A/N: Hi everybody! Here's the first part of that short I was telling you about, which has transformed into a multi-chapter story. Both me and MamaBear are writing this A/N, just like we wrote the story. *dual waves* I'm honestly not sure what parts were written by who anymore, and most of the sentences are like Frankenstein's monster, pieced together from multiple parts. Google docs are great for collaborative efforts, fyi. MamaBear here! It's true! And, some of the story was even written in round robin form through emails! Busy schedules don't stop us! This all started with a three sentence plot bunny of the boys being stuck in a downpour as it rained for days here. I'maMePanda again, while I was dealing with 90+ degree weather and a little jealous, I'll admit, lol. This is a YP story not long after JD's 17th birthday (there will eventually be spoilers for 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I think we've all had plenty of time to get caught up on that) and we hope you enjoy it as much as we've enjoyed writing it.
Ezra stared at Vin's back through the water pouring off the brim of his hat, running rivulets down his forehead and into his eyes. It was useless to wipe at the wetness. His handkerchief was more than a little soaked and the rain gave no indication that it was going to let up, maybe everlastingly. His older brother urged his mount through the rain, Peso unbothered by the state of the weather. If only. Ezra glared at Vin's back again as he fought to keep Chaucer from darting under the few trees that dotted the landscape. "'Clouds will blow off by noon' was, Ah believe, your precise statement, Mistah Tannah. Your abilities, were perhaps a bit over aggrandized." Chaucer made a decidedly unhappy noise as Ezra once again kept his nose straight when he tried to veer off course. He held no blame toward the equine for his inclination, and if the tree cover had been a of sufficient density he would have been likewise inclined, but the thin desert growth had already proven itself unworthy of the task. Vin turned his head to the rear just long enough to give Ezra a scathing look, to which he just looked coolly back.
"Said should." Ezra barely heard Vin's remark as his older brother faced forward again, head bent against the driving rain that seemed intent on literally soaking them to the bone.
"What was that?" Ezra's demanding tone was washed away by the rain, but the way the older boy's shoulders hunched even more, told Ezra enough. "Most definitely did not say 'should'." Ezra grumbled to himself, pulling Chaucer away from another tree that looked like it could barely take care of itself in the storm. Another moment of them plodding along, going nowhere fast if you asked Ezra, had him calling out over the sound of storm raging around them, "Mr. Tannah, you said you knew of somewhere to wait out this...debacle...or was that a guess as well?"
Growling to himself about spoiled little brothers who thought they were gonna melt from getting a little wet, Vin ignored the streak of water that found its way underneath his collar, suppressing his need to shiver. "Less the rain can wash a cave away, it'll be there." He patted Peso on the neck, pleased for once that the contrary horse *liked* the rain. 'Course, as the ground got muddier, pulling at his hooves, that was sure enough gonna change.
Gritting his teeth and biting off a swear, Vin slid to the ground. Peso had slipped more than once coming down the side of this small hill, the mud so thick now, that it covered most of the horse's hooves in a gritty brown grime. While Peso didn't seem to mind the mud as much as the slipping, the heated words from behind him told a different story. Vin could barely hear them over the dull roar of a rain that just wouldn't quit, almost bouncing off the muddy earth as it hit. Choosing to ignore the fancy sounding cussing coming from his brother's mouth, Vin looked back and gave a nod of his head, pleased that despite his aggravation Ezra had followed his lead and gotten off the beast he called a horse. "Cave's up here."
"Finally," Ezra's crabby voice grated at Vin's last nerve, "Ah was beginning to imagine the cave had been washed away-or more plausibly, the rain had washed away your ability to locate the shelter." If they'd been closer to town, or if the hill had been a little less steep Vin thought he might have shoved the holy terror that his brother had turned into right into the mud.
Nah. It wouldn't be worth Ezra's fuss.
Not yet, anyway.
Choosing not to respond Vin turned back to the front and just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping an increasingly unhappy Peso at his side. The horse, his earlier enjoyment of the rain long gone, didn't want to walk up the slippery hill, and Vin had to jerk his hand away as Peso bent his head to snap irritably at the fingers holding his reigns. "Oughta sell ya t' a glue factory, ya damned mule," he muttered with halfhearted disgust as he tightened his hold on the horse. Peso's only response was a loud snort, not his questioning one, but a sound that held just as much disgust as his owner's voice had. He'd managed to get him another five feet up the trail, the rain whipping its way underneath his hide coat, when there was the sound of a slip and a smack on the ground behind him and a squeal of surprise from Chaucer. Forcing himself to whirl around slower than he wanted to so as to not startle Peso, he saw Ezra sprawled back in the mud-from the complicated and angry sounding words springing from his mouth he was alright enough, probably-and Chaucer dancing away from his legs, and then letting out a worried whinny. One good thing you could say about the haughty beast, he was as protective of Ezra as his brother was of him.
Vin supposed he should try to help, not that there was much he could do. Unable to let go of Peso, he held tight to the annoyed horse's reins, trudging slowly, and slipping every few steps, towards his fancy coated brother. Ezra was trying unsuccessfully, if not valiantly, to remove himself from the muck that once was dirt.
"Uncouth, unreliable, capricious...leading us into this lamentably arduous state of affairs!" Vin heard the words and, though he was unsure of the meaning of a couple, he was sure his brother was taking him to task. Eyes narrowing, not that the mouthy brat could see them, he took Chaucer by the bridle and urged him to step back. Unimpressed, the horse's head jerked twice against Vin's hold and the tracker heard his own mount making noises that could only be classified as annoyed.
Speaking in a soothing voice, despite his frustration with this whole situation, his brother, and even the jittery horses, Vin murmured, "Calm down now, an' soon ya'll be under an overhang. Got a bit of apple fer ya if ya quit fighting." He wasn't sure if it was the steady hold he kept on the reigns, the soothing voice, or that Ezra's claims that his horse understood most human speech were true, but slowly the stuck-up beast quit fighting him, though he huffed his breath out in a way that sounded scarily like Ezra's disgusted sigh. Vin wouldn't be surprised if Chaucer blamed him for the rain, too. Peso, irritated that Vin was paying attention to the other horse, nipped at the brim of his hat and sent a cascade of water down the front of his face, making him splutter and shake his head like a loon-he couldn't let go of either of the damned horses reigns to wipe his face properly. Growling, he carefully shifted Peso's reigns over to the hand that held Chaucer's and wiped a sleeve across his face with relief-only to realize it hadn't done much good at all, he was so soaked. His arm was just as wet as his face, and the rain just kept coming.
Vin heard a growing, rolling, chuckle then and felt his shoulders stiffen as he turned his glare on Ezra, who seemed to have forgotten all about the fact that he was wallowing in the mud like a pig, rain drumming on his unprotected face to laugh his backside off at Vin. "What are ya laughing at? Least I don't look like a swamp rat!" Ezra stopped laughing immediately, straightening up the best he could when he was still almost on his back, unable to get more than sitting before he'd slip back down, face turning sour again, like he tasted spoiled milk.
"Any detrimental effect on mah current wardrobe rests solely on your shoulders, Mistah Tannah!" Vin snorted, disagreeing with that, but before he could move on to thinking about how he was gonna get Ezra off his backside and hang onto the two horses, the little monster threw a handful of mud at him. It landed on his already mud sprayed knee with a splat and slowly began dripping down his pant leg, Vin's eyes watching it for a second then looking up at a far too pleased with himself Ezra. A smugly grinning Ezra. Vin took a tiny, threatening, step forward and the smug look mostly went away as Ezra went from trying to scramble his way up to trying to scramble back. Going nowhere fast, he could only look on in barely concealed alarm as Vin managed to look even more menacing with his next step forward.
"Less'n ya want a face full of mud, ya best keep yer trap shut." When Vin was sure Ezra was going to be quiet, at least for the moment, he took another step forward, taking a look around, hoping to spot anything that resembled a tree through the continual dense rainfall. The search turned up nothing and grumbling to himself yet again, he took one more step toward his mud covered brother. He dropped Peso's reins and stuck his nearly soaked through boot on top of the thick leather pieces, wincing as they were pushed into the mud and grime. Looking down at a wary Ezra, Vin stuck out his hand and waited for the other boy to grab it. His brother opened his mouth and Vin narrowed his eyes threateningly at him-he was just going to help him up if he kept quiet. If he didn't…
After a tense moment where Vin was half regretting his threat since Ezra was still looking at his hand doubtfully, like he thought it was going to bite him, he finally grabbed his palm and Vin gripped and pulled, heaving him to his feet and not letting go until he was sure he was steady. Vin caught his brother's eye and Ezra nodded in thanks.
Handing his brother the reins to a horse who was happily greeting Ezra, Vin took hold of Peso's reins from the middle and tugged them loose, grimacing at the muck that was covering the leather. That was gonna take ages to clean, and he could only imagine what Tiny would say if he saw it. Rubbing the back of a dripping wet hand over equally wet eyes, Vin glanced at Ezra and nodded his head towards a dark shape in the distance. From what he could see of the thoroughly soaked gambler, his brother still seemed tense and likely, Vin figured, downright annoyed, but when Ezra moved his hands up the reins to get a better hold on Chaucer, Vin knew he was about as ready as he could be. Pulling one booted foot out of the deceptively deep sludge, he led the way towards the only shelter he knew of within miles.
Pressing his face up close to the cool glass of the saloon's front window, JD could see the heavy downpour of rain hadn't changed in the five minutes since he'd last looked. The road through town was no longer dry and dusty, but a long mud filled mire. At least the horse he'd seen standing in the rain was gone, he thought with a heavy sigh. The young man headed back towards their regular table and plunked himself down in the wooden chair next to Nathan. He hit the table with an elbow on his descent, rocking Nathan's mug, the amber liquid sloshing back and forth. His older brother didn't say anything, but the look he gave him after looking up from a textbook that now had droplets over the top of one page had JD ducking his head, "Sorry, Nate...it's just...the rain..." JD waved a hand towards the front of the saloon, shrugging in defeat.
"Rain'll stop eventually, JD" Nathan replied, his fingers brushing gently at the top of the book.
"I know..." JD trailed off, looking towards the window. "Think Vin and Ezra are staying dry?" he asked, without looking back at Nathan.
"They're fine, JD."
"Maybe I should..." JD kicked back his chair, about to stand, when Nathan's hand landed on his arm.
"No, JD. Just, no."
JD tried to tug his arm away from Nathan's grip, but it was held firm, "Naaathannn...what if-"
"I said no, JD." JD scowled and looked away from Nathan's no fooling expression to glare up at the wooden ceiling instead. Just because Nathan was older-his brother's voice carried on, cutting off JD's gripe.
"You know you're just sick of being stuck inside anyway, nothing's wrong with them. I'm sure they found some shelter and are just waiting it out."
"You don't know that," he protested even as he slumped back in his seat, "Something could have happened."
"You almost sound hopeful," Nathan replied, letting go of JD's arm and turning back to his book, fingers brushing lightly at the damp specks again. "I'm sure Inez has something you could help her with if you're that bored."
Horrified, JD shook his head fiercely. He didn't want to work! He just didn't want to sit around anymore. Sitting upright a moment later, he leaned forward, "Nate?"
"JD?" Nathan glanced up long enough for JD to flash a hopeful grin.
"I'm going to go see 'Siah."
JD tried not to squirm as Nathan regarded him for a moment, then, eyes going back to his book, informed JD, "Good, you need something to do." JD grinned and jumped to his feet-Josiah would be good for a conversation, JD could tell him about that new book he was reading, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and since Josiah and Nathan had given him another Jules Verne book for Christmas he knew his oldest brother would like it-he might even want to borrow it! After JD had finished it, of course. It had all sorts of amazing inventions and science stuff that he was sure the preacher would find interesting.
"See ya later, Nate." Snatching up his hat, he turned on his heels and was halfway across the mostly deserted saloon, when Nathan's voice interrupted him.
"Get back here and put your slicker on. You trying to turn yourself into a puddle?" JD turned back sheepishly, and then frowned in confusion when he saw that Nathan's eyes were still trained on his book not looking at JD at all. "Well? You gonna just stand there?" JD shook his head, as he grabbed for his slicker, wondering just how Nathan did that. How'd he know...with another shake of his head, more important things on his mind, he haphazardly threw the slicker over his shoulders, shrugging into it and slamming his hat on his head as he moved back across the saloon.
"Stay dry, chiquito." JD nodded in response to Inez's call as he pushed open the bat wing doors, a cursory wave added before he disappeared from the darkened interior, out into the nonstop rainfall. JD stared at the sheets of rain coming down in front of him, wishing the boardwalk and the eaves went all the way to the church. Much as he didn't want to sit inside the stuffy old saloon any longer, JD didn't want to get drenched to his skin either. Pulling the slicker tighter around his shoulders as a gust of wind whipped the rain up onto the damp boardwalk, he nodded staunchly. He'd just have to make a run for it when he got to the end and then shake off the water on the church's porch so he wasn't dripping all over the inside. Mind made up, and just as bored with standing here looking at the rain as he had been looking at it through the saloon's window, JD turned on his boot heel and started down the walkway, boots sending up little droplets of water as they snapped down.
Buck stood in the doorway of the jail, watching the rain continue to turn the town of Four Corners into a swamp. A dreary, brown, mud ridden swamp. He squinted, trying to make out who in their right mind was leaving the saloon in the middle of the unending downpour. He'd have to have a word with Junior when he and Hoss got back. Boy had said "a little shower" may pass through. He hoped those two had got themselves somewhere dry. Buck snorted, as the wind whipped up, tossing water in all directions. "Close the door." Chris's grumble from behind him had Buck stepping back, but not before he looked again at the figure in front of the saloon who suddenly raced down the boardwalk and recognized who it was from the shape of the dang ridiculous hat.
"Kid, what're you doing?" escaped him just before he watched JD cross towards the church, head down against the driving rain. He sensed Chris's head coming up, curious and said half over his shoulder, "Boy was darting like a hare in a hurry over to the church." Chris snorted and bent his head back over the newest pack of wanted posters, combing through it for details. Buck didn't figure even a crook who was all the way out of his mind would be pulling anything on a day this miserable. He was bored himself, but even looking for a little company to wile the afternoon away was going to have to wait until the rain had let up a little.