Tumbleweeds in the Wind
                                       by Calamity

This story is dedicated to all my Saturday night RPG pards in the Four Corners Saloon Chat Room. It is an Outriders/ RPG crossover story (well, sort of).  It's based on events that have occurred in the Sat. night Saloon RPG in the past few weeks.


Cal sat down at her usual table in the corner of the saloon, taking in the environment.  She scanned the room with alert eyes, evaluating every patron, before finally coming to rest on the whiskey bottle before her.

She poured a drink and wondered what kind of trouble would rear it's ugly head tonight.  Her hand reached to her hip and patted the holster reassuringly.

Nona and Bonnie were engaged in heavy conversation by the bar, and Coby was totally drunk.  Cal listened to their conversation passingly, trying to catch any hint of what was happening, but finally gave up when she saw Jordy across the saloon.

The dark haired girl struggled between limps, making her way to an empty chair.  Her leg wound was still fresh, and Cal was positive she could see a dark red stain spreading across the tan pant Jordy wore.

Jordy still hadn't spoken to Teriana since the fight that left Jordy with near-fatal wounds.   For a while, Cal wasn't quite sure if Jordy would pull through, but time seemed to be playing it's part and she was beginning to heal.

Teriana and Jordy's friendship seemed to have taken the most severe wounds of all.  They had been ripped apart, each taking sides on different ends of the same coin.  It was none of Cal's business, but she didn't like seeing her friends divided this way.

The drifter picked herself out of her seat and made her way to Jordy, placing an arm around her waist and easing her down into the chair.

"Hey, Calamity."  Jordy smiled weakly, thankful for the assist.

Cal silently inspected Jordy's bandaged leg, hiding the concern on her face.  The past few weeks had found Cal the "fill-in" doctor in Four Corners, with Nathan having left on an assignment and Coby in and out of town for various reasons.

It was a job Cal had little experience in, and even less desire for, but the circumstances had called for a doc, and since she seemed to be the only one standing when the dust settled, she had assumed the role by default.

"Jordy, looks like you've opened up your hole.  Hate ta tell ya this, pard, but it might need stitches again."

Cal grimaced at the expression on Jordy's face.  She knew all too well of Jordy's phobia of needles--in fact, they had almost lost Jordy to a seizure a few weeks before, brought on by the simple act of stitching up a cut on her hand.

"No, Cal.  Please....not stitches....not again...."

Cal pulled her gun from the holster and held it by the barrel.  "I can always knock you out, if ya want,"  she grinned sarcastically.

"That's....ok,"  Jordy managed a small smile.

"Wait a sec....why am *I* the one doing this?"  Cal asked loudly as she unwrapped the bandage from Jordy's leg.  "Coby's back now, SHE should be over here."

"Cal...Coby's drunker than a dog!"  Nona called from the bar.

The drifter grinned.  "My point exactly!!!  Coby could do a better job drunk and blindfolded than I could sober."  Cal laughed slightly and looked at Jordy.  "You ain't seen the scar Nutmeg has from where I had to stitch her up a few weeks ago.  We call it 'The Crooked Grand Canyon'."

Jordy shook her head, amused.  "That isn't very reassuring, Cal."  She looked back to her leg, watching Cal remove the dressing.

After a brief inspection, Cal nodded to Jordy.  "Don't worry.  It don't need stitches.  It was just bleedin' a bit."

Jordy's sigh of relief echoed what Cal was feeling in her gut.  The longer it took for a wound to heal, the better chance of infection.  Jordy's wound looked as if it just needed a little time.  After all the blood she'd lost, it was no surprise that it was slow in healing.

Cal returned to her seat, joined by Storm, who had just entered.  Storm's pet scorpion, Winky, sat perched contentedly on her shoulder, taking in the sights as only a scorpion can.

As Cal took up her bottle again, she spied Ophelia, waving to her cheerfully from across the room.

The energetic young girl approached and sat down at the opposite seat.

"Hey Cal, Storm!"

The buck-skin clad drifter nodded to Ophelia.  Where did she get all that spice for life?  Ophelia's spirit had impressed Cal at first, but her naivety was troubling.  It was going to get her killed someday.

Cal grimaced, thinking back a week to the incident with Roland.  The man had come into the saloon and swept Ophelia off her feet with tender words and promises.  It didn't take the innocent girl long to fall for him, despite the warnings she received from her friends.

The words echoed in Cal's mind.  "Don't trust him, Ophie.  Don't trust anybody at all out here."

"But I trust you, Cal."

"No.  Especially don't trust me.  That line of thinkin's only gonna git ya killed..."

Needless to say, a young girl's heart is stronger than her head, and it didn't surprise Cal when Ophelia ignored the warnings.  Roland waited for the perfect moment to try and rape her, a plan that was only fowled when Storm and Cal had come back and intervened.

It was a lesson to be learned, and a hard one at that.

"You just HAVE to meet somebody, Cal!  My sister's in town!!"  Ophelia's lively voice brought Cal back to the present.

As if on cue, a young woman--older than Ophelia, and with a glimmer of hatred in her eye, stormed into the saloon and approached the table.

"Oh, here she comes now!  Hi, Titania!!"  Ophelia rose to greet her sister.  The woman grabbed Ophie by the collar and shoved her back into the seat.

"You killed him, you little @#^*&^!!!!"

The look on Ophelia's face was as blank as the snow in a whiteout blizzard.

"Titania, what are you talking about?"

Cal tensed, hand finding the gun at her hip, and she flipped the guard back cautiously.

"Roland."  The bitterness dripped from Titania's voice.  "He killed himself....he KILLED himself because of YOU!"

A piece of paper fell from Titania's hand, landing on the table in front of Ophelia.

"I loved him."  The words came from Titania's mouth in a barely audible whisper.  She turned and stalked out of the saloon, fire blazing in her eyes.

Ophelia picked up the paper, reading it over several times, before turning to Cal.  The helpless look in her eyes touched Cal's heart.

"He's.....he's dead, Cal....he's dead....I killed him?"

Cal picked up the suicide note, reading it briefly, and scowled.  "He was a coward, Ophelia.  He tried to rape and kill you, then couldn't face the consequences.  He was a coward in life and one in death."  Cal placed a supportive hand on her friend's shoulder.  "You were the victim, Ophie.  You're not the bad guy here.  'Sides, we don't even know if he's really dead.  It could just be a set up."

"I was so stupid, Cal.  You tried to warn me, but I didn't listen and now...Oh my God!  He's dead..."

Storm broke in.  "Ophie, listen.  It ain't your fault."  Storm wasn't used to being serious ...she always joked away the pain.  But this time she couldn't find the joke that would ease Ophelia's mind.

Ophelia's eyes glazed and she shook her head.  "I killed him...."

Cal could feel the anger rising.  Even in death Roland was playing Ophie for the fool.  Before she could find the words to speak, the saloon doors burst open and Titania stalked back in.

Storm rolled her eyes.  "Not again," she thought.  "Sibling rivalry..."

The woman strode up to Ophelia, red with fury, and smacked her hard across the face, sending her sprawling on the floor.  All at once, Titania jumped on top of the frightened girl, beating her fists against Ophelia's small body.   Her hands found Ophie's throat, contracting like a snake around it's prey.

Storm and Cal were on their feet instantly.  Storm attempted to hit Ophelia's ‘sweet' sister with a bottle, but jumped back as Cal barreled into the fray.  Calamity threw herself on Titania's back,  furiously trying to wrench those deadly hands from Ophie's throat.

"Die, you #$#&^$&!!!!!!   Die!!!!  I'll kill you!"  Titania screamed furiously at Ophelia, oblivious to Cal's arms wrapping around her neck, attempting to cut off circulation.

Storm watched in horror, whiskey bottle still in hand for the strike, as Cal wrestled with the woman.  Finally, the drifter managed to get a handful of hair, pulling it back with a jerk.

Titania screamed in pain, releasing her grip on Ophelia's throat.  Cal kicked viciously, sending the woman to her knees gasping for breath.  As she kicked again, Titania tumbled across the room.  She lay where she landed, gasping and wheezing in semi-consciousness.

Storm ran to Ophelia's side, gently taking her arm and leading her to a chair.  Ophelia's blue eyes didn't stray from her sister.

"Cal, please!!!............don't hurt her!" Ophie cried desperately between breaths.  "She's my SISTER.........I love her....Don't hurt her!"

Cal stopped dead and looked at Ophelia, dumbfounded.   Ophelia's pleading eyes met Cal's, begging without words.

"Ophelia--she tried to kill you!"  Storm breathed.  "She would have KILLED you!"

Cal just stared at the young woman before her.  Here was a person who would have gladly seen Ophelia in a pine box, and Ophelia was DEFENDING her?

"She's right.  I killed him,"  Ophelia's eyes filled with tears.   "I deserve to die, too..."

Cal stood there, silent and unbelieving.  She shook her head in disgust.  "I ain't gonna listen to this."

"Cal, please!  Don't be mad at me...please!" She jumped up and grabbed Cal's arm.

"This makes me sick."  Cal glared bitterly at the girl she had come to call her friend and shook her arm free.  Seeing her there, helpless and sobbing, Cal wanted to reach out and hug her.  But the anger flared up like the New Mexico wind, wiping away any sympathy she had felt for the girl.

"Why do I even bother?  I ain't gonna be your wet nurse no more, Ophelia!  I don't need the responsibility and I don't need you giving it to me!"  She kicked a vacant chair, sending it flying across the room.

Storm and Ophelia jumped simultaneously at Cal's outburst.  Ophie rose defensively, tears still streaming.

"I just can't let you hurt her, Cal.  She's my Sister!  Whether I like it or not, she's kin.  And I can't turn my back on her!  I love her.  I know you are only trying to protect me..."

"DAMN IT, Ophelia!  You just don't get it."  Cal pointed a finger at Titania's crumpled form, still moaning from her place on the saloon floor.  "That piece of s--t you call a sister would have killed you.  And do you honestly think she won't try again?"

"What happens is going to happen..." Ophie whispered.

"FINE THEN!  Go ahead and get yourself killed.  I ain't hanging around to see it."

Cal returned to the table and retrieved her bottle.  She pushed the saloon doors open angrily and sat down on the steps of the walk, allowing the cool night air to wash away the anger.  The noise level from the saloon began picking up again, forcing the young vagabond to tune out the sound and drown herself inside the comfort of her bottle.

She couldn't allow this to happen again.  Not again.  Her mind drifted back several years to Matthew McDouglas, the energetic, bright, and talented young man she had trained in her time spent with "The Drifters", as they took to calling themselves.  Ophelia reminded Cal so much of young Matthew--the dreams and enthusiasm radiating from their very beings.  Cal had been a different person then--not quite as hard and distant as events would lead her to become.

It was Matthew and "The Drifters", at their friend Haddie's urging, that rode to the rescue when Cal found herself a captive of the men from her dark past.   They rode in, with all their daring and tenacity, freeing Cal.  But Matthew had paid the ultimate price for her life.  The fatal bullet meant for her had taken him instead, and he died in her arms.  She vowed she would never let anyone die for her again.  And time found her drifting away from the company of people, to avoid coming close to anyone.  It was safer that way--for Cal and for whoever might have befriended her.  She couldn't imagine what had kept her in Four Corners this long.

Her hand drifted to the tender pink scar on her side, a proud testament to her vow.  So far in this town, she had met with two bullets, both accepted willingly in the process of keeping her friends from death.  She would never let a friend die in her place--never again.

Cal shook away the memories.  She stood and returned to the saloon, feeling all eyes on her back.  Ophelia and Storm were seated, talking quietly at a table, and Storm seemed to be trying to comfort the girl.  Cal avoided their eyes, heading for the bar and obtaining a fresh bottle.  She made her way to the stairs on the far side of the saloon, sitting down.  Her eyes closed as she brought the bottle to her lips, determined to rid herself of all feeling, if only for the night.

As the bottle came up, Cal pressed her lips to the cool edge....no, it was more like..........she opened her eyes and found herself staring directly into Winkie's little black dots.  Cal let out a startled cry, jumping up and nearly dropping the bottle.

"Storm!!!  You're scorpion KISSED me!!!"

"Winkie!  Be good...don't scare Cal like that!" Storm came over and retrieved her pet from Cal's bottle, scolding him softly.

Cal could have sworn Winkie was smiling sarcastically, if a scorpion could smile.

She sighed and watched Storm take Winkie back to her table.  Taking a long swig, Cal savored the liquid fire in her mouth and throat.

The drifter looked around the saloon sadly, seeing each of the patrons--the people she had come to call her friends.  It was time.  Time to move on--she had overstayed her welcome here.  There was only pain and heartbreak to come if she remained.

She clenched her jaw, fighting back the gut wrenching feeling that was accompanying the thought of leaving.  Why?  She had never felt this way about any place before.  All the more reason to leave--she wasn't going to go soft and let this town get to her.  No.  She had to take to the wind--it was her life.  Damn--why was this so hard?  But she had to do it--for her own good, and for her friends.

Cal stood, taking one last look at the saloon and the friends she had laughed, fought, and bled with.  With a final glance and a sad smile, she walked outside, leaving the saloon doors clapping behind her.

Calamity mounted Windy, taking the reins in hand and looked to the sky, trying to decide which direction to turn her mount.

"Cal!  Wait!  Where are you going?"

She cursed softly and turned in her saddle to see Ophelia, Storm and Jordy standing on the walk.  "I'm heading out.  Take care."  She nodded a goodbye and turned her face, hoping they wouldn't notice the conflict she was feeling.

"Cal, you can't leave!"  Ophelia cried.  "I need you!"

Calamity snorted and turned to Ophie.  "Oh, you don't need me, Ophelia.  Not when you've got kin like your sister."

Ophelia's eyes filled again, and she buried her head in her hands.  Cal felt a pang of guilt that she had been so bitter to the girl--she hated to see her friend cry.  But Ophelia was bound and determined to get herself killed, and there was no way Cal could stick around for another funeral.  There had been too many lately.

"Look, I can't stay.  There's too much trouble."

"She's just a coward."  Storm said to Ophelia and Jordy, just loud enough for Cal to hear.  "She's afraid of losing."

"Losing what?" Jordy asked, leaning against the railing for support.

"Us." Storm said simply.

Cal felt her face redden.  "I ain't *afraid* of nothin.'"

"Are too.  You wouldn't be running with your tail between your legs if you weren't."

Cal was close to slapping the reins and heading off when Ophelia spoke.  "Cal?  Please.  Stay.  I don't want to make another mistake in my life by letting you go."

Ophie's sincerity tore at Cal's heart.

"Besides, Ophelia needs you to scrape up that piece of poop you left moaning on the floor in the saloon."  Storm put in, grinning.  "It's YOUR mess--YOU clean it up."

"Shaddup!"  Cal suppressed a laugh and threw her canteen at Storm.

Storm caught the canteen and grinned.  "Wow!  Cal's laughing now!!  Glory Day!!"

Cal tried to quell the laugh, but it wouldn't go away.

"And anyway, Winkie has feelings for you, Cal.  You can't just go off and break his heart like this."  Storm threw the canteen back.

The group shared a small chuckle.

"Geez...banner day in Four Corners!" Storm said.  "Cal can laugh!!  Nobody's gonna believe it!"

"Yeah," Jordy added. "Careful you're face doesn't freeze that way, Calam.  Then nobody will recognize you."

"No, that's a great idea, Jordy!  She'll never have to worry about those Wanted Posters giving her away anymore."  Storm snorted.

Cal laughed, trying to hide the amusement that was plain on her face.   "They're never gonna let me get out of here now," Cal thought.  "I can't leave them like this."

After a few seconds of silence, Cal breathed deeply.  She dismounted and led Windy back to the saloon.  "Well, as long as Winkie loves me...I suppose I can stay for just a little while longer."

The vagabond left Windy's reins dangling and stepped up to the walk beside her pards.  She took a minute to clear her throat and return her "tough guy" look to her face before following the women back into the saloon.

Sarah opened up the doors to her saloon and sighed.  The morning was shaping up to be gorgeous, with the sun shining brightly and a nice breeze blowing through the town.  Too bad she was stuck inside.

She made her way to the bar, straightening a few chairs on the way.  Her brow furrowed when she reached the bar--a small white envelope lay against a glass.

"Now, who could this be from?" she wondered out loud.

Sarah picked it up and opened it, finding several bills tucked neatly inside.  She turned the bills over in her hand thoughtfully, and found a small paper folded with the bills.  A note.

         Dear Sarah,
        This is to pay off my tab. There's a little extra in there to
        cover any tips, too.
        Tell the pards, if they should ask about me, that the
        wind is calling.  And tell em that I'll never forget em.

                    Your friend,
                            Calamity Jane

A silhouetted figure sat astride her horse on a ridge overlooking the town of Four Corners.  The sunrise in the distance bathed the town in soft pastels, making it seem like something in a painting. It was an image that would burn itself into her memory for a lifetime.

After a moment, she turned her horse and gave it a nudge.  She felt the wind on her face, chilling the lonely tear that rolled down her cheek.

Taking a deep breath, she let the wind claim her.  She released her tight grip on the reins and allowed the winds of destiny to blow her whichever way they bid.

Like a tumbleweed blowing in the wind.

Let me know what ya think!!

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