JD entered the boarding house; he took the stairs that led to the floor his room was on, two at a time, unsuccessfully trying to hold back the tears, letting out quivering breaths with each step.
He stepped onto the solid floor with shaky unsteady legs, he reached for the door knob, turning it quickly and stepped into it, leaning his whole upper back and head against the door as it closed.
His breathing was still unsteady and fast; he closed his eyes, causing two tears to drop from his eyes and run down his cheeks, leaving a small trail of mud behind. He ran his hands through his hair to calm himself, as he tried to sort out the feelings that were overcoming him.
He had been scared at first, when Vin had landed his first punch, and the second, third and all of the rest of them. He knew he managed to get a few in himself, and the two he knew connected with his brother's face seemed to hurt more than the hits he'd received.
He didn't even know who had removed his brother off from him, but he heard Bucks voice, his 'keepers' familiar concerned tone had taken the feeling of fright and turned it quickly into anger..not at Vin..but at himself, if it had been anyone else hitting him in that way..he would have fought harder.
When he'd walked across the street to his room, the anger had gone and turned into astonishment. Every step he'd taken up the stairs he kept trying to figure what he'd done to make Vin so mad. He knew he'd done something wrong, Vin wouldn't just snap like that.
He had messed up so many times while camping..not using small enough pieces of wood to start a fire, or too much dry grass..not checking his bedroll..not making the spiket the right way to cook the rabbit, JD had even managed to mess up the snare. He should have known things had been going too good, at least since the dog attack anyway, it was just a matter of time before he'd messed up.
JD sighed, still not having any answers, he walked to where the pitcher and wash basin were, he hadn't emptied the water that he'd put in it last week, but he figured it would be better than nothing. He grabbed the dusty cloth that sat next to it, submerging it into the water and began to clean the mud, dust and blood from his face; he winced several times, touching spots on his face that were tender and no doubt bruising by now.
The semi-clean water in the basin turned to a dark chocolate color as he rinsed the cloth back out, placing it back next to the basin. He slowly brought his head up and looked at himself in the mirror.
JD had had his share of beatings in the past, when he was younger from the other boys who worked at the stables and the mansion..that's what happened when you don't have a father. He'd also had them on other occasions..at the hands of a crazed man who didn't want to miss an opportunity..but this..this was different..this was family..his brother had done the damage he saw in his reflection.
Of all the other times..this hurt the worse.
Never in his life had he been hit by someone who had told him he loved him...until today.
The worse part was..JD knew it was his fault.
In less than a weeks time, he had destroyed whatever relationship he might have had with his only living kin.
Too much complaining, too many questions..too much me JD thought, making his way to sit on his bed. knew it would be just a matter of time before one of the guys snapped, kinda expected it to be Chris or Buck..but not Vin. I ain't a Tanner..never was...never will be...our Pa wanted Vin..he didn't want me..that ain't fair..weren't really his fault I s'pose, he was just a customer.
"This sure didn't turn out like any of them Dime Novels..they weren't nearly as complicated," JD said aloud to the ceiling he now stared at.
The knock at the door made JD sigh, he wanted to be left alone.
"Go away Buck," JD said, he'd wanted the words to sound angry, or menacing..something that would let who ever it was at the door know that he'd meant what he was saying; instead it came out more like a plea. JD knew it was Buck, who else would it be?
"You okay kid?" came the familiar voice from the other side of the door, hearing the door knob try and turn JD couldn't help smile that he decided to lock it when he came in.
"I said go away..I'm fine..an' I don't need no lookin after so take Nathan with ya'" JD said, still laying on his back on his bed.
Buck turned his back and looked at Nathan, the healer simply shrugged..were they that predictable?
"An' the kid says he ain't got nothin in common with Vin," Buck said softly to the healer, then turned back to the door.
"Come on JD, Nate wants to check you out..thinks ya mighta busted you're nose," Buck said.
JD brought his hand up to his nose and winced, then felt the bridge of his nose move a bit to easy.
"It's broke..but ain't nothin ya' can do for that," JD said, knowing he was right.
"Dammit JD," Buck said through the door, "Just wanna talk to ya' find out what happened is all".
"Got nothin to say. Go away..please Buck," JD pleaded, now leaning against the door.
"Vin didn't just come unhinged kid, somethin set him off..just tell me what it was," Buck sent his plea through the door.
JD closed his eyes and sighed again.
"I did..just go away," JD said, pounding his fist on the door, adding to the injuries his brother had given earlier.
Buck's concern turned into full blown worry when he felt the force through the other side of the door, he stepped back and turned to Nathan, who's look didn't do anything to calm his nerves.
"JD! Open this door now!" Buck yelled, putting his fist to the door, knocking loudly.
The noise stopped as he heard the deadbolt being unlocked, then the door being opened. Buck was in full mother hen mode the minute he saw JD's face, Nathan's concerned look followed close behind him.
"You wanted in..and I want to be left alone..so now you're in," JD said, leaving the room that the others were so anxious to get into before either of them could say anything.
"I pushed, huh?" Buck sighed.
"Just a little," Nathan said.
+ + + + + + +
"That's him alright," Morris said, a wide smile crossing his face.
"Thought they said he worked with six other lawmen?" Stan asked quietly, seeing the man walk down the street alone.
"Yup..there's one right there," Alexander said, pointing to the mountain of a man that had exited the bath house and headed to the church.
"He's all alone alright Alexander..but you think it's safe to grab him now? Shouldn't we wait til it gets darker?" Morris asked.
"Normally I'd say you were right Morris, but from the looks of him..being all wet like he is and fully clothed..I'd say he had some folks pretty unhappy with him at the moment..That preacher type..got the patience of a saint they say..and if he's the one that caused him to look the way he does..well..lets just say..the others are more than likely being pretty cold at the moment," Alexander smiled.
"What about the rumors we've been hearing about a brother? IF he's got one..it won't matter if everyone's mad at him or not, he'll come after him," Stan said.
"That's what I like about you boys..you always point something out to me that I forgot about," Sweetser replied nodding his head..he had forgotten about the 'brother' that he'd heard about in Little Bend.
"Any theories as to which one it might be?" Alexander asked his companions.
"We've been thinking on that, Morris here thinks it might be the youngest of the group," Stan said.
"But?" Alexander asked.
"I heard a lot of the talk about the brothers..no one said if he was younger or not..and well... Larabee has always had this connection with Tanner..I think it's Larabee," Stan voiced.
"Morris, I gotta agree with Stan on this one this time..people say it's almost erie how they talk without even speaking," Alexander said.
"I understand Alexander," Morris smiled.
"Well, lets do this men..Morris can you take care of Larabee? Don't kill him mind you..that ain't the way we work..You keep him occupied, me and Stan here will make it clear that Tanner is to come with us..in a weeks time we'll be $500 richer," Alexander smiled, the others smiled and nodded.
Morris left the alley through the back way in search of Chris Larabee, while the other two bounty hunters walked from the alley towards Vin, never bring attention to themselves with the casual manner at how they walked.
The two men were talking adamantly about something, never appearing to pay much attention to where they were going, the act worked as they both walked into Vin, knocking him over.
"Oh dear God in heaven..please forgive me..I wasn't paying any mind to where I was going," Alexander said, extending his hand to the fallen man.
Vin smiled shyly as he took the offered hand, "It's alright, weren't paying no mind either," Vin said.
It all happened in one fluid motion, Vin was relieved of his mares leg and felt a weapon to his back.
"Keep your hands down and take us to that alley..we've never killed a bounty ..and we don't plan on starting with you, now..my associate has your brother at the moment..and if he sees anything happen he dies..understood?" Alexander instructed, an easy friendly smile on his face the whole time he spoke, masking the menacing tone he spoke with.
"Understood..but you hurt one hair on his head.." Vin growled, also using the smile.
"Tanner..you really aren't in any position to give out ultimatums..Please..Don't make this difficult..for him," Sweetser said, like he truly cared.
In less than 5 minutes Vin and the two other men were mounted on horses, riding out of town.
Chris stepped out of the jail just as the three men passed him.
"Vin!" Chris yelled, grabbing his gun from the holster, ready to take aim..just as a young man stepped out, his back turned to Chris.
Chris instantly relaxed his finger that was pressing the trigger.
"MOVE!" Chris yelled, the young man didn't move.
Chris looked towards the end of town, no longer able to see the riders, he holstered his gun, then grabbed the younger man by the shoulder and spun him around.
"You could've gotten yourself killed!" Chris said as he turned Morris around.
Morris's eyes were wide, appearing to be frightened, he dropped the apple he had been eating and moved his hands quickly.
Chris's face softened somewhat as he realized the boy he was scolding couldn't hear a word he was saying. Chris made a motion with his hand..as if he were writing, Morris nodded his head, reaching in his back pocket, taking a pencil and paper from it.
Chris wrote down an apology and a small explanation as to why he was angry..Morris read it and seemed horrified..he quickly scribed his own apology and a thank you for not shooting him in the back.
He wrote that his parents were just out of town with their wagon, heading for San Francisco, and he'd come into town because he was bored. He indicated that his parents would be upset he was gone ..especially if they found out he had interrupted something. He 'asked' Chris not to say anything.Chris nodded, then wrote Morris and told him he needed to keep his eyes open.
Morris nodded his head hanging it in shame..Chris stepped off the boardwalk..heading for the saloon..knowing that some, if not all, of the peacekeepers would be there.
Morris then headed to the back of the alley, mounted his horse and left town, preparing to meet up with Stan and Alexander..and their 'guest'.
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