The two riders were almost home. It had been nearly a week since they had seen Four Corners and in less than an hour they would be back home. The youngest of the two thought that if they could just up the pace, they would be there even sooner..but his older brother acted like his mind was still 6 hours behind them; in the middle of the woods, living off the land, sleeping under the stars with nothing but a bed roll and a blanket.
JD had gone, for Vin's sake. They had spent the night out once, JD had hated it...but Vin promised they would eat real food this time, not just roots and berries; he also let JD bring along some coffee so he didn't have to drink Vin's substitute concoction which tasted like liquid dirt.
JD's dirty and dusty face contrasted sharply against the white teeth as he smiled, seeing Four Corners loom over the horizon.
"Now you get all smilely," Vin groaned sarcastically.
JD didn't respond but sent a glare that conveyed shut up' in a not so nice way, then spurred his horse into a gallop.
"JD..watch out for..." Vin tried to warn, but it happened before he could get the words out.
The horse went to her knees, the rest of her body falling to the ground heavily, tossing the rider off to land on the ground.
"..gopher holes," Vin sighed as he trotted his horse to the fallen two.
JD was on his feet, as was his mare, checking her for scrapes and the leg she held off the ground.
"You two alright?" Vin asked concerned; he knew that JD was alright; through unwanted experience the young man had learned the way to fall off a horse, but if the horse's leg was broken..it would break JD's heart to put her down.
"Uh-huh..her leg ain't broke and the scrapes ain't too bad," he said, "Sorry, Pup, shoulda' known better..just forgot about the gophers," JD apologized, she accepted his apology with a soft nudge with her nose. "What the hell got into ya? Them gopher's been here longer than God, I can't believe ya' sent her to run..how many times I tell..." Vin started, but was cut off.
"Alright, alright, ALRIGHT..ALRIGHT!!!!!..Buck!" JD yelled out, adding the ladies' man's name as a form of insult.
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Vin asked loudly as he sat on his horse.
"It means I thought I left Buck back in town!" JD said, putting his hands on his hips.
"You sayin' I sound like Buck?" Vin asked sharply.
"If the how many times I gotta tell ya' fits.." JD said Buck's favorite 7 words, bending to pick up the reins off the ground.
"Well maybe Buck ain't so wrong..You don't listen to half a what you're told!" Vin let out harshly.
JD glared again at his brother, hiding the hurt that he felt, he began to walk off towards town; Pup following slowly behind him on three legs. Vin sat in his saddle, hands resting on the saddle horn, shaking his head at the sight.
Vin watched as the two awkward travelers walked, Pup began testing out her strained leg and before too long was putting weight on her leg, JD upped his pace when he felt the reins slack in his hands, letting him know that she was getting better.
The tracker motioned his horse to a walk, quickly catching up to JD.
"You wanna ride up with me?" Vin asked, but then added sharply, "Or you gonna walk the rest of the way home?"
JD was glad when Vin made the offer..but the added sarcastic comment swiftly voided that emotion.
"We can manage just fine ..'sides all that time out in the middle of nowhere has prepared me for the rest of my life," JD said adding a sarcastic smile.
"Fine..Just watch out you don't break a leg in one of them damn gopher holes..hate to think I'd have to come rescue your sorry butt..again," the tracker said.
"Again? Since when you gotta rescue me?" JD said, his voice reaching a higher pitch.
"I ain't got enough fingers..when ya' got yourself nabbed..who led ya' round when you was all blind..who made sure ya' didn't over do it when ya' busted your leg all up..or when that dog got at ya'?" Vin counted just a few.
"Maybe you better ride on ahead..cause if I remember right..you was there all those times..maybe you're some kinda jinx!" JD exclaimed.
"Fine!" Vin yelled back.
"Fine!" JD returned.
"FINE!!" Vin responded, spurring his horse as he turned his horse back to head towards town.
"FINE!!!!!" JD yelled back, happy to get the last' word in. He then began to ramble quietly "Watch out for the gopher holes' my ass..why is it he can ride all over the place as fast as he wants..the minute I do it's watch out for this', careful of that' , told you to check your bed before lyin down'. How the hell was I s'pose to know there was a snake in there? Geez..he's been doin this all his life..he thinks just 'cause were brothers I gotta know everything he knows..Well I don't!!" JD stated to no one but his horse, yelling the last words out to his brother, knowing he wouldn't hear them.
+ + + + + + +
Dang it Vin..why'd you get after him like that? Vin thought He's right, you sounded just like Buck..He ain't a Tanner, Tanner. He's a Dunne..he's not you..he don't know bout sleepin under the stars and all; he spent that one night eating off the land..and he hated it then..what made you think he'd do well for a week? He's always been willing to learn, but you're starting to force what you know down his throat..guess he hates that crap as much as you do
Vin laughed at the irony..the idea had been to find a common ground..a common interest. He'd found one..but not until after the trip. That wasn't suppose to happen..they weren't suppose to be at each others throat..they were supposed to be laughing it up, remember the good times while they'd been out on the trail..it had been a nightmare from day one.
Vin halted his horse and turned in the saddle, he brought out his spyglass and peered through it; he could see his younger brother in front of his horse, Pup close by, slightly limping. Vin sighed, then turned his horse from where he had been looking and headed back for JD.
"...I'll tell you what I'm gonna do Pup..he comes back here ain't no way I'm riding double with him..I'd rather carry you then ride with him," JD rambled to his four legged companion again.
He heard Vin approach and lifted his head; he squinted up to Vin before speaking.
"What now? I s'pose I ain't walkin the right way now..or holdin the reins right..or somethin," JD accused, figuring Vin was going to criticize.
"I came back to apologize and ask if ya' wanted a ride..but forget it!" Vin said, "I'll take Pup in with me, it'll take you long enough by yourself..she didn't do nothin wrong," Vin added, grabbing JD's reins.
"Oh ..that's right down brotherly of ya ..Fine..go on ahead..I'll make it back just fine !" JD said, walking off from his brother.
"Home's that way," Vin pointed towards the town.
"I knew that," JD stated as he turned, "just wanted to go this way," JD covered.
"You'd get yourself lost in a box," Vin said quietly as he urged his horse on, Pup following behind him.
JD stood stunned at what Vin had said, although said quietly, it was loud enough for JD to hear. As Vin walked away, JD took his hat from his head and threw it to the ground in frustration.
"You're gonna ruin your hat," Vin yelled out, not even turning as he said it.
"ARRRRGGGGHHH!!!" JD yelled, picking his hat up from the ground and throwing it towards Vin, not that it went far.
Vin continued on..JD swore he could hear Vin laughing, which he wasn't. Vin decided to get to town, take care of JD's horse, maybe get Nathan to put some of that salve on her scrapped knees, then go back and get him, maybe both of them would have cooled off by then.
JD walked to his discarded hat, dustier than it had been earlier, and a bit misshapen; he straightened the hat with his fist then put it on his head forcefully, the dust cloud it caused making him cough.
I'll show him.. can't find my way outta a box' huh? Who needs you any ways! JD thought as he headed towards town. He glanced up at the sky and figured that he'd make it back on foot just as the sun was going to go down, but if he upped his pace he would be back about a half an hour before.
He smiled as he upped his pace into a fast walk..he knew running was futile at this point..he'd be winded in no time..plus the sun would tire him sooner. JD was so lost in his thoughts, and his self gloating that he didn't bolt for town, he didn't hear the three riders approaching, by the time he did..there wasn't enough time to get near any cover if the riders weren't friendly. He turned as the three riders halted behind him, his hands instinctively going to the grips of his guns.
He didn't ready them, but knew he could get at least two of them down before he himself got hit, hopefully not fatally, and get another shot off.
"Howdy son, loose your horse?" the man on the sorrel horse asked.
"You could say that," JD replied, noticing that these men were pretty clean shaven, and wore nice clothes; they hardly looked menacing.
"Mount run off on ya'?" the youngest of the three asked with a smile.
"Naw, my brother took her back to Four Corners," JD stated.
"We're heading into Four Corners ourselves..been a while since we been here..last time there wasn't any form of law..needless to say we didn't stick around that long," The third man..the oldest looking informed. "Names Sweetser..Alexander Sweetser..you wanna hitch a ride?" the man on the sorrel asked.
JD was about to decline, but the men didn't look like trouble..and if they were..he just wouldn't mention what his position in town was..and maybe riding into town with them, he might find out if they were looking for trouble, and have the inside scoop'.
"Thanks, I'd appreciate it," JD nodded.
"You can ride with Morris, as you can tell..me and Stan here ain't missed many meals," Alexander smiled, comparing himself to the older man.
JD grabbed Morris's arm and easily mounted on the horses rump without much effort.
"Seems a shame, you walking out here whilst your brother's run off with your horse..you seem pretty keen around them," Stan stated, acknowledging a skill he once possessed.
"Yes, sir..but I'd be walking any ways..she came up lame," JD said, intentionally not mentioning how..someone as keen' as he was should've known better.
+ + + + + + +
The men traveled on for another 15 minutes when Alexander broke the silence that had fallen on the group.
"You trust your brother with your horse?" he asked.
"Yes, sir, why?" JD asked.
"If she's lame..he's got her into a trot," Alexander pointed to the tracks, they dug a bit deeper into the ground than when at a walk..but less than when in a canter.
"Pup's pretty smart..she most likely started trottin' fore he did," JD smiled.
"Pup? You named your horse Pup?" Morris said, a quizzical look on his face as he turned to face JD.
"Not really, my friends did," JD smiled again.
"Why?" Stan asked, also curious to know.
"Well, they say I taught her to listen to what I tell her.. I tell her to walk and she does," JD shrugged.
"Any horse'll do that son," Stan smiled, like JD didn't know that.
"I mean..when I'm not ridin her..I tie her reins to her saddle horn..tell her to walk..and she's right beside me the whole time," JD shrugged again.
"You taught her that?" Stan asked.
"Well..she's pretty smart," JD said, slightly blushing, and not wanting to brag.
"Where'd you learn to ride?" Morris asked, becoming interested in the tale of Pup the horse.
"I worked in the stables at this mansion since I was old enough to remember..I taught myself how to ride..don't really know if it's all that proper ridin', but it seems to work," JD said with half a shrug and smile to boot.
"You're better than anyone I seen in a long time," Stan said.
"Now how can you say that..I ain't even ridin' her," JD laughed out.
"Bet you don't even step in the stirrup to mount up," Stan said, sounding more like a question than a statement.
"Well.." JD hung his head shyly, feeling his face grow red.
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