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A Little Fall of Rain

Title: A Little Fall Of Rain
Fandom: Missouri Breaks/One-Eyed Jacks. The first is a Western that contains my favorite Brando performance of all time: that of a psychotic, cross-dressing, lying killer with horrific fashion sense and a habit of ping-ponging between accents. (Seriously. It's awe-inspiring. And friggin' hilarious.) The second is the first and last project directed by Brando, another Western wherein he plays a guy named Rio who mumbles a lot (seriously, could not understand a word he said. Because there wasn't any other director to go, "SPEAK UP, MARLON!") and seduces the daughter of his betrayer, who once was his best friend. For some reason I decided that, in some universe, they were related. This is the result.
Rating: PG-13, for some violence.
Pairing/Characters: Robert Lee Clayton, Rio, Hank the OC jailer
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I am now the proud owner of a bare-bones Missouri Breaks DVD.
A/N:Post One-Eyed Jacks, pre Missouri Breaks. The timing’s a little off, but not by much. And in the end, most Westerns seem like they’re happening right around the same time anyway, don’t they?

A Little Fall of Rain

The condemned man was whistling, the tune calling a metallic hum echoing from the bars. It wasn’t that it was unusual for there to be whistling going on in the jail; it was just more normally the prerogative of the jailer. The jailer was a sweet-faced, slight, vindictive man with a firm grasp on his freedom. The condemned was none of these.

The wooden cot creaked as he shifted his bulk on it, adjusting his flowered shirt and checking to see the buttons were all in order. Not that it mattered, with no company coming. Not till tomorrow, anyhow.

He returned to whistling, cheerily. Oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’ Clementine, you are lost and gone forever—

He blew so hard his cheeks cracked.

The jailer kicked at the bars, at last, eyebrows fierce. “Cut out that racket, Clayton.”

“Oh, I am sorry,” said the condemned, in a lilting Irish sing-song that seemed calculated to annoy. “Am I o’erstepping my bounds? Sure, and I understand your own darlin’ Clem has left you for some time now. Tell me, how are the kiddies dealin’ with such a turn-up? Keeping the dishes washed, are they?”

His eyes, deep set and an undetermined murky color, fell to where the jailer was fingering his gun. He considered for a moment.

“I’ll just be quiet for a time, then. Suspect I’m disturbin’ the other prisoners. Oh—” he snapped his fingers, scratched at his ear. “That’s right. There ain’t no other prisoners. Tell me, Hank, do you figure on gettin’ any bodies in here tonight? It’s not that I get lonely, much, when I’ve got my own lovely company and that o’ yerself; but I do suffer from the cold, and ye took my coat. If we crowded this jail cell up a little bit, it might be warmer. Now, I’m not suggestin’ ye go out and accost innocent passers-by on the way home for dinner, but surely ye can’t be so hard up as to criminals in this town?”

Hank considered for a moment, still fondling the butt of his gun, and gave Clayton an unpleasant smile.

“Talk about oversteppin’ your bounds,” he said agreeably.

“I did, at that,” said Clayton.

“Normally we wouldn’t put a regulator in prison, much less schedule ‘im for a hangin’. Normally we’d get a follow-up from the rancher what hired the guy. Now, if a regulator’s just doin’ his job, who can blame him for that?”

“Apart from maybe a few corpses,” suggested Clayton with a sour smile, pressing his face against the bars.

“Apart from that. I ain’t disagreein’ with you.”

“Well, that’s mighty kind o’ ye.”

“But we heard you gone maverick. You don’t work for nobody, no more. That makes you a killer, right enough. And the law’s got no protection for killers, not this year.”

Clayton sagged against the bars and sighed, face turning pensive. “Ach, it’s a pity, sure, that I didn’t pick my times a little more carefully. But they change so swiftly, ye see. Gone in the blink of an iron.”

“And the fact is,” Hank went on, ignoring him, “I do have plans on crowdin’ up these cells a little bit. Fact is, I’ve got a li’l present for you, Clayton. And from here—” He went to the window, looked out and developed a bad case of triumph. “From here, looks like they’re bringin’ him in right now.”

The man that climbed the stairs to the jail cells was an inch or two taller than Clayton, thirty pounds lighter, ten years younger. His lank hair was tied back out of his face but falling loose; he lifted one shoulder to nudge a strand out of the way, as his hands here bound. Once up the stairs he stood for a moment and regarded the situation with gravity.

Then he said, “Hello, Robert Lee.”

Clayton’s hands on the bars twitched convulsively, and he lifted one to pat at his face.

“I seem to feel a headache comin’ on,” he said, vaguely.

The younger man was shoved unceremoniously into the adjacent cell from Clayton’s own, and he stood and gripped the bars and looked out on the room. His face was full of a banked-down fire, lazy hatred and slow-burning anger. His lips moved, almost as though he were praying, or cursing, but nothing could much be heard.

Hank looked from one to the other, and laughed.

“Clearly, ye don’t get much entertainment in this job, in this town,” sighed Clayton, still dabbing with one finger at the side of his jaw. “What is it that yer aimin’ at, Hank?”

“Ain’t aimin’ at nothin’, Clayton. Fact is, you and yer man Rio here are both due to die, come dawn. Seems fittin’, don’t it? Sharin’ a gallows?”

Clayton eyed Rio; Rio eyed Clayton right back.

“Not so much fittin’ as ill-starred,” Clayton said, “if ye want my honest opinion.”

Hank grinned at him, and nudged the deputy to go on ahead of him downstairs. “Tell you what, Clayton. You two get along so well, I’m gonna trust you. See this here gun?” He waved it around a little, a man unafraid of triggers, and took out all but one of the bullets. “Just the one left, see. We wouldn’t want a massacre on our hands, not when we’re gonna have a hangin’ tomorrow one way or another. But Rio here is a dab hand at escapin’, somehow. And you, Clayton, I hear you got enough brains and deviousness for a band of horses with a snake or two left over, no matter that it don’t exactly show. So I’m gonna put this baby right here—”

Right here was halfway between the cells, a good seven or eight feet away. The gun shone enticingly in the fading sunlight. Two pairs of eyes fixed on it; Clayton’s murky eyes greedy, calculating. Rio’s seemed almost dead, as though the gun itself didn’t matter, as though he could wrest the bullet from it by sheer willpower. His eyes were green.

“You boys play nice, now,” said Hank, and followed his deputy down the stairs.

In the ensuing silence, Clayton’s series of sighs was more like heavy breathing; he twisted his sweaty fingers on the bars and produced a few squeaks from the metal.

“So,” he said, jovially, “how is your mother?”

Rio moved across the cell, step step step, and seated himself on the cot with a world-weary sigh. “Why’d you have to go and do it, Robert Lee?”

“Do— what’s this, now?”

Rio mumbled something, rubbing a hand over his downturned head.

“Speak up, now,” snapped Clayton. “I can’t hear ye if ye mutter like that.”

“Laird,” and Rio raised his head at last. “Henry Laird. You killed him. You didn’t need to, but you did. Took your gun and you shot him down.”

“Laddie,” said Clayton, regaining his good mood immediately, “I’m by way of bein’ what they call a regulator. I don’t know if ye realized—”

“You’re a no-good murderin’—”

“And the job of a regulator is to regulate.”

“—just like you always been—”

“It irks me,” Clayton went on, lifting his broad shoulders in a delicate shudder, “that out there are people that take things what don’t belong to them by rights. Goes against the grain, if you will. Now, it’s not that I relish shootin’ a man in cold blood— generally. But if a man wants death, I’ll not deny him.”

“Henry Laird was a chicken farmer. He wanted chickens.”

Clayton considered for a moment, then shrugged. “Sometimes, it’s all the same. As I often say to me Aunt Mabel—”

“You leave my mother out of it,” said Rio.

Clayton raised both hands, palms out— I give up. “Be that as it may. I was only doin’ my job. And as Hank so learnedly swore, ye cannot blame a man for doin’ his job, no matter who ye are.”

The glare that Rio gave him seemed to indicate otherwise; his lips moved, silently again, but Clayton didn’t ask him to repeat it, this time. Instead he shifted, leaned one shoulder on the bars, and clasped his hands in front of him.

“How’s the baby?” he inquired, artlessly. Rio stared at him, and Clayton fixed his gaze into the middle distance, raising one hand to pluck at the third button on his shirt. “I wish they would give me back me coat.”

Rio smoothed back his wayward hair with the edge of his pointer finger, considering his words carefully.

“Fine,” he said at last. “Don’t ask me that again.”

“I was only makin’ conversation.”

“Don’t ask me again.”

“Ye can’t be angry at me for—”

“Just don’t.”

“Fine, fine, fine,” said Clayton at last, and yawned hugely. “How’s the little woman, then?”

“That’s it,” said Rio, almost soundlessly, slurring his words together till it sounded like a curse. Clayton blinked. Rio was on the move already, industriously stripping his cot of the worn horse blanket and using a spur to start the tear. He ripped it up the length of the ragged wool and tied the ends together till it formed a noose.

“So that’s how ye got out,” said Clayton, watching him with fascination evident on his weathered face.

It took a few tries, but Rio was a patient man when he had to be. The wool looped around the gun at last, and he sent it skittering towards the cells. Clayton was on his knees in the corner immediately, moving deceptively fast for a man his size, ringed fingers reaching, grasping. But Rio played the loop like a lasso, tugging the pistol tauntingly past his cellmate till he himself could reach and grasp with his left hand.

Clayton stood up slowly; Rio was breathing harder than the exercise warranted.

“Suppose it’s been a while since ye held a man at gunpoint,” Clayton mused. “After all, ye seemed to be doin’ well as a chicken farmer.”

“I told you,” said Rio. “Not to talk about my family.” He used both hands to get the gun arranged just as he wanted it, and pointed it very carefully.

“But I am yer family,” wheedled Clayton.

“Not,” said Rio quietly, “so’s you’d notice.”

“Oh-ho,” said Clayton then, countenance devolving into a closed-mouthed smile, dimples appearing haphazardly, accent dissipating. “Can you even shoot that pistola, Rio? Can you really? From what I heard, your hand was all smashed to hell a year back. How much good does training do? Just enough to shoot at the granddaddy of your baby boy?”

“Just enough to hit what I aim at,” said Rio, and put a bullet in his shoulder.

The bigger man took it surprisingly well; it wasn’t, after all, the first time he’d been shot at, or even shot. He lurched backwards a step or two, blinked in surprise, and subsided onto his cot. It was a flesh wound; for someone Clayton’s size, it was a ten to one chance, anyway. He put his hand over it, looked down, watched the blood appear in rosy stains amidst the flowers on his shirt.

“Well, now ye’ve made yerself feel better,” he said, somewhat irritably, the accent appearing again as if by magic. “I don’t suppose we could apply ourselves to the bigger issue at hand, like getting out of here?”

Rio examined the gun, holding it with the crooked fingers of his right hand and checking for bullets. None.

“I shouldn’t have shot you.”

“I should say not,” said Clayton, indignantly.

“I should have saved the bullet for Hank, then shot you after we got out. But it doesn’t matter. I can—” He glanced up and pulled in a whistling breath, let it out slowly. “I’ll talk my way out, if I have to.”

“You couldn’t talk yer way out of a puddle of egg yolk,” Clayton told him, lurching up off the cot.

There were no bullets; Rio threw the gun at him. His aim with throwing was less sure than with shooting. Clayton caught it easily, set it down on the cot, and put his hand down his trousers.

“I wish they’d left me coat,” he muttered. “This would be a lot easier if I had me coat.”

“What—” said Rio.

“If they’d left me coat, I’d just get them out of the lining. Pure and simple. As it is, however—” Both hands down the trousers now, and Clayton grunted at the pain in his shoulder. “More difficult like this. But as I always said to me Aunt Mabel—”

“I told you,” said Rio, fiery again.

Clayton turned his eyes toward the ceiling, and grinned a hangman’s grin. His hands emerged with three bullets in each one. “Nothin’,” he informed Rio, “is impossible.”

When Hank returned it was to find Rio sitting on his hands on the cot, head down; and Clayton with the gun next to him, one hand clasped over his arm, and blood seeping through his fingers.

“I have a toothache,” Clayton announced. Hank looked over to Rio, who gave a slight shrug without looking up. When Hank glanced back to Clayton, he met the gaze of the pistol first. The jailer laughed.

“Nice try. But I’ve already heard about Rio’s exploits. There’s no use tryin’ that with me, here. I know the gun’s empty.”

“Exploits,” repeated Clayton, moving to the bars. “Such a fancy word for a town like this.”

Rio muttered something that sounded a lot like, “—readin’ the dictionary.”

“All good things must come to an end,” said Clayton, and put a bullet in the wooden floor at Hank’s feet. He waved the gun carelessly at the jailer. “F’rinstance, right now I’d put the word aghast to the look on yer face. Flabbergasted might also apply. Astounded.”

“Bedazzled,” said Rio.

“Sounds too much like a county fair,” said Clayton. “If ye’ll kindly let me out, Hank? I won’t tell yer mother.” He leaned close to the bars and whispered. “I promise.”

The keys jangled in the jailer’s hands, in the iron lock; as Clayton stepped majestically out of the cell, he held out his blood-stained hand for the keys. “Many thanks. Have a seat, Hank.”

The jailer subsided onto the chair at the wooden table, white-faced and nervous. “I was almost gonna let you out anyway, Clayton.”

“That a fact? Why, man?”

“Got a letter.” He nodded to the folded paper on the table. “Feller named Braxton is having rustlin’ problems. Got a horse ranch, keeps losin’ his horses every time he turns around. Wants to hire himself a good regulator. Somebody told him you were the best.”

“Hmm,” said Clayton, a hint of a pleased smile playing around his lips. “Somebody wasn’t lyin’, now, neither.”

“I swear, Clayton, I swear to you.” Hank eyed the pistol as though it were a snake. “I was on the verge of lettin’ you go free. Lettin’ you get on your way.”

“That so, Hank?” said Rio.

“That’s so, right enough,” said Hank, more fervent now. He’d been much more comfortable when there had been bars between himself and the regulator; Clayton had a reputation. “So how’s about we make a deal? How’s about I let you go free instead of escapin’ and having a tarnish on your good name, and, and— and you don’t shoot me ‘cause you don’t like my face?”

Clayton, who seemed to have forgotten about his bleeding arm in favor of his aching tooth, stood thoughtful for a moment, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “Let me go?” he said at last. “Set me free? No tarnish on me good name?”

“All that,” said Hank.

“All that,” snorted Rio, and put his head back down.

“Hmm,” said Clayton, and shook his head. “Not nearly so fun, though, is it? Ach, well. Into every life, a little rain must fall. And it’s true what you say, Hank—”

Aghast, flabbergasted, astounded, terrified. Hank was all of these.

“I don’t like yer face,” said Clayton, and brought his bullet count down by one. The shot echoed around the tiny room, and Clayton shushed the pistol carefully, as though putting it to sleep, before he stuck it in his belt.

“Robert Lee,” said Rio, into the quiet.

“Hmm?” said Clayton.

“Where are you gonna go now, Robert Lee?”

Clayton picked up the letter from the horse rancher. “David Braxton,” he murmured in his sing-song lilt, skimming over the words. “Needs a helpin’ hand. The poor dear man. Does not know what to do, in his darkest hour turns to Robert E. Lee Clayton. The third. Esquire. North of Missouri, he says, somewhere around the Breaks.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I have never been there.”

“What about letting me out?” said Rio. Clayton folded the letter thrice and put it in his pocket before turning to him.

“And miss the fun and excitement of a hanging?” he inquired, gently. “The townspeople will riot. Think of all that picnic food goin’ to waste. Fried chicken. Sandwiches. Oh.” He put a hand on his stomach. “It must be suppertime. Listen to the little darlin’.”

“You’re going to let kinfolk swing while you walk out a free man?” said Rio.

“I try never to mention me family,” Clayton told his booted feet, frowning slightly. “After all, as a regulator I’m something of a black sheep. The rest of them are chicken rustlers.”

He moved towards the door.

“You’d better hide, Robert Lee,” said Rio, knuckles white, still gripping the bars of his cell as though he were death himself. “You’d better keep yourself low. I’m gonna get out of here, somehow, and when I do—”

“I’m warned,” Clayton assured him, and walked on. Somewhere, his horse and the donkey were waiting. The little darlin’s. His stomach growled. The little darlin’. His cousin swore. The little—

He tossed the keys over his shoulder, and they skittered across the wooden floor and clanged into the bars of the cell.

Clayton, cheerful and pleased with himself, began to sing.

Oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’ Clementine—

From behind came a mild shout of triumph; but it couldn’t be Rio, Clayton reasoned. Rio never had been all that good with keys, after all.

You are lost and gone forever—”

Missouri, then.

“— and her shoes were number niiiiiine—”

East, to another man’s horizon.



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