Story: Under Wraps|
AU: Mopuro (info here)
Warnings: Slash!, language, eventual smut and M rating
Legal stuff: Don't own. No profit.
Previous/Continuing chapters found here
Comments/Questions very welcome! email me
"I find the idea to be completely asinine and absurd. How any grown man could believe in such a fairy tale is well beyond the prowess of my comprehension. Now if you gentlemen will excuse me," the green eyed gambler touched the brim of his hat, side stepping the two yokels at the bar. "Have a good day, sirs." Moving easily through the crowd, he worked his way toward the exit though he could hear the conversation resume without him.
"Well, I don't care what any fancy dressed man has to say on the matter, I know what I saw. Neither white man nor Indian has explored every inch of those woods, I don't care how good a tracker they claim to be, there's things in there, things in this world we can't rightly explain. Hell, we're discoverin' things all the time." the old farmer scratched his beard thoughtfully. "It was a Mopuro alright, like from those yarns my granddaddy used to tell."
"You sure you saw that, Jed? You weren't drinkin'?" the other man asked, though he meant no offense by his statement, he just shook his head, not even waiting for his friend to answer. "Did it have ears and a tail; you sure?"
"Sure as I'm standin' here."
Ezra P. Standish stopped in the doorway, snapping his eyes shut almost wincing at what he'd heard. Of all the nonsense. He turned back to the two men, wetting his lips with a dart of his quick, pink tongue. A Mopuro he said; Ears and a tail? So much for civility, he had hoped to find some form of stimulating conversation in this jerk water town though this incident had quickly dashed his hopes on that matter. Instead of jumping back into the conversation, he pushed his way through the bat wing doors.
The sun was bright as he stepped into the street, or what passed for a street anyways - dust, dirt, covered in horse dropping and whatever else the locals decided to throw out into it. As if on cue, an elderly woman left a store to his right, emptying the remains of something liquid from a pail. Removing a handkerchief from his pocket, Ezra covered his nose and moved toward the livery. No, he would not find anything stimulating in this town.
Across town at Perkins' Store, two tall men were loading their purchases on a mule drawn cart. The blonde man in all black hefted bags of grain easily while the taller, dark haired men looked over the list in his hands, mentally checking off the items on it.
"Better make sure we've got everything, Buck." Chris dropped the last bag of grain, trying not to startle the two small goats they had purchased earlier. "We won't be back this way for awhile."
"That's a shame." Buck answered, his eyes lifting from the list to take in the sight of a pretty young woman crossing his path. He grinned at her, almost stretching his moustache straight before ducking his head a little to seem less intimidating. "Good day, Miss Janie."
"Hello, Buck." she teased, her whole manner changed after being noticed by the handsome man. Her steps became livelier and her hips swayed a whole lot more than they had been previously.
Chris shook his head, how did Buck do that? No, he bit his lip, about to make a comment but he knew better. If he even mentioned Buck's natural ability with the fairer sex he'd have to spend the long ride back to their Ranch listening to Buck talk about his animal magnetism. Hell, he couldn't take another lecture on that.
"Did we get everything?" he asked instead, eyeing his friend who hadn't quite taken his eyes off of the lady's retreating figure.
"Yup, I reckon we got it all, pard. You mind if we go to Mrs. Potter’s store? I want to see if she has any more shirts in stock while we're here."
Chris glanced up at the sun, there's no way they'd make it home before it got dark at this rate, but Buck was right, it took them hours to get here and they had better be thorough. "That's probably a good idea; I could use a few things too, if she has them in stock."
"We'll take a good look through but I figure we better be hurryin', I know Josiah said he'd keep an eye on things for us til we got back, but the man has his own business to attend to." Buck took note of the position of the sun in the sky and frowned slightly at his friend. He'd hate to leave too much later and travel at night, trouble seemed to happen more so then, not that either of them couldn't handle it, they'd both seen their fair share of gun fights, but no one sane went lookin' for trouble either.
"Last stop, it won't take long." Chris climbed up into the wagon, turning to give his friend a sly smirk. "Unless you see a pretty lady and start that droolin', foolish cow eyed thing that you do."
"Cow eyed?" Buck made an indignant face. "My animal magnetism has nothing to do with cows, I'll have you know. You just watch; the next pretty little thing that crosses my path - I'll have eating out of my hand like a timid little deer." Grinning widely, feeling rather proud of himself and cocksure, Buck whipped around and strode off toward the store, keeping his eye on Chris over his shoulder. With a smug, self satisfied look, Buck missed the twitch of his friend's lip indicating trouble and walked smack into Ezra who was coming the other way. The two men smashed particularly hard into one another, Buck hadn't seen the smaller man and Ezra had presumed the other would watch where he was walking. The gambler collided with Buck's broad chest, bouncing off it slightly before sprawling on his rear on the ground below. His hat seemed to jump up from his head and roll a few feet away in the process.
"Whoa!" Buck merely stumbled, catching himself albeit not very gracefully. He looked down at the man before him, noting the shocked look on the fair, handsome features. "Sorry pard, I didn't see you there."
It took a minute for the information to register. Suddenly, the now panicked Ezra threw a hand to his head, feeling around for where his hat should be and was not. He ignored the man in front of him for the moment, diving slightly and rather ungracefully to retrieve his hat and shove it back on his head.
"Can I give ya a hand up?" Buck smiled, hoping this wouldn't be trouble. Shoot, you could get into it over bumping into the wrong type of man in towns like this.
"You oafish cretin." Ezra grumbled, brushing the sleeves of his plum jacket. "Why don't you watch where you're goin'?"
"Sorry." Buck stooped and ducked his head. "I didn't mean to plow you over there, I didn't see ya."
"You insult me, sir!" green eyes flashed angrily up at him now. "I am not that diminutive that even a bumbling titan such as yourself could miss me entirely."
Buck stopped, a small grin spreading across his face though he tried to hide it. Well, he had told Chris some pretty little thing was going to cross his path, while he meant a woman this man wasn't that hard on the eyes either. His skin was tanned slightly from the sun, though clear and soft looking, not a menial labor type, that's for sure. If the condition of his skin didn't make that fact apparent, the well tailored and fancy clothes would have. A gambler, Buck was sure of it. His eyes rose slightly, meeting that fierce gaze now.
"Why, it's entirely my fault. My mind was on other matters and I simply wasn't looking where I was going." Buck spoke softly, in the same voice he used when talking to a lady. Maybe he could sweet talk his way out of this one?
"You're damn right it's your fault." Ezra tried to keep his voice from shaking. He shouldn't be so assumptive, he should have side stepped this man, even if it hadn't been in his nature to do so. His hat had come off, here in broad daylight; what if someone had seen? The idea jarred him and left him literally shaking in his boots, enticing his parlance a little more crass than usual.
"You alright? I didn't hurt you did I?"
Ezra's face darkened as he thrust his chin up slightly. "Sir, I do not know how big and powerful you seem to think you are, but I can assure you I am not some frail, delicate little flower that shattered upon our collision."
"Southern boy, huh?" Buck addressed the thickly sweet southern accent.
"Boy?" Now Ezra frowned largely, dusting the dirt from his pants. He eyed the other man that approached them, this man had a hard look on his face, and his expression was grim; he was expecting trouble.
"Buck," the blonde stepped up to the two men, keeping his distance and his eyes on Ezra's gun belt. "What'd you do now?"
"Buck?" Ezra chuckled slightly, repeating the name. "How fitting, you know this stampeding lummox, I take it?"
"He don't mean any harm," Chris gave a tight lipped smile, assessing the situation. He hadn't been able to hear their discussion from the wagon but the two hadn't parted ways after the incident, it seemed to be escalating. "He can be like a big ol' stubborn animal sometimes."
"Hey," Buck pouted, thrusting his lip out a little lower when Ezra barked out a laugh.
"Well then, far be it for me to take offense over the actions of a big, dumb mule." Ezra grinned widely now, his gold tooth winking in the sun briefly. He tipped his hat to Chris. "My good gentleman." His attention turned to Buck, his brows rising upwardly in the middle, in an almost sympathetic manner. "Mule, good day." With that, he moved around them and continued on his way to the livery.
Buck's mouth hung open slightly as he looked from Chris to the retreating figure. "Mule? A stubborn mule?"
"I'd say he was right on the money." Chris smirked, shrugging his shoulders. "If you hadn't been so happy with yourself you would have never run into that man. You're lucky that didn't turn ugly."
"Don't see how it could, that there was a pretty man." Buck grinned cheekily. "Hell, Chris," he stated, seeing the withering look his friend gave him. "It was nothin, sides; I think I might have hurt him a little. He was shakin' slightly, like somethin' wasn't quite right for awhile there."
Chris furrowed his brows and looked back the way the gambler had gone. "Really? Think we ought to check on him before we head out?"
"Oh yeah," Buck wrapped his arm around his friend and lead him to the store. "That's all we need to do, suddenly appear in the livery while he's saddlin' up to ride out, you with that heartwarming look ya always got on your face and me the big, giant, oafish mule. He'd probably shoot us on the spot and have the right to, thinkin' we were going to try somethin'."
"Heart warming?" Chris scoffed. "I'm friendly."
"Yeah," Buck held the door. "Friendly as a cornered rattler."
Ezra ducked into the livery, happy to find himself alone. He slumped against the wall a moment, his hand going to his heart. Lord, that was a close one. How that giant of a man failed to see what was hidden in the silky locks atop his head from his distinct height advantage was a miracle; either that or the blonde man hadn't merely been trying to diffuse the situation and that Buck was as simple as a mule.
There had to be a better way to hide it, though the thought of tying a handkerchief around his head not only made him shudder with how uncouth he would look but it would also muffle his hearing, he couldn't afford to take that risk. Could he afford to take the risk of his hat falling off again though? He chewed on his lip, mulling the thought over unaware of the figure that popped up in the hay next to him.
"Hey, you get it for me?!"
Ezra jumped, clutching his chest a little tighter in surprise. This day had surely gone to the dogs, he needed to return to a nice warm room, curl up with a good book and an even better bottle of whiskey. "Good Lord, boy." he rasped, trying to calm his beating heart. "Don't do that to a man, I could have shot you."
The young man frowned, looking displeased. "You're a half breed; you should have smelled me a mile away. If you didn't, you should have heard me back here, I was makin' enough noise for a whole herd, gettin' all impatient."
"JD," Ezra's eyes lidded slightly with annoyance. "Your flattery isn't winning you a position in my good graces this fine afternoon."
"Flattery? That's the opposite of what I was doin'!"
Ezra scrubbed his face in annoyance, reaching into his inner jacket pocket for the candy he had stashed there. "They'll tan your hide if they find out you were in town, I told you I'd bring it to you later."
"I thought you'd forget." JD pouted, blinking his large, dark eyes at his friend. "I really wanted it!"
"Yes well, they're going to smell where you've been so I suggest going to the river to try to wash the stink off yourself before you return home."
"I'll just tell them I was with you." he shrugged easily.
"As for me, I've had enough of this town so if you'll excuse me I've to prepare my things to leave."
"You're leavin'?" JD looked startled, then suddenly sad. "But if you go, I won't get any more candy!"
"I think you'll live to fight another day." Ezra approached his horse giving the dark haired boy a tight smile.
He worked in silence, checking the shoes on his horse’s feet as the younger man dug through the bag of candy. Really, coming into town like this, hiding in a barn no less, it's a wonder he hadn't been caught yet. JD had the Devil's own luck. Maybe with that fresh, young looking face of his he could talk his way out of anything? Ezra didn't want to live to see that day; he was going to have to give the boy a stern talking to. He shook his head, man; JD was a young man now, Lord that was easy to forget by his actions sometimes.
They had known each other some years now, and with the easy banter between them, it sometimes was difficult to remember that years passed and boys became men, as JD had done. Hell, right before my very eyes, Ezra thought, casting a surreptitious glace at the younger Mopuro. Still, man or not, JD really needed to be more careful. The Southerner paled slightly to think what would happen to his friend if he were caught. And speaking of which...
"My hat fell off in town today; I don't think it wise for me to stay around here, just in case."
JD looked up from the candy now; his face took a serious turn. "Anyone see..? I mean, did they notice?"
"I'd be at the end of the rope, in jail or in a pine box I imagine if they had. This begs the question how no one has noticed in all this time," Ezra tightened the cinch on his saddle, working as he spoke. "Though one can style their hair to make it a little less obvious. The average person overlooks many things on a daily basis, and well, the average person in these parts has enough trouble walking and breathing at the same time. No, I am thrilled to affirm that my rather daunting secret is still safe."
"You can always come back with me." JD hung easily off one of the rails, sucking happily on the peppermint stick that was now in his possession.
"Ah, yes well," Ezra tsked in his throat. "Somehow after sleeping on a feather bed I can't see myself making the transition back to a tree or pile of dead skinned animal carcasses so easily."
"Well you certainly don't fit in with these people." JD laughed to himself, leaning back against the other rail now. The boy simply cannot stand still, Ezra thought to himself.
"Great, the story of my life continues; Misfit, outcast. Is there no silver lining to my cloud?"
"Nah, I don't mean that. I ain't ever seen a man as clean as you and dressed so nice before, Ez. They know you're a little strange because of that."
"Strange because I like to keep myself as immaculate as possible?" the gambler scoffed, taking off his hat and pointing to his head. "My dear boy, I am strange because like you I have two furry animal ears atop my head and a tail protruding from my backside. I believe that is what these people would find strange."
"Speaking of tails," JD ignored the rest of the comment, eyeing his friend’s pants. "How in the hell do you hide yours, anyways?"
"You Mopuro have your secret, I have mine."
"You're a Mopuro too."
"I'm only half, remember?" Ezra looked at the floor of the livery a moment, avoiding the look on his younger friend's face."As the others so clearly like to remind me."
"You're as good as a whole one to me." JD said softly, getting an honest smile from the older man. Coming from a Mopuro, that was an extreme compliment.
"Well then, my young Mr. Dunne. Let me tell you, there are still a few towns in this vicinity I have yet to embark upon. Perchance when I arrive in the next town I can find myself some sophisticated conversation and even a confectioners shop to continue feeding your sugar addiction. Who knows? Perhaps they will even have different forms of sweets for you to sample."
JD's ears perked atop his head. "Kinds? There’s different kinds? Go. Go now and see!" he wavered his hands impatiently, dancing about a moment in his worked up state. "I want to try them all, bring me them all."
Ezra mounted his horse, looking down at his friend with a shake of his head. "My my, you are an expensive avocation, do you know that?"
Buck frowned, thinking back to the events of the afternoon. It was well past dark now; he and Chris were heading back to the ranch and had decided to ride straight through, taking turns on directing the team. There wasn't much chance of the mules veering off the path or hurting themselves, they knew the way home and with the weight of the loaded wagon they couldn't go very fast anyhow. Chris was catching some sleep, drifting but he'd be awake in a flash Buck knew at the first sign of trouble. It was quiet out here in the wilderness, the stars and moon were bright and a decent light to see by, though the desert air was chilly.
Something was gnawing Buck, something about this afternoon though he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Had they forgotten something? No, they had written a list and checked it numerous times before they left, they had gotten all the items they needed. He hadn't left anything behind in any of the stores; he had his hat and his gun, his boots especially since the first stop of the early afternoon for him had been the brothel. What was it?
That Southerner they had bumped into, well, he had bumped into, literally. Buck wrinkled his nose, smoothing one hand over his moustache as he gave it some thought. He knocked him in the dirt and his hat came off, that was enough to make any man cross, but why be that cross? The man was well presented; maybe he just didn't like to get dirty? You couldn't ride trails out here and not get dirty though. He pulled his lip into his mouth, working his tongue over his moustache in deep thought. He was a pretty man, that Southerner. He looked downright sweet when he smiled. Buck had ridden with some pretty men before and knew the trail was almost a little harder on men like that. You get a group of rowdy cowhands out in the middle of nowhere for too long and they're going to start finding the beauty in one of those pretty men real quick like.
Chris stirred beside him, rolling slightly to look at Buck, assuring himself everything was alright. Buck took the opportunity to break the silence.
"Hey, about that guy I ran into earlier..."
"What about him?" Chris responded, though closed his eyes again. He could get a little more sleep in.
"I dunno, something’s gnawin' on me about it." Buck tightened his grip on the reins. "I can't put my finger on it."
"Think he's wanted? You see him on a poster or something?"
Buck thought a moment before shaking his head. "No, no I don't think so. It won't leave me be and it's gonna drive me daffy."
"Maybe you're just feelin' guilty because you plowed into him like some hell-bent mule?" Chris' voice held a hint of merriment in it, he was teasing.
"Chris..." Buck slowed the team, sitting up a little straighter.
"I'm not going to apologize, you were being cocky." Chris spoke from behind his hat.
"Chris, he didn't have any ears."
The air grew quite around them, for a moment neither spoke nor did they move. Finally Chris sat up, putting his hat back on top of his head. He chewed his lip a moment, looking at his friend in calm disbelief. "He didn't have any ears?"
"He didn't have any ears." Buck repeatedly softly.
"You been drinkin'?" Chris looked over his shoulder, his eyes searching in the dark for the bottles of liquor they had purchased.
"I swear to God, Chris, that man didn't have any ears." Buck turned slightly in the seat. "I knew something was off!"
"Of course he had ears, you're just tired."
"Did you see them?
"Hell no I didn't see them, but I wasn't lookin'. I don't make it a habit of lookin' to make sure people have ears. Guns, yes, knives, sure, but ears?"
"If you didn't see 'em then how are you so sure?" Buck slapped his knee. "Damn, I knew there was something odd with that boy!"
"Buck, he had ears." Chris settled back, looking at his friend like he was crazy. "He had to have ears, he responded to us, he heard that I called you a stubborn animal and then called you a mule. If he didn't have ears, how could he have heard that?"
"He could be a lip reader."
Chris groaned. "Goodnight, Buck."
Buck was silent, starting the team a little faster down the trail, getting excited as his thought pattern went crazy. "Well, maybe he wasn't a lip reader and maybe he had ears somewhere else, not like where we have ears."
"I'm starting to think you have brains somewhere else, not like where we have brains, maybe in your ass." Chris muffled.
"His hat!" Buck slapped his thigh hard, startling the mules ahead of him slightly.
"So his ears were in his hat, you knocked his ears off, Buck?"
"Not in his hat." Buck scoffed as if Chris were the crazy one. "Under it, that's why he got so shook up when I knocked his hat off him! I'll be damned."
Chris looked over at his friend in the moonlight, frowning and scrubbing at his eyes. He'd had far too little sleep to make sense of this. "Buck, what the hell are you talking about?"
"I bet he was a Mopuro." Buck clicked his tongue in his mouth, sitting up straighter. "Chris, I think he was a Mopuro and he was hidin' his ears under his hat."
"Christ, so he had a tail too? Buck, you're crazy."
"I am not, I'm tellin' you, that man was a Mopuro."
"Give me the reins," Chris sat up and yanked them from his friend's hands. "Go to sleep, you obviously need it more than I do."
"You don't believe me?" Buck sounded hurt, pouting slightly.
"You know, Buck, I can honestly say," Chris looked over at him. "That I don't, now go to sleep you crazy bastard and I'm having Nathan take a look at your head when we get back. Did you hit it again and not tell me?"
"I know what I saw, or didn't see for that matter."
"Buck, I hate to shatter your illusions here, but Mopuro don't exist."
The two men grew quiet again. Buck turned to face away from Chris, trying to get as comfortable as he could in the overcrowded wagon. Sure, maybe before today he would have reacted the same way as Chris if someone told him such a thing, but now? He recalled it clear as day, there were no ears on that man, not human ears and not where they should be. He had reacted a little too strongly when his hat was knocked off. So what? He had to have ears, and what else had ears on the top of its head besides a Mopuro, a werewolf? At that thought, his eyes widened slightly and his hand instinctively felt for his gun. Good Lord, please let it be a Mopuro. It'd be just his luck to smash into a werewolf and piss it off, then to have it follow the wagon and exact its revenge on him in the night.
"Chris," his voice was small as he spoke. "What if he was a werewolf?"
"Buck, go to sleep."
Chapter 2 -->