(Constant Stumbling - Old West)
by Clay Kalle
Characters: Main focus is on Ezra Standish and Buck Wilmington -both are kids- during the first parts. Chris Larabee and the rest of the Seven will be joining later on.
Summary: Even the strongest whirlwinds could not blow those two leaves away.
Disclaimer: All rights belong to their rightful owners. This was written purely for entertainment and practice, not profit.
Warning: This story contains a load of child abuse, both physical and sexual, but there's nothing more than mentioning or even mere hinting of such. Violence has a major role in this story, I'm afraid :|
The windows shuddered and trembled as the storm winds roughly shoved them backwards, furious at the denial of their access into the warm building; angry and frustrated at their inability to fulfill their duty to bring forth chaos and destruction wherever their path led them. The barriers endured the attack, supported by the nailed shutters, which prevented the glass from backing down from the fight; a strong backbone.
The building moved along with the flow, the wood boards creaking in the cold like chattering teeth, protesting against the harsh conditions and effectively succeeding in creating a disturbing melody with the other noises emitting from behind the doors of various rooms; the brothel was full of customers despite the weather, men preferring a different source of heat other than settling before a fireplace, drifters seizing an opportunity.
The building made the ugly sound again, noises which usually accompanied ghost stories, and a pair of small hands grabbed the railing of the second floor, heart pumping and racing as brilliantly blue eyes studied the interior structure in fear, expecting the brothel to crumble like a poorly built house of cards.
Taking a deep breath, she placed a hand on her confined bosom, silently reminding herself of the safety the building had provided in previous similar situations; willing her heart to calm down as the little muscle overtaxed itself in fear.
A loud noise and a blow of winds harassing her exposed skin caused her to gasp, and it was only after she was certain nothing had collapsed that she let the trapped breath rush out through her lips, a sense of relief washing over her, only to cower away at the sight by the entrance, where the doors were wide open, allowing the cold and the newcomers inside the infamous whorehouse.
The winds were enthusiastic at the opportunity, sweeping the lighter items into their arms and leading them in a reluctant dance, similar -yet more gentle- to the way the man, who kicked the double doors open, had dragged a small child behind him, before throwing him onto the ground as soon as they were out of the storm and inside the decreasingly warm embrace of a building that offered such for a price. The heavily dressed stranger did not seem regretful as he watched the kid attempt to stand, succeeding only in getting to his trembling knees, a puddle forming beneath him as water streamed down blue-tinged limbs, clothes too thin and shredded to ward off the storm's anger.
The shock had yet to wear off, but the few men present rushed to shut the doors, grunting and cursing as they struggled against the wind, pushing and shoving the wooden barrier, their muscles screaming at the agony of being fully rigid as bursts of energy kept on exploding in the lithe bodies, willing them to do their best for survival; the brothel was already losing all the warmth it had contained, and the women -their skimpy outfits too exposing and thin- were in risk of catching death where they stood.
With one final shared yell, the double doors were violently shut, shuddering and shaking, as a fighting man would after draining all his energy; heaving, panting and staying in place. The sounds of the worsening storm were not able to drown the strained gasps leaving the bouncers, and they turned around to keep an eye on the stranger, their trembling muscles tense and ready for action.
"What is the meaning of this?" The woman who addressed the standing newcomer was exquisite, yet her eyes had one of the deadliest glares as she measured the man before her. The cold was incapable of cooling her boiling blood, her heart hammering with rage at the sight of a mere child struggling with each shallow breath, hardly hanging on to the fine thread of life. With a hand gesture, a rapid set of motions started taking place as two young women rushed to the boy's side, using a cloak of one outfit to dry him, strong arms carrying him away from the water he had brought in and into the arms of either of them, while being rubbed viciously; an attempt to bring some warmth back to the frozen boy.
"I'll take whatever you have to offer for the kid." The stranger grinned, pulling his hat off his head, uncaring to the stares he was receiving as he wrung it tight, before slapping it against the nearby counter that sat next to the entrance, "I bet you have a place for one of 'em, something I'm lacking at the moment."
The woman hissed, her beautifully aging face contorted in an ugly snarl at the words that left the man's mouth. She stepped forward, unable to contain her rage as the stranger continued to market his product, a pleasant smile plastered on his face as if he was dealing silverware on a beautiful Sunday morning, but a small hand on her forearm stopped her advancement and she only needed to look at the tearing blue eyes before she was uttering the acceptance to purchase.
"We'll take him."
The flames danced gleefully on their wooden dance floor, twisting and twirling with the zest of life, embers glowing faintly in a silent farewell as they sailed away from the fireplace, only to die out shortly afterwards, right before the couple who was stationed too close to the heat.
A soft lullaby drifted in the hushed room, constantly challenged by the howling winds, yet the young woman's sweet voice never ceased, her hands rubbing the violently trembling back, limbs and body of the unknown child, the new addition to the building's occupants. At some point, she had started rocking the boy, as words kept on flowing steadily into the nearest ear of the scared kid, hopeful of penetrating the fog of terror that passionately embraced him, protecting him from a horrid reality he wished not to face.
She didn't stop the gentle motion, needing to reassure herself as much as to calm the child in her hold, instead she stretched an arm in a silent invitation and a child was by her side, pressing against her as a brilliant pair of blue eyes studied the heavily blanketed boy shivering on his mother's lap, who wrapped that arm around her son, pink lips placing a soft kiss on the thick locks.
"Bucklin, darlin'. Why are you out of bed this late?"
"Couldn't sleep; something keeps on screaming something awful," Buck complained, his hand seeking the visible digits of the stranger, a gasp escaping his lips as he wrapped his fingers around the smaller boy's, wide eyes staring at his parent in wonder. "He's so cold! Freezing, even."
"Yes, he was outside when he wasn't supposed to," she smiled sweetly at Buck, heart skipping a beat at the reason the boy was in the storm, barely clothed. "Now, if you could get me that small bottle over there, baby."
The kid was eager to comply, untangling himself from the woman's hold to fetch the requested item. It was with curiosity that he handed the shot of alcoholic beverage to the lady of the night, and it was with vast amazement he watched the bottle's content patiently coaxed into the stranger, who was shivering still but with less intensity.
"B-but mommy!" Buck was, once again, pressed against his mother's side, his eyes watching the pale boy carefully, not risking the chance of missing any detail. "You've always said alcohol is evil, that it turns people into beasts!" It was for a mere moment that he transferred his sight to look at her, fearful of his bewilderment not being conveyed through his voice alone, supporting his emotion with a confused face, before quickly returning to his scrutiny.
The mother was unable to contain her laughter, her fingers racking through dark locks in an affectionate gesture. Her explanation of the alcohol use was interrupted by an occasional gasped chuckle; for the firs time that night, Brenda Wilmington was at ease, a state usually accompanying the presence of her son, which made ten-year-old memories of apprehension and anxiety of a coming baby seem almost surreal. The process of finding the pride of her life through humiliation she was forced to endure had never failed to mesmerize the accidental mother, and despite the lack of change in her career path, Brenda considered herself one of the luckier women.
Amidst the inquiries and answers, the bruised child seemed to relax, a mere occasional shiver running through his frame to indicate the suffering Mother Nature had put him through as he reluctantly faced a rage only she could generate. The blue tinge had faded to be replaced by a rosy hue brushing the warming cheeks, a sight that brought a smile to the woman's face as she bent her head and pressed dry lips to one. Buck, meanwhile, held the small hand once again, grinning when the warm fingers answered his gentle squeeze.
Softly, Brenda mumbled before resuming the lullaby, "You're going to be okay, young'un. You're going to be just fine."
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
It was with a struggle the sun was able to light up the gloomy atmosphere of the next morning, clouds forming a united front against an eternal enemy, droplets facing their destiny despite the unpleasant future awaiting them, or rather the lack thereof.
The unity slowly fell apart as little soldiers scattered around, the sun unrelenting in its attack, casting its rays and succeeding to part the army enough to greet early risers victorious.
The common, grand battle was lost on most residents, shutters yet to be removed, preventing daylight from brightening the inside of buildings. The wind whispered across the town, picking up papers in beautiful twirls, desperate to bring life to the still city. The plea was answered by the opening of a door, a young man rushing out of the local bathhouse, his sprint graceful as he balanced two buckets on either side of him.
The teenager inhaled deeply, enjoying the burning sensation tickling his airway as the crisp air rushed into his lungs. His step never faltered as his eyes took in the storm's aftereffects. The damage was not excessive, fortunately, few loose boards had decorated the main road, special touches of litter adding to the mess. Amongst the chaos, the buildings stood tall; survivors of yet another nature tantrum, yet the shutters appeared as a dark veil, as if the inanimate objects were respectively mourning the loss of the church, which was forced to its knees, the wooden clothes ripped open to reveal lined pews inside, some intact, while most were buried under the debris.
The young man merely studied the broken shell for a moment before assessing the rest of the damage that had befallen the town, his pace not changing as the water made the familiar swishing sound, protesting to the constant motion; out of all establishments and homes, the God's house was the oldest and least maintained as the community steered away from the harder path to the luxury of life, making a permanent stop away from religious guidance, while those who feared relocated as sin chased them away.
Reaching the main reason for the decline of morality, the young man tapped the brothel's door with the tip of his shoe, glad to be out of the cold when he was allowed inside. The man who greeted him smiled tensely as he offered a good morning before he was led to where he always left the buckets before he was accompanied back to the entrance, the process repeated until all the requested buckets were waiting by the wooden door with the teenager left battling disappointment at the lack of any sightings.
After a quick knock, the door was opened to allow the transportation of the steaming buckets, awaiting tubs filled with the water before tired bodies stepped inside, soft sighs escaping swollen lips as muscles relaxed in the heat. Eyes fluttered and knees shook, yet the women were quick to finish their bathing, ignoring the calming effects; leaning against the walls, another group was waiting for their chance to clean away filth that seemed ever so present.
One by one, the tubs were emptied as bodies were cleaned and a measure of refreshment was gained, eventually leaving the room empty sans a kneeling man refilling one of the smaller containers with the -now lukewarm- water. He looked up briefly when the door opened, but did not resume his standing position when the young brunette woman entered the room, a child cradled in her arms carefully. All she had to offer was a tired smile as she silently handed the blanketed child over to the man.
"How is he doing so far, Bren?" the man asked softly, his hands showing tenderness and care that did not match his size; he ran his fingers down one rosy cheek before uncovering the child and placing him carefully in the tub. The boy was too warm for comfort, yet it was a relief to those who touched the frozen limbs the night before.
"A bit better," Rolling up her sleeves, Brenda knelt on the other side of the tub, helping in the cleansing of the boy; her hands were quick to wipe away dried blood and dirt with the available cloth, the familiar set of movements proving to be natural to the young mother as she worked efficiently, redirecting her strokes effortlessly as the man manhandled the child. "Charlie checked him over, gave 'im some drink and said he'll be fine; the damage isn't too bad. Full recovery, she said."
"So," he studied the bruises that marred the pale body, his eyes noticing colored shapes his mind did not want to recognize as the Sahara breathed down his throat, rendering the pipe dry and painful, "he really...?"
"World's a cruel place, Toothy, filled with heartless bastards." The quick transition of his sight enabled him to notice the deep flush of anger that caressed the -otherwise- tanned cheeks, but before he could summon the appropriate reassurances to attempt to decrease the amount of hurt shadowing the brilliant eyes, the door was opened once again to admit a lady of an older age, whose presence changed the posture of the two occupants; Brenda had straightened immediately, her hands unconsciously grabbing the large blanket she had discarded on the floor earlier, while her companion gently lifted the child out of the water, presenting him to be wrapped and dried.
Once he was certain that the boy was secure in the mother's arms, he nodded to the other woman present, a silent excuse to his departure as he left the room, gently shutting the door behind him.
"Charlie said he'll live."
"A couple of weeks and then right as rain," Wilmington confirmed, her eyes focused on the pale face as the eyelashes did a dance of shadows on the rosy cheeks. A quick intake of breath promised a possible arising, yet the child merely attempted to raise his lids before giving up to the weights of sleep that haunted him. Brenda smiled at the silent struggle before she looked up into the gazing eyes of the madam.
"I'll work harder, Rose, twice as."
"I'm not asking you to, Bren. Certainly, you have made your wish known, but you've only speeded the process." The woman smiled, her red painted lips stretching to form a bow that conveyed what words never could. "We will have to be careful, though; such an incident could only be seen as a goldmine when it comes to Farley."
Brenda cringed at the mentioning of the town's sheriff; the young man had named a price for the continuity of each business in town before the reins had the chance to gain any of his body heat. Little thinking and calculations were needed to conclude that Farley would be quick in sinking his teeth and claws further into their money pouch if he were ever to find out about such a deal. Stepping closer, Rose placed a gentle hand on the moist hair, and studied the child's features. "He does not look much like Bucklin, but I believe a story about a nephew is doable."
The madam smiled at the hearty chuckle that preceded the gasped exclaim: "Another Wilmington boy?!"
TO BE CONTINUED
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