This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show,
which belong to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


The Weight of Responsibility
by Meluivan Indil

Part 2: Demons from the Past

It was cold, so very cold, and the ill-fitting clothing he wore did little to block it out. He had been in the prison camp for several months now, but he would never get used to the cold.

He watched as his only remaining friend Robert was brought back to the confinement cell. They had beaten him pretty bad this time. "Oh Robert. Not again." He said wiping the blood from his friends split lip.

"You be quiet Reb or youíll be next." The guard said, that had returned Robert.

Clay stared at the guard with hate filled eyes. He could see the plea in Robertís eyes for him not to say anything, but couldnít hold it in. "Does it make you feel big to beat a defenseless man half to death?"

"Yes it does Reb." The guard said shoving his rifle but into Clayís stomach. He doubled over in pain, and felt the rifle slam into his back next, and then several kicks were landed to his ribs. He felt his ribs crack. He knew his body couldnít take many more beatings such as this, but as long as his mind was still clear he had to continue to resist the torture. He would never let them break him no matter what.

He woke in a cold sweat staring around his room quickly. He was alone, and not in that hell hole anymore. He let his head fall back to the pillow. He hadnít had the dreams in months. Not since the robbery that claimed the life of his former bartender, and brought on the ghosts of the past. Why was he dreaming again?

He needed a drink. He decided he would get no more sleep that night, so he made his way to his office retrieving a bottle of his personal stock, and then sat at his desk drinking and thinking until morning.

 

The next day she rose early and knocked on the door to his office. "Come in." She heard him say.

As she opened the door a sight greeted her that she thought she would never see. He was sitting at his desk only wearing his trousers and a wrinkled white shirt that was only half buttoned. His hair was messy, and she could see dark circles under his eyes. "Clay is everything all right?" She asked making her way to the desk.

"Yes fine. I Just had some trouble sleeping is all." He answered her concern. "I thought I told you not to worry about working today."

"I can work." She said pulling a chair up to the desk next to him, eager to learn her new job.

"Why arenít you hung over?" He asked noticing that she showed no signs of her drinking from the night before. As a matter of fact, she looked perfect. Her cloths though not as fancy as some he had seen were impeccably neat, and her hair had been put up in an intricate design. She looked completely refreshed and ready to start the day. The pure epitome of a southern lady.

"I never have hangovers Clay. Just lucky I guess." She said giving him a large smile, which only increased his irritation at her not so normal bubbly attitude.

"Well then work it shall be." He said opening the ledger in front of him. They spent most of the day with him explaining all the holdings he had that she would need to keep track of.

"I do believe that is everything." He said a smile on his face. For the first time in months his desk was completely empty of all the work he had to do. In one day they had managed to clear away all the backlog of paperwork and correspondences that had been piling up around him. "I am completely amazed at your efficiency Bethany. I wish I had hired you months ago."

"Thereís one thing I have to ask Clay." She said as the smile faded from her face. She knew she would be treading on dangerous ground for her next words. "We went through all your legal holdings today and straightened everything out. But is there anything else you normally keep track of that you havenít discussed with me yet?"

The smile on his face did not fade, but it did change some. She could see it was no longer genuine. "Why whatever do you mean Miss Shelby?"

"Clay. I know what it takes for a powerful man to run a town such as this. I also know that not every thing that is required would be considered legal. Donít worry Clay. Iím not trying to judge, I just want to do my job properly, and really donít want any surprises later on." She explained hoping not to offend him.

He looked at her blue eyes considering what to say. He knew that the position he had offered her required him to have complete trust in her, but he had been reluctant to shatter the image of a Southern Gentleman that he was trying to portray for her. He realized that she was not naVve enough to fall for that false image.

"Clay we all have to change some to learn to survive. But that doesnít necessarily change who we are inside." She knew his honor and dignity were very important to him.

"Yes Bethany, you are right, of course. There are a few things that arenít mentioned in these books, but they donít need to be accounted for, but I promise that they are not things that will threaten you." It wasnít the answer she had asked for, but it also wasnít a flat out denial.

"I understand." She assured him.

 

She was roughly thrown back into her room. The shock therapy, as they called it, that they had been using on her was becoming almost more than her body could stand. She looked down at the burn marks on the inside of her small arms. They said that the therapy would help her grasp reality. If burning the hell out of someone could actually bring him or her closer to reality, she wondered what turning them into a fiery torch would do. She had become prone to morbid thoughts since she had been admitted, and started receiving her therapy.

It was nighttime and she knew he would come for her soon. She wished then that the burns had been bad enough to put her in the infirmary. At least there he left her alone. She drew in her breath sharply as she heard the key in the lock to her room.

She scooted as far away from the door as possible, backing herself into a corner. She watched as he entered trying to gauge what his mood was that night. It really didnít matter though did it? It always ended the same. It always ended with him leaning over her bleeding body as he professed that he hated to hurt her, and that he loved her. A few times she had, had the courage to spit in his face when he uttered those words. It had always gained her another beating, but that kind of pain she could handle. Sometimes she made him angrier just so she could feed off of the pain of the beatings. But the other kind of pain, the degradation, the humiliation, and the utter disgust at her own inability to stop it was what tore at her heart.

He was in a strange mood that night. He crossed over to where she was and kneeled in front of her. He took her arm in his hand and stared at the burn marks. "I never wanted them to do this." He said running his thumb over one of the burn marks. She pulled her arm back as if he had burned her himself.

"If you only cooperated with me I could stop all this. Things could be so much better for you here. Donít you understand that I want you to be happy here?" His words were quiet, almost tender.

She didnít say anything. She never did when he was around. She was afraid that her mouth would betray her showing him the fear she tried so hard to hide.

"Donít you know how I feel? Ever since they brought you here you have been my heartís only desire." He reached out stroking her cheek softly. She turned her head away from him, not able to stand his touch.

She heard him growl as he grasped her chin roughly in his hand and pulled her face forward so he could look at her. "Donít turn away from me. You may not want it, but you are mine. You will always be mine until I let you die." His fingers were digging roughly into her cheeks. She sighed as he let go of her, only to be surprised as he backhanded her. She could see the blood on his knuckles as he pulled his hand back.

"Clay." She screamed as she woke completely soaked in sweat. She looked around the dark room realizing where she was. She sat up drawing in deep breaths. She crossed her legs Indian style and leaned forward with her head in her hands. "I canít handle this much more."

Just then the door slammed open. She pulled her hands away staring up at Clay. He was only wearing a pair of loose trousers, and she could see the concerned look on his face. "You screamed my name. Whatís wrong?" He said looking around the room expecting an intruder to be there.

"Did I?" She asked. When had her waking screams changed from her brotherís name to that of the man before her? She wasnít sure. "Iím sorry Clay. It was just a nightmare." She whispered burying her face in her hands again.

If she had been looking at him she would have seen the perplexed look. He crossed over to her bedside and lit the lamp on the table. The light drove the shadows away. He sat on the bed just staring at her.

She hadnít looked up as he sat beside her. She was still trembling from the nightmare and she needed to gain control before he could see her that way. She took deep breaths forcing her pounding heart to slow to a normal pace. When she was sure she was calm she ran her hands through her hair and looked to him. "I really am sorry Clay. You donít have to stay in here. Iím fine." She tried to assure him.

"No you are not fine. People do not scream like that for no reason Bethany. What is doing this to you?" He wasnít going to let her off the hook this time. "And donít give me that bull about keeping your demons to yourself."

"I canít Clay. Donít ask me to do this." She pleaded.

"Damn it Bethany. We all need the comfort of a friend once in a while. You are not made of iron." His words were meant to shake some sense into her.

"Clay I canít accept your comfort. Iím afraid if I drop my defenses just once Iíll never be able to get them back up. I canít live without them." She tried to explain.

"You are stronger than that. I know you are, so donít make excuses." He wasnít sure of what her reaction would be, but he decided to take a chance and reached out taking her by the shoulders and pulled her to him. Her body automatically stiffened.

"What are you doing Clay?" She asked in a panicky voice.

"Iím just holding you." He said running his fingers through the back of her hair and stroking her back. "You donít have to tell me what is causing these dreams, but I wonít allow you to push me away when I am offering what you need the most."

"ClayÖ" She began to protest but the words would not come as her body slowly relaxed in his arms. The tender feel of his hand stroking her back had a calming affect like no whiskey or drug had ever done for her. She laid her head on his shoulder letting her turbulent emotions calm.

He wasnít sure how long they sat like that; he only new that he could feel the tension ebbing away from her body, and knew it was exactly what she needed. When she finally did sit up he could see that the angry fire that had blazed in her eyes when he first sat down had gone out. "Clay. I donít know what to say to you." She started confusion replacing that fire.

"You donít have to say anything little angel." He said leaning forward and placing a tender kiss on her forehead.

As he pulled back he could see a new flame flare in her eyes. But it wasnít a flame of anger. He watched as her hand hesitantly reached towards him and touched the side of his face, her fingers running through his beard. He felt that same fire ignite inside him. A soft groan escaped his lips as her finger brushed lightly against his overly sensitive earlobe. He couldnít stop the urge he felt, and leaned forward to place a soft kiss on her beautiful full lips.

The kiss wasnít harsh or demanding, but she could feel the passion that was barely contained behind it. Her body had never felt this way before. She felt something awaken that she hadnít known existed. How could it after everything she had experienced in the past? But yet she felt the need and the urge to touch the man who held her in his arms. Her hands ran down his bare chest feeling the muscles beneath her fingertips. She could feel her fingers tingle from the raging inferno that was building between them.

Then as quickly as it started he pulled away from her backing up to the edge of the bed. She made a strangled noise in her throat as she actually felt a stab of pain deep inside her, when he left her arms.

"Iím sorry Bethany. I never meant to take advantage of you." He said standing and pacing to the far side of the room willing his boiling blood to cool.

"You werenít." She blurted out. She could not deny her own response to his touch. It was like a rolling fire burning inside her. She still felt it.

"No it was a horrible thing for me to do when you were already confused and hurting. I wonít do that again." He said striding out the door and across the hall. She could hear his door slam.

She wrapped her arms around her middle feeling as if she would be sick. Why had she responded to him like that, and more importantly why didnít she stop him from leaving? The confused thoughts rumbled through her mind, and for once in her adult life she had completely forgotten the nightmare.

 

In the months that followed she saw very little of Clay, but whenever she did she would smile at him trying to convince him that everything was all right between them. Normally he would just smile back and then turn away finding something else to do. And to her relief the nightmares had stayed away, but that did not mean she did not dream. Her dreams were of making mad passionate love to a dark brooding man. She woke often with the sweat pouring from her trembling body, as desire plagued every reaction of her traitorous body.

She had taken to joining Call and eventually Luther, when he could walk again, in the main room of the Ambrosia every night. They would share bottles of whiskey as Call and Luther told her stories of bounty hunting, and stage rides that had gone awry. Or they would play poker. She liked poker. She never got quite as drunk as that first night, not wanting to pass out in the hallway again, but she did drink. The drink would sometimes keep the dreams at bay long enough for her to get a few hours of sleep.

On one particularly rainy night Call noticed her reaction as Mosby came in soaked to the skin. She was holding her breath, and chewing her lip. Luther was away on a stage run, so it was just the two of them that night.

"You got it bad girl." He said shaking his head.

"What?" She asked still staring at the man who had just entered.

"Donít be so obvious if you really want him to notice you." Call suggested.

She turned to him realizing what he was saying. She could see the disgusted look on his face. "What Call?"

"I thought you knew better." He said tipping the bottle up and finishing it.

"Call donít begrudge me the one thing that has touched my dead soul in the last eleven years." She pleaded with her friend to understand.

The intensity of her words shocked him. "Why Mosby?"

"I donít know. Maybe heís a kindred spirit or something. We both have ghosts in our past that haunt us." She suggested not sure if she sounded insane.

"Every one has ghosts to deal with." He said not sure if she would listen to him.

"Not these kind of ghosts Call. I know youíve known pain Call, but you will never understand what Clay and I share." She didnít want to make him angry, but how could she explain that they had both suffered through pain and degradation in similar ways, and that had been what had drawn her to him to begin with.

He slowly shook his head then stood moving around the table to where she sat pulling her to her feet. "What are you doing Call." She whispered not wanting to draw unwanted attention.

"If heís really what you need then Iím gonna help you get him, but remember that I warned you. Heíll hurt you." He then pulled her close to him so he could kiss her rather roughly. He broke the kiss as he noticed that Mosby was staring at them.

She didnít know what to do. Call was her friend. Why would he do that to her? She realized what he was doing though when she heard a deep voice behind her. "Is there a problem here?"

She turned to see Clay standing there staring at them. She looked to Call who had a broad smile on his lips. "No Clay. Everythingís fine." She said her eyes not leaving Callís face.

"Just a goodnight kiss. Why donít you mind your own business Mosby?" Call said nodding to Bethany and walked towards the door.

"I thought we had an understanding Mr. Call." Mosby said with the same iciness he had held that first night.

"Well Mosby seems to me you broke that understanding first, so now sheís fair game." Call said in an amused tone, and then left the bar.

Bethany wasnít sure what exactly they were referring to, but she knew it concerned her. "Clay what was that about?"

He ignored her question. "I thought you had better taste than that." He accused.

"And whatís wrong with Call? Heís a good man that stands by those he cares for." She said defending her friend. It didnít matter if they were referring to different aspects of the man. She was referring to friendship where he was thinking that he was her lover.

"And what am I?" He spit the words out in anger.

"Iím not sure anymore Clay. I thought I knew once, but now Iím not sure." She said the words so easily, but in her heart she didnít mean them.

His face fell at the hurtful words. He turned from her and headed up the stairs. She wanted to go after him and explain that there was nothing between her and Call, and what she truly felt for him. But he had rejected her once and she didnít know if her heart could take it again.

She sat the rest of the night alone nursing a bottle of whiskey. She watched as the bartender pushed the last drunk out the front door and locked it. "Miss Shelby. You need help getting to your room?" He asked.

"No Dwight. Iím going to stay here for a while. I need time to think. You go ahead and go on home. Iíll be fine." She said spinning an empty whiskey bottle around on the table. He placed the one lantern that was left lit in the room on the table before her then made his way out the back door.

She reached out and dimmed the lantern some. She didnít mind sitting in the dark. The dark was her friend at times. She heard a click as the back door slid open. Dwight must have forgotten something, she thought ignoring the sound. But a second click brought her attention to the man standing in front of her holding a pistol cocked and ready aimed at her.

"Who are you? What do you want?" She asked no longer spinning the bottle.

"Whereís the money?" The masked bandit asked.

"I donít know. I just do the paperwork. I never see the money." She answered shaking her head.

"Whereís your boss?" He asked moving closer to her.

"Heís out. Wonít be back till tomorrow." She lied thinking of what the man could do to Clay as he lay sleeping.

"Iíve been watching this saloon all evening. He came in, but never went out. Try again." He had moved even closer touching the barrel of the pistol to her forehead.

"I donít know what youíre talking about. Heís gone. You well as take whatís in the till, and get out." She suggested.

"What do you take me for whore? Iím not stupid." The man said using the gun barrel to strike the side of her face. Her head whipped back and her hand flew to her cheek. She pulled it back covered with blood. The barrel site had cut the delicate skin of her cheek.

Then she heard a voice she had hoped not to. "Bethany are you down here?" Clay called out coming down the stairs. He had woken to find her bedroom door left wide open and unoccupied, and had come down to search for her, wanting to talk things out.

"Clay no." She called to him. The bandit took that opportunity to get behind her using her as a shield while holding his gun to her head.

Clay froze when he saw the sight before him. His blood ran cold. Not another robbery, and unlike last time, he was completely unarmed. "Donít hurt her." He said showing his empty hands to the bandit.

"You open the safe. Get me your money, and Iíll think about not killing the whore." He said.

"How did you know about the safe?" Clay asked. Surely he did not have another traitor in town.

"I just got out of jail. McSween was my cellmate. You remember McSween donít you? He told me all about your little town here. I just had to pay you a visit." Clay new then since he was giving the information easily that he planned on killing them.

"Listen your fight is with me. Let the girl go. She canít hurt you." Clay tried to bargain for Bethanyís life. It didnít matter if he was killed, as long as she made it.

Bethany had been listening to the conversation. She had been told about the robbery at the Ambrosia about a year before, and she had also been told how Clay had taken it. She didnít want to see a repeat to what she had heard. "You want to bet." She said coldly, drawing her arm back forcing her elbow into the manís stomach. As he bent over in pain she drove her knee into his groin. He fell to the floor in pain. She backed away not believing she had taken a full-grown man down.

Clay came forward meaning to retrieve the manís gun but it was too late. The bandit already had it and was pointing it at them. Clay was close enough that he could have touched Bethany if he dared. The man stood closing the distance between them, holding the gun on Clay as he struck Bethany knocking her to the floor. Clay rushed him but found the pistol barrel at his throat. "Back off Colonel Mosby. Do you want a repeat of the beating the McSweens gave you?"

"Go ahead if you dare. Did McSween tell you what I did to him when I caught up to him?" Clay glared at the bandit.

"Do you think you scare me Mosby? You donít." The man said striking Clay across the face. Then punched him in the stomach with the empty fist, which caused him to bend over in pain. Then he hit him across the back knocking him to the ground. "You know I think I will teach you a lesson Mosby, before I kill you. McSween begged me to, you know." He started to viciously kick Clay. But he had forgot about the woman.

Clay was lying on the ground not sure if he cared whether he lived or died this time. In his mind he was back in the prison camp one moment and then back in the Ambrosia when the McSweens had beaten him again. He didnít hear the glass break, as Bethany broke a whiskey bottle over the banditís head knocking him unconscious.

The first real conscious thought he had was her kneeling beside him with her arms wrapped around him. "Clay. Come back to me. You canít stay trapped in your mind forever." He wasnít sure how he had gotten into a sitting position, but there he was with her holding him.

"What happened?" He asked.

She held up the top portion of a broken whiskey bottle. "I wasted some of your rotgut." She answered. He looked to the floor on the other side of her and saw that the bandit was out cold with blood running from a gash in the back of his head.

"You stay here Clay. Iíll get Zeke and doctor Cleese." She said standing shakily.

He looked up at her noticing the long cut on her cheek and the bruise forming under her eye. "No Iíll take care of this. You go upstairs and lay down. Cleese will come check on you." He insisted standing himself while holding his aching ribs. She could see the haunted look in his eyes.

"But ClayÖ" She started objecting.

"No buts. Go upstairs." He nearly shouted at her. She backed away frightened by the dead look in his eyes. She turned then making her way to her room and collapsing on the bed letting the tears take her.

She could hear him yelling for Zeke in the streets. She could hear the hatred in his voice as he ordered the man taken to the jail. The next thing she knew Dr. Cleese was standing in her doorway. "Miss Shelby, Mr. Mosby said you were hurt." The young doctor asked making his way to her bed.

"Not as bad as he is." She whispered.

"Well he wants me to see to you first."

She didnít say anything else as he washed the blood from her face. "Iíll need to stitch that cut Miss." She just nodded. "I guess thereís no use in me asking if you want laudanum."

She looked at him with a strange expression on her face. "No Iíll take it. I just want to sleep doctor." She was so tired, and felt completely alone. She swallowed the laudanum he gave her and placed the rest of the bottle on the table beside her bed. She didnít even flinch as he sowed the cut. The pain felt like it was far away, and she just didnít care about it anymore. When he finished he reached for the bottle on the table, but she stopped him. "Leave it."

"Yes Miss." He said leaving the room.

She took the bottle in her hand and took a couple of more swallows, then laid back waiting for peaceful sleep to take her.

 

Two days later Mosby had just reopened the Ambrosia, and was standing at his bar drinking whiskey. "Mosby."

He looked around and saw Call standing at the bar beside him. "Call."

"Whereís Bethany?" Call said not mincing words. He hadnít seen her since before the robbery and was beginning to worry.

"Her room I guess." Mosby said looking away coldly.

"What do you mean you guess?" Call asked.

"I donít know Mr. Call. I havenít seen her. Sheís not my responsibility." Clay said coldly.

"You used to think she was." Call sneered.

"Well I guess thatís your job, now isnít it?" His voice dripped with sarcasm.

"I guess so." Call answered. "Since youíve abandoned her." He turned making his way to the stairs.

He was nearly to the top when he heard Mosby call out. "Itís the last door on the left."

 

Call entered the room quietly. He could see she was lying on the bed asleep. He crossed to her but the look of her shocked him. Her face was pale, and her lips were dry and cracked. He reached down touching her skin. She was cold. He looked around and noticed the empty laudanum bottle on the bedside table. "No Bethany." He said sitting beside her.

He took her in his arms hugging her to him. "Why this? Why did you do this?" He tried to shake her. He was desperate for anything to bring her back.

He felt her stir in his arms.

"Clay. Is that you?" She said groggily.

He hugged her closer now that he knew she was still alive. "No Beth. Itís Call."

Even in the drug induced fog her mind was in she could hear the emotion in his voice.

"Whatís wrong Call?" She asked confused.

"Youíre sick. I need to get you some help." He answered her as he laid her back on the bed.

"Thatís funny, I donít feel sick." She said letting her eyes float shut.

"Donít go to sleep Beth." He said shaking her.

"Okay Call. I wonít." She said.

He strode out into the hall and ran to the head of stairs. He looked down seeing Mosby standing where he had left him. "Mosby. Get Cleese." He shouted, then turned and ran back to her room.

Less than a minute later Mosby walked into the bedroom and looked down at Call sitting on the side of her bed, holding her up. "Zeke is getting Cleese. Whatís going on?"

Call held up the empty laudanum bottle then threw it at Clay. Then he turned his attention back to his friend. "Beth, come on you promised youíd stay awake." He said softly pulling her closer to him.

Her eyes fluttered open. "Itís hard Call. Iím so sleepy. I think maybe I took to much of the good doctorís medicine."

"Yes I think you did too. What were you thinking?" He asked trying to keep her conscious.

"I just wanted to sleep again. I wanted to sleep without the nightmares, and without the dreams about Clay." She whispered. She was too far-gone to realize he was in the room also.

"What nightmares honey." He asked afraid of the answer.

"They arenít important anymore Call. Heíll never find me here, and if he canít find me he canít hurt me anymore." She whispered not realizing that she was revealing what she had tried so hard to keep quiet.

"And the dreams about Mosby?" He asked.

They both noticed as she blushed. "I canít tell you those Call. Besides they donít matter either. Heíll never feel for me what I do for him."

"Thatís what you meant when you asked me not to begrudge you the one thing in your life that was able to touch your dead soul." The words were meant more for Mosby than for her.

"You finally understand. Iím glad Call." She paused for a moment as if she was trying to figure something out. "My heart died when I was 15 Call, and for one brief moment I actually believed it would come back to life as he held me, but maybe itís best left dead. I donít think I can bear anymore pain."

Clay sunk to the floor on his knees. He hadnít guessed at her feelings. How could he? For the most part she kept them hidden. It had taken an accidental overdose to bring them to light now.

"He wonít hurt you Beth. Iíll make sure of it." Call vowed staring holes in Clay.

She snorted. "Nobody controls Clay Mosby, Call. Why do you think you can?"

"I just know this one Beth." He answered never taking his eyes off Clay.

When Cleese arrived Clay left the room and headed to his office where he opened a new bottle of whiskey. He stood outside on the balcony drinking straight from the bottle.

Call followed him out after the doctor assured him that the affects of the laudanum would wear off in a few hours. Just in case though he would stay with her and force coffee down her.

"Did you know?" Call asked.

Clay closed his eyes. "About the nightmares, yes. The part about me, no." He answered. "Did you?"

"The part about the nightmares, no. The part about you, yes." Call said kicking the balcony railing.

"Why didnít you tell me? Why didnít she?" Clay asked slamming his hand into the railing.

"Why would I Mosby? I warned her youíd only hurt her if she got what she wanted. But I tried to help her anyway." Call admitted.

Clay thought for a moment. "You mean that kiss the other night. It was a charade." Clay asked spinning to face him. "And she went along with it." He felt the fool. He had taken the bait.

"No, she was as surprised as you. I was worried for a moment that sheíd hit me, but she caught on." He said with a small dry laugh. "So what are you gonna do about this?"

Clay covered his eyes with a hand in a gesture he had seen from Bethany. "I canít deny how I feel for her. I have stayed away from her, because I felt guilty about wanting her. But I donít deserve her either. I sat down there in that bar wrapped up in my own anger, and never once realized that she might be hurting." He ran his hand through his hair unconsciously.

Call noticed the action and thought of Bethís words to him. Clay was more like her than anyone she had ever met, and in him she had found a kindred spirit that she could love. "It doesnít matter whether or not you deserve her. What matters is that she gets what she wants, and deserves, as long as you donít mistreat her." Call said hating himself for having to hand his friend over to Mosby.

"Call if you hate me so much, why are you doing this?" Clay asked.

"Believe me itís not for you. Itís for her. Iíve seen people like her before. She can withstand any physical pain that is thrown at her, but emotionally I donít think sheíll make it without you. So donít hurt her." Call said shoving Clay against the railing.

"I wouldnít dream of it." Clay said after Call had left the balcony.

 

After Cleese was sure that Bethany would live through the overdose he left Clay to sit with her. "Sheís just sleeping a normal sleep now. Sheíll wake up in a few hours. Sheíll probably be confused."

"Iíll take care of her." Clay answered.

When she woke she felt like she had been dreaming, but could not remember the dream. She looked around in confusion. She froze as she saw him sitting in the chair staring at a picture on the wall. Why was he with her? "Clay?" Her voice broke. Her throat seemed way too dry.

He immediately leaned forward with a look of concern on his face. "Hold on. Let me get you some water." He poured her a glass of water from the pitcher that was on the bedside table. That wasnít there when she fell asleep the night before. Her bottle of laudanum was. She took the water drinking it all relieving the raspy feeling in he throat.

"Clay whatís going on?" She asked rubbing her bleary eyes.

"You went a little overboard on the good doctors medicine. When Call found you, he thought you were dead." He explained bluntly.

Her eyes widened as she sat forward crossing her legs and placing her elbows on them. He knew what she would do. Her hands rested over her eyes for a moment then ran up through her hair. She was remembering bits and pieces of the night before. "Oh my god. I scared Call to death." She whispered.

"He wasnít the only one." Clay suggested.

Her eyes met his. She saw a pained look flash there for but a moment. "We need to talk about some things Bethany."

"No Clay. I donít want to talk anymore." She whispered. She had come to a decision while her mind was lost in the drug-induced fog. And she well as just get it over with. "Clay Iím leaving Curtis Wells."

A look of dread spread over his face. "What do you mean you are leaving?"

"I want to continue my search for Robert. You said he went west, well I believe he would have probably headed to California. So thatís where Iíll head." She explained the plan that she had worked out in her head.

"You canít possibly believe that you can find him in a state as big as California." He said shaking his head in disbelief.

"Alone probably not. But Iíve been saving most of the money youíve paid me, and Iím gonna hire Call and possibly Luther to help me find him." He could see the spark in her eyes when she talked of her plans. "Oh I know theyíd go with me even if I didnít pay them, but they canít take that much time out of their busy lives and not get some form of payment."

"When do you plan on leaving?" He asked as the coldness crept back into his soul.

"In a couple of weeks. Not long." She answered.

"And if you find Robert out in California?" He asked.

"Then I guess Iíll have to just settle in out there." She smiled. He could see in her eyes that she didnít plan on coming back whether she found her brother or not.

He was too late. Her mind was made up. If only he had known sooner, maybe he could have kept her, but no the damage to her soul was already done. She would be better off without him. All of those thoughts ran through his mind as the spark of hope he had carried died. "Well I wish you luck." He said standing placing a fake smile on his face, and then turned and left the room.

She was confused by his reaction. She had expected him to at least give her some argument, but that was not to be. She sighed long and hard.

 

He made his way down to the bar. "Whiskey." His voice was rough. His bartender Dwight could see the mood he was in and dreaded the day ahead of him. "Leave the bottle."

The Ambrosia had just opened and it was so far deserted. Clay was downing the bottle of whiskey faster than Dwight had ever seen before. Then the first patron of the day stepped through the doors. Clay sensed him come up beside him. "Mosby."

Clay rolled his eyes at Callís usual greeting. "Since when did you stop frequenting the No. 10 Call?"

"Companies more friendly here." Was his sarcastic reply.

Clay wasnít up to the normal banter this morning. He didnít say anything else, just continued to swallow the whiskey in large gulps.

"Youíre drinking a little heavy this morning. Something wrong?" Call asked.

"Sheís leaving Call." Clay said throwing back another shot of whiskey.

"What?"

"Sheís going to California to find her brother, and she wonít be coming back." He said turning to face the younger man.

Call could see the pained look in Mosbyís eyes, and for the first time he wondered if the greedy bastard actually had a heart. "Thereís no way sheíll find him."

"Oh you see thatís where you come in. She wants you and Luther to go with her, to help track Robert down. Sheís even planning on paying you. Using the money Iíve been paying her the last few months." Clay said in an ironic tone.

"Did you try to talk her out of it?" Call was sure if Mosby tried hard enough he could convince her to stay.

Clay turned back to the bar spinning his empty shot glass across the surface.

"You didnít say anything to her, did you? Youíre just gonna let her go off thinking she means nothing to you." Call accused.

"Thatís what she wants." He said bitterly.

"How do you know what she wants? You never stopped thinking about yourself long enough to find out."

"Just leave it alone Call." Clay said picking the shot glass up again.

"If you are stupid enough to throw away the best thing that has ever happened to you, then maybe thatís what you deserve." Call said walking out the door.

Clay looked steadily at the glass in his hand then threw it against the wall behind the bar, where it shattered. "I know what I deserve." His voice was filled with anger and pain. He turned leaving a rather confused bartender to clean up the glass, as he headed to his office, to continue his drinking alone.

 

"This is a stupid idea Beth." Call said drinking another shot of whiskey.

"Call. I have put off finding my brother for far too long. Itís time I did something." Bethany said drinking her own drink.

"Well why donít you stay here and Iíll find him for you. Iím sure if he knows youíre here heíll come see you." He suggested.

"Yeah he probably would, but Iíd rather just go with you." She refused his idea.

"Itís a dangerous rode Beth." He paused for a moment not sure if he should say what he thought. "Are you sure this is about finding your brother?"

"What do you mean Call?"

"Well maybe your just trying to run away from your feelings." He suggested.

"I donít know what youíre talking about." She said looking down at the table in front of her.

"Youíre not a coward Beth. Why donít you just face the fact that you love him? Youíre not going to be happy without him, no matter how far you run." He was done mincing words. It was time for her to face her fears.

She was shocked. Her and Call had been friends for months now, but he had never openly pushed her towards Clay, and she wasnít ready to accept the change in her friends attitude yet. "Youíre a fine one to talk Newt Call. How long now has it been since Mattie left for Miles City? I donít see you going to get her back." Her words were cruel she knew, but if he wasnít going to pull his punches, neither was she. She could see the hurt expression on his face.

"Thatís different. Sheís the one who left. Iím still here." He said swallowing hard.

"How different is it? If you loved her you would go after her. Youíd do anything to get her back. Youíd do anything for her." She said lowering her voice as she saw the funny looks they were receiving.

"So what are you doing to Clay?" He said raising his voice. He stood then no longer able to have the conversation, and left the bar.

Her own words were coming back to haunt her. What was she doing? She had seen the haunted look in his eyes the night of the robbery. She knew that look. She had seen it on many a former soldierís face while she was in the facility. Those men had been in so much pain, sometimes more than even she could imagine. They were haunted by demons of war, death, and destruction. They all ended up the same way, either broken and lost, or bitter and cruel. She didnít want to see Clay that way. So what was she doing?

 

It had been a week since the robbery and Bethany had seen neither Call nor Clay in a few days. She was sitting in the middle of her bed. She had gotten dressed for bed more than two hours before, but still was unable to sleep. So many things were going through her mind. She had been so determined to leave before she spoke to Call, but his words had jolted her. She was thinking in a way very unknown to her. She had always done what was necessary for her own survival, but now she could only think of Clay, and his own pain.

She heard a loud thump and the sound of glass breaking coming from across the hall. She didnít hesitate for a moment to open his bedroom door. He was sitting in the middle of his bed with a sheet wrapped around his midsection. She could see the sweat pouring down his back, and his hair was completely soaked. She could also see that his bedside table was tipped over with a broken whiskey bottle near it on the floor. He wasnít looking at her. He was staring straight ahead with a look on his face that told her that he was far away in his mind. She could hear his ragged breathing from where she stood.

It was time for her to make a decision. He had no idea she was there. She could walk out and forget what she was seeing. The decision was already made in her mind though. She softly closed the door behind her, and then walked over to the bed, being careful not to step on the broken glass. She sat beside him trying not to startle him. "Clay." She whispered, reaching her hand out softly touching his shoulder.

He pulled his shoulder away, and then looked at her. His eyes cleared for a moment as he recognized her. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard a noise. You knocked over your table." She said pointing to the broken glass on the floor.

He looked down at the mess heíd made. "I had a nightmare."

She nodded her head understanding the way he felt. "You want to talk about it?" She asked.

His laugh was bitter. "Didnít you once tell me that you wouldnít ask about my demons, if I didnít ask about yours?"

"Yes I did Clay, and I was wrong. Very wrong. Clay I have an idea of what your nightmareís are about, but I think it would be better if you told me yourself." She said trying to convince him.

"You have no idea about what I see in my dreams." He said bitterly, as the far off look took him again.

"Clay." She placed her hands on his shoulders and shook him. His eyes snapped to hers.

"Clay after the war I was staying at a place where a lot of the men that had been prisoners were sent. They had the same look in their eyes that you do. They used to scream at night. I could hear them. Some of them would tell me what had happened to them. I donít know why they told me, but I listened to them, I guess because no one else would."

"I never screamed. Not once." He said closing his eyes as if the visions would go away that way.

Neither did I. She thought to herself. "Clay what can I do to help you? What do you need to make it through this?"

His eyes flew open. "You donít want to be around me the way I am now little angel."

"Why do you call me that?" She said with a perplexed look on her face.

"It was something Luther said once. He said it wasnít luck that saved his legs. It was an angel. He meant you. I can see what he meant now. You would have done anything to help him. Just like being here with me now." He stared into her eyes wishing he could get lost in them.

"Clay Iíd do anything to help you too. I wish youíd see that." She said taking one of his hands in her own.

"I know you would, but I donít want to hurt you. You donít know how I get when Iím like this." He had to warn her away.

"It doesnít matter Clay. No matter how much you hurt me it wonít ever compare to how much it hurts to see you like this." She pulled his hand up to her lips and kissed his palm. "Let me take your pain away Clay."

It didnít matter to him anymore. His blood was boiling with both lust and anger, and between his disturbed mind and the alcohol he had no choice. He needed to release the tension that had built inside him, and she was offering that release. He grabbed her roughly and pulled her dressing gown over her head pushing her back on the bed, then climbed on top of her. He held her hands pinned to the bed as he locked his lips on hers. He was both rough and forceful. It didnít matter if he was hurting her or not.

She didnít fight him. She understood why he was that way with her. The robbery and the nightmares had left him feeling vulnerable and out of control. He needed to be in control, and she would let him.

She gave her body to him willingly, and he took it. She watched as he finally reached his climax. The clouded look in his eyes left. She could see the anger fade from his eyes, leaving only the pain and guilt of what he had done to her.

He let go of the tight grasp he had on her wrists and buried his face in her neck. "Iím sorry Bethany. God Iím sorry."

She wrapped her arms around him. "No Clay. I offered myself to you because I love you."

He drew himself back up looking into her eyes. "How could you love me after what I just did? My god if you had said no just once it could have been considered rape."

"I knew what you were gonna do Clay, and I didnít say no. Iím no innocent, and I know what rape is. That wasnít rape. It was a far cry from that." She assured him, hoping he would not question her. "Now you calm down and get some real sleep. Iíll stay with you." She said running her hand through his hair and over his back.

He rolled over pulling her with him cradling her in his arms, needing to feel her there. "You can call it what ever you want angel, but it was a lot less than you deserved. I promise I will make it up to you. Iíll make it right."

When she woke the next morning she rolled over expecting him to be beside her. He wasnít. She looked around the room. The table and broken glass had been picked up, and finally she found him. He was standing looking out the window. The only thing he was wearing was a pair of trousers, which he hadnít bothered to button yet. She stared at him taking in his appearance. His body was in excellent condition. She could see the powerful muscles in his arms and shoulders. His skin was bronzed and smooth, except for several old scars she could see that had faded over the years. It didnít take much to guess where they had come from. She could feel the tingling sensation in the pit of her stomach that his presence always elicited.

She cleared her throat, and watched as he turned facing her. His arms were crossed in front of him. She could see the calm look that covered his face. His eyes were clear, and she could see his self-confidence had returned completely. "You look well rested."

"I am." He said smiling down at her. "How are you this morning?"

"Happy to see you back to normal." She answered.

A truly genuine smile touched his lips. "Thanks to you." He said unfolding his arms and making his way back to the bed. He lay down on his side facing her, with his head propped on one arm.

She reached out hesitantly touching his stomach with her fingers. "Whatís on the agenda today Clay?" She asked biting her lip. She had started worrying that maybe he would consider the night before to be just a one-night stand.

"I have a promise to keep." He said reaching out placing his hand on her cheek stroking it with his thumb.

She held her breath as his touch intensified the desperate need she had for him. He moved his hand down the side of her neck, and then moved further down, moving the sheet that was covering her naked body. He cupped one breast so very tenderly, and then slid his thumb around the peak causing it to harden. She sucked her breath in hard, and moaned at the exquisite pleasure he was treating her to. "Oh god Clay." She whispered. He watched every reaction on her face, as his thumb moved in circles around the peak teasing.

"Does this feel good Bethany?" He whispered.

"Yes, Clay. Please donít stop." She pleaded.

"Donít worry my love. Iím going to make sure you feel the pleasure I should have given you last night. The only thing Iím living for right now is to see the passion of our lovemaking in your eyes." He leaned forward placing a gentle kiss on her lips. It felt so natural to have him touching her like that; kissing her with that desperate hint of passion she could feel trying to consume them both. His lips traveled over the exposed skin on her cheek and then down to her throat. He nibbled her neck, and she leaned her head back as he started trailing kisses down over her collarbone, and then moved on to her breast taking the nipple between his lips, running his tongue over the tip. She arched her back pushing her body closer to him as she began to moan, while he used his mouth and hands to make her body tremble.

When his hand left the breast it had been teasing she made a small noise of disappointment, but soon that noise was replaced by others, as he ran his fingers lightly down her stomach moving ever so closer to where the ache was at itís worst. As his hand slipped gently between her legs caressing the soft flesh there, she felt her body willingly open to him as her legs parted. Her legs started to tremble as he worked his fingers ever nearer to the opening massaging the skin with expert movements. It seemed she held her breath until the very moment his fingers entered her. He could feel her wet, moist warmth surround them and smiled as the tremor passed through her body with his first slow, soft stroke. His strokes became deeper as he explored within her, feeling every tremor and movement of her body around him, sensing where the most sensitive spots were and concentrating on those until he felt the sudden tightening of the muscles around his fingers, and then the moist release. She gasped at the pure pleasure of the release, and buried her head in his shoulder.

But he was no where near through with her, as his fingers began their slow exploration again stroking, teasing, bringing her senses alive again.

She raised her head looking into his eyes with an urgent need in her own. "Clay. Please." She pleaded. The spasms of pleasure he was causing in her body were becoming more than she could withstand. "I need you."

He looked deep into her eyes. He could see the passion there matching his own. He pushed her softly onto her back, standing for a moment to remove his trousers, and then kneeled in front of her on the bed. "Are you sure my love?" He asked leaning over and placing another kiss on her throat, not wanting to rush her. He wanted her to feel every pleasure imaginable in his arms.

"Yes Clay. I want it. I need you." She whispered running her hands down his strong arms, urging him on with her fingers.

He pushed inside her feeling that her body was a perfect fit for his. He began the slow rocking motion that he knew would please her the most. He knew how to please a lady, and he wanted nothing more than to see that pleasure spreading across her face. His pace increased as he felt her coming closer to the crest of the orgasm. He could see the fiery light in her eyes fade, as her body began to spasm around his. He slowed his movement letting her breath easier, watching as the light was lit again with his movement. "Let it take you my love. Donít hold back." He whispered in her ear. His breath on her neck sent exquisite chills down her spine.

This time as the exquisite torture built inside her body, she could feel as his body became more and more tense. His hands and lips moved over her skin more urgently as the mounting tide took away his senses. She ran her hands over his body caressing every inch of skin she could reach. Her lips found his, and then moved on kissing his neck, and his collarbone.

She threw her head back crying out as she crested again. A second later she felt his body release. She looked at his face and saw his body tremble with the sheer pleasure he felt. He collapsed on top of her, and she wrapped her sweat-coated arms around him, pulling him as close as she could, not wanting to lose the connection she felt to him.

In all of her life she never imagined that a man could make her feel that way. There had been only one man before Clay, and he had been completely brutal and savage, taking what he wanted and giving nothing in return. But Clay had wiped those brutal memories from her mind replacing them with memories of exquisite pleasure. She knew in her heart that she would never leave him. He had captured her heart, and if she ever had to leave, or if he was ever taken from her, it would kill her.

As if he had been reading her thoughts, he said the five words she longed to hear. "Will you stay with me?" He looked into her eyes and she could see he felt the same as she did.

"Only as long as forever Clay." She whispered placing a soft kiss on his brow.

 

Bethany strolled out of the Ambrosia into the sunlight. It would be a beautiful day in Curtis Wells. She looked up and down the street as if searching for something. Her eyes lit on a figure sitting on a bench across from the livery. She made her way there lifting her skirts to keep them from the mud. When she reached the bench she could see that he was feigning sleep. But she knew he was awake and that he knew she was there.

"Call?" She wasnít sure what to say to him.

"Beth." He answered opening his eyes slightly.

"Iím sorry Call." She said sitting beside him on the bench.

"What for?" He asked looking up and down the street, but not looking at her.

He was gonna make her say it. "For not listening to you. You were right about me."

"Yes, I was." Was all heíd say.

"You arenít gonna forgive me, are you?" She asked looking at the side of his face. She could see a muscle twitch there.

"You went too far this time Beth." He answered.

"Iím sorry for bringing up old ghosts Call, but you know I was right too." She said standing and heading back to the Ambrosia.

He could hear her talking to herself as she went. "Damn stubborn man anyway."

"So are you still going to California?" He called out while she was still within hearing distance.

She stopped walking, but didnít turn around. "No. Iím staying right here." She called back.

She didnít hear him as he whispered under his breath. "Itís about damn time girl."

Continued in Part 3

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