Chapter 1: The Town With No Name
Disclaimer: I do not own SVU
A/N: I think I am taking an awful lot of liberties here. I have, for the sake of this story, given Arthur Branch a family that he probably would otherwise not have and I have taken away from Elliot, a family that he usually has. That almost sounded poetic but what can I say? It's almost 6:30 in the morning and once again, I haven't slept.
A/N: This story takes place in the Wild West. Any inconsistencies can be attributed to the fact that… 1) This is FICTION. 2) I haven't seen Dr Quinn in like ten years or something LOL.
A/N: I know I'm writing a lot of author's notes but as I said, I've gone without sleep again so I feel the need to shamelessly beg for you guys not to kill me.
A/N: This is the last one of these I promise. I would like to dedicate this first chapter to onetreefan for putting the idea of Wild West SVU in my head to the point where I just had to write it down. I love you girl!
"I've heard about you," the mayor of the small town said to the man who stood in front of him "You have just as much respect for the law as the criminals who run rampant in these parts."
"Mayor Cragen," the rugged man tipped his hat to the elderly gentleman "I enforce the laws and give them as much respect as they deserve," he said sincerely "I'll keep the population of this town safe from those that would do them harm."
Cragen scratched his head "If you say so," he murmured "This town hasn't had a sheriff in a long time. The job is yours if you want it."
"Thank you kindly," the man said politely as he accepted the badge from the mayor "I'll do right by this badge I swear."
"That's all well and good Sheriff…" Cragen trailed off, not being able for the life of him to remember the man's name.
"Stabler," the new sheriff responded.
Elliot Stabler walked out onto the dusty streets of the small town. The settlement didn't even have a name; as Elliot remembered, it was simply represented by a number on a map. Elliot had always wanted a challenge and he had come here in search of it. This place was dead center in the middle of several disputed territories. Gangs of rustlers had sprung up in the area and the townspeople had no one to defend them and keep the peace. Elliot had decided to be that someone.
The main part of town was basically the mayor's office, the general store and a telegraph office. All the buildings were run down almost to the point of disrepair. Elliot wondered how long it would be before the whole town collapsed around him. He almost laughed out loud when the image of a strong breeze flattening the place flashed through his mind.
He mounted his horse with the intention of surveying the few outlying farms and homesteads where the greater population of the town resided. As his horse moved along the dusty trails, Elliot wondered if this place was even worth the bullets in his gun. He rode past the first farm and saw chickens running around as a small girl tried to catch them. An older girl had a basket slung over one arm and was collecting eggs. He brought his horse to the fence and dismounted "Howdy," he greeted with a tip of his hat.
The older girl stepped forward "Are you the new sheriff?" she asked.
Elliot nodded "Name's Elliot," he said extending his hand "Pleasure to meet you."
The girl blushed slightly "I'm Ruth Branch," she introduced herself and then turned to the younger child beside her "This is my little sister, Alice."
Elliot turned and tipped his hat to the little girl "Nice to meet you Alice," he smiled.
Alice giggled and Ruth shoed her away quickly "Our father's been expecting you," she told him.
Elliot nodded. It had been arranged that he would stay at the Branch farm until he could secure his own land "I look forward to meeting him," he told Ruth "I'd like to finish looking around first," he got back on his horse, tipped his hat to the two girls once more and headed off to the next farm.
As he rode further up the trail, he wondered what on earth would make someone who had been as powerful as Arthur Branch to uproot his entire family and move them out west. Elliot had heard the rumors of what had happened to Branch's wife and the couple's infant son. The stories turned even Elliot's stomach. Still the man insisted on raising his two remaining children in the run down settlement.
As he rounded the bend he heard arguing. He drew closer and could hear the words more clearly.
"You know you'll never be able to handle this farm by yourself," a man was saying.
"I've been doing just fine for years now," a woman's voice retorted.
"You'll never do it without the help of a man," a second man put in.
Elliot drew closer still and he could see the people who were arguing. Two rather large men stood on either side of a woman with long brown hair. The two men looked nothing if not imposing but the woman didn't look intimidated in the least. Elliot found himself drawn to her instantly. He dismounted from his horse and walked up to the group "Is there a problem here?" he asked.
"This is none of your business stranger," the taller of the two men said with an angry look in Elliot's direction before he turned back to the woman.
"You two get off my land," the woman said in a low dangerous tone to the men who were very clearly trying to use their sheer size to scare her with no success.
"Not until you decide which one of us you're gonna marry, Olivia," the other said as he grabbed her around the waist.
"You get your hands off of me this second Eugene Howard or so help me I'll make it so that you'll be pissing through your nose," Olivia hissed.
"You heard her Eugene," the other man said pushing Eugene aside "She's obviously made her decision," he smiled as he made as if to kiss Olivia but she slapped him, causing him to stumble backwards.
"I'm not marrying you either Frances," she said angrily as Frances clutched his nose while Eugene chuckled to himself. "You and your brother get off of my land and don't come back. Do you here me?"
"I don't take kindly to being turned away Olivia," Frances said in a low voice as he moved towards her again.
"I believe the lady asked you to leave," Elliot said as he grabbed Frances and shoved him back against the fence.
Eugene stepped forward to come to his brother's aid "And who might you be who thinks he can tell the Howard brothers what they can and can't do?"
"Sheriff Elliot Stabler," Elliot said as he shifted so that his badge was visible as well as his holstered weapon.
"This place ain't had a sheriff in ten years," Frances said as he stood up.
"Just arrived this morning," Elliot responded coolly "Now you were just about to leave?"
Eugene and Frances shrugged and grumbled in resignation. They headed for their horses when Frances turned around "Looks like you got lucky today Olivia. But trust me, you'll never be able to run this place without a man," then he turned to Elliot "As for you Sheriff. You'd do well to remember that the Howard brothers always get what they want," and with those ominous words, Frances Howard mounted his horse and rode off with his brother following close behind.
Elliot turned to the woman beside him "Are you all right Miss…" he found himself staring into her deep brown eyes.
"My name is Olivia," Olivia said firmly "And I didn't need you to step in. I know how to handle those two."
"You certainly were doing a fine job of handling them when I rode by," Elliot snapped "The least you could do is say thank you."
"Well," Olivia huffed. "Thank you Sheriff Stabler. Now if you don't mind," she picked up a milking stool and a bucket "It's about time I milked the cows."
She walked towards the barn and Elliot followed her. There was just something about this woman that he found irresistible "You own this farm?" he asked.
Olivia answered him without turning or breaking stride "It belonged to my mother. I inherited it when she died last year."
"But you told those men that you'd been running this farm for years," Elliot said, baffled.
Olivia kicked open the barn door and set the stool down. She turned briefly to Elliot "My mother was a very sick woman Sheriff. Now I'll thank you to leave and let me get back to my work."
Elliot turned to leave "If you need me."
"Trust me, I won't," Olivia retorted as she set the stool down beside the first cow in a row of half a dozen.
"I'm staying at the Branch farm," Elliot finished "It's just a mile or so down the road-"
"I know my way around these parts Sheriff," Olivia said, not looking up from her work "I have lived here a lot longer than you have after all."
"Of course," Elliot murmured, feeling stupid "Well good day Miss Olivia," he turned and walked back to where he had left his horse. He mounted and turned back in the direction of the Branch farm; he suddenly felt very tired. Before he rode off, he took one last look at the barn "Till we meet again," he tipped his hat and rode away.
Elliot sat at the table with Arthur Branch and his daughters later that evening. Poor Ruth, who was only ten years old, had made the shift from child to adult much faster than any child should ever have to. She had prepared the meal for the family and was currently in the process of trying to convince four year old Alice to stay in her chair.
Elliot sighed heavily as he thought about the task that lay ahead of him. There were still three homesteads left to visit. Branch had informed him that further up past the Benson farm, was the Howard family homestead; Elliot had assumed as much and had no real interest in introducing himself to the Howards. Aside from the Howard family, there were the there were the Martin and Thomas families. That wasn't counting the few people who lived at the center of town. Elliot wondered yet again why these people chose to come out here.
After supper, Elliot went out onto the porch and leant against the railing. He stared out into the fields, bathed in moonlight.
"Truly something," Elliot turned to see Arthur Branch standing in the doorway. The older man stepped out onto the porch and looked out into the fields with a wistful gaze "All this open land," he continued.
Elliot turned to Branch "Why uproot your entire family for such a risky venture?" he asked the question that had been eating away at him the entire day.
Branch looked down for a moment as the memories washed over him "Eleanor knew the risks," he whispered "It was too crowded in New York. I'd rather raise my family under the wide open skies."
Elliot simply shook his head. When he saw the look that had crossed Branch's face when he talked of his wife, Elliot had instantly regretted asking the question. He decided to change the topic quickly "So what do you know about the Howard brothers."
"Take my advice son," Branch said seriously "Don't get involved with those boys. Avoid crossing them at any cost."
"What?" Elliot inquired, perplexed.
"Those boys are trouble," Branch continued "Trouble in all forms. Mr. Munch once caught them trying to rob his store one night. At least," Branch's voice dropped low "That's what he told his wife when he came to the next morning."
Elliot gasped audibly. He hadn't yet had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Munch but he had heard that the man was tough enough to hold his own with the best of them. Ruth had said that he could even give Davy Crocket a run for his money. Suddenly Elliot thought of Olivia. She seemed to have no second thoughts about crossing the Howard boys. Considering what they wanted from her, Elliot really couldn't blame her. "They don't give up easily," he thought out loud.
"They don't give up at all," Branch told Elliot "If they want something, they'll simply take it."
Elliot suddenly felt very uneasy in the pit of his stomach. He jumped from the porch and ran for his horse. He had to check on her. He didn't even call out a word of explanation to Branch as he mounted and raced for Olivia Benson's farm.