Elder '04: True Nature

In the last three years my life has changed so much, all of it for the good, that now that something has gone wrong, I can't quite face it, for the first time since I lost my boy, I don't know what to do.

Meeting Buck again that day, when Vin tricked him out of that woman's bedroom, when he called me 'old dog' and hugged me. That was the beginning. It took time, but just over six months ago we took up were we left off. It had once been a vital part of our friendship, it was different, back when we first met; we were boys, little more, thrown together in the middle of a war, seeking comfort and companionship, and we found it, with each other. We still saw girls, often, but sometimes there were no girls, and sometimes we needed to be with someone who understood what we were living through. Only those who have lived and fought in a war can understand it.

After the war we set out to explore. War changed me. I was no longer prepared to be a farmer in Indiana; I wasn't that person anymore. And Buck? Well Buck never did fit into 'respectable' society. It wasn't that he had a card around his neck saying 'whore's son'; it was more that he wasn't prepared to play the game, he wasn't prepared to pretend to look down on those he grew up with, nor was he prepared to court nice girls, nicely.

So we set out to head west and see what was there. What there wasn't, for a lot of the time at least, were women, so we made do, we had fun, scratched the itch. When there were women we enjoyed them, but not men. If there were no women we only sought each other's company; it just wasn't safe to look elsewhere, took me a while, too long, to work out I didn't want to look anywhere else.

Then along came Sarah, and that part of our friendship ended. Stopped dead not to resume until six months ago. We were wary being so close to the others, how would we keep it secret? But when it became clear to all of us that Vin was enjoying Ezra's feather bed and Vin was 'teaching' Ezra about the great outdoors a little more often than was necessary, we decided it was safe enough. Nevertheless, we kept our meetings to trips away from the town, starting in the spring. As I said, it was different. There was something there that hadn't been there before, something more, something deeper. It took me some time to work out what it was, but not Buck and he was the one to put a name to it.

"You know what Cowboy?" he asked me, one gloriously hot, late summer night a day's ride out of Yuma, as we lay together, hot, sweaty and sated, his soft cock still inside me.

"What?" I responded.

"I love you."

I didn't know what to say, as he nuzzled my neck and slipped out. As is so often the case, Buck knew what I was thinking.

"You don't have to say nothing, I'm just saying what I feel."

With that he stood up and walked to the small creek we had camped beside. I watched him walk away, my cock doing its best to respond to the sight of that wonderful naked body as he washed himself. I tried to envisage life without Buck, and found I couldn't.

+ + + + + + +

Our love making, for that was what it now truly was, continued to be confined to the trail and the occasional hotel rooms in remote towns all summer, while Buck and the others helped me extend the shack. I used to hate people calling it that, though in truth that's what it was, but now it is a true cabin. Either side of the original building is a bedroom, with a proper stone fireplace and a double bed. I had to build two, for the sake of respectability, but I only ever saw us using one. I know Buck will never give up his women, and it serves us well that he doesn't, but he swears to me he doesn't love them, not like he does me, and I believe him.

So you see the first night in the new bedroom should have been a wonderful, passion-filled night and it was, until Buck woke up in the small hours, shaking in fear, drenched in a cold sweat. He'd had bad dreams before but this was the worst. In fact he's had a bad dream every night we've made love, as opposed to have sex. To begin with he didn't wake up, but I could tell these were not good dreams; he'd go rigid, mumble, toss and turn. As the weeks went by the dreams seemed to get worse, but he didn't remember them, or so he said. But this one, this one was different. He wouldn't or couldn't say what was it was about, but I knew he was lying this time. His eyes were wide with fear, darting about the room, looking for something. Eventually I got him back to bed and to sleep. The same thing happened the next three times we made love in the cabin, each one more intense than the last.

That was a week ago, Buck hasn't come to my bed since. He won't even go near the cabin. In truth he's been actively avoiding me, and I don't know why. Well, he can't avoid the cabin or the ranch today. I'm putting up a new barn, everyone is coming out to help raise it, half the town, and the women are bringing a picnic. Ezra already volunteered to stay in town and keep an eye on things, typical of him I thought, to offer to not lift a finger for honest work, but then someone had to stay behind I guess. No doubt Vin will take off back to town as soon as he can. Those two have it bad!

+ + + + + + +

I have this feeling, I'm trying to tell myself it's wrong, but deep down that old nagging feeling is back. I don't know what to do about it, and in truth I guess I'm wrong, because I can't be right - can I?

I have to get Buck alone and I have to get him to talk.

+ + + + + + +

Buck worked hard, harder than he needed to, harder than anyone else. He hauled on ropes to raise the sides, carried lumber. He pounded nails in so hard it took no more than two strikes to drive them home. It was a hot day, but he barely stopped to drink. I reckon he figured if he worked himself to exhaustion maybe he'd sleep, maybe. I wanted to stop him, I wanted to go over and tell him to take it easy, but he wouldn't have listened, would probably have been angry, and so I let him just work himself to exhaustion. At least Nathan finally noticed and made him drink more. It takes a lot to scare Buck Wilmington so badly he can't handle it, so badly he was afraid to sleep, so badly he can barely hide it.

The barn was up in good time, with several hours of daylight left. I thanked my neighbours and friends as they packed up their tools.

"Buck?" He reacted to my voice, the same way he normally reacts to my touch, but then pulled away, putting up those invisible walls again. "Please, just agree to talk, not here, someplace else," I pleaded.

Buck looked into my eyes, I swear he can strip a man bare with just one look of those dark blue eyes. I wanted to shout at him, demand that he talk, tell me what was wrong, but I told myself that would be counter productive, so I kept my voice calm.

"I can't," he responded.

But I wasn't going to back down. I realised then that my first approach had been a mistake; he likes it when I'm commanding. He keeps telling me, men who like it the way I do - I like Buck in me and that suits him just fine - should be a bit more, how do I say this…passive? But I'm not like that, I know what I want and how to get it and damn doesn’t he like to give it to me. I wasn't prepared to give that up, not without a fight.

"Yes you can, for us, for me; I deserve that much at least. Our swimming hole, after everyone goes home. Be there!"

"Okay, for you," he finally admitted.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was one of the last to leave, but not the very last, so I was forced to wait until my last guest-come-worker was packing up. It was Josiah. He strapped his carpenter's box on to Cardinal's saddle.

"Give him time."

At first I wasn't sure I heard him right. "What's that?"

"Buck, give him time. Whatever it is, let him work it out in his own time."

Typical, I might have known he knew or suspected what was going on. "I don't know if I can."

"It's in your best interests."

"But it's not in my nature."

+ + + + + + +

The swimming hole is really a hot spring, hidden away in the furthest corner of my land. As I approached I could see Beau, unsaddled and tethered under a shady tree. Buck was lying on the smooth flat rock we've used so many times. He'd pulled of his own boots and socks and was dangling his feet in the water. His eyes were closed and I hoped he was asleep. Beau greeted Pony as we approached and Buck, if he ever was asleep, woke up. He must have recognised the call Beau gave as friendly, as he didn't snatch up his gun.

"How'd you sleep?" I asked, sitting down, pulling off my own boots and sock as I did.



Buck gave me a genuine smile. "Yeah, really."

"Good." I leaned in to kiss him, but he pulled away. Don't just shut me out! Tell me what I did, or what the hell is wrong, but don't shut me out."

"You didn't do anything wrong," he assured softly, staring into the water.

"Well something is wrong, so tell me!"

Buck gazed up into the dusk lit sky. "I can't, so don't ask." Then he gave a small laugh. "You wouldn't believe me anyway."

"Try me."

"No, so don't ask."

I took a long deep breath, I was going to play my ace, the long shot, a shot so long not even Vin could make it, but if only for my own peace of mind, I had to try.

"Is this about Sarah?" I asked

The flinch, the flinch that was almost a shudder, which ran through my big, strong, fearless lover, betrayed the truth.

"Don't even try to pretend it isn't," I pushed, but he just shook his head and looked away over the water.

"I need to tell you about my wife," I began.

"I know about Sarah," he cut in.

"No you don't. She was my wife, not yours, so just listen." He looked away again, but didn't try to leave. "I've heard you describe Sarah as the prettiest flower on the prairie."

"She was."

"Yeah she was, but you of all people know there is more to people than their looks." He nodded his agreement. "When I met her, she was all I could think about, all I could see, every moment of every day, my every dream was of her, and yet…" I have to admit it was hard to say the next bit. "And yet I didn't love her. I was infatuated, obsessed, even bewitched, but I didn't love her." Buck looked around at me, incredulity clear on his face and I could understand why. It took me far too long to understand it myself, even though I was the one lived through it. "It's true. It wasn't exactly a shotgun wedding, but it was as close as damn it. And how did that happen anyway, how did she get pregnant?"

A small smile appeared on my lover's face. "Hell boy, if you don't know that by now, there's no hope for you."

"I'm serious. You ever get a woman pregnant?" I challenged.

He shrugged. "Not as far as I know."

"Right, 'cause you know how to have fun and avoid kids, and so do I. And how do I know? Because I learned how from an expert, you. You taught me every trick in the book, and learned those lessons well, so how did she fall for Adam?"

"Chris, it can happen, no matter how careful you are," he reminded me.

"I know, but in six years of marriage, we had no more children. Sarah and I slept together, man and wife, for six years, but she never fell pregnant again." Buck opened his mouth to say something. "I know, I know it can happen. But that wasn't the only thing. She changed. The morning after our wedding, she changed, I can't describe it. It was as if all the beauty left her, I don't mean she looked different, but she just wasn't beautiful anymore. She could be so cold, harsh and unfeeling sometimes. When we'd go to church it was like she was putting on a show, a performance for folk to see, and she seemed to delight in her ability to fool them."

I could see he was finding it hard to believe me, and I could understand why, better than he knew. I'd found it hard to believe at the time, sometime still do, sometimes it's like a bad dream I couldn't shake off. "No one else seemed to see it, including you; sometimes she could say the cruellest things to you or about you, when you were right there, but you didn't seem to hear, it was as if you were hearing totally different words. And when she wasn't being cruel, she was openly lusting after you."

"She never did, Chris what are you trying to say!" Buck all but exploded, as I knew he would, which is why I never mentioned it before.

"I know nothing happened and I know that you never heard it, don't ask me how, but I just know you didn't hear the words I heard coming from her mouth. Then there were the herbs."


"There were far more herbs in her kitchen than ever turned up in her cooking."

"Oh come on Chris," Buck all but pleaded.

"Hear me out," I continued. "I used to miss whole nights." I knew that would get his attention, and he didn't disappoint.

"Missing nights?"

"There were nights when I'd fall asleep after supper so fast I could hardly get to the bed. When I woke up it would be mid morning. Now you know me, I don't oversleep. Sometimes I'd wake up with scratches and bruises, no idea where I got them. In the last few years it got so bad I was thinking of taking Adam and leaving. But despite everything she was a good mother, she loved that boy, she always spoke kindly to him, was patient with him, gentle. She was everything a good mother should be. How could I take that from him?"

I didn't wait for an answer.

"I couldn't, I just couldn't. I could no more take him from his mom that I could leave him behind."

"What are you trying to say?" Buck asked me.

"First tell me what's been going on." This was it, if I was ever gonna get the truth it was now, this was our chance at happiness on the line.

"I, that is ever since… Ah hell Chris this is so stupid! I'm fine."

Typical Buck, when things go wrong, just smile and pretend it's still all okay. "No you're not, so tell me."

"I've been having dreams."

"About Sarah?"

"Not exactly."

"So tell me - exactly."

"She's angry, in my dreams she's so angry."

"About us?"

"Yeah, she says it's wrong, dirty, unnatural, she says you're hers and always will be."

He looked over at me, and I almost gasped. I've never seen him so tortured; the look in his eyes tore my heart out.

"She said," he continued, "she hated me, that I was bad, I've seduced you, led you into evil."

"But you know that's not true. I was the one who started things off, this time at least."

"No Chris she's right, when we first met you didn't even know men could get together. It was different for me, I'd had …experience." By which he meant that when he was a boy, no more than 14 he'd had to sell his favours to pay for a doctor when his mom took sick. "I shouldn't have done it. She's right, I corrupted you, I made you no better than me."

This had gone far enough. "Look, don't go thinking I was some quaking virgin. I'd had sex before I met the great Buck Wilmington."

"Not much."

"Okay not much, but some. I'm older than you, I out ranked you, believe me we did nothing I didn't do willingly, even eagerly. I enjoy it, Hell I love it, and I love you."

He raised his eyes enough to meet mine. "I know," he admitted softly. "And I love you, you know that. It's just that she's so angry with me, she hates me so much. I tried to tell her…"

"Wait, back up?" This I hadn't expected. "You spoke to her?"

He nodded, tears now running freely down his cheeks. "Each time she comes I can see her more clearly, but only after I sleep with you. She said I'd never see Adam again, said 'If you think I'd let a dirty bum boy like you near my boy in the here-after you've got another think coming!'"

"I thought I was the 'bum boy' in this partnership?"

"Then she called me some names."

"Such as?"

He shrugged. "The usual - bastard, whore house brat, son of a bitch."

"She used to call you those things all the time, you just couldn't hear her."

There was nothing for it; I had to confront the bitch.

+ + + + + + +

If I was to confront her we had to sleep together. The trouble was, even after I persuaded Buck it was the right thing to do, 'little Buck' wasn't up to the job, can't say as I blame him. Nonetheless my lover is skilled in the art of seduction and he sucked me off with his usual skill, swallowing my seed with relish. Finally he rolled to his side and lay beside me licking his lips.

"What happens now?" I asked.

"She comes when I sleep."

"So let's sleep." Buck seemed more at ease, letting me kiss him and nuzzle his neck, as we pulled the quilt up. "You're not afraid to sleep?"

"Not now." With that he pulled me into his arms as we spooned together ready to face whatever the night might bring.

+ + + + + + +

It was many hours before I felt him relax and drift off to sleep, but only minutes later he tensed and began to shake.

"Sarah!" I shouted, sitting up instantly. "Come on you witch, show yourself! Or are you afraid of me?"

"Afraid? Of you? Never!" The voice was familiar, but distant, it came from all around me.

"I said show yourself, Buck can see you, why not me?"

"Buck is stubborn, he holds on to his so called love for you."

"He loves me as I love him, and only him."

"NO!!!!!!!!!!" Suddenly there was a kind of mist in the corner of the room, it seemed to glow for a second the then pulled itself into human form. Sarah, dressed in her white nightgown, but seemed to be not quite solid, her skin unnaturally pale, hair wild and uncombed. "You cannot love that!" She pointed at Buck.

"I can and I do."

"No one can have you but me! Ella tried, for so long she tried, casting spells of enchantment, but I was stronger than her, always, I kept you from seeing her, kept the others from seeing me."

"But why? You don't love me, the way you treated me, that's not love."

"You are mine. I do not give up what is mine, and besides I needed you, while my son was still young."

"My son."

"Don't flatter yourself; I needed a son, I used you to create him, feed and house him until he was old enough to learn what he truly was. Had we lived it would have been only a few more years before I took him and left forever."

"No!" I was off the bed and advancing on her, but all she did was laugh.

"What are you going to do, strangle a ghost?" she taunted.

My advance was stopped, not by her but by Buck, who cried out in his sleep, thrashing wildly on the bed.

"What's the matter with him? What did you do to him?" I demanded.

"Just a little taste of hell, remind him were he's headed."

"Stop it, leave him alone."

"He took you from me, so he must suffer," she stated matter of factly.

"He didn't do any such thing. I was never yours, you enchanted me, trapped me, but I never loved you. I told myself I loved you, but it was a lie, all of it. Adam was the only thing that was real, he was the only reason I stayed."

"Love! Hah! Love is nothing but a stupid human fancy, that was Ella's downfall, thinking she loved you."

"She killed you, and my boy, how could you let that happen?!"

For the first time I saw her look uncertain, and in that moment I was conscious that Buck relaxed some.

"She outwitted me, I had no spell to protect us from mortal men's evil - that was meant to be your job! But you weren't there, were you? And whose fault was that? His!" She pointed at Buck and once more he cried out, his naked body covered in perspiration as he arched off the bed in torment.

"No!" I yelled. "You're wrong, it wasn't his fault, it wasn't mine, it was yours! Our son, my Adam, my boy died, because of your feud with Ella, you two are the guilty ones."


"Search your heart - if you have one - and you'll see the truth."

"No he …he kept you, if you'd have come a day earlier…"

"We would have found the cabin in flames, instead of smouldering embers. There is nothing we could have done to change it." I think that was the first time I really understood that.

"No." She shook her head in denial, but it seemed to me she shrank back and dimmed a little.

"You know it's true, you killed him, between you, you killed him."

"It's not true."

She faded back some more. I risked a look over my shoulder to see that Buck was lying on the bed, gasping for breath, covered in sweat, but he didn't seem to be in pain anymore. So I turned back and advanced a few more steps, backing her into the corner.

"Face it you black hearted bitch, you and your kind killed the only thing you ever loved. You killed my son, but I won't let you kill the man I love or drive him away. If I have to I'll get Josiah to do an exorcism, maybe even ask Vin to get in one of them Indian holy men. But one way or another you are leaving him alone!"

"No, never."

The words were defiant, but the power had gone out of her.

"I should have done this right at the beginning, when you changed, when I knew something was wrong, back when Adam was too small to notice. But I was scared, not of you, scared of the responsibility, looking after a little baby all on my own, so I waited. Then Adam grew and he loved you, that made it too hard to take him from you. I thought I was being kind, how wrong could I have been? But you!" I jabbed my finger at her now fading form. "You killed him."

Her plea of denial was no more than the distant howl of the wind and she was gone.

I ran back to Buck, still sleeping, on our bed.

"Buck?" I called softly.

He woke in an instant, eyes wide, darting around the room.

"She's gone," I assured. "I don't think she's coming back."

"You saw her, spoke to her?" he asked.

I nodded. "And you?"

"No, not this time, I dreamed I was in another place, it was…" Words failed him, fear and pain clear in his eyes as he remembered the torment I had so clearly seen him endure.

"I know, but it's over now. We won." With that I captured his lips, claiming him as mine, forever.