REDEMPTION FOR THE LOST

By Barb

 

A/N: This series came about when Lisa S mentioned that it would be cool to have a guardian angel story for each episode, so I’m dedicating the first one to her. Thanks for driving my muses into overdrive lol.

 

~ ~ GHOSTS OF THE CONFEDERACY ~ ~

Humans are such intriguing creatures. Take my merry, little band of misfits for example. I had already determined that I would resent them even before I’d met them. That may sound a touch harsh, but I can assure you that I had some bloody good reasons for feeling that way. Back when I had first learned from my older brother that I was being reassigned from demon management and being temporarily placed in the guardian program, I had not been pleased to say the least, hence the resentment for the charges that were being foisted upon me. I had told Michael that he could forget the bloody idea and go bother someone else whilst using some very imaginative words if I do say so myself. There was no way that I’d consent to lower myself to the position of a glorified babysitter to not one but seven men. He didn’t even have the decency to form a logical argument when I pointed out that I had no experience whatsoever in being a guardian and that he had no business assigning me to the program. Rather than being reasonable and conceding to my logic, Michael gave me a load of bollox about needing a senior angel to watch over the group instead of seven mid-level guardians. He then proceeded to tell me that I was the best choice out of the three of us right before he ordered me to get to it. Who could’ve predicted that my blockhead of a big brother would turn out to be right for once.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I can’t believe he pulled rank on me,” I spat out harshly. I leaned against a dilapidated building in the dustbowl of a town whose name wasn’t important enough to warrant remembering and attempted to spot my charges. According to Gabriel, this lot had managed to get into more than their fair share of trouble when they were on their own, but their mid-level guardians had always pulled through for them. However, now that they were about to come together as a group, they would need someone with exceptional skills to keep all of them from departing this world prematurely. I suppose that would warrant sending in a senior angel, but it would’ve made more sense to send one with guardian experience if you asked me. “I never thought I’d see the day where my high and mighty brothers would actually foist an assignment onto me by pulling rank.” Usually when one of them asked me to do something and I refused, that was the end of it. If they had at least implored one of my conning techniques, I would’ve accepted my fate. I would’ve done it grudgingly, but I would’ve chalked it up to getting a taste of my own medicine and been done with it. “Bloody cowards are what you are,” I growled at the heavens.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A few minutes later, I found myself in the position of looking out for three of my charges whilst in the midst of a gun battle. Apparently, a group of drunken men had taken offence to one of my charges’ actions and had decided to hang him in the cemetery on the outskirts of town. I was standing amongst the group of would-be murderers when two other men came up and demanded that my charge be released. I quickly identified them as being two more of my charges and held my breath as they began a standoff with the miscreants. Things went to hell rather quickly, and I feared that my dark-skinned charge who was now hanging from a tree would end up getting killed in the crossfire. I had tried holding the man up for a bit, but I found that the easiest way to save his skin would be to aid my other two charges in freeing him. My long-haired charge appeared to be a good shot and didn’t need much help to sever the rope around the other man’s neck, but my darkly-clad charge didn’t appear to need any help in picking off his allotted villains. Once the shooting had come to an end, I was all set to release a relieved sigh, but I found myself jumping to attention when a young man sprang forward to take a shot at a fleeing man from the lynch mob only to be stopped by a shot near his foot from my darkly-clad charge. I knew his presence couldn’t have been mere happenstance, so I deduced that the young man was also one of my seven charges. Well, he won’t be for long if he pulls a stunt like that again, I mused cynically. I glanced around at the aftermath left in my charges’ wake and let out a weary sigh. I sure was hoping that things wouldn’t always be like this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“There’s absolutely no possible way that you could be wrong about this, is there?” I whispered my question to Chris as the two of us left Vin in the hallway of the local hotel in order to wait outside whilst he roused Chris’ friend from a morning liaison. Barging in on a man whilst he was…with a woman was not exactly a good show of manners in my book, but then again Chris’ friend was helping her to commit adultery. That little tidbit kind of took the sting out of the rudeness a bit as far as I was concerned. I could hear my long-haired charge pounding on the door to the room where Chris’ friend was holed up, and a few moments later my darkly-clad charge and I were greeted by the sight of a man tumbling from the roof clad only in his underwear. “So this is Buck?” I mumbled, giving the mustached man a cursory once over. It was a miracle that he hadn’t broken anything on his trip out the window, because that was a rather fantastic fall he had. “Well he certainly is a friendly little bugger,” I grinned whilst watching Buck give Chris a big hug, once the man had regained his footing. It’s funny how he can be accosted whilst doing…that and not be embarrassed in the slightest, and yet Chris becomes squirmier than a worm just by receiving a hug from the man. Although, I suppose the fact that Buck was giving said hug in his underwear whilst they were in public could have had something to do with Larabee’s uncomfortable state.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Aren’t you a bright ray of sunshine,” I drawled sardonically whilst inspecting the ruins that Nathan’s friend, Josiah, was attempting to put back together. It was a lost cause if I’d ever seen one, but I’d heard of men doing stranger things in an attempt to cleanse their souls. My dark-skinned charge’s friend wasn’t budging from his self-inflicted penance, that much I could tell from the conversation I overheard behind me; however, something would have to give if the gray-haired man was to join our little troupe. “And he will join us,” I sighed as I walked away from the ruins to join the others. I could tell from the way the man behaved that he was interested in helping our cause, but Josiah wouldn’t be able to leave this place until he made peace with himself first.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’d only been around my charges for a few hours and I could already tell that they were going to be a headache and a half. As soon as we got back into town after seeing Josiah, my charges hurried into the saloon because they had heard a gunshot. “If you lot are going to be the types who rush into a situation blindly because you sense there might be danger involved then this is going to be a very long assignment,” I mumbled, scrubbing my hands over my face tiredly. I took a moment to compose myself before following them into the saloon, mainly because I refused to come unwound after practically being on the job for only five minutes. “I’m not going to let a group of imbecilic men be the death of me,” I told myself firmly.

 

As I walked into the saloon, I tried to spot the cause of the disturbance that we’d heard whilst outside, but nothing seemed to come to my attention until I spotted a man in a red jacket take aim at a target on the wall. “I guess that answers that question,” I grumbled, moving to stand next to my charges at the bar. It didn’t take a wise man to figure out that this flamboyant conman in the red coat was going to be the last piece of our little puzzle, but the tricky part was going to be getting him to agree to come along on our journey. I could tell that my other charges were impressed with the way he handled himself as the man began to back out of the building, all the while aiming a little gun at the angry men he had been competing with; however, it was Chris who took the initiative in offering the conman a place in our troupe. “Is that how you plan to get him to come along, by blackmailing him?” I spluttered  in astonishment. I noticed that although the man appeared to be indecisive, his token objections seemed hollow. The lure of gold and the need to leave town overshadowed any objections he could’ve come up with. “And I thought my crew couldn’t get any more motley,” I grinned wryly as I watched the conman slink from the room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“This can’t possibly be happening to me,” I groaned forlornly as I watched my youngest charge make an ass out of himself in front of five of the others. JD wasn’t technically part of our troupe yet, but I knew it was just a matter of time until the little runt wormed his way in. I waited until he’d managed to collect himself before I addressed his foolishness. “You know that if you had managed to break your neck in that little stunt, I would’ve just chalked it up to being your appointed time the same as I would’ve done to Buck when he hurled himself out the window?” I informed him casually, ducking my head in order to catch his gaze. I would gladly stand back and watch as one of my charges killed himself in an act of stupidity, because there was no way I was coming to the rescue every time one of them let his brains become overruled by his ego. Or in Buck’s case by his libido, I grimaced. “You reap what you sow, after all,” I growled to the young man before turning away so that I could follow after my other charges.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I knew my eager, young charge wouldn’t be able to stay away for long, but I hadn’t expected him to reappear trussed up behind Buck’s horse as the older man led him into the Indian village like a victorious knight leading his prisoner back to the castle. “Of course it would be a whole lot easier to take you seriously if you weren’t wearing the young man’s ridiculous hat,” I snorted to myself as Buck finally released a very frustrated JD. I had to hand it to my other charges; they were trying every tactic they could in order to discourage young JD from hanging around them. It was nothing doing of course, but they’d come to realize that in due time. “Save your breath, gentlemen,” I sighed as JD stalked back to his horse and prepared to leave. “He’s not going to give up until you let him stay, whether you want him to or not.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The more I observed my charges interacting with the villagers, the more my opinion of them changed. Despite my initial vow to hate them for putting me in this situation, I found myself growing to admire them and even like them a bit. This fight that they were preparing for was not theirs, and yet they were treating it as such. “Helping those who are not able to defend themselves is quite the noble undertaking,” I murmured, watching a group of the village children present Ezra with piles of straw and old clothes. “Especially for a conman who appears to be without a noble bone in his body,” I smirked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You, my friend, have been caught right well,” I chuckled, circling around Nathan’s upside down form. I wished I had more time to bask in the humor of this moment, but a noise in the bushes behind me put a quick stop to my merriment, causing me to be on alert once more. However, my temporary panic flew right out the window the moment I saw whom Nathan’s captors were. “I wish I could help you, mate, but you don’t seriously expect me to throttle a group of women, do you?” I managed to wheeze out between laughs. It was a perfectly logical explanation for my helplessness, but I wouldn’t have helped the poor man out even if I could. Moments like this were going to be rare once the battle got underway, and I intended to get my laughs in while I could.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You, my oversexed friend, are pushing your luck a little too far,” I grunted, attempting to pull Buck apart from the irate Indian who had a death grip around his neck. He hadn’t exactly endeared himself to the men in the village, and he was treading on thin ice with that one young lady’s father. “And now this happens,” I ground out. I realized I was being a tad irrational in blaming Buck for this Indian’s attack on his person, but I was beginning to lose my patience. I don’t think I’d ever been so glad to see young JD than when I saw him pop out of the trees to come to Buck’s aid. “Not exactly how he was expecting you to say ‘thank you’ now was it?” I panted from my hunched over position as Buck proceeded to punch the young man in the face and scold him for his foolish actions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 “He’s not bitter towards white men in the least,” I remarked sarcastically as my charges and I watched the interaction between the Indian Chief and the young man who had attacked Buck. Apparently, this man was the Chief’s son and had been imprisoned because he was an Indian, but the venomous words he began spouting towards my charges left my mouth agape. Thankfully, Buck had stepped up and voiced my indignation quite headedly. Talk about biting the hand that’s trying to feed you, I tisked silently. “You’re going to have to swallow your bitterness if you want to keep that family of yours together,” I stated solemnly whilst watching the young man interact with his wife and baby.

 

I was still watching as Imala and his family ambled away when I heard Buck and JD begin to argue behind me. “You might as well give it up. You’ll never be rid of him now,” I informed the protesting man as Buck attempted to get Chris to side with him. I smirked as Chris wavered between telling the kid to beat it again and letting him stay just so they could keep an eye on him. It was obvious that Buck had taken a liking to the kid no matter how much the older man belittled him. This friendly teasing was proof enough that JD had managed to get under the man’s skin, so Buck wasn’t fooling anybody if he tried to say otherwise. “It would figure that JD would gravitate towards you, Buck, seeing as you’re probably more immature than he is,” I snickered as I watched the two roughhouse.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had been preparing myself for this moment ever since I arrived at the Indian village, but that didn’t prevent me from holding my breath as I waited for the initial confrontation between my charges and the Confederate colonel to end and for the fighting to begin. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long. The next several minutes felt like hours as I hurried about, making sure none of my charges got themselves killed. The Indian villagers had gotten involved midway through the gunfight, but I couldn’t do much in the way of seeing to their safety. My first and only responsibility was to see that my charges came out of this dustup alive and in one piece; everything else be damned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once the dust had settled from the skirmish, I was wishing that it was possible for angels to go on holiday. This lot certainly kept me on my toes, and they were bloody lucky that they couldn’t hear me berate them for their stupidity. Buck did a fairly good job of taking young JD to task, but I had a feeling that he’d do something stupid himself were the boy in danger. Their relationship was kind of touching really, in an odd sort-of way. During the battle, I had seen to it that Ezra evaded an unwanted perforation to his body, but I had managed to dislocate his shoulder in the process. I made sure that Nathan both noticed and corrected the malady once the fighting had stopped, because there was no sense in letting the poor sod suffer for my muck-up. I also saw to it that Nathan caught sight of Josiah’s injury as well, because the older man had made no move to say anything about the gunshot wound he’d caught in the leg. It may only have been a wing shot to the leg, but any gunshot wound left untreated could be fatal. I’d noticed that the villagers had some injured people as well as some fatalities amongst their ranks, but there wasn’t much I could do for them except offer Nathan some gentle encouragement as he worked to patch up their wounded. As sorry as I felt for those who had died, I was more relieved by the fact that none of my charges had been killed. I’d begun to grow rather fond of my little band of oddities, and I didn’t intend to see any of them die in this decrepit spot of desert.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Oh my,” I whispered, covering my mouth with a shaky hand. It would appear that my charges had bigger problems to deal with aside from being danger magnets. I had been making a cursory journey through the campsite that the villagers had made in order to celebrate their victory when I came across the grave figures of Buck, Chris and JD. “It would appear that young Mr. Dunne is attempting to replace his bloodstream with the alcohol from that bottle,” I murmured, watching JD take several swigs from a whiskey bottle as Buck and Chris looked on in concern. I’d thought that perhaps today’s little victory would’ve helped improved morale, but it would seem that my charges carried far too many inner demons for that to happen. I let out a strangled sigh as Chris walked away in order to give JD some space. “Losing your family in such a violent manner…” I shook my head despondently and let my voice trail off for lack of a response to Buck’s explanation for Chris’ behavior. Somehow, I didn’t think Chris would appreciate pity. I’m really not qualified to handle all of this emotional drama, I thought to myself as I watched Josiah take possession of the whiskey bottle and knock back a hefty slug.

 

I continued on my little trek hoping to find my other charges in better spirits, but I was once again disappointed. I had to give Ezra recognition for a noble effort in putting up a good front, but he wasn’t fooling me. “You don’t give yourself enough credit my friend,” I spoke softly as I listened to him talk about the villagers’ courage to the children seated around him. He may not have run into the face of danger like Chris and Buck, but that didn’t make him a coward. “That is what you’re insinuating, isn’t it?” I could tell by the downcast turn of his eyes that that was exactly how he saw himself. “I guess you just need an opportunity to prove to yourself that you’re a better man than you think,” I stated confidently, giving the little group a quick nod before moving on. Somehow I knew that Ezra’s personal tumults would play significant roles in the events of tomorrow, but that was about the best that I could offer in a way of a pep talk.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I bet you boys didn’t see this coming, did you?” I chuckled darkly, sitting on a large rock whilst I watched six of my charges being tied up by their enemies. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I knew that something bad was bound to happen today, but that hadn’t stopped me from hoping that I could be wrong for once. Everything had started out well enough that morning, but the moment I saw Ezra deviate from his assigned course I knew my fervent prayers had been denied. “I trust you to make the right decision, mate,” I’d whispered to myself as I’d watched him walk into an old mineshaft. I knew that with him not keeping an eye out for the enemy, the others would be left open to a surprise attack, so I’d quickened my pace back to the village. Just as I had expected, the colonel and his troops had begun a siege of the crumbling village, and it hadn’t taken long for my charges and the villagers to be overcome. “And that brings us to where we are now,” I proclaimed, ticking off the last event on my fingers.

 

At least they’re keeping their spirits up, I mused sardonically as I noticed that Buck and JD were continuing to have words with each other. I spotted Chris working to remove his handcuffs and shook my head in amazement.  “That Chris sure is a determined bastard. Even when he’s got death staring him in the face he refuses to give in.” I glanced up at the cliffs behind where my charges were sitting when I spotted a flash of red amongst the rocks, and I allowed a slow smile to creep up onto my face as I saw a figure making his way towards us. “Good show, mate,” I mumbled under my breath before addressing the rest of my troupe in the best encouraging tone that I could muster. “Chin up, mates, it looks like the hour of your rescue is at hand.” I pushed up from my resting place and wandered over to the other side of the rock wall that my charges were sitting against in order to see how the colonel’s troops were stationed. I had a feeling that things were going to come to a head shortly, and I wanted to make sure I could keep an eye on any potential threats to my charges. Knowing my men, they’d end up doing something idiotic before the dust settled. This thought caused me to shake my head in wry amusement. “It wasn’t as if I expected them to go out any other way aside from fighting,” I grumbled half-heartedly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was finally over. After one last bloody skirmish in which Colonel Anderson had finally been taken down with a deciding shot from Chris, this senseless bloodbath had finally come to an end. “But not without casualties,” I remarked somberly, watching the Indians gather up their wounded and dead. I had wounded of my own to see to, but at least all of my charges were alive and accounted for. “Hopefully they will remain that way,” I sighed. Nathan had managed to once again patch Josiah up, but the older man wouldn’t be able to travel for a few days until his wounds healed some. “You look like death warmed over, mate,” I muttered whilst giving his body a once over. My eyes traveled over to the form lying on a cot a few yards away, and I had to swallow thickly in order to prevent my throat from constricting. As bad as Josiah was, Buck looked a far cry worse.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“How did I know that you’d be the one to do something stupid?” I clucked my tongue disapprovingly whilst gazing down at Buck’s slumbering form as he rested under the tent set up for triage. “You know that sword would’ve cut you in two if it hadn’t been for me? Honestly, that was the most asinine thing…” I trailed off as the anger began to ebb out of me. I’d seen it coming from the moment JD burst out into the open, guns blazing in wild abandon.

 

I had expected things to get hairy again once the fighting started back up; I had no doubts that my charges would see to that the moment Ezra came to their rescue. I had been expecting more gunfire and yet…I had still been confident that I could see my charges to the end and keep them unscathed. All of that confidence flew right out the window the moment I saw JD run out into the open with no concern for his safety. During that moment, I had actually thought that I may very well lose one of them in this stupid dustup. I felt as if time had slowed down when I spotted the colonel’s sword coming down for a strike, and it was with one last desperate lunge that I was able to prevent Buck from being cleaved in half. Of course Josiah was unaware of my presence, so he decided to protect Buck’s body with his own, earning himself a bullet to the back. Lucky for him, the bullet tore through the muscle and not any major internal organs. I cast the slumbering older man a wry smile as I thought about how many injuries he had accumulated on this trip. If the man was really that intent on dying, I suppose I could just put him out of his misery and save us all some time.

 

Overall, the whole encounter with the sword had been much too close for my taste, and I reached out a palm to place on Buck’s brow just to reassure myself that he was still within the realm of the living. “Stupidity can be deadly, mate,” I whispered solemnly to his slacken face before allowing my lips to curl into a small grin. “But I understand why you did what you did.” I recalled his earlier frustrations with JD and couldn’t resist ribbing him about it. “Just remember that you’re stuck with the little runt from now on,” I chuckled, patting his forehead in mock commiseration.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I gazed at my group of seven charges as they rode off towards the dustbowl of a town that they’d set out from and heaved a sigh. “They are quite the sight,” I remarked dryly, watching as Buck and Josiah listed in their saddles whilst the others helped to prop them up. As much as I’d wanted to resent these men for being unwanted impositions that were foisted upon me as a means to drive me to insanity, I’d found that I quite enjoyed being around them. Dunderheads they may be, but they were my dunderheads for now and I’d be damned if I let any of them die on my watch. I smirked when the image of JD being thrown from his horse popped into my mind. Unless of course one of them does something insanely idiotic that results in his bizarre death. “In that case, I’ll just chalk it up to it being his appointed time. I can’t interfere with that now, can I?” I shrugged to myself before hurrying to catch up.  

 

 

HOME / ARCHIVE / GUARDIAN ANGEL ARCHIVE

 

Authors Thrive on Feedback. Email Barb

 

 

© Barb 2011