiah, I need your help here." Nathan told his older brother, who was finishing applying a bandage to another passenger's broken arm.
"Coming brother." Josiah knelt hes large frame down beside Nathan's in front of a crying little girl and her worried mother.
"This little one needs stitches in her arm." Nathan explained to Josiah.
"Okay." Josiah smiled at the little girl, who had tousled red hair, freckles, and big blue eyes. "You sure are a cute little one."
The little girl smiled back at him, showing buck teeth, despite her obvious pain.
"Ma'am, I'm going to need you to hold her real still." Nathan said softly to the little girl's mother.
"Alright. Just help her, please." The woman said.
"Josiah, I need you to hold Betsy's arm here and here." Nathan encircled the little girl's tiny wrist with the thumb and index finger of his right hand, before using his left hand to gently grip her arm met at the bend of her elbow.
Josiah did as Nathan suggested, his big hands making Betsy's injured arm look all the more smaller and fragile.
"I want you to apply pressure where you grip her arm at the bend of the elbow, so that it lessens the flow of blood to the part I'll be stitching up. You'll also need to keep it as straight and still as you possibly can. I want to make the stitches as small as possible to reduce scarring, but it's going to take me longer to do it. It's a pretty good gash."
"Let's get to it then." Josiah said.
It was on both brothers' minds that there was a good chance they wouldn't be off the train before the marshal arrived with help. They had learned from the conductor about his sending men ahead to the next town for a marshal,when they had come to the front of the train to offer their assistance to the older man.
They had always tried to avoid the law as much as possible when they were in Boston, mostly because they had never met one who gave them anything but grief. True, most of the times when they'd had run-ins with the law before, it was usually because they were up to no good. Picking pockets, shooting dice, playing cards, scavenging through people's yards for tools, slipping in windows, swiping things from stores, and a number of other things they did to stay alive, were all things that made catching one or more of them very attractive to a sheriff or marshal.
None of them were ashamed of what they had done to survive. It wasn't the way of life they would have chosen to live, but through no fault of their own, they had been left alone to survive in the world by adults who died, abused them, or simply couldn't be tolerated to be a proper parent to them. So they had to forge a life for themselves the only way they knew how, and so they had.
Things were going to be different now. JD coming into their life, with his basket full of money, had not only made them a brotherhood, but it had given them the means to start a new life. N outlaw or lawman was going to stop them from fulfilling it either.
Nathan quickly readied a needle with thread, poured alcohol over his hands and the needle, checked to see if Josiah and little Betsy's ma was ready, before he peeled off the blood soaked bandage, and began to sew.
It was a painstakingly slow procedure, made worse by Betsy's cries and struggles. Blissfully she passed out halfway through, making Nathan's sewing job easier. He finished stitching her up, spread some salve over the stitches, and quickly wrapped the small arm in fresh bandages.
"She's going to have some pain when she wakes up.Give her just a pinch of this in some water every four hours or so." Nathan handed her the packet of medicine. "Over the next several days, don't allow her to use it too much or she might bust her stitches open. A little reddening around the stitches is normal, but bright red or pus coming out of it is not. Clean everything real good, keep applying this salve, and have a doctor check on her when you get home."
Betsy's ma thanked him again, holding her injured daughter close.
Nathan and Josiah hurried to exit the car and return to the one they had been riding in.
"Let's go." Josiah announced as he and Nathan reached their younger brothers at last.
"Where've you been?" Buck asked, slinging his knapsack over his shoulder. " You've been gone awhile."
"A little girl younger than Vin, in the car in front of ours, cut her arm pretty badly when the train wrecked. It took some time to sew it up." Nathan explained as he tossed his knapsack over his left shoulder, keeping a firm grip on the handle of his medicine satchel with his right hand.
His younger brothers voiced no further questions or complaints. Nathan was a healer. Caring for his patients came first before anything else.
"I've got JD." Josiah said.
He eyed Ezra, who was swaying a little on his feet. "Let me heft your knapsack too Ezra."
"No." Ezra told him stubbornly as he slipped the straps of his knapsack over his shoulders. "I shall carry my own belongings."
Josiah silently questioned whether Ezra was going to be able to take more than a few steps without passing out, but he decided to take his younger brother at his word. "Alright."
He started down the aisle, knowing his brothers would fall into step behind him.
"Hey, you just can't leave us here like this." The outlaw exclaimed in alarm.
"Yes, we can." Chris said, flashing the man a grin. "The marshal will be here soon enough to collect you and your pals."
The man's further protests fell on deaf ears as the brothers filed off the train. All six brothers sighed when they were once again standing on firm ground.
"We'll continue west by foot for now. Tonight we'll find shelter of some kind to sleep. Tomorrow we'll head into the closest town and see about buying us a wagon, horses, and supplies."
"Sounds like a good place to me." Nathan commented.
One by one the other four brothers agreed. Josiah smiled. Usually there was a it more ‘discussing' before a plan was decided upon. But was late, all of them were tired, and probably a bit hungry too. He knew he was.
He led them around the back of the train, and then stopped abruptly. Four horses, of varying colors and sizes, were tied to the back of the caboose. Either the four outlaws they had tussled with, or someone else, had rounded them up and tied them there.
"Brothers, I think the Almighty has brought more luck our way." He announced as they joined him.
"Horse thieving his frowned upon, "Nathan said with a smile, "But considering two of them no longer have owners, and the others are going to lose theirs shortly, I say they are free for the taking."
As quickly, and quietly as possible, the brothers untied the horses from the back of the caboose and mounted them. Josiah placed JD's basket across his lap, Chris helped Vin settle in front of him, and Ezra scrambled onto the horse Buck had chosen as his. He clung to his brother's waist as all four brothers took up the reins and kneed their steeds into motion away from the wrecked train.
None of the brothers knew where they would end up or what was in store for them, but no matter what it was, they would face it together.
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