Category: Gen, AU, Western
Characters: Dean, Sam, Crowley
Summary: The year is 1882, the place is Yuma prison. Fergus MacLeod is awaiting trial and less than impressed with his new cellmate, the notorious outlaw Dean Winchester. Can they resolve their differences and form an escape plan, or is there a bigger agenda in play? What follows is deception, double dealing and deadly peril as the stakes increase along with the six shooters.
From his vantage point on the catwalk, Sam watched the door to the Hole intently. At one o’clock in the morning there really wasn’t much else to do except look and think. He’d often wondered why guards were posted here after lockdown; the earlier ruckus should have given him the answer definitively. Rufus Turner was on the other side of the catwalk; his whole demeanour reflecting utter boredom and a third guard was stationed outside the Hole. Nobody had been inside for a while now.
Following their earlier visit Singer instructed Sam, Garth and Rufus to resume their duties then hurried away to challenge Zachariah. So it was that Sam was in exactly the right place to watch the governor pay his own visit later on. Although he’d come out quickly, Sam’s stomach was twisting up in knots. Anything might have happened in that short time and given Dean’s runaway mouth, it very likely had.
Walt and Roy inevitably comprised his security crew and afterwards they ambled into the guardhouse, grinning broadly. Singer stomped out a minute later, clearly thinking along the same lines as Sam because he stopped outside the Hole and ordered the man there to open up. Sam scooted round the catwalk and called to him when he came out again. Singer answered his query as to the state of affairs inside with a curt assurance and instructions to mind his own damned business from now on. The response helped settle Sam’s nerves, for the moment at least.
Nothing he’d witnessed gave him reason to think the punishment was cancelled and Sam’s emotions were pulling him in all directions. He was furious with MacLeod for instigating the fight and scared shitless both prisoners would be too badly hurt to walk. He was concerned about the mental state of his brother, who wasn’t thinking or acting rationally, agitated about the impending escape effort and not knowing anything for sure was driving him crazy. He checked his pocket watch constantly, willing the hands to crawl round to two o’clock when his shift finished. God only knew what he’d do with himself then, though a stiff drink or three was probably on the cards.
Singer was alone in the guardhouse when he finally got off duty. He was writing at his desk, clutching the pen so tightly his knuckles were white and he glanced up as Sam came in.
“You clocked off now?”
“Yes sir, until seven o’clock.”
Sam’s stomach twisted as he named the dreadful time and Singer watched him gloomily. Finally he sighed and pushed his paper aside. He reached into the desk, pulled out a bottle of whisky and two glasses then nodded to the door.
“Close that and pull up a chair.”
Sam obliged while Singer poured two generous measures. He slid a glass across and took a sip from his own.
“You’ve probably gathered Zachariah ain’t backing down on making an example of Winchester. What are your feelings on that?”
Sam forced himself to consider before answering; to keep his voice measured and neutral.
“I don’t believe Winchester started that fight and I don’t think he should be punished for it. It seems like Zachariah has personal issues which are getting in the way of doing things fairly.”
Singer nodded. “I concur. His actions strike me as erratic, though Winchester sure doesn’t do himself any favours with that attitude.”
His words drew out the memory of a heated conversation back in Purgatory, when Sam questioned the wisdom of Dean going undercover in Yuma without notifying its most senior official. Dean had been cagey and obstinate, insisting there were reasons why Zachariah should be kept in the dark. He wouldn’t elaborate and only now was Sam realising there was a bigger picture than the one he’d been shown. He tried the whisky, which tasted expensive and swallowed appreciatively.
“MacLeod’s smart in a crisis, I’ll give him that, but he’s a conniving son of a bitch who can make any lie seem real.”
“I’ve got MacLeod’s number…”
Singer seemed preoccupied. He picked up his pen and tapped out a slow tattoo on the desk top. “He started that fight on purpose but I’m damned if I know why.”
Sam’s heart began thumping and he tried to divert the captain away from that line of thinking.
“Maybe he was looking to get hurt; postpone his trial a little longer?”
“Then he took a hiding for nothing.” Singer smiled sourly. “The doc says he’s sore and bruised but nothing life threatening. He’ll be off his feet for a day or so, then back to the grind.”
MacLeod, at least, would be fit to travel but that was low on the list of Sam’s concerns right now. He eyed the captain cautiously
“Uh, when the Governor went into the…”
Singer cut him short. “They didn’t lay a finger on Winchester, though he lipped them enough to earn more punishment. That boy sure enjoys making life tough.”
Sam swallowed down his irritation. Why couldn’t Dean ever keep his damned mouth shut?
“What kind of punishment?”
Singer frowned. “Once he’s over the flogging he’ll spend every night in the Hole, chained to the floor if he pisses anyone else off.”
A wave of anger engulfed Sam and he clenched his fists, trying to get it under control.
“That isn’t fair. He’s been punished enough already.”
“I dare say.” Singer gestured to the paper on his desk. “This telegram’s going to the Territorial Prison authorities and recommends Zachariah gets investigated immediately. You’ll keep this to yourself, Warden and that’s an order.”
Sam was flattered such potentially flammable information was being shared with him and was itching to reciprocate, to tell Singer who he really was and why he was here. His gut told him the captain would take his side, help Dean and stand with them while they battled the fallout. The reality was that he couldn’t do a damned thing without his brother’s consent. He fell silent, searching for the best way to phrase his most pressing question.
“Cat got your tongue, Campbell?”
Sam elected to just spit it out. “Uh, who’ll be doing it tomorrow? That’s to say, who’ll be holding the whip?”
“It’s my decision and we can be grateful for that”.
Sam agreed whole heartedly. Given the opportunity, Zachariah would assign Walt or Roy and Dean might not survive a flogging by their hands. Singer stroked his chin thoughtfully.
“I’ve been mulling it over these past few hours. How would you feel about running the show?”
If Sam hadn’t been sitting he would very likely have fallen down. His legs went to jelly and his stomach roiled queasily. This sounded like some kind of hellish trial, devised to both test and torment him for all eternity. Even if Dean forgave him, he’d never be able to forgive himself and he shook his head emphatically.
“No fucking chance.”
“I could order you, Warden Campbell.”
“Then you’d get my resignation, effective immediately.”
The captain cocked his head, which made him look like some kind of exotic, weather beaten owl.
“Not long ago you were giving Winchester the kind of hard time Walt and Roy could be proud of. Here’s a chance to do it legitimately.”
Sam glared at him, right on the edge of meltdown.
“You said yourself he’s got a crazy mouth and sometimes it pushes men beyond reason. But he isn’t guilty and I’ll cut off my hand before I raise a whip against him.”
He took a gulp of liquor, breathing hard through his nose. Singer leaned back in his chair, a smile playing across his lips.
“Dramatic at the end there but delivered with conviction. Warden Turner can handle it; he’ll make it look good without flaying the skin off Winchester’s back. All the same, it won’t be easy...”
He turned to the battered wooden cupboard standing behind his desk and rummaged in the lowest drawer. Sam stared at his back, trying to fathom his reasoning.
“If you had Turner in mind, why ask me?”
Singer straightened and pushed the drawer shut with his boot. He was holding something Sam couldn’t see and he cradled the object in his lap.
“You strike me as a compassionate fellow, Campbell, aside from those unfortunate incidents. I had to be sure you didn’t hold any kind of grudge.”
Sam cocked an eyebrow. “Why?”
Singer smiled and placed a bottle on his desk. Its size and shape was unfamiliar and Sam squinted to read the flowery script on its label. He finally identified it as wine and glanced at the captain quizzically.
Singer shrugged. “He says he can’t drink hard liquor. You think he’ll be able to keep that down?”
Sam wasn’t certain he’d heard right. “This is for Winchester?”
Singer nodded. “I don’t believe he’s guilty either, and he shouldn’t be going through this… unassisted, shall we say. If you’re happy to put in some overtime, I want you to deliver this.”
Fifteen minutes later, Sam was headed for the Hole. His pockets were full of leftovers from the kitchen and the wine was stashed in the waistband of his pants. The guard outside complained bitterly because he was half an hour overdue and Sam told him to shove it up his ass. He pulled up a stool, sat down and tried to act natural. With the two o’clock shift change, there were new eyes up on the catwalk and he was acutely aware of being watched.
Over a second glass of whisky, he’d received instructions from Singer. Like Sam, the captain was pulling an all-nighter and at five o’clock he’d brief every man on duty inside the guardhouse. It would allow Sam to access the Hole and conduct his business unobserved. Five o’clock was two and a half hours away, though and time had slowed to a trickle.
The prison was silent and Sam strained his ears for any sounds inside the cell. He didn’t hear a thing. He wondered if Dean had managed to catch some sleep or whether he was sitting in the dark and cold, reflecting on recent events and where they were leading him. He shifted position, settled more comfortably and tried not to fall asleep.
He snapped awake at the sound of Singer’s booming voice, instructing all personnel to muster in the guardhouse. Half a dozen men drifted inside from various parts of the prison and Sam waited a minute before lighting a candle and slipping into the cell.
Dean was hunched in a corner of the cage, arms wrapped round his knees and his head bowed. Sam approached quietly and squatted next to him.
“How are you doing?”
Dean jumped visibly and jerked his head up. “What the fuck, Sam? You trying to give me a heart attack?”
“Sorry man, I thought you were awake.”
Dean scowled. “I am now. Is it time?”
His tone was bold, defiant and Sam took comfort in that, though it was mostly for his benefit.
“It’s five o'clock.”
Dean blew out a long breath but didn’t say anything else. The beating he’d taken earlier was showing now; his face was bruised and his left eye was closing up. He used the cage bars to drag himself to his feet, cursing at the pain and Sam watched him, frowning.
“There’s still time to stop this. Singer’s on our side and I’ve got those telegrams...”
“They won’t do a damned thing except make Zachariah desperate.” Dean’s voice turned hard and uncompromising. “Once he knows he’s been fucking with a federal marshal, who’s also working for the Pinks, what do you think he’ll do? Roll over and set me loose or find a way to shut me up permanently?”
Sam turned that over for a moment, disappointed he’d never made the connection for himself. He’d always assumed they both had a get out of jail card; that revealing their true identities would unlock the gates to Yuma with no strings attached. Only now was he realising that wasn’t the case at all. Dean’s eyes glittered in the candle light.
“Zachariah can’t be trusted, Sam. It’s why we didn’t let him know I was coming. He would have turned it to his advantage and fucked up my chances with MacLeod.”
“Because Fergus MacLeod’s so damned trustworthy, isn’t he?" Sam folded his arms, scowling. “You know this was his plan all along, don’t you?”
Dean shrugged. “Mine didn’t work out so…”
“Damn it, Dean, you could have just gone with the original idea and acted sick. If you take that whipping you’re giving him exactly what he wants. He planned it this way!”
“Say what?” Dean’s eyes narrowed. “You telling me you were in on it?”
“Not all of it.” Sam pushed the wine through the bars. “Drink that and I’ll tell you.”
Dean uncorked the bottle and took a dubious sniff. Realising what it was, he took a long draught and Sam wished to God he’d never started this conversation. Only when Dean wiped a sleeve across his mouth and cleared his throat pointedly did he begin fumbling his way towards an explanation.
“When Garth couldn’t find the Bird of Paradise seeds we needed a backup plan. MacLeod already had one so we decided to go with it.”
“You decided…” Dean’s eyebrows knitted together in a frown. “You all made a plan behind my back?”
“Damn it, Dean we made it right under your nose. You were too exhausted to think straight and we had to keep things rolling.”
“So it’s my fault now?”
The accusation in his tone was palpable and Sam flinched.
“MacLeod said he’d get you both inside the hospital. He never told me how he’d do it.”
“And you never thought to ask?” Dean’s eyes were flashing dangerously and Sam took a slow, shaky breath.
“I told him if he hurt you bad I’d kill him. It’s a promise I’m going to keep.”
Some of the tension left Dean’s body and he took another gulp of wine. “That’s my job, Sammy. Yours is to keep him onside until we’re out of this shit hole. You reckon you can do that?”
Sam nodded glumly. He pulled the packets of food from his pockets and handed them to his brother.
“That’s from me. The wine’s from Singer.”
Dean contemplated the bottle for a moment. “He’s a good man.”
Sam nodded. “He did everything in his power to stop this. He still could if you’d just let...”
“Enough already, Sam.” Dean sighed wearily. “This is my decision and you’re gonna have to live with it. Don’t you have someplace better to be?”
Sam clenched his jaw, biting back words which would only come out wrong. He placed the candle on the floor and stared at his brother.
“You’re one stubborn son of a bitch, but have it your way. I’ll be back later to collect this stuff.”
Dean raised the bottle in salute.
“Here’s to Fergus MacLeod getting his.”
- ACES WILD (11/?)