Inez set a hot plate of cakes and sausage in front of Chris, while Nathan bent over a bowl of meal, and Josiah contemplated eggs. None of them was in a talkative mood, mostly because it was early, and they were hungry. It was a relaxing silence, until Vin Tanner burst through the batwing doors, made a graceful leap up, onto, and across the table they sat at, his boots skimming the table briefly next to their meal. Then he dropped silently into the chair between Chris and Nathan, with a worried look thrown to the still-swinging doors. He watched them until they stopped their movement, then turned to his companions.
"Boys," he nodded and gave the slightest of smiles.
Chris couldn't remember if he'd ever seen Vin move that quickly unless something was very wrong, but he was also disgusted with the buffalo hunter's dirty boots on the table, albeit briefly, with his food. He sat there, forked raised, staring at Vin, while Nathan and Josiah did the same.
Vin pushed back, hooked the chair leg into a plank on the floor, leaned back on two legs, reached out and took a biscuit off Chris' plate, and pulled his hat down a little further. He looked for all the world like he'd been sitting there all morning. And that was what he was counting on. His gaze returned to the doors.
Then they all heard Buck's yelling. Or cursing. It was all pretty garbled, and it was endless. They could hear him approaching the saloon, and it sounded like he was looking for JD.
"GODDAMMIT BOY, I'LL HAVE YOUR HIDE!" Red faced, furious, Buck punched open the saloon doors and filled the lit space between them. It occurred to Vin that Buck looked much bigger at that particular moment than Vin had ever considered before.
"YOU ALL SEEN JD?" Buck hollered.
"Nope," Josiah offered, then looked expectantly at Vin, who shook his head innocently and took another large bite out of Chris' biscuit, chewing slowly and thoughtfully.
Buck stood there for a moment, glaring at them, then turned back toward the street and stomped on up the boardwalk. Nathan, Chris, and Josiah all turned to stare at Vin.
"What you starin' at?" Vin accused them, then dropped the half-eaten biscuit back on the plate, rose, and went to the door, where he looked up the street in the direction Buck had headed.
"Might go ridin' today, me and JD . . .," he turned back to Chris with a grin spreading across his face. "Yep, might be a good day for that." And he slipped out the door and was gone.
The three remaining men exchanged glances, then left their meals and moved easily out onto the boardwalk. The street was quiet, too quiet. To the north, they could see Vin and JD with their heads together, arguing about something. But the few other people on the street were looking south. At Buck.
Buck was moving slowly down the street, tugging heavily at the reins on his grey, dragging the horse down the street. He was so furious, his horse wasn't wanting to come near him, and he was having difficulty getting it to follow. He didn't see JD, because he was just too mad. But his grey wasn't grey. It was . . . orange.
"Hey Buck," someone shouted, "Your horse is orange!"
Ezra stepped out from across the street. "Rather, it appears to be a burnt umber color, don't you think?" and he looked across at the other three.
"No, I think it's orange, " Nathan answered.
"Sienna?" Ezra countered.
"Nope, orange," Josiah threw back.
Vin and JD had made their way quietly up the street until they stood a little behind the three larger men in the shadow of the balcony.
"'S'posed to be red," JD said as he shot a glare at Vin.
"It was dark, JD!" Vin shot back.
Chris turned to looked at the two younger men behind him. Their eyes were on Buck and his gelding. His orange gelding. Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver dollar. "Heads up," he said and tossed the coin towards Vin.
Vin's hand shot out and caught the coin in the air. In the light, Chris could see his hands were slighly. . .orange. Or umber. Or sienna. A grin passed between them when Vin realized what Chris saw, then he stuffed the coin, and his hands, into the pockets of his coat.
"Ain't you boys goin' riding?" Chris asked with a smile.
Buck was still fighting with his horse in the dirt street, encumbered as he was with his anger, he didn't dare turn loose of the horse, and he couldn't come after JD and Vin unless he tied up the gelding.
"Yep." They answered together and trotted toward the livery.
"Kids." Josiah grinned.
"Kids." Nodded Chris and smiled back, watching his two friends hurry up the street, thinking of the kids they could have been but weren't, but now maybe still could be.
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