The Really Great Day

by JIN

Disclaimer: Just a little birthday fic in honor of Vin’s actor, with absolutely no profit or gain involved.

Comments: Told from Chris’s point of view – something I’ve never tried before.

I am so tired.

Couldn’t hardly unsaddle my horse and shake out my bedroll. I can feel every single, razor sharp stone beneath my back. But I don’t even care.

I am so damn tired.

I throw my arm up across my face and take a deep breath. I can’t believe how good it feels just to not move. It’s a beautiful night, too. The air is clear and cool, but not cold. Don’t even need a blanket.

I take another deep breath as I feel every muscle in my bone-weary body starting to unwind and shut down for the night. Those same muscles were put to the test today in every way imaginable. For as nice as this night is, it sure was a nightmare of a day. No wonder I’m so damn tired. I can feel my mind drifting now . . . I’m almost there . . . almost asleep and not a second too soon.

"Might be my birthday."

I hear Vin’s soft voice rasp from a few yards away from me. Turning my head a fraction, incapable of doing any more than that, I peer from the corner of one eye at my normally silent friend.

Did he just say it was his birthday? I turn to get a better look. Vin’s lying flat on his back, like me . . . with his coat off, even. His hat is pulled over his eyes, and he isn’t moving at all. I’m thinking maybe I dreamed it.

But Vin’s pretty sparse with his words – so just in case he did speak, I feel like I ought to say something.

"It might be your birthday?" I repeat back to him. Probably should have come up with something a little better than that, but I’m tired and I can’t believe Vin chose this moment to let me in on this.

"Reckon it might," he says.

I’m trying real hard not to sigh out loud and wondering if Vin would just go to sleep if I ignored him. Of course, I can’t do that. Not after all the times he put up with me and my moods. Well hell, if he wants to talk, I reckon I can prop my eyes open a few more minutes. I’m not moving off this ground, though.

I look over at Vin. He’s still not moving, but he’s not asleep. I can tell by the lazy smile on his face. Smile? What the devil has he got to be smiling about after the god-awful day we’ve had?

I try again to figure out what’s going on in his head. "You got any idea when your birthday really is, Vin?"

"No. Just think it might be today."

I am sighing now – can’t help myself. "Why?" I ask.

He flicks his hat off his face, just enough for me to see his eyes turn my direction.

"I always figured this was a good time of year fer a birthday."

Lord, the man would drive me to drink. Too bad our only bottle of whiskey was smashed when my horse nearly threw me in the raging river. The one thing I’d been looking forward to all day, and it was washed away in the swirling waters. Knew I should have brought more than one bottle.

"Vin, you ever look into this? I mean, surely someone has records. Surely someone knows."

He shrugs then and says matter-of-factly, "Doubt it."

I don’t know why I’m continuing on with this conversation, but I have a hunch I won’t get to sleep until I get to the bottom of this. "Well, if you really don’t know when your birthday is, why do you think it’s now? I mean, it could be in January."

Vin nearly glares at me as he responds, "Too cold. Who the hell would want a birthday in January?"

"Maybe it’s July or August, then."

"Too hot. Sure wouldn’t want any woman I loved carryin’ a child and birthin’ smack in the middle of the hottest time of the year."

I sigh again. There is a point here, I’m sure of it, and if I wasn’t so sore and tired, I’d have figured it out by now. But one long trip home became a lesson in survival. Heavy rains had washed out trails and left us searching for a safe foothold most of the way. Rock falls didn’t help, or the twisted trees that lay broken in the most inconvenient places. And then when the bridge was washed out, I thought I’d just about . . . oh, Vin’s talking again. I better listen up.

"And nobody ought to be havin’ a birthday in December."

"Why’s that, Vin?" I ask, against my better judgment.

"'Cause that’s when the Lord was born, of course. Don’t y’ reckon he deserves a month all to himself?"

I smile, in spite of my aggravation. "I suppose He does, but I happen to know several people born in December."

"Maybe so, but I ain’t one of ‘em."

"Yeah, I think we’ve established that," I respond - a little testily.

"What? Yer startin’ t’ sound like Ezra, Chris."

"Are you ever going to get around to explaining to me why you think today is your birthday?"

He sighs this time and turns his head to peer at the night sky. "It was a really great day."

It’s my turn. "What?" I ask incredulously. I could have sworn Vin experienced the same day I did.

"One of those days when you know yer alive. The air was sparkling and the breeze was just right – lifted the hair off yer neck and swept right through to yer soul. Did y’ happen to notice how blue the sky was? When we came up on that rock slide, my heart got t’ beatin’ and the blood got t’ rushin’ and I just knew then that this was gonna be one great day."

I really, really want to scream at him, "Are you nuts?!" But I don’t. I think back on how the day went. When we’d come along the first obstacle, I mumbled but didn’t let it get to me. By the time our eight hour journey had turned into sixteen, all I could be grateful for was that Ezra wasn’t there to complain . . . or Buck and JD to annoy me with their antics . . . or Nathan to fuss over every little scratch and aching pain . . . or Josiah to philosophize away our bad luck.

No, thank goodness it was just me and Vin, or this bad day could have been worse.

Now that I think on it, Vin never once complained. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. I didn’t realize it before, but now that I really think back, Vin was like a little boy on an adventure. Don’t know how I missed it.

"The best part though," he’s speaking again, but softer, and I have to strain to hear him. "Is spending a day like this with . . ," he drops off, and I feel the need to finish it for him.

"With someone you care about."

I pause and listen to the sounds of the night as I think on Vin’s words. There was a certain challenge about it all. And the sky was exceptionally blue today – kind of like a certain tracker’s eyes, now that I thought on it. Good company is never something to be taken for granted. Best of all, neither of us were hurt, so we wouldn’t have Nathan after us when we finally made it home. Vin had a point.

"You’re right, Vin. It was a great day. But I still don’t know why you think it was your birthday."

He looks me straight in the eye as he answers. "Ever since I been little, I wait for a great day to come along ‘bout this time of year. I figure that day can be my birthday. Kinda like a present I give myself. Some years weren’t so good – didn’t have any birthdays at all. Other years made up fer it, though. Like this one. Sure was a great day," he finishes with a yawn.

I don’t want to think about the birthdays he never had or the real presents he never got. The boys and I will think of a way to make up for that later. But for tonight, I can only offer him this, "Happy birthday, Pard."

He smiles at me wearily. "Thanks, Cowboy."

I hear his breathing even out, and I know my friend is finally asleep.

But I’m wide awake . . . thinking about the man by my side . . . and the really great day we shared.


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