The next morning Brett woke in a haze of pain. He was extremely thirsty and could hardly walk when Rocky had untied him so that he could relieve himself. He was wobbly and stumbled and the man pushed him along. He barely was able to unfasten his britches to care for his needs and Rocky gave him an evil grin. “Not so high and mighty now are ya, Dead Eye?”
The Deputy chose to ignore the man.
The outlaw waited until he was finished and had straightened up to slap him and yell, “Ya answer me ya bastard!”
Brett looked at the man through the haze of pain and croaked. “No…I ain’t.”
The man laughed at the young man and said, “Hope ya enjoy ya last day here on this side of the ground, tomorrow ya’ll be buried under it.”
The Deputy said, “Yeah, I know.”
Rocky tied him up, made him beg once more for a sip of water and gave him a piece of jerky, then left him to see to his own needs and breakfast.
When the outlaws had eaten, Rocky looked at Pock “Ya take the watch at the tree and let us know if the Sheriff comes today to put money in it.”
The other man replied, “Yeah Boss, I’ll be the look out this mornin’.”
The man settled himself to keep watch on the huge oak tree to see when or if the Sheriff of Diamond Springs would show up with the ransom.
As the rays of the morning sun broke through the trees Jalen Brooks awoke. There was a smell of coffee in the air and bacon frying. He was glad they had chosen their campsite carefully so it couldn’t be detected by the outlaws downwind from them as he sat up and looked around and then rubbed his face and eyes that felt gritty from sleep.
Jack grinned at the young man. “Sleep well?” He teased.
The Sheriff gave him a crooked little grin and said, “Yeah, better than I’d expected.”
The older man nodded. “Good, you need to be well rested to deal with those outlaws today.”
The young lawman smiled. “Yes, and it’s goin’ to be a good day.”
Once the men had breakfasted they dismantled the camp, making sure the fire was out good and packed up their gear. They kept their horses tethered there so they could continue to graze and headed out on foot. As they neared the site where Jalen was to put the money in the tree they fanned out in a circle around it, keeping low and watching for the others to arrive once the lookout gave the signal.
Jack Hillyard had his rifle at the ready as he watched Jalen approach the tree with the leather bag of money, scanning the outlying trees and bushes for any sign of a firearm so his boy wouldn’t be gunned down in cold blood.
The Sheriff carefully approached the tree, being sure to hold the heavy leather bag in full sight as he walked up to it and with two hands lifted the ransom into the hollow. He then stepped back from the tree, hid in the brush and waited.
Pock was keeping watch on the tree. He saw the young Sheriff approach it, placing what looked like a heavy leather bag in the hollow and step away disappearing into the woods. He gave the signal of a whippoorwill to the men waiting in camp.
Rocky, hearing the call grinned at Catfoot and Slick and said softly, “Well I’ll be…I didn’t think he’d be able to raise the money.”
The outlaw untied Brett from the tree jerking him to his feet. Tying the Deputy’s hands behind him quickly and shackling his feet with ropes, he growled, “Come on Dead Eye, yar ‘bout ta meet ya doom. Yar dumb Sheriff brought the money, now we’ll be able ta get rid ‘o the both of ya!” He pushed Brett along in front of him, his pistol to the young man’s head “Don’t do anythin’ stupid or ya’ll be deader than a door nail.” He growled.
Pock kept his rifle trained on where the Sheriff had disappeared into the surrounding woods and heard his companions coming up behind.
As Pock stepped into the clearing Jalen stepped out and showed himself. “You’re under arrest!” He called, his gun pointing at Pock and then saw Rocky step out with Brett and swore to himself.
Rocky shoved Brett out in front of him, gun still to his head. “If ya want yar Deputy alive Sheriff, toss yar pistol on over here.”
The young lawman watched the others carefully. He had Pock’s weapon trained on him and knew there was no way he wanted to jeopardize Brett, but kept his own pistol. He trusted his men were probably not far away, but at the moment, the outlaws believed they had the upper hand and he wanted them to think that, become overconfident and make a mistake he could take advantage of.
Pock, seeing Rocky holding the Sheriff’s attention with his pistol held to the Deputy’s head, keeping his rifle pointed at Jalen, went over and pulled the heavy leather bag out of the hollow in the tree. Opening it with his free hand, he peeked quickly inside, not taking his eyes off his quarry for more than an instant. “It’s all here boss, just like you asked.” He reported.
Rocky nodded. “Good.”
Jalen frowned. “You got your money, release the Deputy!”
Catfoot and Slick had slipped around behind the lawman.
Jalen sensing the men behind him frowned. “What the hell is this…You got what you want…release my Deputy now!”
Rocky laughed evilly. “Ya ain’t got all the cards Sheriff.” He cocked the pistol he still held to Brett’s head. “Do as I say now…, toss yar pistol over here, or I’ll pull the trigger!”
Jalen prayed that the rest of his men were in position. He hated seeing the pain in his lover’s eyes and tossed his pistol on the ground over toward Rocky’s feet.
Pock, having brought the bag with the money to Rocky, setting it down near him, his rifle still trained on the Sheriff went over to pick it up.
The two men behind Jalen grabbed him just as he tossed the pistol.
Jack and the others had taken up their positions, melting into the trees when they saw the other men approaching their positions so they wouldn’t be seen.
The newly sworn in Deputy had a grim expression when he saw the double cross. He sensed a couple of his men moving forward, but held up his hand to keep them still. “Not yet…on my signal.” He said quietly to Bertram, who was closest to him.
Bert nodded and let the others know Jack’s intent as well.
All tensed at the ready.
Once Jack saw that Jalen was disarmed and caught by two of the men and the third one was bending down he saw Brett become a sudden dead weight, shifting Rocky’s position of the gun and he gave the signal to move in.
Brett was in a painful haze. He tried to concentrate. He didn’t want to die and he didn’t want Jalen to get hurt or to die either. He knew the evil of these men and when he saw his chance went completely limp just as Pock bent down to retrieve the Sheriff’s pistol. Then all hell broke loose.
Jack gave the signal and the seven men converged on the outlaws.
Jalen began to struggle, pulling away from Catfoot and Slick when rage engulfed him as he saw Brett go limp. He turned and was able to land a right hook to Slick’s jaw.
Jack and Bert took Rocky, as their Deputy hit the ground. He struggled with the outlaw’s gun which went off, but fortunately didn’t hit anyone. The banker continued to help the other man wrestle Rocky to the ground.
Dan grabbed Pock, who had been attempting to go to the main outlaw’s aid. He ducked as the man swung around, trying to connect the rifle barrel with the other man’s head.
Cole grabbed the rifle as it swung and jerked it out of the outlaw’s hand, protecting his partner while Hugo tackled the man and wrestled him to the ground.
The saddlery owner grabbed up the Sheriff’s pistol and then helped Jalen fight off the two men attacking him, pulling Catfoot off the Sheriff’s back and threw a roundhouse punch to the man’s jaw and relieved him of his pistol as he hit the ground. He watched as Jalen wrestled Slick back down. When he came up with his pistol, he jumped on the man. As he fell and his gun went off, again not hitting anyone, the saddler relieved the man of his weapon, twisting his gun hand until he let go.
Max grabbed Catfoot as he again got to his feet, attempting to jump on the Sheriff and wrestled him to the ground once more.
Dan made sure Slick stayed on the ground as the lawman went over to help Bertram and Jack with Rocky, landing an upper cut to the man’s jaw and laying him out flat, knocking him out cold for the moment.
Jim helped Brett, pulling him away from the action, making sure the young man was safe and then joined the others in the fight.
Jack helped wherever he was needed, making certain all the enemy had been disarmed and subdued.
Before long, all the outlaws had been captured and tied up.
Jalen seeing everyone secured gave them all a steely look from those bright emerald green eyes that now sparked with fire. He went up to the outlaw who had been holding his gun to Brett and said, in a rock-hard voice, “You’re all under arrest! One false move and this’ll be your last day on earth. My men have orders to fire on and kill anyone who moves!”
The young Sheriff had his pistol at the ready now and didn’t let his eyes drift from the leader of the gang for an instant.
Jack quirked an eyebrow at the statement as Jalen had said no such thing, but let the young lawman play his hand.
“Get these no counts goin’ and take ‘em to our camp.”
Max, Hugo, Bertram, Jim, Dan and Cole took charge of the prisoners. There were enough of them to take care of the four men.
Once the outlaws were dealt with, James Duncan secured the leather bag with the money, making it his personal responsibility to see that it was returned to Diamond Springs safely.
Jalen said, “Jack and I are goin’ to see to Brett.” The other six men acknowledged him and began to get the prisoners ready to transport.
The Sheriff strode angrily over to where Brett was now lying on the ground.
Jack had no trouble keeping up with the younger man. As they approached Brett, he said quietly, “Take it easy Jalen, you don’t want to scare him.”
The young lawman, slowed down and hearing the older man’s words stopped and took several deep breaths to calm himself before he went to Brett to see the damages.
The posse got busy and marched the outlaws to their camp.
Rocky grumbled. “Shoulda known that sneaky Sheriff woulda had a plan. Ya can’t even trust the law.”
Pock glared at the man. “Ya said it’d be easy pickin’s! Not that we’d end up the ones bein’ captured!”
Catfoot said angrily. “I shoulda known better’n ta listen to ya…ya always did get us inta trouble!”
Slick sighed. It had been such a good idea he and Rocky had, he wondered how it went so wrong.
Hugo said in a gruff voice, “Stop your grumbling. You’re only getting what you deserve!”
Cole opened his mouth to say something, but Dan placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him, knowing anything that would come out of his partner’s mouth at the moment wouldn’t help the situation.
When they reached camp, they sat the four men on the ground tied to each other as well as having their hands and feet tied. The six men guarded the four prisoners until the other two lawmen should return with Brett.
When Jalen approached his Deputy, he was frightened at what he saw. The younger man was bruised almost beyond recognition. He was fearful that Brett was already dead. He felt for a pulse and sighed with relief when he realized life blood still pumped through him. He squatted down and touched his partner. “It’s me Brett. Jack’s with me and we’re gonna take good care of you. We’re gonna take you home. You’re gonna be all right now.” He said quietly.
The young Deputy slit open his bruised eyes, blue shining through. “’Kay.” He whispered, then they closed once more.
The young lawman turned him and began to carefully cut the ropes that bound his hands behind his back and Jack helped him by cutting the ropes that shackled the young man’s feet. They were both concerned when all the response they had received moving him was the flicker of the injured man’s eyes and some low moans and groans.
Brett thought he heard Jalen’s voice through the buzzing in his head. He thought he must have been dreaming because he couldn’t be here. He felt gentle hands and fingers touching him. He heard himself groan and then being laid flat on the ground and then a low moan, not recognizing it was him making that noise.
Jalen and Jack gently stretched out the young Deputy and examined him for any broken bones. He was pretty bruised up and the Sheriff couldn’t tell if there were any cracked or broken ribs or not. His green eyes blazed with fury as he saw the condition of his lover and partner. He wanted to just shoot the four men who had done this dead on the spot. He voiced this thought to his newly sworn in Deputy.
“I know it’s how you feel Jalen, but it won’t make you any better than them. You’re a Sheriff and sworn to uphold the law. Besides, you’re not a cold blooded killer.” He reminded him.
Jalen grit his teeth. He knew Jack was right, but it didn’t help him to release the fury he was feeling at someone he loved being treated this way. He did hear in the back of his mind an echoing voice that sounded distinctly like Dallas and he smiled grimly and shook his head. “Yes, Jack I know and I don’t plan to do it. You’re right, it’s just how I feel.”
The older man squeezed his shoulder and said quietly, “Let me tell you son the feeling is mutual.”
The Sheriff remembered seeing horses at the outlaw’s camp. He and Jack went there and found five horses. They gathered them up, packed up the place, gathered the saddle bags of the outlaws, made sure the fire was out completely and then brought everything to where Brett lay. They created a travois, gently got the young Deputy onto it and began their trek back to their own camp.
Brett had felt himself being moved around and had slit open one eye and thought he saw a hazy figure that looked like Jalen, but then had passed out with another groan.
He had visions of when he first rode into Diamond Springs and when he met up with Jalen, the times they had spent together and how frightened he had been when his lover had been shot by Hawk. A myriad of images and thoughts continued to play in his head and he had a fleeting thought wondering if this was what it was like when you died.
Jack led the horse that was pulling the travois while Jalen had strung the other four horses together and led them, keeping an eye on Brett the entire time. It wasn’t too far to their camp and when they arrived Cole came running up. “Is he okay?”
Dan was right behind his partner and putting both hands on the young man’s shoulders said quietly, “He’ll be all right.”
Jalen watched as Cole approached with his partner and said softly, “He’ll mend. We need to get some food and water into him though.”
The saddler nodded and Jack unhooked the travois so Brett was again lying on the ground. Jim had readied medical supplies and got a tin cup and filled it with cool water and handed it to the Sheriff and then warmed up some of the leftover stew from the night before. They had re-lit the fire, warming some water in case it was needed to treat any wounds when the Sheriff arrived. He drained off the liquid putting it into another cup for Jalen when he was ready.
The Sheriff shook his Deputy gently. “Brett, wake up I need to give you some water.” He told him.
The young man’s blue eyes flickered and he opened them a little as they were puffy and bruised.
Jalen propped up Brett and put the cups to his lips, only allowing him small sips of water and then broth at a time. Whenever the young lawman took one of the cups away his partner whimpered.
The Sheriff shot the outlaws a dark look, but put his attention on helping Brett. When Jalen was satisfied that the young man had had enough, he didn’t want to make him sick, he turned and glared at the other men.
Jack stood and said, “Let’s get the prisoners up on their horses and head back to town.”
The Sheriff agreed and tended to his young Deputy. He had taken a soft cloth and dipping it into the hot water gently wiped away the worst of the blood on Brett’s face.
Dan, Hearing Jack telling the others to get ready to leave, doused the fire and packed up the medical supplies.
The posse got the outlaws settled on their mounts and led them to Diamond Springs.
The newly sworn in Deputy hooked the travois to the horse that had been pulling it and he and Jalen mounted their own horses, with Jack leading the animal that had Brett and carefully brought their injured young Deputy to town.
As the posse rode into Diamond Springs with the prisoners the people peeked out from the shop windows and doors and were relieved to see them riding in with men tied to their horses and heading for the jail.
Dan and Bertram took charge of getting the prisoners locked up with the help of Cole and Hugo. Jim and Max went to alert Doc Mac that the Sheriff and Jack weren’t too far behind and that Brett would need medical attention.
The doctor got his office ready for when the young Deputy arrived.
Brett could tell they were moving and whenever he was jounced let out a groan or a soft moan. Jack was ahead of him and Jalen rode behind to keep an eye on his partner.
The young Deputy cracked an eye open for a few moments and saw the Sheriff riding behind him and the trees sliding by, but then he would fall back into the stupor he had been in most of the morning.
Jalen had a worried look on his face, but stayed calm.
As Jack and the Sheriff rode into town he could see people waving at them from shop windows and doors. They pulled up in front of Doc Macs and Dan and Cole along with Max and Jim appeared magically at their side. Bertram and Hugo had told the others to go as they could keep an eye on the prisoners as they were locked up tight in the jail.
They had already prepared a stretcher and with the help of Jalen and Jack got Bret amidst flinches groans and moans of pain onto it and carried him into the doctor’s office and into the examination room. They placed him stretcher and all on the table.
Doc, looking at all the men said, “I can’t have all of you in here…I’d like the Sheriff and our stand in Deputy to stay. You others can either wait in the waiting room or go on about your business.”
Cole opened his mouth to object, but Dan placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “We can come back and visit later, Doc needs to do what he has to and can’t have a bunch of people in his way.”
The young man protested, “But Dan… I’m his best friend!”
His older partner said quietly, “I know that and right now being a good friend is to let the doctor look at him and fix him up.”
Cole pouted, but looking at Brett nodded and went with his partner.
Dan steered Cole back to the Sheriff’s office. “We can be of more use guarding the prisoners right now. Bert and Hugo need a break and I’m sure Jalen will come to tell us what’s going on and will let us know how Brett is doing.”
The other man sighed, going along with Dan.
Doc Mac examined Brett. He finally looked at the two men. “He is dehydrated and has multiple bruises. I believe he has some cracked ribs. I can bind them for comfort while he heals. He’s one sore young man, but no long-lasting damage I can see right now. I’ll give him some laudanum for the pain immediately and clean him up. It’s important to get fluids into him so I’ll have Mrs. Sanford come to tend him. I’ll get some ice from the ice house and try to get the swelling down, then hot packs will follow. Nancy is quite familiar with the procedure so there will be nothing to worry about.”
Jalen breathed a sigh of relief. “He’s goin’ to be all right Doc?”
Mac nodded. “Yes, he’ll heal with time.”
Jack said, “I can get the ice for you Doc Mac.”
Both Jalen and Doc gave the livery owner a grateful look.
It wasn’t long before Jack returned with the promised ice and the doctor began to make up the cold packs.
When Doc saw a boy on the boardwalk he gave him a Nickle to go fetch Mrs. Sanford and inform her she was needed. Nancy came to the doctor’s office soon after being summoned.
Once the woman had arrived, Jalen said to Jack, “Let’s go see to the prisoners and then I’m sure you have a livery to get back to.”
The older man replied, “I can handle things, you should stay with Brett, I’ll stay at the jail as long as I’m needed. Folks will know where to find me if they need livery services.”
The Sheriff opened his mouth to object, but closed it again when he saw Jack giving him what he was beginning to call ‘the Dallas’ look “Yes Sir.” He told the older man and Jack went to the office to take care of things there.
The young lawman sat by his Deputy’s bedside and not for the first time was grateful for the support of the citizens of Diamond Springs. The people here were like family and for the second time in his life, realized what it was like to belong to a loving caring family of people.
Brett felt gentle fingers and hands on him, but flinched when something very cold was pressed to his face and other parts of his body. He moaned softly, but once the cold penetrated and the burning sensations receded he fell into a restless slumber.
The Laudanum Doc Mac administered eased the pain and the young Deputy slipped into a deeper, more restful sleep.
Jalen remained at Brett’s side and finally at the urging of both Mrs. Sanford and Doc Mac left the bedside to seek something to eat and rest himself.
When he came to the jail Jack was still there. The prisoners had stopped their grumbling for the most part and after having been fed, were resting on their cots.
The newly sworn in Deputy looked up as the door opened. Dan and Cole had also remained and smiled at their friend.
The Sheriff said softly, so only the men in his office could hear, “He’s sleepin’ peacefully now.”
The three men nodded. Jack said quietly, “You need to eat something and get some rest.”
Jalen replied softly, “I’m not hungry or tired.”
Dan raised an eyebrow and glanced at Jack.
The older man said In a stern voice, so that only Jalen and the other men could hear, “You’ll be of no use to the town or the Deputy run down and not at your best.”
The young lawman was taken aback at the sternness and the tone for a moment. He glanced at Dan and Cole, then grinned for the first time since all this had begun. He replied softly, “You’re right of course Jack. Anyone care to join me?”
Dan smiled back, “Sure I could do with a bite.”
Cole said, “I’ll stay here and keep Mr. Hillyard company.”
Jack looked at the younger man and said, “You can just call me Mr. Jack.”
Cole smiled, “All right Mr. Jack.”
The lawman and his friend headed for the Diamond Café. As they walked Dan asked, “How are you holding up?”
Jalen told him, “As well as can be expected I suppose. I’m upset about Brett, but Doc Mac said there will be no permanent damage and I’m glad of that, but he was beaten pretty badly and I’m worried how all this will have affected him.”
Dan nodded. “Yes, I’d be concerned too, but I’m pretty sure with a lot of love, understanding and providing a secure safe environment for him for a while will help him through. I understand talkin ’about the experience is helpful too.”
Jalen quirked an eyebrow. “How do you know so much?”
The saddler shrugged. “Seeing and talking to men who fought in the Civil War.” He told the other man.
The young lawman wanted to ask more, but refrained, seeing the look in his friend’s eyes. He figured Dan would have been about fourteen by the end of the conflict and wondered if his father had fought in it.
They walked on to the café and they talked about when Judge Graham would come and the U.S. Marshall to take the prisoners away.
Jalen said, “It won’t be for a while, I think the Judge is due through here in about three weeks and after that however long it will take the Marshall to come for them.”
Dan wrinkled his nose. “I hate the thought of having those four here for any length of time.”
The younger man replied, “Me too, but it can’t be helped I’m thinkin’ of not lettin’ Brett come back to work until after they’re gone.”
The saddler looked at the young Sheriff a moment “I’m not sure that would be the best thing, talk to Doc Mac about it.”
The young lawman looked at his friend. “You don’t?”
Dan said quietly, “He’ll need to face them at the trial and it might be easier for him if he’s been exposed to them before then, but I think Doc Mac can advise you best.”
Jalen nodded at his friend. “You may be right, but I’ll talk to Doc about it.”
The two men walked to the café and had something to eat after which Dan made sure his friend got back to the jail and into the back room and to bed for a rest.
A few days later Brett was allowed by Doc Mac to be up and around. His bruises were quite colorful, but the swelling had gone down. His ribs were still tender, but he felt a whole lot better. Jalen had been there when Doc Mac pronounced him able to leave the office, but recommended he take it easy for a while.
The Deputy had frowned slightly at this, but a look at his partner had him acknowledging the man’s orders.
The Sheriff pulled the doctor aside and asked about exposing the young man to the prisoners at the jail and he advised Jalen it wouldn’t be harmful and could help Brett to overcome some of what had happened to him. He said, “He can handle paperwork, but no lifting anything heavy for the next six weeks until those cracked ribs heal.”
The lawman nodded “Yes Sir, I’ll make sure of it.”
“Good man.” The doctor replied.
Jalen walked with an arm around his partner over to the Sheriff’s office. “The prisoners are not givin’ me hardly any problems Brett."
The younger man stiffened for a moment at the mention of the outlaws.
His partner, noticing this and seeing they were alone in the street at the moment, pulled him into a gentle hug, cautious of his still being quite sore and said reassuringly, “It’ll be all right. They can’t hurt you or anyone else where they are right now.”
The younger man snuggled into the hug and nodded.
Jalen released him and the two walked into the jail.
Jack, who had continued to stay at the Sheriff’s office and tending to the livery when he was needed looked up as the two entered. “Good to see you up and around Brett.”
The younger man smiled carefully as his face still hurt. “Thanks, it’s good to be released from Doc’s too.” He cast a furtive glance toward the jail cells which each held two men.
Jalen put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
The young Deputy looked up at the older man and carefully sat in his usual chair. “Got any paperwork that needs doin’?” He asked.
His partner said, “Some filin’ if you feel up to it.”
Brett replied, “I can do that.”
The Sheriff indicated the stack of papers that sat neatly on his desk and Brett got up and began to file them away.
The outlaws seeing the young Deputy entering glanced at each other. He looked pretty bad and if the judge saw him they’d be sent away for a very long time for sure. They hoped he would look better by the time the circuit court judge arrived.
Roland Harrison, the town lawyer stopped in at the jail.
Jalen looked up and smiled. “Come on in Roland.” He gestured to the prisoners. “There they are.”
The attorney shook his head looking at the sorry lot. He saw Brett and said, “Glad to see you up and around Deputy.”
“Thanks Mr. Harrison.” He replied.
Jalen said to Brett, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee and a sweet roll at the Diamond Café and leave Roland with the prisoners.”
The young deputy nodded and eased himself out of the chair stiffly.
The two lawmen left and the lawyer met with the prisoners.
Roland told them he was not ethically able to defend them as he knew the victim of their crime personally, but promised to get them an attorney who would come from Denver and who could be objective with the case as he didn’t know the Deputy on a personal level and didn’t live here.
The outlaws grumbled, but agreed to the arrangement.
The attorney said, “I’ll contact him as soon as we receive word that the circuit judge is coming. He will come here and meet with you and then defend you in the court proceedings.”
The men acknowledged this and Roland went back to his office.
As the weeks passed by Brett healed. His bruises faded some. He had continued to have a wary look about him. He jumped at sudden noises and at times snapped at the Sheriff.
Jalen had bit his tongue, holding back a scold or swat due to his Deputy and partner’s recent trauma, but he was becoming concerned.
They were at the house, tending to some much-neglected chores and the livery owner, Jack Hillyard had agreed to guard the prisoners and handle things while they were gone.
Jalen had noticed that his partner startled easily and was quick to anger. They were working in the barn, the younger man taking care of light tasks, leaving the heavier ones to his partner as directed by the doctor. A broom that had been propped up against a stall slipped and clattered to the ground.
Brett jumped and whirled around. “Why the hell can’t you put things up right?!” He cried.
Jalen turned to Brett with narrowed eyes, but then softened his expression, remembering Dan’s words. His partner hadn’t said a word about what had happened to him at the hands of the outlaws and he thought it was about time to talk. He went over and hugged Brett as tight as he dared, mindful of his ribs. “I know you’ve been strugglin’ havin’ nightmares and such. I think it’s time we talked about what happened to you and what’s goin’ on inside.”
Brett at first stiffened at the hug, but then found himself leaning into it. At the Sheriff’s words, however the young Deputy tensed and tried to pull back. “I don’t wanna talk about it.” He half whined.
The young Sheriff said quietly, “I know you don’t, but you need to. I’m willin’ to listen. We can’t go on this way. You’re hurtin’ bad inside and I want to help.”
Brett sighed, hearing the determination in his partner’s voice.
Jalen scooped up his young partner and sitting on a hay bale at the back of the barn held him in his lap and encouraged him to share what he had gone through.
As they sat together Brett hesitantly began to tell Jalen about what had happened to him, his fears, thoughts and anger. When he hesitated, he was encouraged to continue.
The two men cried together and Jalen many times had to restrain his own temper as his partner shouted out things angrily, releasing his pent-up feelings, shedding more tears and whispered fears and humiliations.
They were both exhausted from the emotional turmoil and the Sheriff carried his lover in his arms, heading into the house and up to their room where they both fell into a deep sleep.