Author's Note: All right, I know Dan's last name is Kean, but after seeing the series, I decided I liked the name Madison better...go figure. Anyway, please review!

~ ) Faith of the Heart ( ~

~ ) Chapter One ( ~

The old California tail was covered in a sea of thick dust, heavily tainting the air above two heads which so steadily yet tiredly made there way down the path. A fiery red sunset was in place atop the high hills to their right, shining fiercely, as the clouds parted, letting what little rays the sun still possessed to look down upon the two men, captivated by the beauty which so stunningly surrounded them. One after the other they drew in breath, taking in the sites and sounds of the busy little town just below the grassy slope. They carefully and anxiously climbed down, food, drink and rest becoming their motivation for the present being.

They came closer and closer to a nearby saloon and watched amusingly as the local folk from inside the large wooden building rushed to the windows to behold the excitement of the newcomers. Finally the men were close enough to see, which was consequently not far away as the bold sun went to hide behind the majestic purple mountains. The first, dark of hair and light of eye, was slightly farther ahead than his friend, who looked much the same, though granted a little shorter in stature.

The latter soon preceded the other, growing fast with anticipation at their arrival. They sauntered into the saloon, glancing up tentatively just beforehand, and noting the name of the bar, "The Calico Cotton Blossom". The taller of the two reached up with a long tan arm and pulled the Stetson off of his head. His friend did the same, though he paused a second to wipe the sweat from his brow.

Ignoring the eyes of the locals and avoiding the corner stationed by the heavily made up showgirls, they found room at the end of the bar, finding much ease and relief at the comfort the stools had to offer. A large man of thirty or so was the first to venture speaking to the strangers, and bought them both a round of beers to keep them there. He played with the sides of his brown moustache, lightly sprinkled with a few gray hairs.

"Ain't seen you fellas 'round these parts before," He stuck out a hand, putting a wide grin on his face, revealing a chipped gold tooth. "I'm Ulysses Everet McGill, mayor of this fine specimen of a town you see laid out before you." He gestured out the window with a wave of his chubby hand. The taller man was first to react.

"I'm Dan Madison, and this here's my friend Nat." He accepted the hand shoved out towards him, and idly cocked his head in the direction of Nat. Ulysses hand was let go and shifted over to Nat's, who shook it back, stating his full name for good measure.

"So were are you boys from anyway?"

"Concord, Massuchetts," answered Dan, weary of voice. He rubbed his tired eyes and inquired whether or not there happened to be a nearby hotel. Dan was received by much enthusiasm as well as an offer from the mayor himself for a personal escort. Finishing up their drinks, the three departed from the Calico Cotton Blossom, much to the dismay of the alacrity of the girls in the corner.

Crossing the wide-spaced street, they walked a block to the local hotel, finding it surprisingly a bit shabby; though it was grander than the dirt they had sleep on the past few nights. The mayor noticed the look on their faces, and went on, having misinterpreted their disappointment for eagerness. He led them into the small brick building, which consequently happened to be as hot as the devils' own melting pot. Slinging their bindles over their shoulders, they heartily thanked the man for his hospitality and climbed up the creaky stairwell, finding their rooms at last. Dan tossed his belongings onto the closest bed and collapsed into the wooden rocking chair nearby. Nat went straight for the remaining bed; laying down and closing his eyes; waiting for sleep to overcome him, travel clothes and all.

When it didn't come immediately and he was forced to feel the aching of the days walk, he abruptly turned to Dan and muttered,

"I wanna go home; I miss Nan too much."

Dan sighed, "I know what you mean Nat, but this is supposed to be our adventure! We're finally done with schooling, and we can do whatever we want now. This is just the beginning!"

"Honestly Dan, it's like you don't even miss her." From the corner of his eye he noticed his friend tense up before replying. "She wouldn't have enjoyed this Nat, now you just keep your mouth shut."

The subject of "her" was hard enough already; he didn't see why Nat had to bring that up, especially knowing what kind of mood he was in. He left the chair and changed into his nightclothes, hopping into the bed, pulling the cool crisp sheets up over himself. Bess hadn't wanted him to go; she would have preferred it that he "accompany her to Paris and London, to see and learn from great works of art." He refused, claiming truthfully that it was lifelong wish to go out west, and nothing she said was going to stop him. And so, both departures ended badly, at first thinking the other too selfish and then realizing the fact that they had both behaved poorly. Dan sighed once more, heavier this time with a sense of sadness.

"'Night Nat."

"'Night Dan." With that the little quarrel was put aside, being a sore subject for each, and both drifted off to sleep, letting everything go and inviting their dreams to come out and play.
~ ) End Chapter ( ~