After a difficult day fraught with tension and threats, darkness embraced the town. From a spot on the boardwalk, just outside the jail, JD watched Buck and Inez standing in the street, talking. The glow cast from the church's open doors illuminated the couple, until the Mexican beauty eventually walked away; dabbing at her eyes with her shawl, and glancing back occasionally while she made her way toward the saloon. In the shadows, he could just make out Vin's silhouette as the sharpshooter watched over the pair. JD was grateful for Vin right now, with Buck so preoccupied with this crazy swordfight, Inez needed a friend at her back, and Vin, being an honorable man, was just the right person.
In the doorway of the church, Josiah also watched the encounter, his large frame outlined against the interior candlelight. Further along the boardwalk, Ezra was observing as he casually rested his shoulder against a post, but JD knew the gambler was far from at ease right now. From above the street, Nathan leaned on the rail outside the clinic, and close to the saloon, the glowing tip of Chris's cheroot heralded his presence in his favorite chair close to the saloon doors. JD smiled. Buck might be fighting alone tomorrow, but he wasn't in this alone.
Seeing Buck standing there, lost in a world of thoughts, JD took the opportunity to go speak with him. As he walked, he touched the small cut on his throat from where Don Paulo had earlier demonstrated to Buck, Ezra, and himself how a sword could outdraw a gun. It was at that moment, with the tip of a rapier piercing his skin, and seeing Buck's horrified expression at the blood drawn, that JD began to get scared for his best friend and mentor, but the dilemma had only really begun to sink in while out riding with Casey.
There was a real good chance that Buck JD shuddered at the thought...could die.
Still reeling from that possibility, JD forced a smile when he realized Buck had seen him and was approaching. "Hey."
"Well now, son," Buck said softly, draping an arm around JD's shoulders and starting a slow walk. "You look like you just up and lost your best friend." The depth of emotion that greeted him from misty, hazel eyes shocked the big man.
"You tell me," JD said. "Have I?"
Buck frowned. "Is this about tomorrow?"
"Ah, shoot, Kid ain't no need for you to be worrying on my account. I ain't about to get beat in a fight by no sissy Mexican with a sword." He noted JD's fingers worry at the cut near his throat.
"I dunno, Buck. That sword was damn sharp. I reckon it'd do a lotta damage in a real short time. I mean, look at when Colonel Anderson struck out at you." He smiled, sadly. "If you hadn'a stepped in and took my place, he'd 'a plum took my head off."
They stopped their stroll for Buck to stare at him. "So, whatcha saying? That I should walk away?" Buck shook his head and gestured with his free hand. I can't do that, Kid."
JD offered another tight smile. "Nah, I know you ain't no coward even if it would make sense to stand down this time. It's just I " JD swallowed as his eyes filled again. "I'm worried, Buck." What he actually wanted to admit was that he was terrified.
"Ain't no need to be worried, JD. This is my fight an' that highfalutin', fancy talkin' overdressed yahoo ain't gonna come within a foot of you "
"Not for me!" JD squawked. He shook his head in disbelief and punched Buck's side. "For you!"
Buck's gaze softened and he dropped his arm from JD's shoulders to look the boy face on. "Don't you be worrying none `bout me. I may not be all fancy pants, like Don Paulo, but I'm a scrapper. What I lack in skill, I make up for in grit. I won't be the one bleeding to death in the dirt tomorrow, JD."
"You swear?" JD could barely get out the words through the emotion clogging up his throat.
Buck placed a hand at the back of JD's neck, and squeezed. "You bet." After a few long seconds, he turned JD and they resumed their stroll toward the boarding house. "Now then, a little bird tells me you and Casey took a ride out together this afternoon."
JD smiled. "Josiah's a mighty big bird, Buck and yeah, we did."
Nodding approvingly, Buck grinned. "Well? How'd it go?"
Buck actually laughed, causing JD to gawp at him; but when he saw the worry lines that had been etched on Buck's face momentarily disappear, he grinned and shrugged.
"She started chattering on about it being all romantic and heroic for a man to fight for a lady's honor " He glanced quickly at Buck. "Which it is, but then she asked me if I'd do that for her." Again, his fingers moved to his gullet. "All I could think of was how it felt to have that sword at my throat, so I told her I wouldn't fight with no sword " He sighed.
Buck smiled. Damn but this kid was good for him. "Let me guess, she didn't take that too good."
"Nope she rode off in an almighty huff. What I also meant to say was 'give me a gun in my hand any day', but never got the chance. I guess now she thinks I'm a coward, too, as well as dumb."
Buck gave JD's shoulders a tight squeeze. "Well, if she thinks that, she ain't got the eyes, or the good sense God blessed her with. Ain't a day goes by you don't stand with us prepared to lay your life on the line for folk." He patted JD's back. "She'll come around."
JD shrugged. He was too worried about Buck to truly ponder it. "Right now, I couldn't care less."
Buck winked. "Sure, Kid."
They had reached the boarding house and began to climb the stairs. He glanced around at the dimly lit hallway outside their rooms. "Well, g'night, son. I reckon I should get me some shut- eye."
"I'm holding you to that promise you made to beat that fella tomorrow, Buck," JD warned. "Losing you ain't something I could deal with too well."
JD's words touched Buck's very soul. It had been a long time since anyone said something that heartfelt to him. "I'll make you a deal," he rasped out "You stand with me tomorrow, out there, in the street, and I guarantee you, I'll give it my all."
JD finally flashed a real smile. "Aww shoot, Buck. I was always gonna be there for you, you must know that."
The brunet pushed back the emotion threatening to strip him of his hard-fought outer calm. "Yeah, I do. Still good to hear it, though. I'll see you in the morning."
JD nodded. "'Night, Buck." He watched the big man enter his room, silently cursing himself for bringing up Colonel Anderson. He hoped it wouldn't give Buck bad dreams. He felt sure it would do for him, this night.
Staring at his room door for a moment, JD decided to go back outside. Just before meeting up with Buck, he'd noticed some new horses hitched up at the back of the town, but as yet, hadn't seen anyone claiming them. JD didn't know why, but it was making him nervous. A bit like the way that Raphael fella kept coming up on Chris did, too. Chris reckoned the gunslinger wasn't about to shoot him in the back so, why'd he keep turning up like that? Was he trying to make a point?
JD shook his head. His mind was way too full of questions to sleep yet and he was glad that he'd decided to take one last stroll around town. Maybe he'd call in the church on his way round and talk to Josiah light a candle say a prayer or maybe do all three. It would be worth it if it somehow helped Buck in his duel against Don Paulo tomorrow.
And right now, praying was about all he could offer in the way of help.