Author: Anne Marsh
Title: The Weekly Gazette and the Inadvertant Outing
Rating: PG 13 at the *most*
Pairing: Josh/Sam implied. To a lesser extent, Jed/Leo inferred and some one-sided Toby/CJ longing.
Summary: An odd conversation sparks a world of fantasy
Notes: Humour. Toby's POV. Nothing belongs to me, except of course, for the weekly Gazette, the only newspaper available for miles. Not connected to Survival at all, but it *will* have a sequel later.
Archive: Please do =^_^=
Feedback: I live off it!

The Weekly Gazette and the Inadvertant Outing by Anne Marsh

"CJ!" I shouted, standing about a yard from her office door. No answer. I tried again. "CJ!"

"She's gone."

I stopped, momentarily bewildered by two ordinary words in the english language. I speak English. Well. I was bewildered nonetheless.

"She's gone?"

"She's gone." Carol nodded.

"Well that won't do, that won't do at all. She can't be gone, because I'm CALLING HER OUT!"

"Well, she's gone."

"Gone." I sighed, shaking my head in disgust. "That woman has no respect for the laws of the Old West."

"It's a real shame, the young'uns these days, Sir. And their lack of respect for the laws of the Old West."

"I don't appreciate your tone. When she gets back, let her know I was here." I grumbled, turning to go.

"Will do."

"Oh, and remember to tell her I'm CALLING HER OUT!" I added.

"You can go now."

---/-/---

So, I went back to my office, and curled up on my couch, and marinated in my foul mood until the knock on my door-- Actually, that's not entirely accurate, because I continued marinating in my mood o' foulness even after the knock.

"COME IN!"

"Hey. I finished the thing on the thing, and I wanted to know if you wanted me to do the thing now." Sam poked his head through the door.

"I'm not sure. If I could hear that in English, maybe I'd know."

"Holy grumpy snit, Batman! What's up with you? I mean, aside from the usual."

"Nu." I shrugged. "Question:"

"Go ahead." He nodded, coming into the room and grabbing a chair, facing me earnestly.

"If this was the Old West, what would our Old West names and functions be?"

He gave me a look, then decided I wasn't putting him on. "Well, I don't think I'd have an Old West name. I think I'd just have, um, my name. And I would be... the spunky junior reporter for the weekly Gazette, the only newspaper available for miles. You'd be Black Bart, reformed outlaw gunslinger and current gruff-but- loveable editor of the weekly Gazette, the only newspaper available for miles."

"Does your entire Old West revolve around the weekly Gazette?"

"It's the only newspaper available for miles."

"I'm not loveable." I said flatly. "Or a newspaper editor, come to think of it. And why am I a reformed outlaw gunslinger?"

"It makes you more interesting. Black Bart. That's a good outlaw name."

"Why don't *you* need to be more interesting?" I grumbled.

"I'm young, full of beans and idealism, attractive, intelligent... What more could I need?"

I snorted. "Okay. Fine, I'll let that point go. Who else?"

"Well, I suppose our town does need more than just the weekly Gazette, the only--"

"--newspaper available for miles. I know, I know."

"Sultry saloon girl... We need a sultry saloon girl."

"Claudia, the sultry saloon girl, also a former outlaw gunslinger." I supplied.

"Where did *that* come from?"

"Former outlaw gunslinger? Oh, I tried calling her out earlier. She was gone, though."

"Yeah, okay. I meant the whole thing, but that's good. And later you're going to have to tell me what you were doing calling CJ out. Sultry saloon girl Claudia."

"And her band of saucy can-can girls." I added. "Ex-bank robbers, all."

"And Doc Bartlet, the, um-- the town doc. Patchin' up folks and spittin' mad when young men foolishly disregard the precious gift that is life."

I eyeballed him. "Sure... okay. Does this town have a sherrif? Because if you've got former outlaw gunslingers, and--"

"Oh, oh! And the rowdiest saloon this side of the Sierra Nevadas! We should have the rowdiest saloon this side of the Sierra Nevadas."

"--we may need a sherrif." I finished.

"Well, like any good Old West town, we'll have an old, caustic, alcoholic sherrif, with his smart-mouthed, fast-handed deputy, always ready with a quick bullet, and a quicker quip."

"Say quicker quip ten times fast." I ordered. He disobeyed the order.

"The young, dreamy deputy... a sharp contrast to his boss, and yet full of similarities, a testament to what years do to men..."

"Did you just call him dreamy? Look, maybe it's best I *not* know who you've got pegged for deputy duties. Even though I have my sickening guesses..."

"And he's got many an admirer-- one can-can bank robber girl in particular, a wispy blonde who dotes upon him, and brings him his drinks for free, and sighs in longing when he walks out the door, saying 'there goes the best dog-gone deputy we ever had'..."

"Seriously. You're scaring me now."

"But his only mistress is the Law... and also, he don't drink much. No, sir, he's seen what that can do to a man."

"The drunken sherrif." I nodded.

"Alcoholic sherrif." Sam corrected. "There's a difference."

"Alcoholics go to meetings? Besides, the deputy doesn't have the constitution for whiskey."

"And there's a sweet little ol' schoolmarm... and a preacher... and the preacher's young daugher, who's in love with a railroad man. Gotta have railroad men, they've got the transcontinental to finish!"

"I think we've officially taken this fantasy world too far."

"Preacher's married to the doc. Or to the sherrif..."

"*You've* officially taken this fantasy world too far. Really scaring me." I elaborated upon my earlier statements.

"And one young junior reporter embarks upon his quest for truth, and along the way, he finds adventure, and maybe true love."

"Get out of my office."

"Like something out of a cheap dime novel... sneakin' around, nights spent hidin' out in the back room of Larry's Flophouse--"

"Larry's flophouse?"

"Yup. Baths ten cents. And Friendly Ed the Singing Bartender. I, um, I don't know why I said that. But, now that I've said it? It could work."

"Sultry saloon girl Claudia sings. Who plays the piano? And Friendly Ed has to tend bar, so it can't be him."

"Ragtime Willy." He supplied without hesitation.

"I'm sorry I asked." I groaned. "Hey, who is our intrepid junior reporter sneaking around with?"

"Oh, it's a secret. Might' scandalous, you know. Two of them, breakin' society's rules like they do. Like the preacher's daughter and her railroad man, like Goldpannin' Danny, leadin' his mule into town with tales to tell, and the Gazette'll buy 'em, because they're the--"

"Only newspaper available for miles. We've been over that part. A lot. And which of society's rules is Goldpanning Danny--"

"Goldpannin' Danny. Say it right."

"--breaking?"

"Been seen courtin' a mighty un-take-home-to-mother-able lady, he has. Also, he's probably killed a man. Out in the goldpannin-- places. With claim jumpers, and squatters."

"Great..." I sighed, raking a hand over my face. I shouldn't have encouraged him. I probably never should have asked him about the Old West to begin with. "Just great..."

"And-- roaming bandits... Roaming bandits come through, and they'll kill innocents, kill those poor railroad men who never meant no one no harm no how, 'less'n someone puts a stop to 'em."

"Seriously, I think you need to leave."

"Preacher'll try and stop it, of course, in a peaceful way. Tell 'em it ain't God's plan."

"Yeah?" I gave up on getting him to stop talking, and decided to let him tell the decidedly twisted and bizarre tale.

"So they shoot 'im." He nodded.

"I don't think they can do that..." I shook my head.

"Just winged 'im good, though. Luckily he's married to either the doc or the sherrif--"

"The preacher can't be married to the sherrif. Don't even--" I shuddered. "Let's not even go there, because if this wasn't set in your fictitious Old West, that'd be libel."

"Slander."

"Whatever."

"And they'll ambush the deputy... They shoot him, too." His storytelling lost the glib quality it had had. "Pretty bad."

"But the sherrif gets the bandits, doesn't he?" I prompted, waiting for Sam to truck out the happy ending.

"No, posse gets 'em. Sherrif's gotta get the preacher to the doc, 'fore he gets too bad. He's gone before the bandits shoot his deputy, being under the mistaken impression that the young man can take care of himself."

"So then what happens?" I regretted the borderline-childlike tone the minute the words left my mouth, but curse him, he now had me good and enthralled. Not that I'll ever tell him that.

"Black Bart, his old gunslinger instincts drawing him to the scene of the crime, finds the fallen deputy. In another life, they might've been foes, but they are men, and as the poet John Donne said; 'the death of any man diminishes me', so he vows to save the young man's life."

I nodded, still hanging on his words, even though I knew how the story would turn out. I knew from the point the bandits shot the deputy where he was taking this particular allegory. But he's good with words, so I listened.

"Of course, sultry saloon girl Claudia has gunslinger instincts as well, and she bolts from the saloon, and the young junior reporter, sensing a story, is hot on her heels."

"I bet she's pretty hot in her heels." I mumbled under my breath. He cocked a smile at me, and I scowled back at him. "Go on with your story."

"They find Black Bart, and then they see the deputy... 'I'll go get the doc!', Claudia shouts, rushing off. The intrepid young reporter falls to his knees in the dust... 'Speak to me', he says, and the deputy does, but he's delerious from the pain, and doesn't know where he is, so he don't make much sense."

"Black Bart gets there first, though-- so he's holding the body. Does he ever get the blood out of his shirt? Because blood's a tough one."

"That shirt was already ruined from running the presses, so it didn't matter." Sam shrugged. "Bart has to write the paper himself, because his intrepid young junior reporter-- Hey, wasn't I spunky before? Anyway, because the young reporter is keeping a vigil in the spare room of the doc's place, over the ailing deputy, and he'll miss the currently-due issue of the weekly Gazette, the--"

"Get on with it!"

"--onlynewspaperavailableformiles." He finished quickly. "And the doting can-can girl-slash-bank robber comes to sponge cooling water on her beloved deputy's fevered brow, and sultry saloon girl Claudia, and the whole town, comes to see that he's not dyin', 'cause the deputy's a much-beloved man, and the intrepid young reporter's got to go back to work, because someone's got to write an in-depth report of the incident."

"Black Bart could do it just fine." I defended.

"But it's the junior reporter's duty, and he's honour-bound to do it."

"The junior reporter is a little too familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan." I snorted.

"One cannot be too familiar with the immortal works of Gilbert and Sullivan." He sniffed. "And anyway, there's not a lot of theatre out west. He's just very dutiful."

"Deputy's fine, though, right?"

"Yup. Because like in any good story, he's found true love."

"The wispy blonde can-can girl?"

"With her nasal voice that kept her from a real singing career, and inclination to become a nagging wife? Hardly. No, theirs was a future never meant to be. Besides, a lawman and a former bank robber? Sounds like a conflict of interests to me."

"Are you just throwing this true love thing in because it makes for a better story?" I accused.

"Not at all. No, it was a love that dare not speak its name..." Sam was firmly ensconced in his own little world now. "And someday, when he was no longer deputy, when that title had gone to a new, fresh face, and the town was run by strangers, he'd move on... but he'd take with him that handsome, blue-eyed boy, the intrepid junior reporter he'd fallen so deeply in love with... and together, they'd-- Become pirates."

I goggled at him. "You and-- HIm and-- Hey, intrepid young reporter? Did you just come out to me?"

He let out a short, embarrassed laugh. "I guess I did."

I slapped my forehead. "Try not to inadvertantly out yourself to anyone else, all right?"

"Well, okay, but if I have to tell this Old West story to anyone else, it'll be a hard promise to make."

"Also, never tell me the pirate story, because I don't want to know."

"There's not really a *story*, it's just that--"

"Ah-ah-ah! No talkie!"

He shrugged. "Fine."

"Also-- Does Black Bart get a happy ending?"

"Yeah." He smiled. "When Goldpannin' Danny who's killed a man calls him out, he wins, and he gets the claim, and the gold, and the hand of sultry saloon girl Claudia. And a good bottle of scotch, and a mule. But, um, he sells the mule to someone else, and becomes the richest man in town, expands the weekly Gazette until it's the only newspaper available in even *more* miles, and he replaces the smarmy mayor."

I smiled back. "Thanks." And then, smile disappearing. "Now go back to work."

Sam just nodded, warm smile still in place as he ducked out of my office.

---/-/---

~FINIS~

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