All's Well
by Mary Ann

In the Year AU

Main Characters - Vin, Ezra, Chris

"Hey, Ezra. What's the special tonight? Hey, Flower and Heather I can see you…" Vin called to his friend as he halted his horned horse near Ezra as he stood in front of the door of his establishment, the hotel, restaurant, and saloon. Behind Ezra were his two cats which watched them from behind a window in the door, their paws braced against the glass. Vin snickered to himself, standing the way they were, the two cats heads almost reached Ezra's waist, they were growing taller, it seemed, daily.

The colorful cats glanced at each other then meowed loudly at Vin who smiled at them before he glanced at Ezra again.

"Am I your menu card, Mr. Tanner? Special will be pork roast, potatoes, gravy, vegetables and dinner rolls. There is a variety of pies for dessert. Will that do?" Ezra asked, one eyebrow raised as he looked at the young man.

"Sure will. Be back later today ta enjoy it. Doing my rounds," and with a wave, Vin gave Peso his head and they raced out of town. Vin let Peso work off some energy in the chilly fall morning.

Ezra watched the horse and rider disappear out of town then turned his gaze to the jail, where Chris had momentarily walked outside to watch Vin leave. Thinking of the day ahead of him Ezra strolled across the dusty road and stepped up to where Chris still stood.

"Mr. Larabee, can I have a short reprieve, I need to pick a few items up for Ms. Inez for today. I should not be gone longer than fifteen minutes."

"No problem Ezra. Just don't take too long," Chris said with a smile. He watched Ezra hurry up the boardwalk, knowing the man wouldn't be gone very long.

Leaning back against the jail wall, Chris watched the town wake up. The early morning sun had just begun its rise into the sky, and clouds were already gathering. The chill in the wind spoke of winter not far off. The few trees that still had leaves clinging to their branches were in their fall glory of red, gold, yellow and brown. They shook in the wind. Pulling his coat closer around him, he watched as three men rode in from the direction Vin had gone. His eyes narrowed. They were strangers and his mind began sorting through the various flyers that arrived in the last few days. Unable to recall their faces, he relaxed a little. He watched as they pulled up in front of Ezra's hotel, tied their mounts off, and entered the door turning towards the restaurant part of the building.

Chris spotted Ezra hurrying towards his business, he carried a large bulky package in his hands. He watched as Ezra disappeared inside. A couple of minutes later Ezra came hurrying out the door and towards him.

Chris straightened up when Ezra arrived, and told him, "Going to get breakfast. Things have been quiet. I'll check in before I head to bed."

"Thank you, Mr. Larabee, Inez is making your breakfast." Ezra smiled at Chris's laugh, and watched the figure in black head across the street to his business, ‘The Saloon, Bar/Hotel/Restaurant'. He felt happy he had such good friends, more like brothers, who supported him and his business, though he received room payment from Judge Travis, they could eat anywhere. They chose his restaurant. Turning he entered the warm jail and settled behind the desk. He pulled his cards out of his pocket and began to shuffle them as he looked over the flyers that arrived the day before.

Vin let Peso run for a while before pulling the big black horned horse down to a walk. Right now the day was a nice but cold, late fall day. He wanted to enjoy the feel of it, but when a shiver shook him, he pulled his coat tighter about him as a cold wind came up and crept around and under his coat. He decided it was past time to get more of his winter clothes out to wear. If this wind kept blowing like now, it would be snowing before the week ended, if not that day. He pulled Peso to a halt on a high hump of bare ground and looked over the countryside.

The colors had faded in the green areas. The land and trees were mostly brown, the little streams were already showing ice along the edges, even at this time of the day. Vin sensed it would be another week or so before most would be totally iced over, and then they would stay that way throughout winter. With a look at the sky, he urged Peso onward; they still had a lot of ground to cover before they could return to town, and the weather was starting to change.

Vin halted Peso on a hill and looked down towards Nettie Wells' little farm. Smoke curled out of the chimney and the milk cows were in the paddock by the barn. It looked peaceful. He knew Nettie planned to go to town today so he didn't stop in, he might get to see her when he returned to town.

They stopped next on a ridge, out of the cold breeze. Vin pulled his spyglass from his saddlebag and examined the countryside. He spotted several men moving cattle towards the James ranch. Everything looked normal for that area. He continued on.

The wind abruptly picked up, and Vin buttoned his coat up to his throat and pulled the wool scarf higher around his neck. He then glanced at the sky. What little sun there had been, now had vanished. Blackish orange clouds coiled and moved rapidly overhead. The sky turned an orange-grey color and the wind began blowing harder. He knew they were in for bad weather and hoped it wouldn't snow yet. Right now he felt warm enough, but a blizzard would not be good. Not only for him but for everyone.

After another rise and a check, Vin urged the horned horse into a canter to get to their next destination. The wind made the dust blow up and around. Blowing hard enough there were small pebbles and dust hitting Peso's legs as they moved across the arid land. Once they arrived at the last checkpoint, and Vin noted everything looked normal, he turned Peso towards the last farm and let him gallop. They were pelted with dust and small rocks by the strengthening wind. Peso roared his displeasure, and lunged forward, wanting to go faster.

Vin halted the grumbling horse at the last checkpoint and began to look over the countryside. He spotted a wagon moving slowly against the wind heading northwest. He wondered why someone would be traveling in this kind of weather. As he watched, he noticed the outrider seemed to be fighting with the left lead wagon horse, as the people tried to keep the wagon on the narrow dirt road leading to 4C. The team of horned horses kept trying to turn around and were tossing their heads. The off horse shook its head at the rider as both horses pulled on the reins the driver held. Finally, the horse on the right began to buck as the other one reared away from the rider. As one, the horses started to run. The driver was yelling and the outrider couldn't seem to catch up to them. Vin kicked Peso, who took one jump leaping into his flying run, angling towards the runaways. It took only a few minutes to reach the other rider. As Vin passed them he noticed it was a woman. Then they were even with the wagon, seconds later he started to reach for the closest horses' bridle.

The horse swung his clipped-horned head at Vin. He evaded the horns and with a quick move latched onto the headstall and pulled the horses' head around, forcing it and the other horse to slow. Within minutes Vin managed to stop the runaways. The horses stood blowing and grumbling, shaking their horned heads and stomping their feet. He looked at the driver and blinked in surprise, seeing a young  teenage boy. The outrider pulled to a stop and the woman looked at him.

"Thank you, we couldn't get them to stop," she said as she pulled her scarf back in place over her dark head.

"It's all right ma'am. Where're you headed?"

"To 4C. We were trying to get there before the storm broke. Do you know how far it is?"

"I'm headed there now. I'll get you there," Vin said as he gathered the long rein the boy had dropped. "We're about a half hour out. I'm Vin, I work in 4C."

"Thank you! We need to get there as soon as we can."

With the team under the control of the woman, who'd tied her horse to the side of the wagon, and took over the driving, Vin led them to town. Just as they hit the edge of 4C the sky opened up and cold rain poured down. Vin led them to the livery, knowing the horses and wagon would be safe there. Once the animals were cared for he helped them carry some of their belongings to the hotel Ezra owned.

Inside the two paused and looked around, the woman smiled. "Well, here we are Jacob, your dad should be here before too long now. We made it. Thank you, Vin. I really appreciate all your help. I'm Mrs. Joe Constance, we're moving to the area. We're meeting my husband here, either later today or tomorrow. We already have room reservations here at this hotel."

Vin tipped his hat and smiled at the woman. "Glad ta' be of help. I hope you will enjoy this area."

"We will. Joe said he found a nice place for us. Thank you again," she smiled up at him and turned into the hotel lobby.

Vin grinned at the teen and headed into the restaurant where he was met by Flower and Heather who promptly greeted him in their own special way, by attacking his legs. He paused long enough to give them each a pat on the head before he continued into the room. The two cats moved on to check out the new arrivals who stood by the registration desk in the lobby.

Vin spotted Chris sitting at their regular table, in the corner of the restaurant near the fireplace. Flames danced in the large fireplace sending warmth into the room. A welcoming smile crossed Chris' face. Two steaming plates of food sat on the table in front of him and Vin peeled off his coat and headed for his meal.

"All's well out there today. Cold fall day though. Now it's rainin'. Goin' to be snowing soon." He said. Enjoying Chris' small laugh he pulled his loaded plate to him.

Chris watched as Vin dug into his plate full of food, it didn't take long for it to disappear. When he looked up from his own meal, he spotted Inez walking towards their table, coffee pot in one hand and a tray holding two plates with large slices of pie on them in the other. He glanced at Vin and hid a smile. The young man's eyes were fixed on the tray Inez carried, the tip of his tongue moved across his lips as he gazed at the pie.

It was going to be an interesting winter, Chris thought as Inez sat the pie plates before Vin and him. At least, so far everything was all right. He hoped for a peaceful winter but figured there would be some sort of excitement now and then. With a shake of his head, he dug into the generous helping of warm apple pie with melted cheese over the top. He'd cross that bridge when it happened. Knowing his soul brother would be at his back.


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