tagLesbian SexThe Brave

The Brave


Hi everyone! If you're just here for the sex, this is a 35K word story and the sex doesn't happen for...quite a while. Head elsewhere if you just want a quick shot of the hot stuff; this story is probably best read as a pulpy western that becomes a meditative romantic melodrama about halfway through.

...I swear I don't do this to piss you off or feel superior to everyone.

Speaking of pulpy western...Content warning: graphic violence, some racial slurs, a brief allusion to rape.

For C.

= = = = =

She had that dream again, the one that came around once every little while, whenever she started feeling too comfortable in her waking life. It wasn't a complicated dream; it began and ended with her on horseback, racing through the desert, trying to beat the sunrise behind her. Every time the sky threatened to brighten her flesh would start to sizzle and bubble in the orange light, so she'd kick her horse a little harder, he'd run a little faster, and the sky would get a little blacker. But she could feel him wheeze between her legs from exhaustion, his breath getting coarser and coarser, like his lungs were coated with a thick mud. Her heart bled for him, yet she could not help but spur him on, afraid of what the full might of the sun might bring.

She pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and at some point Sally would wake up, her breath just as short as her brutalized steed's, back in the world she had left behind for sleep.

Those first few moments after the dream always found her a little off-center, but it happened often enough that she had trained herself to relax. She remembered that she was Sally Stillwell, that she was safe and sound in this little town of Grant's Hope, that she was going to treat herself to some flapjacks and cornbread for breakfast, and then she was going to open the saloon that good old Horace had entrusted to her, the one people were a little quick to call "Sweet Sally's" instead of "Golden Rock" after his passing. This was her life, or at least it was close enough to the life that Sam had wanted for her. She was going to do her damndest to enjoy it.

That dream had always haunted her. She figured it would haunt her again. She ignored the fact that this one somehow felt more vivid than usual. And though she was as scared of it as ever, the little peeks of sunrise over the horizon behind her didn't burn the way they used to, and she seemed more aware of the futility of her vague goal in this version of the dream.

Looking back, she concluded sometime after the events of the week, maybe this was something like an omen, the precursor to a destiny that began to unspool the second she laid eyes on her.

I. - Squaw

Northern Arizona, 1882

The first thing Sally thought when the stranger entered Golden Rock was how queer it was for someone to come in mere minutes after she opened her doors. Even degenerates like Jake had enough shame to wait until just before noon.

When she first saw the silhouette, it was in mere glimpses between wipes of her bar. She made out the basic shape on her first glance: Stetson hat, shirt and trousers, iron holstered on either side, boots with spurs that jangled ominously with every step. On Sally's next glance, the door had shut, offering a clearer look at her mysterious new customer: Dressed mostly in black, arctic blue work shirt under the vest. Hat pulled just over the eyes. Long raven hair, bronze native skin—the regulars were going to love that. Most interesting, though, was a subtle but telling bulge of her chest. Sally respected a woman who chose to dress in men's clothes; she would too, if the low-cut dress she usually wore didn't motivate her customers to spend more coin. Other than that, the stranger's presence was unnerving.

It didn't help when she sat down at the bar and asked for "Water." Asking for water at Golden Rock was like asking for horse feed at dinner.

"Gonna need a minute," said Sally, grabbing a glass. "Pump's out back."

"Fill a bucket," said the stranger. "Water's all I plan to drink." She spoke English like it was her first language; the slight rumble in her otherwise light voice suggested refinement might have been her fifth or sixth. As a little girl, Sally was taught to detest such women, for they were not proper ladies; now grown, Sally could only admire them for the same reason.

"Whatever you say, Miss." Sally put the glass in front of her customer and went out back, returning a few minutes later lugging a full bucket of water. Once she set the bucket down behind the bar, the blonde thought she saw concern on the stranger's face. But she quickly returned her gaze to her empty glass, which Sally quickly ladled water into. In response, the stranger pulled out a poke that looked heavy with coin.

"Water's free here," said Sally.

"I'll be here a while," said the stranger, "taking up valuable bar space. You sure you don't want to get paid for the trouble?"

"You're an Indian woman dressed like a white man, drinkin' water in a saloon," said Sally. "I reckon the trouble's yours."

The stranger reached out with a nimble hand and took a generous sip of her troublesome water. Her sleeve pulled back, revealing a prominent and quite pretty bracelet made of simple rope.

"So why court it, anyway?" Sally asked. "What brings you here?"

The stranger gulped her water with a little sigh of refreshment. "Looking for your sheriff," she said.

"You got business with him?" Sally asked, cautious, remembering her dream.

"Nothing you need to worry about."

After a few moments longer than normal, Sally said, "Well, he 'n a couple deputies are headed to Drake Hill to turn in one a' the Van Patten boys."

"Good for him." She didn't seem all that impressed.

"Yeah, well, you're lookin' at another week 'til he gets back, easy." After another little while and a twinge of her gut, she added, "If you're here for a bounty, Charlie Sykes was left in charge. He's good people, he'll get you set up."

"That won't be necessary," she said.

"Well...there are easier places to wait for Sheriff Garrick. The crowd I bring in tends to prefer a paler disposition, if you catch my drift."

The warning seemed to hit the stranger like a gnat to the face. "I'm told from people familiar with this town that the Sheriff's here more often than his office."

This business with the sheriff was starting to sound less and less like a legal matter to Sally. "Wouldn't go that far, but when he's here he tends to stay the whole day," she admitted. "And I reckon this'll be his first stop when he gets back."

The stranger nodded her acknowledgement. "Do you have any rooms?"

"In the sense that they exist," said Sally. "You can rent one out, but they're mostly for the fellas who need to sleep off their drink or their beatin', or need some quality time with a less-than-quality woman. You can probably find more comfortable quarters at the inn down the street; far as Ben Dressen is concerned, your money'll spend like everyone else's."

"You're saying my money's no good here?"

"Your money's money, far's I care. I ain't never had a problem with a native in my life. I'm sayin' my customers have a say whether I want them to or not; we already been over the problem there."

"Right," said the stranger. "Let me worry about that."

Sally cocked her head. This wasn't the first time some tall drink of water walked in and started talking the talk; this was damn sure the first time she'd seen a native girl talking it, though. "Your funeral," said Sally. "It's a dollar a night."

The stranger dropped a gold eagle on the bar and scooched it in Sally's direction.

She looked at the ten dollar piece, unsure how to feel. She looked to the stranger for a cue, but only got an affirmative glance from under her Stetson's brim. "How 'bout you just pay as you go?" Sally finally said.

The stranger shrugged. "Rather not be bothered."

"Well," said Sally, taking the coin and pulling out her book, "can I at least have a name for the register?"

The stranger took a gulp of water to think it over. She said, "White people just call me Wind."

"Well, then," said the barkeep, extending her hand with a big smile. "All people call me Sally."

Wind declined the hand, instead taking another pull of her water.

Sally brushed off the rejection and wrote Wind's name in the register. "I'll put you in room one," she said. "Right in front of the stairs." Sally motioned to a balcony above the bar with five doors all in a row. "Ain't got baths here I'm afraid, but there's a bath house down the road headed left if you need freshenin' up."

"Works for me," said Wind. "Thanks."

"Sure." Sally didn't quite know what to say. Her usual line was "Enjoy your stay," but it somehow felt wrong for someone so obviously courting death. What were the right words to a native woman dressed in a white man's clothes sitting in a white man's place? Would she even be alive long enough to begin her stay?

Sally went back to her bar prep; she still had a little time before the degenerates started walking in. While she restocked her liquor, she would steal occasional glances at the native hunched over the bar with her water. At certain angles, Wind could easily pass for a man with long hair. In those angles, however, Sally would still see brief glimpses of femininity; small lips, high cheekbones and—not often, but sometimes—her sharp eyes would soften into an aimless stare that would momentarily enrapture the barmaid.

Sally sounded the name out repeatedly in her mind: Wind. A strange name, strange at first because no one else Sally ever knew was named Wind, strange after because the more she thought about it, the more it seemed to fit, even though it shouldn't have fit anyone.

Wind. Such a pretty name for such a dark personality. Such a dark personality for someone so pretty.

* * * * *

Jake Russell, a tall, aging man with an oddly respectful air for a guy widely thought of as the town drunk, was the first customer of the day as always. So of course, he was the first to notice that something was off in his favorite watering hole.

It took him a few minutes while he and Sally acted out the regular routine: He walked in and greeted his favorite barmaid with his usual "Sweet Sally Stillwell!" He sat in his favorite seat, a few away from the stranger in black, ordered his bourbon, and made his usual lewd but toothless comment about Sally's large tits; in this case, "You know, Sally, it's downright cruel keep those girls of yours cooped up in that dress for as long as you have!"

To which Sally would say "Gee, Jake, it's the damnedest thing: I was just about to set 'em free, but then they saw you walk in an' got stage fright!"

And they both laughed because Jake knew he was being a dog and Sally knew he'd be the first to defend her from the wolves.

Of course, to another woman this would obviously seem rude all the same, and Wind couldn't help but glance at the two of them, bemused. Sally looked back with an easy smile and a soft nod, assuring Wind that everything was fine. On the other hand, Jake, following his favorite barmaid's lead, glanced back long enough to discern what was wrong with the picture and not a second longer.

"Er, Sally?" Jake asked in a hush. "You know that there's a squaw sitting at your bar, right?"

"Yep," Sally acknowledged.

"...You gonna do somethin' 'bout that?"


This answer confused Jake. "Y'know, we had some bad dustups in here before, but that lady's gonna die horrible if she don't git."

"Well," she whispered extra low, "she came in here, she's drinkin' only water, she's wearin' all black and twin irons, and she's askin' for Sheriff Garrick like she means to remove 'im from office. You wanna try seein' her out?"

"She's after Garrick? You serious?"

"Why don't you ask?"

Big Jake turned to Wind and took her in, presumably running through various plans of attack in his head. Wind looked back, her plan clearly in place.

"Piss on that," Jake finally said, "I didn't stay alive 52 years by messin' with crazy. I tell you, though, Roger's gonna lose his mind when he sees this shit."

"Or Dan," said Sally. "Or Matt. Or Blindside Bob. Or Harry. Or the next person who walks through that door." Sally ran her hands through her curly, bright blonde hair. "You think Horace woulda kicked her out?"

"Probably," said Jake. He looked up to Sally, connecting with her eyes. "Then again," he added, "Horace always did like strays. And whatever else she might be, I am damn sure that woman is a stray. Still, I don't know if he'd look out for her the way he looked out for you."

Sally chewed on her lip. She sighed. She got herself a glass and poured her own fifth of bourbon. "Let's be honest; nobody looks out for anybody the way he did me," she said, before raising her glass in a toast: "To Horace."

"Sure hope he's on the other side," said Big Jake, clinking his glass with hers and drinking his drink alongside her. Sally shook off the sudden burn in her chest, prompting Jake to smile. "I should talk about old Horace more often. A few more of those in a row and I might finally see the goods."

"Ooh, I oughta be careful," said Sally in a mock coo. "Wouldn't wanna drink so much I take you out back and show you our food stock." Jake laughed his big-hearted laugh.

From the corner of her eye, Sally could see Wind watching them banter from the corner of her own eye, and made no attempt to dissuade her. The native wasn't watching with concern this time; however detached she tried to seem, it was obvious that the two of them had sparked Wind's interest.

Sally was mostly sure it didn't affect her at all, but she couldn't help but wonder what was so interesting to the stranger.

* * * * *

The regulars trickled in. Wind kept a low profile, nursing her water, and for the most part, people didn't notice. They drank their drinks, played their cards, lived their lives. Those that did notice—some were bound to notice—were filled with a sense of disquiet, the feeling of the refuge they sought being lost. But they said nothing; sometimes a person acts so boldly against you that all you can do is watch and wait for someone else to act. People grumbled. They cursed under their breath. They talked amongst themselves of bending the redskin bitch over the bar and teaching her a lesson. But they didn't act.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before someone did.

He was practically a kid; no scars, no stubble, his clothes maybe a little big on him. He'd been around a few times before—Sally remembered when he introduced himself as Will Steedle, as in "Y'all are gonna know the name Will Steedle one day!" The first time he visited, he asked Sally how much it was for a night with her, and when she made it clear that she owned this establishment, he wondered out loud how that was possible. When the other regulars started looking at him funny, as if they were curious if he could talk such trash without any teeth, he backed down.

That was Sweet Sally, though. Grant's Hope loved her too much to let some stuck-up kid run his mouth at her. A squaw dressed like a cowboy, on the other hand, would be a way easier target.

Will came in just after sundown. He sat next to Wind, ordered his drink, slammed it down his gullet, ordered another one. He didn't really notice her at first; she wasn't acting in a way that was noticeable. But Will was sitting close enough that when he happened to look her way, he instantly recognized that particular thing was not like the others. After a few moments, his young man's swagger allowed him to state the unstated.

"Squaw," he said, staring a hole through her.

For the first time that day, after six hours of unflappably nursing her water with free refills while drunken arguments and fist fights roiled around her, Wind was inclined to turn her head. She offered no response except for a glare that could freeze the liquor on the kid's breath.

"You know you could get strung up for sitting in this bar."

Wind sipped her water, not breaking eye contact. "I was told this place was dangerous."

"So what are you doing here?"

"Waiting for someone," she said.

"Who might that be? Man of your dreams, rescuing you from the other savages?"

Sally happened to walk past around that line and instantly forgot whatever she meant to do at that moment. She saw Wind nod, but it seemed more to herself than to Will, an acknowledgement of what she was dealing with. Sally could feel the air slowly start to turn, the way it always did when violence was being primed. Her heart started to rev up in anticipation.

"Not quite," said Wind. "I fail to see why you need to know, though."

"Fair enough," said Will. "Why not wait with me down the street? I'm renting a nice room at the inn while I take care of some business in town. I can make you real comfortable, depending on what kind of talents you have."

"I'll pass," said Wind. "Thanks."

"You sure about that? 'Cause I could go get the sheriff and see what he thinks about this."

"Please do."

Will was incredulous. "Honey," he said, "do you know how many of these fine gentlemen lost someone they knew to your kind?" Indeed, the crowd was getting the sense that trouble was brewing with this interloper; they were looking to the bar, silently cheering on the kid for being their voice, helping them to take back Sweet Sally's from this savage. "I guarantee you, the sheriff's not gonna give a God-given-damn that you're a squaw; you'll be swinging by the neck come daybreak tomorrow, like any other redskin." Will stood up, leaning in towards Wind. "Do you know what happens to a pretty young face when it hangs by the neck?" She had no answer, not even an acknowledgement of the question. Not even as he dragged his thin fingers down her smooth cheek. "Believe it or not," he said, "it don't look so pretty afterwards."

Wind nodded, this time in decision rather than acknowledgment. "What's your name, stranger?"

He leaned back, straightened out his shirt, flashed Wind his brightest smile. "Will Steedle," he said. "You may not know my name yet, but you will."

"Okay, Will," said Wind. "Do you understand the concept of debt?"

"...Excuse me?"

"It's like this," she said. "You go through life, you act certain ways, and based on how you act and how you're acted on, you either owe people or you are owed." Wind took a sip of water. "You lay your goddamn filthy hand on me one more time, you'll owe me one bit for the lead I'll drill into your torso. Understood?"

A chorus of hoots and hollers went up from the saloon, along with some drunken challenges to not let the "squaw" talk to the kid like that.

Will accepted the challenge. "You're gonna look real funny threatening me like that with my pecker in your mouth."

"Not as funny as you'll look when I spit it onto the floor."

Will backhanded her; Wind's head turned. Wind smacked him back; Will staggered backwards. Will drew his gun.

Nobody remembered it actually happening, like their minds had cut it out because they just couldn't process the visual. One moment, the kid had cleared his holster. Then there was a series of terrible blasts that shattered the air. Suddenly, he was stiff on the ground, groaning with whatever breath hadn't escaped out of the three holes blown into his chest and stomach.

The saloon went silent after a thick, collective gasp, the customers backing as far away from the scene as possible while still being able to look. Wind, looking like she burned more energy brushing errant dirt off her shoulder, knelt over Will, remaining just clear of the crimson life draining from his body. She pulled his poke out from his vest pocket, removing exactly one bit before replacing it. She then stood up, looking down at this frontier legend in the making.

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