A/N: (Nervous laugh) Well... heh. Two years since an update... life. That is all. I promise I'll get updating more. I'm re-inspired for this one as of late.
Ben hissed in pain when he stumbled up the stairs back up to the Evans home. They had been lucky. Only five of Harper's men had shown up. Ben had managed to shoot each and every one of them- probably dead, too, but a bullet had skimmed him in the process. He reached the door and banged on it. "Alice! Grace! It's done with!"
A few moments later, the door opened, and Ben practically fell inside. Grace's arms met him halfway, and she adjusted herself to take his weight and help him inside. "What happened?" She demanded.
"Five of em. Bastards thought they could outshoot me- Agh."
"Apparently they did. It's not… in you, is it?" Grace asked.
Ben shook his head. "Grazed my side."
Grace frowned, then motioned down the hall. "First door on the left is my room. Go in, I'll meet you there. Let's get you patched up."
Ben grunted, then leaned against the wall and made it to her room. He slipped inside and sat on the small bench by the window. He took off his vest, then peeled off his shirt, hissing when the blood-coated fabric separated from his skin. He folded it as best he could, looking around for a spot to put down the bloody garment. He settled for scooting over and laying it down beside him. "Is Alice okay?" He called.
Grace came back with a towel, bucket of water, bandages, and what Ben assumed was one of Dan's old shirts in hand. She paused and stared at his bare chest for a moment before arching an eyebrow.
Ben rolled his eyes. "It ain't like you haven't seen it before, Grace."
Grace sighed and shrugged. "Alice is fine. She's checking on the boys." She started to clean the wound, not at all surprised when she felt Ben try to stop squirming as much as he could. She kept at it for a while, until she was satisfied it was as clean as it was going to get at the moment. She dried the area, then poured whiskey she had found in one of the cupboards over it, giving Ben a moment to stop squirming. She covered it. "There, done." She nodded when he muttered a thank you. They sat in silence for a while, and then Grace asked the question that had been eating at her for the last few hours. "… Why did you come back, Ben?"
Ben stared back at her for a moment. "Because I owed it to your brother, that's why. Why didn't you contact me to tell me I had a son?"
Grace frowned. "He's not your son…"
Ben scoffed. "Right, and the fact that he's got my eyes and ears proves that."
Grace frowned, but refused to meet his eyes.
Ben frowned. "It ain't like I'm gonna steal 'em away from you, Gracie. I came here to help Alice and the boys- that's all. I never expected to see you again." He paused, then opened his mouth to reply when he heard the distinct sound of hoof beats in the distance. He scrambled for his gun and got up.
Grace glanced out the window, then held her hand out. "Hold on. I know those horses." She pushed down his gun when he ignored her. "It's three of our friends, Ben. They're not here to harm us."
" 'Scuse me when I don't believe that." Ben snapped, going out of the room while tugging Dan's old shirt on.
Alice met him halfway. "Don't shoot. They're men from town." Alice berated him. "Stay back, would you?" She demanded. When Ben reluctantly dropped back, she continued to the door and opened it before the man that led the trio had even finished raising his fist to knock on the door. "Hello, Deputy Barnes, Jeremiah, Samuel." She nodded a greeting to each of the men.
"Alice," Deputy Garrett Barnes, the eldest of the men at the front of the trio nodded a greeting before pushing right past her and into the room.
His tall blonde companion, Samuel, nodded and offered an honest smile before going in after him.
The last, a dark haired, pale young man, Jeremiah took off his hat and nodded before entering.
Alice gawked for a minute, then looked around quickly. Grace was staring at her, and being that Ben was gone, she figured he had snuck off to hide- or ambush them. "What's this about, Mister Barnes?" She called, closing the door.
Garrett and Samuel paid her no mind, starting to look around the rooms. Jeremiah watched them and sighed. "We heard gunshots around here, Misses Evans. We also came across several dead bodies. Being that you're the closest farm, we wanted to make sure you're alright. Forgive my brother and Samuel. They've had a bad couple of days." He fiddled with his hat.
"I'll try." Alice frowned. She knew them finding Ben was inevitable. Ben was smart, but Garrett was smarter. What would happen when he was discovered? Would she and Grace be charged with harboring a fugitive? "At least you still have your head on straight." She added.
Jeremiah smiled ans shrugged. "One of us has to."
"Mother of- William! What the Hell happened to your son? Alice?"
Alice flinched, then watched as Jeremiah bolted down the hall over to where Will was still passed out for the most part. She and Grace filed into the room quietly. "There was a… robbery in town, not too long ago. We've called for a doctor, but he's still ages away right now. A friend of ours brought him in. We've been caring for him as much as we could." She explained. She saw Mark and Isaiah in the corner, watching the exchange. She motioned for them to leave.
The two made quick work of heading for the door. Unfortunately for the women, Jeremiah caught the movement. He watched the boys leave- just in time to catch a glimpse of Ben trying to get to the the window in the room across the wall through the partially open door. "Hey!" He barked. He ran across the hall and dodged furniture. Somehow, he managed to catch up to Ben and threw himself at the other man, causing both to just about fall out the window. Even with the low distance they fell, the others still heard the two men hit the ground hard all the way from across the hall.
Garrett shot the women a suspicious look before he heard back out to see what his little brother had seen, with Samuel silently at his heels once again.
"How are we gonna get out of this one?" Grace muttered once she knew they weren't in earshot of the men.
"I was hoping you'd have a plan." Alice replied.
"What's going on, Ma?" Mark asked. "Ben didn't do anything this time."
"They don't know that. That's the problem." Grace replied.
Alice looked at her. "Go talk to them. Word around town has it that Garrett has eyes for you. Maybe that'll help our chances of us… and Ben getting off easy here."
Grace stared at her. "I'm starting to wonder if the couple of days you spent with him made more of an impact than you thought yourself." She replied, then sighed. "Fine, I'll go talk to them." She headed outside. "Garrett, Sam, Jeremiah, please, let him go!" She insisted.
"Do you have any idea who was in your home, Grace?" Garrett demanded, throwing formality away, given the situation.
"Yes I do. You're holding Ben Wade there, but being that we've hired him to protect the farm, I don't see a problem."
Jeremiah stared at her. "What?"
Grace hesitated, then motioned at Ben. "He's… he's fine here. He's not harming anyone. We can keep an eye on him. Those men out there… they came after us… something having to do with my brother, probably. Ben came to our aid. We're grateful for that. We could use him around here."
Ben looked at the two who weren't holding him and smirked. "Hear the lady?"
Garrett scowled. "Shut your trap, Wade. Grace, this man has killed before."
"You have too, Garrett- and according to my nephew, he tried to save my brother's life." Grace argued.
"You believe the word of a boy who's barely into his teens?" Garrett countered.
"Yes, I trust my family, no matter what age." Grace replied.
Garrett made a face.
Grace sighed. "Garrett, please. We know what we're doing."
"I ain't the kind of man who hurts women or kids." Ben added.
Garrett's frown deepened. He knew he was on the wrong side of a losing battle. That always happened when it came to Alice and Grace. He crossed his arms over his chest. "Fine, but we'll be checking in tomorrow- first light. If he so much as starts something…"
"We'll come to you." Grace replied.
Garrett frowned once more before motioning at Samuel to let Ben go. Sam obeyed, and the outlaw stumbled, readjusting himself and standing behind Grace. A confident smirk quickly replaced his annoyed pout. "Thank you, Friend."
"I ain't your friend, Wade." Samuel shot back.
Garrett sighed, and with one final look at Ben, he headed towards his horse. Samuel followed, once again. Jeremiah, on the other hand, hesitated. "Let me see Will. I can pass on the message that you need a more reliable doctor to take care of him." He sent a pleading look at Grace.
Grace, luckily, caught on. "I'll bring you to him. Ben, go see Alice."
Ben tapped his forehead in a mock salute, then turned on his heel and went inside.
Grce and Jeremiah followed. Once they made it into the house and back into the boys' room, Jeremiah sat beside Will. He examined the boy, then his wound, and checked for a fever. "… I'll send Roy Merle here to get him checked out further." He explained. He paused, then looked at the woman. "Does… does Ben know that Isaiah is…?"
Grace sighed. "… He has a hunch… it's dumb, but I'm denying it as much as I can… you, Alice and Dan were the only ones who know…"
Jeremiah sighed and stood up. "… Just, be careful around him. You're my friend and I love you. I don't want to see you get hurt in this- in any way."
Grace smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "You're a good man, Jeremiah. Don't ever change. Now, you better get back out there before Garrett starts getting more impatient."
Jeremiah offered a wink and a quick nod farewell before he left the room, then the house entirely.
Grace made it back into the kitchen, where Alice and Ben were waiting. She scowled, marched over to him and smacked his good arm. "We're lucky we got you out of that one, Wade! What did you think you were doing, playing arrogant with men of the law?"
"Ain't nothin' I'm used to doing already." Ben countered.
"Well, you're with us now, and if you really want to help us, stop that impulse." Alice cut in.
"Yes ma'am," Ben nodded.
"I'm not up for your tricks." The blonde woman continued. "If you wanna pull your weight around here, you might as well do work with us, too."
Ben's growing smirk dropped. He had a feeling he knew where this was going. "And what, praytell, does that mean?"
Alice pointed out the window. "The stables need to be mucked, the horses need to be watered, and the fence could use some repair."
Ben sighed dramatically, then shrugged. "I'll get on it, then." He spotted his hat on the floor and picked it up. With a flick of his wrist, he had flipped it back onto his head. "Ladies," He bowed his head before leaving.
Alice waited a few moments before she wandered over to the wash basin. She started to wash the dishes around the area." I'm with Deputy Barnes, Grace. I don't like this. How long will his loyalty last?" She asked.
Grace shrugged and picked up a towel, ready to assist her. "I don't know, Alice. But right now… we don't have much choice. We'll have to trust him and… just… be ready if something does go wrong."