JD looked across from the fire as his brother took a bite from the rabbit leg he'd given him. JD sat in anticipation, hoping he not only cooked the rabbit long enough..but that he had ruined it as well. Vin chewed then swallowed the meat and met JD's gaze.
"You sure this is the first time you cooked rabbit like this?" Vin asked, knowing that he'd done the cooking when they were camping.
"First time I ever cooked rabbit period," JD smiled.
"Not sure if it's cause I'm hungry..but..don't remember me bein able to cook it this good..it's just right," Vin said, meaning every word.
"Thanks," JD said, hanging his head, feeling a bit embarrassed at the praise.
"Ain't ya' gonna eat?" Vin asked.
"Naw.. It ain't very big..'sides..found some of them berries you showed me were okay to eat..when you was still sleeping," JD said, he had found
the berries..just not a lot of them..and at the moment he thought it was
more important for Vin to eat, not only that..he still had the vision of cleaning the rabbit in his head.
"Least take your jacket back..you're gonna get sick, then me and Buck are gonna have to nurse you back," Vin said, removing the suit jacket.
"I'm fine..dried pretty fast when I was cookin," JD replied with a smile, "'sides that..you're the one who got hurt..Nathan says to keep ya
warm like that..cause of shock or somethin like that", JD reasoned.
"I been up for three hours JD, I think I'm safe from shock," Vin smiled.
"Can't be too safe out here," JD said, repeating words Vin had said, more than once on there expedition.
"Didn't think ya' was listenin'," the tracker said softly.
"I always listen..I just ignore it the next hundred times I hear it," JD
said, a bit harsher than he'd meant.
"Vin..I didn't mean it li.." JD apologized hearing the tone.
"It's alright, I was after ya' a bit too much..not your fault you don't know," Vin stopped , looking around again at what JD had accomplished, "didn't know 'bout sleepin' under the stars and what not," Vin edited his
"Not your fault..or you're Pa's," JD said, looking his brother in the eye; apologizing for everything he had said and what he'd said in town the previous day.
The men were silent, JD hanging his head, still hiding the smile that he'd done good and, without coming right out and saying it, Vin was proud of him. Vin was thinking as well, about what Josiah had said, he decided to ask JD about it.
"JD? Can I ask you somethin?" Vin said, fumbling with another piece of the rabbit.
"Guess," JD replied, shrugging his shoulders.
"Our Father..you said that he weren't your Pa..just some one who made a mistake," Vin said, his voice serious.
"Is that how ya' feel..like ya's just a mistake?"
"I weren't a planned thing Vin," JD laughed out, but the tone was still sad, "he was just one my momma's 'customers' is all, doubt he even knew," JD added.
"You ain't a thing JD...and you ain't a mistake," Vin said.
"I was accident Vin, I weren't suppose to happen. When you do something and somethin happens that you didn't want..it's an accident..or a mistake, right?" JD declared, Vin could see that JD was serious.
"Wouldn't call ya' an accident..or a mistake..what 'bout a surprise?" Vin wondered, tilting his head to the side.
"What's the difference?" JD laughed.
"A mistake is somethin you do ..or make..and ya regret it..an accident..something that just happens..but a surprise..that's when ya get something that ya didn't know you wanted in the first place, and now
that ya' got it..ya' wouldn't know what to do with out it," Vin smiled.
JD looked puzzled at what Vin said, he hadn't had any sleep and the truth be told..he wasn't beginning to feel all that great, so he found it hard to follow what Vin was saying.
"When I shot ya'..that was an accident.." Vin tried to give examples.
"I know..never said it wasn't," JD cut Vin off.
"I know that..just hear me out for a minute. Ya' see..that was an accident..taken ya' campin' for a week that was a mistake..and finding out you was my brother..that was a surprise..Ya' understand? I never knew I wanted kin..or a brother..now that I got it.. JD, I wouldn't know
what to do if ya' weren't around," Vin said.
"Ya don't think my Mother regretted me?" JD asked, his tone soft.
"I think she might of regretted the choice she made, doin what she was doin an' all, but if she hadn't been doin that..you might nota' happened, an' I wouldn't have ya' taken care of me," Vin reasoned.
"If I wasn't here, ya' wouldn't need taken care of," JD reasoned back.
There was a long silence as the brothers pondered each others words; JD
saw some light to what Vin was saying, making him feel a bit better about himself and how Vin viewed him.
Vin on the other hand got a whole different prospective of not only JD, but of his father as well. He'd never said anything to JD, although he knew he would question it later, if their father was just a 'customer' how did his mother know it was him? Vin knew..his father more than likely spent company with JD's mother on a regular basis. Vin also wondered if he even knew.
"Ya' probably should get some sleep, shouldn't over do it," JD instructed, interrupting the quiet as he stood from where he sat, moving
to cover Vin with the jacket.
"All I been doin is sleepin' and sittin, ain't no overdoin' that," Vin smiled, laying back down.
"Well..that's most likely one thing ya' can't over do right now," JD said, squatting down next to his brother.
Vin looked up to JD, suddenly seeing the bruised face for the first time, he also noticed that JD looked paler than usual and although he was dry, the air was cold and JD appeared to have a shine to him that Vin didn't think was natural..
"You sure you're alright..ya' ain't lookin' so good," Vin said, stating his concern at his observations.
"Yeah, just the bruises make me look worse is all," JD smiled, regretting the fact he'd brought up the bruises.
"I can't tell ya how sorry I am ..'bout beatin' on ya' like I did, brothers ain't supposed to that," Vin said in a serious tone.
"It ain't no big deal..The way I was actin' all weak..surprised ya' waited. I shouldn'ta' said what I did.. Just let it go," JD smiled.
"Take your jacket..get some sleep. I know ya' and I bet ya' ain't slept all night," Vin yawned out.
"I'm fine..fire's warm enough..sides..with any luck Chris and Buck, and probably half the town, are on their way," JD smiled, Vin nodded as he closed his eyes and was quickly asleep.
I hope JD added his thought, he went back to where he'd been sitting grabbed another piece from the dwindling wood pile and threw it on the fire..he made his way to the entrance of the cave, sitting down at the edge of it.
JD watched the rain fall harder and harder, and each rain drop wash away
his hope that the guys would find them; he decided if they hadn't shown up by the time the rain cleared, he would get Vin back home by himself. He knew Vin wouldn't think to highly on being on the travois, so JD would take it with them, so when Vin needed to rest, he could lay down on the travois and JD would pull him, that way they wouldn't loose any time.
JD smiled at the thought, leaning his head sideways against the cave wall, his eyes closed before he could stop them, and he fell asleep, for
what seemed like the first time in forever.
+ + + + + + +
The riders had come to a small fork in the road, the land was fairly flat except for a gully that ran along the side of the road, and a slight slope up to the right.
Chris and the others dismounted trying to find some kind of clue as to which way JD would go, they knew that both ways led back to town.
"Dear Lord," Ezra said, garnering Buck, Nathan and Chris's attention.
"What is it Ezra?" Chris asked making his way to where the gully was.
"Shit," Chris said under his breath as he looked at the dead horse.
"It ain't saddled..and there ain't no bridle..mighta been a wild horse, Chris," Buck said, trying to ease not only Chris's mind..but his as well.
"You know many wild horses that've been shod and gelded Buck?" Chris observed.
"Pardon me..but .do you smell..something..burning?" Ezra asked.
Chris, Buck, Nathan and Ezra scanned the area, peering hard through the driving rain.
"There..if I'm not mistaken that's smoke!" Ezra pointed to the slope.
"VIN!! JD!!" Buck yelled as the men made their way up the slope.
JD's eyes shot open as he thought he heard voices.
He heard them again, he smiled and looked out the cave and down the slope, he turned, making his way to the tracker and kneeled down to Vin.
"Vin..Vin.." JD said softly, shaking the trackers shoulders, he smiled as Vin eyes opened, "They're here!" he said excitedly.
"Who?" Vin asked, still a bit disoriented from being woken.
"Chris and Buck, come on," JD smiled again, grabbing at Vin's arm, helping him to stand.
Vin wrapped an arm around JD's shoulders, his world being a bit tilted and unsteady still, and was guided over to the entrance, just as the four entered the cave.
"Boy I'm I glad to see you guys!" JD's smile was beaming, but short lived.
"Thought I told you to wait till mornin?" Chris said forcefully as Nathan approached Vin, taking the burden from JD.
JD stood unable to speak, he had heard that tone in Chris's voice, a thousand in one times, but never had it been directed at him. JD swallowed several times, looking at the other men like he needed them to
tell him what to do; discovering there would be no answer from them, he found his voice and did what he had been doing since he'd landed in Four
"Sorry Chris," he apologized, his head hanging, but not before casting the 'look' at him.
"You alright Vin? What happened?" Nathan asked.
"Yes please Mr. Tanner..you're captures informed us that you were rescued by a saddleless rider, that simply disappeared into the night," Ezra exaggerated.
"JD run into camp, got me up on the horse..they started shootin..then all a sudden like, the horse fell..then I woke up," Vin said, casually recalling his version of the events.
"And now Mr. Dunne..how did you come by the deceased steed?" Ezra asked.
"I think he broke his neck when he fell, I knew the bounty hunters would
be trying to follow us..so soon as I got Vin up here..I pushed him in the ditch..so's they wouldn't see him," JD shrugged.
"You said somethin 'bout them bounty hunters?" Vin asked, pushing Nathan's concerned healing hands from the small gash above his eye.
"Yeah, they figured you came back to town after you was 'rescued'," Buck
said, elbowing JD as a form of praise, causing the sheriff to hang his head and blush.
"How'd ya' know it was them?" Vin questioned.
"The youngest one..he stepped out in my line of fire..thought he was deaf..what was his name?" Chris revealed, then searched his mind.
"Moses...Maurice.." Buck tried to remember, waving his hand in a circle in the air as if he'd get the answer there.
"Morris" JD added.
"Morris..that's it. What are ya' now..reading people's thoughts all of a
sudden?" Buck laughed out, stopping when he saw the look on the young man's face.
"JD? Something wrong?" Chris asked, noticing the look as well.
"There was two other guys, right? Stan and a fella named Sweetser?" JD asked, his eye's beginning to fill, and a large knot forming in his stomach.
"Son? How'd you know?" Buck asked, growing concerned.
"I messed up again..brought them guys right to ya'," JD said, hanging his head.
"Those guys were the ride back into town?" Vin asked, JD nodded slowly.
"That's how they knew I had a brother," Vin reasoned, he'd told JD not to say anything just in case this happened.
"I didn't tell them who you were..I didn't even tell them my name!" JD defended, he knew he hadn't.
"Like I said 'fore! That don't mean they don't know who ya' are! Did you
tell them ya' had a brother?" Vin said, a bit harsher than he'd meant.
"Well, yeah..but I swear I didn't say who it was!" JD begged Vin to believe.
"He ain't the one that said anything...they knew you had a brother...the
one named Stan, he fingered me..they heard it on the trail somewhere. Vin..people come and go in town..some one was bound to find out you two are brothers, JD didn't say anything to them," Chris revealed what Sweetser and his men had said, defending JD and heading off another possible confrontation from the brothers.
"Sorry kid, shoulda' known better," Vin apologized, using the nickname he'd always called him, before finding out they were kin, when Vin and JD were just friends never expecting anything from the younger man.
JD acknowledged the apology with an 'it's a no big deal' shrug of his shoulders.
"Vin alright to travel?" Chris asked Nathan.
"I'm fine! Why ya' actin' like I ain't even here?" Vin asked.
"Hush up..I think it's best we wait till the rain stops..or at least lets up a bit," Nathan said.
"I'll get some more wood," JD said, heading out of the cave before anyone could protest.
"How cold's that rain?" Vin asked, he knew the wind was a bit cool.
"Cold, why?" Chris asked.
"He got soaked..wouldn't take his coat or nothin," Vin sighed.
"Ezra..go find JD and get him back in here," Chris said sternly.
"Mr. Larabee..I'm sure our young friend is more than capable of finding wo..." Ezra tried to get out of going outside.
"Now!" Chris ordered.
"Yes, sir," Ezra sighed, leaving the cave.
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