Worth the Worry

by SoDak7

Vin, Josiah, Chris

Note: Takes place about a week after Obsession.

"Vin," Josiah nodded in greeting as the tracker walked by the church en route to the livery.

"Josiah," Vin returned, nodding to the man and stopping in front of the steps, right boot resting on the bottom step.

"Headin' out for a ride?" the ex-preacher asked, knowing Vin had already done his patrol for the day.

Giving a slight nod Vin told him, "Thought I'd head out to Chris' tonight and check on the place. He don't need something breakin' in and makin' a mess of things ‘fore he gets back out there.” With a shrug and a deep sigh, he touched the brim of his hat and prepared to walk away.

“Anything you'd like to talk about Vin?” Josiah asked gently, watching the body language of his friend and knowing for the past few days Vin had been unnaturally quiet and distant from the rest of the peacekeepers. Unusual for him, because Vin did like to keep company with the men, especially Chris and he’d even been staying away from the recuperating gunslinger.

Watching as the Texan looked over at the livery and then back to the church steps, he could see that Vin was struggling with a decision of whether to stay or go.

“It’s a beautiful night out, could just sit a spell, think on if you’d like to talk 'bout what’s on your mind. Pull up a step,” Josiah said, waving a hand at the stairs, hoping to convince the young man to sit and relax a bit.

Looking to the heavens as his friend spoke of them, Vin gave a slight nod and decided he could do as the big man suggested and turned to sit on the second to the bottom step.

Josiah followed suit and sat on the landing, rag in hand, washing his palms of some paint he’d gotten on them earlier.

Silence reigned for a minute and then Vin spoke in a voice so quiet that Josiah had to strain to hear.

“Been thinkin’ it’s about time ta move on,” the tracker said as he bent down to retrieve a stick that was lodged between the crack of the bottom step and the one he was sitting on.

Josiah knitted his brows together at what his friend said and then quickly turned his head to the right as he caught something in his peripheral vision near the side of the church. He wasn’t sure but he thought it was the tail end of a long black duster. Not taking any chances though, he took his gun from it's holster and began wiping it down with the rag he had, just to be ready. Vin's attention was drawn to something he'd picked up on the steps, so he knew the tracker wasn't even aware that someone else was near.

Glancing to the side of the church a couple of times, Josiah nodded his head to what Vin had said. Knowing Vin couldn't see him agreeing he commented, "Know I've felt that way a few times myself. We ain't bound to this place by a contract, so imagine we are free to go when we want."

Watching as the Texan's head bobbed slightly affirming what had just been said, Josiah continued, "Sure wouldn't be the same without ya Vin, hope you know that."

"Preciate that 'Siah," Vin said softly, turning his head slightly to look at the big man and gave him a slight nod, then looked once again over to the livery.

Glancing once more to the side of the church then up to the heavens, Josiah mouthed a few words and then looked back to his long-haired friend.

“Don’t mean to pry Vin, but there a reason you want to ride out?”

Nothing. Not even a movement from the young man.

Josiah had a hunch. He ran over in his mind the things that had happened the last week and tried again.

“This have anything to do with Chris?” the question asked softly and quietly.

That got a reaction. Well, a slight one anyway. At least the tracker moved a little.

“Scare ya a little when he went down?”

Vin turned sideways, putting his left leg up on the step he was sitting on and stretched it out, knee bent, left arm resting on it, twirling the stick in both hands, no doubt turning things over in his mind.

Vin was a deep thinker. And a quiet one.

Josiah knew he was on the right track now and initiated another question. Sooner or later he'd get to where he wanted to be with the taciturn man. Well, maybe. He hoped so anyway.

“You and he have some words? Saw you come into the party and say something to him, then leave.”

Josiah watched the Texan for any sign that he’d been heard. Then just as he was about ready to give it up and try another tact, Vin began to speak and it was in clipped sentences, emotions coming to surface.

“Told him about Ella and Culpepper Minin’. Told him she’d been lyin’ to him up and down the line. Told him she was no good.” The blue eyes slid up to look at the ex-preacher. “He didn’t take to that much.”

"Imagine he didn't."

No doubt an understatement Josiah thought. Wonder the man was still even breathing. But he knew Larabee would never hurt Vin. The two men had quite a friendship and a loyalty to one another that was a rarity. But depending on what was said, that could be the reason for the tracker wanting to leave, he reasoned.

“Then the damn fool stood out there in the middle of a gun fight,” Vin said angrily as he tossed the stick he’d been toying with away. “Hell!” he added, shaking his head.

“Did seem like a fool thing to do," Josiah agreed, "but imagine he felt like his whole world was comin’ down again and just didn't care,” he added, trying to grasp at what it was that the ex-bounty hunter was upset about.

“Then I couldn’t hit Ella,” Vin continued on, as if he hadn’t heard a word Josiah had said. “And worse yet, I couldn’t even find her.” The cavalry hat moved from side to side as the man under it chastised himself.

Ah . . . so that was it, Josiah figured. Vin was questioning his abilities. Shooting and tracking were the two things Tanner did and the man was the best he’d ever seen at either one and now here with this situation, this situation with Ella Gaines, the Texan felt like he’d failed on two accounts. And, of course, adding insult to injury it would have to be something that pertained to Larabee.

"Now she's out there somewhere jest waitin'," the right arm making a sweeping motion, "to go after him again whenever she feels like it," disgust filling his voice. "I had the chance, twice, to help him and didn't do it. Hell, what kind of a friend does that make me?"

"A concerned one looks like to me,” Josiah told him sincerely.

"Larabee puts his trust in me. I let him down. Didn’t do my job.”

"Didn‘t or perhaps, couldn‘t?”

That question earned him a look and the blue-eyed squint told him he needed to clarify more.

“One and the same ain’t they?”

“Maybe not Vin. Might be you didn’t do the job because you couldn’t.”

“Josiah,” Vin said, shaking his head and looking more confused. “I don’t . . .”

“Most of your life, up to this point, you’ve been looking out for yourself, not havin’ to concentrate on anyone else, not havin’ to worry on anyone else and now, with this job especially, you have people to think on, to care about. Puts things in a different light.”

Realizing the young man still wasn’t quite following his line of thought, he continued, “All I’m saying Vin is maybe the reason your shot didn’t hit Ella or you didn’t find her was because you couldn’t, meaning your concern was focused on Chris, protecting him at the ranch and then worrying on him here while you were out searching.”

Seeing now that what he was saying had begun to make the tracker think, Josiah quickly added, “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that Vin, don’t mean you didn’t do your job, just shows you’re human is all. Caring and worrying are admirable traits.

“Good way ta get a man killed, not thinkin‘ on what he‘s suppose ta be.”

“It’s a risk we all take. Guessin’ you have to decide if what you’re worryin’ on is worth it.”

Waiting quietly while the tracker took a few minutes to think about what was said, he finally saw the head slightly nod as if the man had come to some sort of a decision and then heard a deep sigh. Maybe it was one of relief, or of some final understanding, he didn’t know. He only hoped he’d helped untangle some of the confusion his friend was dealing with.

“Thanks Josiah,” Vin said as he stood up. “Preciate yer words.”

“Anytime my friend, anytime. Glad to be of help. Let me know if you decide to move on.”

“I’ll . . . I'll think on it some,” Vin said with a nod. Then with a quick glance to the side of the church that the ex-preacher had been keeping an eye on, he touched the brim of his hat to the big man and headed off to the livery once again.

Josiah watched Tanner walk away, then slid his eyes over to the corner of the church and then back again to the retreating form of the tracker. Wonder? . . . hmmm. . . he thought as he cocked his head and pursed his lips. Sometimes Vin was downright uncanny.

+ + + + + + +

As he saddled Peso Vin felt a presence enter the barn. He turned and acknowledged the black-dressed gunslinger.

"Gettin' kinda late for a ride."

"Thought I'd head out to your place, check it out, make sure no varmints have decided ta take up residence."

"Mind if I come along?"

"Nathan give you the go ahead on ridin'?" Blue eyes narrowed as they locked on hazel ones and watched as a small grin appeared on the man's lips. Quirking an eyebrow and giving his head a half shake, he couldn't help but match the grin. Like anyone could tell Larabee what to do!

"Suit yerself," he said, turning to finish with Peso.

"Vin?" his name softly called.

Looking back at his good friend, Tanner told him sincerely, "Don't worry cowboy, ain't leavin'."

Larabee eyes opened wide and an eyebrow rose in question.

"Cheroot smell.” The blues eyes lit with amusement.

Well hell. He'd put the damn thing out as soon as he'd seen Vin with Josiah, but it was really tough to get anything by the ex-bounty hunter, the man rarely missed a thing. He did feel guilty about eavesdropping on the two peacekeeper’s conversation, but the ride would give him time to set things right; let Vin know he wasn’t disappointed in him.

Vin read the apology in his friend's eyes and smiled at him. "Best we get goin' or it'll be dark before we leave."

"Yeah," was all he could say, moving off to enter Pony’s stall. Tanner never ceased to amaze him, he’d never met anyone like him before. He felt profoundly relieved in knowing the man was going to stay around.

Vin watched Larabee take it slow and easy in readying his horse, and thought on Josiah's words about him needing to decide if what he was worrying on was worth it.

And right now, seeing his friend's vulnerability, and knowing Ella was still out there somewhere, he decided the answer was a definite yes. The worry was well worth it.