A Mighty Roar
(Old West)

by Beth

Author's Notes: This just goes to show you that I am incapable of writing only one hundred words. This began as a drabble response to the challenge of explaining "What happened?" Over two thousand words later, I answered the question. Happy reading!

It was not an usual occurrence for Buck Wilmington to wake up unsure of his precise location. However, today's uncertainty was worse than usual. For one thing, he was suffering from what was definitely the world's worst hangover. There did not seem to be a spot on his body that did not hurt. To add to his discomfort, he was lying in the lumpiest bed.... As reality finally impressed itself upon Buck's awareness, he realized that he was in fact lying on cold, hard ground. He coughed as he inhaled a bit of free-floating dust. He opened his eyes to mere slits. The small amount of sunlight he let in stabbed knives of pain through his brain. His thoughts seemed to be moving in slow motion. Buck could see the vague outline of someone walking toward him. He forced his heavy tongue around the words, "What happened?"

Buck recognized the booted foot of his oldest friend.

Chris' approach kicked up more of the still-settling dust around Buck. The gunslinger's voice muttered an irritated litany of complaint. "'What happened?' he says. Damn fool idiot. Between him and Ezra, I can't figure out who I ought to shoot first. Hell, maybe the others 'll do us all a favor and kill 'em both for me, seeing as they obviously want to kill themselves. Damn near succeeded." Chris leaned over, putting his face directly in line with Buck's blurry gaze. "You alright?"

Buck took a minute to spit dust out of his mouth. He was surprised that his jumbled brain allowed him to speak a coherent thought. "Yeah, I reckon I am. Leastways, I ain't dead." He groaned at a sudden increase in the pain in his head. "Though maybe I'd be better off if I was." He raised his arms, the better to wrap around his aching head. He repeated his question. "What happened?"

Chris growled out, "You don't remember?"

"Nope." Buck decided that it was time to sit up. He broke out in a sweat at the effort required to overcome the inertia of his body. He would have fallen back on to the ground if Chris had not wrapped a strong arm around his back, assisting him to a precariously seated position. Buck slapped a hand along the side of his head, trying to clear away some of the fog. He immediately regretted his action when his head throbbed in painful protest. "Ow! Dammit, if I remembered what happened, I wouldn't be asking you, now would I?"

Chris' next words were uttered through tightly clenched teeth. "Do the words 'Ezra' and 'dynamite' sound familiar?"

Buck's face ran the gamut of emotions from puzzled to worried, and on through to scared. He turned to look frantically around him.

"Where's Ezra?"

Chris pointed out the huddle across the clearing from their present location. "He's over there by Josiah and Vin." Buck could not see anything beyond the vague shapes of the backs of his friends.

JD and Nathan, the missing two members of the Four Corners peacekeepers, entered the clearing just then, temporarily cutting off any further discussion. Nathan looked from one to the other of his injured, dust-covered friends. A quick glance at both Buck and Ezra revealed no obviously severe injuries. However, the men were so covered in dust it was hard to tell. Nathan's voice held more than a hint of anger as he repeated Buck's question. "What the hell happened?"

JD replied, "I told you, they got blown up."

Nathan observed that Ezra was trying to get up while Buck was just sitting there, looking dazed. As Buck was closer to him, Nathan decided to check him out first. "Damn, Buck, you look like you got run down by a dust devil."

Buck winced as Nathan poked and prodded at his aching body. It took him a minute longer than it should have to answer Nathan's comment in kind. "Well, now it's a fact that that's exactly how I feel. Exceptin' the devil this time had a name, one Ezra P. Standish."

The man in question was currently in the process of making his way across the clearing. Ezra had initially insisted that he was fine. However, the blood on his leg and his obvious limp belied that answer. He would have fallen with his first step if Josiah had not offered himself as a human crutch.

Ezra was too rattled to pay attention to anything that Buck said. Josiah expected that was for the best. They didn't need Ezra and Buck trying to do verbal battle over the 'devil' comment while Nathan was trying to tend to their wounds.

Ezra heard only the mention of his name. It was enough to get him started on a verbal protest. "Do not think for even a moment that just because of my arrival at the utterance of my name that I am at anyone's beck and call. It is merely a matter of happenstance."

Nathan rephrased his previous question. "Speaking of happenstance, what happened to you all, anyway? I thought Buck and Ezra were just going through some things in a wagon."

JD explained. "Well, they were, but one of the things they found was dynamite."

Chris muttered, "Damn fools, playing with dynamite."

Ezra hurried to his self defense. "Let me assure you, we were not, in fact, playing with dynamite. There was an unfortunate matter of a misunderstanding between myself and Mr. Wilmington."

Ezra was in the process of being lowered to the ground beside Buck. The sudden increase in his level of discomfort brought about by that action caused him to lose his train of thought. He bit his lower lip to stifle the cry of pain that was trying to escape.

A moment later, he was able to continue. "In view of the fact that I may have done myself a permanent injury, I hardly think that the details of how it came to occur are of any consequence. Frankly, Mr. Jackson, I think that your attention ought to be focused on tending to the injuries of your fellow peacekeepers."

Nathan spoke as he examined Ezra's leg. "Well, Ezra, this itty bitty scratch ain't hardly what I'd call a permanent injury."

Ezra objected to Nathan's condescending tone of voice. "'Itty bitty scratch? It is my life's blood that is pouring out in considerable quantities onto ground. I know that it will require more than a few stitches to close that gaping hole." Nathan had used his knife to cut the leg of Ezra's trousers, the better to view the injury. Ezra grew a little faint at the sight of the deep gash running most of the length of his calf. The tightness of his voice reflected the level of the pain he was trying to conceal. He distracted himself by talking. "The resulting scar will certainly constitute a permanent injury."

Buck commented, "Aw, hell, the ladies 'll love it. Something like that there 'll get you weeks of tender loving care, easy."

Buck's voice grew fainter as he spoke. "Let me see." His words began to slur. "What was I talkin' about?" The last thing he heard was a frantic voice calling his name. The voice faded into the encroaching darkness. He was just too tired to wake up enough to see what all the fuss was about.


It was not an unusual occurrence for Buck Wilmington to wake up unsure of his precise location. What was unusual was the intense headache that greeted him upon awakening. He groaned with the pain of it, stifling a sudden urge to vomit. Through half-closed eyes, he saw what he'd already suspected. He was in Nathan's clinic. "Aw, hell."

Nathan appeared at the side of his bed, glass in hand. "Hey, Buck, good to see you awake. I bet you're thirsty."

With Nathan's words, Buck became aware of an intense thirst. He greedily downed the contents of the glass offered to him while Nathan cautioned, "Easy, Buck, there's plenty more where that came from." Buck ended up wearing half of the first glass, he'd been so clumsily desperate to drink. His initial dryness assuaged, he managed the contents of the second glass without spilling a drop.

"Thanks, Nathan. So, want to tell me how I managed to end up here instead safe in my own bed?"

Nathan questioned, "What's the last thing you remember?"

It took Buck a minute to think it over. He really wasn't sure of much of anything at the moment. The uncertainty was evident in his voice when he answered, "Getting up in the morning?"

Nathan sighed. "Well, you did that and then a lot more besides. We all rode out to chase down a gang of thieving outlaws. Once we rounded 'em all up, you and Ezra decided to make a list of everything you found on 'em, to try to return what you could to the rightful owners."

"You found a stick of dynamite. Seems you asked Ezra if it was any good. He says you must 've not heard when he told you it was dangerous."

Buck frowned. "Well, not that I remember any of it, but I can about guaran-damn-tee that he dressed his answer up in so many words that I couldn't make sense of what he was trying to say. So, what happened was I got blown up?"

Nathan nodded. "Yeah, you did. Ezra, too."

A look of panic flickered across Buck's face. "He all right?"

Nathan nodded. "Yep. Just got knocked around a bit."

Buck nodded. His eyes began to close. "If you don't mind, I got me a bit of a headache. I think I'll just go back to sleep."

Nathan gently patted Buck's shoulder. "Think you can stay awake for another minute or two?"

"I expect so. Why?"

"I didn't tell you what happened after you got blown up. It seemed like you were okay at first. Then you sort of passed out on us." Nathan looked at Buck, the concern darkening his eyes. "Buck, that happened two days ago. You ain't been awake since then. We've all been worried about you. Please, just stay awake long enough so's everybody can see you're gonna be okay."

Buck frowned, his headache pounding away beneath partially closed eyelids. "And am I gonna be okay?"

Nathan smiled. "Yeah, Buck, I think you are."

Buck was unable to remain awake in the short time that Nathan was gone. However, the noisy arrival of his fellow peacekeepers was enough to rouse him. Buck's anxious eyes sought out Ezra. He couldn't help but notice that his friend was limping. Buck's guilty conscience prompted a quick apology. "I don't remember what happened, but from what I've been told I guess this was all my fault. Ezra, I'm so sorry."

Ezra replied, "As am I. Nathan informed us of the damage to your memory. You are fortunate to have no recollection of the actual events. Unfortunately I fear that I will never forget the sickening sensation of flying through the air before coming into abrupt and painful contact with terra firma. That being said," Ezra continued as he extended a hand to shake Buck's own, "Apology accepted."

Chris couldn't help but add, "And if I ever see either of you anywhere near a stick of dynamite again, I'll kill you myself to save you the trouble of blowing yourselves up."

Buck chose to ignore the illogic of Chris' threat. Instead he raised a hand and solemnly swore, "I will never touch dynamite again."

Ezra agreed. "Neither shall I." Ezra held the crossed fingers of his right hand behind his back, to negate the obvious lie. Mr. Larabee should know better than to attempt to extract such a promise under duress. If necessity called for an expedient use of dynamite, Ezra would not hesitate to use it, despite the latest debacle. Ezra knew how to handle dynamite. It had been Buck who had blown them up. The poor man had not even needed to light the stick of dynamite. It had been old and unstable, and merely by tossing it carelessly aside, Buck had caused it to detonate.

Ezra and the others were just glad to see the evidence that Buck would make a complete recovery.


Epilogue - Three Months Later

Buck and Ezra had been trailing Ed Lofton for two days now. The man was wanted for murder, and the two peacekeepers had nearly caught up with the miscreant when the single set of tracks was joined by five other riders.

Buck cursed. "Dammit! Looks like the man found himself some friends. I expect our job just got a whole lot harder."

Ezra seemed unperturbed. He blandly replied, "Not necessarily."

Buck's prediction proved to be true. They were able to gain the high ground to observe what waited ahead of them beyond the next ridge. Buck swore again. "Damn! The minute we fire the first shot, the rest 'a them fellas 'll run for cover. It'll take us all day to pick 'em off."

Ezra replied, "Fear not. I have a backup plan." With that comment, Ezra revealed the contents of his saddlebag.

Buck's eyes widened in surprise. "Dynamite! Ezra, you remember what Chris said about you an' me and dynamite?"

"Yes, I do."

Buck nodded. "Just checking. I do, too." He smiled. "Now, seein' as Chris ain't here to object, how's about you hand me some 'a them things and one 'a your cigars."

The hillside was rocked with a mighty roar as two victorious yells rose from Buck and Ezra:





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