Travails in Time series.
A/N Be warned. It’s more of a snippet format, like the Pieces of the Past chapters, but I figured it was long enough to put up on it’s own!
Disclaimers at end…
Xander crouched with his back to Ezra, feeling his heart thudding strongly in anticipation. He shifted the weapon in his grasp, reassuring himself of his knowledge of firearms. The gun in his hands may have been ‘old school’ but the essentials were exactly the same: aim, squeeze, fire.
Nathan was positioned at the far end of the wagon they were using for cover. The other lawmen were away on various errands, meaning the latest threat to the town was in the hands of the three of them and a few townsfolk who had been drafted into helping.
“Steady, Mr. Harris.” Ezra’s soft drawl made him smile. Xander wasn’t offended that his actions had been interpreted as nervousness. His own experience in the field had shown that fighting alongside someone whom you didn’t know well added an unpleasant extra layer of pressure, simply because of the unknown element. On the other hand, Xander appreciated the fact that neither Ezra nor Nathan had hesitated in accepting his help. It was nice to have men like these think him capable.
“I’m *fine*, Ezra,” Xander replied. Ezra’s quick but pointed glance brought a smirk to his lips. Xander snickered as he felt Nathan’s glare. Nathan always hated the ‘F’ word.
“So, which ones are on our side again?” Xander asked, half in jest. He was fairly confident of everyone on their side and their positions, but he’d rather be safe than sorry.
Ezra ignored him this time but Nathan once again ran through the arrangement. “Jim Cole is in the alley by the saloon, Jed Watson is behind the trough in front of the mercantile, Sam Weathers is over by the livery, and Brennan is on the porch of the boarding house.”
“Right,” Xander sighed. “I hate waiting. You know, my old opponents had this lovely tendency to just charge right in.” Xander caught Nathan’s look of disbelief.
“They relied on superior strength and numbers, but on the plus side tended to be stupid. Evened the playing field a little. Anyway, it was usually close quarters so edged weapons were better.” Xander patted the axe by his side.
Ezra looked around the one-eyed man to direct his comment to the healer. “It’s almost like having Mr. Dunne here.”
“Hey! I’m not as bad as JD. Besides, it’s not like they don’t know we’re here. I’m getting bored and I’ve got this feeling I’m missing something,” Xander finished with a puzzled frown.
“We have the better tactical position, sufficient arms and ammunition and approximately equivalent numbers. Aside from the miraculous return of our compatriots, I don’t see what else we can do other than wait them out.” Ezra regarded the dark-haired man closely; he’d be a fool to dismiss the man’s concerns out of hand. Xander was clearly a skilled combatant, and who knew what kind of advances the future held?
“Don’t think it’s our tactics. Besides, the only other plan up my sleeve involves me being bait, but you two have already vetoed that.” Xander shrugged.
They’d positioned their forces well -- minimal exposure with good protection, and they could cover each other as well as the bad guys. Xander ran his gaze over the street again. Finally his eyes came to rest on the boarding house.
“Brennan!” At Xander’s exclamation, Nathan briefly glanced across to where the young man was hunkered down beside the porch of the boarding house.
“What about him?” Nathan didn’t understand the one-eyed man half the time, but then again what could you expect from a friend of Ezra’s?
“What’s his name?” Xander asked, a note of concern in his voice.
“Brennan.” Nathan huffed. Maybe the man couldn’t cope with this kind of pressure after all.
“No.” Xander gritted his teeth in frustration. “What’s his first name?” he asked urgently. Getting no reply, he asked the other man. “Ezra?”
“His name escapes me for the moment, but there are other more important considerations at this time, gentlemen.” Ezra’s brow had briefly creased as he failed to recall the lad’s name, but his face became focussed once more as their opponents appeared to be preparing to make their move.
“Holy crap. He’s a red shirt!” Xander cried.
The Four Corners lawmen had no time to consider his words as all hell broke loose.
Ezra surveyed the results of their skirmish with a critical eye; after all, it was likely any blame would land upon his shoulders. Jed Watson was fussing about his storefront. Cole and Weathers were ushering the mobile miscreants to the jail while Nathan examined the injured one. He spared a brief glance for the two dead men but left their care to the undertaker who had come out to view the aftermath with the rest of the town.
Ezra frowned as he realised he hadn’t seen Xander since the fire fight had started. Remembering his interest in Mr. Brennan, whose name still escaped him, Ezra turned to the boarding house.
“Nathan!” Ezra called out, breaking into a run towards the partially collapsed structure. As he approached, a dishevelled figure emerged coughing from the side of the building. “Mr. Brennan, what happened?”
“Don’t rightly know. Them guys started firin’ and before I knew it that new fella, the one that works in the saloon, shoved me off the side of the ‘walk. I reckon a bullet grazed me.” The man fingered his bloodied and torn shirtsleeve. “I took a blow to the head when I fell, too. When I looked up them crates were getting pretty much torn to shreds, and then tha’ end timber cracked an’ the whole thang came down.”
“Xander?” Ezra asked. He expounded at Brennan’s confused look: “The new guy.”
“Under it, mos’ likely. Man saved my life.” Brennan sighed. If the timber hadn’t crushed the other man, a bullet must have caught him in the barrage.
Ezra joined Nathan at the pile of timbers. Catching a glimpse of cloth he hurriedly started to move boards aside. Without direction others had come over and together they formed a chain to clear the debris away.
“Easy now. Don’t move him if you can help it,” Nathan instructed as the one-eyed man was uncovered. Reaching out Nathan checked his neck for a pulse, causing the man to stir at the contact.
“It’s alright, Xander. It’s Nathan. Don’t try and move.” The healer indicated Ezra should take his place by Xander’s head while he moved down to check for injuries.
“Not gonna be a problem, Nate,” Xander muttered. “I feel like hell. What hit me?”
“A house.” Ezra said dryly.
“Oh, OK. That would explain it.” Xander blinked blearily, staring at the Southerner. He stiffened as he remembered the shoot-out. “Ezra! Is Brennan…?”
“Safe and almost sound, thanks to you.” Ezra reached out, grasped a dusty hand, and with the other he held the injured man down with ease. “You need to remain calm and still while Mr. Jackson examines you.”
“I can still feel my toes, if that’s what he’s worried about. They’re pretty much the only thing that isn’t screaming in pain right now,” Xander groaned.
“Can you move your feet and hands, Xander?” Nathan asked. He was fairly confident that Xander hadn’t damaged his spine but didn’t want to rush things.
“Do I have to? I’d rather just lay here and hopefully pass out,” Xander suggested as the less painful option.
“I think Mrs. Abbott might have something to say about that,” Nathan chuckled. He’d seen the woman at the window looking concerned.
“She likes me, it’ll be fine. I can be a tourist attraction.” Xander’s smile was more of a grimace but it dropped with a gasp when tried to move. He barely managed to explain before falling unconcious. “Er, Nate. I think I landed badly.”
Vin darted up the stairs, with Chris a short way behind him. A pale looking Ezra sat on the landing outside the healer’s room with a fair amount of blood on his clothes.
“What the hell happened?” Chris barked out. They’d seen the damage at the boarding house as they’d entered the town. Yosemite had directed them up to Nathan’s while he stabled the horses.
“Xander?” Vin asked.
“Alive,” Ezra quickly reassured them. “It’s my fault, Mr. Larabee. I enlisted a number of people to assist in the defence of the town but failed to protect them properly.”
“Ignore him, Chris.” Nathan stepped out of the clinic, drawn by the voices. “You’re hardly responsible for woodworm, Ezra. It was an accident.”
“Mr. Harris was shot as well, Mr. Jackson.” Ezra scraped absently at the blood drying on his cuff.
“It’s a flesh wound. And if he’d held his position he probably wouldn’t have been hurt at all.” Nathan pointed out. Both he and Xander had tried to reassure the gambler without much success.
“If he hadn’t acted then Mr. Brennan would most likely be dead.” Ezra had examined the events from all angles and could only conclude he had miscalculated and, as such, failed to protect the men under his command.
“Stop bloody brooding, Ezra! I had enough of that back home. Besides you’re not tall enough to carry it off properly.” Xander’s yell brought a smile to the other peacekeepers.
Vin and Chris entered, finding the one-eyed man propped up in bed.
“How ya feelin’, pard?” Vin asked as he took in the bruises covering most of Xander’s body and bandages wrapped around his waist.
“Like a house fell on me,” Xander answered with a scowl.
“A house? Weren’t more than a lean-to,” Vin quipped.
“This isn’t a joke!” Ezra snapped.
“Anyway, the size of the *house* wasn’t the problem. It was the size of the splinters,” Xander mock whispered to Vin.
“Splinter! It might as well have been a wooden knife.” Nathan gestured to the four-inch shard of bloodied wood lying on his work table.
“Damn. That had ta hurt.” Vin picked it up and turned it over in his hands.
“No shit,” Xander muttered. “Be careful with that, I’m gonna keep it.”
“What? Why?” Chris stared at the strange man in the bed.
“Souvenir of my trip here,” Xander shrugged. “Besides, Nate’s right. It’ll make a great wooden knife.” Or more importantly, a great concealable stake, he thought to himself.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Josiah intoned from the door.
“Hey, ‘Siah. Everyone back safe?” Xander asked.
“JD and Buck are on their way over. You’re looking a little pale there, brother.” Josiah nodded to the others in the room before reporting to Chris. “It was a quiet trip, for a prisoner transport. Seems like all the excitement happened here.”
“So what did you yahoos do this time?” Buck asked with a teasing smile as he entered.
“It was my respons…”
“Shut up Ezra!” Xander shouted, cutting the man off. “Buck, I was awesome, that’s all you need to know.”
“What happened?” JD bounced in the door echoing the previous question.
“Everyone here? Not going to have to repeat myself? Good. Wicked witch dropped a house on me and I got a splinter.” Xander answered before anyone else could say anything. He yawned. “And that’s the bug juice working. Thanks for patching me up, Nate. Ezra, you look like something out of a Tarantino... play. Go, change, prettify your handsome self. I’m good, honest. Just need a bit of shut-eye. Going to work out how to invent Kevlar when I wake up,” Xander mumbled as he settled himself down on the bed.
Nathan shooed the other men out as the one-eyed man dropped off to sleep quickly.
“He going to be alright, Nathan?” Chris asked. The boys seemed to have handled everything just fine. They just needed to keep an eye on Ezra for a day or two, but he suspected Xander would soon set their conman straight.
“Don’t anticipate any problems. Some people know how to let me look after them properly,” Nathan replied with a glare at his worst patients.
“The boy’s clearly addled, Nate. He’s not a good example ta use.” Vin laughed as he led the way towards the saloon.
“The man sure has some strange ideas,” Nathan agreed. “Hey, Ezra, what the hell’s a ‘red shirt’?”
Disclaimers: BtVS, Magnificent Seven, Star Trek and Galaxy Quest... Not mine, never have been, never will be *sniffle*
Thanks to RevDorothyL for the beta.