Old Friends M7 OW

"Why do ya suppose those Davis boys had to decide to steal horses durin' the hottest month of the year?" asked Buck Wilmington as he mopped his face with his blue bandana for the third time in almost as many minutes.

"I guess to make us so miserable we'd give up chasin' 'em." replied Chris Larabee with a shrug of pale gray covered shoulders.

Buck chortled in spite of the oppressive heat.

"Well they got the miserable part right, but they were wrong about the givin' up part, huh Pard?"

A grin that was more predatory than amused curved up the blond's chiseled lips.

"That they were!"

He sobered as the pair rode along desultorily. "Dead wrong in this case."

The ladies' man became solemn as well. "Yep. Good thing there was an undertaker in Deming."

A nod was all the answer the tall brunet got.

The pair made it another couple of miles with even Wilmington too hot to talk. Sweat plastered his blue calico shirt to his broad chest and back and his boots felt like they had two inches of water in them. The wind had at least kicked up a little, but it was blowing the dry dirt around in billowing eddies, so he'd pulled the indigo bandana up over his lower face and the big plainsman hat was now so low that the vibrant blue eyes were barely visible. His collar was open and his sleeves were rolled to his elbows to cool his skin as much as possible.

Larabee was the same shape, Pony moving sluggishly beside the gray. His ebony pants were clinging even tighter than normal, the silvery-gray cotton shirt wet and sticky with sweat. He'd unfastened the top three buttons to get some air and his socks were damp and uncomfortable in the black boots. The flat-crowned hat was situated low on his forehead and he'd pulled out a dark bandana and tied it over his nose and mouth to block the swirling dust. The icy green gaze was slitted against the sand and he covered the butt of his Colt with one hand to keep as much of the grit as possible out of his holster.

Both almost missed it when a thin line of trees appeared on their right. Greenery in this part of the country meant water, and the horses suddenly perked up as the inviting scent came to them on the wind. There was no need for the riders to turn them, the mounts did so on their own and sped up to a trot.

A narrow stream sparkled invitingly as they moved into the shade. What looked to be a hole deep enough to swim caught the men's attention, a large flat rock sticking up in the middle. Both tall forms swung down, and quickly unsaddled the horses. Changing the bridals for halters, they let the weary animals head to the water. With the creek and green grass, there wasn't much chance they would stray.

Buck took off his hat and wiped his forehead with his sleeve, pulling the neckerchief down with the other hand.

"Whooee, Stud. This looks like paradise!"

"That it does!"

Chris removed his hat and ran his fingers through his wet hair. He then reached to untie the ebony bandana.

Wilmington strode to the stream and knelt to splash his face. Larabee joined him, dropping to his stomach and sticking his whole head under for a second. Drops flew like crystal from the dark gold hair when he came back up. The brunet eyed the hole in front of them.

"Looks deep enough to swim. Wanna give it a try?"

Green eyes evaluated the depth. Deciding it looked to be at least ten feet in the middle, the gunman nodded.

"Hell, yeah! If I'm gonna be soaking wet anyway, might as well be enjoying it."

"Now you're talkin'!"

Both men sat down to pull off their boots first. Sweat poured out when they turned them upside down. Dripping wool socks came off next, getting wrung out and thrown over some nearby brush. The bandanas followed, hats sailing to land on the ground nearby. Tanned hands then started peeling off the clinging shirts, powerful chests revealed as the cotton came up over their heads. Neither was wearing anything underneath. Each took off their gunbelts and laid them close at hand but far enough from the edge to keep from getting wet. Black and tan pants were then unfastened and stripped off with little regard for neatness. The garments joined the other items on the bushes. Muscles rippled in feline grace as the nude duo strode with unconcern to the water. Wading out, twin sighs of pleasure escaped as they lowered themselves into the cool liquid. Checking the depth of the hole, Buck gave a huge grin and dove in. His dark head popped back up in a minute. One hand brushed his hair back as he bobbed in place.

"Plenty deep."

Chris gave a wide smile.

"Good!"

Powerful arms propelled him across the surface to the rock. Climbing up, he made sure there were no obstacles, then jumped cleanly into the pool. He disappeared under. Buck was treading water as he tried to see where the blond had gone. He found out in just a minute when strong hands grabbed his legs and dunked him.

Coming back up, the brunet took off after the lithe form. Catching up, he returned the favor as he put one hand on Chris' head and pushed him down. Both were good swimmers, so they continued the antics for a bit, then took turns diving from the rock and going to the bottom, sometimes returning with something interesting they'd found in their hands.

After about an hour they exited and stretched out to dry off. Pulling on their pants, they padded over to make camp, a few water drops still clinging to each taut abdomen and back. The horses had waded out in the shallow part of the stream and taken deep drinks and were now grazing contentedly on the lush grass as their riders laid out their bedrolls. Larabee pulled out his flask and took a swallow, tossing it to Wilmington when he was done. The ladies' man followed suit, then pulled some line and a couple of hooks out of his saddlebags.

Taking the whisky with them, the pair strolled back to the creek. Using their knives, they cut a couple of thin branches and cleaned the leaves off of them to use for fishing poles. Chris fastened the line and hooks while Buck dug up some worms from the rich dirt of the bank. Baiting their hooks, the pair threw the lines in the water and then leaned back against a couple of rocks to wait for a bite. The breeze was rustling the leaves above their heads, but the brush kept any of the blowing dirt from invading their haven.

The brunet raised one arm and rested it behind his head.

"This reminds me of that creek we stayed at right after we got out of the army." he said with a grin.

Chris nodded, then laughed. "Let's just hope there aren't any angry beavers in this one!"

Buck chuckled. "Amen! That sucker had teeth the size of a mountain lion!"

"He sure wasn't happy when you tripped and smashed his dam."

White gleamed in a wide smile as the blond pictured Wilmington splashing through the water as he tried to get away from the furry creature who was gnashing his teeth in anger as he swam after the brunet.

"You could'a helped ya know, instead of standin' there laughin' your ass off at me!"

"What was I supposed to do? Punch him in the nose?" Amusement sparkled in the hazel eyes.

"Well, as I recall you didn't do so well with that snake that dropped down in your lap when we were campin' that time." reminded the lanky form with a chortle.

Broad tanned shoulders gave a little shiver. "I wouldn't have had a problem if he hadn't wrapped around my thigh right up next to… certain things." was the annoyed response.

Rich laughter echoed across the clearing, making the horses raise their heads for a minute.

"Ya should'a seen the look on your face, Stud! You couldn't figure out whether to grab your gun, your knife, or just pray he didn't decide to sink his fangs into those 'certain things'!"

"I couldn't very well shoot him, could I?"

"Nope, even as good a shot as you are Pard, I don't think you could'a done it without at least nickin' somethin'."

Larabee winced at the memory. He'd finally just gritted his teeth and grabbed the thing behind its head with one hand and unwrapped it with the other and flung it as far away as possible. Then he'd moved his bedroll to the other side of the camp. He wasn't afraid of snakes, but he didn't want one taking up residence in his lap either!

"Speakin' of snakes, remember that one that kept Sarah out of the barn for a week?"

Buck pulled in his line and beamed at the perch on the end of it. Looked like they might have fish instead of jerky for supper after all.

"Yeah, I remember. Every time she started to go in there, it'd drop down from the rafters and hang in front of her face right in the doorway." A chuckle escaped the brunet as he removed the fish and rebaited his hook. "She was so mad. She kept tellin' ya to shoot it."

"Yeah, and got even madder when I told her it was just a black snake and that I wasn't gonna kill it."

Both men began laughing then. "So she grabbed a shovel and started tryin' to knock it down."

Chris nodded. "Yeah. I don't know what she thought she was going to do if it landed on her."

"Scream bloody murder and then come after you!"

The blond nodded again. "Yeah. She did seem to think it was all my fault."

"Hell, a lotta things were your fault, Stud." chuckled the ladies' man. "Like that bear that robbed her honey cache in that old stump behind the house."

Gold hair swayed as the gunman shook his head in wonderment. "Never did figure out how that was my fault. I wasn't even home at the time."

"Guess that 'ol bear realized he'd made a mistake when she unloaded some double ought buckshot in his rump."

A smile curved up the sculpted lips. "I sure never saw him around again after that. She was one fiery lady when she got riled up." Long fingers pulled in his own line, taking off the crappie that was at the end. "Like when she chased you with that fryin' pan for messin' up her birthday surprise for me."

Buck grinned nostalgically. "She damn near got me too! Thought for a minute she was gonna tan my hide with that thing." He then sobered a bit.

"The most impressive thing I ever saw though, was when she laid into her old man for not agreein' to come to the weddin'. She was marryin' you no matter what he said, and the fact that he was so stubborn that he wouldn't even give her away made that temper of hers flare higher than I ever saw again."

Chris nodded slowly. "Yeah, that was the maddest I've ever seen her. She never did forgive Hank for that."

It was silent for a while as the two pulled in a few more fish. Then they continued their reminiscing as they cleaned them and fixed supper. There was a lot more laughter, and a few poignant moments, but the memories brought them both comfort now, instead of making Chris want to reach for a bottle or his gun and Buck was happy that his comments didn't raise old demons for either of them. They shared a last cup of coffee and then both stretched out on their bedroll to stare at the sky for a few minutes.

A soft "Thanks, Buck." floated to the brunet in the stillness.

"Sure thing, Chris." answered the deep voice quietly.

Smiles of contentment curved both set of lips as they made themselves comfortable. It was good to have old friends.

By DMA