by Flaw

Eventually you learn that it’s better not to smile. Or, for that matter, show any expression whatsoever. You give less of yourself away, then, which is important when you don’t have that much of yourself left to give. So I don’t smile, and I don’t laugh, and I don’t pout, and I would never even consider crying. Not it public anyway. In the wild I can do all of these things and more.

I cried at a sunset once, because it was so beautiful, when the day had been anything but. Since then, every sunset has me nostalgic at the least, if not crying again, the same as that day when my life changed, when I learned that it’s better not to smile.

But here, here I’m starting to learn something new. Buck said something the other day to JD. Maybe it was just about that damn hat, I don’t know, but I smiled. I felt it, felt the corners of my mouth turn up in response, and was helpless to stop them. I ducked my head, leaving the brill of my hat as my only defense, and I smiled. When my head came back up, Buck and JD were both looking at me curiously, but it didn’t matter, because I felt good. I stood up and moved out to find Peso, so that the two of us could go out riding and I could smile some more, where it was safe. Where no one would notice that something was “bothering Vin.”

That’s what they were saying, at least, back in town. Buck and JD didn’t understand, and JD took it into his head that Buck had said something to offend me and drive me out of town, and Buck was upset because he didn’t figure I should go putting my nose into their business and whatever he said to JD was his choice and if I wanted to go and sulk out in the desert then let me.

Sometimes, Buck sure says a mouthful, only he never seems to get it just right. I wasn’t upset with him, I was grateful. It would still be some time before I could ever come out and tell him that, and smile when I said it, but I could still go and practice with Peso, and Buck was right to let me.

And except for an ornery gunslinger, things would have turned out just fine in the end.

Chris doesn’t think he’s much of a parent, seeing as how his little boy got murdered and he took all the guilt into himself and let it fester. He’s wrong though. If I weren’t so afraid of being shot I’d tell him he was the best father I could ever hope for. And the best friend I could ever hope for, too. JD told me later, that he yelled at Buck, told the rest of the boys to keep the fort, jumped onto Pony and raced out after me not fifteen minutes after the whole silly thing started.

Guess he didn’t think he’d actually find me. I was sitting up high at the time, waiting for sunset to see if I could make it through it with that smile still on my face, when I saw him. He was tearing across the desert, a man with a mission and I knew that mission was me. He spotted me and Pony hurled towards me, and he practically threw himself off that damn horse, crawled up the rocks after me, and stopped short ten feet away to walk up like he had been out for a stroll the whole time and just came by to say “howdy.”

He hadn’t made it two feet closer when he noticed that I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry, and my face had grown something more than the cocky smirk he was used to. I looked at him full on and watched his mouth fight to smile back in response, then saw the shock fill his face. His jaw dropped and he stood there like a statue.

“Somethin’ got yer tongue, Pard?” He didn’t answer me, just kept staring for a little while longer, then turned around, scrambled back down the rocks, mounting Pony right out of a straight run and set the horse into a gallop headed back to town. I stayed where I was and waited for the sunset, knowing for certain that this time, I wouldn’t cry a single tear. I didn’t need to anymore. I had found something here that I would tell the boys all about eventually, something just as good if not better than the thing that set me to crying in the first place.

Something worth smiling for.