Main Characters: Vin, Chris, Buck, JD, Ezra
Universe: Lost Lambs (minor x-over w/ Old West)
Challenge: In response to the Tombstone Challenge where one or more of the boys ends up in Tombstone, AZ
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belong to MGM, Trilogy, etc.
Authors Note: I wanted to have the boys visit Tombstone before it was declared a National Historic Site (which happened in 1962). The Lost Lambs AU seemed fit the time-line I needed. Having never been to Tombstone, I dont know what it looks like and have most likely changed a few things around in the town. Hope no one minds too much.
Blue eyes looked down upon his small charge. He ached for the pain he knew the boy had suffered and would suffer in life and could only wish he had been there sooner. Still, he had gotten this boy where he needed to be.
You going to read more, Ez? the boy asked.
Ez-ra, Vin. My name is Ez-ra, the other boy corrected
With an impish smile Vin replied, Fine. Ez-RA! Would you read me more about Tombstone?
A heavy sigh escaped the boy holding the book. If you insist, Mr. Tanner, came the response in a put-upon tone which was belied by the satisfied twinkle in the green eyes. Clearing his throat, Ezra continued reading from where they had left off the day before.
I want to be a gunfighter like that, Vin enthused when Ezra had finished reading. It must have been keen to live back then and fight like that, killing off the bad guys. It must have been wonderful.
The watcher frowned as he heard the enthusiasm. This was not a road he wished the boy to follow. It was one he knew led to destruction and heartache. Somehow he would have to make the boy understand that gunfights were not fun and the Wild West hed fallen in love with was not as romantic as it seemed.
+ + + + + + +
Vin squirmed in his seat slightly. He hated riding in the middle, but it was his turn. Chris had finally worked out the compromise after the fight over where each boy would sit had caused him to lose his temper.
Earlier that week, Chris and Buck had received a call saying an old friend of theirs from the war had died. Knowing that driving would be the best, most efficient way for them to get to the funeral, they had borrowed a car, gathered the boys and headed off on the long drive. They would take a bit of time on the way home to do some sightseeing, but their main goal when they started was to get to Tombstone, Arizona.
Driving to Tombstone had been an arduous adventure at best for the men, their past constantly encroaching on their thoughts bringing back long forgotten memories of the war and their friend leaving them occasionally short-tempered and distant. The boys had done their best to keep up the spirits of the men who took care of them, even trying not to fight and fidget in the back seat. Though Buck and Chris appreciated all of the attention, they both knew they would be thankful when they reached their destination and the funeral was over.
The only good thing about sitting in the middle of the back seat, Vin decided, was that he could see Chris and Buck clearly. Looking from one man to the other, he could read the traces of sorrow on their faces. Buck was driving and Vin knew not to bother him, but the sadness and shadow in Chris eyes made him feel sad as well. Reaching out he placed his hand on Chris shoulder.
Chris felt the small hand come to rest on his shoulder, taking him from his memories of the lively man who had survived the war. Seeing concern in Vins eyes, and a small smile on the boys face, he felt the shadow of gloom leave him as he smiled back. Reaching up he patted Vins hand and nodded.
Neither man had spoken to the boys about why they were going other than telling them that a friend had died and they were going to the funeral. Looking from Vin to JD to Ezra, Chris sighed softly. The boys had been great this whole time. Other than one or two minor fights mostly about where they were each sitting they had been quiet and very supportive, offering what comfort they could. Making a decision he hoped Buck wouldnt regret, Chris asked, Did we ever tell you about our friend Homer?
Chris smiled as the memories of his friend started coming back. Well, we met him during the war
+ + + + + + +
Vin looked out the window of the car at the old buildings in the town they had just entered, his eyes wide with excitement. This is what hed been waiting to see ever since Ezra told him about the town.
"Whys it called Tombstone, Buck?" JD asked of the town they had just entered.
"Well, little brother," Buck began. "Way back a long time ago, a man named Ed Schieffelin went searching for silver. No one would believe him when he said he would find it. They said all hed find would be his tombstone. So when he struck silver, thats what he named the town."
"Will we get to meet him?" JD asked eagerly.
"Well see JD," Buck said. He wasnt sure how long theyd stay after the funeral knowing they needed to get back home. Still, Homer Guthrie had been a good friend and Chris and Buck had made every effort to be there for the funeral.
Finally Buck pulled up in front of a hotel. Chris told them to wait in the car while he found out if they had rooms. Looking around, Vin took in the sights. He was thinking of all the history Ezra had told him. Looking over at the older boy, Vin saw Ezra was also studying their surroundings.
Feeling Vins eyes upon him, Ezra turned and said. "Were on Freemont Street. It was on this street near Third that the gunfight took place."
Vins eyes grew wide. He was surprised that they would be so close. He could still remember how excited he had been when Ezra had told him about it, how he had wished so hard to be able to see a real gunfight just knowing it would be amazing, and longing to fight in one. Craning his neck, he tried to find the sign for the OK Corral, but didnt have a chance to see much before Chris came back to the car.
"Weve got two rooms. I figure Buck and JD can have one, Ez, Vin and I will share the other. We can park around the side," the blond man informed the waiting group.
Nodding, Buck pulled around the side of the building and parked. Everyone climbed out and stood on the sidewalk as the two men retrieved their luggage from the trunk.
Looking around, Vins eyes grew wide as he took in the town. As he was turning his head to take in more of the view, he thought he felt something by his ear.
Whipping his head around, he saw nothing and decided it must have been the wind.
"Here Vin!" JD said happily, dropping Vins bag by his feet.
Snapping out of his trance, Vin picked up the bag and followed his family into the motel, unable to shake the feeling that someone had called his name.
+ + + + + + +
After settling into their rooms, Buck and Chris felt the need to find Homers parents house and introduce themselves. Chris was about to tell the boys to get ready to go again when Buck put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
Smiling at the three boys who had been exceptionally good during the very long hours confined in a car, Buck smiled as he said, "Why dont you boys go out and explore the town a while. Chris and I will be back by dinnertime. You have your watch, Ezra?" Seeing the oldest boy nod, he stood back.
Chris wasnt sure he liked this plan. It wasnt that he didnt trust the boys to take care of each other and themselves - it was just that they were in a strange town so very far from home. There was another reason he didnt want them to go that he was reluctant to admit to himself. Homer was part of his past and a reminder of his own mortality. The boys were his present and his future, a source of comfort and of love. He knew Buck was right, though. They were still boys and needed to explore and play. "You boys be good and dont stray too far from the hotel." Looking closely at each face, he said, "In fact, dont wander off of Freemont Street."
"Yes, Chris," Ezra and Vin assured, speaking at the same time.
Hugging each of the boys quickly, the two men set out for their car, stopping briefly in the lobby to get directions. The boys looked at each other and decided to explore the town.
"Why dont we walk down and see where the gunfight happened," Ezra suggested, eager to see the site hed read about. Looking at the younger boys, he made a decision, "JD, youll have to hold either my or Vins hand while were out."
JD pouted slightly and glared at Ezra. "Im a big boy," he protested.
Ezra sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yes, JD. I know. But were in a strange town and we dont know anyone. Id hate for you to get distracted by something and end up separated from us."
Vin was staring out the window while Ezra and JD had the same discussion - again. Every time the three went anywhere without Chris and Buck, JD had to hold either his hand or Ezras - usually his. As he stared out the window, the sound of the argument faded away and his brow furrowed. He heard the sound of horse whinnying and wagon wheels rolling. Voices sounded in a low murmur in the street, their words too low and far away for Vin to make out.
"Vin!" Ezra cried again impatiently.
His attention suddenly snapping back into the room, Vin looked around. "Huh?" he asked, shaken slightly by what had just happened.
"Are you ready to go? JD said he wanted to go see the corral."
"Sure," Vin said, moving away from the window to join the others. JD took Ezras hand, giving Vin a look that clearly said he was only doing it to bother the oldest boy. Shaking his head, the Texan followed the other two.
As they walked down the quiet street, they passed several shops with displays that caught JDs eye. Ezra kept the small group moving, though, by assuring the youngest that they would stop and look on their way back.
Vin trailed behind slightly, an odd feeling overcoming him. A shiver shook his body and he looked around himself. He didnt see anything unusual, but the normal sounds began to fade away, only to be replaced with other sounds, strange ones like hed heard just before they left the hotel. Every now and then he would turn his head, sure hed seen a movement or a person walking just out of sight. But every time he turned his head, there was no one there.
Shaking himself, he was once more assaulted by the sounds of the modern world - a radio playing somewhere nearby and a car running somewhere in the distance. Looking ahead, he saw that he had fallen quite a ways behind the other boys. Hurrying to catch up, he quickly took JDs other hand in his own, seeking comfort in the presence of his family.
JD turned puzzled eyes upon Vin. He could see Vin looked scared, but didnt know why. He was about to ask when Ezra stopped and started talking.
"This is it," Ezra said and he came to a stop before the photo shop. "Or, rather that lot is," he clarified, pointing to an area much smaller than hed originally imagined.
"What?" JD asked, his face scrunched in puzzlement.
Ezra looked down at the boy, a light in his eyes. "This is where the gunfight at the OK Corral occurred," Ezra informed.
Vin heard the words and felt a chill run down his spine. He had a sudden urge to get away. All the stories Ezra had told, all of the excitement hed felt was replaced with a sense of dread. He didnt want to be here.
"Its just an empty lot," JD complained. Looking up at the oldest boy, he pleaded, "Can we go look at the stores now? I thought I saw a train."
Ezra sighed and muttered, "The youth of today have no appreciation for history." Sighing once more, Ezra turned, shifting JDs hand from one of his to the other, and said, "Very well. Well go look at the trains."
"Yea!" JD cheered as they headed off.
Vin swallowed hard, his eyes large. As he turned to follow the others, just out of the corner of his eye, he thought he caught sight of a man standing with a shotgun, looking straight at him. Turning in that direction and seeing no one, he hurried along after his brothers.
Soon, with JDs enthusiastic chatter and Ezras comments, Vin forgot about the odd sights and sounds.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and Buck finally found the house they were looking for. Braking the car, it came to a stop. The two men sat quietly in the vehicle staring at the house in silence.
Its just like he described it, Buck said softly.
Chris swallowed, Homers voice echoing in his head. Its just a little bitty thing, but so filled with warmth and love you can feel it all the way to the road. Ma has white lace curtains that flutter in the breeze and the biggest geraniums youve ever seen Yep, was all Chris managed in response, the loss affecting him more than hed thought it was. Looking at the house, his breath caught in his throat. He could have sworn he'd just seen Homer standing in the doorway laughing and saluting him.
Hes really gone, Buck said, his voice reflecting his disbelief.
Taking a deep breath, Chris shoved aside the image of Homers laughing face and softly replied, Yes, before he opened the car door and exited.
Walking around to the other side, he waited for Buck to join him. Once Buck was at his side, the two men set off to meet their old friends parents.
+ + + + + + +
As the boys returned to the hotel where they were staying, they were relieved to see Chris and Buck just pulling up along side the building. Walking over and waiting for the men to exit the car, the three boys stood anxiously awaiting the opportunity to tell what they had found.
Hearing a noise off to his left, Vin turned his head. His eyes widened in surprise and fear as he found himself almost face to face with a black horse sporting a white blaze. Blinking quickly, he glanced down the road and spotted several other horses tethered to hitching posts he hadn't noticed before.
"Vin!" Ezra called, puzzled by what his young friend was staring at so intently. There was nothing there but an empty road.
Shaking himself, Vin turned and saw Ezra. "What?" he demanded a shade too sharply, but he was upset and unsure. He glanced in the direction Ezra tilted his head and quickly took in Chris' sad face and sloped shoulders. His heart immediately going out to the man who had provided him with such comfort and love, he waited for the blond to exit the car before walking up and slipping his hand into Chris'. He was rewarded with a small smile that didn't quite chase the shadows away.
Chris smiled down at Vin, thankful for the hand that held his. He knew at eleven Vin felt he was too old to hold hands and the boy's past made him reluctant for physical contact of any sort. The fact that Vin would override his own desires in order to comfort Chris at this time meant a lot to the man. Looking over to his other side, he met Ezra's green eyes. The oldest of the three boys was standing between the two men, as if to offer both of them what comfort he could. The realization filtered into Chris' consciousness that they had somehow become a family. "Let's get something to eat," he ordered. "Then maybe we'll take in a sight or two before the sun goes down."
"Sounds good, Pard," Buck said, smiling at his friend, his own shadows of sorrow retreating.
"Can we see the cemetery where they bury the boots?" JD asked.
The question elicited a groan from Ezra. "Not a cemetery for boots, JD," he explained again. "It's called Boot Hill Cemetery."
"Oh," JD said, disappointment evident in his voice.
Buck had a smile on his face and was trying not to laugh at his brother. "That's OK," he assured, "I'm sure we'll be able to find something to look at." Then sliding his eyes sideways until they met Chris' he added, "You know, one of the things Tombstone supposedly has a lot of is Ice Cream Parlors."
"Ice cream?" JD asked in excitement.
Vin turned puzzled eyes up toward Chris.
Chris saw the question and smiled down at Vin. "Yes, ice cream. Our friend used to talk about it all the time."
"It was a luxury item at the time this was a boom-town," Ezra injected, trying not to show his excitement at the thought of having ice cream.
Chris looked at Ezra and read the excitement the young teen was trying to hide. Smiling broadly, he offered, "If you all eat your meals, we'll see about getting some ice cream afterward." His proclamation was met with loud cheers from all three boys and a grin of approval from Buck. Encouraging the boys to run ahead and cleanup before dinner, the two men followed more slowly, their smiles fading slightly. "Can't believe he's gone," Chris said softly.
Buck nodded his head in agreement. "He was something else, wasn't he?" Reaching up he rested a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Reckon we should clean up some ourselves," he encouraged. Pausing at the door to the hotel, he turned and asked, "You going to tell the boys they have to go tomorrow?"
Running a hand through his hair, Chris sighed. Looking up at his friend, he offered a half-smile and said, "Your turn to be the bad guy." Hearing Buck's sigh, he stepped through the door and made his way to his room. As he entered, he spotted Vin and Ezra sitting next to each other on their bed, heads bent over a book. Closing the door behind him, he smiled as the two faces rose to look at him. "You boys ready?"
"Yes, sir," came the dual response.
Finishing his own preparations, Chris headed toward the door and the group headed out to meet the other half of their makeshift family.
Dinner was somewhat subdued for the group, though JD did his best to liven things up by telling all of the things the boys had seen on their walk. The only protest occurred when Vin and JD were told they had to eat their broccoli in order to get ice cream. Looking very much like men sentenced to spend their lives in prison, the two boys managed to eat the offending vegetable as quickly as possible. Ezra was appalled by the display and would swear neither boy actually chewed the side dish in question, but Ezra valiantly bit his tongue fearing they might not get ice cream if he complained.
Looking slightly green at the way the two youngest ate their broccoli, Buck quickly averted his eyes and focused on the restaurant around them. He caught sight of some of the pictures on the walls and smiled at the images of a time not too long past when life here was quite different. His memories turned to a time not long ago in his own past when he, Chris, Homer and Scott Peterson had been sitting around a restaurant in Paris. They had somehow gotten leave at the same time and headed off to sample the delights of Paris. The four of them had found a tiny little cafe that first night, pooled their resources and managed to buy some of the worst wine France ever created. Still, they had sat there spellbound by the bustle around them, so different from the nightmare of the trenches they'd been living.
It had been Homer that had broken the spell, draining his glass of wine before standing up and approaching a pretty young lady they'd all been eyeing. None of the remaining men had been able to hear what he was saying, but within minutes his face had been slapped and the woman walked away, indignation evident in her every stride. The three at the table had all laughed at their friend's failure, but congratulated him nevertheless when he returned to their table. Homer had settled into his chair, the imprint of the woman's hand still evident on his face, and just grinned at his friends.
"Ice cream!" JD called as he swallowed the last of his broccoli.
Snapping back to the present, Buck smiled at his little brother. "Sure thing," he said. Then catching the look Chris was giving him, Buck sighed and added, "We'll go in a minute, but first I have to tell... ask..." Rubbing his hand across the back of his neck, Buck took a deep breath and blew it out. "We'd like you boys to come to the funeral with us tomorrow," he said. He was expecting a protest of some sort and was surprised by the easy acceptance the boys gave. Looking up at them, he blinked before continuing. "Chris and I will be pall bearers which means you boys will be alone for part of it."
"We'll be fine," Ezra assured. A concerned look came over his face as he continued, "I fear, however, we have not packed appropriate clothing."
"Taken care of," Chris injected. "We packed something for each of you." He was met with two pair of suspicious eyes and sighed. "Let's get some ice cream," he said, standing.
In no time they found themselves sitting in an ice cream parlor each with a dish before them. Chris looked at the three boys and smiled. Ezra had ordered a dish of french vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce. JD had gone for a Sunday. And, after a little coaxing, Chris had managed to convince Vin to try hot fudge, he hadn't been expecting Vin to choose it over peach ice cream, but he seemed to be enjoying it. Buck had ordered a banana split and Chris had ordered a dish of strawberry ice cream. Strawberries had always been Sarah's favorite whether in ice cream, on shortcake or just plain. For some reason this ice cream parlor seemed to remind him of her. As they ate he could almost hear Sarah's laughter.
He thought back to the first time he and Sarah had gone for ice cream. She had been so beautiful and they had been so young. Her biggest concern had been making sure she got home on time. She had ordered strawberry ice cream. Chris had teased her about it. He'd even managed to get a kiss from her that night. Asking if he could taste how sweet her strawberry ice cream was, he waited until she had a small scoop on a spoon and then leaned forward to kiss her. He could taste the berries and cream on her lips.
"Well?" Buck asked.
Chris shook his head, his attention focusing in the present again. "Sorry. What did you say?"
Buck smiled and shook his head. Apparently he wasn't the only one who was listening to the voices of the past. "I said, it's about time to get the boys to bed."
"I hardly think that such an early hour..."
"Sorry, Ezra," Chris interrupted. "But Buck is right. It's time for you boys to get to bed."
+ + + + + + +
Buck entered the bar and settled into the seat across from Chris. He'd finally gotten JD to sleep.
"Tough time?" Chris asked quietly.
Buck nodded and smiled at the waitress who delivered his beer. "New place, lots of excitement... You know how he gets."
Chris nodded and leaned forward. "I keep hearing Homer's voice, seeing him around here. I haven't thought of him in a long time and now..."
Buck nodded. "Something about this place..." Taking a swallow of beer, Buck agreed, looking around the room. "It's just like he described. Exactly what he said it was."
"So much history. So many ghosts," Chris said, his eyes distant, thoughts and memories from his past returning once more. "Do you remember that night in November..." he began
Buck chuckled. "Sure do."
Chris could almost feel Homer sitting next to him as he thought back to their time together in the war. "He ever tell you where he got that corset?" Chris asked, a smile tugging at his lips.
Laughing out loud, Buck shook his head. "He did have a way of keeping things interesting. Of course, those German soldiers didn't know what to make of it."
"Not sure what I would have done if we'd been on the receiving end of that barrage," Chris replied, laughing as well. Shaking his head, he added quietly, "He's our age, Buck. He was too young..."
Nodding, Buck agreed. They had seen a lot of men die during the war. When they had returned home, it hadn't been an easy transition, but the fact that they survived had helped them to cherish life that much more. "Reminder of our own mortality," he said softly.
Feeling the need to shake off the heavy cloak which had fallen over them, Chris stretched a bit. "Don't need that to remind me of my mortality," he said as his elbows and shoulders popped. "Just getting up in the morning can do that."
Chuckling at the admission, Buck agreed. "Of course, there's nothing like a pretty lady to make a man feel alive."
It was Chris' turn to laugh now. "You planning on leaving JD alone in the room while you wander off?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"Nah," Buck assured. "Just thinking out loud."
"Yeah," Chris agreed, settling his empty glass on the table before standing. "Got a big day tomorrow," he said rising and heading toward his room.
+ + + + + + +
Later that night, Vin lay wide awake in the bed he and Ezra were sharing. Hed had fun with the other boys that afternoon and when Chris and Buck returned, it got even better. He had easily fallen asleep after the long drive and the tiring afternoon, but something had awaken him.
As he stared at the ceiling the odd events of earlier that day came to mind and a shiver coursed over him. He didnt like this place. He didnt like it one bit. Looking across the room, he could see Chris asleep in the other bed and when he focused, he could even hear his breathing.
Taking comfort in the sound, Vin soon felt the call of sleep and allowed his eyes to slide shut. Just before he dropped off, however, a loud voice shouting caused his eyes to shoot open. Looking around the room, he saw that both Ezra and Chris were still asleep. Another shout, this one from outside, caused him to sit up in bed.
As the loud, angry voice continued, Vin debated waking Chris, but knew that Chris hadnt been sleeping well. Ezra was almost impossible to wake up once he was asleep, so, trembling slightly with fear, Vin slid out of bed and made his way to the window. Pulling back the edge of the curtain a smidgen, he could see forms outside - horses, watch-fires, men in dusters and hats and ladies in old fashioned dresses. He spotted horses and a wagon.
This wasnt right, their car should be right outside the window - instead, there was nothing but a boardwalk.
As the curtain slipped from his trembling hand, Vin backed away until his back hit the wall of the hotel room. He then proceeded to slide down the wall until he was sitting, gripping his knees and making himself as tiny as possible. The shivers that had been assaulting him continued to caress him as he valiantly struggled to get his breathing under control.
The sounds didnt go away, though. Instead they changed. The street sounded busier and fighting off his fear, Vin once more peaked outside. Aside from the fact it was still the dark of night, Vin could see people moving around as if it were day.
Looking toward Freemont Street, he saw four men pass by, one of them carrying a rifle. The memory of the man hed seen out of the corner of his eye came back to him immediately. Vin knew, without a doubt that the four men hed just seen were the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday and he knew exactly where they were going.
Moving as if in a dream now, his terror either gone or so consuming he could no longer identify it, the young Texan made his way to the door of the hotel room. He carefully undid the lock and opened the door, making sure to close it silently behind him.
Walking through the hotel, he was surprised by all the people there. All of them were dressed like it was the old West and none of them seemed to spot the barefoot boy in pajamas. Pushing open the door to the hotel, he stepped outside and felt wood beneath his feet. Looking downward, he found himself on a boardwalk.
Swallowing once and licking his dry lips, he made his way down Freemont Street, dodging the people along the sidewalk as he went. He saw the sheriff try to talk to the four men, but they didnt pay him any heed and continued on their way.
Following behind, Vin felt his eyes grow even wider with fear as he realized where they were. Stopping dead just short of the empty lot, he watched as the four men hed been following met up with four more. He flinched at the angry words and watched in horror as weapons were pulled. He tried to close his eyes against the sight before him, but found he couldnt. Before long, the guns stopped firing, the smoke cleared and three bleeding bodies lay on the ground.
Try as he might, Vin couldnt tear his eyes away from the men who lay dead. It was some minutes later, when a figure brushed past him that he lifted his eyes.
Looking across the street, he spotted the sheriff. Next to him stood a man Vin couldnt quite make out. He wore a buckskin coat and a cavalry hat. He had long, curly brown hair and a moment later, he turned his face toward Vin and their eyes locked.
The boy gasped, the eyes looked just like his.
He jumped, his eyes closing involuntarily, as a crash of thunder sounded. When he looked around, the street was back to normal. Cars were parked along the sides of it and the corral was once more an empty lot.
A flash of lightning lit the sky followed by another crash of thunder.
Tears welled in the terrified boys eyes as he took off for the hotel as fast as he could run.
Crashing through the street door, Vin didnt slow until he stood outside the door to their room. Knowing Chris lay just on the other side asleep, Vin closed his eyes and rested his head against the doorframe, trying to catch his breath.
Why had he wanted to come here? How could he have ever thought it would be fun and exciting to be in a gunfight?
These and other questions running through his head combined with the lingering fear made it difficult for him to calm down, but eventually he did and slipped back into the room.
Making his way to the bed, he slipped under the covers and curled into a ball listening to the sounds of Chris and Ezra sleeping as the rain began to fall outside.
+ + + + + + +
Morning dawned gray and cloudy. The rain from the night before had stopped several hours before allowing the puddles time to be absorbed into the ground.
Didnt know it rained like that in Arizona, Buck said fidgeting with his tie.
Ezra reached up and straightened Buck's tie, batting the man's hands away. Looking at the grimacing face, he could tell that this was difficult on Buck. Wishing he knew what to say to offer comfort to the man who had only showed him kindness, Ezra could only offer a smile. He was grateful when it was returned.
You boys going to be ok standing through this? Chris asked, tugging at his cuffs.
Indeed we shall, Ezra assured. We will be waiting for you to meet us afterward so we might take our sustenance together.
Buck exchanged a grin with Chris at Ezras assurance. Then turning, he looked for his brother and found the boy standing slightly behind him as if waiting. Kneeling down, he was about to ask JD if he was alright when two small arms circled his neck in a tight hug. Wrapping his arms around the boy, Buck returned the hug, finding comfort and an easing of the pain he carried in the simple display of love.
Ezra looked on enviously as JD offered the comfort he had been unable to display. Turning his attention to Chris, he was surprised Vin wasnt standing by the blond. Turning to look for the boy who had become more a brother than a friend, he found the Texan standing by the window looking outward. His brow furrowed in puzzlement, Ezra headed over to the window and rested a hand on Vins shoulder. He pulled it off almost instantly as the other boy jumped. Taking a step back, wide green eyes met frightened blue ones. Concern filled Ezras eyes as he asked quietly, Whats wrong, Vin? Did you see something?
Swallowing hard and glancing out the window, Vin seemed to relax slightly and shook his head. Then, seeing Chris was about ready to leave, he said, Wed best get moving. Its time to go.
Ezra studied Vin as he wandered off to take Chris hand. He seemed fine, just distracted. Thinking about the day, he decided he could understand that. Going to this funeral was bound to bring up memories of his own mothers funeral as well. Since he seemed unable to do anything to comfort the men, he would do his best to be there for Vin. Nodding his head in satisfaction, he moved forward to join his family.
+ + + + + + +
Vin stood at the back of the group with JD and Ezra. He couldnt quite figure out why Ezra had been so much nicer, but he did appreciate it. Sleep hadnt been his friend the previous night, not after what he saw at the OK Corral.
A slight shudder ran down his spine at the memory. He had almost succeeded in convincing himself it was all a dream, at least until he had looked out the window earlier. The images were etched in his mind still; a ghostly procession marching down the dirt road. There had been horses drawing a carriage behind. He knew that in that carriage were the bodies of the men hed seen die the night before. Behind them were other people mourning, he could feel their hurt.
Ezras presence had brought him out of that image and back to the present. He was comforted by the other boys presence. It wasnt until they were approaching the cemetery that his thoughts turned to his own past and his mothers funeral. He didnt expect it to hurt so much and leaned into the older boy as Ezra placed an arm around his shoulders. Suddenly it didnt matter that he was too old for this sort of comfort. He wanted his family.
+ + + + + + +
Chris sighed and dropped his head, still trying to come to terms with the death of his friend. It hadnt been easy saying goodbye, but he knew it had been the right thing to be here. Looking up, he saw Buck struggling as well. Walking over to the younger man, he placed an arm on Bucks shoulders and drew him in closer.
Its different, Buck said softly as his eyes remained fixed on the scene before him.
Nodding Chris couldnt think of anything to say. Buck was right. It was different this time. They had lost a lot of people during the war and both of them had lost family, but this was just different. Perhaps it was the blending of those two parts of their lives - the war and home - that made it unsettling. Here lay a man who survived with them through all the fighting, who, the last time they saw him alive, was headed home with a laugh and a smile. Back then they thought they were immortal; theyd survived the fighting and the world was their oyster... Yes, it is, Chris finally agreed.
Both men jumped slightly as they felt three other bodies approach. Turning, they looked to see the three boys walking up to them. JD quickly disengaged from Ezras hand and took Bucks. Vin moved over to take Chris and Ezra stepped between the two men, briefly raising his hands to rest on their shoulders.
Chris green eyes rose to meet the blue ones of his friend. They would always remember Homer, his ready smile and laugh, but that chapter of their lives had closed. These boys were their lives now. What do you say to some lunch and a little sight-seeing? Chris asked, looking down at the three boys. He was met with smiles and cheers.
+ + + + + + +
Their orders given, the family settled into their seats and discussion began about where to go and what to see in the area. Well, theres the OK Corral, Buck suggested with a smile, referring to one of the more well-known landmarks.
No! Vin denied more forcefully than he had intended. Four sets of startled eyes settled on him and he could feel himself blushing slightly. I mean, we already saw that with Ezra yesterday, he covered, staring at his water glass and shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
O. K., Chris said slowly, not entirely accepting Vins reason, but not willing to push the issue. There are plenty of other places to see. We can go to Boot Hill Cemetery, take a tour of a silver mine outside of town...
I want to see the boots! JD declared.
Ezra sighed a longsuffering sigh. JD, he explained with exaggerated patience. I told you yesterday, its not a hill of boots nor is it a cemetery for used boots. Its called Boot Hill Cemetery.
JD let out a huff of breath, perplexed by this statement. If its not for boots then why call it that? he demanded, knowing he was right.
Heres our lunches, Buck announced, cutting off any and all arguments as their food was served.
Thanking the waitress as she placed his plate before him, Ezra looked around and caught sight of some of the photographs on the walls. This must have been quite some place in its heyday, he said somewhat wistfully.
Chris and Buck exchanged a look, unsure if they wanted to encourage this. They both remembered their own boyhood and their interest in the Wild West as well as shooting and shoot-outs, but theyd seen too much reality to buy into the romance and fantasy that people tried to portray. Not really, Chris said, trying to temper the wonder he heard in Ezras voice. Seeing the boys look at him he continued, It was really crowded then, like a city. They say there were ten thousand people or more here back then.
In this place? Vin asked, incredulous.
Chris nodded. It would have been smelly and noisy. And a lot of people didnt really care about much more than money. He saw Ezra wince slightly and almost regretted the words knowing that Maude Standish had more or less trained her son to believe that too. Fortunately, somewhere along the way, Ezra had learned differently. And, if wed been around back then, I wouldnt have let you boys anywhere near here, not with all the guns and fighting and drinking that went on.
As Chris was talking Vin had been looking around the restaurant and felt a familiar shudder run down his spine as the voices and images of the present faced away and the ghostly images of the past came to life. The furniture changed slightly and he saw a pool table sitting in the middle of the room. Several of the figures shooting pool looked familiar and he gasped as he recognized them from his walk the night before. Vin could feel tears begin to build in his eyes as fear began to build in his soul. He didnt like this place. He didnt want this place, he just wanted to go home.
One of the men shooting looked up from the table where he was shooting and seemed to glance directly at Vin. Tanner swallowed as he saw the dark eyes and heard Ezras voice narrating the story of Morgan Earps death. He was shooting pool when the window behind him shattered...
Eyes widening, Vin turned his head just as the large glass window declaring this place The Tombstone Saloon shattered. Unable to look away, he watched as Morgan crumbled beneath the impact of the bullet and blood splattered and flowed. Unable to turn away from the sight, Vin saw the frantic actions and pained expressions as the others raced to save Morgan.
Feeling a presence beside him, he looked up into a pair of very familiar blue eyes and read there compassion and love. He felt some of his fear abate and the knowledge he had gained the previous night reaffirm itself and take a deeper seed in his soul. Life was precious and the taking of life a serious matter, not something to be done lightly. There was no romance in gunfights and killing. Violence begat violence and death was the end result.
Nodding that he understood to the long-haired man in the buckskin coat standing beside him, Vin was rewarded with a smile before he felt another hand rest on his shoulder.
Vin, Chris repeated again, growing concerned by the boys lack of response.
Shaking himself, Vin looked around and grinned sheepishly at his family. Sorry, he apologized, his eyes seeking his plate and the half-finished meal there. Picking up his fork, he dug into the meal. Can we see a silver mine? he asked. His desire to see gunfighters, and gallows assuaged.
Sounds good, Chris said, still concerned about the boy. He didnt understand what had happened, Vin had been quietly eating when his eyes seemed to focus somewhere else. A few minutes later Vin had paled and began to breathe quickly. When he didnt respond to his name being called, Chris had reached out and touched him. That seemed to break whatever spell held Vin.
Exchanging a concerned look with his friend, Buck simply tipped his head asking if Chris knew what was going on with Vin. He was rewarded with a slight shrug. Looking at the other two, Buck figured Chris was right. They were done in Tombstone for now. It was time to head home. Besides, he figured the boys would like the Grand Canyon a whole lot more than this dusty old town.
+ + + + + + +
The funeral over, their sightseeing completed, the group of five left Tombstone early in the morning the day after the funeral.
It was none too soon for Vin. Though he had seen no images after those of Morgan Earps death, he had wanted only to leave Tombstone.
Looking out the rear window at the quickly retreating town, he saw the ghostly image of the man in the buckskin coat and cavalry hat sitting on a horse with a white blaze. The man lifted his arm and waved before fading to nothing.