"Baritone"
"Baritone"
(A Missing Scene/Epilogue to "The Last Command")
by Greywolf Lupous




Disclaimer: Rawhide characters, situations, and, uh, the Rawhide-ish kinda stuff, belong to who? CBS, Viacom… I dunno. But they don't belong to me! Though at times I wish they did… but they don't… so, uh, don't sue me, kay? ^_^;;;

Spoilers: Oh yes, some spoilers for the episode "The Last Command", so if you haven't seen it, and don't want the ending or anything else given away, don't read this fic. Thaz all! Enjoy!

Authors Notes: This is my first Rawhide fic, or to be more accurate, this is the fourth complete re-write of my first Rawhide fic. Finally got the thing to where I could stand it. Haven't seen all the episodes, it'll be a long time before I do (although I'm getting quite a collection right now, I think I'm on my seventh tape completely dedicated to Rawhide.) Also, I know I said it about ten thousand times in the e-mails I sent her, I have to thank Nancy once again for beta-reading for me, pointing out some key points I needed to work on. Probably wouldn't have had the guts to post it without her, so once again, thanks!

After a few minutes of straight riding, Rowdy Yates threw a glance over his shoulder. Pete Nolan was nothing but a tiny speck in the distance, waiting silently for their return. Now they were riding into uncertain and very dangerous ground. He would have preferred to handle the job alone, but the man riding next to him wouldn't have any of that. He let out a sigh, not of relief or exasperation, but one more of defeat.

Things seemed to have gotten completely out of hand. What had started off as a normal run into a nearby town for supplies had escalated into a battlefield. One of their drovers was now dead, they'd lost several head of cattle, and Hey Soos had been taken hostage. Rowdy's attempts to help the situation had only complicated matters further, as they were now on their way to a rebel camp, to try and negotiate the release of their wrangler.

If that wasn't enough, the tension between the two riders was almost maddening. They'd been friends for several years, and seen each other through situations as rough as this, yet every time he glanced at his reluctant companion, he could almost feel the irritation radiate from him. Perhaps he was thinking about their upcoming confrontation, but then again, he could swear the irritation was directed at him.


"You! You don't do nothing! You're through!
You're through as ramrod! You're through as anything!
Now get out of here as quick as you can!"



He knew Gil Favor better than to follow up on those angry words, but as much as he said that to himself, he was still stung by the harshness in his boss's tone. A tiny voice in the back of his mind, told him that he truly only was by Mister Favor's side as a guide to the rebel camp, and that when they returned to the herd, he'd be ordered to draw his pay and leave.

Annoyed, he focused on the road ahead of them, determining they were still headed in the right direction. If this really was his end on the Favor outfit, there was no sense in prolonging it anyway. Giving his horse a light tap, he picked up on his speed.

After a moment his boss picked up his speed as well, reaching out and tugging the reins ever so slightly to slow them both down, "Whoa there… a little anxious to walk back into the death camp?"

Ignoring the slight touch of humor in Favor's voice, which was misleading unless one knew the man well, he complied by slowing down, "I just see no point in delaying it, that's all."

The older man merely nodded and grunted something sounding like an, "I see…" before lapsing back into silence. Gritting his teeth together, he tried to focus on the horizon again. He wasn't sure if it was the silence or the trail boss's mood swings that was starting to grate on his nerves now. After what seemed like a long spell, but was in actuality only a few minutes, he felt Favor's eyes upon him. Slowly, almost dreading it, he swung his gaze from the dry land to the anxious stare.

"You… nervous?" there was no harshness in the question, or the misleading touch of humor. It was a soft concerned tone his boss rarely used. In fact, he'd only really heard Favor use it with his daughters, and, on even rarer occasions, his young ramrod.

He let out another long sigh, he wasn't sure of what this time, and met his boss's gaze again, "A little I guess…"

"Something else bothering you?" There was a short pause, as he waited for his ramrod to respond, when he didn't, a slight touch of humor crept into his tone, "Other than the fact that we're about to ride into a camp of armed rebels with a commander who we already know to be completely ruthless when it comes to the 'enemy'?"

For some reason, the dirt and rocks on the ground instantly became very intriguing to the younger man, "He gave me his word…"

"McKeever?"

Rowdy nodded, the dirt still mystifyingly interesting, "As an officer and gentleman… heh… he said his colonel would do so as well," he let out another long sigh, "I guess I really am a fool…"

"He was a really good friend of yours, I'm guessing."

Another nod.

"Sometimes," his tone seemed to have softened again, "it's hard to see what others can see more clearly, when a good friend is involved. You don't always notice the small details, that give them away to everyone else."

"I think I know what you mean… now…" Rowdy's gaze still did not shift upward.

It was Favor's turn to sigh this time, "And that's not what's really bothering you… is it?"

Uncomfortably he shifted in his saddle and started to wonder how much time had passed, and how far it was to the encampment. Almost barely noticeable on the horizon, a familiar outcropping started to appear. Squinting into the distance for a second, he nodded, "That's it…"

"You didn't answer my question."

"But that's the…"

Circling his horse out in front of his ramrod's, he halted them completely, "What's gettin' at you?"

Annoyance rising in him, he coiled down in his saddle like a rattlesnake getting ready to strike, spurs already starting to swing out, "They're right up there!"

Faster than most men could draw a gun, the trail boss seized the other man's reins, thwarting the hot-tempered ramrod's attempt to charge in, once again, "I heard you the first time! Now answer me… what's really botherin' you?"

Narrowing his eyes, he tightened the grip on his reins. He'd had it about up to here with the man's mood swinging, "What are we waiting for?! They're right there… let's just go and get this over with!"

Keeping his ironclad grip on the younger man's reins, he matched the glare with his own, "We have no idea what we're riding into! For all we know, they could have their guns trained on us the second we come in… I mean, we may not even … they might not…"

It came to him slowly, but gradually his annoyed glare softened into a confused look of surprise. His boss's grip on the reins seemed to relax, and once again he met his boss's eyes.

"I may not even be able to negotiate anything… the lieutenant seems to be a decent man, but I am almost positive this Colonel Reed isn't… What's…" once again, his deep voice softened, "what's really troubling you?"

It was one of those moments in life, where a man wants to stop all time, and just step away and marvel at the scene enfolding in front of him. They were walking into what some may call a death trap, and yet the man was still persistent in knowing what was troubling his companion. Once more, he met Mister Favor's gaze, but this time, he noticed something other than the simple determined stare of a man. It was only for a glimmer of a second, but it seemed to him, he saw a flash of desperation. It was as if the answer to his question was his last wish, before walking onto what might be his death.

After an eternity of his warring emotions, Rowdy let his wall of defense that he'd built up collapse, and he spoke, "I didn't really mean to do this… I mean, I didn't want to risk Hey Soos's life, or have you jeopardize yourself just to settle this…"

"You're not at fault… you didn't rob that stage coach, poison the waterhole, or kidnap anyone. You didn't cause THIS situation. You just made an error in judgment, by trying to settle things for yourself. Every man makes mistakes, if he didn't… well, he wouldn't be a man then, would he?"

"Well… no…"

There was a long pause before his boss looked him over, trying to affirm something. Rowdy cracked a smile and shook his head, answering the unspoken question, "That's it… honestly…"

And on a truly rare moment, Gil Favor smiled back, "All right… guess we can't delay it any longer…"

The younger of the two nodded, letting his eyes wander to the outcropping far off. It loomed high in the distance, like a forbidden fortress. He glanced back at his boss, "You ready?"

After a moment, he nodded, "I guess just cross your fingers and hope everything works out all right."


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



A light breeze picked up as he gazed down at the newly dug grave of his old friend. The sun was moving westward now, casting a long shadow ahead of him. Memories of the war drifted back to him, the battles waged, the friendships made, and the friends lost. For a moment, he wondered why anyone would want to live in that constant turmoil again.

Another, longer, shadow joined his on the ground. He didn't turn to face his boss, but instead focused on his friend's grave, knowing that this would probably be the last time he'd see it. Yes, everything had worked out in their favor. McKeever had stood up to his superior officer after Colonel Reed had ordered a firing squad. Guns were drawn and a shoot-out between the colonel and Favor ensued. The trail boss's shot killed the colonel, but not before Reed's bullet hit McKeever. With his dying breath, the lieutenant disbanded the renegades.

The soft baritone roused him from his thoughts, "Hey Soos has our horses ready… we better get going before Pete begins to worry."

Rowdy nodded, pulling his hat back on his head, "Okay…"

His boss rubbed the back of his neck, looking like he was at a loss for the words he wanted to say. Rowdy smiled softly, knowing what was on the older man's mind, "I'll be fine…"

The trail boss had the grace to look relieved, "Good."

Rowdy squinted into the distance, the bright setting sun illuminating the entire prarie. He sighed, feeling though some part of him was missing, some part of him that McKeever helped make was now lost.

"You know, I think I'm a little short-handed," Favor started, the deep voice touched with a hint of humor, "Just had to get rid of this hard-headed kid. You know anyone who might be able to take his place?"

Despite the sorrow he felt for the loss of his friend, he found himself smiling, "Maybe one guy… but I heard he can be real stubborn. Especially when he thinks he's right."

"I think I can learn to live with it," his boss smiled back and motioned in Hey Soos's direction. "Ready?"

"Yep," he straightened his hat for good measure, before joining his present commander and friend. He glanced back at the lieutenant's grave for the last time, etching the scene into his memory. After a few moments, he swung his gaze back to his superior, "Let's go home boss."

"Home," the baritone voice repeated, its owner glad that everything was going to be okay after all.


|~End~|