THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS

By Barb

 

A/N: This one is for all the Buck babes out there. Hope you get a good laugh out of this, ladies.

 

~ ~ SAFECRACKER ~ ~

 

     I know I’ve already expressed my displeasure at having my charges separate, but when I see that a particular situation just might make the aggravation of choosing whom to follow worth my while, I jump at the opportunity. “Although…the last encounter I chose to tag along on didn’t exactly go the way I had expected it to,” I grumbled, pushing my negative remembrances of Wickestown far from my mind. Hopefully this excursion would go down smoother than that one had. Buck and Nathan had been sent to retrieve a paroled prisoner and bring said prisoner back to town where he would be released into the custody of Mrs. Travis. It was a rather simple assignment, but I wasn’t taking any chances by leaving the two men on their own. “With my luck the two of you will end up being ambushed by an outfit of bandits or trampled by a stampede of cattle,” I drawled as I watched my two charges approach the prison wagon. As they talked with the drivers, I took it upon myself to sneak a peek through the caged window to see just what sort of villain we would be dealing with. “Hope it isn’t some warped psychopath who enjoys torturing animals,” I murmured, knocking on the wood of the carriage for good measure. That was another habit that I had picked up since coming into contact with my charges: indulging in silly, superstitious acts. Although I knew such things were a bunch of bollox, I still found myself partaking in certain acts out of curiosity. “It’s not like knocking on some wood could hurt the situation,” I reasoned quietly as I tried to peer through the darkened window. I couldn’t see through the cloth that hung behind the caged wire, so I gave up trying to ascertain our prisoner’s identity with a resigned sigh and moved to stand behind my approaching charges.


 Not having any inside knowledge as to the identity of the prisoner whom we would be escorting back to town, I was just as shocked as Buck and Nathan when a young woman stepped out of the carriage rather than some vile looking man as was typical with prisoners. “I can’t say that I was expecting that one,” I chuckled, pointing to the young woman in question. I couldn’t determine if I was disappointed with this development or relieved; just because the prisoner was a woman didn’t mean she couldn’t be an animal-killing psychopath. “I suppose she looks harmless enough,” I murmured as I gave her a once over. I watched as Buck ducked inside the carriage to retrieve the last of the lady’s bags and flinched when I saw him recoil whilst holding his nose as if it had just been struck. “Well now, I definitely wasn’t expecting that one,” I grinned, watching as the lady hoisted a small girl from the carriage. I walked up to Buck and clapped him on the shoulder as he prodded at his tender nose. “You’re good with the ladies, Buck. I’m sure this young maiden will present no problem,” I stated cheerfully, motioning to the young girl who was shooting Buck a deadly glare. And she’s such a charmer too, I mused wryly as the little girl all but spat at Buck. Oh yes, this new development was definitely shaping up to be a pleasant one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


It hadn’t even taken the entire ride back to town for me to realize that this little spitfire was going to be trouble with a capital ‘T’. She seemed to have poor Buck’s number as my charge attempted to ingratiate himself with the girl’s comely mother all throughout the trip whilst at the same time trying to get on the girl’s good side as well. It was nothing doing it would seem as I watched her glare at Buck as he helped her down from his horse. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing when she growled a warning for him to stay away from her mother as he held her up to his eye level. Oh my, I think that those are actual sparks coming out of those beady, little eyes; Buck, you poor bastard. “Just as effective as a shotgun-wielding parent eh, Buck,” I chuckled from my place at his shoulder. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Buck in such a hurry to escape someone so small before, but it’s a sight that is most amusing to behold. I was shaking my head at Buck’s ranting about how miserable the girl would make a man someday when a slight movement to my left caught my eye, and I spotted the little girl placing a pocket watch into the box she had been carrying whilst Buck’s back was turned. “Ah, so we have both a spitfire and a thief on our hands,” I whispered, leaning over her small shoulder to get a better look of the inside of the box. I cocked my head to the side and scrutinized her dust covered face before voicing the question that had been lingering on my tongue ever since I saw her glance at the saloon on our way into town. “You wouldn’t happen to play cards by any chance, would you?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I followed Buck and Nathan as they walked the little girl over to Mary’s newspaper office where the girl’s mother was currently discussing her parole arrangements with Mrs. Travis, and I monitored the girl’s actions inside the office with an amused grin. “I stand-corrected; it would appear that we’re not dealing with an ordinary thief but a kleptomaniac.” I shook my head bemusedly as I watched Olivia pilfer pieces of Mary’s printing press and place them inside her box. I looked over my shoulder upon hearing the door open, and I felt my tickled smile turn into a frown when I caught sight of the well-dressed gentleman who had just walked through the door. “Now that wanker just reeks of bad news,” I grumbled as I watched said wanker spin a tale for Mary all-the-while eyeing Olivia’s mother strangely. Wasn’t anybody else noticing the looks being passed between those two, or was it just me? “I guess it was just me.” I shrugged the events off as my charges prepared to take Olivia to lunch. If Mrs. Greer saw no reason to bring up the git in the room then I suppose there was nothing I could do about what I saw.  


As Buck and Nathan exited the building with their small charge in tow and proceeded to head for the restaurant, I cast my gaze down the street to the departing gentleman’s back and clenched my jaw in irritation. “I just know that you’ll ruin this perfectly good day,” I growled before stalking off after my charges. I had a feeling that they wouldn’t actually make it all the way to the restaurant, and I grinned to myself when I spotted Olivia bending under the swinging doors to enter the saloon. Not surprisingly, she went unnoticed by the majority of the patrons, but the little quirk to Chris’ lips let me know that he had spotted her. Before anything could be said, Buck and Nathan came barreling inside, both huffing and puffing from their sprint up the boardwalk. “You two are just upset because she made you look incompetent,” I chuckled loudly before mumbling, “and out of shape,” under my breath. You would have thought that the girl had hidden his long-johns by the way Buck had chewed her out. I moved to lean against the bar next to Vin whilst Buck continued his rant, once again bringing up the subject of his missing watch. Even when JD pointed out that the watch had been nothing more than a trinket that Buck had won in a poker game the previous week, the man still refused to let the subject drop, claiming that the artifact still held a certain sentimental value for him. “Oh how I do wish you would shut up about your bloody watch, Bucklin!” I called over to the group at large before fixing my attention back on young Olivia.


Just as I had expected, her vision had zeroed in on Ezra’s poker table, and I watched from afar as she began to make her way towards the game that was in progress. “Just like a moth to a flame,” I murmured with a smile. As she watched Ezra deal out the cards, I moved to stand next to her and alternated my gaze between studying her features and the game before us. She appeared to be looking for something as she sized up one of the men at the table, and when she declared that the gentlemen was cheating I couldn’t help but laugh. “I think Ezra has just found himself a protégé,” I whispered near her ear whilst keeping an eye on the confrontation in front of us. The man that Olivia had accused of cheating was shifting about like he intended to pull his gun, but I knew the man didn’t stand a chance with Ezra already aware of his cheating status. A moment later, my charge had his small derringer in hand and pointed at the man before the man was able to fully rise from his seat and clear his gun from its holster. “Better to leave while you can still walk, mate,” I remarked as the man shifted around to see my other charges pointing their guns at him as well. As the man cautiously made his exit, Buck quickly descended upon Olivia’s form and reprimanded her once again for her foolish actions. “You know the others won’t let you ever forget this, don’t you?” I laughed as Buck promptly dumped the girl off onto Nathan before stalking out. Some men should never procreate, I mused with a disbelieving shake of the head.


Not but a few moments after Buck had made his dramatic exit, I found myself escorting JD whilst my youngest charge walked Olivia back to her mother. We hadn’t even made it halfway down the boardwalk when the sight coming right towards us had me stopping in my tracks and gaping like a flailing fish. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I screeched when I spotted Buck and Olivia’s mother walking towards us, both being discreetly held at gunpoint by the well-dressed man I saw earlier along with a couple of other goons. I cast a long look over to where JD had promptly hidden himself and Olivia to make sure that they didn’t attempt anything foolish before I moved to follow after the group of miscreants. “Such a fine day…all shot to hell,” I grumbled bitterly. I had known that that git would be trouble; I had just been hoping that perhaps I’d have a little bit longer to enjoy Buck’s suffering at the hands of Olivia before things went south.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I was quite proud of the fact that I’d managed to hold my tongue throughout the journey, all the way up until the point where the villains stopped to rest and hold a meeting. At that point in time, I promptly unleashed my irritation on one Buck Wilmington; all of the man’s past troubles lumping together with his current one to feed the flames of my irritation. “How is it that you’re always the one to find himself in these situations, Buck?” I stabbed an accusatory finger at his face as I paced around him and Olivia’s mother. I knew that the majority of my anger wasn’t justified, but an angel could only put up with one of his charge’s knack for poor timing just so long before he snapped. “You, my friend, have the worst luck of anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” I remarked disbelievingly, putting extra emphasis on ‘the’ and ‘worst’. Who else could’ve stalked out of the saloon and walked right into a trap two moments later? I held my breath whilst Mrs. Greer attempted to spin a believable tale about how she and Buck were acquainted, but I let my body sag in relief when the gentleman leading the band of criminals appeared to accept her story for the time being. “At least that story bought us some time,” I mumbled as I caught sight of two men from the group of villains head back to town. Hopefully my charges back in town will have some sort of a rescue plan in mind, I thought to myself as I followed the men.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I managed to arrive back in town before the two miscreants, but I could see Chris and Vin riding out of the other end of town as I paused next to a support post to catch my bearings. “I’ll be right with you, gentlemen, just give me a moment,” I panted, pointing a finger at the departing men’s backs. Rapid footsteps on wooden planks drew my attention to the boardwalk on my right, and I chuckled at the figures that were quickly approaching. “I see the pickpocket has struck again,” I smirked as I watched JD grab at his shirt cuffs and ask Olivia if she had seen his cufflinks. I gave the pair a fond shake of the head and a small grin as I pushed off the support post and prepared to follow Chris and Vin. “I would help you, mate, but guarding your property against six year old larcenists isn’t part of my job description,” I called after him. Hopefully my remaining charges would set up a better way to look after Olivia, one which didn’t allow her the opportunity to pick the pockets of the town’s unsuspecting citizens.


By the time I finally caught up to my two charges, they were well on their way to tracking the criminals’ trail. Once Vin spotted them through his spyglass, I began to prepare myself for whatever plan of rescue that they had in mind…only they didn’t seem to have one. “So we’re just going to follow them to whatever outlaw town they choose to hole up in and then what?” I called out. Here I thought that they would have some sort of plan, and all the while they’re winging this bloody thing! “I hope I’m not going to be needed in town for the next hour or so,” I muttered as I stomped down the hill after my two charges. To say that the town of Purgatorio was distasteful would’ve been a grand understatement. “Lovely place,” I drawled sarcastically as we watched a man get gunned down in the street and then hauled off to the undertaker’s like a sack of grain. This place was growing more unsettling every minute that we were here, and I could’ve cuffed Vin over the head when he started to refuse Chris’ suggestion that he leave. “Bloody humans and their bloody pride,” I growled as I escorted Vin out of the town. I didn’t want to leave Chris by himself, but I wanted to make sure that Vin was safely on his way back home before I rejoined him.   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


I arrived back in Purgatorio just in time to hear shouting coming from inside a nearby cantina moments before a figure was hurled through the doors and into the street. “What the…” My voice trailed off upon spotting the furious form of Chris standing in the street with a gun in his hand. “Bloody hell,” I whispered once I saw who Chris was aiming at. What the bloody hell was he playing at acting like he was going to shoot Buck? I heard Buck tell him to shoot straight and watched Chris put two rounds into Buck’s body as I stood frozen in disbelief. “What the bloody hell are you doing?” My shout fell on deaf ears as I hastened to Buck’s prone figure, the gunshots having snapped me from my shocked daze. I didn’t see any blood or bullet holes during my inspection, and I was about to voice my confusion when I saw Chris rake his hand over the hot barrel of his gun and smear his blood on Buck’s shirt. “You two are becoming quite adept conmen,” I chuckled dryly, scrutinizing Chris’ scowling face. Good heavens, Buck, you do seem to bring out the worst in Mr. Larabee, don’t you? Instead of following Chris back into the cantina, I remained in the street and observed the bandits carting Buck’s body off to the undertaker’s, wincing at the bumps in the rode that jarred his slack body. “That’s going to sting.” I gave my departing charge a sympathetic shake of the head before I strode into the cantina; hopefully Buck could handle himself for the next few minutes whilst I kept an eye on Chris. “Have to make sure Larabee keeps his wits about him whilst he’s in the lion’s den,” I sighed wearily.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


As I listened to the criminal leader converse with Chris, I didn’t know whether to be impressed or dismayed at my charge’s ability to fit in so easily with the criminal element. I had maneuvered myself to where I was comfortably draped across the opposite side of the bar in front of the two men, and I shifted my head back and forth against my open palm as I followed their conversation. “It’s scary how you can just blend in with these people. It’s like…it’s like you just flip a switch and suddenly you turn into a surly bastard,” I blurted, flinging my unoccupied hand in Chris’ direction. It was as if the man had two personalities, one that was courteous and pleasant company to be around and another that was churlish and better suited to barroom brawling than holding a polite conversation. I was reminded of Buck’s description of how damaged Chris had been after the deaths of his wife and son, and I shuddered at the thought that this was probably how the man had behaved during that period not so long ago. “I’ll just leave you to it then,” I whispered cheerfully as I pushed back from my lean across the counter. In truth, the odious Mr. Coltrane had begun to wear on my nerves, and I found myself unable to tolerate his presence for another moment. “I’m sure that Mr. Wilmington is languishing in his pine box, just waiting for the chance to bounce back from the dead.” I let my words trail off into a sigh as I watched Chris and Coltrane retire to a table with a tequila bottle. “Try not to drown yourself in that thing,” I muttered as I flung a hand at the bottle on my way out. Let Larabee worm his way into the criminal’s troupe, I had a charge that was fixing to resurrect himself from the dead. “This should be good,” I grinned, clasping my hands in anticipation.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“Now this has got to be like…a lifetime’s worth of bad luck, mate,” I chuckled disbelievingly, making sure to emphasize just how much bad luck I figured lying in a coffin would bring to Mr. Wilmington. “This is like…worse than breaking mirrors and walking under ladders and all that other superstitious nonsense. This is like…thumbing your nose at the Grim Reaper, mate. This is…bloody fantastic! I mean…you look absolutely ridiculous lying there like that!” By the time I had managed to stumble through my observations, I was clutching the side of Buck’s coffin with one hand and grasping my aching side with the other. That whole bloody stunt that my two charges had pulled had been worth it for this moment if for nothing else. I looked over at the man that I presumed was the undertaker and felt a wicked grin creep up onto my face. “You know you’re going to scare that poor man to death once you pop up out of there,” I whispered behind the cover of my hand as I stared over at Buck’s supine form. When he did pop up in his box not two seconds later, I cackled merrily as the frightened, little man scurried away all the while crossing himself furiously. “Oh that was brilliant,” I chuckled, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. Buck may have bought himself a lifetime of rotten fortune because of this ruse, but by the saints it had been worth it in my book.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


“I guess your lousy luck has already begun,” I remarked casually as I watched Buck scurry to find clothes that would provide him with an adequate disguise. Could he have picked a more god-awful hat? I trailed behind him as he slinked up along the wall of the cantina, glancing around the corner so that he could make eye contact with Chris. “Alright, so…what’s the plan? Chris joins up with the bad guys and returns with them to town to rob the bank, and…you lot take them down in a glorious gun-battle?” I questioned mockingly as I followed Buck’s line of sight to where Chris stood conversing with Terry Greer at the cantina’s entrance. Of course that was their plan; it was so simple and yet effective in its brilliance. “Of course, if you’re going to beat them back to town then you’re going to need to find some shoes,” I smirked, giving Buck’s socked feet a pointed look.


If only I had known what theatrics the man would go to in order to retrieve the clothes that had been stolen from him whilst he was being hauled off towards the undertaker’s, I would’ve kept my bloody trap shut. “Good heavens, man, must you make a bloody production out of this?” I called out irritably. Chris and the others were probably well on their way back to town by now, and at this rate we’d be lucky to get there before they did. “Oh for crying out loud, Buck, just get your bloody hat and be done with it! There’s no need to take the poor man’s sandwich like some petty Neanderthal.” By the time he’d finally secured his lost possessions and saddled up for the journey back home, I’d already decided that I’d follow Buck until we were about a mile or two from town and then I’d go on ahead to see if my other charges were in need of assistance. “Nothing had better have happened whilst I was away,” I grumbled darkly. Having one of my charges pretend to be dead was quite entertaining, but having one of them actually get killed was no laughing matter, especially when I wasn’t around to do anything to prevent such a travesty from occurring. I kept repeating a mantra that everything would be fine until I finally reached the outskirts of town, hoping that a little optimism would improve my own streak of rotten luck. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Looking back on last night’s skirmish, I can’t determine whether my luck was good or just not as bad as it could’ve been. If I hadn’t left Buck when I did, JD might be the one in a pine box for real. As it was, he ended up with a nice stab wound to the shoulder, much too close a call for my liking but beggars can’t exactly be choosers. I gave the departing stage a fond smile as I recalled the scene that had greeted my entrance into town last night. That little Olivia had been quite the handful, evading five grown men for goodness sake. I shook my head in mock disappointment. It was official; I couldn’t leave the lot of them alone for a second without all hell breaking loose. I must say that they did manage to handle last night’s kidnapping situation rather well. The fire that Buck and Ezra had lit outside the villains’ hotel room door had been a nice touch, and Chris had played his part in the robbery scheme brilliantly.


“One would almost think you enjoyed playing your role a little too well,” I chuckled as I gave Chris a small smirk. However, my amusement soon turned into irritation as I recalled Larabee’s boneheaded maneuver from last night’s shootout. I had thought that JD’s walking in front of an oncoming horse whilst holding a shotgun with one arm had been stupid; my jaw had about come unhinged when I saw Chris walk straight towards Coltrane who was shooting at Larabee as he rapidly approached on his horse. “That was definitely one of your more asinine maneuvers, Mr. Larabee,” I muttered as I shot the man a sidelong glare. “It’s all grins and giggles once the shooting is over and everyone is declared ok, but I didn’t see any of you so carefree during the thick of things. If you lot had any idea about what I go through just to keep all of your bodies in one piece…” I ended my little tirade with a frustrated ‘harrumph’; getting riled up just wasn’t worth the effort anymore.


I turned my attention back to the departing stage and grinned. Buck’s goodbye to Olivia had actually been sweet in a fashion. The two of them had managed to make some progress in their relationship, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss that girl getting under his skin. Watching a grown man being cut down to size by a child…who wouldn’t miss such a sight? I caught Vin smirking next to me, and it was then that I realized that Buck had given Olivia a hug before she left. “Which means,” I trailed off as Vin slyly asked him for the time. “I guess they hadn’t made as much progress as I’d thought,” I laughed as we watched Buck take off after the stage shouting about his precious, bloody watch.   

 

 

 

 

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