Authors Note: This story was written for an LJ/DW friend, Van. She did some lovely artwork for me, and this was written as a thank you gift for her work. As per the usual disclaimer, if you recognize it from TV, then I don't own it.

Just Another Day

Chris propped his feet up on the rail in front of the saloon. His chin tucked down on his chest, face shaded by his hat. A passerby might assume he slept. They would have been wrong. Despite his relaxed figure, his attention never wavered from his duty of afternoon watch. His stormy eyes kept a careful lookout over the town he called home.

Home: the place where they will always welcome you in.

Funny to realize how much this place had come to mean to him. Even funnier to think how much he meant to the other people here. Less than five years ago, his death might have mattered to exactly one person. Now he had a whole town full of people who would note it, not to mention six men who would actually mourn for him.

Family: the ones who walk in when the rest of the world walks out.

Three of those men were currently out of town, leaving the others to their peacekeeping. Vin and Ezra had ridden out yesterday afternoon to escort Judge Travis and a prisoner to Bitter Creek. Nathan rode out just after breakfast to visit the Seminoles for a few days. Of the remaining men, Josiah was currently riding the afternoon patrol, JD should be in his room catching some sleep before evening patrol, and Buck had planned to grab a late lunch at the hotel restaurant.

Brothers: the surest defenders anyone could have.

Two strange horses appeared at the end of the street. Chris pulled his mind away from his private musings to focus on them. 'Stranger' did not necessarily mean 'problem,' but it happened enough for him to be wary. He could see the townsfolk also being cautious. Until one of the seven protectors gave their approval, the two newcomers would be treated with distance and caution.

The men rode past, casting a wary glance at him, but going about their way. From his quick once over, Chris could see dusty clothes, hard eyes, and twitchy hands. "Damn," he muttered softly to himself; so much for his quiet afternoon. Sure enough, the two men dismounted outside the bank, quiet and intent. They proceeded into the building, sending hooded looks up and down the street.

Chris sighed and brought his feet down to the walk. He cast his own look around the street as he rose. He waved over Jamie Potter. "Go over to the hotel and tell Buck I need him at the bank."

"Yes, sir!" Jamie replied, a proud smile growing on his face. He took off running for the hotel.

Chris shook his head. The children of the town were always thrilled when they got to help the seven in some way. He could not quite decide what he thought about it. With a slight grin, he turned towards the bank. People began to move indoors as soon as he strode into the middle of the street. He gave a soft laugh. He suddenly realized how well his people knew him; he never walked down the center of the street unless trouble came calling.

Belonging: a much sought-after feeling that cannot be taken, but must be gifted or earned.

His steps slowed as he reached the bank. Stalking silently as any cat, he edged up to the door and peered in. The two strangers stood in front of Rob Kennison, the teller.

"Come on," one snarled, gesturing at the cowering man. "Hurry up!"

It did not appear any weapons had been drawn as yet, but he needed a better route than just walking through the front door. Chris pulled back and slipped behind the building. He eased the back door open, freezing as it creaked. When no one came to investigate the sound, he crept inside. Raised voices echoed from the main room as one of the robbers started threatening Kennison. He paused near the connecting door to let his eyes adjust to the dim light. After a moment, he strode forward, enjoying the shock spreading over the men's faces as he came out of the shadows.

"You know," he said casually. "I was having a good day."

The two men gaped at him. The one near the door had bushy black hair, hard green eyes, and a belligerent sneer. His partner possessed close-cropped brown hair, hazel eyes, and twitchy hands. While he kept both in his sight, Chris gave the greater part of his focus to the black-haired robber. He knew a killer's eyes when he saw one.

Black-hair tilted his head. "Shame to lose a good day. You should go on back to it."

"I'd like to," Chris replied. "Going to have to ask you to leave first."

"Yeah," Twitchy snorted. "Because we're going to follow some vagrant cowboy's order."

Kennison gave a slight groan, which earned him confused looks from the unknown men.

Chris's brow lowered. "Did you just call me a cowboy?"

The two men exchanged a glance at his dark tone.

"Damn it!" Black-hair exclaimed. "We don't have time for this!"

He went for his gun. A bullet struck him between the eyes. His weapon had never even cleared its holster. His partner and the teller gaped at the body. Twitchy's survival instincts kicked in as he grabbed Kennison and pulled him over to be a shield. Keeping the man in front of him, Twitchy pointed his own weapon at Chris.

Chris dodged behind the counter. His mind raced as he determined the best way to save Kennison and capture the would-be bank robber. Twitchy fired a shot and Chris ducked down. "Hell." He peered around, trying to see if he could get a shot. The man reached the entrance.

Everyone froze as they heard a gun being cocked just outside the door. Chris smiled as he heard the newcomer speak.

"You best let him go, stranger."

Chris rose out of his crouch. Twitchy still stood in the doorway, but he had released Kennison. His arms rose slowly, and he dropped the gun. He walked back into the bank at a shuffle. Chris grinned when Buck followed him in, Winchester at the ready.

Buck tossed him a devilish grin. "Good thing I came along."

"Good thing you did," Chris smiled back.

"Figure the Judge'll be happy he's got to come back so soon?"

"Oh, about as happy as Ez'll be when he finds out he'll be riding escort again."

Duty: something great and simple at the same time, fulfilled by all men of honor.

The two friends laughed as they hauled the man out of the bank and towards the jail. Chris watched as the townsfolk began emerging once more now that the danger had passed. It had been a long time since he felt any real sense of peace, but watching the people of his town flourish brought a measure of it back.

Life: only truly worth something when shared with others.