Hello, all! And thank you for stopping by! If you're familiar with my work or have been following this story, then you should know very well by now that I'm not the most speedy updater. I apologize in advance for long delays between updates, but know this - no matter how long it takes, this story WILL be completed! So if you like the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, if you're team Cap Hatfield, and you like romance and drama, then you've come to the right place! I hope you enjoy the story! Happy reading!
A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR: As of September 12, 2016, this story is in the process of being rewritten! After going back and reading some of my older work, I decided very quickly that this story needed sprucing up! So I'll be dedicating the foreseeable future to revamping this story. Then, once that's done, I'll start putting out new chapters!
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Hatfields & McCoys. This is purely a work of fiction.
Edward Holstead grumbled to himself as he fished around in his large cedar chest. A loud ruckus resulted from his search as he waded through the numerous empty whiskey bottles, and though the familiar clinking sound didn't affect him, it left Eileen Farmer in a foul mood. She gazed at him with a disapproving expression from her spot on the bed, but the man remained unaware of it. He simply let out a cry of triumph when he finally located the whiskey he'd been searching for then hauled himself to his feet and uncorked the bottle with his teeth, spitting the wooden cork away carelessly before taking three monstrous gulps.
He grimaced at the sting in his throat, but then relaxed at the warm, loose feeling that filled his muscles before casting a look towards Eileen. She was young, barely seventeen, and she had been quite pretty at one point, before life's hardships had caught up to her - she looked a good ten year older than her young age, maybe even more. The copper-haired woman turned her eyes away quickly and continued tending to the small baby in her arms. He had a feeling she wanted to say something about his behavior but knew better than to do so – the black bruise on her eye was proof enough that calling him on his actions usually didn't turn out so well for her. His eyes dropped down to the baby in her arms and he gazed at the infant girl for a moment, before turning his back on the sight, slamming his trunk closed, and then heading outside to rejoin Randall out on the porch. He didn't see the way Eileen jumped when he slammed the door closed behind him.
Edward let out a heave as he took the seat next to Randall, ignoring the cries the baby inside made in response to his noisy departure. He scratched his thick beard and tipped the whiskey bottle back again, taking another large swig before handing it over to Randall.
"Evelyn alright?," Randall asked before drinking the whiskey.
"Fine, I s'pose," Edward answered back sluggishly. "Prob'ly be better off never havin' come into the world at all."
Randall raised his eyebrows at him, but said nothing in response, taking another swig of whiskey before passing it over again. Edward and Randall were much the same sort of man. They were both worn and tired looking from the grueling war, had both obviously seen a lot of hard days, and were both rough around the edges with their dirty hair, beards, and clothes. They had fought side by side for the South, had endured - and escaped - the prison camps together, and made the trek through wild America to get home. Randall McCoy was just about the only friend Edward Holstead had these days. Well, him and a good bottle of whiskey.
When companionable silence fell between them, the McCoy patriarch narrowed his eyes and glared out at the stretch of trees before them. Edward would have had to be ignorant not to know why – this forest was the only thing that separated his land from that of Devil Anse Hatfield, his former comrade and former friend. "Seen 'im around?," Edward asked.
Randall knew exactly who Edward was talking about without even having to ask. "Few times," Randall answered, reaching a hand out for the whiskey again. "Damn, Hatfield. Can't stand the sight of 'im," he continued, knocking back more alcohol. "They come 'round here?," he asked, casting a look in Edward's direction.
Edward motioned over to the covered basket that Levicy Hatfield had brought a few days previous as a gift for the newborn child inside. It still rested in the same place she had left it and remained untouched under Edward's strict instruction. The family that he had once been friends with was now as much his enemy as they were Randall's. Anderson Hatfield had deserted them and left them to suffer during the war. He had betrayed them. This was not something he would soon forget. "Hatfield's wife brought that," he explained with a shrug. "Let the crows have it." Edward snatched the whiskey back and chugged back nearly half of it before letting out a grimacing cough. Then he flashed a yellow-toothed grin at his friend. "That's the good stuff."
"Ya drink too much," his friend accused.
"I know," Edward admitted uncaringly. "Prob'ly gonna be the death o' me some day."
"It don't have'ta be. Maybe ya should cut back. You got a child 'ta take care of now," Randall reminded him sternly.
"Not by choice," Edward growled back, his expression going sour. "Didn't mean'ta get that whore pregnant, nor was it my intent 'ta ever be a father," he explained. "Who'da known one night with the bitch would leave me with a lifetime sentence?"
The baby cried some more inside and both men paused, listening to the young child's wail. When he'd gotten back from the war, he'd sought out the services of the woman inside purely to try and forget the horrors he'd seen. Then one day she'd shown up on his doorstep, belly rounded with pregnancy and eyes pleading for help. Now Edward wasn't a nice man, nor was he prone to being a charitable one either, but for reason he didn't quite know, something had made him take the prostitute carrying his bastard child into his home. Maybe it had been hope that there was humanity left within him, maybe it had been pity. Either way, it didn't matter - she was here now. There was no love within him for Eileen, but he could admit that a small part of him deep down did harbor a small fondness for the baby girl that had come out of her.
He listened for a moment as Eileen let out a series of harsh sounding coughs and swigged back some more whiskey. The woman was sick, though the doctor had no idea as to what the ailment may be - probably old whore's sickness, the sort of illness women like her get after years of offering up their bodies to multiple men. At this point there was no telling when death might claim the woman, and he knew between his age and his drinking, he was on no path to eternal life. He had a feeling the baby inside would be an orphan sooner than later, a feeling that actually didn't sit so well with him.
Edward let out a heave, running a hand through his greasy hair, and offered the bottle to Randall again. "Listen, Randall," he started, looking over at his friend. "If anythin' ever happens 'ta me or that woman, well...I'd hope Evelyn might have a place 'mongst your family." Randall's eyebrows rose in surprise at the request. "It's a big request, I know," Edward added. "But, well...ya know," he finished, rubbing the back of his neck.
Randall stared at him with an unreadable expression for a long moment, took a drink, then handed the bottle back over. "We got enough mouths to feed as is," he said slowly. That was certainly the truth. He and his wife, Sally, already had several kids of their own, and seeing as Sally was currently pregnant, it was safe to say their brood was only going to continue to grow. "Besides, what does it matter what happens to 'er? I thought ya hated the girl."
"I don't hate my daughter," Edward said sharply, chugging more whiskey and glaring at his friend from the corner of his eye.
Randall held his hands up in defense. "Why us?," he asked instead.
"Yer the only one I trust, McCoy," Edward admitted.
Randall stared at him for a long moment, then sighed and nodded his head. "I only made it home 'cause of you," he told him. "I'll be her guardian if anythin' happens. I swear it."
Then Randall spit in his hand and stuck it out towards Edward. The bigger of the two men shot him an indebted look and then mimicked the gesture before shaking the McCoy's hand firmly, sealing their deal.
Evelyn Farmer giggled madly as she ran through the thick trees. Mud was caked on her shoes and her dress was an absolute disaster by this point, but the seven year old child didn't bother herself with worries over her appearance or whatever repercussions may be waiting for her back home when her father saw the state of her clothes. Instead, she came to a halt by a large tree and braced herself against the massive trunk, peaking around it with suspicious eyes. One of her hands tightly clutched to a woven basket but the contents of said basket, plus her original reason for coming into these woods to begin with, had been quickly forgotten to the girl.
"Evie…" Echoed a sing-song voice from somewhere nearby.
She whipped around at the sound of her name and let her eyes quickly dart around the surrounding trees, looking for any sign of the familiar blonde hair she was currently searching for. That pesky Hatfield was around here somewhere, and she was going to find him. "Come out, come out, wherever ya are," Evelyn called back with a playful smile, pushing away from the tree and making her leisurely way into the clearing just on the other side of the massive tree. "Or are ya too yellow?"
The taunt served its purpose. There was a beat of silence where Evelyn thought he wouldn't respond, but then the sound of thunderous, approaching footsteps reached her ears. She turned just in time to see him running up behind her and barely had the opportunity to dodge away from him when he was yanking the basket out of her hands and running off. Evelyn stared after him in shock then growled, lifted her dirty skirts, and chased after him. He shot a look back at her over his shoulder and laughed triumphantly at seeing her pursuit.
"William Anderson Hatfield!," she hollered, pushing her legs harder to try and catch up with him but failing miserably. Will was a tall and lanky eight year old with much longer legs than hers. He was having no problem outrunning her. "Come back here, now!"
"You'll have'ta catch me!," he called back smugly.
Evelyn growled when her skirt snagged on a bush and had to pause in her chase, turning back so she could yank it free with a mighty tug. A loud RRRRIP sounded in the air before she fell with an "Oof!", landing ungracefully on her rear end. She sat there for a moment, dazed, almost as though unsure what had happened. The sound of Will's laughter reached her ears again and it was then that she came back to, glaring at him as she dragged herself back to her feet.
"Ya won't be laughin' when I catch ya!" Evelyn shouted threateningly, wagging her finger. That was when she realized that Will was not only not paying attention to his surroundings, but that he was also headed straight for a low-hanging tree branch. Her eyes widened and she took off after him again, waving her hands warningly now. "Will! Watch out!" Evelyn called, trying to warn him of the incoming danger.
"Yeah," he sassed, "like I'm fallin' fer – " But his words were cut short as he turned forward again and the tree branch caught him right under the chin, which had him flying backwards onto his back. She cringed for a moment, watching as he rolled around on the ground with a groan of pain, then hurried to his side. As soon as she was close enough she dropped down to his side and helped him into a sitting position.
"Will, are you alright?," she asked concernedly.
He shook himself for a moment and then blinked at her, looking as though he was struggling to focus for second. She was moments away from dragging him into town to get him to a doctor, her concern rising over both his lack of response and the blood beginning to drip from his bottom lip, until he suddenly began to grin. It was clear to her then that the boy was just fine, and with a heave she pushed him roughly back down to the ground and stood to her feet again, hastily yanking her basket back within her possession as he began to chuckle to himself in amusement. "Where the hell did that come from?," he asked, bringing a hand up to his bloody mouth as he tried to collect himself.
"I tried to warn you, ya mush-head," Evelyn called to him over her shoulder as she stalked away from him.
Will hauled himself back to his feet when he realized his friend was leaving him behind and quickly hurried to catch up to her, wiping his mouth clean on his sleeve. "Yer'a mess," he said, eyeing her ruined dress.
"Yer one'ta talk," Evelyn responded with a shove to his shoulder. Will tried to sneak his hand into the basket that she was protectively clutching but she quickly swatted him away. "No, sir!," she chastised. "This ain't fer you."
"Who for then?," Will asked, managing to fish out a handful of berries from the basket regardless and popping them into his mouth.
"My Pap wants me 'ta make a pie fer tomorrow," Evelyn explained, pausing by a bush to inspect some of the berries before moving on when she recognized them to be poisonous. "We're dinin' with the McCoys."
Will immediately pulled in response. "Don't know how ya stand 'em," he grumbled.
"They ain't all that bad," Evelyn said with a shrug. He only 'hmph'ed in response, which made her roll her eyes and shake her head. She knew all too well about the animosity brewing between the Hatfields and the McCoys, but to her, the feud seemed tiresome and almost flat out silly. The world was crazy enough as it was – why waste time nitpicking at each other and going out of your way to make another person's life a living hell?
"Look what my Pa gave me," Will said to change the subject as he hurried to position himself in front of her, walking backward and producing a pistol with a proud look on his face. "Like it?"
Evelyn eyed the weapon, unsure how she felt about it. She knew that there were a lot of reasons for owning a gun - like to hunt or protect oneself from people with bad intentions - but she still thought they were dangerous. "I s'pose," she finally said with an unenthusiastic shrug. "Long as ya don't use it no one."
"That's kinda the whole reason fer havin' one," Will said pointedly.
"Not the only reason," Evelyn shot back. "Yer better'n that, is all I'm sayin'."
Though there was still blood on his teeth, Will flashed her an endearing smile in response and ruffled her hair before dropping back to walk side by side with her again.
These were the moments that Evelyn lived for. Whenever she was with Will, she could forget that her father was a drunken monster that lived for his alcohol and frequently reacquainted her with his fist. When Will was around, she didn't think about the mother that had been used and abused by Edward Holstead or of her untimely death some three years ago. Edward had forbidden her from associating with any Hatfield, but it was the one order she'd disobeyed. They had met right here in the woods that separated their homes and, in secret, had formed a close friendship that defied everything that they had ever been taught about one another. He was her best friend and the most important person in her life and no surname would ever change the admiration she had for him.
They spent the next few hours searching for berries and just spending time with each other, never once struggling to find something to talk about or keep themselves entertained. But eventually, when the sun was just beginning to tuck itself away for the night, Evelyn's ears perked up as she thought she heard a call echoing through the trees around them. Will was still blabbering away about whatever trouble he and his older brother, Johnse, had managed to get themselves into, so she clamped a hand over his mouth to silence him, trying to listen better. He grimaced in response and shoved her hand away, tenderly inspecting his injured mouth with careful fingers.
"Careful, Evie," he said with a cross look. "Damn near lost my teeth back there 'ta that tree, 'member?"
"Hush!," she hissed, before listening out again.
"EVELYN!," A voice echoed through the trees, louder and clearer this time. "Where are ya, girl?!"
With a jolt, she realized that the voice didn't belong to her father like she would have expected. "That's Randall McCoy," she said in a hushed voice, looking up at Will with wide, cautious eyes. Evelyn had no idea where her father was, but if Randall was nearby then Edward couldn't be too far behind him. She immediately chastised herself for leading her friend too close to her home – if he was found by Randall or her father, absolutely no good could come from that. They were both undoubtedly going to be in for a world of hurt.
"Evelyn!," Randall called again, the call this time snapping her into motion.
"I have'ta go!," she said, before beginning to hurry in the direction of her house.
"Evie, wait!," Will started to protest, hurrying forward to try and catch a hold of her, concern etching its way onto his boyish face. He knew how bad her home-life was and often expressed his concerns over it; it wasn't unusual for him to try and convince her not to return to her abusive father whenever it came time to part ways. Apparently, today was going to be no different. Sure enough, he pleaded, "Don't go!"
"Go home, Will Hatfield," Evelyn told him firmly. "Go home if ya know what's good for ya."
He didn't move to stop her again, but continued to watch her leave with a worried expression. It made her instantly sad to leave her friend behind, just as it always did, but she knew if she lingered in the forest for any longer that they would be caught, which would and undoubtedly mean the end of their friendship - and that was simply something that Evelyn could not allow. So Evelyn only offered a small, reassuring smile, raised a hand to wave goodbye, then turned to head back home on quick feet. She didn't stop until Will was well out of sight and until the small cabin she and her father lived in came into view.
A solemn Randall McCoy was there to greet her. He turned at the sound of her footsteps, his gaze landing on her at once. The clinking saddlebags full of whiskey bottles that hung from his horse hinted that he had come to deliver some of her father's favorite Kentucky-brewed whiskey, but the expression on his face and tension in his shoulders let her know that he had not gotten the reception he'd expected upon arriving at the home of Edward Holstead. She glanced around curiously, looking for any sign of her father. He wasn't there. "Mr. McCoy?," she asked unsurely, stepping towards him and trying to calm her breathing as an uneasy feeling filled her. "Where's...where's my Pap?"
Randall took off his hat and fiddled with it for a moment, looking unsure of how to start whatever conversation they were about to have. She glanced at the dark house behind him and couldn't help but notice how eerily still it was inside. Where was her father? Why was he not rummaging around inside like usual? And why was Randall McCoy the one searching for her and not him? She glanced back at the forest and gulped. What if Edward was in the forest somewhere and had found Will? It would look awfully suspicious if a Hatfield was found wandering around the Holstead home. Evelyn began to feel real fear in her bones, terrified to know what her unforgiving father might do to Will if he were to catch him.
"About yer father," Randall finally said, catching her attention again. He sighed and ran a hand through his greasy hair. "Well, I'm afraid I got bad news, child," he said solemnly. "Yer gonna need 'ta pack yer things an' come with me back 'ta my house. I'll...I'll explain everythin' there."
But there was no need to explain anything, because with those words, Evelyn knew. Something had happened to Edward Holstead while she'd been away. And if Randall McCoy was the one coming to collect her, if he wanted her to pack her things and go with him, then it could only mean one thing. Her father was dead.
There were not many people that attended her father's funeral. The McCoy family was present, as were a few of their kin, but other than that there were only a few smatterings of people that her father associated with whenever he indulged in a night at the saloon that came to pay their respects. Throughout the service, Evelyn stood between the preacher and Randall McCoy, wearing a black dress that Mr. McCoy's wife had leant her, hands clasped together in front of her. She was hardly aware of her surroundings, and the words of the preacher barely registered in her ears as she stared blankly at the freshly covered grave. Her mind was simply racing with too many thought to concentrate on what was happening right then.
As he had been predicting for years on end, the whiskey he loved so much had finally delivered her father into an eternal sleep. She knew that on some level she probably should have felt some grief, but, truth be told, Evelyn wasn't very sad to see her father go. He may have liked her to some extent, but the alcoholic demon that claimed him made him an unbearably cruel man and had led to years of verbal and physical abuse. In a way she was glad to finally be free of him, but at the same time there was a strong sense of dread beginning to fill her body. Her living conditions had been poor, but Edward had fed her, clothed her, and kept a shelter over her head. What would become of her once she was living under the McCoy roof? She had never felt as lost or uncertain as she did right then. Not for the first time in the week that she had been an orphan, she found herself thinking about Will and wishing that he was there by her side.
She was finally pulled from her internal fretting when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She looked up into the gentle eyes of Sally McCoy, then glanced around, surprising to see that the pastor had finished his eulogy and that people were beginning to filter out. Evelyn shook herself out of her stupor, then turned her eyes back up the older woman's gaze, silently telling her that she didn't know what she was supposed to do now. "Evelyn, child, time to leave now. Come with me," Sally said softly.
Evelyn nodded and let the woman lead her away from the grave without another backwards glance. The McCoy clan had already begun loading themselves into their wagon and she eyed them almost warily, wringing her hands together as she approached. Even though she'd been staying with them for a week, she paused at the foot of the wagon and gnawed at her lip, still feeling as though she were an intruder of some sort barging her way into this family's life. The siblings that filled up the back of the wagon all stared at her in return with varying expressions on their faces. Finally, after a long moment, Calvin McCoy offered her a hand and an encouraging nod, an open gesture for her to join them.
Evelyn had just slipped her hand into his to begin hoisting herself up into the wagon when she suddenly heard a yell behind her. "Evie! Wait! Let go of me!"
Several emotions shot through her in that moment. She knew that voice all too well. She knew who was calling out for her. Evelyn wanted to turn and look at him, but was afraid to see the sight that awaited her, knowing that if she saw the distress that she heard in his voice, her heart was going to break. But when the McCoy's continued to stare at her with mixed expressions, she finally mustered up the courage to cast a look behind her.
There he was. Will Hatfield, tall and lanky and blonde as ever. Currently he was watching her leave with a heartbreaking expression, struggling against the firm grasp of his father, Anderson Hatfield. The two were clear on the other side of the cemetery, but the air surrounding her and the McCoys filled with tension almost immediately at the sight of the two Hatfields. Just seeing Will made her heart thump hard in her chest, and though she wanted to go running to him as fast as her legs would carry her, her common sense kept her rooted to the spot.
"Evelyn Farmer," Randall said firmly to gain her attention, "do you know that boy?"
Evelyn looked downward for a moment before she finally found the courage to meet his stern gaze again. "He's my friend," she admitted quietly.
Randall looked displeased to hear this and set his jaw firmly, eyeing the two Hatfields with open animosity. "Listen here, child," he said warningly, turning his attention back to her. "As long as you live under my roof, you'll not be havin' anythin' to do with the likes of them. Understood?"
Evelyn glanced back at Will, feeling torn. Losing her father was something she could handle, but losing Will? That was an entirely different matter. She could feel the burning gazes of the McCoys on her back but could not tear her eyes away from the friend that meant so much to her. He seemed to know what was happening too, because even from there she could see the panicked look that was on his face as he tried to free himself from his father's grip. Could she do it? Could she really say goodbye? Did she even have a choice?
"Evelyn," Randall said sharply again when she took too long to respond.
She felt tears well up in her eyes and closed them tightly before finally nodding her consent. It absolutely crushed her to turn her back on Will, but there were no other options for her. Evelyn was alone in this world and her only chance of survival lay with the McCoys. And if she wanted to keep her place with her new guardians, then she would have to do what they asked of her. Even if it broke her heart to see their requests met. "Understood, sir," she finally said.
Will called out for her repeatedly but she did not look at him again or acknowledge that she could hear him. Instead, Evelyn took the seat next to Calvin and kept her eyes downcast, tears rolling silently down her cheeks as the wagon jerked to life and began to lead her away from the one person she cherished above all others.