Disclaimer: Not mine I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Buck has a sister and she has come to Four Corners.



"You've got a lot of nerve, calling me that?"

"And why's that? It's the truth, ain't it?"

"The truth? You ain't got the first clue what the truth is, you ... you ... trollop!"

"You sorry excuse for a cowboy. You couldn't even figure out how to rope a damned weasel!"

"How dare you? Who invited you anyway, huh? You ain't welcome here."

"I go where I want. And with whoever I want. So, you stay outta my business, you moron. You ain't got sense enough to know when you're beaten."

Ezra Standish sidestepped the verbal combatants, giving them a wide berth, while trying to work out who that woman was, throwing such blatant curses at Buck Wilmington. Keeping an eye on them while heading over to their regular table in the saloon, he hoped they wouldn't start throwing things. He wasn't in the mood for a barroom brawl and that always seemed to be the outcome when someone threw something in this place. Dropping down on his usual chair, he glanced at Chris Larabee, who was following the verbal fight with a frown.

"Beaten?" Buck sputtered, angry and hurt at the same time. "You couldn't beat me if you tried from here on in and till hell freezes over."

Ezra leaned a little closer to Chris, never taking his eyes of the two. "Might I enquire why Mr. Wilmington is going so adamantly against his reputation and ... uhm ... slandering the young lady?" he asked.

Chris glanced briefly at him, still frowning. "They're just having a discussion, Ezra," he replied, sounding like it was nothing to hear Buck talking to a woman that way.

Ezra figured he might have to rephrase the question a little. "Who is she?" he asked instead.

Chris made a face. "Bella. His baby sister," he replied, following the decidedly agitated discussion between the siblings.

"Well, consider hell frozen over, you sorry excuse for a man. Cause I'm beating you by a long stretch. You ain't worth the dirt you stand on. Thinking with your crotch first. Like always," Bella snarled, furious with her brother.

Buck displayed immediate signs of embarrassment on his sister's behalf by blushing all the way to his hair roots. "You talk like you belong in the gutter," he snapped at her, becoming exceedingly aware of the stares from the other patrons of the bar. Worst of all, though, was the fact that some of his friends were watching this humiliating display of sibling rivalry too.

"And who taught me that?" Bella snapped back, oblivious to the attention her choice of words was drawing. And she didn't much care, either. She was livid and that was all there was to it. "If I had known you'd be in this town, I'd have gone somewhere else. I'd rather not be associated with the likes of you."

Chris rose the second it looked like Buck was going to slap her. He had thought it would come to that at some point, and it wasn't funny any more when Buck got so angry that he was about to raise a hand to his own sister. He strode over and barely prevented Buck from doing just that by grabbing his wrist in mid-motion. "That's enough," he said, locking eyes with the big cowboy. "Take it outside if you wanna continue to argue about things that don't matter a whole lot to the rest of this town."

Bella stared at him, slightly intimidated by the fact that her brother had been about to slap her. "Why don't you stay out of this? This is none of your business, Chris," she said, her tone a lot more subdued.

"You make it my business by making a public display of yourselves. Both of you. Now, take it outside or calm down," Chris replied sharply and released Buck's hand only when he was sure he wouldn't finish what he had started.

Buck made no move to leave, so Chris turned his attention back to Buck's hotheaded sister. "Bella, you'd better leave right now," he told her. "Go back to the hotel and stay there. I'll be right over."

For a moment, it looked like the younger Wilmington was about to make a fuss, but she could tell by the expression on Chris' face that she would be in deep trouble if she did. With an aggravated snort and an angry glare at her brother, she strode out, leaving a decidedly unhappy and downcast-looking Buck behind.

"You alright?" Chris wanted to know, eying his friend for a moment.

"No," Buck growled and pushed past him on his way to the bar. "Gimme a bottle, Inez," he said.

Inez glanced at Chris, who had turned to watch Buck, and he nodded briefly to her. Somewhat reluctantly, she handed over a bottle of whiskey and a glass. Buck grabbed both, walked over to the table and dropped down on his usual chair. Uncorking the bottle with his teeth, he poured the liquid into the glass and downed it in one go after spitting the cork out. Giving it a second to work, he then poured himself another and downed that, too.

Ezra watched him, his expression stuck somewhere between slight bewilderment and slight amusement. First of all, he had never known that Buck had a sister. Secondly, it intrigued him that Buck's sister was seemingly the only woman he had ever heard of who could make Buck raise his voice.

"What are you staring at?" Buck suddenly growled, giving him a somewhat guilty look at the same time. The angry-act didn't get across as he had intended it to.

"I am merely wondering how it can be that you are at such poor terms with your sister," Ezra finally said.

Buck sighed and downed another glass, having emptied the bottle halfway already. He glanced over at the doors, knowing that Chris had gone over to talk to Bella. Chris always had to settle things between them and it made him very uncomfortable that he couldn't even handle his own sister. "It's a long story," he growled. "And a sad one at that."

Ezra folded his hands and kept on staring at Buck. "Well, I am willing to listen," he suggested.

Buck glanced at him, still deeply embarrassed by the whole thing, and figured he might make Ezra understand why this had happened if he told him about it. But, on the other hand, just thinking about it made him ache inside. To still the sense of defeat, he downed another glass of whiskey and briefly closed his eyes. "Let's just say that Bella ... followed in our mother's footsteps," he finally said.

That surprised Ezra. What little he had heard about Buck's mother had always been overly positive and loving. "And, may I assume that you ... disapprove?" he asked, not certain he was reading this situation right. There had to be more to it than that.

Buck gave him a quick glance, then washed whatever he felt down with another glass of whiskey. "That ain't the point. I'm the last to disapprove of her choice of work. It ... goes deeper than that."

Ezra made a face. That was self-explanatory in his opinion. "Well, I should hope so," he intoned. "But ... why are you so at odds, then?"

Buck shrugged, grabbed the bottle and emptied the rest in one go. Then he set the bottle back on the table and blinked a little sluggishly ahead of himself. "She just hates me. That's all there is to it. And I ain't got a clue why."

That didn't help Ezra understand at all, but he figured that Buck wasn't much in the mood to talk more about it. Instead, he waved Inez over and ordered another bottle of Red Eye. When the bottle arrived, he poured Buck another glass, wondering if getting the man drunk might not alleviate his present discomfort at least for a while. Maybe long enough for his wayward sister to leave town again.


Chris sat down on the edge of Bella's bed in her room and looked up at her. "Why'd you come here? You know you upset him whenever you turn up," he wanted to know.

Bella sauntered over to the window and took a look at the street below. "I swear, Chris, I did not know he was here. If I had known, I wouldn't have come." With a heavy sigh, she turned around and leaned against the window sill. "Nothings changed, huh? He still thinks I'm trash."

Chris didn't know what to say to that at first. These two would never figure things out the way they were going at each other every time they met. Turning a little, he looked at her over one shoulder. "Buck doesn't think you're trash, Bella. That's only in your head," he said. He had never before gotten this much involved in their arguments. He always intervened before it got violent, but he had never actually sat down and discussed this with Bella before. Mainly because she had always been drunk before and had been impossible to talk to.

"Oh, right. Defend him, why don't you?" she growled, hurt already. "It doesn't matter squat what I have to say about it, does it?"

"You know that ain't true, Bella. I care about both of you and it ain't exactly nice to see you going at each other this way every damned time you see hide or hair of each other. Can't you just sit down and work it out?" he asked, trying to make her understand.

"Work what out, Chris? You heard him. He thinks I'm trash. He called me a trollop, for Heaven's sake. Like what I'm doing is so much different from what mama was doing," she snorted, then dropped her gaze to the floor. "He adored her and he hates me. I don't get it," she added, her throat clogging up with unshed tears.

The gunslinger barely prevented himself from sighing out loud. Every time Buck and Bella ran into each other they ended up throwing words at each other no self-respecting whore would use. And the worst thing was, Chris knew when it had all started. "He don't hate you. He loves you, Bella. And he's always worried about you. But you wouldn't let him in. You pushed him away. How'd you expect him to react after what happened to you? You just brushed it off as if nothing ever happened."

Bella stared at him for a moment. "What did he expect me to do? Break down and cry my eyes out? Crawl back home? I ain't never had no home, Chris. A whorehouse ain't no home. The same thing would have happened there. The same thing happens over and over again. Only, I usually get paid for it. And I don't get messed up."

"Seeing you in that condition was very, very tough on him, Bella. I mean, hell, you should have seen yourself back then. If you had been my sister, I would have killed those men right on the spot. But Buck was more concerned about you. And you just brushed him off," Chris tried, sounding a little annoyed. He understood her need to get on with her life, to leave the sordid past behind, but he also understood Buck's feelings about the whole, sorry mess. "And you've been brushing him off ever since."

Bella closed her eyes and just stood there for a moment. "What am I supposed to do, Chris? Ask his forgiveness? He wasn't the one that got raped. That was me. He wasn't the one that got beaten up. That was me too. I didn't like it one bit, but I gotta live with it. I gotta, cause I ain't got a snowballs chance in hell of landing a husband with a fairly decent income. Not after the life I've been living. No self-respecting man's ever gonna even look at me twice, knowing what I am. I gotta carry on living and the only way I can do that is by doing what I do best."

Chris rose and turned around to face her. "Bella, he ain't asking you to change your ways. He ain't asking you to find a husband. He's just asking you to have a little faith in him. He does love you. I know he does cause he told me so."

Bella regarded him for a long moment, her big baby-blues full of tears. Then she shook her head and looked away. "I am not going to give in here, Chris. This ain't my mistake. I'll be leaving in the morning. And I'll do what I can to avoid him from now on."

"That ain't a good solution, Bella. Just talk to him, alright? Do me that favor? Just talk to him," he urged her, hoping somehow to get through to her.

She didn't look at him again, just remained where she was, her eyes downcast. "I'm leaving in the morning. There ain't nothing more to talk about. That's just the way it is," she said dismissively.

Chris sighed heavily and nodded once. "Just think about it," he said, turned around and left. What more could he do?


Chris had deposited Buck in the jail after realizing that the big cowboy couldn't walk straight from the booze he had consumed. Ezra had helped him get Buck onto the bunk, rather disconcerted by the whole thing. That had made Chris draw parallels between Buck and Ezra, seeing how they both had a family member they didn't really get along with.

"I sincerely hope they can come to terms. From what he said, I understand that he loves his sister dearly," Ezra said after they'd stepped back out of the cell.

"He does. And she loves him back," Chris agreed. "That ain't the point. The point is she responded oddly to a situation a few years back and she don't want him ripping open old wounds again. Buck believes in talking things out, so he can't let it rest. They always end up having a fight similar to the one you saw. Usually, though, Bella's dead drunk by that time."

"So, you managed to talk some sense into her?" Ezra asked, hoping he was right in that assumption.

Chris merely shrugged. "I talked to her. That's all I can do. Don't know if she took it to heart or not. We'll see."

Ezra nodded, glancing back in at Buck. The man had bemoaned the poor relationship with his sister, nearly shedding tears over lost opportunities in his drunken stupor, and that had made Ezra think of the old proverb that you would hear the truth from little children and drunkards. That again had brought to mind the only time he had really seen his mother drunk, and the hope that the proverb was a lie had once again resurfaced. After a game of cards, which had robbed her of nearly all her money, Maude had drowned her grief in alcohol. When her son, at that time merely fifteen years of age, had tried to sooth his mother, she had pushed him away and cursed him to hell, telling him in a slurred voice that he had ruined her life, that she had never wanted a snivelling little baby, and that he had cost her a good year of her life after his birth. When he had tried to talk to her about it in the morning, she had brushed him off, telling him not to trust the words that came from too much booze. "Well, I think I will retire for the night. It has been a long evening," he finally said, turned and strode out. Till this day, he still believed that Maude had told him the truth back then when she had been drunk. He didn't want it to be so, and he kept hoping that she would one day tell him that she had always loved him. But, he also knew that he probably wouldn't believe it if she did tell him.

Chris frowned. By Ezra's standards, the night was still young. He wondered if this whole scene had drudged up bad memories, then sighed. He had enough on his hands with Buck and Bella at the moment. He couldn't solve everybody's problems in one night.


Bella came out of the hotel pretty early the following morning, dressed in a dark dress, which covered everything.

It was not a dress Chris had ever seen her wear before. He sat in front of the jail, waiting for Buck to wake up and hoped that Bella would at least try to set things right with her brother before leaving again. To his immediate surprise, she came over toward the jail, walking slowly, her hair covered by a bonnet. She came to a stop in front of him, her head down, her gaze on the boardwalk. "You leaving?" Chris wanted to know.

"Not until I've had a word with my brother," she replied, still not looking at him. "He in there?" she wanted to know, nodding toward the jail.

"Yup. Just sleeping it off," Chris agreed and figured he'd better stay close by in case they got into another fight.

Bella walked into the jail and straight into the cell, where she stopped beside the cot Buck was lying on. For a long moment, she stared down at him, then she settled down on the edge of it. "Bucklin, we need to talk," she said quietly.

Despite her low tone of voice, he heard her. Opening his eyes, he blinked up at her for a moment. "Bell," he tried, but she stopped him by raising a hand.

"Don't. Let me have my say," she told him, not looking at him. "I am sorry about this whole sordid affair, all right? I never meant for it to go this far. But I just wanna forget it ever happened. So, can't you please just leave it be?"

He closed his eyes and scrubbed both hands over his face, trying to think clearly through the thundering hangover. Then he sat up and swung his legs off the cot to sit beside her. "Bell, I love you, all right? I hate the idea that something like this happened to you. And I want you to get over it. But you don't get over it by ignoring it, all right? It won't just go away."

She turned her head and looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears. "Well, it's gotta just go away. Cause I can't live with it. I ain't slept a decent night since it happened and it get's worse every time we meet up and you won't leave it be. Am I asking too much of you here?"

Buck nodded sternly, fighting his own emotions. "Yes, you are, Bell. You gotta get it out, talk about it. Tell me what happened. It'll make it better. I promise you."

With a sniff, she closed her eyes and turned her head away. "I can't. It just hurts too much," she sobbed.

He pulled her into a bear hug, holding her real close. "Talk about it, Bell. Let it out," he urged her.

The barriers broke and she started talking, telling him everything that had happened, everything she had felt since then, at how horribly dirty she felt and how there was nobody who gave her the time of day because she was a whore and everybody believed that she had asked for it to happen because of her chosen line of work. She had consciously decided to close out the world, to ignore her pain, because nobody cared how she felt.

Buck just listened to it all, getting more and more angry at the men who had done this to her, those three bastards he would love to see hang for this crime. But they wouldn't. As she had said, she was whore and there was no court in the world that would convict those three for rape.

After she was done talking, she cried for a very long time, letting herself be held and comforted by her big brother until the tears ran out. After that, she just let herself be held.

Buck knew what he wanted the most right now. Apart from killing those three with his bare hands, of course. "I want you to stay here in Four Corners where I can keep an eye on you," he finally said.

Bella leaned back and stared at him, hoping she misunderstood what he was trying to say.

"You don't have to change your ways, Bell. That ain't what I'm saying," he hastened to say, cupping a hand against her left cheek. "I just wanna be able to be there for you. I'll just make sure nothing happens to you again."

Bella stared into his eyes and felt like crying again. Was this what she had turned down for all those years? Heaving a deep breath, she let it out again in a sigh. Why was it so hard to give in, to release the tension? She loved her brother, always had, and it had torn her heart out when she had believed that he responded like all the others. Now she realized her mistake, her misconception, and it broke her heart that she had let so much time pass without getting to the bottom of this, without finding out how her brother really felt about the whole thing.

Buck saw the flow of emotion in her eyes and didn't quite know what to make of it. "What do you say? You wanna stay?"

She closed her eyes briefly to get a grip on her emotions, then sighed and nodded. "For awhile, all right? And don't expect me to change. I like what I do... most of the time," she finally said.

"I don't expect you to change, Bell. I just want you to be safe. I'll talk to the hotel owner. He can arrange it so you can keep the room you got now," he said, delighted beyond reason that she had agreed to try this arrangement out.

Bella rose and grabbed his hand briefly to give it a squeeze. "You better get some more sleep, Bucklin. You look like you could need it," she said, taking in his dishevelled appearance with a small smile.

"Everyone's a comedian this early in the morning, huh?" he grumbled, then gave her a grin. "You better be here when I wake up again," he told her.

"I will. I promise," she said. "Go back to sleep. You ain't gonna be a success with the ladies, looking the way you do now," she added and strode out.

Buck just sat there for a moment, a happy smile on his face. Then he dropped back down on the cot and went back to sleep. Damn, it felt good to sort things out, he thought.


Chris looked up at Bella when she came back outside and he gave her a smile. "Looks like things are gonna work out, huh?" he asked her.

She stared ahead of herself for a moment, then turned her head and looked down at him. "Thanks to you, cowboy," she replied and smiled. "Don't you know it ain't nice to listen in on other people's conversations?" she then added, giving him a mockingly stern look.

Chris rose and leaned in to kiss her cheek. "I gotta make sure you two don't kill each other," he said and leaned back. "So, you're gonna stay?"

Bella's smile had widened a notch. "For awhile," she agreed. "I just have to see how it all works out."

"Well, you can rest easy, Bella. Cause, Buck ain't going to be the only one looking out for you. There are six more of us and none of us are gonna stand by an' let something like this happen to you ever again." That promise was easily made. Chris new his friends, knew how fiercely protective they were of women, and he had no qualms about promising Bella protection without asking them. They would do it without question.

"Seven in all, huh?" she asked, arching an eyebrow at the idea. "Well, I suddenly feel a whole lot safer," she added.

"That's the point. No matter what happens, you talk to me about it, all right? Don't wait and don't be shy," he told her with a smile.

"Shy?" she asked back and grinned. "I ain't never been shy in my life, Chris. Thank you, though. That's mighty sweet of you."