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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Bearpaw: An Old West Tale - 18. Chapter 18 Peace

... on Lucas's side...

Peace

 

 

The loft—and how to reach it—was a challenge, but the kind Jubal truly enjoyed, and he’d been working on it for a good spell. He’d paid attention to what Lucas said, and did his best to figure out the best plan for giving him what he wanted. Some of the newly-milled two-and-a-half-inch thick pine boards with their different widths were perfect for building the staircase, but fact was it be tricky to position it to fit and work well.

He’d warned Lucas it could be tight, but he’d be damned if he didn’t give him the stairs he talked about. Come hell or high water, it was getting done, and it was getting done right. If it took him ten tries, he’d find a way.

If’n the roof had been less steep, there likely wouldn’t have been a safe amount of headroom to fit a set of stairs west to east, but Jubal worked out that with a large, proper landing attached to the two middle cross logs—and situated six inches lower than the loft floor—it worked. It made it possible for there to be enough space to turn left or right without needing to worry for bashing yourself senseless.

There’d even be room for a chest on the landing too, over against the roof, that end of it secured over a leveled board attached to the log wall. It might take some adjusting for future settling, but he’d made it so such would be a simple task. The landing itself was not attached to the wall.

It had taken some fiddling with the inches until he be satisfied, but the building ways Vincent had taught him came in handy. On the front end of the landing, he attached eleven-foot-long, six-inch peeled posts on both corners for support, and for something a fellow could grab hold of if’n he needed help with balance. Some fancy notching made them fit into the landing in a way Vincent would have approved of, and they went all the way down to the main floor. He set them onto carved, round dowels what were drilled into the floorboards and the joists below, so there be no visible fastening.

Them smooth posts made it especially solid, and with eight-sided maple caps on the tops, made from scrap pieces he’d found in the barn, they looked damn professional if he did say so hisself. The uprights would be a good place to hang coats and such on when you came in the back way, and there be room for another storage chest under the stairs if Lucas wanted such.

After the landing was in place, the stairs were a much easier undertaking, and once he finished them, they appeared just right for all his fretting. It helped too they be centered in front of the new back door opening. True, they were a mite steeper than some, and nothing a’tall fancy, being made from the simplest construction, but they were sturdy-built with plenty enough foot room.

The wide front door, when opened, cleared the bottom step with more than a foot to spare, so getting around it be no problem a’tall. A ladder would no doubt have been easier, but this was far grander, especially for a log cabin, and he couldn’t wait for Lucas to see how it turned out. He wouldn’t expect it to be done, so Jubal would enjoy surprising him with something what would remind him of his childhood home. He could sit on them stairs and look out his front door just like he used to do as a young’un.

Without Lucas there, he’d had to make some decisions, especially about keeping the area above the staircase completely open all the way to the front door, and not only for good head room. Staring up and still being able to see the peak kept some of that church and barn feel his friend had appreciated the night the roof was done. He’d leave it for him to decide if he wanted walls or railings on the sides, or nothing at all.

It be important to him to have the cabin ready to live in when Lucas returned. He expected the man wouldn’t be able to move around much and would be frustrated, so he wanted him to not be fretting about what needed doing with winter coming. He sat on the bottom stair and took a breath, looking out the open door the way his friend surely would when he finally got back home.

 

He’d been full of energy when he got back from Bearpaw, knowing Lucas was awake and healing, and that he had got him there in time. As Vincent would have said, he had a spring to his step, and his regular chores were done soon after storing the rest of his coins out behind the outhouse. He’d considered for a short time what he’d do with his money now he had it all back, but it wasn’t something he’d wanted to dwell on.

A walk to the upper pen with another half pail of oats had proved encouraging for their plans. Five horses were inside the big corral when he got there, and two of them were laying on the thick grass. The rest of the herd dozed outside the fence, not far off, and a couple of those were down too. They’d known he was there, so he sauntered up to the south corner where the trough be, seeing the water was lower than half. The wildings were using the pen for certain.

It didn’t take long for them what be inside the pen to rise up and go, but they hadn’t been panicked a’tall, staying on his side of the ridge while he spread out more oats. Yep, they’d been waiting for them, and that was the best sign he could’ve imagined. He decided he’d fill the trough with fresh water later, letting them get used to seeing him regular-like.

 

After that, hard bread and hard cheese had been his breakfast—along with a pot of bitter coffee—and then he’d started on the loft. First thing he’d done was lay the thick boards over the cross logs to help him decide how best to do the job of the landing before he started on them stairs, and now, after completing that whole challenge, he was ready to nail the loft boards in place.

They’d already been trimmed to the right length, so it was just some swinging of the hammer until all were fastened tight. As far as he could tell, the floors be fine work, the thick, smooth planks tight together with the lines true. Lucas would be happy for sure.

The simple stairs didn’t even creak at his weight, and there was plenty of width on either side for a bed far bigger than Lucas’s old one. There weren’t no bounce to the floors neither, and he was thankful Morey had made them boards thicker than Lucas had asked for.

He was finally at the point he could stand safely and put in the upstairs windows. As he stared out and remembered, it was hard to believe he’d ever fit through such a small opening that godawful day. Shaking his head, he got to work, and by the time he attached the last hinge to the frame, it was evening, and he sorely felt his empty belly. He hadn’t built the back door yet, but he be dragging his feet, his energy finally drained away.

He only meant to put the mattress in the old cabin to protect it from dew, but ending up laying on it a spell. He thought he could smell the scent of the man it belonged to in one spot, and he breathed it deep. His energy might have been used up, but there was still plenty of joy at knowing his friend be coming back to the farm a healthy man. Curling up on Lucas’s side, closest to the wall, he fell asleep.

Waking to the sound of a coon chittering nearby, he realized he’d slept long when he turned his head to the window to see the sky was changing color. Dawn be near. He also realized he’d left the door of the cabin open the whole night. That weren’t being cautious for sure, and he gave hisself heck for it. Stretching, he stayed where he lay, not wanting to move an inch. It’d been days since he’d felt this calm, and was ready to enjoy the peace of it.

One thing for sure, he was going to cook up a mess of food for breakfast. It felt like something was gnawing on his innards, he be so hungry. Yesterday’s conversation with Reid and Billy came back to him as he stared upward, pondering over that gut feeling he’d experienced at the time.

It was Billy what had him wondering the most, the way his quick glances constantly landed on the other man. Reid was a friendly sort for sure, and it was likely that—and the fact he was a sheriff—what were the reasons for Billy’s obvious adoration.

Often, it seemed like there be a message behind the words Reid spoke, though, at least the ones he’d said to him. It be right confusing at times, like he could see inside Jubal’s heart and mind, yet he never said such plain. The last time they’d talked, it felt like he was giving his approval for loving Lucas, but that just couldn’t be, could it? He’d spent the last year avoiding folk for good reason, but it had been dang near impossible since meeting Lucas on the road.

Sighing, he sat up, his boots still on, and accepted he couldn’t trust his gut on such matters. Thinking he knew what went on in another man’s head was like trusting a rattlesnake… it would get you bit… or worse.

It was surely just a good friendship between Billy and Reid, like the one he had with Lucas. To be honest, that confused him too. He knew his own feelings, and he expected that was the reason he sometimes felt their friendship had grown to something else. Yet there were moments the man would look his way, almost from that first day, and he would feel it deep in his soul, same way he’d feel when Vincent’s gaze used to land on him, meeting Jubal’s eyes with love in his. But, there’d only been one Vincent in his life despite all the years he’d hoped for different, and he needed to remember that.

Vincent always said straight what was in his heart, never shy about sweet words. He used to say Jubal’s eyes were the prettiest blue there ever was in the world… and that the summer skies be jealous of them. Said many times no one was more deserving of being loved too, and Jubal had believed him, until he learned it be otherwise.

Shivering in the cooler morning air, he relived how the man would trace his jaw with his fingers before he kissed him… then play with his neck hair while doing so, and steal his breath away every time. He sucked air deep and slow to clear the memory. It was a long time ago, and he needed to leave the past be.

Besides, it not be a’tall the same with Lucas. Vincent had professed love, and that weren’t something he could put on his friend. He was a fine, caring man what be good at making friends… so thinking them looks meant something more would just get him into trouble. He’d had enough of that to last his lifetime. Lucas needed him, and he needed Lucas, and it didn’t matter it be in different ways. He’d let go before, and he would do it again when the time came it was clear he had to do so.

Scratching his chest, he groaned. Damnation. He’d fallen asleep before soaping up and applying the salve. Doc Vance would not be happy… if he ever was to tell him.

The fire was blazing before the sun cleared the horizon, and he pokered it to get the tall flames settled. Staring at the blackened iron, he thought about what else he’d used it for. He’d been so unsure when he burned Lucas’s skin like he did, but it turned out he done the right thing. The man lived and Ronnie Prescott was dead. He hoped he never had to shoot another man as long as he lived, but the world wouldn’t miss the two he had.

The salted bacon, six eggs, and fried heavy bread hit the spot. Jubal sat on the ground while he ate, and now he leaned back into one of the sitting stumps, feeling filled up and relaxed. It wouldn’t last long because chores were calling, but this was a place meant to be enjoyed. Birdsong was constant, moving from place to place, and even the squawking jays were welcomed far as he was concerned. A soft nicker from the front corral was followed by a crow from the rooster. The two hogs could be heard snuffling through their mud, looking for morsels of turnip and other roots Jubal had fed yesterday. He was pretty sure they buried stuff for later eating.

After chores he walked to the upper corral with more oats, but when he got there the horses weren’t in sight. He wasn’t expecting that a’tall, and his curiosity got the better of him. Walking slow, he advanced on the ridge, but stopped when he heard the stallion’s call from somewhere off to the east. The thunder of hooves followed the loud whinny, and he knew they’d all taken flight.

He could feel it through his boots at first, and then it stopped as they got far enough away. Disappointed, he walked into the corral to see the oats were eaten up. There was that at least, so he went about laying down more piles. Wildings were smart, but he weren’t if he thought catching them would be easy. He needed to remember to pick up more oats at the feed mill, cause he wasn’t giving up. Lucas wouldn’t want him to.

Satisfied the stock was taken care of, it was his turn. First, he cleaned his teeth, and then gave hisself a needed shave, thinking of how it wasn’t long ago he’d done such for Lucas. He still felt the wallop of seeing that handsome face without any whiskers.

Wouldn’t have mattered to him if he weren’t that darn pretty… he’d already carried those feelings of love by that time… but it was surely a sight to behold once revealed. He could still recall the feel of his head and face in his hands. Was hard to control his cock at the time, and thinking about it now, the same excitement be happening down there.

Ignoring it, he stripped naked and walked into the crick. As he stood in ball-deep water, he took a close look at his chest. There be no oozing the doc had spoke of, just some scabbing what looked normal. His nipple weren’t swole anymore like it had been either, and to him it looked like it usually did except for being a mite redder. He soaped up and rinsed off before climbing out. He was also needing new clothes from town to replace the shirt he tore up, and those britches what were stained with blood. He could still use them for working in, though. After spreading a thin coat of the salve into his chest, he got hisself dressed.

It was early yet and he was itching to see Lucas, but figured it be time he showed some patience. His constant fear might have showed his hand about his feelings, but now that Lucas was on the mend, he had to think clearer.

Sighing at the need to hide who he be, he got the panes for the broken window and entered the log cabin. Sunlight was coming through the new door opening behind the stairs and he took some pride in his work. It be a cheery, well-made place for certain, and what he done still needed the owner’s approval, but he couldn’t imagine the man not liking how it turned out.

Prying out the wood holding the broken pains was quick and easy, and he took real care with securing the new ones. The third pane he purchased was a spur of the moment decision for the back door, and after seeing how good the stairs looked with light behind them, he was glad of his choice.

Building the door was simple work, and he had it done and hung before the sun reached noon. As he adjusted the latch to his satisfaction, he took a deep breath. Lucas’s new home was done, and he could look out his new back door without opening it. It would be safer that way if trouble ever came again.

Yep, he still had to build a platform for his friend’s mattress to sit on—easier that prying the other one loose from the wall in the old cabin—but that could wait till tomorrow. It was time to go see him. One more thing first, though, something what had bothered him since he first arrived at Gold Rush Farm. Picking up the saw, he headed for the laneway to take care of that damn broken branch he had to keep ducking under.

“Good riddance,” he said after climbing down and tossing it into the trees. Smiling, he hurried back to hitch Dinah up to the wagon. He had some shopping to do, but he’d be seeing Lucas real soon, and he didn’t need to hide how happy that made him… not out here by his lonesome.

 

 

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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