Goddamn people, anyway. What are they so all fired scared of? Chris Larabee? Like he's gonna do somethin awful to ' em? Like what? Shoot 'em? Hell, he's got a damn good nasty act, but that's all it is--an act. Hell, he wouldn't even shoot anybody in the back. I would. I'd shoot 'em any damn place I please. Don't matter if you're gonna kill 'em where you shoot 'em. But Chris, no, he has to be lookin' at anybody he's gonna kill, and he sure ain't gonna kill Vin Tanner while he's lookin' at me. Took me two minutes to convince JD we could dye Buck's horse red, but when it comes to messin with Chris, he's a chickenshit. I had to do all the work on that one, too. All he had to do was keep Buck busy. Then he whines about the color not being right. Like he could do better. And Nathan and Josiah wouldn't even talk about it, just shook their heads and backed away. Buck's aways too damn busy with the women. Think he'd know somethin about how to get two people together. Ezra, he's game, but he says he's thinkin about it. While yer thinkin about it, Ezra, the noose is tightening in Tuscosa.
Vin wrenched another bunch from the earth to add to the stems he held in his other hand. He cast a quick look about to make sure nobody was around.
Jeezus! What am I comin' to? How the hell did Chris ever end up married in the first place if it takes him years just to notice there's a pretty woman interested in him? Yeah, you lost 'em, but it's about damn time you get over it. I got things to do and I don't need you riding my ass while I do 'em, Larabee, gettin your butt in trouble, too. And if I can get you and Mary together afore I take off, leastways I'll have someplace to come home to. Home? Never had that before.
He held the flowers up in and studied them.
Yep, that's as good as it's gonna get. Gotta do everything myself. Well, that's how it's always been, ain't nothing different, now. Well, maybe some things.
He carefully tucked them inside the pocket of his coat. He had to scrunch them down a bit . . .
Can't go ridin' into down with a goddamn bunch of wildflowers in my hand.
He bent over and grabbed a last handful of grass, then shoved it under Peso's nose.
Let's get the hell outa here, afore some asshole comes lookin for me. Used to be able to do whatever I wanted, nobody ever noticed me. Now, there's always somebody wantin to know where Tanner is. Some bounty hunter'll come ridin in someday and Mrs. Potter'll say, "Yeah, he's right over there, with the long hair," and boom, they'll be plantin what's lefta me up there with the wolf. Won't nobody be bitchin about my harmonica then. The folks on the reservation say I caught the wind, and look at me like I'm somethin special when I play my mouth harp. Here they're always complainin I'm makin a racket. To hell with 'em.
He legged the horse into a gallop and headed for town. When he arrived there, he nodded to a few folks and tied his horse in front of the saloon. Then he walked down to the Clarion office. Looked around again.
"Looking for Mary, Vin?"
Josiah was suddenly there next to him.
"Uh, no, not really."
How the hell does that big sonofabitch manage to be everywhere at once?
"Cause she's down the street at Potter's."
"All righty then." He just stared at Josiah, daring him to ask.
"I'm headed to the church," he said as he turned to walk backwards with a smile spreading across his face.
Vin continued to scowl at him while he walked away, until the big preacher turned away, shaking his head. Then he stepped quickly inside the office. He grabbed a jar of pencils, emptying it onto the printer desk, and poured water from the pitcher into it. He crammed the flowers into the jar, fluffing the bent and wilted stems in an attempt to make them stand up.
Shit. They look like shit. Well, it's the thought---
Billy scared him. Flat out scared him. Nearly threw the damn flowers on the floor, jar and all.
"Nothin. Look at these flowers that Chris just brought your ma. She seen 'em yet?"
"Nope. She's down at Miss Potters. She'll like them. They look kinda dead."
"She'll like 'em though. 'Specially when she finds out Chris brought 'em."
"Yeah. Well, I gotta go, Billy."
Well, that wasn't so bad. He didn't see nothin, so it'll still be OK.
"I'll tell ma you were here."
"Don't need to do that, Billy, I forgot what I came for anyhow. I'll talk to her later."
He nodded at the little boy and started out the door. Ran right into Mary. She was holding a pie tin and he hearly knocked it out of her hands.
"Sorry, Ma'am." He blushed and stepped back out of the way.
Too damn crowded around here for me.
"That's OK, Vin. Wait, don't leave. Mrs. Potter just gave me some fresh apple pie, and I'll cut you a piece."
"No ma'am, that's awright."
"Nonsense. You look like you could use it. Are you all right, Vin?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I'm fine."
She set the plate down and rummaged for a knife. He offered her his, but she shook her head doubtfully at the big knife and found one in a drawer. She wiped it off and cut a generous wedge for him. Then she wrapped it in paper and handed it over.
"There. You're welcome to stay and eat it, but you look like you're in a hurry."
"Yes'm. I am. Thank you." He nodded vigorously, and a little too quickly. A sudden grin lit up his face.
"Thank you again. " And he turned and hurried out the door. He heard Billy behind him, pointing out the flowers to Mary.
Well, maybe this ain't so bad after all. Now I just gotta find Chris.
He held the package carefully and walked down to the saloon. Peered inside.
Yep, there he is hiding. Yeah, throw that goddamn 'Git ta hell away' look at me, Larabee. Spent the better part of the mornin on you, I don't need this crap.
Vin strode in.
"Been lookin for you, cowboy. Mary sent this over for you. Baked it just for you. Sure smells good."
"Oh yeah? For me?"
Yeah, sit there and eat my pie. Stubborn sonofabitch, anyway.
"That was real nice of her. I'll have to thank her."
"Did you get some?"
"Nope, I think it was just for you, pard."
Notice you didn't ask 'til you nearly finished my damn pie.
"Something up, Vin? You don't look so good."
"Nope, just tired. I'll see you later."
Can't even talk with your mouth full eatin my pie. Shit.
Vin walked out the batwing doors and bumped into Buck.
"Hey, Vin, I got something to show you, OK?" And he nodded towards the alley. Vin followed him. When they had stepped all the way out of sight of the main street, Buck grabbed him by the collar of his coat and shoved him up against the wall of the building. He stuck his face close and growled.
"I saw you with them flowers. You just stay away from Mary Travis, you hear? Chris'll get around to her, just give him time. You got it?"
This is the last straw. Goddamn I gotta get the hell outa this town, but first, I'm gonna bust some heads.
Tanner launched himself at Buck, but Buck saw it coming and smacked him hard with his fist into his right eye, managing to bloody his nose on the way. Vin slumped dejectedly against the wall, sliding down, just not caring and too tired and defeated to fight.
Buck straightened up, seemingly proud to have made his point, and stalked away.
Vin remained where he was.
What a rotten f*cking day.
"Mr Tanner? Are you done with this game of charades, or are you still determined to play Cupid for Mrs Travis and Mr Larabee?"
Vin threw his own 'git ta'hell' away look at Ezra, who appeared suddenly in the alley.
Ezra reached out his hand. "Perhaps a good stiff drink would bring you to your senses. Or a game of poker?"
"Ain't got no money, Ezra."
"I didn't expect you would have." He grabbed Vin's hand and pulled him up. Turned him towards the water trough and pointed. "Perhaps you'd best wash your face. And think of a reason to tell Mr Larabee your face is broken and displaced."
Vin bent over the trough.
I'm leavin. Just ridin into the sunset. Maybe the mountains. Hell, maybe Yukon Territory. Wouldn't be no bounty hunters up there. Course, with my luck, maybe so.
"Perhaps you should stay with tracking and sharpshooting, Mr Tanner, you seem to be safer in those occupations. And more skilled, I might add."
Rotten f*cking day.
Ezra waited while he washed his face, then they turned together to walk into the saloon. Chris came out just as they were going in.
"What the hell happened to you?"
"Run into a wall."
As Vin shouldered on past Chris, Ezra tried to suppress a smile and gave Chris a small shake of his head, then followed the tracker inside. Chris looked back at them a moment, then made his way down the street to the Clarion.
The two very different and perhaps so much alike men leaned on the bar and shared a drink. A few minutes later, and Josiah was calling Vin to the door.
"Hey, Vin, I got something you should see."
Yeah, like I'm gonna fall for that twice in the same goddamn day.
Ezra went to see what Josiah was indicating from the batwing doors.
"Vin, you really should see that all your hard work as not gone asunder." Ezra encouraged, motioning him over.
Vin threw himself away from the bar and went to stand beside the other two men. He looked up the street, towards the newspaper office, where he saw Mary Travis standing on the boardwalk, talking to Chris Larabee. They appeared to be laughing.
Buck walked up the boardwalk nearer the saloon, casting them a quick glance, then leaned towards Vin as he went past.
"See? What'd I tell ya? Sorry I had to make my point so rough, pard, but them two is meant for each other. You'll find somebody." He patted Vin on the shoulder condescendingly as he passed.
I'm gonna dye that goddamn grey purple, next time, you idiot.
He looked back down the street to see Mary clutching a small, wilted bouquet of pink flowers to her breast as she laughed with Chris.
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