Defensive Position

By Maz McCoy

"I reckon they'll wait 'til mornin'," Kid Curry stated as he looked out into the darkness searching for any sign of movement in the trees.

"It's what I'd do," Heyes concurred.

"How many d'you think are out there?"

"There were eight when they headed up the valley. I doubt any of them felt the need to go home."

Kid nodded but didn't turn his attention away from the view beyond the cave they now sheltered in. His gaze travelled over the dark outlines of boulders, shrubs and trees. Somewhere out there a group of determined men waited for them. The cave was warm and dry and with storm clouds on the horizon they were in a better place to spend the night than the posse. However, the cave had no other entrance. No secret escape route. No crevice known only to the outlaw fraternity guaranteed to hoodwink a band of pursuing lawmen. They were dry but they were trapped. He looked down at the Colt gripped firmly in his right hand. With well-practiced skill he flipped out the chamber and counted the bullets inside.

"Any of 'em fall out since you checked two minutes ago?" Heyes asked wryly.

Kid smiled. "Nope." He turned to face his friend. Heyes sat with his back against the rock wall, legs stretched out in front of him. "How is it?"

Heyes lifted the blood stained bandana from his left thigh. He studied the wound. "Still bleeding."

"It hurt?"

"Is that an attempt to make me smile or just a really dumb question?"

Kid's eyebrows rose. "Damned if I know." He turned his attention back to the shadows outside. "They know we're here right?"

"Yep."

"And we know they know."

"Yep."

"And they know we know?"

"Is this going somewhere, 'cos it's bad enough that I'm in pain without you straining your brain."

"You're hilarious, Heyes. I'm just wonderin' why we don't light a fire? Have some hot coffee? Heck, maybe even dig that bullet out and treat the wound." He glanced at his friend.

"The answer's simple."

When Heyes did not elaborate Kid knew he was expected to ask. He sighed. "You gonna tell me or is this one of your guessin' games?"

"I'll share, I'm feeling generous."

"Lucky me."

"We are not lighting a fire because you need to watch our backs and if I take my hand off this wound I'll probably bleed to death. As much as I know you love my coffee I'm hoping you prefer my being here to its taste."

"If they're waitin' 'til mornin' there's no reason for me to sit here."

"But they might not wait."

"So tie that bandana real tight and get to work on a fire. I don't know why you undid the one I tied there in the first place."

"I wanted to look at it."

"What, you didn't believe you'd been shot?"

"I wanted to see if it was clean."

"Just light a fire, Heyes."

"I guess I will. It's sure turned cold."

As his friend leaned over his leg to tie the cloth around it, Kid studied his face. Even in the moonlight Heyes looked pale and as Kid watched Heyes shivered. That wasn't good. He'd already lost a lot of blood. Kid holstered his gun and scrambled over to his partner, taking the bandana from him.

"I can manage," Heyes protested.

"I know." Kid pulled the knot tight.

"OW!"

Kid smiled innocently at Heyes' glare and took off his jacket. "Sit back," he ordered.

"Kid…"

"Sit back, Heyes." His partner complied and Kid covered him with the jacket.

"I don't need…" but Heyes shivered making him a liar before he'd even finished his sentence.

Kid turned away and gathered together the dry sticks left by a previous occupant of the cave, then reached into his vest pocket for his matches. A warm red glow slowly engulfed them. Heyes watched in silence as his friend collected the coffee pot from his saddlebags and poured water into it from his canteen. When the water was almost boiling Kid poured some into a metal cup, set it to one side, and then added coffee to the pot. The comforting smell of brewing coffee soon surrounded them.

Kid placed the cup of hot water beside Heyes, removed his bandana and dipped it into the steaming liquid. With great care he untied the bandana around his partner's leg and tended the wound. Heyes suffered the ministrations as only a man could-he complained a lot.

"OW! Dammit! Do you have to press so hard?"

"Nope, just doin' it for fun." Kid cleaned the wound with the hot water.

"Sheeshhhh! That hurts. Oh, that hurts too! Okay, you can stop now."

"Gotta get it clean, Heyes."

"I can do it."

"No, you can't. You can't see as well as I can."

"I…Oh. Ah." He hissed and closed his eyes tight. "Shouldn't you be watching our backs?"

"No point if you're dead."

"You know your bedside manner could use some work. OW!"

When Kid was satisfied he'd done all he could for his friend, he tied a clean bandana around Heyes' thigh.

"Here." Kid handed him a steaming cup of coffee. Heyes took it gratefully, wrapping both hands around it to warm his fingers. He looked exhausted and didn't say a word as he settled back against the wall, Kid's jacket now around his shoulders. Kid took his own cup, sat opposite his friend and returned to watching the darkness.

Heyes shivered. "Thanks, Kid." He didn't mean for the coffee.

"You're welcome."

Heyes stared at the flames for a while almost mesmerised by them. "I didn't think we'd still be doing this."

"Drinkin' coffee?"

"Running from the law." Kid didn't reply. "I thought we'd have our amnesty." Kid shot him a look. "I really did. I know you we're always sceptical but I really thought the governor would come through for us. Lom did too."

"Heyes…"

"I know, I know. I got over being disappointed a long time ago." Kid wasn't sure he believed that. His eyes moved from his friend to the darkness outside and back. "It would have been nice, you know? No more running, no more hiding, the chance to settle down with a woman."

Kid looked up. "The daughter of the mayor?"

Heyes smiled. "I had high hopes for ya."

"I appreciated that."

"I thought I might run the newspaper office in a small town."

"And I was gonna run the saloon."

"The Silver Spur?"

"The Twirling Gun."

"Did we really agree to call it that?"

"Yep."

"Hmm. I think I'da talked you out of that when the time came."

"I like that name."

"I can't think why."

"Well it's a darn sight better than The Outlaw's Rest."

"That wasn't one of mine."

"No, it was Lom's." Kid smiled, remembering the evening they'd sat around a fire very similar to the one burning now and tried to come up with a name for the fictitious saloon. Heyes' cry of pain brought him back from his reverie. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just can't shake the pain off like I used to."

"That's 'cos you're an old man now."

"Fifty five is not old. I'm middle aged."

"Only if you plan to live to a hundred and ten."

Even in the firelight Kid could see the grey in his partner's hair. Brown eyes met blue ones and they exchanged a smile.

Heyes smile soon faded. "I thought we'd have more of a life than running, Kid."

"We haven't done too bad. We ain't dead yet. I never did like that part on our wanted posters."

"It's not for lack of folk trying. I mean who are they?" Heyes pointed into the darkness. "I thought we'd be has-beens by now. Don't they have younger outlaws to chase?"

"I guess not." Kid's head snapped up, his attention now fully on whatever or whoever was outside. He put down his coffee and drew his Colt.

"What is it?"

"Your gun loaded?"

"Of course," Heyes informed him as he drew the Schofield from the holster.

"I guess they ain't waitin' for mornin' after all."

Heyes dragged himself over to the entrance. Kid didn't move to help, just kept his vigil scanning the treeline. The men outside made no attempt to hide their approach. They heard a rifle being cocked. Then another.

Heyes took a deep breath, his grip tightened on his gun. "Kid."

"I know, Heyes." The blond man looked at his friend and smiled. "Me too."

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