by Helen Chavez

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, just borrowed 'em for a while.

This is for the Jezebelles Challenge about Josiah's horse. The challenge was to write a story on what Josiah's horse thinks of his master and his new friends and their horses. I weaseled out of giving Josiah's horse a name. : )

Thanks to Melody for keeping me right - as usual.

Chaucer belongs to Kristen and Ezra, but Peso - well, Peso's just belongs to Peso. I haven't given any of the others names, as I'm sure everyone has their own ideas. I've kept Chaucer and Peso though - just seemed sort of right, if you get my drift.

I made Chaucer a thoroughbred, as it kinda suits his somewhat special personality. Hope you don't mind ...

Feedback welcome, but no flames please.

Y'know, the world's been mighty strange these past few months.

Leastways, that's what the Preacher says, an' the Preacher ain't the kinda man to lie. 'Specially to me.

He'll come roarin' into the livery stable, get me all saddled up, an' then he'll give me that Look of his, all kinda fired-up, an' say "C'mon, now hoss. We gotta go get some bad guys." Then he grins that big toothy grin, an' off we go, eyes a' blazin', ready ta take on the world an' its brother.

Y'see, the Preacher an' me - well, we're Pards. But I can tell you, friend, it ain't always been so.

We been together now for a while, but when we first met - whoo-ee! It was like two ol' scrub bulls hittin' heads, I can tell you!

I ain't had the easiest of lives, and spent a deal of my younger days gettin' a whuppin', cuz I 'don't take too kindly to authority' - at least that's how the Gambler puts it.

Anyways, I was sold to the Army as a remount, but that didn't work out - they said I was 'untrustworthy'. Shoot, what do they know ....

So I got sold to a livery owner down Yuma way, an' he didn't like me neither - most likely cuz I kicked him every time he came within range. He'd decided to send me away to the Glue Factory - whatever that was - when one afternoon, I saw this big feller walkin' down the street with a saddle slung on his shoulder, lookin' all kinda wore-out an' dirty. I wandered over to the corral fence an' had me a good look.

He stopped dead still in the middle of the street an' looked right back. Frightened the crap outta me. Cuz horses don't like being stared at - it makes us kinda nervous and fearful. So's I turned around an' kicked up my heels, lettin' the feller know I weren't scared of no two-bit drifter. Y'know what he did? The sonofabitch laughed at me. Real loud.

He wandered over an' asked the livery owner how much he wanted for me. It was the livery owner's turn to laugh - he laughed so hard he started cryin'.

"If'n you can get a saddle on that no-account piece o' dog-meat you can have him."

Well, the Preacher - cuz that's who it was - looked me over once more, an' smiled kinda secret like. Then he stuck out a big hand an' struck the deal right then an' there. Without a second thought.

I eyed up that big Mexican saddle of his with its saddle horn the size of my foot, an' thought 'You ain't puttin' that thing on me, feller - no sirree - '. But in the end he didn't even try. Not for a long time.

For days on end, he sat near, eatin', sleepin', or just readin' a book. He never even looked at me most of the time. The only time he came near me was to feed me - an' then he didn't even try to lay a finger on me. Not once.

Then one day, as I was followin' him about as I'd got into the habit of doin', he lifted his hand an' scratched my neck. I didn't even flinch. Lord, it felt good, and I went all kinda dreamy then.

It was all downhill after that. He had my sorry behind in a sling before I knew it. He petted me an' fussed me, an' he never raised a hand to me. Not even when I bit him in the ass. Hard. He let out a funny kinda yelp, an' hopped around a bit, an' I thought 'Awww hell - I'm in for it now!' But he didn't whup the tar outta me like I thought he'd do. Nope, he just rubbed his behind and grimaced a little, then he cussed me out. After he finished, he looked at me funny - sorta figgerin' out what I was thinkin'. He knew I done it just to get a reaction, to see what he'd do. Sort of a test, if you like.

"You are one mean sonofabitch - you know that?"

I blinked at him, all innocent. Then he grinned that big grin of his.

"But then, hoss, it takes one to know one." Then he grinned some more an' pulled one of my ears, like he does when he's happy.

We got on fine after that, an' next day he put that big ole saddle on me, an' d'you know what? It felt just fine. Then he got on my back, an' right that instant, without no sorta fuss, we became pards. We rode outta that little town a week later, an' we been together ever since.

For a while we just moseyed around, takin' it easy, getting' to know one another, then the Preacher found a little place he decided to settle down in. Wasn't much of a place - just a couple of walls an' some rocks, an' the Preacher decided to put the place back together for some reason. I got real lazy then. I'd just stand there all day while the Preacher heaved an' sweated those rocks about, talkin' to me all the time, tellin' me about the places he'd been an' all the strange things he'd seen. Mighty interestin' it was too. So I'd wiggle my ears to let him know I was listenin', an' life was good.

Then They came.

An' the Preacher decided we'd go with 'em.

There were fourteen of us in the end, man and horse. As strange a bunch as you've ever seen.

There's the Black, mean lookin' critter with a mean lookin' pard, all in black an' hard as nails. But it turns out they was fine folk to have about - tough as shit, but fair.

The Grey's a good horse, dependable, sensible - has to be with a man like the Ladies' Man. That's what they call him. Big sonofabitch, like the Preacher, but easy-goin' - unless someone touches the Kid, or hurts one of us. He's a good man to have at your back, an' so's the Grey.

The Little Bay belongs to the Kid, an' he sure ain't much to look at, his neck's on the wrong way up an' he's all nerves an' grit. But - like the Kid - he's okay. Drives you nuts with his damn' fidgettin', but he's turnin' out fine.

But Peso - now he's just downright weird. He's with the Tracker, an' I ain't never seen a partnership like it. Half the time they spend hatin' each other's guts, Peso tryin' his damnedest to kill the Tracker, I'm sure. But, they get along. I don't know how, but they do. An' the Tracker loves the little shit. Lord knows why.

The Big Bay belongs to the Healer. Now he's special, an' so's the Healer. I seen men like him when I was busy gettin' myself throwed outta the army, tough men, called buffalo soldiers by the Indians on account of their curly hair. But the Healer has a hard time with us, as our men are always gettin' hurt one way or another, an' he's been known to patch us horses up too. Why, he even doctored a crease in my behind once. Bullet took a chunk right outta the muscle. Him an' the Bay keep an eye out for us all, that's for sure.

An' then there's Chaucer. Goddamned Chaucer. Now he ain't a mustang, like Peso, or a quarter-horse like the rest of us. Oh no, he's a Thoroughbred - or so he says. You never know when he's tellin' you the truth or spinnin' you one of his damn' stories. But sharp - hell, so damn' sharp he'd cut butter. That Gambler of his, though - he's somethin' else. Ran out on us once, an' the Black an' his pard got real mad. But he came back. Saved our sad butts too, into the bargain. Chaucer an' the Gambler. Made for each other, I'd say.

So, life's changed for the Preacher an' me. Sometimes we spend days just chewin' the fat, takin' it easy, an' on others we go hoorawin' about the place, causin' mayhem an' catchin' the bad guys.

I kinda got used to gunfire pretty damn' quick, an' the Preacher has this habit of shootin' just above my ears - so close, sometimes I feel the breath of the bullet. I swear one day he's gonna shoot me stone cold dead in the brainpan - but he never does. He just winks at me with that blasted grin on his face, lookin' like the devil hisself, an' I just know he's havin' one helluva time.

Sometimes things get bad, though.

Real bad.

An' that's when I have to be real gentle an' steady. Then I have the Preacher an' someone else ridin' double, an' often it's the Preacher who's hurt. The Ladies Man sits behind an' holds him steady, an' I walk so gentle I wouldn't spill a glass of the Preacher's whisky if'n he had one. Life gets hard when the Preacher's hurt. I don't know what's goin' on, an' the Kid takes care of me. But - he ain't been killed yet, an' he's as tough as hell, that Preacher Man.

An' on other times the Preacher carries someone real careful in his arms, cuz the Preacher ain't only big, he's real strong. It's been the Gambler more often that not, an' the Preacher holds him easy, savin' him from any more hurt. But it don't have to be him. The Preacher would carry any one of 'em until he dropped, he cares about 'em so much.

Anyways, that's why I'm sayin' life's got real strange lately. But hell, I wouldn't have it any other way.


Because the Preacher an' me ain't master an' servant.

The Preacher an' me - why, we're Pards.

That's all.

Just Pards.


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