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30 November 2009 @ 11:56 am
FIC: "Stubborn" (2/3)  
FIC: "Stubborn" (2/3)
AUTHOR: mistressmarilyn
DATE: March-September 6, 2009
FANDOM: 3:10 To Yuma (2007)
PAIRING: Dan Evans / Ben Wade (Christian Bale and Russell Crowe)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own 'em. They're characters belonging to Elmore Leonard and Columbia Pictures, not to mention the respective actors of the movie, and to the ages. This is a work of a fan, done for no remuneration save the satisfaction of the work.
WARNINGS/RATING: Slash
SUMMARY: Dan Evans finds out Ben Wade was worth waiting for ... but nothing comes easy for Dan.
WORD COUNT: 3374
AUTHOR NOTES: Post-movie, still-alive story. Part 1 can be found here.


Dan Evans woke slowly, reluctantly, wresting his consciousness from the alternating combustion and comfort of his dreams. He groaned and opened his eyes, squinting. The afternoon sunlight in his bedroom was muted, signaling the onset of evening. It was a strange time for the rancher to be sleeping and dreaming. Why the hell was he in bed in the middle of the day?

Dan felt the answer poking his leg. He remembered, and his skin flushed with both the sensual memory and fleshy contact. Ben Wade had finally come to the ranch, had come to Dan Evans months after escaping from the train to Yuma Territorial Prison, had come back to the man whose mission it was to put him on that very train. Wade had come to find Dan, to claim and be claimed, and that very afternoon--in the outlaw's own sexual vernacular--Ben Wade had come again and again in Dan's eager arms.

"Pa? You here?" called a voice from outside his room. It was William, Dan's teenage son, who had been away rabbit hunting all afternoon. Ben and Dan had taken advantage of the hours of privacy to take after each other in Dan's bed, a bed Dan had shared with no one since his wife Alice had finally tired of life as Dan's housekeeper and nursemaid. She had left the ranch and the marriage to move to pastures both literally and figuratively greener than the dusty plot of land in southeastern Arizona, heading to San Francisco with their youngest son and a circuit-riding doctor with romance and reward money on his mind. Dan hadn't blamed her one bit.

Dan groaned as he hauled his ass out of the bed, hopping on his right foot while he scanned the floor for his prosthetic boot. "Dammit!" The boot had gone flying at some point, and Dan couldn't see it anywhere in the cluttered room. "I'll be right there, William!" he hollered, hoping to stave off his son's imminent arrival. One long look would reveal everything: clothes and coverlet on the floor, a gun belt and a distinctive black hat in the corner, rumpled sheets barely covering the naked outlaw who still had a pillow under his belly--and finally a red-faced rancher with wild eyes standing unsteadily on his one good leg, the wrap that normally held the last bandage around his chest now loosely draping his hips. The warm room was sharply scented with the smell of sweat and sex.

"Don't scare 'im, Dan," Wade said lazily. "He'll think you lost your mind."

"He'd be right," Dan said under his breath, scrambling to pick up his trousers and carry them to a nearby chair.

"You feelin' poorly, Pa?"

William's voice was closer to the door, and Dan cursed again as he shoved the leg with the wooden stump into the wrong side of his pants. "No! I'm fine. I'll be right out!"

"Dan, you're gonna get splinters in your ass if you're not careful. I wouldn't like that, your ass bein' so pretty and all. A might boney, yes, but still pretty."

"Shut up!" Dan ordered in a harsh whisper. "He'll hear."

"Well, he's gonna know I'm here soon enough."

Dan stood up and fastened his trousers, pulling up the suspenders over his bare shoulders. Then he hobbled to the door. "Wait 'til I call you, and come out dressed."

"Whatever you say, Dan," Wade said with a smile in his voice. "You're the boss."

Dan stepped out, closing the door behind him. The house appeared empty, but he followed chopping sounds to the porch, where William stood skinning three large jack rabbits. "You had some luck," Dan said. "Is there much worth saving?"

"Enough to line a pair of gloves and make some stew," William replied, not looking up. His fingers were slick with dark blood, and as he exchanged the cleaver for a sharp hunting knife, Dan fought the urge to remind him to be careful.

"As soon as I finish up here, I'll fix that dressing," Evidently William had noticed the missing bandage, despite his steady concentration on the rabbits.

"No need," Dan said. "When you get cleaned up, come inside. I have something to tell you."

While he waited for William, Dan filled the coffee pot with water from the pump and set it on the stove, stooping to stoke the fire. His stomach grumbled, and he realized he hadn't eaten since breakfast. He had spent the better part of the day feeding another appetite, one he usually ignored, one that for this day, at least, had bordered on gluttony. He had been nearly unable to get enough of Ben Wade's touch, of the man's warmth and energy. But there was no time to think of that now, with William just footsteps away.

"He's here, ain't he?" William said, wiping his hands on a rag that hung from his belt as he walked inside.

Dan stared at his son, silent, not surprised William had sensed Wade's presence. William had waited for Wade, just as he had, watching the horizon for his inevitable appearance. Dan nodded, easing himself into a chair at the dinner table. A bowl of recently peeled potatoes and a fresh loaf of bread had already been set out.

"I smelled him on you."

Dan said simply, "Oh."

"Where's his horse?"

"You'll have to ask him."

"You two haven't had much time for talkin'."

"William--"

Moving to his father's bedroom door, William knocked loudly. "Mr. Wade? You hungry?"

The door opened and Ben Wade strutted out, completely dressed as Dan had ordered, a small smile on his face as he buttoned up his vest. "Good afternoon, Will," he said. "I could certainly use some nourishment about now. I don't think I've had a bite in the last day," he added, glancing over at Dan. "Of food, that is."

"We'll have rabbit stew tomorrow. Tonight we'll have to settle for steak and potatoes." William walked in the kitchen and started rummaging in the larder.

"Sounds like a feast. I hope you're as good a cook as your mother was."

William stepped into the light. "She's gone, so we don't talk about her."

"Of course." The look of contrition on Wade's face seemed almost genuine. "But I don't remember her with so much blood on her apron."

Will looked down at the ruddy rag hanging from his belt. "I've gotten used to blood all these months takin' care of Pa."

"I want to hear all about that," Wade said, his tone suddenly simple and sincere. "But I could use a wash before supper."

"The crapper's out back. There's a pail on the porch."

"Both will come in handy," Wade said. "If you'll excuse me."

"Where's your horse?" William asked.

"In that half-finished barn, enjoying the company of yours," Wade answered as he walked out the back.

"I was asleep when he got here," Dan said by way of explanation.

William went in the kitchen and poured a mug of coffee for his father. "So will we be leavin' soon?" he asked as he handed it to Dan.

Dan sat silent for a moment, thinking. "I'm not sure what comes next," he said honestly.

"We gonna be Ben Wade's new gang?"

Shaking his head vehemently, Dan scowled over at his son. "I'm no outlaw. And I don't intend to be one."

Tossing potatoes into a pot half-filled with water, William didn't bother looking up. "Well, Wade's no rancher."

Dan sighed. True enough. He and Ben Wade were as different as two men could be, which didn't change the fact that they had forged together like two sides of the same coin, a shiny silver dollar instead of two plugged nickels. Dan had no idea where the unlikely liaison would lead, but he figured he and Wade were both living on borrowed time anyway. He should have died in Contention, should have died when Charlie Prince shredded his hide with slugs. If Ben Wade hadn't intervened, he surely would have.

And Wade should have died in Yuma, dancing on the end of a rope. Or on the trail, on their way to Contention, scalped by renegade Indians or fried by men with more taste for vengeance than conscience. Or somewhere outside Bisbee, tattooed with lead from a Pinkerton's Gatling gun . . .

. . . or in a gunfight in some whorehouse, long before he could ever come close to meeting a lame Arizona rancher.

Dan decided it depended on the whim of whatever hand was penning the story, Providence or just fickle fate. A more religious man might see God's work in it somehow. Dan, a born-again pragmatist, felt the blessing of good fortune for what might be the first time in his life, and he had no intention of looking this particular gift horse in the mouth, despite the steed's hint of a wink. In this case it was better to be lucky than deserving.

He and Wade would work it all out together, just as they had quickly worked out their respective romantic roles on Dan's threadbare mattress that afternoon. If the thing between them did indeed turn out to be more than a fleshy craving with the shelf life of those skinned rabbits, they'd undoubtedly find themselves with more questions than answers for some time to come. They wouldn't have the pronouncement of a preacher to lend credibility to their coupling. They would have to find their own sort of sustenance, both physical and emotional.

A refreshed Ben Wade walked back in the ranch house through the door closest to Dan; he was grinning, his eyes the green of swamp water, his skin beef jerky brown.

Jerky was something a man packed for a long ride, Dan reflected.

For that moment Dan Evans didn't give a damn about the future. It would have to take care of itself. For now he felt content and as close to happy as he had in years. He turned his face up and intercepted a long kiss that Wade bent down and bestowed on his mouth. And when he caught his breath and saw his son standing watching from the opening between the kitchen and dining area, he felt none of his characteristic reticence. He reached up and pulled Wade's face down to cover his again.

"You are a brave man, Dan Evans," said Wade in a quiet voice. "But you proved that already, didn't you?"

"Puttin' you on that train was not that hard," Dan said.

"I was referring to you puttin' me on my face." Wade winked and laughed, then said, "Why Dan, I believe that's a blush on your cheeks."

Dan scowled and struggled to his feet. "I think I'll give William a hand with supper."

"Why don't you do that, Dan? You're always good for a hand."

Fighting the urge to tell Ben Wade to shut the hell up, Dan pushed William toward the stove. "Let's get those steaks on," he said, avoiding eye contact. "I'm as hungry as a wolf."

"You better put your shirt on, Pa, so you won't get stung by the grease. Let me get the potatoes ready to fry."

"Hand me a knife, then, and I'll help."

Doing as he was told, William stole a long look at his father. "Don't let him get your goat, Pa. He's as fast with words as he is with a gun. You know how you always told us not to talk to him."

"Pour some cold water on these boiled potatoes. They're too hot to slice."

"You ain't afraid of Ben Wade, are you, Pa?"

Sighing, Dan leveled a long look at his son. "I'm not gonna turn into Ben Wade's woman, William, if that's what you're worried about. Now cut up some of those dried onions and toss 'em in the skillet. I'll go get dressed."

For the next twenty minutes father and son concentrated on their combined efforts at cooking. They seared the thick beefsteaks and fried the sliced potatoes in the grease. Then William stirred flour and water in the pan and made a thick gravy from the drippings. In a short time the small ranch house was redolent with the rich smells of meat and freshly boiled coffee.

"I'll set the table," William said as his father shoveled the potatoes into a serving bowl.

When Dan brought the food out, he noticed Ben Wade was seated in the same spot he had occupied some months earlier when he was an unwelcome dinner guest on his way to prison, shackled and surrounded and yet somehow still as deadly as a cornered cougar.

Wade smiled over at Dan, well aware they were both thinking the same thing.

"You know how I like my meat," he said.

Damn him.

He had taken great pleasure at having Dan cut up his meat for him, something Alice had insisted Dan do. It had been an awkward yet endearing moment between them, as Dan's family and members of the makeshift posse looked on.

"No gristle. I remember."

"This is good lean meat," William said, pouring three mugs of steaming coffee.

"Then it must have come from somebody else's beeves," said Wade. "Yours were a bit stringy, as I recall."

Neither Dan nor William rose to Wade's baiting, and they turned their attention to the meal, eating in near-silence. Characteristically, Wade was first to break the peace.

"The house seems a bit bare. Where's that nice clock and fancy table cloth?"

"Alice took a lot with her when she left. We brought a lot of her family things west with us."

"I noticed no one said grace tonight," Wade observed, wiping his mouth and sipping his coffee.

"We do our prayin' in the dark," William said.

Glancing at Dan, Wade said, "We might want to change that. There's better things to do in the dark."

"You filled up some?" Dan asked, eyeing Wade's empty plate.

"In more ways than one, Dan."

"I'll clean up. You two finish that coffee." William rose and started picking up the plates.

Leveling a long look at Wade, Dan said, "You like talkin' that way in front of my boy?"

"Our boy."

"Our boy?"

"Well, he is now, isn't he?"

Dan didn't answer. Instead he said, "I could use a bath. William said he smelled you on me."

Wade looked thoughtful. "I like that, Dan. I really do."

"You look tired, Pa," William said, returning for the coffee pot. "You want me to give you a rub down or a shave? I could warm up some water." During Dan's long convalescence, the boy had often bathed and shaved his father, and he had become adept at handling the straight razor despite his own dearth of whiskers.

"I'd like to see you bare-faced, Dan," said Wade. "Not as much as bare-assed, of course, but I bet you'd be pretty."

"I ain't pretty, and I don't need a shave. I shaved this morning."

William exited without comment, leaving the two men alone to traverse their conversational trail to its ultimate destination.

Wade picked up his cup and moved to a chair closer to Dan. "I bet you were pretty once, Dan. When you were Will's age. I bet you were as pretty as he is."

Dan sat up straight and stiff. "Don't you call my boy 'pretty,'" he warned.

"What? You think I like boys, Dan? Is that what you think?"

"I don't know what you like, Wade. I haven't really had much chance to find out."

Wade stood up in front of the closest lamp and purposefully cast his shadow over Dan's face. "You know what I like better than I do, Dan. You already showed me that." His voice lowered to a whisper. "And you call me Ben. Like you did in bed."

Dan rubbed his bearded chin, frustrated by his inability to articulate or even understand his own feelings. How had doubt managed to insinuate its way into his head? "I don't know how to be out of bed. I thought I did, but maybe I don't."

"You think too much, Dan. That's your problem. You plan too much. You worry too much. I look at that face of yours, long and lined with years of worry and disappointment, and I just want to take my hand and wipe it clean and smooth again, like that boy's." Wade squatted down next to Dan's chair and reached up to touch the hollow of his cheek. "If it would help to promise you something, to promise you that I'll take care of you or that I'll never leave you, I'd promise, Dan. But I don't think you'd like that."

Shaking his head, Dan reached up and held Wade's fingers against his face, struggling to find a bit of Wade's natural eloquence. "You don't have to make me any more promises, Ben," he said. "You kept the most important one, and you made that one without ever sayin' a word. You stayed alive and came back to me."

"I promised myself I'd have you, the first time I laid eyes on you," Wade said. "I surely kept that one."

Dan sighed, thinking back to the day Wade came into his life, rode up the rise near his ranch and sized him up with wary green eyes that smiled slightly while doing double duty as an unerring gunsight for the Hand of God, his infamous pistol. Wade's second, Charlie Prince, had ridden beside him, and Prince had recognized something more than curiosity in his boss' assessment of Dan Evans; Dan could clearly recall Prince's face reflected in the late morning light, a face that wore an expression of both comprehension and chagrin. He could also see that same face days later, eyes unblinking and mouth straight and cold, as the long muzzle of his pistol flashed certain death across the Contention train yard, Ben Wade's "No!" still hanging in the frosty air.

Ben had already climbed aboard the 3:10 train and was crouching in front of Dan. "Well, you did it, Dan," he said, acknowledging Dan's achievement just before all hell broke loose. Dan had watched Wade's crinkled eyes widen, and with ears that were already ringing from the thousands of rounds fired during their run to the station, he heard the distinctive crack and felt the hot thumps in his back before he twisted around to face Prince.

It took several shots to fell him. "One tough son-of-a-bitch," Prince called him.

He didn't really know until much later that Ben Wade had finished the final volley, had leveled the Hand of God at his former compatriots and let it take its terrible revenge. He had emptied the pistol into the men of his outfit, then finished Charlie Prince with a bullet from one of his own guns. As shocked as William had been at witnessing the attempted assassination of his own father, he had memorized the scene; and he enjoyed recounting it, time and time again, as Dan shifted fitfully in damp sheets, fighting fever from the suppurating wounds that weakened him.

Dan shook his head in wonder that the two men now sat together under the same roof. "We are a strange pair," he said.

"But we're a pair, Dan. Strange or not."

"I don't have any doubt of that. Don't think for a minute I'd want it any different. I'm tryin' to fight the part of me that managed to make a mess of most things in my life." Dan blinked several times, precluding any hint of moisture that might reveal an emotional infirmity. He couldn't deny he had been physically weakened by the events of his life, but despite that fact--or perhaps because of it--he had learned to maintain an impassive spirit.

"Don't close me out of your heart, Dan Evans. Don't even try. I know you're a stubborn man, but when it comes to you, I'm even more stubborn."

Despite his best efforts, Dan's eyes welled. "I ain't stubborn," he said unconvincingly, concentrating his gaze on the wooden floorboards.

"Well, let's put that to the test," Wade said, rising and reaching out a hand to pull Dan up.

"Let's get our butts to bed."

{fini}