The Perfect Shot


Disclaimer: These Characters do not belong to the author or me (but if it were our sandbox, we'd let YOU play in it...) That said, this story was written purely for self entertainment (and the possible entertainment of me, thanks BMP!) and no money is being made, has changed hands, or has been paid out for the contents therein. The Author wishes to thank MOG for the ATF AU, she came up with it, and graciously lets others play there. Special thanks to GSister for Beta-ing, encouraging, and all around nagging. Without her patience and insistence, these stories would never have been.

~Constructive Criticism will be passed on to the author
~Flames will be used to toast marshmallows

Damn it was cold. Ice in the water bucket cold. Freeze yer hand to the pump cold. Turn yer nose hairs to icicles cold. Hell freezin' over cold. Colder 'n...

Running out of good descriptions, Vin Tanner shoved his gloved hands farther underneath his buffalo hide clad armpits and eyeballed the man a good way up the street who would know just the colorful phrase to express how damn cold it was--had he not been in polite company. And had he not been preoccupied with charming that polite company.

Vin suspected Buck Wilmington was working hard on a good way to stave off this razor-clawed, flesh-ripping, bone-biting cold that had come roaring across the plains last night, screaming and rattling at the town windows and threatening to pull the oilcloth right off the top of Vin's wagon. It came with a curtain of blowing white that fell and drifted all night, climbing up windward walls, and piling up in the street. Still, this morning, with the caterwauling winds all but died down and that blanket of white lying over the eaves and railings, sagging down awnings and piling up against the corners, it looked right peaceful. Until you stepped out in it.

Underneath that sparkly, sugar-candy, crystal coating, the snow was wet and heavy, sucking at a man's boots, holding him back. An' if a man stood too long in one place, he'd as like to find his soles sunk ankle deep in wet, icy slush. The wagon wheels crossing town this morning threw up the wet stuff with a splash and a splatter, cutting dark, wet criss-crosses over the street. From the space on the boardwalk he had cleared with the tiny shovel from the pot belly stove inside the jail, Vin silently watched the street, watched all the people with a lick o' sense hurrying to get someplace where their feet could stay toasty and dry.

He was currently wearing every stitch of clothing he owned, right down to his spare underdrawers. He had tied a threadbare muffler around his ears, to boot, and he still had his head down in his collar. Damn hard to keep an eye on the street when a man has to keep blinking to make sure his eyeballs ain't frozen. He shifted his wet feet, and glowered at the back of Buck's head.

All the people with a lick o' sense, he repeated to himself.

He watched Buck, standing on the boardwalk down by the bank. Hat in hand--in hand, dammit!--while Vin's own cavalry slouch hat was pulled about as far down his ears as a body could get it. The man's hearty laugh came billowing across the sloppy, tracked-up street as he laughed at something that the very clever Miss--or perhaps Mrs.--Caroline Somebody or Other had just said. Vin didn't hear Buck's next words but he'd have bet it was something smooth and flattering. From all the way over in front of the jail, he could see the rosy blush that heated her cheeks. Buck shifted his stance slightly and dropped his head to look her in the eye.

And in that distracted second, Vin noticed the perfect clump of snow pillowed atop the hitching post to his right--round on top, light and powdery, and just about the size of his hand. It would pack down nicely with just the right pressure and a little heat from his hands. Form up nice and round... He grinned.

Vin Tanner would never know exactly what Buck Wilmington was proposing to Miss Caroline Somebody or Other down there at the bank. He would never know whether that pretty blush was the yes that came before her perfect red lips replied. He would never know just what ideas were flitting through that self-satisfied corner of Buck's mind.

His mind and his eye were on a single perfect moment, when a single orb of crystal white rotated along its arc, grabbing sunlight for a moment, seamless, shining, a nearly perfect sphere--that splatted suddenly on the back of Buck's head.

A perfect shot.

And he was halfway out of town by the time Buck started bellowing his name.