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Trinity

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Goodnight Robicheaux had rode into Las Mesas, Texas late one afternoon in 1867. He’d been gone from home for just over a year at that point, and he had been making his way nicely by taking high-priced bounties. Point of fact, he was on the trail of one right now for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and a hundred dollars would not only suit him nicely out here but would be pleasant to send back home.

True, Maman T and Maman Essie and Daddy didn’t really need the money, but he liked to let them know he was doing well for himself by sending back a little of his earnings.

And this Billy Rocks person sounded to be an interesting quarry.

Goodnight reined in Adelaide, patting the sweet bay mare on the neck as she slowed to a walk then stopped in front of the saloon. He climbed down from the horse and rubbed her nose before tying her reins to the hitch.

“I won’t be too long, sweet girl,” he told the mare, who nickered at him and nosed his pocket for the bit of dried apple she knew was there. Goodnight chuckled and gave her the treat before turning and walking up the steps to pass through the bat-wing doors…

…and came up short at the sight of an Asian man knocking a giant bear of a human being flat out on the floor.

A quick look around revealed more big ol’ Texans on the ground, a couple of them getting up and making another go at the petite son of a bitch in the middle of the room, only to have their asses soundly handed to them a second time.

“Goddamn you, stay down!” the Asian growled when he knocked a third man down for likely the second time, and just like that, Goodnight knew he was in trouble.

Because when he had turned, the man doing the ass-kicking was revealed to be the very same one he was tracking down.

Goodnight, he mused to himself, still watching the show in awe, this is not a man to arrest. This… this is a man to befriend.

When it finally looked like the Texans were done trying to fight Mister Rocks, the man himself breathing hard in the center of the room as he bent to pick up his hat — and the gentleman was definitely a sharp-dressed fellow — Goodnight cleared his throat. His former quarry stopped dead still, head whipping around to focus sharp, deep brown eyes on him.

And oh dear.

Their eyes locked almost immediately, and Goodnight realized he was in even more trouble than he’d initially realized, because he was pretty goddamn certain that this was what Maman Essie had meant when she said she knew from the first that she and Maman T were meant to be together.

He honestly felt like he hadn’t even really been alive until he made eye contact with Billy Rocks, and from the expression of shock and awe on the other’s face, the feeling was plenty mutual.

Rather than keep staring like the lovestruck fool he was, Goodnight schooled his expression into a pleased smile. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Billy, ain’t it?”

“It is,” the other answered, and his voice was smooth as silk, and he wanted to hear it say his name every day for the rest of his life. “You have me at a disadvantage. You would be…?”

And there was his cue. “Goodnight’s the name,” he replied easily, his own smile brightening at the tiny one that slipped across Billy’s face. “And I do believe we could become very good friends.”

“‘S that what white men call it?” Billy asked, obviously amused by this new person in his life, but pleased as anything to have met him. “My parents called it teulio… but never just with two.”

Goodnight chuckled. “Well, we call it something similar, mon cher, but it took my mommas ‘bout a year or two ‘fore my daddy found ‘em, so sometimes just pairing off for a spell ain’t a bad thing.” He grinned again and offered, “So, shall we pair off, see how long it takes ‘em?”

Billy gave a sharp, amused grin and bent to retrieve a long knife from the floor, sheathing it before stepping over one of the men he’d laid out on the floor. “I see no problem with that. I need to go steal my horse back, though. Someone,” and here he kicked at a different man on the floor, “snagged her and took her to the livery while I was trying to buy a drink.”

The older man laughed brightly. “I think we can do one better and just buy her back,” he offered. “Keep things on the level.”

Goodnight Robicheaux rode out of Las Mesas, Texas early one evening in 1867. He was accompanied by the first member of his triad, Billy Rocks of Sacramento, California.

It would be twelve years before they met their third.

Chapter Text

To say that the Robicheaux family was familiar with scandal was like saying the sky was a mite bit blue.

The matriarch of the family was Arthémie Robicheaux, and it was her name that her triad shared. She’d been a well-born Creole, with a well-to-do maman and a daddy who was not only society but also a soldier. Her other mama, however, was Cajun through and through. And Momma didn’t raise a fool-headed child.

From Maman, she had learned poise and grace. From Daddy, she’d learned how to weather society life by standing tall and letting words roll off her back. But Momma… Momma had taught her how to cuss like a sailor who’d been out to sea for months and was just back on dry land. She taught her to question things that “didn’t make no sense on God’s green earth,” and she taught her how to laugh in the face of the same society that would look down on her for having a Cajun mother.

“If’n they knew that I were the one to carry ya, darling,” she would say, “they would look down their noses at’cha. So we ain’t never gonna tell ‘em, are we, ma cher Arthémie?”

So Arthémie did what she wanted within society’s embrace, even as she snorted at how lofty folk seemed to think they were.

That was how she met Sabine Beauvilliers.

Now, Sabine herself was also Creole, through and through. But she wasn’t as high up in society as the Robicheauxs, and that was only due to one teeny insignificant fact: her mother was white Creole, true enough, but her daddy was mulatto, which made her quadroon.

That one of her parents was mixed was enough of a scandal, and folk wondered why her white daddy wasn’t the one to sire her. But the Beauvilliers didn’t much care what society thought, as they were content with their beautiful daughter, and her mother doted upon her more than either of her daddies.

Arthémie was in love nearly from the second their eyes met across the room, Sabine looking utterly done with the conversation going on around her. Soft grey met light hazel and both women were utterly gone on one another.

They had a quiet wedding, just themselves and their families, and opted to remain somewhat respectable by taking the Robicheaux name. They still caused something of a scandal, not looking too hard to find their third, the one who would round out their relationship and make them complete. Both Arthémie and Sabine knew he was out there in the world, waiting for them, but they didn’t think they needed to dedicate their entire lives to tracking him down.

And they were right.

Dempsey Gaudet found them instead.

And, oh, but the scandal that caused! Arthémie had laughed for days.

Because Dempsey wasn’t Creole. Not in the very least. He was one hundred percent Redbone Cajun, and he made no bones about that fact.

Both his mamas had been half-Chitimacha and his daddy had been a quarter that himself, and he had learned to hunt in the swamps from all three of his parents. Hell, he still went hunting with his Ma, his only living parent.

He had only caught sight of Sabine walking down the street while he was in town, selling some furs from the rabbits he’d caught a few days earlier, and he fell for her the second he spotted her. Following her from a distance, he’d watched her greet Arthémie and just knew that he was supposed to be living in that big ol’ house with those women, and he set out to make their acquaintance.

Because he was, as he would delight in telling folk later at the society parties he was grudgingly invited to, just a “dumb ol’ Cajun boy,” Dempsey had seen no problem with walking up to the Mesdames Robicheaux and making his introductions to them.

Luckily for him, Arthémie and Sabine were completely charmed by his boldness.

It wasn’t too long after Dempsey had married into the family, likewise taking on the Robicheaux name and doting upon his wives like any true gentleman would, that Sabine fell pregnant with what would be their only child. And while they were thrilled at the news she was expecting, they did worry some for the child’s chances in life.

His father would be a Redbone, one who could pass for white despite proudly proclaiming his Chitimacha heritage, and his mother would be a quadroon who did not pass for white, not with her soft coffee-and-cream skin that she’d inherited from her own father.

The best they hoped and wished for was that the child would be lighter skinned than Sabine, so they could pass it off as Dempsey’s heritage breeding true. If that were the case, they could easily say that Arthémie had carried their heir, much as her own maman claimed, and no one would be the wiser.

To help with the charade, the Robicheauxs withdrew from society for a short while, citing that Madame Robicheaux was feeling poorly as the babe was not sitting well. And society thankfully bought into it, although if anyone had asked the servants they could have told tell of how Arthémie continued to ride her horse and go out into the swamp on occasion with Dempsey while Sabine sat in the gardens to read or took long walks with her triad as her stomach slowly swelled with their child.

But no one did, and even if they had, the Robicheaux servants were far more loyal to the folk who treated them as part of the family than to gossip mongers.

And then their son, their little Goodnight, was born. Named by Arthémie as was tradition in her family — the mother who didn’t carry the child got to name him or her, it was only fair — after her daddy who’d died at the Alamo, the boy seemed as if he could have been carried by his Maman T after all… because most of his skin was as fair and pink as Arthémie’s own, his eyes the same as Dempsey’s, with the only true sign that Sabine had birthed him a few small, nearly unnoticed patches of skin on his left thigh that were the color of coffee-and-cream.

“What the hell voodoo is this?” Sabine had laughed, utterly delighted even with her shock. “How did I carry a child so obviously yours, mon coeur?”

And so the Robicheaux family, happily familiar with scandal, were able to pass off their son as less than a quarter Redbone with no trace of black Creole to be found. And they lived their lives happily for many years, until war came calling when Goodnight was only just twenty. He wanted to fight without suffering from the draft, and his parents let him go with heavy hearts.

When the damn Yanks came into New Orleans, intent on occupying the city, Arthémie and Sabine and Dempsey had looked at one another for a long minute before packing what they could and fleeing for Lafayette. There they settled, and there they stayed, and there they greeted their beloved son when the war came to an end and he needed his parents.

And when he left again, heading west not even a year later, they knew he would come home as often as he could.

After all, they had found their hearts at home. Goodnight’s hearts were somewhere out there in the world, and he was his Daddy’s son. He was going to find them on his own.

Chapter Text

“Everyone, final bets,” Eddy called, waiting in the corral for the cowhands and passing ranchers to ante up.

Goodnight lounged on the fence itself, back to the post and legs stretched out on the rail. He watched as Billy stood in the middle of the corral, sharply dressed as always even though he still had a few surprises tucked away. It had been nearly a month since they’d last visited Lafayette and his parents’ home, and although he did love to see them, it had been time to go back out into the world.

Maman T had long since begun to lament that their third may have passed on without ever meeting her Goodnight and his Billy, despite Daddy’s reassurance that sometimes it took a bit of doing to find all of a triad. I got damned lucky all o’ us were in New Orleans, he had reminded her once again. I reckon Goody’s are just a bit further afield.

Still, Goodnight and Billy were happy with their lot in life. Plenty of time to travel the west and a safe haven to return to every now and again when they needed to rest without looking over their shoulders. His parents may have paid off Billy’s bounty — and that had, indeed, scandalized the neighbors, that the Robicheaux boy had paired off with a felon — but neither really trusted that some idiot wouldn’t try something just because they were a mixed-race pair rather than part of a triad as yet.

“Arcade,” Eddy said, catching Goodnight’s attention again as he indicated the other opponent. “Billy Rocks. On my gun.”

The half-Creole took a long draw of the opium cigarette in his hand before swigging back some bourbon. His gaze drifted over the assembled men, but his attention sharpened on a younger man leaning on the gate.

He was a tall drink of water, build stocky but not overweight as Arcade was. No, Goodnight was certain that the man was pure muscle, and the fact that he was gritty from the trail was not a deterrent to his attractiveness. He estimated that the man had about a week and a half’s worth of scruff on his chin, and absently he wondered how it’d feel to kiss the other.

The thought was startling, as he hadn’t even thought of seducing another since he and Billy’d met so long ago, even though they didn’t stop hoping to find the rest of their triad. Goodnight shook it off, turning in time for Eddy to fire his gun and for Billy to draw a split-second faster than Arcade. From the corner of his eye, he could see the handsome stranger watching Billy walk over to him and noted absently that his eyes were a striking shade of green.

“Why don’t we do it for real?” Arcade suddenly demanded, and Goodnight could sense Billy turning to give the man the exact same you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me face he was pulling. The stranger at the gate had turned a similar look to the newly doomed man, and Goodnight felt his pulse jump. Could it be possible…?

“Come on, you sap-sucking runt of a man! Double or nothing!”

Well, then. Billy nodded to his partner and turned to return to his position, only to stop briefly before continuing. Goodnight was positive that his cher had spotted the handsome stranger just then and felt that same sharp dig of attraction. But his Billy had more self control — thank God — and took the time to deal with Arcade to prevent future problems.

As Goodnight hopped down from the fence, Billy caught his eye and tilted his head back towards the gate. The Creole nodded in reply before setting about collecting their winnings. He noticed that the stranger was still in the same spot, watching intently as he moved down the line… and Goodnight wasn’t surprised when Arcade’s friend refused to pay up. Chances were good the poor thing was one of the dead fool’s triad and wasn’t going to be thinking clearly for a little while.

“Easy, Goodnight,” said the familiar man standing by the new widower. “He’s drunk. He doesn’t mean it.”

“Mister Robicheaux, sir,” the drunk said, standing abruptly. “Had I known that was your man, I wouldn’t have been so disrespectful.”

Goodnight noticed that the stranger had straightened up, looking both pleased and slightly stunned. “That’s okay, son,” he addressed the man before him. “You just pay me double.”

That problem dealt with, he moved on down the line and managed to not stall at the gate when the stranger called to him by name. He did stop still, however, when he continued:

“Sam Chisolm’s sent us.”

Goodnight turned to face the man, meeting those green eyes he’d noted earlier and feeling his heart jump in his chest. From the way the stranger drew in a sharp breath, he’d felt it too.

Chisolm had gone and sent his other partner to him without realizing it.

Sadly, the conversation had been all business, what with the presence of young Joshua Faraday’s traveling companion Teddy Q… who looked halfway to scandalized upon realizing Goodnight and Billy were pair-bonded rather than part of a full triad as yet. Alternatively, Joshua himself was a delight; his immediate reaction to Goodnight’s story about how he and Billy’d met was to make a joke about killing a man with a hairpin and then not flinching in the face of his cher’s deadpan expression. Rather, the young man had just smiled brightly as if waiting for the punchline, and he had laughed like the sound was punched out of him when it came.

“You make your living off of his alley fights?” Teddy asked after Goodnight had finished the abbreviated version of their first meeting, leaving off the feeling like he’d only just started to live in that moment. Stories of a triad’s bonding, even in part, was a private thing that should only be shared with intimate companions; Teddy Q didn’t count, even if Joshua Faraday would as soon as they could have a private moment.

“Equal shares,” Billy replied. Generally, if asked, he would make some remark about prejudices, but in this case he continued with, “Triads are equal. Everyone knows that.”

Teddy was visibly biting his tongue, although Joshua had a small pleased smile crossing his face. Oh yes, he had indeed felt that bolt from the blue as well, then. Then the youngest of their small cadre spoke up again:

“Mister Chisolm said to come get you, but he didn’t say anything about your… friend over here.”

“He’s coming with.”

That had not been Goodnight, although he’d been about to say something similar. Nope, that had been young Joshua, turning to give the other man a hard look that dared him to argue. After a moment, the boy crumbled with a muttered yes, sir and a faint flush to his skin.

Goodnight turned a smile to both his Billy and young Joshua. “We understand each other,” he remarked. Billy returned the smile with that tiny pleased one he only shared with his partner, and Joshua offered a brilliant grin.

“It’s a day and a half to Junction City,” Joshua remarked, “and we’ve got two days. Normally I’d suggest we do half a day of drinking,” and here Goodnight let out a bark of laughter, because Maman T was going to love this boy, “but I’d rather just talk, if that’s okay with y’all?”

Goodnight grinned. “I like you,” he stated clearly, and he knew for certain that the more true I know I can love you came through clearly as well.

“Teddy,” young Faraday said, tilting his head to the other man, “can you go get us some more whiskey? Thanks, kid.”

Teddy looked a bit put out at being dismissed, but apparently whatever look Billy was giving him got him to moving, and in short order it was just the three of them. Billy dropped his feet from the table and leaned forward even as Joshua did likewise, both men sliding easily into Goodnight’s space.

“Now, then,” the older man said, a warm smile crossing his face, “let’s have that talk, shall we?”

When they rode out of Volcano Springs a few hours before dawn, the new Robicheaux triad appeared to be complete.

Chapter Text

Greeting Sam Chisolm as the old friend he was, Goodnight didn’t expect to find himself slightly… distracted by the other man who was apparently part of their little band. Especially not with his cher Billy and his coeur Joshua clambering off their horses just behind him.

But there he was, a tall rangy-looking Mexican who had likely been sleeping rough for far too long, and with no one to watch his back if the way his hand was hovering over his revolver was any real indication of the matter. The man was handsome in that rugged way that some men could pull off nicely, and a manner that Goodnight had never really been all that interested in… prior to this exact instant.

The Mexican wasn’t making eye contact with anyone, he noted even as he asked if his friend remembered Billy—which he did, judging by his warm smile and the handshake he offered—and Joshua distracted himself with removing the tack from their three horses despite how he should have been staggering about given the amount he'd been drinking on the trail. Rather, the new addition to the group was alert and distrustful, although he seemed to hesitate briefly when his gaze slid over either Billy or Joshua or Goodnight himself.

Never heard of a quad match before, he mused to himself, noting that his partners looked just as confounded as he felt; hell, Joshua was counting on his fingers as if that would change four to three if he worked at it long enough.

And yet, as the stranger’s eyes flitted around at them again and made contact at last with his own, Goodnight felt the same jolt of knowing he’d felt with both Billy and Joshua, and he glanced over his shoulder to give his partners a short nod.

Apparently they were to be four. And his mind was already calculating the logistics and how much fun that was going to be for him.

Goodnight eased his ways through introductions with the widow Emma Cullen, who was apparently also matched with Teddy given the way he gravitated to her, and his presence was thus explained: two young widows who wanted righteous vengeance for their loss, and Goodnight couldn’t blame them. He’d long known that if something happened to Billy, he would burn the world down to avenge him, and even though he’d only just met them—literally for one of them—he knew he would do likewise if harm befell Joshua and the man who Sam had finally informed him was Gabriel Vasquez.

He was definitely going to have to do something about that five hundred dollar bounty. Most likely mention it in short order to his parents and wait for them to buy it out… if he didn’t do it first.

Joshua slipped up on one side of him, Billy on the other, and the younger of the three casually draped an arm over his shoulders. “So,” he asked in a quiet voice, “how the hell are we gonna play this? He’s so… twitchy.”

“Wanted men usually are,” Billy replied dryly, obviously remembering how long he’d spent looking over his shoulder in fear of a bounty hunter showing up for him.

“While my instinct is to just all of us go talk to him,” Goodnight said honestly, “it would be far wiser, I believe, to handle him with care and caution. And Billy and I as a unit are likely too intimidating, especially given my history.”

“That’s true,” Joshua noted. “Suppose I should go say hi, break the ice a little, huh?”

“That was just what I was thinking,” the eldest of their unusual triad replied with a smile that, apparently, Joshua just had to kiss before pulling away to cross the way to where Vasquez was watching them all from the corner of his eye.

“He’s going to be a good addition,” Billy said, slipping behind him with ease and wrapping both arms around his waist. Goodnight hummed an agreement and leaned back into his oldest partner. “The next two days, though, Goody…”

Goodnight huffed an annoyed sigh. Two days’ ride to Rose Creek barring any lengthy delays, and a newly formed triad bond singing for attention. If he somehow didn’t talk the widows Cullen and Sam into going to collect a shit ton of firewood so he could become… better acquainted with his newest mate, then he was like to explode by the time they arrived.

Chapter Text

God damn, but Teddy was so damn confused right now.

Okay, Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks… They made a kind of sense. They were together—and that was fine, because they just hadn't found a third yet. These things could take them. Lord knew it had taken years for him to find his own other parts in Matthew and Emma, only to have their Matthew cruelly ripped away from them both a few years later.

But then he started watching how the pair acted around other people, and he thought, Well, maybe Faraday… And it had seemed pretty damned likely, given how quickly they had sent him away, first for whiskey then with any other excuse they could think of, some more flimsy than others. There had been some heated looks exchanged between the three of them that had made him feel like he was better off somewhere far enough away that sound didn’t travel.

But then Faraday started making moon eyes at that Mexican, Vasquez, the second they met back up with the other part of their group. Those two had retreated to the other side of the camp where Miss Emma was set up and were talking away in hushed tones, thick as thieves already for the fact that they had just met ten minutes ago. And now Teddy was starting to wonder if he was watching two couples form up and tried not to feel too scandalized. This was the frontier, after all. Sometimes anything went out here.

On the other hand, though, both Vasquez and Faraday were still eyeballing Goodnight and Billy like they wanted to eat them alive, though hopefully not in a disturbing way. No, it looked more like the expression he could remember seeing on Emma’s face when she was looking at him and Matthew in their marriage bed, because he couldn’t deny that Matthew had been a particularly gorgeous man. He wasn’t so sure that he would put Goodnight Robicheaux in that same category… but he also wasn’t going to say a damn word, because he didn’t really fancy finding out what the other men’s reaction to that might be. He didn’t want to end up surviving this, whatever this turned out to be, only to end up stabbed to death by Billy Rocks. Or shot to pieces by men like Vasquez or Faraday either.

No, he was going to be careful as to his phrasing, but he was going to have to ask just what the hell was going on here. If they all survived this. Maybe it would sort itself all out before it came down to all that… But that wasn’t looking too likely.

Of course, there wasn’t exactly a lot of doubt as to Goodnight’s and Billy’s thoughts on the matter, not if the muttered conversation he was overhearing was anything to go by. “Which did you want to do first, Goody?” Billy was currently saying. “Ride the vaquero or climb the mountain again?”

“Yes.”

Teddy was certain his brain had just broken. But they were still talking.

“Goody. That wasn’t a yes or no question.”

“Of course not, mon cher. It was an either, or, or both question,” Goodnight decided to explain. “‘Yes’ is both.”

“Clearly you aren’t considering… logistics.”

A quick laugh. “Billy, I ain’t done nothing but consider the… logistics since we left Volcano Springs. I’m reworking them now, adding in a fourth, and if I keep considering them, then I’m gonna need a change of pants.”

And God damn it, there was no escaping this at the moment either. Poor Emma didn’t look to be fairing much better over there, and Chisolm was apparently deaf over where he was checking over all the horses.

“I didn’t need to know that,” Billy said evenly.

“You wanna know.”

“Yes, damn it. I do. Share.”

Please don’t share, was all Teddy could think. Please, dear God, don’t share.

“To be honest with you, cher, I’m thinking quite a lot on what the three of us got up to back in Volcano Springs.”

Oh dear Lord. Teddy didn’t want to know. He did not want to know, but somehow he hadn’t opened his mouth to break into the conversation just yet.

“Which part, Goody?” And now Mister Rocks had slipped impossibly closer to Mister Robicheaux, one hand sliding around the other’s waist and pulling him into his side. Their heads ducked closer together, but he was still close enough to hear their quiet words.

“Mmm, mostly ‘bout how good it felt, taking both a’ you at once,” Mister Robicheaux seemed to be purring, and that was not something Teddy wanted to know about the man. He also didn’t want to know about his sex life, but here he was anyway. “Considering how to add one more, but for the life of me, I can’t quite work it out mentally.”

Mister Rocks made a considering sound, and Teddy wasn’t sure where his hand had vanished to. “Maybe,” he mused, turning his head and speaking against Mister Robicheaux’s ear, “Josh and Vasquez have you first, and I keep your mouth occupied for a little while. Love it when you talk around my cock, especially when—”

“Shouldn’t we be moving on pretty shortly?” Teddy said abruptly. Which earned him four death glares, two from right next to him and two from the other side of the camp. Emma, however, looked incredibly grateful for the interruption to whatever was happening in regards to Faraday and Vasquez.

“I reckon we should,” Chisolm replied, and apparently he wasn’t deaf, just stubborn as all hell. He didn’t even flinch when the glares redirected from Teddy onto himself. “It’s gonna be another two days, and we still have one more stop to make before heading to Rose Creek.”

That, apparently, didn’t make Goodnight happy. “Where the hell else do we need to go?”

“I was thinking to get Jack Horne involved in this.”

Teddy didn’t know who the hell this Jack Horne was, mostly because his entire world had been Emma and Matthew, but apparently the name meant something to Goodnight. Possibly Faraday as well, given the slow blink the man gave Chisolm, but that could have been disbelief at having to take even longer to get to Rose Creek. And Teddy really didn’t want to recall how annoying it had been, waiting to get back to what would be home and complete the process of bonding with his triad, but he also didn’t want to think any on those… logistics Goodnight had been talking about. He really, really didn’t.

Chapter Text

“Are there laws against eating a war hero alive?” Faraday was asking. Emma wondered if he was meaning to keep this conversation between himself and Vasquez or if he was trying to get a rise out of every single person in this little camp, but either way, he was not being particularly quiet. Either way, she was thinking things about Goodnight Robicheaux that she had no real interest in thinking. He was far from her type, thank you very much. He was far too old for her tastes to begin with, but there was no way she was going to say something stupid like that. No, that seemed like a good way to get very dead very quickly… and she wasn’t even certain which one of the men in this group might be the one to do it.

And yes, she was well aware that she had a type. Teddy fit it perfectly. Matthew fit it—no, had fit it—perfectly as well. None of the men that she and her husband were recruiting fit it in the least. Just as well too: Matthew had been one of a kind, and she and Teddy were not looking to move on from his memory any time soon. After all, it had been less than a week since Bogue gunned him down in the street like a dog. She hadn’t even had any interest in comforting their husband since then: all that her mind had been consumed with was vengeance.

But Faraday’s words were painting a pretty impressive picture of things she hadn’t considered in the last week, and it was possible she was starting to reconsider some of those ‘vengeance only’ thoughts.

“I think there are laws for this, guero,” that lasso-using bastard Vasquez chuckled. She still wasn’t quite ready to forgive and forget on that one.

Faraday rolled his eyes so hard that it hurt her just watching it. “I don’t mean it in a creepy way, of course.” Well, that was definitely reassuring, because it had certainly sounded creepy. “I mean the fact that it is possible to drive him so far out of his mind that he forgets every bit of English he has ever learned.”

“You know this already, guerito?”

“Hell, yes, and it is a pretty, pretty thing.” He smirked, and Emma did not like the looks of this. “Billy says that’s when you know you’re doing it right. Or doing Goody right, I guess in this case.”

“Es verdad?” And no, Emma was not going to think about how Vasquez’s voice sounded just that much deeper right now in his native tongue.

Though clearly that was pretty heavily on Faraday’s mind, given how he slid just a little bit nearer to the outlaw and spoke just a bit closer to his ear, even if he certainly didn't much—enough—to lower his volume. “Take a good look at them, babe. You just keep looking at them. Now, looking at Goody, you wouldn't think he's as flexible as he is, but oh, you'd be wrong. The positions you can put that man in and he can hold… It's amazing. Like I said, make him lose his mind enough, and all he can speak is French…”

Oh God, this was more information than she ever wanted. This was more than she wanted to think about a man she had just met earlier today.

“And he can handle two at once just fine.”

Oh God, oh God… Her face felt like it was going to explode from the heat rising in it, and it didn't even look like Faraday was show any signs of slowing down. If anything, he was creeping even closer to Vasquez, a possessive hand already starting to slip between his vest and shirt as Faraday pulled him closer to him.

“Now, Billy… Now there's a whole other story. That man has wrung sounds out of me that I didn't think it was possible for me to make.”

Vasquez’s breath seemed to catch in his throat for a second, a sound like Matthew used to make if she caught a nipple just right, and that hand Faraday had under Vasquez’s vest seemed a likely culprit. And damn it, she didn't want to be thinking about this either!

Across the camp, her poor Teddy looked like he wanted to hide from whatever Goodnight and Billy were discussing themselves. Thankfully, they were being quiet enough that she couldn't hear them.

“You're picturing it right now, aren't you, Vasquez? What Billy Rocks could do to you, what positions he could push you into, what sounds he could wring from you.” She might have been mistaken, but she thought that Faraday might have nibbled on the other's ear. Either way, he was definitely speaking right into it, just loudly enough for her to still overhear. “Or are you thinking about what the three of us could do to Goody? What it would feel like to be inside that body?” Well, she was, and she didn't even have the necessary equipment for it! “Or are you thinking about me, hmm, Vasquez? Because you have to know, it's going to be all four of us, and I can—”

“Shouldn’t we be moving on pretty shortly?” Teddy said abruptly, popping fast to his feet. It earned him four death glares, two from right next to him and two from the pair next to her, and while it didn't seem to bother him overmuch, she knew him better than that.

Emma, however, was both incredibly grateful from hearing anything more and a little disappointed not to hear what Faraday had in mind to do himself. She couldn't remember the last time she felt so damn keyed up with no sign of relief in sight. She was certainly now giving some thought to her second husband and what bedroom activities they could get up to on the trail with five other men around.

“I reckon we should,” Chisolm replied from over by the horses. He didn’t even flinch when the glares redirected from Teddy onto himself. “It’s gonna be another two days, and we still have one more stop to make before heading to Rose Creek.”

Chapter Text

“I ain’t too sure I like this plan,” Joshua said for the third time in twice as many minutes.

This plan being, Sam and Billy strolling in through the main road to town while their new Comanche companion Red Harvest—who, unless he was sorely mistaken, was the long-missing third to his old friend’s triad that had already lost their second a decade prior—was to take to the rooftops and Jack Horne, Joshua, Gabriel, and Goodnight himself were to slip in quietly by the lesser traveled back roads.

Horne and Red Harvest were already making their way to their positions, while Joshua was still scowling in annoyance. Gabriel didn’t look much inclined to argue with the young man, and Goodnight really didn’t much care for this plan either but was willing to give it a shot.

“There’s only twenty-three Blackstones in town,” he reminded his two newest partners. “Young Teddy and Miss Emma confirmed that before we arrived. It won’t really require all of us to take them down, plus we need to leave someone alive to deliver the message back to Bogue.”

“Well,” Joshua groused, “I don’t like that you’ve gotta cover everyone the way Chisolm wants.”

Frankly, Goodnight didn’t like it either. But he had his Winchester, and it hadn’t let him down before today. Hopefully things would continue on that path, even if he hoped that he wouldn’t need to fire a single round. He’d already had one nightmare on the way here, only keeping from waking the whole camp by virtue of Billy wrapping around him during the night and waking him with soothing words and reassurances that they were all okay.

“It’ll be fine, mon coeur,” he said instead. “I’m positive that neither you, Gabriel, nor Billy’ll let anyone even get close to me.”

“Es verdad,” Gabriel said sharply, moving to split off down his alleyway. He paused for a moment then caught Goodnight’s chin and pressed a firm kiss to his mouth. “Buena suerte, mijo,” he murmured before repeating the gesture on Joshua, replacing mijo with guerito then slipping away.

“What he said,” Joshua remarked, grinning brightly and moving to drop a quick kiss of his own to the corner of the older man’s mouth. “I’ve got your back, Goody.”

Goodnight smiled wanly and watched as Joshua slipped quietly across the street to the saloon and stepped carefully up onto the walkway before ducking down the small side street between the general store and the livery. He quickly checked to make sure the rifle was loaded—yep, and one round in the chamber—and waited for Sam’s signal.

When it came, he wasn’t entirely surprised that the Blackstones decided to escalate the situation. And as he’d suspected, once the shooting started, the closest any of their enemy got to him was ten feet away, with both Joshua and Gabriel taking extreme exception to those who opted to rush the sniper.

It was a damn good thing, because once shots were fired, he found himself thrown back into the darkest days of the War, and he couldn’t entirely trust his eyes or his ears.

Once it grew silent again, Goodnight was able to wrestle himself back to the present, only to be startled as the Blackstone leader nearly ran him down on his desperate ride out of Rose Creek. Instinct had him taking aim with the Winchester, but the old fear held him frozen.

“Goody, take the shot,” Joshua’s voice came at his shoulder, and he tensed as his hands once again wouldn’t do what he wanted. There was a beat, as the Blackstone rode further away, then one of his coeur’s arms slipped around his waist. “Aim for me, babe,” he said, voice practically a breath in his ear, and Goodnight knew immediately what his partner had planned.

Still holding his aim true, Goodnight let his finger slip the guard… and Joshua’s hand replaced it and pulled the trigger.

Five hundred yards out from Rose Creek, the Blackstone agent lurched forward on his horse but managed to remain in place. He seemed to kick the horse to go faster, but one hand had moved up to grip his right shoulder.

“Damn it,” Joshua muttered. “Thought we had the bastard.”

Goodnight leaned back into his coeur’s chest and sighed. “It’ll still let Bogue know we mean business.”

Then Billy was there, taking the rifle carefully from both of them and clasping Goodnight’s face into his hands. He searched his eyes for a moment before leaning in and kissing him breathless, pulling back to finally ask, “Are you okay?”

At his shaky nod, Billy gave him another, softer kiss before redirecting to kiss Joshua just as fiercely in thanks. Goodnight chuckled and let himself relax between the two of them for just a moment before tapping them both on the shoulder to remind them that there was still work to be done.

Joshua cleared his throat and began walking back to the center of town, one arm wrapped firmly around Goodnight’s waist. The gesture was both possessive and protective, and he appreciated it more than he could honestly say at the moment. Gabriel turned a searching look onto the three of them, only relaxing when he realized they were all unscathed. It was obvious to anyone that he wanted nothing more than to fuss over all three of them, but he was holding himself in check as yet.

“How’d everyone do?” Sam asked once they were all in the same spot again.

“I got five,” Billy noted absently, his gaze falling onto Goodnight’s left hand and frowning.

“I got six,” Joshua added, following his partner’s eyes. At the sight of red dripping steadily down Goodnight’s fingers, he pulled his bandanna off and handed it to Billy silently. “Goody sniped one who was headed out of town, but he still managed to ride off. Hopefully he’ll bleed out between here and Sacramento. Gabe, how’d you do?”

“Six,” Gabriel replied, gaze already shifting to where Billy was cleaning up Goodnight’s hand and tensing with worry.

“I got seven,” was the Irishman’s immediate response, complete with holding up seven fingers and making their Mexican scoff in amusement. “Wanna even it up, babe?”

“Say when, guerito.”

Goodnight let his attention waver when Sam stooped down to coax out Bogue’s bought and paid for sheriff, although now he was just going to be their second method of delivering the message. He gladly suffered through Billy’s fussing over him, smiling softly once the blood had been cleaned away even as he knew that his triad was going to thoroughly check him over to see where, exactly, he’d been shot or grazed. He made his way to the hardware store once Billy let go of his hand, even though the Korean man followed close behind, and found a chair to drop himself into.

He would be the first to admit that he was still shaken, and all he really wanted was to fall into a bed and sleep for the remainder of the day. He wouldn’t be opposed to his partners coming along and wearing him out first, quite honestly; it might even help him sleep more easily. Goodnight was particular about his pleasure, and despite how often Billy accused him of bossiness, he had yet to deny his mate’s whims. And before they left Volcano Springs, Joshua had proved to be just as willing to let Goodnight be more than a little… demanding in bed.

And while they’d had to try to be a bit… discreet during their journey to Rose Creek, Gabriel had proved himself to be quite happy answering to Goodnight’s demanding nature. Hell, he’d let the Cajun talk him into a quick and dirty fuck while they were supposedly checking to see which way the stream was running but was just a flimsy excuse to spend a little time alone with his newest mate. That had been a fun way to spend a half an hour, but even more how safe he’d felt while they were cleaning up afterward. If anyone aside from Billy and Joshua guessed what they’d really been up to, it had nothing to do with clothing being mussed or out of place, that was for damned sure.

The widow and widower Cullen rode into town just then, calling out to everyone to come out, and it was a sight to see when Miss Emma berated the other residents for their cowardice. Hell, if she turned that temper towards him, Goodnight was like as not to apologize to the lady and slink away hoping to go otherwise unnoticed.

As the good folk proceeded to head back to their homes, he noted that his triad had settled themselves around him, half-forming a wall between Goodnight and the rest of the immediate world. The gesture was much appreciated, and he looked at each of them evenly before pushing himself to his feet.

“I think I’m gonna go find us a room,” he said, a sidelong look revealing that Sam, Red, and Horne were headed for the saloon.

Joshua was beside him in a heartbeat, arm slipping around his waist again. “I think I’ll come help you with that.”

The two of them set off across the street, Billy and Gabriel moving to speak quietly with one another for a moment—and unless he missed his guess, to determine which of them was going to hit up the general store for petroleum jelly or Macassar oil—before the former fell into step right behind them. The latter trotted down the way to the general store, and Goodnight couldn’t help but smile a bit to himself.

Looked like he might be getting what he wanted after all.

Chapter Text

He wasn't entirely sure how he managed it, but Billy entered the boarding house a few steps ahead of them and made his way up the stairs. Joshua and Goodnight followed him, the younger man raising an eyebrow as the Korean man opened each door and gave the rooms a cursory look before moving onto the next.

Must be making sure there ain’t anymore Blackstones hiding about, Joshua mused to himself before herding Goody towards the first room their Billy had checked out. While he fully intended to have his partners in whatever way they preferred — and knowing quite well already that his eldest greatly enjoyed being fucked to the point he wasn’t even thinking in English anymore — he wanted to make sure they had a comfortable bed to sleep in afterward and enough space in the room itself to keep from falling over each other every time they turned around.

“No, this is just a single,” Goody remarked, a frown in his voice even as he let his weight rest fully against Joshua. It was quickly becoming his favorite way of walking around, his smallest partner tucked neatly into his left side so his right hand was free to draw Ethel or Maria if needs be. And he would draw either to keep his odd triad safe.

“Maybe the triad-friendly rooms’re down that a ways,” Joshua suggested, nodding to where Billy was apparently done looking for Blackstones and was now returning to the rooms for another look. Maybe he was trying to find a suitable bed, too, or maybe he was killing time till Gabe get back from buying slick for ‘em, who knew.

Goody turned one of those sweet little smiles his way and started towards the end of the hallway, one hand moving to keep Joshua’s in place on his hip as the taller man moved with him. They were apparently going to start their search at the end of the hallway and work forward, but when they entered the very last door, it seemed like they might have already found it.

The room was plenty big, probably at one point in time acting as two separate rooms but the wall had been knocked out at some earlier point, with a triad-sized bed on one wall with a little space between it and the window on the left. A couple chests of drawers and a good-sized writing desk were the other primary features, and the overall look of the room was that someone with money spent time here.

“Room looks about big enough,” Joshua remarked, letting his arm slip from around his Goody’s waist and moving to look out the end window. “Good view of the town, too.”

“I doubt a lot of big spenders come to a little farming community like this,” the Cajun mused, already starting to rifle through things on the desk. “I have to wonder…” His words trailed off, yet before Joshua could grow concerned, the other man let out a bright laugh.

“Goody?” he asked, turning from the window to frown slightly.

“This is the room,” Goody declared, facing Joshua with a brilliant grin and a handful of letters. “Three guesses who stays here when he’s come to terrorize the good people of Rose Creek.”

Joshua blinked at him for a moment before a slow grin crossed his own lips. “You telling me this is Bogue’s room?” At his partner’s nod, he laughed aloud. “Yeah, this is our room now. And I fully intend to fuck on every horizontal and vertical surface I can get to.”

Those pretty blue eyes darkened with lust. “Vertical surfaces, too, huh?” Goody asked, sounding very much in tune with the idea.

“Thinking that wall right there,” he nodded to the open space by the desk, “for starters.”

“You certain you can hold someone up that long?”

“I know I can.” He was stalking forward as he spoke, and he was pleased to note that Goody dropped the letters back on the desk even as he backed up towards said wall. “And I think you like that idea.”

“Hmm?” And now he was being coy, which was nearly enough to make Joshua want to pin him against it and have him right now… and Goody would happily let him. “What makes you think that, mon coeur?”

As he’d suspected, once Joshua got into his space, the Cajun wrapped one arm loosely around his neck and pulled him in closer, using his free hand to toss aside first his own hat then Joshua’s. The taller man followed willingly, pressing forward and kissing his partner breathless. It wasn’t any effort at all to hook his hands under slim but well-muscled thighs and lift the other easily, and Goody let out a lewd moan into his mouth that had him purring in response.

“Really?” came Billy’s amused voice from the doorway. “You couldn’t even wait to find a bed big enough for that?”

“I don’t know, hermoso.” Oh good, Gabe was here too now. “I’m enjoying the show.”

Goody’s hand squeezed his shoulder for a moment before he turned his head away, and Joshua reluctantly let him go to speak to their triad mates. “We found the room. Y’all can figure out the bed situation.”

The Irishman snickered, pressing a kiss to his mate’s neck before glancing over to add, “This was Bogue’s room. It’s ours now.” He paused before adding, “Even if the bed’s still too small. No one considers more’n three.”

And now Goody was giving him an amused, yet still affectionate, look. “Well, Joshua, most triads only run to three. We are a mite different.”

Joshua smirked. “If you’re talking this clearly, then I ain’t doing my job right.” He moved in to steal another deep kiss, tongue curling against Goody’s and drawing it into his mouth to nip at. He thought he heard Gabe and Billy discussing grabbing a single bed and hauling it in here, but he was a bit too busy forcing their eldest mate to forget about everything that had happened earlier.

Granted, he still fully intended to find out just where Goody’d been grazed and make sure it wasn’t going to open up again, but first off, he wanted Goody writhing beneath him again, so lost in what was being done to him that he was babbling in French. When it had happened at Volcano Springs, it had been hot as hell; it became even hotter when Billy, just as naked and hard and pressing against his back, purred into his ear that he was doing something very right to make their Goody so incoherent.

And, as fun as it may have been on the final night’s ride to Rose Creek to slip off with Gabe for a quick hand job between newly-bonded mates between staying back at the rest stop with first Billy — which was fun on its own with sloppy kisses — then Goody — and he was fast becoming fond of just hauling the smaller man against his side for a cuddle — what he really wanted was all four of them in a bed and working through some bedroom gymnastics.

The sound of something being dragged nearly distracted him from where he was all but tongue-fucking Goody’s mouth, but his sweetheart chose that moment to try and draw him impossibly closer so he focused his attention to what was really important here. At least up until two other pairs of hands pulled both him and the Cajun away from the wall and gave them a shove.

Joshua was not too proud to admit to yelping when he found himself landing on the now-larger bed, because Gabe and Billy were assholes who really had hauled the single bed from the room down the hall into their room and pushed ‘em together. Goody, however, apparently thought it was hilarious since he was now laughing his head off, face pressed against Joshua’s neck so he could feel each breath on his skin.

“One: I hate both of you,” he said mock-sternly to the pair still standing over the bed. Billy just shrugged while Gabe smirked and tossed his hat towards the desk — oh, that’s where Goody’d pitched theirs, good to know. “Second: why the hell’re you both just standing there? Get over here, and give me a hand.”

Gabe snickered at him and started to remove his clothing; Billy crawled onto the bed and leaned in to give him a thorough kiss even while he left one hand to rest possessively on Goody’s ass. And goddamn, could Billy kiss. He hadn’t been just blowing smoke when he’d told Gabe just how that man could wring sounds out of him that shouldn’t come from a man of his age.

Joshua broke the kiss to take a deep breath and give the Korean a sunny smile. “Apology accepted,” he said, grinning more at Billy’s amused snort. “Now, then, where were we?”

“Apparently seducing that one,” Billy replied, and they both turned their gaze to Goody, who had settled back to watch the pair of them. He hadn’t been the least bit idle, either; his waistcoat and shirt had both been tossed somewhere in the vicinity of the floor, his gun belt had migrated to the desk somehow — probably Gabe’s doing, as he was currently moving all the guns that-a-ways — and he had apparently stopped to slip his boots off before they looked up from where they’d been kissing like they were fighting.

“Oh, trust me, mes amours,” Goody said with a smirk, “I don’t need near that much seducing.”

Joshua snickered. “No, you don't, babe,” he replied. “But you're still wearing too much, ain't he, Billy?”

“Definitely.” With that, Billy lunged across the bed to grab Goody by the waistband of his pants and pulled him over. Joshua snickered again, moving to assist in getting their Cajun stripped completely since Billy was distracted with kissing him senseless. It took a minute to get Goody’s pants off with the Korean in the way, but in short order, their sweetheart was laid bare for them.

“Now who's wearing too many clothes, guerito y hermoso?” Gabe asked from somewhere close by; Joshua glanced up to find him sitting on the edge of the bed naked as the day he was born save for the medallion around his neck. “You two need to catch up.”

Joshua took a second to mentally note that his Gabe was far too skinny for how tall he was before turning a leer to Billy. “He's got a point, babe. Help a guy out?”

Billy gave him a filthy grin before attacking his mouth. They both bit at one another, neither willing to give an inch even as their hands tugged at each other's clothing. Gunbelts hit the floor, Billy’s knives clattering as they shifted, followed by shirts, vests, boots, and pants in short order. Somehow they managed to do all that without breaking their kiss until breathing became an issue.

“That's very pretty,” Goody observed breathily, lounging on the bed and running his fingertips over his stomach lightly; Gabe had moved to lie next to him and was stroking the Cajun’s thigh over that darker patch of skin while nibbling at his neck.

“Not as pretty as you,” Joshua replied, crawling over the bed to claim the smaller man’s mouth. While he kissed Billy like they were fighting and Gabe like he needed it as much as air, he found that he needed to kiss Goody like he was something precious. And from the way Goody responded, a soft hum and easy surrender, that was exactly what his sweetheart needed from him. He broke the kiss but stayed close, speaking against Goody’s mouth. “Always so pretty when you're getting pleasure from us. You want us to do that for you, baby? Make you forget your own name?”

The response to this was a soft whine, those blue eyes darkening further for him. Joshua grinned against the Cajun’s mouth, and he rolled onto the other side to ponder the dynamics for just a moment. Gabe made a vaguely inquisitive sound, having never really moved from his spot and still biting lightly at their eldest mate’s neck. Billy, for his part, had knee walked up the bed a little and settled his weight on the Irishman’s legs before turning his attention to where Goody was now trying to drag the Mexican into a true kiss.

“What you thinking, Billy?” Joshua asked, reaching up with one hand to stroke the other’s hip lightly. The Korean reached down absently to lace their fingers together, pulled his lover’s hand up to press a quick kiss to the back of it.

A truly filthy grin crossed Billy Rocks’ lips. “Something I discussed briefly with Goody when we were stopped outside Junction City,” he replied before leaning down to share, his weight held by knees and hands as he bit Joshua’s lip. “You and Gabi, sharing our Goody, making him whine for all of us, and me quieting him down just a little.”

Joshua groaned, the image firmly in his head now at Billy’s words. “I love how you think, babe,” he breathed, wrapping a hand around his mate’s neck and stealing a truly vicious kiss from his mouth. When they broke apart, both panting hard, he said, “Let’s do it.”

Almost as one person, Billy and Joshua untangled from one another and worked their way in between Goody and Gabe; while they’d been plotting, the other two had fallen to deep, soul-searching kisses and exploration. Hell, their Mexican had unscrewed the lid from the slick and had worked two fingers easily into Goody, and the Cajun whined low in his throat when those fingers were removed by Billy’s distraction techniques.

“Shh, s’okay, sweetheart,” Joshua murmured, sitting up and pulling Goody up with him. He wrapped on arm firmly around the smaller man’s waist, used his free hand to drape Goody’s legs over his own then shifting them open before reaching down to press his own fingers where Gabe’s had just been moments before. “We’re going to take such good care of you. Just gotta get you ready for me and Gabe.”

“Joshua,” Goody whined, hands reaching up to wrap one around the back of his neck and the other to tug at his hair. “Please, want it now.”

“Easy, Goody,” Billy said softly, moving to brush a kiss to the Cajun’s inner thigh and grinning at the tremble that action drew. “Soon, sweetheart. Just let Josh hold you up there for us.”

Gabe groaned softly, moving to steal a slow kiss from Joshua before stealing another from Goody. “You will enjoy this, querido, mijo,” he purred, then moved down to press a kiss to the opposite thigh. “Move your hand, guerito,” he demanded, and Joshua moved his hand despite Goody’s whine.

The Cajun’s head fell back against Joshua’s shoulder, a keening cry slipping from his throat as both Billy and Gabe each eased two fingers into him. Joshua tightened his arm around Goody, moving one hand to rest low on the man’s stomach, grinning at his cock brushed against the back of it, and pressed just enough to feel the muscles twitching.

“Easy, sweetheart,” he breathed into Goody’s ear, enjoying the quiet moans that had replaced the keening. “Don’t that feel nice, baby? Our boys opening you up for us, finding those hidden places that make you moan so pretty. Just a few more fingers, gorgeous, then Gabe’s gonna slide into you and show you the stars.”

“S’il te plaît,” Goody whimpered, and Joshua’s smile nearly split his face at the French.

“Yeah, beautiful,” he praised, kissing their mate’s throat. “Not long now. Give him another one, guys,” he directed to the other two; Goody’s sharp cry and the way his hips tried to buck was evidence that he’d been heeded.

“Muy bonito, mijo,” Gabe crooned gently, twisting his hand a bit and shifting to nip at the discolored patch of skin on Goody’s hip. “Going to be so good for all of us, going to feel so perfect.”

Billy chuckled softly, moving to drop soft kisses to Goody’s stomach. “I think he’s ready for us,” he said softly, grinning as their Cajun let out another cry as Gabe twisted his fingers again followed by a string of what had to be truly filthy words.

“Josh, get up by the headboard,” the Korean ordered as he slipped both his own and Gabe’s fingers out of Goody; Joshua complied, tugging the nearly boneless Cajun along with him. “Perfect. You know what to do.”

Joshua shot a dirty smile to Billy even as he pulled Goody close and gave him a slow kiss. “You ready, beautiful?” he asked, even as he lifted the smaller man by his hips and settled him against his chest. His cock brushed lightly against his mate’s well-opened hole, and he pressed up even while tugging Goody down.

Goody’s head fell back onto the Irishman’s shoulder again, mouth open in a low moan of pleasure. “C’est bon, mon coeur. Maintenant… maintenant… Baise-moi, s’il te plaît.”

“Shh, not yet, beautiful,” Joshua whispered, not sure what his lover was saying but getting the general gist. “Gabe wants you, too, sweetheart. You can take him, right?”

Gabe chuckled softly, moving to settle over the two of them and pressing a long, demanding kiss to Goody’s mouth. “They tell me you can take both of us, mijo. Let me in, querido. We’ll take care of you.”

Joshua groaned himself, eyes narrowing but keeping them open as Gabe’s hips moved, slowly pressing his cock deep inside Goody against his own. It was just as tight a fit as when he and Billy’d both taken the Cajun in Volcano Springs, but the Mexican was a bit thicker than Billy; the press was exquisite and Goody was trembling in his arms, soft breathy whines escaping him as Gabe settled deep.

“Beautiful,” Billy murmured, leaning in to drop soft kisses onto all three of their mouths.

“Hear that?” Joshua purred into Goody’s ear. “You’re so good for us, taking two of us at once. Feel so hot and tight around us, look so damned pretty when you take your pleasure from us.”

He shifted his hands from Goody’s hips, one hand pressing against the smaller man’s chest and his other moving to pet that spot on his thigh that made him squirm the most. “Just let us give it to you, baby. Love watching you take it from us. Gonna fuck you real good, beautiful, fuck you so good you’ll drop right off to sleep when we finally let you go. You want that, don’t you, gorgeous?”

“Oh, oui, s’il te plaît, n’arrête pas, avance, maintenant,” Goody whined, hips moving in aborted little thrusts. A long keen of pleasure escaped him when Gabe began to move his hips in short, sharp thrusts and left Joshua also whining in needy lust.

“Oh, fuck, yeah,” the Irishman moaned, kissing Goody’s neck. “Feel how Gabe’s taking care of us, beautiful? He’s gonna give it to us so good, baby.” He closed his eyes at a harder thrust, biting back a scream even as his Cajun let out one of his own, before adding a soft, “But Billy wants you, too, gorgeous. Gonna let him in, too?”

Billy, who had been kneeling next to them and running fingers along Gabe’s back as the Mexican moved, grinned fiercely and leaned in to steal a hard kiss from Joshua. He followed it up with a softer kiss to Goody’s mouth, humming as the Cajun whined into it. “You want a little more, Goody?” he asked softly, one finger tracing their mate’s lip. “Want me right here?”

“Mon cher, oui, s’il te plaît, laisse moi te sucer la queue.”

Joshua chuckled breathily and pressed a kiss to Goody’s neck. “Sounded like a yes to me, babe. Now, you just open up, beautiful. Let Billy give you what you want.”

Goody’s mouth dropped open as Billy moved to straddle the pair of them, pressing his cock carefully into their smaller lover. Joshua moved one hand to rest on the Asian’s hip, helping to steady him even as Billy pressed one hand to the wall behind the bed. He began to move almost immediately, keeping the motion slow and steady even as Gabe’s movement picked up a bit of speed and set Joshua to swearing softly.

“Mm, fuck, baby, that’s good,” the Irishman moaned. “You love it, don’t you, gorgeous? Love me and Gabe stretching you so wide, love Gabe fucking both of us so good, hitting all those spots that’ll make you fly. Love Billy fucking your throat,” he punctuated this with moving his arm from Goody’s waist to let his palm cover the Cajun’s throat, feeling where his other little mate was thrusting. “Mm, yeah, you love how we take care of you.”

“Shit, you never stop talking,” Billy groaned, his own free hand moving to tangle in Goody’s hair. “Trying to talk around my cock like that.”

“Still speaking, beautiful?” Joshua murmured, kissing Goody’s check and rubbing his thumb where he could feel Billy moving and the faint thrum of attempted speech. “Fuck, that’s hot. Gonna talk him into spilling, baby? Want that cream to flow right to your stomach, fill you up so good?”

“You talk almost as much, guerito,” Gabe groaned, punctuating his words with three sharp thrusts that dragged a sharp wail from Joshua and a high, muffled whine from Goody. “Gonna come too soon if you keep that up.”

“Mm, yeah,” Joshua breathed, moving to bite Goody’s ear. “Do it, Gabe. Mark us both up good. You want that, beautiful?” he directed to the Cajun. “Want Gabe to come inside you, fill you up but good? Mark you for days as his?”

“Chivato,” Gabe groaned, thrusting hard, one, two, three more times before grunting and going still; Joshua closed his eyes and moaned low at the feel of the other’s cock twitching against his own, at the warm rush of come filling up their shared mate and over his own cock. It was enough to trigger his own release, and he felt the spill of his own come deep inside Goody.

“Oh, fuck, yeah,” he groaned, biting his Cajun’s ear. “Take it so good, beautiful, all filled with come and still haven't fallen yourself.” Joshua’s hand moved to tease Goody’s own hard cock, twisting his hips and grinning at how the move made his lover’s channel tighten. “Come for us, beautiful. We know you can do it.”

Billy grunted, speeding his thrusts up for a moment before falling still; Joshua could feel his cock twitch in Goody’s throat, could feel him release, and knew that some of that cream would still be on his Cajun’s tongue when the Asian pulled out. Goody groaned, hips twitching and body tightening as he finally fell over, only a minute or so after his three lovers had taken their pleasure from his body.

Joshua purred, moving to kiss Goody’s mouth as Billy pulled free and dropped onto the bed again. “Thank you, gorgeous,” he praised. “So good for us, taking it so well and giving us what we needed, too.”

“J’ai sommeil,” Goody murmured, eyes blinking slowly as his head lolled to the side.

“Tired, babe?” the Irishman asked, smiling warmly at the nod he received. He bit back a moan as Gabe slipped free, leaving Joshua still resting within the Cajun. He shifted his hips just enough for his softening cock to slide out as well, before settling Goody gently down onto the bed. “Then close your eyes, gorgeous. Get some sleep.” He moved to claim a slow, gentle kiss, grinning mentally at the taste of Billy on the other’s tongue. “Love you, babe.”

“Je t’aime, mon couer, mon cher, et mon beau,” Goody murmured, eyes slipping shut and only making a soft and slightly annoyed sound as Gabe moved up the bed to wrap around him. Within a few moments, both Cajun and Mexican were out, dead to the world but resting peacefully.

Joshua stretched and rolled onto his side, propping up on one elbow to watch the pair of them. Billy slotted himself up against the redhead’s back, chin propped on his shoulder and one arm wrapped around his waist.

“Gabi’s too thin,” he remarked softly, and Joshua made a sound of agreement. “We’ll have to feed him up.”

“Between the both of us, we’ll manage it,” Joshua replied. “Hey, did you see anything to clean up with?”

Billy snorted in amusement. “So you found a big enough room for us but somehow missed the wash basin in the corner?”

“Shut up,” the Irishman said, elbowing Billy in the side. “I was distracted. But now that he’s out, I wanna see where he got hit.”

The Asian fell silent before rolling out of the bed and padding to the corner opposite the desk. Joshua sat up fully, carefully moving to pick up Goody’s left arm and look it over carefully. On his forearm, just over the wrist, he spotted where someone's bullet had taken out a chunk of skin. It wasn’t bleeding again, thank God, but it could still do with tending.

Billy returned just then, a wet washcloth in hand, and he set about cleaning off the injury before moving to wash up what he could of their come and sweat from between Goody’s thighs and Gabe’s stomach; he waited until Joshua had wrapped a clean strip from the bedding around the injury before throwing the cloth at him and letting him clean himself up a bit.

Joshua tossed the cloth in the general direction of the basin and dropped back onto the bed; Billy almost instantly dropped down on top of him and kissed him breathless. “Hey, stop it,” he chided. “I could use a nap myself, you know.”

“I know,” was the quick reply. Billy fell silent for a moment before adding, “I like it, when you talk to Goody like that.”

“What, the praising thing?” At Billy’s nod, Joshua let his head drop back and he chuckled. “Is it weird if I say that I didn't know I liked doing that until I found y’all?”

“You never did that with other lovers?” Billy asked. He didn't sound jealous; if anything, Joshua suspected both he and Goody were glad he’d had experience before they finally met in Volcano Springs.

“Nope,” he replied honestly. “If anything, I’d tell folks that it was good and I’d had fun after the fact. But when we were all back there, I couldn’t help but tell Goody how pretty he was that way. No one ever went all boneless like that, no matter what we’d been doing.” He shrugged and, a tad defensively, rushed out with, “Just felt right to keep doing it.”

Billy turned his head, hands resting on his cheeks, and gave him a long, sweet kiss. “I like how you both enjoy it,” he admitted. “I think Gabi enjoyed it, too.”

Joshua blinked before snickering. “Yeah, I think so,” he remarked. “Now, shut up and go to sleep, Billy Rocks. We can go get something to eat after a nap.”

Chapter Text

Billy blinked his eyes open lazily, wondering for just a moment where he was. The bed he was lying in was incredibly comfortable, and despite the lack of blankets and his own nudity, the room and the bed itself felt warm.

Rolling his head to the side helped him remember. Rose Creek, what Sam had referred to as an opening skirmish, finding a room after a quick argument with Gabi over just who was going to buy something to use as lubricant… and just the memory of watching his newest mates sharing Goody was enough to turn him on all over again.

Too bad everyone was asleep.

Gabi was still curled up around Goody, one arm thrown lazily over the smaller man and face pressed to his neck, breathing slow and even in rest. Goody had at some point rolled onto his stomach without dislodging the Mexican, head resting on one arm and the other wrapped around Josh. Josh himself was on his left side, his right hand resting on the small of Goody’s back and his left tucked under his own head.

Damn, but Billy’s triad was a hell of a lot of pretty.

He was just pondering the merits of jacking off to all that pretty when he heard a hitch in Gabi’s breathing; then the man was sitting abruptly and reaching for a gun that wasn't there, a gun that was across the room on the desk.

“Okay, Gabi?” Billy asked softly, keeping his voice level and using the same soothing tone he would use whenever Goody awoke from a nightmare.

Gabi blinked at him absently for just a second; then his expression shifted from wary to comfortable, and the Asian knew his mate was back in the present.

“Sí, hermoso,” Gabi replied, sounding more awake. “How long were we asleep?”

“Few hours, I guess. Sun’s going down, so we definitely slept through lunch.”

Gabi huffed out a breath. “I wonder when supper is,” he said. “I'm hungry.”

Billy snorted. “You'll have to put some clothes on before you start scavenging,” he teased.

“Does he gotta?”

That was a whine from the vicinity of Josh, who still had his eyes closed but had shifted closer to Goody and moved just enough so that his forehead was resting on their mate’s shoulder.

“Shut up, ’m sleepin’,” Goody muttered, a faint lilt in his voice, one that tended to be present for a little while if he’d been speaking French for any measure of time.

Billy snorted. “After that much… activity, Goody, you talking means you’re awake.”

Josh opened an eye. “He talks in his sleep? Really?”

The response to this was a shove from Goody, who rolled onto his side to do so and nearly fell over Gabi. “Fuck you, Joshua,” he said, amusement in his tone as he relaxed against their Mexican mate; Gabi snickered and wrapped both arms around Goody’s waist.

“Buenas tardes, mijo,” he murmured, obviously happy where he was at the moment. “Did you sleep well, querido?”

“I did, mon beau,” Goody replied, turning to kiss Gabi softly. “But I could eat.”

Billy huffed in amusement. “Bottomless pits, the both of you,” he teased even as he set about gathering up their scattered clothing. He wasn't surprised that Gabi had managed to get his own clothing on the desk, but he had to untangle his own, Goody’s, and Josh’s from a pile on the floor. As he worked at that, Josh rolled off the other side of the bed with a grunt to gather up the weapons that the pair of them had just randomly tossed off earlier. Which was a good idea; normally, Billy was the type to make sure his knives were in a safe spot, but he had been a little bit distracted.

Josh was a fantastic kisser, after all.

In short order, the four of them were dressed once again, even if Josh hadn’t made much of an effort at all to make it look like they hadn’t spent the better part of the early afternoon fucking like wild things. Goody rolled his eyes and moved over to make an attempt at getting their redhead presentable… a failed effort as Josh kept snickering and distracting him with kisses and whispering in his ear.

“Hey, knock it off,” Billy scolded, smacking the Irishman on the arm after the fourth attempt. “Food now, playtime later.”

“How many people you think know what we were doing up here?” Gabi asked idly.

“How many people were in the store when you went for supplies?” Billy responded.

“Two.”

“Then the whole town, probably,” Josh said with a shrug, his left arm already wrapped firmly around Goody’s waist; apparently that was going to be A Thing, and it was so sweet Billy couldn’t fault him for it. “Ain’t like we were trying to keep it a secret or nothing.”

Goody suddenly snickered. “Oh my Lord, just think if anyone asked young Teddy or Miss Emma about it. I don’t think Billy and I were very quiet when we were talking about our ultimate plans once we arrived in town.”

Gabi laughed sharply. “I know guerito wasn’t very quiet. Miss Emma was a shade of red I didn’t even know existed before this week.”

“I should be embarrassed,” the Cajun noted, not sounding the least bit ashamed of himself.

“Nah,” Josh replied, dropping a quick kiss to the shorter man’s cheek and turning him towards the door. “C’mon, Billy. Let’s go get these two fed.”

The four of them made their way downstairs and out onto the street, and Billy wasn’t terribly surprised by how many people looked their way and immediately seemed to have something more important to do. Josh actually managed to keep from laughing, even though his shoulders were shaking and Goody definitely had to bite back a grin. Oh, Maman Arthémie was going to adore the hell out of their Irishman; his sense of humor matched hers almost to a T.

Gabi simply rolled his eyes and muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath in Spanish, causing Billy to bite his own lip to keep from grinning brightly. Both of these men were a perfect addition to their nontraditional triad, and he already loved them more than he’d thought would be possible. He moved a bit closer to Gabi, bumped his shoulder and rolled his eyes at the towns folks’ reactions to their presence. The Mexican chuckled and bumped him back lightly before turning his gaze back to where their other mates were already stepping up on the walkway to enter the restaurant.

“Oh, good, there’s food,” Josh announced loudly, drawing the attention of their other three companions. Sam, Horne, and Red Harvest were already seated in a row at the table, and some of the women from town were working on bringing out supper. Billy spotted Teddy standing by the bar, and by the way his face went bright red upon seeing him, it was clear that word had indeed gotten around town and was augmented by the Cullens. The Korean just smirked and winked at the young man and nearly laughed when Teddy averted his eyes towards the floor.

Having finished picking on the young widower, Billy moved to join his mates at the table. Josh dropped himself into the seat next to Sam after pulling out the chair to his left for Goody. Billy slipped in automatically on his Cajun’s left, and Gabi fell into the empty seat between him and Red. When he stretched his legs out a bit, he bumped into two other pairs, and instead of pulling back, he just shifted enough to rest his feet on top of both Josh’s and Gabi’s; next to him, Goody dropped his own feet on top of Billy’s and relaxed back into his seat.

Sam, for his part, just rolled his eyes at their antics. The man was far too used to his and Goody’s nontraditional romantic behavior, having met up with them a few dozen times over the years and even spending a month in Lafayette with the Robicheaux family. Granted, it was only one month, and Sam had said something about Goody’s parents being far too wild for him to deal with more than once, but Billy figured that was just his way of saying that it hurt too much to be around them. Given the way his family had been killed, mother and sisters and mate all in one fell swoop, Sam had every right to want to avoid that much togetherness.

But he had Red Harvest now, if Billy was reading the situation right. It may have been more of a platonic or familial triad bond, nothing like the one that existed between himself and his three mates or the one Sam had shared with Marla, but it was a bond all the same. Maybe Red could curb some of Sam’s suicidal risk taking…

And then there was food in front of him, and Billy focused most of his attention on that. He understood what it was like to be hungry from his years on the run, and while he hadn’t had to worry since Goody’s family bought out his bounty, he still remembered what it was like. Billy kept a firm eye on his mates, making sure that not only were Gabi and Goody eating—and Gabi was definitely packing away everything placed in front of him while Goody was picking in that way he generally did—but that Josh was getting more food than alcohol into him.

Josh looked around the room as he ate, his expression darkening slightly any time he spotted someone staring. “It’s like being in one of them damned zoos,” he grumbled, taking a bite of chicken.

“Fame is a sarcophagus,” Goody remarked, taking a drink between picking at his greens; honestly, if Maman Sabine was here right now, she’d be standing over her child and glaring at him until he took more than a few bites. The Robicheauxs acted like the man was ten rather than thirty-eight sometimes, and it was hilarious to see. One of Billy’s favorite things was to watch his mate stubbornly glare at all three of his parents who would stare him down in return until the man huffed an annoyed sigh and gave into their whims.

The redhead turned to look at the Cajun. “Do you read these in a book, babe, or just make ‘em up as you go?” he asked, and it seemed like he really wanted to know the answer.

Goody, being a Robicheaux and therefore a bit of an asshole, smiled mildly back. “I’ll try and use one syllable words from here on,” he said sweetly.

Billy rolled his eyes affectionately at Goody, giving him a grin even as Gabi snickered softly on his left. Josh blinked, and he could see the moment when his mate realized he was being teased and decided to retaliate.

“What’s a syllable?”

Goody nearly choked on his whiskey, he was laughing too much; it was wonderful.

Red tossed his plate back on the table at that moment, drawing everyone’s attention as he said something in Comanche. Given his expression, Billy was positive that it was something disparaging about their meal.

“What did he say?” Horne asked, turning to Sam.

Sam, who was honestly as big a jackass as Goody could be at times, replied, “He asks that you kindly stop looking at his hairline.”

Red turned to shoot him an annoyed look, confirming Billy’s suspicions. On either side of him, he could hear his mates snickering; and from the corner of his eye, he saw Josh move to dump some of his beans on Gabi’s plate.

“As long as he stops licking his lips over mine,” Horne replied, drawing an annoyed chuckle from Billy. There were times that he really, really hated how prejudiced white men could be. He had been terribly lucky that Goody was the first apparently white man he ever met who treated him with respect; even discovering that his mate was mixed race himself didn’t sway that opinion. It just helped him hold up a standard for how all people should behave.

When Josh had come along, when he had become part of their triad, Billy found another white man who treated all people equally. Granted, Josh seemed to think most people were morons until proved otherwise, but he treated everyone the exact same way. And he hadn’t batted an eye when Gabi turned out to be theirs as well.

So, yes, Horne was annoying the Korean right now.

A hand gripped his left knee under the table, and he felt a nudge from beneath his feet even as Goody leaned closer to press a quick kiss to his neck. Trust his mates to know when he needed a bit of comfort, even if his face never showed a thing.

“Let’s finish up and go back to our room, cher,” Goody murmured. “I could use some more sleep.”

And trust them to know when to make it seem like they were the ones in need of peace.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the whole of the Seven set about trying to get the good people of Rose Creek ready for war.

Emphasis on trying.

By noon, Joshua was already verging on ten thousand percent done with these folks. He’d done his best to get a rifle line set up, to make things a bit easier for Goody to see what he was working with, only to discover that most of these men apparently didn’t even know their right from their left. And that wasn’t even counting the one farmer who’d arrived with a hoe rather than a rifle or the barber showing up with his goddamned straight razor in lieu of anything that might actually be useful.

Then, when he left them to go see how his other mates were doing—and feeling a little guilty for leaving his Cajun to deal with the stupid, especially when those blue eyes had given him a look screaming what fresh hell is this?—he found that Gabe had already decided the bullshit wasn’t worth it and was helping some of the ladies of Rose Creek begin on repairs to the church and that Billy was ready to stab literally everyone in the face for walking off from his knife training. Which meant that by the time he got back over to where the rifle line was set up, Joshua was not in the best of moods or tempers.

So the fact that Goody had managed to get them all lined up and set to actually hit the targets with little effort, only for every single sorry son of a bitch to miss entirely? Well, there wasn’t much to say about that.

“Jesus wept,” summed it up beautifully.

“Y’all are starting to piss me off,” Goody remarked dryly, and Joshua thought that that might also sum things up terrifically in regards to their chances. Hell, he was ready to give Jack and Adelaide and Sunset and Diablo guns, and those were their goddamned horses who might have a better shot at hitting a target.

To Sam, however, he remarked, “Statistically speaking, they should ‘a hit something.”

He listened as his Cajun berated the men, but felt himself bristling when little Teddy Q, who was likely all of a buck seventy-five soaking wet, actually snarked back at Goody. Hell, he was ready to shoot the little shit and make Miss Emma a full-on widow when whats-his-face next to him shot off his rifle for no apparent reason.

“That’s the second time for you,” Goody remarked, thoroughly unimpressed and making Joshua wonder what fuckery he’d missed while checking in on the others. “Go make me some eggs.”

“The damned hammer—”

“No, I don’t want to hear it! Have a nice afternoon,” Goody interrupted, and it was more than obvious to the Irishman that his mate was nearly as done with all this shit as he was. Joshua felt himself tensing up a bit when the man turned to leave, the barrel of the rifle facing his mate. Goody, however, apparently had balls of pure iron given that his full reaction was simply, “You gonna—you gonna point that thing at me?”

Then the Cajun tried, for what must’ve been the second or third time, to impart a little bit of wisdom on the rifle line. In his opinion, it was sound advice. To be honest, Joshua had been too young to fight in the war, even if he had devoured everything he could read on the heroes from both sides; he wasn’t great at reading, but when the subject interested him then he damned well gave it his all. Hell, he’d been a Missouri boy, could have easily fought for either side, but he’d always been a wee bit fascinated by the sharpshooters and the accounts on them.

Now that he actually had one of his very own, it was a fair bet that he’d be keeping him.

“Fire when ready,” Goody was saying to the line when he tuned back in fully, but it was followed by a snapped order when the men simply stared at him. And… for fuck’s sake, they managed to miss everything again.

“I am amazed that this many men,” his Cajun drawled, and yep, he sounded even more done than Joshua, “could miss that many targets. Twice. I am looking at a line of dead men.”

Oh, shit. That was not a happy tone, and Joshua pushed himself off the fence to go fetch his mate before he turned around and shot one of those sorry sons of bitches. He could already hear Sam chuckling at his back, and it was so tempting to turn around and hit him one, but Goody was his priority right now.

“C’mon, babe,” he said, catching hold of Goody’s arm right as he was about to lay into the whole lot of them. “Walk it off. Let’s go.”

“These men can’t hit the broad side of a barn, mon coeur,” he hissed, glaring over his shoulder at the rifle line. “And that’s from the inside.”

“I know, darlin’, I know,” Joshua said, tugging him around and wrapping an arm around his waist securely. “We’ll let Billy come yell at ‘em for a bit. Let’s go take a break.”

“Okay, but only because you asked,” Goody said, although he did glance back and snap, “Hate what you are shooting at! Hate it! Get some gravel in your craw! C’mon!” Under his breath as he turned back around, he muttered, “Goddamn sons of bitches.”

“I know, sweetheart,” the redhead replied. “They need a lot of help. We’ll get back to them later.”

“They done pissed me off.”

“I know, babe. They’re pissin’ me off, too.”

He managed to get Goody back into town without running into anyone who might just annoy the Cajun further—and he was including Miss Emma in that, given how snippy Teddy had been back there—and up to their room in the boarding house. Unsurprisingly, Billy was already there and polishing some of his knives, and he sat up abruptly from his slouch when they walked through the door.

“Who am I stabbing?” was the first thing out of his mouth, and Joshua bit back a laugh.

“Oh,” Goody drawled, “everyone. No, seriously, everyone.”

“No, babe, we ain’t killing them all,” Joshua said, shooting a look at Billy along with a firm head shake just in case his mate got any ideas in his head. The Korean rolled his eyes but made no move to actually go kill anyone. “C’mon, Goody,” he added, pushing the older man towards the bed and, when he dug in his heels, flung himself down while pulling Goody with him.

Billy put aside his knives and moved to join them, settling on the Cajun’s other side and wrapping his arms around his waist. Joshua chuckled and tugged both men in more securely, pressing a quick kiss to the top of Goody’s head. “These people are very annoying, I know,” he murmured, tucking his chin against his mate’s shoulder. “So we’re taking an hour or so to just… ignore them all. Maybe Gabe’ll come see where we all wandered off to, climb in, too.”

“Mmm, okay,” Goody sighed, relaxing little by little. “But if they don’t shape up, I’m shooting one of ‘em.”

“No, you aren’t.”

“No, you ain’t.”

Joshua grinned as he and Billy spoke in unison, grinned a bit more at Goody’s chuckle. They just needed a moment to unwind, to think on what still needed done in order to actually save this little town without risking their own lives, and then they could rejoin the world.

In a little while.

Chapter Text

They wound up missing lunch with the rest of the group. Gabi had wandered up to the room about fifteen minutes after Josh and Goody’d returned, spotted the three of them curled up on the bed like a basket of puppies, and promptly joined them. Josh had complained—loudly—at their Mexican literally dropping down on top of him, but Goody’d laughed and it had made Billy himself smile, so there was no real harm done. It probably took them an hour before finally wandering downstairs in search of food, only to find that the rest had eaten about half an hour before and that the only folk around were the schoolteacher and Teddy.

And honestly, it was all Billy could do to keep from pulling out one of his knives and cleaning his fingernails with it while staring down the widower Cullen. At least the man was smart enough to make himself scarce, and the four of them were left to a quiet lunch alone.

They made their way to the paddock, where Sam, Red, and Jack Horne were talking quietly amongst themselves. The other three looked up when they arrived, Sam offering a friendly smile at their approach.

Billy quite honestly liked the man. There had been a few times over the years when the nightmares got to his Goody, and on one of those occasions, they’d been passing through Lawrence on the way back to Lafayette. Billy had asked if there was anywhere they could hide from the world for a few days, and that was when he’d found out about Sam Chisolm. Upon heading to the man’s home and meeting him—along with his Marla—Billy had realized that there was yet another person in the world dedicated to keeping Goody from collapsing under the weight of war memories, and he was forever grateful.

And now, well. He just hoped that Josh and Gabi would come to appreciate the friendship that Sam shared with their Goody and accept whatever help may come from that direction.

“Good afternoon,” Sam called to them when they were close enough to speak. “No more urges to kill the good folk of Rose Creek?”

“Not at the moment,” Goody replied, “but they’d best not push my good mood any.”

Red Harvest rolled his eyes skyward and muttered something in Comanche that caused Sam to turn a sharp look his direction even as his face darkened in what Billy knew to be embarrassment. It was kind of nice, having someone around to keep old Sam on his toes again now that Marla was gone. What made it better was knowing that the woman would have instantly loved the young man, adopting him as the son she and Sam hadn’t been able to have.

“What’s everyone think?” Horne asked in that too sweet voice of his. Billy thought it might be some indication that the man had spent far too long in the mountains for far too long without his triad; the stories did say that Jack Horne had taken to scalping Crow in the aftermath of an attack on his home which lead to the deaths of both of his wives and all their children. It was a sad state of affairs, and the Crow would have done the man a kindness in killing him, too.

Men and women didn’t remain stable for very long when they lost both—or all, which would be the case with his triad—of their mates.

“We might stand a chance,” Goody remarked, and that was his mean tone, “if we can teach any of these men to hit the broad side of a barn at twenty paces.”

“I’m giving thought to telling ‘em to go polish their rifles, and we’ll see if the glint’ll scare Bogue’s men off,” Josh added with a smirk.

Somehow, Billy didn’t doubt that his Irishman meant that. At least Gabi thought it was funny too, given that he was looking at the ground and trying to keep from laughing at the thought.

For his part, the Korean offered, “Maybe if we had a few surprises…?”

All eyes turned his way, his mates looking speculative. “The mining camp?” Goody asked.

“We could use some more men,” Sam agreed, nodding in thought. “And there should be a little dynamite for mining purposes in the camp, too.”

“Well, damn, Chisolm,” Josh said, “what else would you be using dynamite for?”

And there was a wicked glint in Sam’s eyes, one that promised vicious mischief. “Blowing things up,” he said matter-of-factly.

Both Josh and Gabi stood up a little straighter, and Billy wondered what manner of chaos his boys were going to cause in the near future as well as once they got to Lafayette. “I always wanted to blow something up,” the redhead declared.

He turned to exchange a look with Goody and grinned at the delighted smile on his eldest mate’s face. Oh yes, the Robicheauxs were going to love these men they’d found, and the entire city of Lafayette was likely to be scandalized for years to come.

Chapter Text

The very beginnings of a nightmare had been what dragged him out of a sound sleep.

He was more than used to his own bad dreams; traveling alone with a bounty on his head, it was an easy thing to avoid sleep as much as possible. In the few times he’d felt safe enough to get some real sleep, he was kept awake anyway by his own dark demons. The man he’d killed, the things said man had done to those Gabi had called his own to earn his ire… Well, those stayed with him.

Even though he had found his triad at last, unusual though they may be, the comfort they gave both his heart and his soul weren’t yet enough to deal with the things he saw when he closed his eyes.

This, though…

He had been about half-aware that Goody also suffered from ill thoughts at night. While they’d been on their way to Rose Creek, he’d awakened once during the night to the sound of Billy’s voice talking quietly; when morning arrived and he saw the signs of poor sleep on the Cajun’s face was when he’d made the connection. But in the two days they’d been in town, the man seemed to sleep well enough.

Granted, the first sleep had been after a round of truly enjoyable sex involving all four of them, and the two full nights’ rest had been proceeded by long days. Today had been long as well, but it had also involved raiding the mining camp. That had necessitated some precision shooting…

…and Goody had been the one pulling the trigger.

Swearing under his breath, Gabi lifted his head to see if their mate’s restlessness had caught anyone else’s attention yet. Josué was dead to the world, although Billy’s brow was furrowed slightly; chances were good that he would be waking up any moment if Goody moved around too much more.

He wrapped both arms around the smaller man quickly, rolling them away from their still-restful mates and pressed his lips against Goody’s ear.

“Sh, sh, sh, sweetheart,” he murmured softly in Spanish. “It’s just bad dreams, darling. Wake up now, we don’t want to disturb Billy and Josué.”

“Gabriel?” Goody mumbled quietly, sounding only vaguely awake. “Wha’ are y’ doin’ awake?”

Gabi snorted, hoping that the laugh was muffled enough; the lack of a bony elbow in his back or a whack to his shoulder was evidence he was successful. “You were having rough dreams, mijo,” he replied. “It woke me up.”

The older man huffed out a sigh. “Sorry ‘bout that, mon beau. Don’t know what might have done that today.”

“I do.” When it felt like Goody was going to try to look at him, he tightened his hold and brushed a kiss to the older man’s cheek. “The shooting today. It puts you in a bad place sometime, sí? Don’t worry on it; we all have bad dreams, and things that make them come.”

Goody heaved another sigh, shifted around enough so they were facing one another. “Still,” he said softly, “I’m keeping you awake. Just because I can’t sleep—”

“Eh, I wasn’t sleeping well anyway,” Gabi interrupted. “So, we can just stay awake together, no?”

His mate seemed to consider this silently, curling in comfortably close and resting his head on the pillow next to Gabi’s. After a moment, Goody smiled slightly and moved just enough to press a slow kiss to his mouth.

“Maybe we can tire ourselves out, hmm?”

He blinked a couple times before turning his head to glance behind them. Josué and Billy were still out cold, the Korean having now shifted to lie completely across the taller man and Josué himself with one arm thrown across their mate’s back. Neither one showed any sign of waking up any time soon—hell, Josué was snoring now—but still…

Gabi turned his gaze back to Goody and raised one eyebrow. “I do not think we can do much without waking them up, mijo,” he said seriously.

Goody made a considering sound before managing to shift closer still, sliding one leg up over his waist. “I can be quiet, mon beau,” he all but purred. “Quiet as a mouse. Want me to prove it?”

He actually did have to stop and consider for a moment. On the journey into Rose Creek, they had slipped off alone and had a quick fuck while checking on their route. Even then, Goody hadn’t exactly been silent, letting out pretty moans and demanding he go harder. And on their first day in the town proper, he had been quiet only because Billy’s cock was in his mouth for most of the time.

But, and he was probably going to regret this, Gabi was curious to see if it was possible for his very vocal mate to be quiet during lovemaking.

“If you can be quiet, mijo, I’ll fetch you your coffee in the morning,” he finally said after a minute. “If you can’t, then you have to get breakfast for me.”

Goody chuckled softly. “Sounds like a deal,” he murmured back, leaning in again to press another slow kiss to his mouth. Gabi let out an appreciative rumble, wrapped his arms tighter around his mate. Without breaking the kiss, they rolled enough so the taller man was on his back with Goody straddling his hips.

“Carefully, mijo,” he said softly against Goody’s mouth. “Don’t hurt yourself, cariño.”

“Don’t worry, très cher, I’m still wet from before,” was the Cajun’s reply, and Gabi had to bite his lip to keep from moaning too loudly. Yes, the four of them had made love again before dropping off to sleep, although not all four of them at once. Even so, he could still vividly recall Josué fucking into Goody, whispering pretty words in his ear and laughing softly at the obviously filthy French he got in response; some of the words were close enough to his own native Spanish to infer the meaning. For his part, he too was still a bit slick from where Billy’d taken him, and comfortably sore in spots.

They would definitely have to do that again, and soon; he’d never really enjoyed being in the submissive role, but his dark-haired mate had made sure that he enjoyed every second of it.

“You will be the death of me, sweetheart,” he gasped out as his little mate shifted and took him in easily, settling his hips with a slow roll and quiet hum of pleasure.

Goody huffed out a soft laugh, leaned down to kiss him deeply. “Want to hear a secret, mon amour?” When Gabi managed a hint of a nod, the smaller man gave him a wicked little grin. “I can speak nearly fluent Spanish, too.”

“You’re bullshitting me,” the Mexican blurted out; when he realized how loud it sounded he glanced to his side again. Josué and Billy were still dead to the world, and as much as he wouldn’t mind them joining in, he would prefer even more for those two to get some sleep.

“Not at all, dearest,” Goody replied, rolling his hips slowly and clenching just enough for some delicious friction. “I grew up in New Orleans. We spoke French most of the time, and English nearly as much.” The next slow shift caused him to bite his lip, holding back a whine. “Some of my family’s business colleagues—ahh—spoke very little English but were fluent in Spanish. I learned because—move a little for me, baby—I’m nosy.”

Gabi chuckled softly as he settled his hands on his mate’s waist, pressed his heels into the bed and rolled his hips up to meet Goody’s downward movement. “You are full of surprises, precious,” he said softly, grinning as his mate let out a soft gasp of pleasure. “Does Billy know you learn languages for fun?”

“I—oh, right there, darling—keep trying to pick up Korean from him, but I don’t think he realizes tha—shit, that’s so good—that’s what I’m doing,” the Cajun managed to get out as Gabi pulled him down hard on a couple of thrusts. He let out another curse under his breath and moved to lie over the taller man, tangling his fingers in his hair and tilting his head up to give him a searing kiss.

Gabi moaned into it, tightening his grip and rocking his hips up hard into the shorter man. He was so close, and from the way Goody was shivering against him, he wasn’t too far off either. Another couple of thrusts and he was spilling into his mate, swallowing down Goody’s whine as he came only a few seconds before him.

The Cajun let out a soft sigh, kissing him sweetly as he shifted his hips. Gabi’s softening cock slipped out easily, and Goody let himself tumble off to one side. They shared another kiss, then another, before the shorter man lifted his head to glance over Gabi’s shoulder. He let out a snort of amusement before dropping back down to cuddle up with his mate.

“Both of ‘em are still dead to the world, mon beau,” he said, a thread of amusement in his voice. “So, does that mean I win the bet?”

Gabi huffed out a soft laugh and stole another kiss. “I suppose you were quiet enough, precioso,” he conceded. “But you drink your coffee too sweet. I’ll make you a real cup tomorrow.”

“If there’s no sugar in it, you’re wearin’ it.”

Gabi just snickered again and pulled Goody against him. “Try and get some sleep, mijo. We’ll discuss this in the morning.”

Chapter Text

The next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, was busy from dawn till dusk.

Their unconventional triad was up with the sun, getting as much to eat and as much coffee in them as possible before heading out to get started. The first day was spent working on getting the trenches dug for the surprise attacks, with Sam and their Goody working out where to dig and Joshua throwing himself into the digging alongside Gabe and Billy. That took till sometime mid-day to be close to complete, and a quick meal was in there before he and Gabe got to work rigging the explosives in the field.

By dinner time that first day, they had the field rigged up to blow, as well as a bit of explosives out by the windmill and a bottle of hooch tied up to the ones in the old barn. The whole lot of them had knocked off just before sundown to go eat dinner, get a little drunk, and then head up to their room to collapse into bed. Joshua wasn’t even really sure when they’d stripped off their clothes, but he did know that he passed out with one arm looped around Gabe’s waist and Goody sprawled over both of them like a blanket and Billy curled against his back.

The next day was spent with rigging more of the town, and he had spotted Goody and Billy trying to help Old Jack figure out how much time they’d have if Bogue’s men actually made it into Rose Creek. It didn’t look like much from where he was standing, and Joshua was convinced that they were going to have to cut off the bulk of the troops in the fields. Which made him drag Gabe back for the next couple of days to rig more dynamite, which made all three of his mates fuss over him at meal times.

So when Sam seemed to be set—reluctantly—to send Red out to scout for Bogue and his army, Joshua made his way across the street to where Goody was helping get sandbags loaded up to fortify the balcony that sat over the saloon.

“Got a question, babe,” he said, slouching against the rail and trying to keep from frowning too heavily.

His attempted nonchalance didn’t fool his Cajun for a second. “What’s troubling you, mon coeur?”

“Just… d’you think Bart Bogue is the kind of man who’d just make a straightforward attempt at running us all outta town, or would he have some tricks up his sleeve?”

Goody stopped what he was doing, standing up straight and frowning thoughtfully, eyes focused on something somewhere (hopefully) far in his past. “If I were him,” he said after a long moment, “I’d get up as much manpower as I could for a full-on assault, and keep some… heavy artillery for backup in case things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d prefer.”

Joshua nodded slowly in agreement. “Yeah,” he said, “I was afraid you’d say that.”

“You thinking the same thing I am?”

“Oh, yeah.” Joshua turned on his heel and made his way quickly to where Sam and Red were speaking. The Comanche didn’t seem too eager to get out of town, nor did the leader of their little band seem all that eager to send him off. “You fellas got a second?”

“Might,” Sam offered, turning to face him. Next to him, Red turned a curious look onto the gambler, and Joshua felt an involuntary grin flit over his lips for just a second. In the few days here, he’d noted the bond between these two, and he’d also noted that its presence left his two eldest mates relieved in a way. Joshua had been operating under the impression that Sam Chisolm had a death wish upon their first meeting, and that had all but vanished when the youngest member of their little band had rode up on them out of nowhere and joined the fold.

Clearing his throat, he spoke his—and Goody’s—concerns. “I ain’t so sure Bogue’s gonna be playing things straight, if you get what I’m saying.”

“You thinking he might haul along something else?” Apparently Sam had had similar thoughts but had brushed them aside until someone else spoke up.

“Might be. Goody said he’d bring heavy artillery if it was his own self,” Joshua remarked with a shrug. “Me? I’d have a cannon or two in case of things going south on me.”

Sam made a thoughtful sound before turning to Red and speaking to him in Comanche. The younger man’s brow furrowed as he responded in kind, the tone a question. Joshua waited a moment longer, catching a few words in English that apparently didn’t translate well, before stepping back to rejoin Billy where he’d started out in helping with the church.

“You think there’s going to be trouble, Josh?” he asked softly.

“Me and Goody both, yeah,” he replied. Billy’s response to that was to reach out and grasp the back of his neck, offering comfort and warmth even as they continued to work at making things as ready for war as possible.

Joshua desperately hoped and prayed to a God he wasn’t sure he still believed in that they would survive what was to come. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing any of these men he’d found… or the thought of any of them having to live without him in turn.

Chapter Text

The time came just as Sam had predicted it would, with Red Harvest tearing back into Rose Creek in the late afternoon of their sixth day in town.

From his spot in the steeple, where he’d been helping Teddy and Josiah—who he continued to call “schoolteacher” to his face, because he could be an asshole like that—get the bell hung back into place, Goody could see the Comanche approaching. His heart near about leapt to his throat when the young man’s horse all but skidded to a halt, and he watched from above as Red relayed the news of what he’d seen to Sam.

He couldn’t hear anything from where he was, but he knew that their time was up. Goody sent up a quick prayer, hoping beyond hope that they’d had long enough to get this town and its people ready for what was about the rain down upon them.

Almost as one, all three of his mates turned their eyes up to the steeple, meeting his gaze. Three degrees of fear, worry, determination, and unadulterated love was clear to him, and Goody took a deep breath to calm his nerves. It was obvious that he was going to have to catch Sam later, find out exactly what Red had seen out there that sent him rushing back the way he had, but it was more clear that he was going to have to try and soothe his mates’ nerves as well.

It wouldn’t be a hardship; he could use some comfort himself, and he already knew that Billy, Joshua, and Gabriel were more than willing to offer it.

So, as soon as he and the other two men were back on the ground, Goody turned on his heel and started over to where he’d spotted his mates headed. It was of no surprise that Joshua’s idea of calming himself down was to go dote upon his crazy-ass horse; that sort of devotion was something Billy’d often goaded him about, since he spoiled Adelaide mercilessly. It was a miracle Addie wasn’t fat, given how many peppermints and dried apples he secreted to her.

He joined them quietly, nodding to Gabriel when the other man moved close and dropped an arm over his shoulders. Joshua was whispering something to Jack, who was standing still as if he understood what was being said to him. Billy was at his side, watchful yet quiet, letting their mate do what he needed at the moment. As soon as Joshua stepped back, rubbing one hand over the stallion’s nose and telling him go on, and behave, Billy stepped into his space and tugged him against his side.

“How soon will they be here?” Goody asked. Gabriel tugged him closer, resting his head against his own and huffing a sigh.

“Dawn,” Joshua replied, leaning his own weight against their Billy.

He let out a whistle. “Damn,” he said slowly, “barely even giving his own men time to rest before a full-on assault. We should probably settle in early, mes amours.”

“I want to know what Red saw, mijo,” Gabriel remarked. “He looked a little pale when he came back in, so it couldn’t have been anything good.”

“I’d bet ten to one,” Joshua said, “that the bastard brought along a cannon.”

Billy rolled his eyes a bit. “I won’t bet on that,” he said. “It makes no sense to just pass money between the two of us when it all goes back to the same place.”

Goody shook his head. Part of him was honestly hoping for just a cannon or two. He had seen cannons, dealt with them more than once during the war. But there was something worse he’d seen, as well. Something more deadly, something that still haunted his dreams many nights.

The something that had, frankly, been disturbing his sleep a few nights ago when Gabriel had gently woken him up to keep from waking up Billy and Joshua as well. And despite how nice it had been, surprising his Mexican with his own grasp of Spanish while making love quietly next to their sleeping mates, the fact remained that the Devil’s Breath was on his mind.

“I hope it’s just that,” he murmured softly.

“¿Qué pasa, cariño?” Gabriel asked, brow furrowed in concern. When he glanced up, he noticed that Joshua and Billy were giving him troubled looks as well.

“We need to talk to Sam,” he replied slowly. “We need to know for sure what Bogue’s bringing with him. Because I’m hoping it’s only cannons.”

At his words, Billy’s face went chalk white. He knew quite well what demon his mate sometimes saw in his sleep, what kept him awake too many nights when he wasn’t too tired to dream or too well-fucked to let his thoughts drift to the war.

Joshua’s frown deepened, and he wrapped his arm firmly around Billy’s waist. “Somehow I get the feeling that I don’t want to know,” he said carefully. “But at the same time, I feel like I have to know.”

Goody looked him in the eye, and nodded firmly. “Then we go find Sam,” he replied, “and we find out if I’m worried over nothing.”

It took a little doing to track down his old friend, mostly because it appeared he had likewise needed to hide away from the world for a little while. The fact that he’d done so in the company of his triad mate was no surprise; the fact that Red actually tried to glare the lot of them down when they’d been found hiding out in the general store of all places was actually funny as hell. No matter that the young man was a warrior in his own right, Goody couldn’t not see him as Sam and Marla’s child, and it nearly had him chuckling in spite of his worry.

He shook off his amusement and gave his friend a serious look. “Sam,” he said evenly. “What are we looking at come morning?”

Sam sighed, rubbed a hand at his neck where, Goody knew, beneath the neckerchief lay the scars from a lynching gone wrong—or right, depending upon where one stood. “Two hundred men,” he replied, “give or take about twenty. All of them armed with rifles at the least, one of them appeared to be of the Comanche himself.”

At this, Red snorted in derision and muttered—in English—something about the bastard not deserving to wear the name Comanche if he was wearing white man’s clothes. It drew a surprised chuckle from all four of the Robicheauxs and a quick flash of a grin from Sam before his expression smoothed back out into something akin to troubled.

“They had a wagon with ‘em.” The words set Goody’s blood to ice, and he nearly started whispering no no no before Sam finished. “It was covered with a tarp. There were ten men alone with it. It wasn’t a cannon.”

“They’ve got a goddamn Gatling gun,” the Cajun muttered, and he could hear the terror threaded in his own voice. Were he alone in the world, he would be turning tail and leaving everyone here behind him. He would run back to Lafayette, back to his mommas and daddy and pretend that he’d never even heard of Rose Creek, if only to get away from just the threat of that particular war machine.

But he wasn’t alone, and he was reminded of that fact almost immediately by the way strong arms looped around him and tugged him in, turned him into Joshua’s chest and the taller man doing his damnedest to cover him from the whole world.

He was reminded by the way Billy moved in to drop one hand to the small of his back, one of the few places not smothered by their Irishman, rubbing at it and whispering reassurances in Korean, soothing in spite of the fact that he only understood maybe one out of every six or so words.

He was reminded by Gabriel’s colorful swearing, nearly enough to make him grin a bit in spite of his very real terror, and the demands that someone go out there right now and blow the goddamned thing up before Bogue could even bring it to bear on the town.

Goody knew that there was still much being discussed around him, but he couldn’t deal with it at the moment. He just wanted to forget for a brief while, forget that death could very well be coming in a few far-too-short hours to take away either himself or the ones who made his life even worth the living. So he let himself be surrounded by those loved ones, and trusted them to handle everything for the moment.

He could hear Joshua say something directly to him, but it sounded too far away. Goody closed his eyes and let the darkness take him for a little while.

Chapter Text

Billy had noted the very clear signs of an anxiety attack coming on the moment that Sam mentioned the wagon.

He’d immediately locked eyes on Goody, his ears sharp enough to pick up his muttered denials even as their old friend confirmed his mate’s deepest unspoken fears. That Bogue was bringing a Gatling gun to this battle wasn’t nearly as surprising as it should have been, but it was still a terrifying prospect.

It meant that they were going to have to very quickly come up with a plan to take it out of play as soon as possible.

It also meant that for the rest of this day, Goody was probably going to be locked in either a full-on attack of nerves or out cold from shock.

Billy had time enough to see nearly all the blood drain from the Cajun’s face before Josh was pulling him against him, turning him around as he did to wrap both arms securely around his back. He himself took a few steps closer still, resting one hand on the small space left that the redhead’s arms weren’t covering, and slipped into a spot close enough to speak directly into Goody’s ear.

“Shh, sweetheart,” he murmured in his native tongue. “Relax, we are here. We won’t let anything harm you if we can stop it.”

Josh made an inquisitive sound but didn’t interrupt his words. They were both focused, Billy realized, on the task of making sure that their mate was going to get through this attack in one piece.

“What are you going to do about this mierda, then, cabrón?” Gabi demanded, and Billy glanced over to see that his mate was glowering at Sam. “Because I think that a few sticks of that dynamite and a fast horse could solve the issue right now!”

“I know, it’s not ideal,” Sam replied, and he could hear the strain in the man’s voice; apparently, he was just as worried as any one of them, given the sort of damage Bogue’s weapon could dish out. “And unfortunately, we don’t have much time to figure out a solution. Best I can reckon is we take it out as early as possible come morning, don’t give them the chance to even load the damned thing.”

Billy frowned a bit, and even started to open his mouth to ask if Sam had any suggestions, when Josh let out a startled Goody? and drew his focus back to his mates… just in time to see their Cajun go boneless and pass out.

Damn it… this was going to be a rough one. And judging from how Josh looked ghost-white himself as well as Gabi’s wide-eyed stare, they should retreat to somewhere safe and quiet.

“Josh,” he said softly, still rubbing at Goody’s back despite the fact that he wasn’t aware of it any longer. “We need to get him to our room. Can you carry him?”

“I don’t know,” came the answer, and poor Josh sounded upset over the prospect of being unable to aid their mate. “Gabe?”

“I can help, guerito,” Gabi replied even as he moved to slip next to them.

Between the two of them, they got Goody off the street and into the boarding house, Billy moving to open the doors as they needed. It was the work of just a moment to get their Cajun onto the bed; then both Josh and Gabi shifted uncertainly, not sure what to do now.

Billy, on the other hand, was already moving to sit on the bed. “Pull the curtains shut a bit, just enough for a small amount of light to come through,” he instructed softly. “One of you get a wash cloth and dampen it, not too wet but not dry.” As he spoke, he himself set about removing Goody’s waistcoat and boots, taking care to remain in physical contact at all times.

Both his taller mates rushed to comply, Josh grabbing for the curtains as Gabi crossed the room to the wash basin. In short order, they both returned to the bedside and looked to him for instruction.

Billy smiled softly to himself. It seemed that they were slowly beginning to fall into their roles in this triad, and he wasn’t surprised in the least that they were casting him as the senior-most of their group. He also wasn’t too surprised that they all turned the bulk of their attentions to Goody. Their Cajun absolutely thrived on positive attention, and Billy had spend years catering to that need of his mate’s. It was pure, simple luck that two more had gravitated towards them who near-instantly had locked onto that need and fed it.

After all this was over, should they manage to live through tomorrow, he was looking forward to taking these men home to Lafayette. The elder Robicheauxs were going to adore them.

“Come on,” he said aloud, shrugging away the thoughts for now. Josh was quick to slip onto the bed, immediately rolling onto his side and pulling Goody against him. Billy took the damp cloth from Gabi and placed it over their unconscious mate’s eyes to help block the low light and to coax him back to awareness whenever he was ready. He shifted a bit when the Mexican climbed into bed as well, draping one arm across Billy’s waist and letting his hand rest on Goody’s hip protectively.

“What happened back there, Billy?” Josh asked softly, a frown on his lips even as he ran one hand up and down their mate’s back. “It’s like when you cut a puppet’s strings or something, just…”

Gabi nodded thoughtfully. “Like there was nothing left to keep him standing, sí,” he remarked. “I thought he was going to drop before he did, though.”

Billy heaved a sigh, letting his head fall onto the pillows as he watched their mate for signs of returned consciousness. “The war was… not very kind to our Goody,” he said as evenly as possible. “In many ways, it was cruel, and it was not something he needed to be involved in. He’s never really told me much about it, but he carries the battles with him. The memories wake him up at night, sometimes.”

“The nightmares?” Gabi asked; Josh responded to the question by pulling their mate even closer and scowling in annoyance.

He nodded in reply. “The one that keeps coming back, the worst of them, involves a Gatling gun.” Billy paused before adding, “He mentioned to me once that half of his regiment was wiped out by one of those damned things. I’m almost certain he saw friends cut in two by the bullets.”

“Madre de Dios,” Gabi murmured, the hand resting on their mate’s hip moving in soothing circles. “I don’t want to ask when that happened, hermoso, but I feel like it was probably near the end, yes?”

“Jesus,” Josh said even as he moved to drop a kiss to Goody’s cheek. “I’m gonna borrow your knives, babe, and got stab Bogue in the face. Y’all are okay with that, yeah?”

Billy chuckled softly, shifted to press a soft kiss to his mate’s lips. “No stabbing tonight,” he chided gently. “We should probably eat, but I don’t think we should leave Goody by himself. If he wakes up alone…”

“I’ll get us something, mis amores,” their Mexican said gently, squeezing Billy’s waist carefully before climbing out of the bed. “I’ll let everyone know not to expect us until the morning.”

Chapter Text

Bartholomew Bogue was a man used to getting his way.

When he was a much younger man, he had wanted to avoid the entanglements of romance in spite of knowing that most triads were romantic in nature. He had no time for that sort of foolishness, and when he had met the first of his mates he had been so… relieved to discover that Thomas McCann felt no sort of instant love when their eyes met. Their bond was one of brotherhood, and Bogue began to hope that if there was a romantic third to come then it would be McCann’s.

He still had no time for love.

When Denali came along, wholly unexpected, their brotherhood was complete. No useless romantic feelings were involved anywhere, at least not on his part; if the other two were entangled in such manner, he wanted to know nothing about it.

And so many times over the years, whatever he wanted fell easily into his hands. He only had to get a little bloody a few times, and even that was only in the metaphorical sense. His triad tended to enact the violence for him, and that suited Bogue just fine.

But Rose Creek was an anomaly.

To start off, there was immediate push-back from the townsfolk. None of them seemed to want his money, and he had interrupted a meeting where they were even making noise about fighting him.

He reacted quickly, offering only twenty dollars for each parcel of land, and accepting no other offers. Bogue wasn’t entirely pleased that he had to actually shoot someone down, but the son of a bitch had snapped back at him pretty quickly. Given how the man’s wife and the man that had been seated with them inside the church both let out howls of despair in the moment, he felt justified in denying romantic entanglements within his own triad.

The pain was something he didn’t need to worry on.

Then McCann had returned from Rose Creek sometime during the second week he planned to stay away, nursing a wounded shoulder and spitting mad about it. He’d told Bogue then that some strangers had ridden into town and started up a gunfight, that he’d nearly managed to escape in the chaos excepting for the fact that one of them did see him leaving and shot him at something like four hundred yards away from the church.

That actually unnerved him a bit, one of his triad being shot despite people knowing McCann was his. The fussing that Denali set about was annoying, but he let the man do as he wanted. Again, if there were any romantic entanglements within his triad, he didn’t care so long as it didn’t negatively impact him in any way.

About ten hours after that, Sheriff Harp showed up as well, carrying the same story but an additional message to go with it. And Bogue was not a man who had qualms about shooting the messenger.

It only took Denali a day to hire an army for him, and three days back to Rose Creek. Bogue watched impassively as his men went on the attack, not really caring over much at the explosions that went off around them, only concerned with proving that Rose Creek was his. He trusted Denali and McCann to make his point, so he relaxed and left them to it.

It was only when a sharp thread of pain went through him followed by an abrupt blankness that Bogue began to worry that this time, he wouldn’t get what he wanted.

He had heard stories of what it felt like to lose a mate, either romantic or platonic, and he had laughed them off. Surely the pain wasn’t that bad. Surely one could live out a normal life even with the loss.

He had been an idiot; his triad mates were his brothers, and one of them was gone.

The cry of loss and outrage that floated from the town below, as recognizable as his own voice, told him that it had been McCann that was lost to him. He hoped that Denali made the bastards pay.

It wasn’t even ten minutes later that he felt another sharp jolt of pain and the emptiness within him deepened. He needed no vocal announcement; he knew already that Denali was gone, too.

And so, with the Gatling silenced by the explosion and no more bullets being fired below, Bartholomew Bogue made his way into Rose Creek with what was left of his army.

The town was lost, his triad was lost… but he was going to make someone suffer for his loss.

Chapter Text

They won.

Somehow, against the very terrifying odds, they’d won.

Joshua wasn’t sure how, and he wasn’t going to argue any of it. He’d been terrified enough in the past twenty-four hours or so, and he was going to take all the wins he could.

When Goody had passed out on them shortly before dusk, he had thought the man was going to die. Billy obviously had some experience with that sort of situation, since he’d taken over and directed him and Gabe to get him to their room post haste, but even he’d looked pale and frightened. They had gotten their mate upstairs and tucked into bed, and then Billy had told them that Goody had seen what a Gatling gun could do up close and personal during the war.

That the death machine haunted their little love made Joshua want to take Billy’s knives and stab someone in the face.

Gabe had been the one to eventually go off to fetch dinner for the lot of them, none of them wanting to leave Goody for more than a few minutes, not wanting him to be alone with that terror hanging over him. Once they had each taken turns to grab something to eat, they had all three settled in around him. It was late in the evening when their mate finally stirred, and that was mostly to turn over and curl in as closely as he could to all of them.

It was heartbreaking to hear his Goody make that solemn promise, that he was going to stay and fight even if it killed him, if it meant that they might live instead. As much as he wanted to shake the man, Joshua could honestly understand where he was coming from; after all, he was staying to fight so that his triad could make it through this to the end.

Sleep was uneasy for all of them that last night, and when the dawn’s light came shining in through the windows they had given up the pretense. The four had quietly gotten up out of the bed, straightened themselves up the best they could without actually going through the trouble of a full morning routine, and made their way outside to their places.

Even so, Joshua had not been willing to let Goody go up into the steeple without at least one possibly last kiss. And he had given everything he had to remind his mate to stay safe, to keep his head down, and to live through this day for fuck’s sake. That Billy and Gabe had followed suit made him grin a bit, and that he’d received similar kisses from the two of them was enough to buoy him as he took his position in the old barn nearest the windmill.

And then all hell had broken loose.

If the battle that had taken place in Rose Creek was even a shadow of what had happened during the War of Northern Aggression, then Joshua was even more in love with Goody for making it through with more than a modicum of sanity.

He still wasn’t sure just how the hell he and Red had managed to sneak out of town with all the chaos taking place, but done so they had. And they had sneaked up on where the Gatling gun was lying in wait, planted a few dozen sticks of dynamite with one hell of a fuse, lit it up, and then hurried away as fast as their own feet could carry them. By the time the bastards guarding the thing realized they had been there, well…

Joshua hoped that his mates had enjoyed the fireworks, that was all he was saying.

Even though they managed to live through this whole ordeal, it wasn’t without injury. He himself had been gut-shot by that bastard Blackstone McCann or whatever the fuck his name had been, and Gabe had taken immediate, incredibly bloody revenge. If his Mexican had intended to shoot the bastard into that coffin, then Joshua was going to give him all the sex ever once he was healed up enough for strenuous activity.

(He’d wondered only for a moment where his other mates were, but when he’d made it into the cover of the church, he found Billy giving Old Jack and Teddy cover fire and could hear Goody taking shots towards the riders still out in the fields; Joshua also knew that he’d be getting fussed over once either of them noted his injury and had quickly tore a strip from the bottom of his shirt and packed the bullet wound as best he could to slow the bleeding.)

Gabe himself had taken a through-and-through to his upper left arm but had finished the battle still firing with both revolvers. Joshua honestly spent about a half-second debating on whether to tear another strip from his shirt to patch the wound, but then his mate was back on his feet and firing out into the street, so he let it slide.

Billy, for his part, had taken a couple bullets to the shoulder that kept him from using his knives for the greater portion of the battle, but he’d been wielding a rifle nearly as well as Goody did. True, when the bullets had knocked the man to the ground, Gabe had given every indication of going back outside and repeating his trick with McCann and likely would have done so had Joshua not moved into the doorway and nailed the bastard right between the eyes.

And Goody…

Goody had nearly given the lot of them a goddamn heart attack when the floor of the steeple gave out—they apparently hadn’t reinforced the damned thing quite well enough—and sent him plummeting back into the church itself. Only the fact that Gabe was closest and already darting away from where he’d been firing out the doorway to go check on their mate kept Joshua from moving away from his own position at the window. Billy likewise had flinched in that direction, exchanged a charged look with the redhead, and held his position. If he was a little more liberal with the bullets—and if he had noticed how much Joshua’s side was bleeding and slid closer to offer someone to lean against while firing as well—then that was just a funny coincidence.

Once the riders stopped coming in—mainly because they were all lying dead or bleeding to death on the ground, and it was more than the fuckers deserved—the two by the window had all but dropped their guns and rushed to where Gabe was still fussing over Goody. Between the three of them, they hauled their eldest mate from the church and over into the school house—also known as their makeshift infirmary—just in time for Bogue himself to come waltzing into Rose Creek with the very last of his men. Joshua figured that Sam could handle things from there and set about harassing Miss Clara and Miss Leni into making sure Goody hadn’t broken his damned neck in the fall despite the man’s own protests that he was fine, it was just his leg that was probably fucked up as that’s what he’d landed on.

And he was still in awe that they’d won, even hours later, even after listening to the people who had survived the fight—men and women both, a surprising amount of the latter had stayed to fight just like Miss Emma had—celebrating outside. The doctor had hauled him over to tend to his gut wound, chastising him a bit for not letting him deal with it when they’d first pushed their way inside, and then sent him to curl up on the bed next to his mate.

Both Gabe and Billy were pulled aside as well, tended to and sent back, but they were all just pleased that they had survived. And they didn’t stop from piling onto the bed in spite of Goody’s complaining that they were crushing him. Joshua at least was still convincing himself that their Cajun hadn’t been killed in the fall, that he’d only fractured a bone in one of his legs that, yeah, might make his life more difficult in the long run, but at least it wasn’t his back or neck.

Joshua shifted enough to lift his head a bit and frown when Goody made a slight sound that didn’t sound pained, almost considering. He was looking up at the ceiling, the fingers of one hand idly combing through Billy’s hair where the other man’s head rested against his shoulder. Gabe likewise shifted, moving to almost sit up and look at his mates with a confused expression.

“What’s wrong?” Joshua asked, almost ready to get up and call the doctor over again. Granted, the last time the man had been over was to yell at them not to have sex in ‘his’ infirmary or he was going to both douse them with a bucket of cold water and make them rest in separate beds. His own reaction had been to latch onto all three of his mates and glare at the doctor till he wandered off to see to Old Jack, who’d been pincushioned by the other Comanche and hauled into the school house by young Teddy and Red.

“Just thinking,” Goody mused, tilting his head to offer a small smile. “Been a while since we headed east, ain’t it, cher?”

Billy lifted his head and gave their mate an amused look. “Feeling homesick?” he asked idly.

“Bit. Also thinking Maman T and Maman Essie and Daddy’ll love ‘em.”

Joshua looked over at Gabe and saw his own confusion at the conversation reflected there. He cleared his throat and asked, “What’re you talking about?”

Goody blinked at him. “All of us going to Lafayette soon as we’re cleared to travel and visit my parents, of course.”

“You have three, mijo?” Gabe asked, sounding almost wistful. “I only had Mamá and Papí.”

Ignoring the almost mournful look that received from both Goody and Billy, Joshua offered up, “Hell, it was just me and my Ma. Never knew who my father was.”

“Yeah,” Billy said, and he sounded vaguely amused now. “Maman Arthémie’s adopting you both immediately.”

Goody chortled. “Hell, she was gonna already,” he quipped. “This is just gonna make it even more of a need for her to do it. Y’think the town’ll be ready for it?”

“Hell no.” And Billy sounded absolutely delighted over the prospect.

Joshua blinked slowly. “Are your parents insane?” he found himself asking, mouth twitching as his older mate all but howled in laughter. He shrugged at Gabe and added, “We’re marrying into madness, babe.”

Gabe’s smile was nearly blinding. “I’m starting to realize that.”

I love it anyway went unsaid. And Joshua agreed one hundred percent.

Life was good.

Chapter Text

Billy glanced around the room, smiling slightly to himself as he caught sight of Josh hovering off to one side of Maman Arthémie.

It was of no surprise to him that, the second the four of them had ridden into Lafayette—with so many residents of the town stopping to stare, as it had been a while since the youngest member of the Robicheaux family had wandered his way into town with his mate, let alone with more companions—and onto the family property that his mother-in-law had taken one look at the lot of them, swore out loud, and demanded that they all get your fool hides into this house and into a hot bath, tout de suite, y’all look like you been through a dust storm. She had quickly latched onto Josh as the ‘baby’ of the group and taken to mothering him near as viciously as she did her own child.

Josh, for his part, ate it up. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that he’d been long without his own Ma, and it was no hardship for him to let Maman Arthémie dote on him if that’s what she wanted to do.

Once they’d all had a chance to rest and clean up—part of which did indeed involve Gabi falling asleep in the tub and requiring Josh to haul him out of the water—they had joined Goody’s parents for a midday meal. Maman Sabine had tried for all of ten minutes to act a lady, only to dissolve into a very loud argument, in Spanish, with Gabi over how to properly break a horse. Which was surprising, because Billy had somehow not known both that the woman had been the one to train all of the horses on the property and that she was fluent in his mate’s mother tongue.

Which left him wondering if Goody could be convinced to speak Spanish in the bedroom, and he had spent the remainder of the meal pondering how to make that a reality.

Billy shook his head, getting his thoughts back to the present and turning to share a wry smile with Siabeoji Dempsey. “I think I may need to go rescue my husband from Maman Arthémie,” he remarked.

The older man laughed and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “You go do that, son,” he replied, tone as genial as always. Billy really did adore his in-laws and sometimes lamented that it would be much more difficult to go see his own parents back in Korea. Granted, he wasn’t certain of what manner of welcome they would get, being all men in the relationship, but he hoped for at least understanding should it ever come to pass.

Siabeoji grinned brightly and added, “I think I’ll go rescue Essie from your other young man, as well, send him off to you and Goody in short order.”

Billy shook his head and smiled back. “Thank you,” he said before heading across the room to where Josh was now laughing loudly at something Maman Arthémie had said while the woman herself smiled fondly and the others they were with looked scandalized. That was common with the Robicheauxs, something Billy was used to and was quite fond of himself.

He slid in easily next to his mate, schooling his expression to a blank slate as he slipped one possessive arm around Josh and biting back a grin when the redhead returned the favor. “Hey, y’all’ve met Billy, right?” his mate asked, grinning wickedly as some of the people there blinked in astonishment. “We should be going to find the rest of our triad. They ought’a be around here somewhere.”

With that, the Irishman turned them both and lead him across the room away from the ladies who were now furiously whispering questions to Maman Arthémie.

Billy snickered. “You’re a terrible person.”

“Eh, you love me,” Josh returned immediately. “So does Momma T. Is that where Goody gets his crazy from?”

“No,” Billy explained casually, “that would be Dempsey. He just hides it well and explains it away as being, quote, Cajun as fuck, unquote.”

Josh nearly howled with laughter again, leaning in to kiss him soundly. “I love this family.”

It took a few minutes to track down their mates, even though Siabeoji spotted the two of them and nodded towards the exit to the grand room. Mostly because Gabi and Goody had slipped from the ballroom and found their way to the family room, where they had then dropped onto the settee and proceeded to exchange the sort of long, slow, deep kisses that would serve to embarrass anyone but a Robicheaux who walked in on them.

Good thing he and Josh were Robicheauxs by bond.

“You couldn’t get up the stairs?” Billy asked, grinning as his mates pulled away from each other only to blink at him absently. He glanced over at Josh to see him biting back a laugh and offered a dramatic sigh. “We’re going to have to carry them, aren’t we?”

“Would love to see you try it, hermoso,” Gabi quipped, pushing himself to his feet and turning around to pull Goody up after him. “I might even pay good money to see that.”

Goody rolled his eyes. “Ain’t we already discussed passing money ‘round between the four of us and how it don’t make no sense?”

Josh snickered and replied, “I remember something along those lines. I also remember we decided it wasn’t worth the bother. Weren’t you saying something about upstairs, Billy?” he added almost as an afterthought.

The four of them continued picking at one another as they made their way up to the rooms that Goody’s parents had set aside for them—to say that his mate’s mothers weren’t excited for his triad to be completed was a fallacy of vast proportions, they’d even gone to the trouble of knocking a wall out between two rooms so they’d have plenty of space—and close the door behind them. Almost immediately, Josh stooped down to haul Goody over his shoulder and stalked towards their bedroom.

Billy exchanged a look with Gabi, who just rolled his eyes and shrugged with a fond expression on his face. He found himself smiling as well, listening as Goody demanded that Josh put him down and Josh just laughing at him in response. This was all he had ever wanted out of life, the chance to find his full triad and live as peaceful a life with them as possible.

And now that he had it, he was never letting them go.