HERMIT

By Enola Jones



While Ezra worked his magic with the telegraph operator and Roger and JD/Keith waited on the result, Nathan had an appointment to keep.

Riding to a small parcel of land on the far outskirts, Nathan called out, "It's Nathan!"

He wasn't surprised when the tall, slender figure straightened from the treeline. He wasn't surprised to see the .45 in the man's hand being uncocked and shoved into the waistband of his pants.

He was surprised at the damp, disheveled shirtlessness of the man and the day's worth of beard on the fastidious man's chin. "Did I get you out of the tub?"

A crooked, self-conscious smile was the reply, and a jerk of the head invited Nathan to remain as he poured a basin of water and began to strop his razor.

As he watched the silent man shave, Nathan began to tell him of the excitement in town. As usual, his companion didn't speak. Nathan and his hermit friend had arrived in Four Corners at the same time and in all that time, Nathan could count maybe a handful of times that the other man had spoken.

He didn't even know his name.

"There's a new person in town. He's an old friend of Ezra's. He can use a bolo like nobody I've ever seen. I swear, he whirls it with a flair and a style all his own."

His friend washed his face.

"And JD isn't JD at all says his name's Keith Moon and he's also an old friend of the stranger."

His friend froze and slowly turned to face him. ".....what?"

Nathan nodded. "And they both pronounce things the way you do."

"Keith.... Moon, you said."

Nathan nodded again, startled by the bizarre chattiness. "Yeah, that's what he said his name is."

"Other man his hair--?"

"A dirty blond, curly as can be."

And the man was moving like a shot, the basin of water upending onto the dirt and forgotten as long legs chewed up the distance to the stables.

Mere seconds later, Nathan was nearly bowled over as his hermit friend roared toward Four Corners hatless, his shirt unbuttoned and his feet bare. He hadn't even bothered with a saddle, flying bareback toward town as fast as his gelding could run.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Rider comin' in fast!" Vin roared. "Don't recognise him!"

Keith automatically stepped in front of Roger, who shot him a fondly exasperated look.

The look dissolved into one of shock as the disheveled rider pulled up in front of them, all but falling off the blowing horse. There was a wild, half-insane look in the wide sky-blue eyes as his hands locked onto Keith's forearms, then one still-calloused hand reached and cradled Roger's cheek.

"Oh, my Lord," he choked out, his voice rusty from disuse and clogged with the tears swimming in his eyes. "Oh, my G-d, I'm not dreaming.... you're real, you're here, you're real..."

"PETE!" Keith and Roger cried in unison, and all three fell on each other, laughing and crying at the same time.

"Ain't that a sight," Vin grinned as Ezra walked up.

"It will be sweeter," Ezra said as he watched the joyful reunion.

"How so?" Vin asked.

And Ezra's smile grew. "The wire from Castle Ridge arrived. Entwistle still lives nearby though not in the monastery."

"You gonna tell 'em?"

"No." And it grew to the point gold and dimples showed. "He is. He's en route to Four Corners as we speak."

THE END




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