The Shooting - Chapter 2

Brett brought up his pistol with lightening fast speed and shot Hawk right
through the heart, just as the outlaw squeezed the trigger, throwing off his
aim. The young outlaw wasn't quite fast enough though as Hawk's pistol fired,
the bullet striking the Sheriff.


Jalen didn't even realize he was shot, although he felt a sting in his upper
right chest and then felt himself falling backward and heard Brett screaming his
name and then blackness as his head hit the ground.


Hawk was surprised by the sudden appearance of his prey. He was ready to
eliminate the Sheriff, but that was not to be. He had no time to react to Brett
and his eyes widened as he saw the puff of smoke from the young man's revolver,
felt the bullet and then blackness overcame him as he crumpled to the ground. He
never heard the shot that killed him.


Slim and Bear looked at the scene shocked and frozen for a moment, but then drew
on Brett who shot the pistols out of their hands in quick succession while
screaming Jalen's name. He turned a deadly eye on the two and they stood
quietly, afraid of suffering the same fate as their boss who was bleeding and
unmoving on the ground. They knew he had died instantly from the unfocused eyes
that looked up at them now devoid of life.


Bret, his revolver aimed at the two outlaws said, "You two stand where I can
see you. If either of you move a muscle before I tell you to, you're dead!" He
growled in a low steely voice they never heard from him before, sounding much
like the Sheriff.

Slim and Bear wide eyed and shocked did as they were told.

Brett went over to Jalen and checked him, while keeping an eye on the other two.
He was still breathing thank God and with his hand still on his revolver, aimed
at the men, with his teeth, tore a hunk from his shirt rolled it into a pad with
his free hand and shifting his aim a bit more at Slim said, "hold that on there
tight…if you don't do as I say I'll put a bullet through you." Bret collected
the guns that had been shot out of the outlaw's hands, along with the one Hawk
had dropped as he fell and keeping his revolver trained on the two slipped them
into his waistband.

Slim did as Brett asked. Seeing the outlaw's horses and Keeping both men in his
sight he said to Bear, "Get Hawk onto his horse…hurry it up!"

Bear shuddered, but closed his boss's eyes, rolled him in a blanket from his bed
roll as he was still bleeding and picked up the dead man's body and slung it
over the horse. The horse shied because of the sudden dead weight on his back
and smell of blood. Bear settled the horse down.

Brett Glared at Bear and keeping his gun trained on both men ordered, "Tie him
up tight now. If he falls off we ain't stoppin' and you'll get a bullet through
you." He growled.

Bear tied Hawk's wrists with the rope from his saddle, then taking it under the
horse tied the ankles together and made sure the rope was tight enough he
wouldn't slip off. He didn't want a bullet in him.

Once Brett saw Bear was finished he ordered, Get over there with Slim."

Bear did as the young outlaw said and when the two men were together Brett
Checked Jalen again. He ordered Slim, "Tear off a strip from your shirt and tie
it tight around the Sheriff's chest. You'd better make another pad too…that
one's already blood soaked." Brett kept his gun on the men as they followed his
orders. He tried not to worry as he heard a groan from his partner and fought
down the panic and concern he felt over his condition, knowing it wouldn't do
any of them any good. He checked to make sure the new pad was securely in place
and the makeshift bandage was tight the way he had ordered it. Satisfied, he
indicated with his gun, "You two come with me." He prodded the men toward the
woods and retrieved Spirit and Liberty. He put the extra guns into his saddle
bags and Bringing them all into the clearing of the outlaw's hide out he
ordered, "Douse the fire.

Once the men had complied quickly dousing the fire and scattering the ashes
Brett mounted, his gun still trained on the two and said, "Pick the Sheriff
up…gently and hand him up to me."

The men still under gunpoint did as they were told and handed the sheriff up as
gently as they could, trying not to jar him too much. Jalen groaned loudly and
his eyes fluttered open for a moment, and then shut again, going limp. Brett
settled him as comfortably as he could and grabbed Liberty's reins. He barked,
"Mount up and head into town. I'll be right behind you. No monkey business or
you'll get a bullet in the head. I won't hesitate." He said in a hard voice.

The other two men did as they were told, Bear leading Hawk's mount with the
leader's body tied to it and the group under gunpoint headed into town.


As the motley group entered from the west end of town at a lope citizens
scattered. Dan and Cole were just leaving the saddlery when they heard the
commotion. Their eyes widened when they saw what was coming at them and Dan ran
to meet Brett. "Cole…get Gabe!"

Cole ran into the Diamond dust to get Gabe. "Gabe!" Cole shouted breathlessly,
"You gotta come! Something's happened to Jalen!" He ran back out again.

Gabe Fairmont pulled off his bartender's apron and hurried outside. By now the
town was abuzz with shock. Dan approached Brett, gun pulled now.

Brett, seeing Dan ordered, "Dan…take these two and lock them up!"

Dan, his gun aimed at the outlaws, said, "Get off your horses you two and head
on over to the jail." He jerked his head in the direction of the Sheriff's

Bear and Slim slowly dismounted and headed the way they had been told, Dan
escorting them under gunpoint.

Gabe said to Brett, "Take the Sheriff on over to Doc Mac's office! I'll help you
get him inside!"

Brett nodded. "All right Gabe."

Cole said, "I'll take that one…" He indicated the dead man "over to Blake
Sheridan, the undertaker."

Brett nodded. "All right, Thanks Cole. Would you also make sure the horses go
over to Mr. Hillyard at the livery?"

Cole nodded. "Sure, no problem Brett. You just take care of Jalen. Don't worry
about anythin' else. Dan and me got things under control."

Brett nodded, tucked his own gun into his waistband and headed over to Doc Mac's
office with Gabe on his tail.

Once they reached the doc's office Amos MacNamara stepped out, already having
heard the news and opened the door to his office. "Take him right inside to the
examining room and lay him on the table." He ordered.

Gabe took Jalen down from Spirit and the Sheriff let out a loud moan of pain,
even though he was still unconscious.

Brett quickly dismounted and with Gabe's help brought Jalen into the doctor's
office and put him on the table. The cloth was blood soaked now as was Jalen's
shirt and Jeans. Brett didn't even notice that he too had blood all over his own
shirt and jeans, Jalen's blood.


Dan prodded the two outlaws into the jail cell and taking the ring of keys off
the nail the Sheriff hung them on near his desk locked them inside. "You two
better just settle in. I'll see what Brett wants to do with you. There's a
couple of cots and a pail in there you can use for your needs right now."

Slim protested. "You can't just leave us here with no food or water!"

Dan shrugged. "We'll see."

Bear said, "You gotta at least give us each a blanket."

Dan raised an eyebrow. "We don't gotta do anythin' for the likes of you…you were
just involved in shootin' our town Sheriff."

The men's eyes widened. "But we didn't do it!"

Dan shrugged. "Well you are accessories to attempted murder right now so you'd
best just shut up and make the best of things."

The two men stared back morosely at Dan, but he ignored their sad faces and went
outside to see if he could help.


Blake Sheridan helped Cole to remove the dead man's body from his horse. "Did
the Sheriff say what he wanted to do with the body?"

Cole said, "No Sir…uhm…Sheriff Brooks has been shot. He's over at Doc Mac's
right now. Brett told me to bring him here."

Blake nodded. "All right. I'll take care of things. Don't worry."

Cole nodded. "All right…thank you Mr. Sheridan."

Blake nodded. "You're welcome. If there's anything I can do to help, let me

Cole nodded once more. "Yes Sir…I'll be sure to do that."

Blake Sheridan watched the young man go and then began to ply his trade on the
body he had been brought.


Doctor MacNamara cut away Jalen's clothing. It made things easier and he placed
them aside, knowing they'd be needed for evidence later on, especially if the
Sheriff didn't survive. He didn't want to think that way, but the man had lost
quite a bit of blood. He carefully checked over Jalen and was able to determine
that he had a large bump and bruise on his temple, along with the loss of a lot
of blood, which contributed to him being unconscious as well as bruises on his
bottom and back from the fall, but thankfully no major organs had been hurt by
the bullet. It had lodged against the scapula of his right shoulder, tearing
through muscle, but no major arteries or veins. He gave the Sheriff ether and
washed his hands thoroughly as well as his instruments which he heated to
glowing in the fire before using them to extract the bullet. It was a careful
process and finally he retrieved it and putting in sulfa powder to help with
infection sewed up the wound and bandaged it.


Brett paced in the waiting room. He couldn't settle. Gabe had gone back to the
saloon as he still had a business to run, but Dan and Cole had stayed there with
him. Dan had tried several times to get Brett to sit down or to eat something or
drink some water, but he hadn't been successful. When the door opened and Doc
Mac stepped out looking weary he said to Brett, "I got the bullet out. It was
wedged into the bone at the back of his right shoulder." He turned Brett to show
him. He went on. "There was some muscle damage and I sewed that and closed the
wound. There were no major blood vessels involved, even though the Sheriff has
lost a lot of blood." He told them. "I can't say at this point if he will live
or die. He's young and fit and that's in his favor and if a serious infection
doesn't set in he should be able to heal properly. He's still unconscious. He
must have hit his head when he fell. He has a bruise on the side of his head at
his temple; he also has bruises on his bottom and back. I'm keeping an eye on
the lump where the bruising is on his temple. We're using cold compresses on the
bruises and we'll keep trying to get fluids down him. The only other thing we
can do right now is pray." He turned Brett to face him. "You're to go home and
rest. You also need to change your clothes."

Brett shook his head. "I couldn't. I'd be worried the whole time." He told the

Dan said, "There are prisoners to be looked after Doc Mac. They're not injured,
but even so they need to be watched and given some basic care. I left them in
the cell with their cots and a bucket."

Amos nodded. "All right. There's a back room at the Sheriff's office where you
can sleep and I want you to at least take a nap there."

Brett got a stubborn look on his face. "Why can't I just stay here?"

Amos shook his head. "Mrs. Sanford will stay with him. She's nursed patients for
me before and he'll be in good hands. I don't need both of you in my infirmary."
He told the young man.

Brett knew Doc Mac was making good sense, but he couldn't help wanting to stay
with Jalen. Then he mentally shook himself. He reminded himself that he had
survived just fine on his own before he had met Jalen and he could do so again.
He wasn't helpless. He also knew he and Jalen kept a change of clothes in the
back room of the Sheriff's office should they be needed, so he'd be able to
change there. Brett nodded. "All right Doc Mac, but you'll send word to me
immediately if his condition changes, either for the better or worse?"

Amos nodded. "Yes, I certainly will."

Brett nodded. "Thank you Doc Mac. If anyone needs or wants me I'll be at the
jail then."

Amos put a hand on Brett's shoulder. "I know it's hard, but try not to worry."

"Yes Sir." Brett said automatically. Turning to Dan and Cole he said, "I'd best
take care of those prisoners and get changed. Will you join me later at the café
for supper?"

Dan and Cole exchanged looks. This was not the Brett they had come to know, this
cool, in charge person, but Dan nodded. "Yes, we'll come by in time for supper.
I want you to get the prisoners settled and take a nap like the doc said."

Brett gave Dan an odd look, but then nodded. "All right. I'll do that. I'll be
expectin' you later."

Dan put a hand on the younger man's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Okay. We'll
see you later." He then guided both young men out of the doctor's office.


Mrs. Nancy Sandford came into the infirmary at Doc Mac's and shook her head when
she saw their young Sheriff in a bed covered up to his waist with a blanket and
the bandaged chest exposed. She checked for any bloody seepage and expertly
changed the soiled bandage, gently cleaning the wound with an astringent and
then binding it up again. She wiped the fevered brow with a cool, damp cloth and
pulled the blanket up and then added a quilt to keep him warm. He was deathly
pale and from time to time she lifted his head and made him take some water,
wiping the dribble from his mouth. She pulled up a chair and sat with her
knitting watching over the young man. She had brought some beef broth which she
also tried to feed him sips from time to time. She also placed cold compresses
on his head to keep the swelling down.


Jalen heard from a long way off a voice calling to him…it was very familiar, but
he couldn't quite put his finger on it. "Jalen Christopher Brooks!" It called
over and over again. As Jalen drifted along the voice became louder and more
insistent and he heard the rough, yet pleasant voice of his beloved Dallas

Jalen slowly opened his eyes and blinked. "Dallas?" He croaked, then cleared his
throat and tried again.

Dallas bent over and placed a warm large hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Hmm…so this time you went and did exactly what you said you weren't goin' to
didn't you Kid?"

Jalen felt himself squirm under the touch and with the familiar voice in his
ears. When he blinked he saw a well tanned, handsome rugged face with dark hair
and smoky blue eyes he recognized immediately, the man was looking just as he
had been the first day Jalen had rode onto the Smoking K ranch. He was also
looking directly at him in a manner that was all so very familiar and made his
stomach lurch.

"Uhm…hello Dallas." He said softly.

"Well Kid, you got yourself in a pickle again hmm? How many times have I tried
to teach you that goin' into a dangerous situation bein' overconfident is a
recipe for disaster?"

Jalen looked down and bit his lip. "Lots of times…I really didn't mean to do it
Dallas…I thought I could handle those men by myself."

Dallas shook his head. "Three against one? Don't think you were usin' your
arithmetic skills very well little boy." He scolded.

The Sheriff looked away from those Smokey blue eyes.

Dallas said gently, "Don't looke away from me Jalen…we don't have much time and
I need to remind you of a few things." The older man informed the younger one.

Jalen's stomach lurched again at the familiar words and the meaning behind them
and he changed the subject and asked, "Where are we?"

Dallas grinned. "Home." He told him. He reached out a large hand and said,
"Come, stand up and walk with me."

Jalen suddenly realized he was lying on some new grass in the sun on a hillside
near the Smoking K ranch. It was a place he used to come to, to get away by
himself for a while. He was surprised that he wasn't feeling any pain and he put
his hand to his chest where he had felt the sting before the blackness, no
blood. He could have sworn he'd been shot. He looked at it puzzled.

Dallas smiled. "No…there's none of that here Kid." Dallas waited for Jalen to
take his hand.

Taking the proffered hand he felt himself being pulled to his feet and then into
a very familiar bear hug and Jalen found himself snuggling into the other man.
"Oh Dallas…I've missed you so very much." The Sheriff whispered into the man's

Dallas grinned. "Now…there will be none of that Kid, I've missed you too, but I
see you have another young man in your life now and I'm very glad you do. It's
part of why I'm here." He told Jalen in a soft voice.

Jalen looked at Dallas quizzically.

Dallas dropped one arm and with the other still around the younger man's waist
began to guide him away from his resting spot. "Things will grow clearer as we
talk." He told him.

Jalen nodded and walked along with him. It felt like a typical new spring day at
the Smoking K, the scent of new grass and wildflowers filling the air and the
drone of insects, newly hatched. A butterfly flitted across his vision and he
smiled. "I always loved this time of year at the ranch."

Dallas grinned. "I always did too; I can still remember the first time you rode
up into the yard, lookin' for work."

Jalen smiled. "Seventeen and full of myself. I thought I was all grown up…until
you put me over your lap that first time because you'd had enough of my cocky
attitude and it was causin' problems with the other hands."

Dallas smiled, showing white even teeth. "Yes, I remember that. I had given you
several warnings about your attitude, but you chose to ignore me and it was the
only way I could get your attention. You were cocky, tryin' to make the other
men think you were all grown and knew what you were doin' when you didn't."

Jalen blushed at the memory. "I thought for sure you were goin' to fire me…and
you did, but in a more attention getting' manner…you set fire to my bottom."

Dallas squeezed Jalen's waist and said, "Yes I did and it was good for you."

Jalen wrinkled his nose. "I sure didn't think so at the time. I know better
now." He glanced up at Dallas. "Especially since I had to do it myself. I
learned it wasn't as easy to do to someone you loved as I thought it was…it was
an eye opening experience for me."

Dallas nodded. "I'm glad you learned that now."

Jalen said, "I was so scared the first time I had to do it myself."
Dallas chuckled softly and said, "Sounds like when I had to do it the first time
with you. You were so scared…didn't know what to expect, you never knew that I
was feelin' the same way too. We talked it all out and you understood why I was
goin' to spank you and you accepted it and we both lived through it."

Jalen colored a bit, but nodded. "I had no idea a hand spankin' could hurt so
much. I'd been beaten with straps or a switch occasionally when I got caught
stealin' somethin' I needed to survive on the streets, but all that did was make
me a better thief."

Dallas nodded. "Yes, it was impersonal and meant to punish, not correct."

Jalen nodded. "It was different from anythin' I had experienced up to that

Dallas smiled. "Yes, you never liked bein' spanked, but that was good. It gave
me somethin' I could use as a deterrent to help you to make some important
changes and to grow up."

Jalen felt like sticking his tongue out at Dallas as he had done when he was a
youngster, but didn't want to feel the older man's hand across his bottom as he
knew it would earn him a good solid swat. He just ducked his head and said,
"You're right."

Dallas pulled Jalen's sandy head to him and kissed the top of it. "You always
were adorable Kid."

The Sheriff blushed, but didn't lift his head, relishing the comfort and
security he had not experienced for himself in some time. "I felt really bad
that day you were trampled I thought for a long time there was somethin' I
shoulda done to stop it…but after examinin' it from all angles after a while I
realized there was nothin' I could have done…I hurt inside for a very long time
Dallas." He confessed, a few tears falling from his green eyes.

The Smokey blue ones looked at the younger man with deep compassion. "It wasn't
your fault Kid…it was no one's fault. Cattle are always unpredictable."

Jalen nodded. "I know." He said softly. "I've come to accept that."

Dallas smiled and nodded. "Yes, I know you have. You do have a challenge ahead
of you with that young man you've hooked up with though. I'm so happy to see you
relying on the things I've taught you and the fact you've gone slow and not
given him a whole lot of wiggle room either. Just like I did with you."

Jalen smiled. "Oh yes, not much wiggle room at all…even when I was over your
knee getting' my butt blistered."

Dallas grinned. "Nope." He guided Jalen to the porch and they sat down in their
usual comfortable chairs.

The Sheriff said quietly, "I had to sell the place you heart just
wasn't in it."

Dallas placed a hand on Jalen's arm. "It's all right Kid. I wasn't sure if you'd
make a go of it or not, but I wanted you to have that chance. You've got your
own little place now for you and that young man…I'm happy you chose to move on
and are now using the money from the ranch wisely. That young outlaw is worth
it. I'm glad you two found each other. He's what you need and you're what he
needs. It's a good match, even if it's a bit challenging at times. You're goin'
to have to handle his disobedience you know. It placed him in danger."

Jalen nodded. "I think if he hadn't rushed in like that I wouldn't have gotten
shot. I had to take my eye off that outlaw for an instant and well, Hawk saw his
chance to shoot me. Brett was quick and for that I'm grateful, my young outlaw
is a crack shot, even if I did end up with a bullet in me."

Dallas frowned. "You shouldn't have placed yourself in that position to begin
with Jalen Christopher Brooks. It was dangerous." He said sternly. "If you had
taken back up, you wouldn't have been distracted and you could have handled
things better. Don't be blamin' that boy for your own mistake in judgment. If he
hadn't been there the outcome would have been very different. At least one of
you had good sense."

Jalen blushed at the use of his full name and the scolding tone. "Yes Sir." He
said automatically.
Dallas said softly, "This isn't any different from other times you made foolish
decisions while living with me young man…like the time you decided to go huntin'
coyotes by yourself and ended up surrounded by a pack of them with no way out…if
I hadn't come lookin' for you, you might have ended up their dinner."

Jalen blushed. "Well that was only because I didn't realize just how many there
were and how ferocious they were."

Dallas nodded his head knowingly. "Sounds like this recent incident was a repeat
of that…you underestimated the enemy and over estimated your own ability and
went in over confident, which was dangerous."

Jalen protested. "It wasn't that at all Dallas. I knew what I was doin' and they
would have surrendered."

Dallas shook his head. "You didn't know how ferocious your enemy was even though
Brett tried to warn you." Dallas stated quietly.
Jalen scowled. "If the kid hadn't come up on me unexpectedly and I had to take
my eye off the outlaw he'd never had a chance to pull the trigger. He'd of been
dead on the spot." Jalen asserted.

Dallas arched an eyebrow. "I never knew you to be a gunslinger Jalen."

Jalen gave Dallas a cocky expression. "Well I'm pretty good…got two gunslingers
already and I coulda got this one without getting' shot if that darn kid hadn't
taken it into his head that I needed help…he's the one who got me shot!" Jalen
growled. "He shoulda stayed put!"

Dallas shook his head. "Sounds like another young man I know well…one who was
told to stay put and not come to the corral with the new bull.
Jalen said, "You were lucky I did."

Dallas said, "Yes, I admit I underestimated him, which put me in an unexpected
dangerous situation. I believed I had everythin' under control and when I got
into the corral with him he charged me and knocked me down. He would have gored
me, but instead stepped on my upper arm and broke it. At first I swore it was
because you had come there when I had told you not to and had distracted and
enraged him, but later as I examined the situation I realized that it had been
foolish of me to go out there with a new bull, into an unknown situation and
expect I could handle him all on my own. You saved me from a terrible thing that
day because had you not been there to pull me out of the corral I would have
been trampled further and gored." Dallas said.

"But that was different." Jalen protested. "The bull was an animal, it didn't
know any better."

Dallas gave his young man a look. "Kid, you're right. An animal doesn't know any

Jalen gave a triumphant grin.

Dallas went on, taking the wind out of Jalen's sails, "An outlaw is worse. He's
not only an animal, but a thinkin', calculatin', connivein', sneaky, low down
rattle snake. A much more dangerous opponent…as you well know mister." Dallas
said softly, knowing the young man would know with certainty he was referring to
the stampede that had taken Dallas's life.

The younger man bit his lip and then nodded slowly. What Dallas had said was
true. Although he didn't like to admit it he couldn't deny the truth in the
man's words. He had been foolish in the extreme, putting himself in a dangerous
situation and could easily have lost his life. He began to think about how that
would affect Brett and not only him, but Dan and Cole…Gabe and the other
townsfolk. The loss of their Sheriff would be a terrible thing and outlaws would
come to the town as they would be easy prey being unprotected. He knew Brett
might end up in prison after all unless someone else stepped up to take the
place of a probation officer. Dan might try, but already had his hands full with
Cole and it wouldn't be fair to him…as these thoughts went through Jalen's mind
he felt more and more guilty over his actions.


Dallas watched as the myriad of emotions crossed his young man's face and were
reflected in his green eyes. The man smiled to himself as those expressive eyes
gave Jalen away every time. He wasn't very good at lying because of that and
Dallas always could read him when his emotions were high. He had grown to learn
that and now…well the older man could hear his thoughts, but allowed his young
man to experience them fully for himself because he needed to realize the
enormity of his poor judgment. To realize that his actions didn't only affect
himself, but others as well. He knew that since his death Jalen hadn't had
others to focus on or care for and now Brett coming into his life was changing

Jalen sighed and said softly, "I've been a fool."

Dallas put a large warm hand on the younger man's shoulder and said quietly,
"Not a fool, a young man who used poor judgment in a situation and did somethin'
foolish as a result of that. Putting yourself in danger is never agood thing."

Jalen looked up into the Smokey blue eyes and saw the love reflected in them as
he had always had and felt the years and the weight of sorrow lifting from him.
He suddenly flung himself into Dallas's arms and tears rolled down his face.

Dallas held the young Sheriff close and let him cry the cleansing tears he'd
needed to for some time.

Jalen cried hard for a time, but Dallas didn't mind. He produced a handkerchief
from a pocket and handed it to the young man as he had done when they'd been
together. "Let it out Kid, let it out." He said soothingly.


Jalen Found himself in Dallas's arms. He smelled his familiar scent, smelled the
soap that was used in their laundry on his shirt and the emotions he had been
holding back for so long overwhelmed him and poured out. He couldn't stop them
if he had wanted to. He finally cried out the grief at Dallas's loss and as the
tears flowed out of him he felt lightness come into his heart. He hadn't
realized just how heavy his heart had been and how much he had really struggled
to live day to day. Brett had wedged himself into his heart little by little,
but he realized he hadn't been able to give himself fully to the young man
because there wasn't room in his heart. Now…it was like when he had been younger
and living with Dallas and happy…even when he had earned a trip over the older
man's knee. Dallas had been the one to make sweet love to him for the first
time, the one who had awakened the feelings in him he hadn't really known were
there, had tutored him in life skills as well as the practical educational ones
of reading and writing. He had taught him to love and that he was loveable. That
he didn't need to be cocky and have an attitude to prove himself worthy of
others regard. Dallas also taught him that being headstrong might have helped
him get by up to that point in life, but had no place in their relationship.
There wouldn't be any arguing tolerated once he had made his point and Jalen
knew very well if he continued to push he would end up with is bottom well
presented and that hard, heavy hand lighting a fire right where he would
remember it for a while.

Jalen sniffled and looked up into the Smokey blue eyes.

Dallas asked softly, "Feel better now Kid?"

The younger man gave his partner a watery smile and nodded. "Yes, strangely
enough, I do."

Dallas nodded knowingly. "You do realize we still have things to address don't
you?" He asked quietly.

Jalen bit his lip and then nodded and "Yes Sir." Slipped out as naturally as the
first time he had found himself in trouble with Dallas.

The older man hugged him tightly, "I love you Jalen Christopher Brooks."

Jalen began to cry once more on Dallas's shoulder and his mentor, lover and
friend held him tight.

"It's been so long since I heard you tell me that." The young Sheriff sniffled.

Dallas smiled and brushed back the sandy hair. "I know. We have things to settle
my boy and precious little time now."

Jalen clung to him. "Make love to me Dallas" He begged. "I love you so much it

The older man shook his head sadly. "No Jalen." He said gently. "I'm here to
help you overcome your poor decision so you can deal with your young outlaw…I
can't do more than that."

Jalen screwed up his face and pouted mightily. "You can do this…but you can't
make love to me?"

Dallas nodded slowly. "Yes…now Kid, let's get this over…it's almost time for us
to part and I need to do what I was sent to do."

Jalen sighed and clung to Dallas, but nodded.

The older man smiled and patted his lap. "Good boy, now, get these jeans down
and your underpants."

Jalen blushed and then bit his lip. It had been some time since he had both
heard those words or found himself in this particular position. He complied as
Dallas waited patiently.

Once Jalen had done as had been asked Dallas guided him into the all too
familiar position and when he was ready asked Jalen, "Kid, tell me why I'm goin'
to spank you."

Jalen squirmed. He had always hated this part, but knew he had to respond. "Be
cause I used poor judgment and could have gotten myself killed and put Brett in
danger as well. I also could have left the town unprotected and that too
wouldn't have been a very good thing. I didn't act responsibly and should have."

Dallas said, "Very good." He patted the pale mounds in warning and began to
spank the bottom in front of him.

Jalen yelped and then squirmed. He had forgotten just how hard Dallas's hand
could be and remembered just how much it would ache long after the burn was
gone. It wasn't long before he was wriggling and squirming and bawling.

When Dallas had determined he had warmed Jalen's sitting area sufficiently he
produced a familiar wooden paddle, it seemed out of nowhere and smacked it down
firmly on the wiggling bottom.

The young Sheriff arched his back, threw back his head and howled loudly at the
unexpected sting of the wooden implement.

Dallas didn't let the howls or frantic wriggling deter him from doing what
needed to be done. He paddled Jalen's bottom soundly while scolding him. "You
will use better judgment from now on…you will remember you're responsible for
another young man's life and act accordingly…you will protect yourself from harm
as much as it is in your power at all times…" He went on with similar statements
until the bottom before him was hot, quite red and the younger man finally fell
limp over his lap. Once this happened, a few more smacks were given and then the
older man stopped the paddling and rubbed circles on Jalen's back saying
soothing things as he had many times before when he'd had to discipline his
young man for some serious transgression or other.


One part of Jalen's mind was focused not so much on the pain and the fire, but
on the enormity of what had happened when he had faced down Hawk Hoffman and
another part wanted to stay in this place with the comfort, security and the
knowledge he was still loved and was being held to account for his poor judgment
and yet another part was realizing that it had been some time since he had found
himself in this particular position. His mind whirled with a myriad of emotions,
but as always after a sound spanking things settled and became clear. His sobs
had turned to sniffles and somewhere in the whole process Dallas had righted
him, holding him in his arms, soothing him, caring for him, filling him with
love and the inner hurt and heaviness had lifted. He felt better inside than he
had in many years and wondered at it. He found himself smiling through his

Dallas, noticing the smile hugged Jalen tight. "Feelin' better hmm?" He asked.

Jalen nodded. "It's been a long time…I didn't realize I needed this…It's odd,
but I feel a whole lot better, even though my bottom hurts lots."

Dallas chuckled and squeezed Jalen tight. "Then I did my job well."

The younger man grimaced. "You always did…nothin' has changed."

Dallas chuckled softly. He brushed a dark lock of hair out of his own eyes and
then brushed back the sandy hair and planted a kiss on Jalen's forehead. "Always
remember Kid, I'm always goin' to love you and I'm always goin' to be there for
you when you need me…you've been thinkin' about me a lot lately and then you
went and did somethin' like this…"Dallas shook his head like he used to when
exasperated with the young man. Then he asked, "Well are we good now?"

Jalen nodded. "Yes…I didn't realize we weren't, but we're even better than
before. I guess I was mad at you for dyin' and even madder at those outlaws who
caused the stampede that took you away from me."

Dallas said softly, "You may have lost my physical form Jalen Christopher
Brooks, but you never lost me from your heart." Dallas tapped Jalen's chest
"It's what's kept us strong even now."

Jalen looked at Dallas. "Our love has lived on…even though." He stated, knowing
Dallas would know what he meant.

The older man nodded his head. "Yes Kid…our love bond is very strong. Remember
that…you've never lost me. The only time that will happen is if you were to let
me go in your heart…You have a big heart Jalen and there's room for both me and
Brett in there and don't forget that." He said a hint of sternness in his tone.

"Yes Sir." Jalen responded, snuggling into Dallas's arms.

Dallas just held the younger man for a long time. Once Jalen was calm and quiet
Dallas helped him up and rearranged his clothes. "It's time for you to go back
now." He told him.

Jalen clung to Dallas for a moment, "But I don't want to…not just yet."

Dallas smiled. "I know you don't, but you have a young man who loves you as you
love me and he needs you and you him…remember what I said, "I'll always be with
Jalen nodded. "'Kay." He said in a soft whisper like he'd done when he was

Dallas smiled. "Good boy…come take my hand…we'll walk back together." He told

Jalen smiled and took the warm large hand that still could make his own feel
smaller and walked with Dallas back to the grassy hillside where he had first
seen his mentor and lover.

Dallas helped him to lay down on his side in the grass and laid beside him,
curling around him as he had done in the past, giving his young man comfort and
reassurance as he made his journey back to his life.


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