Unending Brotherhood

by Mary Ann

Not my guys, I just borrowed them for a little while for this. This is in answer to a challenge; write a short story using this paragraph for the beginning.

Fall was swiftly approaching. The leaves had begun to change color and there was a nip in the air as the sun set in the Western sky. Vin stopped as he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Cautiously he looked into the window only to realize that what had caught his attention was merely his reflection.

As he stared at the man looking back at him he wondered where the time had gone. This man was thin, his long hair was grey, the buckskin coat he wore looked almost too heavy for his shoulders. But his brilliant blue eyes, though faded a little were still clear and bright. He stepped back and looked around, then settled into the rocker everyone had named as his.

His smile creased his face as he watched his best friend and partner come across the brick paved street with two cups of coffee. Chris was still lean as a rail and his smile infectious, his hair thinner and almost silver; his green eyes still caught everything in their sharp gaze. He could still scare the pants off of people with his glare, and he still wore dark clothes off and on, but now his shirts were a little more colorful. They had retired ten years ago to the horse ranch they had formed years before, and were enjoying being well known for their well bred stock horses. They had several hired hands that did the hard work but both still enjoyed working with the horses.

“Here you go Cowboy, this is the last one this century I’m bringing to you, you have to serve me coffee the next century,” Chris said as he handed the large mug to Vin then sat down in the rocker beside the younger man. Vin just smiled as he took a sip of the sweet hot brew. Chris grinned at the old joke between them.

“How long do we have to wait for the others?”

“Well Buck should be here shortly. Knowing JD he’ll be here either with or right after Buck with Ezra then Nathan. Josiah will be last I think, he is slower these days.” Chris fell silent as they both thought of Josiah who was still with them even though he was around 80 years old or more now. He was still a big man, but his shoulders were a little hunched and his hands gnarled from work, he walked slowly with a cane now thanks to a bullet that had taken him in the hip fifteen years earlier. His eyes were faded but his voice still carried. He had seemed to be frailer lately, but would not stop.

A loud laugh caught their attention as Buck and JD came around the corner of the hotel. Buck was playfully tugging on JD’s arm as they came to join their friends. Inez had finally consented to marry the rogue and they had been happy together for over eighteen years, with three girls and three boys. Buck’s hair was mostly grey now, but he was still the happy man they’ve known for 30 years or more in Chris’s case, he seemed to thrive with the family he created and with his friends. JD had married Casey over 20 years ago and they had settled on the small ranch Nettie had deeded to them. They had a son back east in medical collage, and a daughter who wanted to go there too; their other three children were younger and hadn’t thought of college yet.

With Buck’s help, the small ranch had thrived and enlarged, it had gotten big enough to support two families, and Buck’s home was less than a mile from JD’s home now. Their children went to school and played together all the time.

Ezra stepped from the door of the hotel and smiled at his close friends. His hair was almost white, his green gaze direct, he sported a little bit more weight, but he was content and very happy, and his clothes were spotless as usual. He had watched Four Corners grow and he grew with it. Years ago he had watched as this new hotel had been built and was awed over the new inventions that went into it. He had left for several months and when he returned he had bought the hotel and moved in. The hotel was well known for its amenities and the restaurant was one of the best in the southwest. He was happy to see that his friends were gathering and took a chair beside Buck as everyone greeted him.

They all watched Nathan and Josiah coming down the sidewalk across the street. Grins were hidden behind hands and coffee mugs. Josiah was talking and now and then shaking his cane. Nathan, what was left of his hair curly and white, was leaning a little towards Josiah as they walked, his brown eyes twinkling with mirth, as he listened to what the limping man said. Moments later Nathan’s hands were flailing around as he answered Josiah. The two men had converted part of the large clinic that had been built 25 years ago, after the first one had burned down, into their home after Nathan’s Raine had died in childbirth. Nathan had been taken aback having to raise his new born son alone and still help the town’s sick and injured. Josiah had been his trusted helper for many years and it was natural that they had drawn together and cared for the motherless boy. A new clinic had been built ten years ago and though Nathan was still healthy and hale, he had retired to continue to raise his son with the help of all the Uncles, the six men that were his closest friends. His son had gone to college and was one of the town’s newest doctors, in the new clinic. Josiah and Nathan had turned the old clinic into a couple of apartments and lived on the income from them in a comfortable house beside it. They were happy and enjoyed each others company and endless discussions. The other five men enjoyed watching the two together; they were like salt and pepper, and the grouchiest men together they’d ever seen. But they were there for their friends no matter how grouchy.

The two men stepped up to the porch and sat down. “Well, where’s my coffee?” Josiah grumbled from his chair.

Just then a young woman walked out of the hotel’s door carrying a tray with coffee mugs and a large coffee pot. “Ahh, just in time Miss Jamie. Thank you. Please fill everyone’s cup, and then you may bring out the treats.” Ezra said to the woman with a smile.

Once everyone had a full cup of coffee and a piece of pie or cake they turned their gaze onto the quickly darkening sky. Blankets appeared and covered chilled legs as the night deepened. They noticed more people on the street and all were looking to the sky.

Bright colorful flashes lit the sky all of a sudden. Low booms could be heard as more flashes lit the sky. A band at the end of the street began to play as more and more intricate fireworks lit the night. Oh’s and aw’s were heard from the many people who were standing in the street and the open field beside the last building. For a good ten minutes the firework display lit the sky, then it was over and the band continued to play as the watchers moved towards it to dance to the music.

The city was 50 years old now. And in a few months they would be celebrating again, as 1900, the new century, came in with a flourish. The seven men sitting on the hotel’s porch hoped that they would be around to see this happen. It would be another milestone in their lives, one of the many they had now behind them. Their finding each other and becoming the seven peacekeepers of a backwater town; living through years of unrest; clearing Vin’s name finally; finding Ella Gains and her demise; the weddings and children of several of them; their retirements; and one thing they would have until they each died, their brotherhood. The bond they formed a long time ago that couldn’t be broken.

The seven men looked at each other then as one rose and stepped closer together, and raised their spiked mugs of coffee; touching each one they saluted the town and then their unending brotherhood.