Alright folks, here is the finale. I hope you enjoy it, no matter how it ends. Thank you all so, so much for reading - I really didn't expect this much feedback! So thank you all very much :)
The small meal was meagre and quiet, Wade sneaking glances from beneath his brows at the woman across from him. She never returned the looks. The right thing to say eluded him, and silence fell heavily, and remained throughout the meal and clean-up. Finally the two came to a lull in activity, and were forced to face each other. Jenna made her way to the small living room, and quietly took up her needlepoint again. Wade stood in the doorway and watched her.
"I should get my horse," he finally commented idly, shifting.
Jenna didn't look up. "Okay," she paused, tossing the man a glance, "You need me to accompany you again?"
Wade shook his head. "No. I trust you well enough."
The woman took little mind of his words, focusing back on her task. "Okay then."
Wade sighed, turning away and echoing her, "Okay then.."
He left the house quietly, glancing around in his usual precautionary manner, before slipping behind the wooden building, into the shadows. He strode quickly and quietly behind the houses back to the corral with his mount, and the crate with his belongings. Coming to the crate first, he tore one of the boards off and pulled out his bridle. Going to the small wooden pen of horses, he whistled his short tune and the big black quickly broke away towards him. With a smile and murmur of encouragement, Wade slipped the headstall over the beast's head, and led it obediently back to the crate. He pulled out the expensive saddle then, and tossed it onto the horse's back, hoping no one would notice as he led it back to Jenna's. The beast held still, nudging the outlaw affectionately, and allowed the girth to be fastened snug.
Wade glanced into the crate again, and pulled out his holster and belt, then secured it comfortably back around his waist. He hadn't completely realized just how exposed he felt without it. Relocating the Hand of God from his trousers to the holster, then grabbing up his hat and vest - but not putting them on just yet - Ben sighed, and paused. Here was Ben Wade, coming back together. He could practically feel the change just an animal and some clothes had on him. It felt right, more wholesome, and he was reminded again of who he was and what he did. Tired of sneaking about in a weak disguise, Wade was sorely tempted to put his hat and vest on, but didn't want to risk someone identifying him from his trademark clothes - having the gun open at his waist was risk enough. Instead he held back, placing the fabric pieces of himself in the horse's saddle bag, and leading it through the shadows back to Jenna Daniels' house.
He tied the horse loosely at the back of the small house, knowing it wouldn't try to get away, and slipped discreetly back through the door. "Jenna?" He called needlessly, as she hadn't moved from her place on the loveseat, working with the needle and thread and cloth.
She looked up. "So you're all ready then?"
"Does that mean you're leaving now, or...?"
He shrugged. "I suppose so. No reason to delay." He paused, becoming slightly uncomfortable. "The clouds are dark; it looks like rain."
"That'd be something, it hardly ever rains," she smiled slightly, before taking a breath. "Right," Jenna rose, smoothing her skirts formally, "well, you don't mind if I see you off?"
"No at all." Wade smiled softly, allowing her to pass by him into the kitchen, and he snuck a glance at her needlepoint. He saw black, silver and gold forming the outline of a pistol. Another small smile twisted his mouth.
Jenna pulled the rest of the loaf of bread from the cupboard, along with some salted pork and cheese she'd gotten from the cellar. She wrapped them all in a cloth, and turned to hand them to the outlaw. "I'm sure you can find better fare at the next town, but I don't exactly know where you're going, so if it takes longer than a night's travel, this is for a couple meals." Wade hesitated. "Take it, Ben, I don't mind."
He obliged with a nod. "Thank you, Jenna."
She nodded stiffly, and then glanced around the room. "Well...I guess that's it." With that statement, the woman turned and stepped out the front door. Wade hesitated only a moment before following, and finding her going to the back of the house where his horse still waited. "You have a canteen?" The man pulled the small jug from a saddle bag and handed it to the woman, who moved to the water pump a yard away and quickly filled, then returned it.
"Thank you, again," Wade offered, keeping his voice soft.
The woman shrugged, finally looking up at him with a small smile. "It's nothing." She looked at the horse for a moment, then up at the clouds that had indeed turned a harsh charcoal. "That'll be a big one; you'll want to get a good start."
Wade nodded, glancing up as well, and then pulling his hat and vest from his saddle bag and slipped them on. Jenna's hands beat his to the buttons of the vest though, and he let her fasten the ivory circles, taking the moment to study her calm, sweet features. She was so mild and gentle, far nicer than he deserved, and he saw now the irrationality of his earlier words. There's no way he could ever take her with him, not on his path. Women often did have the effect of irrationality on his part, however; this time he was just glad she'd stopped him.
"There," she declared as the last button notched into place, and she offered a soft smile up at him.
Wade smiled back, rugged features gentling with the action. "Walk with me for a bit?" He offered.
Jenna glanced up at the clouds, then nodded. "Sure."
The man untied his horse, and it turned it around to face east, directly away from Yuma. He took a step forward, and the big beast obediently walked with him, Jenna trailing beside as well.
Faintly, Wade recalled what had been his original purpose for hiding in Contention instead of heading for open land immediately after the shoot-out. He glanced behind them, at the quiet houses on the still street. There was a boy somewhere in there, a fatherless boy that had only misery to bring back to his family. Misery, and two hundred dollars, at least. "When you get back to the town, Miss Jenna, could you do me a favour?"
"I suppose so."
"There's a boy, fourteen or fifteen, that lost his father in the shoot-out-"
"The boy who's father your men killed?"
Wade paused, the sudden memory of Dan Evans body thrown against the train from the force of bullets, smearing the wood with blood, flashing in his eyes. Just when he'd thought his pathetic sensitivty at the memory had faded. "Yeah, that' him. I just want-...Do you think you coul, y'know, make sure he gets back home to his family alright?" He paused again, "And make sure he's got at least two hundred dollars from Mr. Butterfield on 'im."
Jenna didn't appear to fully understand the matter, but she did not question it, dark eyes studying the bothered outlaw. "Of course, Ben. I'll do what I can." Wade said nothing more then, just nodded appreciatively and watched the dry ground. Jenna remained quiet another couple breaths, and then said, "You've given me an interesting couple of days, Mr. Wade."
He smiled slightly, glancing over at her before gazing out at the dull, open land. "I'm going to take that as a compliment. Thank you, Jenna, for keeping me."
"Not like I had much choice."
"True," he smiled again, "but thank you nonetheless." The woman nodded. "I apologize for pulling my gun on you a few times, as well," he added.
The woman just shrugged, keeping her eyes down.
Wade faced her, but kept walking. "You wouldn't-...I don't-" he paused, "nevermind."
Jenna looked up at the man, who now steadfastly kept his eyes away. It was unusual to find Ben Wade at loss for words, as he always had the smoothest and most clever comeback to anything. But he seemed unsure of himself now.
It was then that three almost simultaneous cracks, sharper than thunder, sounded behind the two persons. Two of them bit at the dirt behind Jenna and Wade's feet, kicking up dust, while the third threw Jenna forward. Wade whirled as the woman stumbled, his pistol flashing out and two shots firing off wildly. He saw a handful of figures beside Jenna's house, and each appeared to have a rifle. At his return fire the untrained men dashed for cover, which meant hiding around or inside the woman's empty home.
The night before, word had reached the Contention station via telegram that the outlaw Ben Wade had not been on the train for Yuma at the checkpoint. It was decided he must have escaped, and a search was to immediately be set, with the price of his head going up. The man to recieve this telegram was Jacob Call, and he relayed it to the posse of men that had declared themselves the new sheriff and deputies - one of which was Rory Johnston. The news of Wade's escape kept the men entertained for only a while, before they began talking about those that had been killed when the outlaw passed through the town. Johnston mentioned Jenna Daniels, mentioned that she hadn't yet come to claim her uncle's body. A different man in the group told that his son claimed to have seen a strange man enter Jenna's house, the day of the shootout. Things began to piece together in the men's minds, and Johnston mentioned vaguely that Jenna Daniels had acted strangely when he'd shown up at her door. Suddenly it seemed clear to them all. A little preposterous, perhaps, but clear: Ben Wade was hiding out in Jenna Daniels' house. Whether she was willingly putting up with this or not did not matter. But a plan was made to stake out the house early the next morning, and once there was an affirmed sighting of Wade, any means necessary would be taken to capture the outlaw - dead or alive.
Now Wade was kneeling in the dust, panting from the adrenaline the gun shots woke, and looking over Jenna with worry. After she'd stumbled, she'd fallen, and had yet to get up. The outlaw carefully turned her over, casting a quick glance at the house, and then back. She was breathing heavily, dirt was on her cheek, and there was a puncture of deep red just beneath her breast.
"Shit.." Wade breathed, then jumped as another two bullets snapped at the dirt around him. Time was short. "Jenna? Jenna, sweetheart?"
She winced as she breathed, and then touched a hand to the wound. There was no expression on her face as she saw the blood on her fingertips. She knew what had happened and what was coming. She raised her deep blue eyes up to the man's rugged, worried face and offered a pale, weak smile. "Sorry, Ben."
"No, no," he breathed, shaking his head, "I'm sorry. I told you I'd never hurt you, and now-" another bullet cracked, nearer now. He raised his arm, firing off two defense shots. He looked back down, and the blood had spread. So quickly. "Jenna.."
Eyes as deep and blue as the ocean blinked up at him, turned slowly to look over at what had once been her home, and then didn't blink again. So quickly.
Wade could hardly breathe, as he tried to understand what had just happened in the last two minutes. He had almost asked if she would mind him coming to visit now and again, but caught himself in time and been reminded that he was Ben Wade - he was dangerous, and worked better alone. Then the bullets that had come from nowhere, and- Had he been sloppy? He must have slipped up. This was such a rookie thing to pull- a hailstorm of bullets cracked and snapped and bit at the ground around the outlaw, and he saw Jenna's body jerk with the impact of a second ball of lead, and then felt a burst of pain in his left arm. With a yell, he raised his gun and fired wildly at the group of men, beating them back down with his own shots. He scrambled to his feet, leaped onto his horse, and with one last pained glance at Jenna - dead, bloody, laying in the dirt; a familiar sight - spurred away, gunshots sounding after him.
The big black horse galloped with a speed it knew Wade demanded, and yet still he spurred on, if only to keep himself from turning back. Rage burned inside him, almost blinding, and then he realized the blindness came from water in his eyes - not tears, but rain. It lashed his face and any exposed skin, but it was a relief to the hot fury Wade felt inside. Everything had happened so quickly. He'd only known Jenna Daniels two days, but he hadn't intended for harm to come to her. She'd been right before, when she said Dan Evans wouldn't be dead if he hadn't been around. Now it was the same for her. Shame and guilt overrode the fury, and he wasn't sure which was worse. First Dan killed, then Jenna, just days later. Both dead in the dirt, both because of him.
Ben Wade bowed his head as lightning flashed, thunder rolled like drums, and rain bit like nonlethal bullets. He would not make the mistake of getting attached to someone - man or woman - again. Not for a friend, not for a partner, not for a lover. Perhaps he wouldn't even find himself a new gang - they all seemed to turn out rotten and overzealous anyway. Ben Wade could only be more lethal and effective without attachments. And that decided it. As the big black horse's hoofbeats thundered a speed no late-start mount could catch, Wade's mind was decided to go on doing the only thing he knew how to do, and alone. He was invincible, after all.