AN: Sorry for the long wait my loves.
If you have an interest in the Faberry in Best Trick I've published my very first missing scene from Best Trick in a new story called Missing Pieces. It's on here(ff dot net) so just click on my name and find it on my profile :). See the bottom of chapter 18, top of 19 of Best Trick if you would like context but you can read it without. I'm still figuring out how I'm going to lay out that story so if you have anything that you really want to know or moments you want to see please PM or leave a review.
I'm terribly impatient so this is unbeta'd. Please forgive any errors.
Thank you all so much for your support.
Ship on and remember pinky promises.
They dance in a slow circle, surrounded by girls and tricks and gambling soldiers. The song Mercedes sings is beautiful and heartfelt and the perfect accompaniment to a perfect night. Brittany gets to hold Santana in her arms and breath in the clean smell of her hair. Santana's shoes are delicate slippers while Brittany's boots make her even taller. Brittany has never paid much attention to shoes before but this small detail is important now. It's important because the difference means Santana can rest her head on Brittany's shoulder as they dance. It means Santana can relax into her arms while Brittany pulls her closer, wraps her up like she could keep her there, safe and treasured always.
As the concert comes to a close Santana leads Brittany away from the floor. Quinn and Rachel smile at them from their place on the plush corner lounges. Brittany loves to see the way Santana smiles back so easily as she guides them up the stairs. Brittany also very much enjoys the view of Santana's thighs offered by the short underskirt she wears on Wednesday nights.
They move into the first available room and fall to the bed. Brittany is impatient to feel Santana and she knows Santana wants the same. Brittany kisses feverishly over Santana's neck. Impatient hands run up her thighs and fingertips work under the edge of Santana's corset to grab at the waistband of her drawers and pull them down. Santana kicks them away once they're past her knees and Brittany's hands are immediately back under her skirt.
"Brittany," Santana's tone matches the impatient hands pushing at the coat still on Brittany's shoulder.
She leans back, balancing on her knees either side of Santana's hips. She quickly pulls off her coat and tosses it over the side of the bed. Santana watches the movements closely as Brittany pulls her shirt and undershirt out of her slacks and tears them quickly over her head. Santana is... Everything. With her hair splayed out over the pillow and her eyes full of want she is the thrill that rolls down Brittany's spine.
Brittany tosses her shirts somewhere near her jacket(maybe) and rejoins her lips to Santana's. She would settle her body along the length of Santana's but there are scrambling hands at her belt. Santana makes quick work of the buckle then pushes Brittany's slacks and draws down past her hips and backside. Brittany could sigh as she finally falls into the cradle of Santana's thighs, her hands slipping back in under Santana's skirt to properly experience her now bare backside.
A groan sounds from both of them and Santana's fingernails dig into Brittany's back as her hips jerk up in response to Brittany's searching hands. They're both breathing hard and Brittany lifts her chin to lick and nibble at the tender skin at the hinge of Santana's jaw. They both move quicker than they should, more demanding of each other's flesh than they've let themselves be before. It's heated and it's desperate. They cling and rock against each other for reasons that Brittany has no full understanding of.
Brittany rapidly stumbles to her peak, crashing over the edge before Santana and almost losing the ability to think in the process. Santana doesn't seem in the least bit displeased with the order or outcomes of their love making but Brittany won't stand for any inequality.
She quickly strips Santana down to her most splendid nakedness and spends the rest of the night making sure that her Beautiful Girl's pleasure outshines and outlasts her own.
— s — — b —
San Francisco, California 1879.
Brittany has kept her head down and her nose out of trouble. She does her work well and she does it discreetly.
The only trouble with doing this job particularly well is that she has begun to attract the attention of the wrong kind of people. Without even meaning too, without wanting it to happen she finds herself being approached by various shady men with various shady deals that they would like her to transport communications for. It's what she's known for. If someone wants a communication delivered in a timely, safe manner they give it to Brent. The boy might be strange but he's quick on his feet and doesn't talk back. He charges proper so they know he's not completely screwy and they pay him what they know he's worth. Brittany doesn't try to form any kind of reputation. She really doesn't. It just turns out that a reputation is only too willing to find her.
She's many months in and quite a few dollars up when she hears from one of the runner boys that Brent Pierce has a price on his head. The boy looks her up and down in a way that says he knows exactly who she is; who she pretends to be. If a simple runner can pick Brittany as her brother than there will be others, she's sure of it.
She needs to leave the city before one of those more willing to trade in her life for a few dollars catches up to her. She just doesn't know how to go about that. She never left the city on her own when her father was alive. Even Brent only ever left the city in small trips for his schooling. She considers writing to Holly. She knows April is in some communication with her old teacher. What would she say though? What would she do? She can't burden others with the weight of her deception. She needs another solution.
She leaves the docks and walks back toward her father's house. It's still there at the top of the hill, though others live there now. She wonders if they found that nook that she used to keep secret things in. She wonders what they have done with the gymnasium and dance studio. She does miss dancing very much. Occasionally dancing with the staff at the Rhodes hotel is fun but not really the same.
Brittany looks back over the city and the dark smudge of the docks. She doesn't know what she was looking for in coming all this way. Clarity maybe. She wishes a long walk were enough to make anything clear. She huffs a sigh and returns to the docks, returns to another long afternoon of checking over her shoulder, of hiding herself and hiding who she is from everyone around her.
— s — — b —
Clothier, New Mexico 1880
Brittany wakes with the sun. She knows she doesn't have long before she has to return to camp. There's been whispers among the men that they're to be sent on another expedition. There's been even quieter whispers about men from the train company in California coming to inspect their land interest. Anderson has mentioned before that Hudson has taken meetings with men from the rail company. He didn't say as much but Brittany has a strong feeling that money is involved. Money or gold is usually involved in things worth whispering about. All these rumours mean that Brittany needs to leave Santana's warmth much, much sooner than she'd like.
She watches Santana's shoulder shift subtly up and down with her deep, peaceful breaths while her fingers flex in the loose hold she has on the sheet draped up over her body. She looks so peaceful and beautiful Brittany can't imagine a day when she wouldn't want to wake up next to Santana like this. She remembers waking in her army cot not so long ago and being sure her life would stay lonely. Her wishing place was full of things she could never have. She looked at the stars and hoped only for her life to be calm again.
The light creeping in through the small window reflects off the band of the watch-ring on Santana's finger and causes that usual warm feeling to rise in Brittany's chest. She can imagine now their wishing place. It looks like a house on a hill with a beautiful garden and a view of San Francisco spread out below. Now she hopes for Santana to be happy. She wants to be happy with Santana. And Santana says she love Brittany.
With her heart beating faster Brittany reaches out to push loose strands of hair behind Santana's ear. She strokes her thumb over Santana's cheek where she knows a dimple will appear when she really smiles. It's a light touch but Santana wakes up all the same. She stretches and her naked legs move against Brittany's.
"Morning," she says through a sleepy smile.
Brittany smiles back and follows the urge to run her thumb over Santana's lips. "I have to go back to camp."
Brittany feels the change under her fingers as Santana pouts. "I wish you didn't have to."
"Me too," Brittany sighs. "I have to be back to serve up breakfast and get to training."
Santana's pout deepens, her eyes going big and bright, pleading with Brittany to stay.
"Santana," Brittany whines. "That's not fair."
Santana chuckles as she pushes Brittany onto her back to lie over her. "No, what's not fair is me being away from you."
Brittany takes in a sharp breath, their mutual nakedness stirring her blood fast out of sleep. Santana smiles down at Brittany like she's the most perfect and precious thing in the world. She trails the fingertips of one hand up over Brittany's ribs and back down again.
Santana kisses Brittany's neck, just below her ear. "I want you to stay." Her eyes shine with so much contented love that Brittany feels her chest tighten and her stomach flip.
"San," Brittany's eyes flutter shut as Santana thumbs over her ribs. "I want to stay too but I—"
Brittany's eyes snap back open when Santana sits up. The sheet that covered them pools around Santana's hips, exposing both their torsos to the cool, morning air. Brittany shivers, only partly from the shift in temperature. Santana smiles as her hands settle on the jut of Brittany's hips. Blood and heat rush down her body as she stares up at Santana, her own hands trailing up the warm skin of Santana's belly. Santana—warm and mussed from sleep—laughs a little under the tickling touch. Her hair is a wonderful mess on top of her head, curling over her shoulders and Brittany feels every measure of want curling in her own belly. She sits up to kiss Santana deeply, breaking away only when Santana's hand moves between them, fingers slipping into wet heat.
— s — — b —
Noah wakes up outside the Independence Inn with a pounding head and an empty belly. He's not sure what's worse at this point and wonders what he might have gotten up to last night to end up where he is—although he has been wandering around this end of town for a while. He wants to go into Corcorans and make sure everyone is okay. Really, he just wants to know. If he happens to get a little something while he's in there so be it.
Across the street the front door to Corcorans opens. It's curious since, going by the height of the sun the morning bell can't have gone off yet. Noah almost misses that bell. He's working on paying off his debt to the House but Shelby hasn't let him visit any of the girls in weeks.
A soldier steps out into the light and Noah recognises Santana's man—or boy as he is. He's got a wide smile on his face as he steps out into the sun and glances up to the second floor where Santana must be. It makes Noah smile just the same knowing what little he does about the two love birds. He's heard stories from Mike and heard rumour from a man who'd heard it from some of the other girls. Noah could hardly believe it when he heard Santana wasn't working the floor any more. Shelby must be going soft in her old age to agree to it. Although, she always has been a hopeless romantic for all that she discourages the same sentiments in her girls. Shelby wouldn't be in Clothier if she wasn't.
Pierce turns back down the street towards his camp. Noah ambles to his feet, ignoring the ache in his head as he moves to pursue the soldier.
"Hold up there Pierce," he calls out.
The boy's long legs are carrying him away faster than Noah can follow in his current state. Brent stops at the sound of his name and Noah jogs quicker to catch up.
"Sorry for hollerin," Noah taps the top of his own head in greeting.
"Can I help you Sir?"
Noah balks at being called 'Sir'. "None of that B-B-Brent," he smirks at remembering the boy's stutter. "I'm nobody's father and I'm certainly no sir." Noah rubs a hand over his close cropped hair and a spark of recognition shows in Brent's eyes.
"Puck?" he questions curiously.
Noah nods. "One and the same."
"Oh," Brent shifts a little, looking towards his camp again. "Well then I guess... can I help you Puck?"
He looks so completely perplexed that Noah can't help but laugh. He regrets it almost immediately as his head pounds with the pressure. He grimaces and presses the heal of his hand to his temple.
"Are you alright?" Brent reaches out one hand but then retracts it like maybe he shouldn't touch Noah after all.
"Hey, you're that fella who laid out Coleman good," Noah remembers suddenly, seeing the boy's long reach.
Brent frowns. "Yeah, what of it?" he looks a little surprised at his own brisk tone.
"Woah there," Noah laughs, lifting his hand up in defence. "I just heard is all. Bastard deserved a good whooping anyway and I heard about what happened with Santana. Just meant he doubly deserved it."
Brent's scowl deepens. "I don't want to hurt anyone."
Noah looks the deep blue uniform up and down. "Funny sentiment heard from a soldier."
Apparently that's the wrong thing to say because Pierce turns immediately on his heal and starts back down the street.
"Right, right apologies," Puck says, keeping pace with the boy. "That's the headache talking and I shouldn't have said that."
Brent doesn't stop but he does spare Noah a glance. "I don't especially mean to be impolite Puck but... Why are you talking to me? I don't especially know you."
"Sure you do," Noah insists still shuffling quickly to match Brent's strides. "We've met before and we have a few common acquaintances.
"That's all well and good and it's nice to see you again Mr Puckerman but I'v need to be somewhere else. You have a nice day now." Brent just walks a little quicker.
"Oh, so now it's Mr Puckerman too. None of that. Mr Puckerman was my grandfather. Why you in such a hurry anyhow?"
"I need to be back in camp for breakfast."
Noah's stomach growls at the reminder of food. "Do you reckon you could sneak me a meal or more?"
Brent stops short. "I hope you don't mean for me to steal?"
"No, no not at all. Okay yes. But only cause I'm hungry."
Brent looks him up and down, taking in his rumpled clothes and dusty jacket from his night on the street. "Do you have any money? Any food or a place to—"
"Oh, hey, hey. I'm not after no charity. I got a house with Ma and plenty of money left still—okay not plenty but I got some. I just thought some army food would be something nice to change my regular day."
Brent scoffs a laugh as he relaxes. "You haven't been in the army before have you puck."
"No chance, no how. Couldn't tie me down for nothing," Noah agrees. He considers the questions though. "Would you have snuck me food if I didn't have nothing?"
Brent looks a little uncomfortable. "Well, I don't like the idea of a man being without, you know?"
"But you'd take whatever Coleman had left to him" Noah suggests.
"Will you be coming to a conclusion any time soon Puck? I really do have other places to be."
Brent is clearly annoyed but Puck needs to ascertain a few things before he lets the boy go on his way. As always, Puck decides the direct approach will be best.
"You know you talk pretty good for a soldier," he starts.
Brent shakes his head dismissively and takes another stride away.
Noah glances back to Corcorans. "You have plenty of money to yourself today B-B-Brent?"
"That depends on what you mean Puck," Brent throws over his shoulder.
"I mean, can you support what you've been doing with Santana. For that matter, is Santana the only whore that you've been doing—"
Noah is on his back before he can even get the question out. His jaw feels like it's been dislocated and Brent is standing over him, eyes full of anger and fist still raised.
Noah lets out a pained laugh. "Goddam B-Brent. You got me good there."
"Get up and I'll get you again," the fuming boy growls. "Say anything like that about Santana and I'll—"
"I'm not sayin nothin like that again I swear." Noah spits blood out of his mouth and wipes his chin.
"Then why did you say it now?" Brent's voice is still raised. Angry.
"I just wanted to make sure you were who they say you are."
Brent looks around like someone might be watching them now. "And what do they say I am?"
"A good man."
"Yeah. Now will a good man help me up?"
"Take it back," he snarls, anger still present under the confusion. "Take back what you said about Santana."
"Alright, alright. She's an honourable lady like no other. And she's my whore of a sister to boot."
"She's your sister?" Brent asks, really confused.
"Well, not by blood but close enough. I care about her like she is."
Brent straightens up and holds out his hand. "Alright then."
Noah is wondering if he didn't pass out for a moment there; Brent's expression cleared so quickly. The anger is replaced by the same easy smile he'd worn as he left Corcorans. Noah grabs his hand and is lifted to his feet with a quick jerk. Brent dusts down his back with a heavy hand.
"I think it's best if you leave now, Puck." Brent says.
It's not a warning necessarily so much as a friendly suggestion. Noah realises that it's probably for the best if he leaves.
"Yeah I'm sure you're right, soldier boy."
Brent gives a final nod and then stalks off down the street, disappearing around a corner.
Noah turns back on his own way to Hunna district. He thinks he likes this soldier of Santana's but he'd very much like to confer with Mike before he comes to any real conclusions.
— s — — b —
Brittany grimaces as she watches Sam drop the third can of beans into the broad pot hanging over the flame.
"You heard they're sending us out again?" Sam asks absently.
Brittany feels the blood drain from her face. "What?" She knew it was a possibility but she'd made an effort to not really think on it.
"We're headed West and maybe North all the way up to Sante Fe."
"They're packing up camp?"
Sam nods. "Maybe so."
"Where'd you hear this from?"
Sam tosses the empty can into the pile of rubbish accumulating from the camp's breakfast. "From a man who know's a soldier." He winks at his joke.
Brittany has to sit down. She lays her knife aside and slumps down into the stool by the edge of the tent. She feels a pang of hurt in her shoulder echo the churning worry in her gut. "I can't leave her," Brittany says. "I can't."
"Hmm?" Sam glances up and then his face falls as he finally registers Brittany's panic. "Well, heck Brent. I didn't even think. I mean it's probably not true. There's always whispers about us moving out. They usually come to nothing."
"But what if it doesn't? What if they're true?"
"You know what," Sam fixes a smile back to his face. "You shouldn't worry a thing about it cause thinking back I reckon I heard this from one of those jokers from third. You know how they always like to start somethin."
Brittany manages to swallow down some of her panic.
"Even if we were out you know I'd help you figure something out. Anderson too." Sam gingerly puts a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She nods and takes in a few deep breaths. "We'd figure something out," She repeats. It's definitely a comfort to say 'we'.
"Absolutely," Sam says.
"And you heard it from someone in third?"
Brittany laughs, feeling light again.
— s — — b —
San Francisco, California 1879
Brittany should have been back at the hotel hours ago. It's been getting dangerous for her even during the day and staying out at night is just downright foolish. She couldn't turn down this job though. She's had to be very careful who she does and doesn't accept jobs from. Tensions have been rising between a few different clans especially around her father's old wharfs. It took months for anyone to go near them.
Someone must have paid a pretty penny to have kept the story off the front page. Even after the rumours of his death were eventually confirmed with a quiet obituary in the back pages of The Examiner his enemies remained nervous. Maybe it's because Brent's death was never reported at all, even in obituaries. All these months later though both Goulsby and Smithe's men have been squabbling over who gets to claim the area as their own. There are a few other interested men but Brittany hasn't needed to learn their names yet. Smithe was the first to put a price on Brent Pierce's head and Goulsby was the first to double it.
Brittany has dropped off her latest delivery and now she needs to be back at the hotel, quick as possible. She ducks through alleys quickly and quietly, hoping to remain unseen. There's noises everywhere in a city as big as this but she still listens for anything that might be out of the ordinary.
She's in the neighbourhood alongside the one she lives in; she's so close and then she hears it, footsteps following close behind her. They're light and quick and trying to stay unnoticed which means they ring out loud and clear to Brittany. She thinks quickly, knowing that she won't be able to outpace them before she gets to the hotel. She slips into an alleyway that she knows is dark and usually deserted. If Brittany knows anything at all, it's the back alleys and side streets of San Francisco.
Brittany presses herself against the wall and tries to breath as quietly as possible. She maintains a hope that whoever is following her might miss the alleyway and her disappearance into it. She shuffles further into the darkness, feeling her way as her eyes continue to adjust. The buildings either side are high enough that only a narrow strip of stars are visible above her. Her eyes become more accustomed to the dim and the block of light that is the street beyond the alley is bright and warm looking.
She hears her pursuer reach the edge of the alleyway and then stop. Her hopes of whoever he is passing by are gone and she braces herself for whatever might be coming her way. She almost smiles at the idea of actually defending herself. She carry's no weapon since most of her employers wouldn't allow it and she has no idea how to fight. She's never even hit a man before. Brittany wonders for the first time if maybe she won't be joining her father very soon after all.
— s — — b —
Clothier, New Mexico 1880
I pack up my papers and books at the bar, glad to finally be done. Kurt is having some traumatic experience upstairs and the sounds of Shelby arguing with him are more than a little distracting. I've been spending enough time with Brittany that most of my chores have been woefully neglected. I know I shouldn't have been so lax and I inevitably regret my failing in the tasks that Shelby has set for me. She has been nothing but kind and generous allowing me respite from the floor. It's just that whenever I'm with Brittany I tend to lose track of other important things. Nothing ever really seems as important as keeping Brittany close to me.
I take the books and all accompanying sheets into Shelby's office, unlock the drawer and put everything carefully back in its place. The drawer beside it, also usually locked catches my attention as it remains not only unlocked but also slightly open. I pull at the drawer curiously and peek inside. I've never been able to resist properly snooping when I'm able and I can't walk past this chance now.
Inside are several short stacks of letters. The colour of the paper suggests that the letters go back some years and while the creases show that all had been tied into tight bundles some of the them have recently been untied and reopened.
I glance toward the door which stands only partly ajar. I can hear Kurt and Shelby coming back to the saloon discussing a recount of the liquor supply so I take up the nearest open letter to read it.
Dearest Shelby. I hope this letter finds you well. Leroy sends his love as do I. For our part, health, wealth and weather have all been in our favor. Rachel has begun teething which has been our greatest grief of late, though we can't hold her tantrums against her. Leroy dotes on his daughter far too much and I'll admit that I indulge her as well.
I scan over the letter which continues to detail the mundane life of a small family in New York. I can only wonder why Shelby would be in communication with them. Maybe Shelby has a sister I don't know about. But then why would she lock these letters away so carefully and why be going through these letters which by the post date are more than 16 years old. I read to the end, hoping to find a clue. It's signed off with the letter H and love from Leroy and Rachel.
I pick up the next loose leaf and find that it's some years after the first.
Today is Rachel's eighth birthday and our little star is the most excitable and exuberant birthday girl that ever was. She barely sat still long enough to capture the photograph I've sent you and even then her mouth is a little smudged on account of her shifting smile. She still looks so very much like you.
There's a small, tin daguerrotype underneath and I lift it out to find the photograph with the smudged smile. The girl does look very much like Shelby. This must be her niece. I can't help but frown at not knowing about Shelby's sister. I look back to the letter, quickly reading over the little girl's many accomplishments. A mother's pride shines through every word.
I get to the sign off at the bottom and hesitate, reading it over again curiously. Oddly the name at the end is in full and signed as Hiram which is most certainly a man's name. I look at the photograph again. The girl is so very much like Shelby but there's something about her appearance that pulls at my understanding. I put the letter and daguerrotype on top of the desk and shuffle through the pages to retrieve the oldest looking envelope.
Shelby. I hope this correspondence is not unwelcome. You expressed a wish to perhaps be kept appraised of your daughter's health and well being. Consider this the first of many such letters from Leroy and I. I'm very happy to report that Rachel is healthy and her nursery is very much to her liking. She sleeps well and we couldn't be more pleased to now call her our own daughter.
I couldn't be more confused but I can feel my heart beating much faster as I stand on the edge of understanding. I glance at the Daguerrotype of an eight year old girl who's face is so familiar. I dig into the draw and feel around for the hard edge of more photographs. I find two hard cases. One contains an image of a grinning girl of maybe eleven, in the other she is about fourteen and wearing the wide skirt and long gloves of a lady.
I reach further into the draw and feel a scrap of paper different from the rest. It sticks a little to the bottom but I prize it up carefully and eventually hold it in my hand. I see the back first where Hiram in the same neat hand as his letters has written Mr and Mrs Finn Hudson, May 1878. A gasp escapes me and I hesitate before finally flipping the photograph over. There in deep, contrasting tones of brown, cream and white are a bride and groom. The groom is incredibly tall and he wears a boyish expression of excitement. Beside him is Quinn's Rachel just a little younger than she is now, smiling just as brightly as in any of the other photographs laid out on the desk. Her mouth isn't smudged from movement any more and her every feature is as clear as if she were standing in front of me.
My first thought beyond shock is of Quinn. Does she know? Does Rachel even know that Shelby is her...
I hear the door open in the Saloon and it startles me enough to bring me back to the situation. I've just snooped through Shelby's things in a drawer which is usually locked and discovered something which she clearly wanted to keep a secret. I push the letters and photographs quickly back into their place.
"...you are sure?" Shelby's voice comes clearly through the half open door.
"Yes indeed." An unfamiliar man answers her. "I've come a long way and I wish to meet with him for just a short time. It's very important."
"If perhaps you could tell me more of your business with him Mr..." Shelby trails off, waiting for the man's name.
"Greyson. My name is Greyson and the business I need to discuss with Brent Pierce is none of yours. In fact my employer requires I contact Mr Pierce directly and in person. I received some information which pointed to an understanding that I could find him here. I don't wish to be rude but if you don't know of his whereabouts then I think I'll be on my way."
"I don't know him, no sir," Puck growls. I didn't even know he was here but I can imagine him pressing in on this stranger. "And I think you and your employer outa watch who you're sniffing around for in this town too."
Shelby cuts in to stop Puck saying anymore, her tone polite and accommodating. "I'm afraid I don't know the name at all Sir. But Please stay for a drink at least."
Puck can't take a hint at all. "I don't think you should put any of your girls on this shiney-shoe bastard's prick, Shelby. Who knows what he brought with him."
I lean around the door to see that Shelby has put herself between Puck and Mr Greyson. The man's suit is a deep grey over a crisp, tan vest and the fabric of the bowler hat tumbling over in his hands is a rich black. He looks horrified by Puck's language.
Shelby seems determined to ignore Puck's theatrics as she talks in a steady voice. "Coming from San Francisco would leave a man parched I'm sure. You could stay for a drink."
Mr Greyson looks around the room, at Sugar sweeping in her corsets and short skirts and at Kurt shifting crates of liquor behind the bar. "I wish to cast no aspersions on your business Ms Corcoran but I'm afraid I have no thirst for your particular wares."
I feel a shiver pass down my back at his cold tone and Puck's shoulders pull almost to his ears but Shelby doesn't show any sign of offence as she just nods politely. "You may prefer the Independence Inn on the other side of the street if you don't find Mr Pearson before the last carriage leaves."
"Pierce, his name is Brent Pierce," Mr Greyson corrects. "Please endeavour to contact me if anything does come to mind."
"Certainly, sir and please feel free to return at any time should you change your mind. I'm sure any of my girls would be happy to assist you with anything you require."
Mr Greyson takes a substantial step back before he nods to Shelby. "Ms Corcoran. Good day."
Puck jerks forward with a snarl on his lips making Mr Greyson flinch back, his hand moving over a pistol hid in his belt. Shelby shows her first sign of annoyance in the firm grip she has on Puck's arm.
"Good day Mr Greyson."
Fear shoots through me. The realisation that someone from Brittany's all too dangerous past has pursued her here grips at my heart as I walk back into the saloon.
"Santana," Shelby says in a warning tone unsurprised to see me. "Don't do anything rash."
"I have to warn her Shelby. What if it's one of those…there's sp much danger and—" I cut myself off. Brittany had told me about her life in San Francisco in confidence.
Shelby directs me back into a chair at the bar and nods to Kurt. A glass with whiskey in the bottom is put into my shaking hand.
"I don't want this," I say quickly. "I have to get to—"
"Brent. I know you're worried," Shelby interrupts with careful emphasis. "But if that fancy, goddamned state man is holding observation at the wide front window of the Independence then what is it you think he'll suspect seeing a girl rush out of here and off towards that camp? He'll follow you straight to Brent and you won't even know it."
She nudges the glass in my hand, persuading me to drink. I glare at the glass, tapping my foot nervously as I think about what she's saying.
"I can't just sit here, Shelby. I can't lose—" my voice breaks through a half sob.
Shelby pulls in one deep breath. "Fine," she says turning to Puck. "Do you know Pierce?"
Puck nods. "Gangly kid in Blue."
"Good. Sneak out the back. Don't be seen. Tell him about Greyson and bring any messages back."
Puck turns to me. "Don't you fret at all Santana. I'll be back real quick."
Shelby grabs at Puck's arm hard enough that he has to hide a wince. "Don't be quick Puck. Be unseen."
My heart nearly stops at the tense worry in her voice.
A sudden, girlish yell makes me jump. "I knew it."
Puck, Kurt, Shelby and I all turn towards Sugar who is standing with her broom still in hand and a delighted expression on her face.
"What can I do Kitten? I'm here to help." Sugar stomps her foot to emphasis her readiness.
Puck looks at Sugar curiously and I realise my error. In the midst of my shock I said 'her'. Shelby covered up some of my mistake and Puck seems to have missed it. Sugar though doesn't miss a thing that might interest her.
"Go," Shelby pushes Puck towards the back. She then turns to Sugar. "Come with me." She drags the girl to her office with Sugar turning wide eyes and wistful looks back to me.
I feel angry at myself as worried tears well in my eyes but I refuse to let them fall.
— s — — b —
Brittany just lets loose. She feels freer than she has in weeks. Sam gave her a fright earlier but she has every good feeling now. Things have been calm lately and she's sure it's going to stay that way. So she throws all her strength and speed into the easy fun of the horseshoe chase. Anderson hadn't indulged the boys in their sport for a few weeks and Brittany had missed the race.
Now—just like that first morning in Clothier—Brittany knows that she is going to win this. She ducks and weaves through the trees, stronger than she was those months ago with the ache in her wounded shoulder infrequent and easily ignored. She can hear Matt and then Sam pounding behind her but isn't worried. They're fast but they aren't nearly as fast or agile as Brittany is. She isn't even really breathing hard as she gets into the row of trees she thinks the horseshoe disappeared to. She hesitates for a heartbeat and can hear Matt rapidly gaining on her. She sways in her spot watching for that telltale glint.
There it is. The shoe has hooked itself to a branch some ten feet from the ground. It makes her smile because no one but her or perhaps Matt could even retrieve it from there. She knows Matt will be rapidly gaining on her so she moves quickly, hoping her muscles will remember the movements she needs to get that high. She lets go, again revelling in the freedom she feels in her body and in her spirit as she springs up to grab at a lower, strong looking branch. It holds as she swings forward and back again, building momentum until she can quickly jerk her body up and over the branch. She feels the bark of the tree grazing her hands but she doesn't mind. That shoe is worth an extra day's wages and she means to claim it.
"Just stay right there," she instructs the shoe balancing her bare feet across the branch. I'll be there in just a sec—" she starts losing her footing as the branch she's standing on creaks under her weight.
The branch starts to crack at its juncture with the main trunk and Brittany's body is jerked forward. She's going to fall, that's inevitable but she's going to get that damn shoe first. She stretches out, even as the branch gives way and she knocks the shoe from it's resting place. It hits the ground with a dull thunk a moment before Brittany lands flat on her back with her limbs flung out around her. A shower of leaves and twigs quickly follows and Brittany just closes her eyes and mouth, hoping to avoid any choking or eye scratching incidents. She peaks up when the last leaves have settled and sees that damn branch still holding to the main trunk, though it's now at a very odd angle.
"Ow," she moans loud enough for the branch to hear her. "That hurt."
Matt and Sam are next to her in a second. Sam's worried face comes into her vision, blocking out the trees above them.
"You all right there Brent?" Sam glances behind him at the dangling tree limb. "What ya go falling out of a tree for?"
Brittany rolls her eyes before sitting up. Everything feels to be in the same place as before the fall but she winces at something digging into the underside of her hip.
"At least I get well paid for my injuries this time Sam," Brittany pulls the iron shoe out from under her and presents it to Matt and the other men that have followed them.
The last man to come through the trees wasn't in the race at all and they all turn to him curiously. "There's a townie in the camp," is all he says before turning and walking back the way he came.
Everyone else follows quickly and Sam helps lift Brittany to her feet.
"You think it might be one of those rail men we've been hearing about?" she asks Sam.
He just shrugs. Brittany isn't really worried at all because she has a good feeling about today. They step out into the bright sun and see the 'townie' in question. The bottom falls out of Brittany's stomach. Puck is standing on the edge of camp, breathing hard and wearing a distinctly worried expression.
— s — — b —
San Francisco, California 1879.
Finally a shadow appears at the end of the alley. The man isn't very tall or broad and Brittany wonders if maybe she has a chance after all. She knows she's strong. If she can just…
The man reaches into a pocket and flicks out the switch blade at his side. Brittany shivers, suddenly very aware of the cool brick under her hands. She can smell the distinctive odour of the docks, washed through with salt air and city mess. She thinks she can smell the man too. She can hear his ragged breath. She waits for him to move, desperate for something to happen. She remembers all her training with Holly, not the dancing but the gymnastics, the agility and strength lessons.
The man lifts his hand to shade his eyes from the light of the street. Brittany pushes off from the wall. She's going to face this and she won't be afraid. She eyes the knife, not really knowing what to do, only knowing that she needs to get it away from him as quickly as she can.
"I know you're down there." The man's voice is higher than she expected, younger. "You're time is up Pierce." The voice shakes over the last words, whether in anger, fear or something else Brittany can't be sure.
The man looks over his shoulder nervously. Brittany sees something she truly didn't expect and she feels the spike of her fear reduced. This isn't a man at all but a boy approaching her in the alley. She follows the line of bricks by her head to see that he is considerably shorter than her. His voice is also much sharper than even Brittany's is.
"What are you after?" Brittany asks. She's not really sure what her question is but she feels like she needs to talk to this boy.
Apparently it's the wrong thing to do because suddenly he launches himself into the alley and towards Brittany's voice. Brittany dashes away and kicks out her foot, hoping like mad that she'll trip him. She connects with his ankle and he stumbles but doesn't fall or drop his knife. He swings wildly around, waving the knife towards her. Brittany dances out of his way, looking for a chance to grab his wrist. He makes another wild swing and she sees her chance. She ducks low under his arm, twisting quickly to stand up behind him. She grabs his wrist and pulls his arm quickly behind his back. She knows that this will both be a little painful and very difficult to get out of. Brent—the real Brent—had often done this to her in his most spiteful moods.
She yanks his wrist hard again and this time the knife slips out of the boy's grasp. She pushes forward into his back and he's forced to stumble face first into the wall opposite. Brittany grabs up the knife from the wet ground while keeping a firm hold on the boy's arm. She doesn't like the way his face has been forced into the brick of the wall but she knows he wanted to do much worse to her—or to Brent.
"You bastard," The boy sobs when he catches sight of the blade now in Brittany's hand. "Just get it over with. Leave my mother with no one."
"I'm not going to kill you," Brittany says in her deepest and harshest Brent voice. She won't kill this boy but he needs to have a little sense—and fear—put into him. "Now why did you follow me? You after Smithe's money?"
"Smithe can be damned to hell!"
"No. I'm on my own."
Brittany shakes her head at the boy's stupidity. "You shouldn't have told me that. What's your name anyway?"
He hesitates. "Jake," he says finally.
"No last name?" Brittany growls. "Good boy. Think about your family before your own fool self. Now if you're not after the money then what are you chasing me with dangerous toys like this for?"
He does't look like he's going to answer so Brittany brings the arm she's holding up a little higher, not enough to dislocate his shoulder but pretty close.
"My father," he gasps out.
"What about him?" she asks already knowing what the answer might be and just how much she doesn't want to hear it.
Tears start to fall down Jake's cheeks. "You killed him, you bastard. You should just kill me too."
He sounds so devastated in his belated grief that Brittany could almost weep for him as well. Instead she loosens her hold on his arm. "Would you believe me if I said I didn't kill him?"
"Not for a second. Everyone knows what you are. I'd only believe that you've killed so many men that my father would be easy to forget."
Brittany feels that familiar ache for what her brother had become before his death. She never knew that he had become the worst kind of man, not until after she decided to be him.
"I'm not the man that killed your father," Brittany sighs, finally releasing Jake's arm.
Jake remains against the wall as though still pinned. "You can say it as many times as you want. I know the truth."
Brittany suddenly feels very tired. She's tired of hiding, of running and she's tired of everyone and no one knowing who she is. "I wouldn't doubt that Brent Pierce killed your father, no doubt on behalf of my own father,"
Jake finally turns, confusion clear in his eyes.
"But," Brittany continues letting her voice resume a normal pitch as she pulls the newsboy cap from her head. "I am not Brent Pierce. My name is Brittany. Brent was my brother and I hate him for killing your father and for every other man he killed or acted cruel towards. I'm sorry for your father Jake but the man you aim to kill to avenge his death is already gone."
— s — — b —
Clothier, New Mexico 1880
I sit at the bar for the whole hour it takes for Puck to get back. Kurt waits with me while Shelby takes Sugar into her office. I don't know what they're talking about. I assume it's about me and about Brittany but I'm too worried about Brittany and this Mr Greyson to do anything but trust that Shelby is on my side.
Kurt sees Puck before I do and I spin on my seat at the bar quick enough that I almost tip onto the floor.
"He's alright," he says breathlessly. He must actually have moved quickly for a change. It seems strange seeing Puck outside his usual slouching demeanour.
"What are we going to do?" I demand.
"He said to sit tight."
"What!" I'm apoplectic with compounded worry and impatience. "Sit tight? There has to be more than that. Tell me everything you said and he said and for the love of God keep it brief. But, Puck if you leave anything out I will garrotte you with your own boot laces."
Puck blanches so I know he's taking my very specific threat seriously. "Okay, well your boy was with a few other soldiers when I got there and it was a might challenging to find where he was when—"
"Is this brief Puckerman?"
"Right, right. He was all charged up to run back here since he went and assumed your life to be the one in danger. I calmed him down some saying that you were fine and all but he was still a mite twitchy. I told him all about the Greyson fella that came through here and he—that is Brent—was pretty nervous about it. He called over a Lieutenant...someone Eccleson or—"
"Anderson," I correct impatiently. "What else?"
"Yeah well the lieutenant came over and then the three of them started talking about Brent leaving. And leaving soon."
"Brent can't just leave. That would be desertion and a whole other shit-storm. He'd be jailed if not hanged."
Puck nods and takes a long draft of the drink Kurt handed him. "They said something about his shoulder and claiming injury if they can get the doc to sign off on it."
"And then he can just walk away? We can leave?" Relief washes through me. Brittany could leave immediately and I can follow her when it's safe. Or I can go with her now. I thumb over the gold band on my finger. I'll follow Brittany anywhere. "What am I to do then Puck? What did Brent tell you?"
Puck shrugs and then flinches back at my dark glower. "He didn't say," Puck explains quickly. "Said he'd come find you soon."
I slump back into my seat and pick up the shot of whiskey I'd been ignoring. I throw it back and barely notice the burn in my throat. My limbs tingle as all the nervous energy leaves them. I'm no longer panicked so much as still worried and a little annoyed that Brittany would ask me to just wait for her to come by for me.
"And that's everything?" I ask Puck, finally. "Just wait by and by?"
"You've no fret to have Santana. Brent will look out for you."
I frown because I know Brittany will look out for me. I'm much more worried about the danger she might allow herself to be in for my protection. I glance at Shelby's still closed office door.
"Was Brent on the way to see Beiste then?" I ask Puck quickly.
Kurt clicks his tongue. "Santana, no you should wait like Shelby and Brent have both asked you to do."
"I can't just sit here and do nothing while—"
"You don't know what the danger could even be Santana and if Mr Greyson is watching then—"
I cut Kurt off. "Then I'll have to be careful not to be seen."
— s — — b —
Brittany shifts uncomfortably in the doctor's residence while Lieutenant Anderson explains—in a rather sideways way—what it is they require. Doctor Beiste keeps glancing at Brittany in confusion and Brittany can't do anything but look apologetic. Since her lieutenant doesn't know about who Brent really is she doesn't know how to talk with the doctor without giving herself away. For all that she thinks Lieutenant Anderson will remain on her side, she can't be sure. If he reacts poorly the repercussions could be bad enough to hurt Santana as well as herself.
So she nods along with her lieutenant because that's what she should do.
"So do you understand what we're asking of you sir?" Anderson finally concludes.
Doctor Beiste looks at Brittany as she says, "Of course. But if you could leave me with my patient a moment then I could—"
"Oh but that wouldn't really be neccessar—"
The doctor holds up a commanding hand. "I really must insist."
Anderson looks ready to argue further but Brittany stops him. "It's okay, Sir, I need a check up anyway."
Anderson tries to straighten out his expression. "Very well. Come find me at camp when the documents are properly drafted. Thank you doctor."
He turns quickly on his heal and lets himself out the door.
"Now," the Doctor starts with her arms crossed. "Are you going to tell me what in the hell is going on here?"
"Someone found me," Brittany explains quickly. "I don't know who or what they want but Puck says he comes from San Francisco." Brittany feels the frustration and fear bubble up in her again. "I knew I should have done more to keep that Brian Ryan quiet. I just never thought…What if they do something to her?" She appeals directly to the doctor.
"To her? To Santana? What are you tangled up in Brittany?"
"It's not me doc. It's Brent."
Doctor Beiste looks at her like she's said something strange.
Brittany pushes her hand to her forehead. "I mean my brother," she explains. "Brent and my father weren't nice people. I enlisted because other, equally not-nice people decided to be done with Brent Pierce. If someone is here looking for him, for me then I'm in danger and so is Santana."
"But you can't just leave." Doctor Beiste nods toward the door. "That'd make you a deserter."
Brittany breaths a sigh of relief. "Exactly. So please can you help me? One last time and then I'm out of your hair. Please, Doctor."
— s — — b —
I have to get to Brittany. It's all I can think as I run past the back doors and windows of every business between the House and Beiste's. If Mr Greyson finds her first, who knows what will happen. He talked about business and his 'employer' but who knows what that could mean. He was so cold and the gun at his hip terrifies me.
I dart out onto main street beside the doctor's residence. I check up and down the street for any sign of Greyson. The road is packed with people and horses so I move quickly, checking over my shoulder as I run up the stairs. Somehow I run headlong into a man's back. I choke on a gasp as I recognise the clean crisp material of Mr Greyson's suit.
He turns to catch my arm. "Oh, I'm sorry Miss..."
I barely stutter out the first syllable of any name besides my own as fear grips my heart and closes my throat.
"Well, Miss Motta if you'll excuse me." He pushes past me and opens the door.
I scramble for his arm yelling, "No!" I don't know what I can do but I know I need to stop him getting to Brittany. There's a rush of movement as Mr Greyson just pushes his way through the door and sees Brittany standing by Beiste.
"Mr Pierce I must speak with you but this young woman seems determined to stop me. If you can please, perhaps restrain her?"
My struggling halts at his professional tone. He is talking to Brittany in a way that seems eager to cause no offence.
"Sir Grey?" Brittany asks, the most peculiar expression of recognition on her face.
The man's concerned face turns genial at Brittany's apparent remembrance of him. "Now, I haven't been called that in a long time Mr Pierce. I'll admit I only remember you as a young boy but I'm sure the business I bring you will have you remembering my name from now on." He gently but firmly prizes my hand from his arm and takes a deliberate step away from me. He holds his empty hand out to Brittany in introduction. "Edward Greyson at your service."
Brittany looks at me before taking the man's hand. "Brent Pierce," she says, visibly shaking away the tense confusion from moments ago. "It's a pleasure to meet with you again sir. I'm sorry you had such a time in finding me. I've been somewhat…indisposed."
Mr Greyson looks Brittany over looking for an obvious flaw in her stance. He then looks at me as if I might be the indisposition Brittany is talking about.
"Nerve damage," Beiste provides quickly. "An indian arrow to the shoulder has left Pierce quite incapacitated in his left shoulder with limited mobility in all his—"
"Well that is a shame," Mr Greyson interrupts, glancing at a watch pulled from his vest pocket. "Sorry to appear in such haste but I really need to be on today's post back to the train in Arizona. I'm sure you understand." He glances at me then the doctor. "Would you prefer to discuss these matters in private Mr Pierce?"
Brittany shakes her head quickly. "Please Mr Greyson if you have something from my father then speak plainly and with haste."
I swallow back my own reaction. From everything Brittany has shared with me about her father I can't imagine anything from him would be good. I move slowly toward Brittany, wanting to be by her side more than anything but unsure if it's the right thing.
Mr Greyson withdraws an envelope from a pocket inside his coat. "The police have finally released a section of his property that had previously been withheld," he explains. "This includes a certain number of…let us say more legitimate business enterprises. Including but not limited to a particularly profitable shipping company which continues to run in the absence of visible ownership. There is also a residential property and some number of material possessions which your father entitled to you from before the time of his death.
"Properties?" Brittany looks frozen and like she can't quite understand.
I've reached her side and she takes up my hand without thought. I interlock our fingers but stand slightly behind her so our joined hands aren't immediately obvious to Mr Greyson.
The man hands over the envelope which is worn and creased but apparently still sealed.
"There are two notes in that envelope," he says. "One is the list of property that is now yours. Your sister's care is left to your discretion as well though I have had no luck in finding her either. The other note, I recommend you read for yourself."
My eyes narrow at the callous disregard for Brittany's well being both by her father and this man in his fancy suit.
"Is it from my father?" Brittany's voice cracks a little as she forces out the question. I squeeze our joined hands in what little comfort I can offer.
Mr Greyson looks down before answering. "No, I'm afraid Mr Pierce didn't leave any communication with me."
Brittany's shoulders drop and I feel the ache in my own heart at her disappointment. "Thank you Mr Greyson. And thank you for coming so far."
"Your father's instructions explicit Mr Pierce. You and your sister didn't make them easy to follow but I am nothing if not professional. If you require anything further you can certainly reach me at my office in San Francisco." He looks very much like he hopes Brittany won't attempt to contact him, in fact he looks very relieved to have completed his business all together. "Good day to you Brent." He hesitates like he might add something else but then just nods his head and leaves. The door closes behind him with a quiet click.
Brittany stands very still for a long moment but she doesn't let go of my hand as I move around to face her.
"Sweets?" I ask quietly. "Are you…"
She nods quickly, her eyes closed. I move my body closer to hers until I'm pressed against her. I lift my free hand to the back of her neck, threading my fingers into the fine hairs there. She takes a deep breath and lowers her head. I meet her half way, pressing our foreheads together as she continues to take deep, uneven breaths. I can hear the doctor moving by his desk but I ignore him.
Eventually Brittany pulls away and opens her eyes to look at the sealed envelope in her hand.
"Will you open it?" I ask.
I take in her calm expression. "Okay."
"Can we go somewhere?"
I don't hesitate. "Of course. Where do you want to go?"
She smiles for the first time, warming my heart. "Somewhere special."
— s — — b —
We go back to our clearing.
She lays her coat on the ground. I unbutton her shirt and then she lifts her undershirt over her head quickly.
"Sweets?" I glance around at the trees surrounding the clearing.
She kisses me sweetly. "I just want to."
I don't argue with her as she pulls the end of her chest binding from the rest and starts to unwind it. I help her roll it neatly for when we leave, loving the feel of her warm, vibrant skin grazing my knuckles.
She picks her overshirt back up from the ground and threads her arms through the sleeves.
"Just in case," she shrugs, leaving the buttons undone.
I taker her hand and she pulls me down with her onto her jacket on the grass. I unbutton my own blouse and pull it away, wanting to feel the sunlight on my arms. We know it's dangerous when someone could come upon us but we don't care. We feel safe with each other, cocooned in the high grasses surrounding us. Even if someone were to come directly into the clearing they wouldn't be able to see us.
Brittany kisses my shoulder tenderly and I feel a shiver run down my back. I join our lips, hungry to taste her and to wash away the hours of fear I felt today. It seems like it lasted for days, weeks. The worry that Brittany could be taken away from me, though unfounded is still fresh in my heart. I lie on my back and pull her to lie over me, needing to feel the soft weight of her. Brittany understands as she always does, or maybe she was just as afraid as I was. Her hands run over my body like she's memorising every detail.
I keep kissing her and feeling every warm and delighted feeling of Brittany washing through me. I push her onto her back again, straddling her hips. I feel my breath pick up as I look down on her and I push her shirt further open, exposing her breasts to the sunlight. She closes her eyes and I have to swallow saliva from my mouth as I watch her breathing deepen. I run my hand over her stomach to the first, second and third ribs feeling the bones and in-between muscles. Her expression shows impatience since I don't want to keep Brittany from anything at all I shift my hand up to cup her breast. She draws in a shaky breath just like mine and I trace gentle fingertips over her with featherlight touches.
My lips join my fingers as I lavish attention on her breasts. Her hips undulate under me and I allow the short distraction of removing her belt and tugging her slacks low on her hips. I press my own hips down into her harder as I kiss her neck and run my hands over her chest, down her sides and—more than once—scratching down her back.
Her legs are shifting forcefully before I even let my hand wander any lower than her hips. I trace light fingertips along the edge of her slack across her lower abdomen. I palm my hand over her hip and around to slip into her pants and grasp at her naked backside.
"San," Brittany mumbles my name around her quiet gasps.
I shift my hand back over her hip until I can enter her quickly. She and I both groan at the contact, my teasing finally done. I find ample wetness and draw my fingers up to nudge at her sensitive bundle of nerves. I change my stance without removing my hand and brace my knees against the ground, knowing that as worked up as Brittany is she could easily throw me off with her bucking. I push two fingers back into her, marvelling at the delicious feel of her and the way my own body reacts to her pleasure. My name hisses out between gritted teeth as Brittany pushes down onto my hand and I feel the fluttering around my fingers.
"God, I love you," I hear my own voice breath out as Brittany arches up.
She pushes up into me, her hands gripping at my upper arms and her face buried into my shoulder as I'm forced into a kneeling position. I don't pull away from her, only shifting my knees as her thighs quake and her spine arches. I keep moving my fingers inside her and rubbing against the spot that has her shaking and shuddering against me.
"Santana it's too much— it's—" her words are cut off by a groan emanating from the back of her throat as she throws her head back.
I immediately press my mouth against the exposed column of her neck, sucking at the pale flesh in rhythm with the continued movements of my hand between her legs. Her back eventually slumps back down and I let her relax, pulling my hand away from her and kissing her cheek and neck in light touches. She keeps breathing heavily for a few long moments and I just watch her, smiling as broadly as I think I ever have.
"That was…" Brittany grins even though she can't find the words. She just shakes her head as if to clear a haze and then opens her eyes. "You even have a halo," she comments smoothing down my hair.
"And you're all red faced," I laugh stroking her cheek.
"Your fault," she jokes back.
I roll onto my side, leaning on my elbow. Brittany just keeps smiling her warm, happy smile. She looks me over as her hand goes to my wrist then trails up my arm, making me shiver.
"What's this?" she asks, fingers trailing over a mark on my arm.
"I don't know." I twist so I can see it better. I look down, shocked to see four defined, red marks where Brittany had gripped me so hard that her fingers left an impression. There's going to be a bruise and a shiver runs down my spine knowing how and why Brittany so lost her control. "You had to hold onto something."
"Oh damn—Santana I'm so sorry." Brittany's eyes go wide, her expression horrified as her hands flutter around the four red marks on my upper arm.
"Sweets, it's okay. It was an accident." I try to calm her down, stopping her from sitting up.
"But I never want—I can't hurt you like that." She's upset with herself and the worry in her eyes looks so much like what I was feeling earlier today.
"And you won't Britt. These will fade quick enough. You're stronger than you realised—"
"But I can't forget…Doesn't this scare you. What if—"
"You won't forget and I could never be scared of you." I pull her back to look at me instead of the marks on my arm. "I trust you, Sweets. You didn't even know you were doing this." I bite my lip not sure if I'm willing to admit what her losing control made me feel. I pull the two sides of her shirt together and start fixing her buttons as a distraction. "The way you reacted to… to what I did to you. The way you did lose yourself to it. Well that…that makes me feel all kinds of things like you wouldn't believe."
Brittany glances at the marks again. "Really?" she asks.
"Really." I get to the last button and smile. "Now, are you ready to open those letters?" It's the first distracting thing that comes to mind.
Brittany looks unsure for a moment but finally agrees. "Alright. Let's find out how rich I am."
I want to laugh at that but then it occurs to me that she might be serious.
As it is Brittany casts the list of property and possessions aside with barely a glance before taking up the other page. Only one side is marked with just two lines of text. The first is an address in San Francisco. The second to my great confusion includes a familiar name.
"What does it mean Sweets?"
Brittany just stares down at the page. Tears are in her eyes and a muscle in her jaw is working tightly. I take the page from her loose fingers to read the words more closely. I look for some sign of error or at least explanation but there is nothing but cold, mechanically produced words.
The man responsible for your father's death is Russell Fabray.
— s — — b —
San Francisco, California 1879
Brittany, against her better judgement takes Jake back to the hotel. It takes longer than she likes convincing him that she doesn't mean him any harm, the promise of food finally getting him to follow. She orders him a bourbon and a hot meal since he looks like he needs both. They talk about the weather and Jake does a pretty terrible job of side eyeing Brittany subtly. He keeps looking over her chest and down to her trousers as though still disbelieving. Brittany does her best to ignore the staring.
"How did you find me?" It's the burning question and once Jake has demolished half his meal it's the first she asks.
Jake just shrugs. "Pure luck. I know a guy who heard it from a fella."
Brittany feels nerves in her gut. "If you can find me then anyone can."
"That's probably true," he admits.
"Then why haven't they done anything yet? There's a price up for me, I know that but no one's making a move."
"Too scared." Jakes takes up a bread roll from the basket on the table to mop up the last of the gravy on his plate. "There's a new player everyone—especially you—needs to watch out for." He looks at her seriously. "You have to get out of the city. I'm just a kid with his ear to the ground and I know it." He stops to look at her squarely again. "You heard about the disappearances? The girls going missing?"
"I—I know my father was tangled up in it somehow."
Jake nods. "Your father might have been a murderous, blood hungry bastard," Brittany tries not to wince as Jake goes on. "But he was only ever on the edge of all that. He pocketed some dollars to turn a blind eye but he was never behind any of it."
"Smithe then," Brittany suggests.
Again Jake shakes his head in the negative. "Nah. I heard his name is Fabray."
Brittany nods, despite not recognising the name. "I think you're right jake. I think it's time for me to leave San Francisco after all."
AN: Dun dun duuuuuuuun! For those who were wondering, this is chapter 23 of 27. So four chapters to go.