Disclaimer: Young Guns and the characters that appear here or are mentioned belong to the producers and directors; they are not mine and are only 'borrowed' for the purposes of the story, set just prior to the actual events shown in the movie. Written for kayim in the 2010 New Year Resolutions Challenge.

"Two Steps to the Right" by karrenia

December, 1870's

To look at the young men now: for all the world like a six or seven year old school children with their faces scrunched up in concentration; he allowed himself a wry grin.

To see this image of boys one would never realize what a talent for mischief they each had. In the back of his mind John wondered which of them is the more mischievous, Dick or Josiah.

Dick is darker, sturdier with large dark brown eyes in a swallow-skinned face, and his also prone to slouching which makes his height less evident. However, with work and discipline Tunstall believed that he could teach that boy to stand up straight an be counted on.

The older boy, Josiah: lanky, pale blue eyes in an open, honest face with his blond hair disheveled and streaked by the sun. His skin is red and peeling here and there from long hours spent out in the sun and there is just something about him that tells him that he might hold more promise than the younger boy.

However to Tunstall's discerning eye he also notes that while it's too early to tell for certain Brewer also seems to have in inclination to look up to an older male as an authority figure. "It's a toss-up. After all, boys will be boys."

'We learn as much from our mistakes and missteps as much as we learn from our victories; a lesson that John Tunstall has tried in his lifetime both back East and now as a moderately successful rancher in the New Mexico Territory to life by and to instill into his young charges.'

While Tunstall is quite aware that his detractors and rivals might mistake his nonchalant urbanity for false modesty; he has also come to accept the fact tongues will always wag, and he can either take it as it comes or ignore it.

It would be a darn shame were these boys, like so many others that had come from back East for whatever their reasons had been. At this point John Tunstall really didn't give a damn, if he could make a difference then he would try and teach them what he knew when it came to working the ranch and how to handle themselves in civilized society.

There really was no good and logical reason for them to be swallowed up by the rough and dangerous environment in which they had found themselves. There were all kinds of dangers out there and some of them went about on two legs. Perhaps he had allowed himself to wax a bit overly dramatic but the dangers were out there and they could not be safely ignored. Tunstall did not believe himself to be a stupid man; one could survive long in Lincoln County by pretending that dangers did not exist.

Just then another thought followed on the heels of the first one: Tunstall leaned over leaned back in his leather arm chair and allowed himself a wry smile, twisting his lips and furrowing his brow.

'Let's be honest with ourselves here, John, can you really say for certain that your motives here are completely altruistic? I've got a farm to working and while I am wish to instill and promote manners and civility into this these young men;, I do have a ranch to operate and money is hard to come by these days; Very well, I am not being completely altruistic, however, I shall press on regardless of either my critics or the consequences.'

"After all the beginnings of all things are small; even the great ones," he said aloud.

Josiah bent over the copy desk with his elbows resting on the smooth grainy wood, wondering if the 'old man' was watching, and wondering also if he would disapprove of his disheveled appearance. Several previous attempts at his writing assignment lay in crumbled inside the nearby wastebasket.

He had never had a problem with Tunstall as his boss on the ranch; most of the day-to-day work was at the gruff orders of the foreman and Tunstall usually only put in a appearance three or two days a week.

Josiah enjoyed the work, being out in the open and he discovered that working with horses and cattle while often dirty and tiring; was work that he took pride in doing well and on time. And for his part, Dick did his share of the work without too much complaint.

Dick glanced up from his own copy desk and bemused expression on his face and held up his sheet of paper. "What do you think?" he asked.

On the sheet of paper in fine ink was a drawing, a doodle really of a man on a horse with the long dark mustaches that their benefactor affected complete with the hat.

Josiah waited a moment before responding realizing that they were supposed to be writing an essay not entering an art competition and judging by the expression on Dick's face he really wanted the older boy's honest opinion.

His initial impulse was to blurt out the obvious that while it was an approximate likeness of the older man, it might not go over very well were they to present it as proof of their labors in the lesson room.

While he chewed over his response Dick prompted again. "Well?"

"Uh, it's pretty good." Josiah replied.

"What are you writing about?" Dick asked as he set the piece of paper with his drawing back down on the desk.

"I don't know," Josiah replied with a shrug.

"You probably need to put in something about horses and stuff, or about Christmas," replied Dick with a shrug. "I think he'll like it."

A day or two later

The town elders were hosting a dance and having asked the boys to get scrubbed up and dressed in their Sunday-best Tunstall had his ranch foreman hitch up the horses and they all rode into town.

The noise was the first thing Josiah and Dick noticed, and then the smells of rich pipe tobacco from the men, perfume from the women and the piney smell of the Yule logs merrily aglow on the scattered bonfires.

There were more girls than he had expected, but then he really hadn't known what to expect and at first Josiah felt awkward and stammered through desultory small talk.

He had lost track of Mr. Tunstall and Dick Brewer as the evening wore on.

Scurlock realized that both he and Dick had been introduced to other ranchers, their staff and local business men, but for the most part he only registered about five names in ten, otherwise it all flashed by in a big colorful blur.

A girl with intricately braided and piled red hair crowing her head took his arm and swung with him in tow into the circle dance. Josiah felt her pull on his arm like a sea shell could feel the pull of the inevitable tide that brought into shore and then out to sea once more.

"You've been awfully quiet, Josiah," the red head remarked. "I said, would you like to dance?"

"Uh, Yes, Yes I would," he stammered.

They swung into the dance, twirling and dipping more or less in time to the music and then Josiah realized that he really wanted to learn more about life out here, where both opportunities and possibilities seemed that much more difficult to attain but worth it in the end. "What's your name, " he asked the red head. "Olivia," she replied.

"Olivia," Josiah said with more conviction than he could recall showing before. "I am going to make something of myself one of these days. Just you wait and see."

"Hmm." she murmured. "I think I'd like to see you make good on that promise."