Welcome to the Lone Pine

"That's just…" Finn breathed out and trailed off. "…worth fighting for." He smiled, "I've seen many, many beautiful places, Rebecca. Perhaps I will show them to you one day, but this doesn't compare to anything else I know." He tilted his head slightly, "A place to lose one's self in."

Rebecca just smiled without looking away from the sight of her home stomping grounds. She could just make out a few of the hands near the house. Uncle T's distinctive silver hair was easy to spot; as was Wyatt's familiar slouch against one of the porch supports.

Demon pawed the ground impatiently and gave Rebecca a stern sounding bellow. Rebecca remained unaffected as her eyes drank in the sight. But the sound of Demon's impatience had carried down to the keen ears of a few of the closest horses in the nearest pastures. There was a silent moment as the horses below turned and regarded the riders, and then action exploded below. The horses wheeled and galloped towards the ranch house. The pounding thunder of hooves grew louder as the growing herd picked up more members as they went. They could heard the bellows of stallions over the hoofbeats.

Rebecca snorted. "So much fer th' element of surprise." Demon stopped and preened, his distinctive golden mane bright in the sunlight. Then he gave a lurch forward, testing his rider.

Finn leaned over and spoke to Blake, telling him he had to be on his best behavior. He was bound to be a curiosity to horse ranchers, and Finn was certain it would be considered rude if his tiger-horse ate any of their hosts' fingers. When Demon lurched forward, Finn told Blake to follow close, and held on, smiling as they went. "Well, maybe we can beat the herd there!"

Rebecca laughed. "We could, but we won't beat the news."

Indeed, as the bellows of the stallions reached the ears of the humans below, Rebecca saw Wyatt push off the support and jump off the porch. He broke into a run, while T moved at a more sedate pace. A few more of the hands moved so they could see the action, but they stayed back. Several of the horses in the pasture had decided to wait near the fence, but they broke into a gallop and ran alongside Demon to welcome him home.

With a grin on her face, Rebecca stood in the stirrups when the distance between her and Wyatt grew short. He was easy for Finn to recognize after Rebecca's descriptions. Demon didn't even slow down when she launched herself off his back and straight into Wyatt, sending them both to the ground, hats rolling off in the grass and Wyatt rolling with the impact. Rebecca laughed down at him. Wyatt was obviously used to this treatment; he caught his breath quickly, grinned as he tangled a hand in her hair and then pulled her down into a very serious kiss.

Demon had stopped at Uncle T, and the older man was exchanging words with the stallion under the hootin' and hollerin' of the watching cowboys behind him.

Finn could only shake his head and chuckle as he rode passed the spectacle. He eased Blake to a walk, and slid off the saddle when they came abreast of Demon. Seeing that Rebecca was otherwise engaged, and no one was likely to introduce him but Demon, Finn strode up to the man that had to be 'Uncle T' by his fantastic moustache alone, and offered his hand. "Good Morning, my name is Finn, and by Rebecca's description, you would be Tristan." He smiled slightly,"I'm another Amberite, I'm afraid, but don't hold that against me."

"That I am," the silver haired man smiled as he shook the offered hand. The grip of his calloused hand was strong and firm. "Becca's spoke of ya." He cast a fond glance to where his step-daughter and Wyatt were now sitting up, with her in his lap and her legs wrapped around his waist. They were speaking lowly, and it didn't take a mind reader to know the man was more then fond of her. It was in his eyes, and the way his hands rested comfortably on her hips under her duster. Tristan's eyes traveled from there over to Blake. "An' yer beast," he added with some amusement.

The'Beast' in question shoved Blake with his great head, and jogged him forward a step, "Oh, yes, him." Finn smiled, "This is Blake, Blake, this is Tristan, Rebecca's 'Uncle T'." The Tiger-Horse seemed to nod, and strode to Finn's side, lowering his head to get a sense of Tristan's scent.

Tristan smelled of leather and horses; of mountain air and fresh peaches. He held a hand out to the tiger striped horse, standing still while Blake did his thing. "Becca tells me ya fancy a side ' beef now and then. We're plannin' a bbq t'night. Got somethin' set aside jest fer ya."

Another man approached in slim fitting jeans and denim button down shirt. Hazel eyes laughed from under his hat as he watched the pair in middle of the road. He looked a bit like Wyatt, and Finn could guess easily enough he was Zach, Wyatt's brother. Demon's ears perked up at his approach, and the stallion huffed a greeting to the man in the white hat.

Tristan gave Demon an affectionate pat on the side of his neck and the gold maned stallion trotted off towards Zach while nickering to Blake. Tristan turned back to Finn. "Reckon ya rode in hard and could use a beer." He lifted his chin towards the other two. "They're gonna be a while. Got gossip ta catch up on."

"I figured as much." Finn glanced back, and turned around with a smile. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two dark metal tubes, each one containing a very expensive cigar that he Shadowshifted along the way. They weren't Cubans, but they'd be very, very close. "I'd appreciate a beer, but only if you join me in a smoke." He offered one to Tristan, "Don't tell Rebecca, I've been saving these as gifts and smoking her cigarettes." He smirked, and absently patted Blake on the neck.

Tristan laughed and tucked the cylinder into the pocket of his vest. "She won't hear it from me." He turned to the other man and nodded. "This here's Zach. Few years younger then Wyatt; else th' three of 'em woulda been terrors t'gether. But he sure 'nough tried. This here's Finn, Becca's cousin."

Zach just grinned at T and held a hand out to Finn. "Don' listen ta him. He's jest still sore 'bout the time we stole his badge ta play Lawmen n' Outlaws." Tristan snorted in amusement. Obviously Rebecca's habit of doing the same had been picked up from her stepfather.

Finn patted Blake, and whispered to him in the language of the land he'd found him in. "If it's not trouble, we'll need to find Blake a little space of his own, but I think you made a friend offering him meat straightaway." He smiled, "Blake gets on well enough with Demon, but I worry what he'd get up to with the other horses."

Blake made an offended huff, and Finn pushed his head with a smile, "Remember the last time we were on a ranch?"

The hybrid horse dug a hoof into dirt and made sounds that were both horse-like and feline, to which Finn answered, "I know it was a cattle ranch, Blake, but I'm not taking any chances. And I won't ask Tristan to, either. You've got the taste since the Road. Now stop being fussy, or I'll give you squirrel instead of beef."

Finn took Zach's hand, met his eyes, and gave it a firm shake. "Good to meet you, I've heard a lot about you, about all of you." He smiled, "Well, to hear Rebecca tell it, I think the words 'raising holy hell' might have been used." He lowered his voice a touch, "Can't be any worse than the time I tried to ride my Uncle's Horse. Ask Rebecca about Morgenstern. My Father had to get me out of the stall, and then I had to wrestle my Uncle Gerard for as many falls as I could stand. I was stubborn. They had to use a bucket of water to wake me up."

"Done heard about both," Zach replied with a boyish grin that likely broke hearts from here to the other side of Broken Bow. "She swears she's gonna ride that ginormous horse if it's tha last thang she does."

Tristian was rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Reckon we could put 'im up with Demon then. Fences are high, an' its a-ways from tha' herds."

"Back o' the livin' quarters?" Zach asked with a nod.

"Yep." T turned to Demon. "Why doncha take him on back. Ain't nuthin ya need ya can't git to on yer own. Sam'll take yer tack and pour tha beer."

Demon tossed his head and nickered at Blake to follow him.

"If Morgenstern were really a horse, I would not bet against her." Finn smiled in return. He turned and nodded to Tristan, "I agree, he and Demon know each other well, and Demon can spot trouble before it
happens, likely. If we keep him well fed, he'll be fine."

Blake nuzzled Finn, purring for a moment, and then moved off to follow Demon.

"After you, Zach. Rebecca's had me looking forward to a beer here to wash the road dust away." Finn felt more relaxed, a rare thing for him, and he was enjoying the feeling. These were good people; they
reminded him of certain folk in Avalon.

"That's 'cause it's the best beer anywhere," piped up Rebecca's voice as she came up to join the group. Wyatt's arm was across her shoulders, and hers was snaked around his waist with a thumb hooked in a belt up on his opposite hip. She disentangled herself from him and moved over to Tristan.

"Hey, Uncle T," she smiled. Rebecca leaned in and kissed his cheek. In this group, she was the shortest one for a change. Though not by much.

"Rebecca Katherine," he smiled warmly and returned the favor. "I always ferget how quiet this place is when yer gone 'til ya come back."

"Quiet?" Zach snorted. "That's 'cause ya ain't got ta listen ta Wyatt go on an' on…"

Wyatt adjusted his hat and gave his brother a disdainful look that held the promise of payback. He sucked his teeth and looked up at the sky and then drawled one word: "Victoria." Wyatt cocked an eyebrow when he looked back at his brother.

Zach scowled at him a moment then turned to the rest. "Think I'll go get the beers out o' th' ice box." He stopped by Rebecca and gave her a kiss. "Good ta have ya home. Somebody needs to git Wyatt back inta line. Ya know how he is, all rowdy like."

Wyatt ignored him, and Rebecca just grinned. With a nod to the group at large, Zach strolled towards the main house ahead of them. Still grinning, Rebecca held her hand out to Wyatt, who took it and moved to her side. "Finn, this is my oldest friend in the whole world. Wyatt, this here's Finn."

Finn smiled at the phrase 'whole world', and offered Wyatt his hand, "I've heard an awful lot about Rebecca's partner in crime." He nodded, "Good to finally put a face to the name."

"Same here," the cowboy nodded while he shook Finn's hand with his own calloused by horse handling. A whip similar to Rebecca's hung from his belt on one side and a pistol with a grip identical to hers rode on the opposite side. Wyatt was a man of few words for all but a select handful, and that few didn't include Finn.

Finn fell in beside them as they moved, turning to regard the mountains a moment, before looking back. There was no forest, at least not in view, and for the moment that pleased him greatly.

A bend in the road showed him he had been so enraptured by the mountains that he had missed the towering pines behind the house. Rebecca had mentioned hunting deer on the ranch, so their obviously had to be woods somewhere. But towering pines are different from the hardwoods of ancient Arden, and the open plains and pastures were the majority of his surroundings with the mountains standing guard around the valley that held the Lone Pine.

Rebecca and Tristan both pointed out details of the place as they continued the rest of the way to the main house. She broke away several times with Wyatt following her to go greet a horse that nickered at her from the fence. She had always spoke with Demon and Blake easily enough, but this was the first time Finn had seen how universal her gift was.

T kept walking, but he did look over and watch Rebecca with a mare and a recently born filly. "I think some o' tha horses miss her as much as the humans do," he observed with a smile. Then he turned back to Finn.

"Tell me 'bout that beast o' yers that looks like a horse, but clearly ain't."

"If he were around to hear me say it, he'd be insufferable for days. He's my constant companion, more than any of my blades" Finn replied with a small smile, "My Ojirasan, my Father, for all intents, brought Blake to me when I began to lead men on the field of battle in Avalon. He was little more than a colt, but already very well trained, and eager. He's a horse, but he's also a predator. I've heard him called a hybrid, but he doesn't like that, he's as purebred as you can be for his species, or so he claims." He smiled, "Eats meat, hunts and scents like the tiger he seems to be crossed with, and doesn't understand the meaning of the word defeat. He's saved my life more times than I can count, and I do my damnedest not to get into a battle without bringing him along. Where he's from, he, or rather animals like him, are one of the apex predators, mostly because he's fast and he's smart. He keeps his hooves sharp by rubbing them on rough surfaces, and they keep an edge." He shrugged slightly, "He'll get by on horse fare, but if I don't get him meat at regular intervals, no small animal is safe around him. He's got real teeth in his mouth, not just the usual horse bite, fangs and tearing teeth, along with the grinding ones." Finn added proudly, "He's a natural born fighter."

Finn gestured at Tristan, "He has your scent now, and if he had to, he could probably find you at a fair distance anywhere around here by that alone. He's found me that way plenty of times." He chuckled, "Saying anything else would lead to war stories, and that paints him a far less pleasant light, if you take my meaning."

"Reckon I do," he nodded. Reg'lar horses can be right nasty in a fight. Demon's a sight to hear Becca tell it; Ain't never seen 'im really fight to know fer myself. Not sure I want to think too much on one that's got fangs to boot."

They covered the last few yards to the house quickly. The wide veranda surrounded the house, tree trunks provided the supports for the roof of the shaded area, and there were hand built benches and rocking chairs scattered around, with a swing to one side. Zach was already slouching on a bench with a cold beer in one hand. The rest of them were in a bucket of ice on trestle table nearby. Rebecca shrugged off her duster and tossed over the rail before claiming the swing for herself. Wyatt went to fetch a couple of beers. He kicked Zach's feet out of the way with a quiet grunt, making his brother smirk.

Finn smiled at the house and its wide veranda, and looked around, his dark eyes taking in the small details. It was a beautiful place, and a good life. If he had been raised here, would he have given it up, even for his Father. Finn could not be sure. This place was as worthy as Amber, if in its own way. In any case, it was a life he could vacation into, but not one he could keep. Finn removed his sword, and then his jacket. He leaned the sword against the wall beside the door, and hung his jacket from a hook that was likely for something else entirely. He went to get a beer, and assuming Wyatt was grabbing one for Rebecca, he got one for Tristan.

"You all have a beautiful home." Finn told all of them, including Rebecca.

Rebecca shifted her smile of thanks from Wyatt to Finn as Wyatt sat beside her in the swing. "Thank ya. The original house's been expanded on over tha years; tha grandparents had half dozen little 'uns. Needed tha space." She nodded towards Tristan. "Uncle T's tha one that made the porch inta a veranda. Built tha furniture out here too."

Tristan leaned back in his rocker and looked around the area. "It made yer Ma happy." He took a drink of his beer. "An' the pair o' ya had to be asleep 'fore anyone else ever got ta sit in that swing fer years after I hung it."

Wyatt ducked his head, hiding his face under his hat brim. Rebecca gave her step-father a sheepish smile.

Finn opened his beer and found a seat. He took a long pull from the neck of the bottle, and sighed when he lowered it. "Solid furniture." He turned to Tristan, "If ever you're after a career change, I think you've found your alternate trade."

Finn rocked a bit in his chair, smiling as he did so. He looked out at the view, and appeared thoughtful for a moment, before he asked, "How long is the day here?"

"Till it ends," Zach replied matter-of-factly. Rebecca and Wyatt both snorted, making T smile behind his beer.

"A philosopher." Finn smiled. "Next you'll tell me no matter where you go, there you are."

Zach pushed his hat back to give Finn a confused look. He pulled a pack of cigs out of his breast pocket and shook one out for himself before offering Finn one. "Well, ain't ya?"

Finn accepted the offer, figuring there'd be time for the cigars after dinner. "Yes. Indeed." He smirked, "But the real question is this; is life complicated? or do we choose to make it so?"

Zach lit his smoke and waved a hand before offering Finn the lighter. "Life's simple. I chose ranching. Purty simple. Becca says you choose solderin'. Command. Not so simple. As fer Becca-," he gave Finn a sly wink. "Reckon she chose Wyatt; very simple."

"Oi!" the woman in question protested with a laugh. Right as Zach was nailed upside the head with a beer cap."

"I chose warrior. Command chose me." Finn smiled at Zach. "But you are quite right. Have you ever heard of Confucius? I think you and he would have gotten along famously."

"It's 24.48 h'urs," Rebecca supplied in answer to Finn's earlier question. "Accordin' to Dad, and 2 here is one in Amber. We got plenty o' time."

Finn's smile became a grin and he drank more beer, "That means this will be a real vacation." He put his legs out in front of him, and crossed them at the ankles.

"Yep," Rebecca agreed. "T'night they'll be a cook out." She looked over at T to verify this. The man glanced at Zach, received a nod, and then looked back to her. She grinned at Finn. "So, t'morrow, Zach and tha boys will be takin ya into town for a trip ta the Saloon. Since I promised ya one an' all."

"Well, you have assured me, and I quote 'Y'a ain't seen a real'un yet', or something similar." Finn smirked, "I would hate to miss the opportunity when a real one is so close to hand." He exhaled a bit of a smoke, "It is a rough place? Blood Bill's, but a tad more refined?"

"The docks are a tad more refin'd then Bill's," Rebecca smirked. "Reckon it's more like Cock & Bull 'til a fight breaks out -. Then it's good times. Not that Maggie'd ever be caught dead in one of the Dollar girl's git ups." She took a sip of her beer. "An' never try and do that accent again, or I'll haveta shoot ya."

"What accent?" He smiled, "The Cock & Bull is actually fairly civilized. Fights are put down too quickly, at Bill's they don't stop until — well, until it stops." He had more beer, and looked out over the land.

"Ya obviously ain't been there at tha right time," Rebecca said. She pushed herself to her feet and wrapped an arm around Wyatt's waist when he stood with her. "Well, I'm fer a hot shower. A day an' a half of Hellride dust is makin' me feel like I've been ridin' the fence line for a week."

"Guest house open?" she asked Tristan.

He nodded slowly and looked over at Finn. "Ya can stay thar or yer welcome ta stay in the mainhouse. We got plenty room."

"I am up early, and exercise. Perhaps the guest house is best, I would not want to disturb anyone." Finn replied, "Once my exercises are done, I am willing to help around the Ranch, if there is any need."

"If that's whatcha want," Tristan replied amiably. "Fire pits are already fired up fer cookin' fer tonight. reckon the party will start as soon as folks start comin' in from their tasks. Be between the bunk house out back an' the staff cabins." He looked over at Rebecca and Wyatt. "Go on, girl. We kin look after Cousin Finn."

"Reckon ya can," she smiled. Wyatt picked up her duster from the bench and tossed it over one shoulder. "See you fellas in a bit." Wyatt nodded to the group and steered Rebecca off the veranda, heading around towards the back of the house.

Zach watched them leave until Tristan threw another beer cap at him. "Leave 'em alone," he said sternly. "She ain't been home in half a year."

"Weren't gonna do nuthin'," Zach replied far too innocently. T snorted and turned back to Finn.

"How's yer war goin'?"

Finn smiled at the exchange, and gave Wyatt and Rebecca a slight nod before they walked off. His eyes turned out to the view, and he sat back in his rocking chair quietly, until Tristan asked about the war. "Aah, Tristan, you strike me as a man not unfamiliar with violence. Like a lot of things, some days are better than others. I lost a lot of men recently, had to spend their lives, if you take my meaning." He drank his beer down in one final pull, and looked almost sadly at the empty bottle. "Our forces hold. We inflict more damage than we take, usually, but our men are not an endlessly replenishable

"Ain't that always tha way?" Tristan nodded sagely. "Thar's a reason they're sayin "War is Hell." Too many, too young pay fer the folly o' hard headed fools outta touch with reality." The corner of his mouth quirked up slightly. "Or that's tha way it seems ta work among us mere mortals." He pulled his cigar out of his vest pocket and removed it from the cylinder. "Been a stretch o' time since we saw anythang like war in these parts. 'Fore Rebecca Katherine was born." He looked at Zach. "You young'uns don' know. I'd jist as soon keep it that way."

Zach respectfully toasted him with his beer.

"She's tol' us about yer war, Rebecca Katherine did; said it was somethin' we needed ta keep an eye out fer. I don' really und'rstand her and Eric's expl'ination o' the Universe - but Cat - bless her soul - did, an' that was en'ugh fer me." He eyed Finn while using an obscenely sharp blade from a pocket knife to remove the tip from his cigar. "Reckon we've been right lucky so far."

"It's a price that has to be paid. It's not a wasted war, not a matter of the minority hurling the majority at each other in search of land, riches, and glory. We are holding off a conquering force. The
strain will begin to show soon." Finn then nodded in agreement, "Lucky indeed, but not just for avoiding war. This is a beautiful place to call home." He brought out his own cigar, as he said. "I don't think I can add to your understanding of the way of things, but I know that this place will likely be hardened against that kind of concern." Finn could not see Eric not doing something to protect Cimarron, it was just a matter of how long it could be managed.

"Cat said som'thin' like that years back," Tristan nodded. He took a draw on his cigar. Suddenly it was difficult to imagine him without that hat, not wearing that morning coat, and smoking anything but a cigar. He blew out a line of smoke and sighed. "Lordy, I miss that woman. Ya think tha Lone Pine is som'thin' now, ya shoulda seen it when Cat and Rebecca both were 'round. Not like it's fallin' to ruin, or the like. Jist som'thin' 'bout those Harland women."

"I should think being so close to the horses was a great help, having two sure women likely kept you all on the bounce. I can't imagine it looking better, truly, this is a beautiful spot." Finn got himself another beer and sat back down, opening and taking a long pull almost before the mist, caused by cold being exposed to warmth, faded. He sighed, and began to rock in his seat again. "Ever have any desire to travel about a bit? See those worlds Rebecca has told you about?"

"Speakin' ain't jist a Harland gift," Zach said as he stretched his legs out and slouched further down into the bench. "Tristan here does it, Wyatt too. I can a smidge. Not as good as Wyatt. But then he had Becca coachin' him fer years 'fore I came inta tha picture."

Tristan chuckled at some memory before answering Finn. "Rebecca Katherine's told us 'bout lots o' int'rstin' places. But she's got Gypsy Boots, an' I'm more'en content with life here. Might like to visit Amber, jist ta see, but this here's home, an' it's all I need."

Zach nodded sagely in agreement.

Finn smiled at the simple elegance of their personal philosophy. It had merit, and Finn could understand why a man like Eric might pause to take comfort here. "I've a home as well. I return to it as often as I can. It is touched by war, but still, it is home; It is called Avalon, and it is a place of green rolling hills, deep forests, and clear water. The war grinds away at it, but the people are hardy and hopeful, and there are places that are untouched by it." He shook his head slightly, "I've not been home in far too long, but going there would hardly be a vacation."

Another hour or so passed in companionable conversation over beer and cigars. The relaxation was cut short when Zach noted the approach of the small herd of horses from the West pastures. Tristan excused himself to go check with the Lead Rider, leaving Finn in Zach's capable hands.

Zach peered up at the sky and rose to his feet. "Reckon I should git ya settled in an' ready fer the shin-dig." He jerked his head towards a small cabin down the hill between a small lake and the house with woods to one side and a magnificent view of the other mountain range on the other. "This way."

Finn nodded, and got to his feet. "Yes, I could likely do with a bit of washing up." He gestured in the direction Tristan had gone. "I don't want to keep you from your work." He moved to follow Zach and smiled at the cabin ahead of them. "That's more than generous. I'll have the mountains to myself in the morning." Finn walked beside Zach, his eyes torn between the stunning horizon, and picking out the details of his immediate area. "How far away is the next closest ranch or settlement?"

Zach grinned. "This here's seven hundred acres of prime ranchin' land at tha foot of tha Brok'n Bow mountains. It's a ride of nearly a week a-fore we run inta neighbors on that side. It's jist a coupla hours on the opposite direction ta get ta Morganville - where our family's from, or a little further South will git ya to Melrose. Silver City's 'bout thirty miles from here back thataway."

Finn whistled and smiled at the distances, "That's one way to keep your privacy." He looked across the horizon, "And all very open." He paused, "I've been having — trouble — with forests lately. This is a very nice change of scenery for me." Finn looked to Zach as they walked, "Is there much cause for hunting, or do you make do with livestock?"

"Depends," Zach shrugged. "With the woods over yonder, the mountains, an' tha river back that way, we got game available year round, really. Unlike some folks that got ta stock up b'fore winter sets in. Body can slaughter livestock anytime. Though beef tends ta be a might lean in tha middle of winter. Tha Lone Pine's an ideal location. It's one o' tha reasons Catherine refused all offers fer it, even when times was tough."

Finn nodded, and looked around, looking for what would have attracted a man like Eric to this spot. He did not seem like a Prince in need of peace and quiet, though he certainly had an eye for the ladies. He did not seem the down-home rank type, and while Finn would never minimize a Prince of Amber's abilities as a social chameleon, he was still having trouble seeing the appeal. Perhaps he simply did not know Eric very well, or perhaps there was some aspect of Cimarron that was not immediately obvious. "I can certainly understand why the Lady refused all offers. Even without bringing in profit, it is certainly self-sufficient. Not to mention the gorgeous view from just about everywhere I've had time to stand."

Zach hooked his thumbs through his back belt loops and looked up at the mountain range's upper reaches. "Eric calls it a "heroic panorama"." He snorted a laugh and shook his head. "Claims he stopped fer tha view an' stayed fer the company. I reckon Cat was jest that fascinatin'. She was a feisty one. Tellin' him off more of'en then not." He sighed and pushed his back back. "May she rest in Peace."

Finn smiled slightly and snorted, "That sounds like something he might say." He nodded, "I am sure that she was. If Rebecca is any indication, she must have been a remarkable woman." He sighed softly at Zach's sentiment, looking at th horizon. "Yes, may they rest in peace."

Zach didn't ask. He just nodded once and continued on down to the cabin. He stopped at the porch and flashed that grin again. "Come back up ta the house when'ver yer ready. Think you'll find that Rebecca expected ya'd make it here eventually."

Finn nodded, "I will. Thank you." He turned back to Zach, "Yes, I believe that she did. The time was especially ripe." He smiled slightly, and went into the cabin to wash up.

He took the time to clean the road dust from his body and his hair, and put aside the clothes he had worn for the ride. He hung his sword from a peg near the entry door, and debated whether or not he should bother bringing it with him. He was never unarmed, he might leave his sword, but he always had a short blade somewhere on his person. The sword held greater significance, however, leaving it hanging there on the peg would mean that he was also leaving the soldier in the room, since the warrior was always with him.

Finn walked back up the hill perhaps a half an hour later. He was dressed in clothes he'd picked up in Shadow, save for the comfortable boots he always had a tendency not to chance. The jeans were loose
fitting and black, as was the shirt, and the leather jacket was one of those that worked anywhere. He paused to clip the end of a cigar, breathed deeply of the fresh clean air, and then lit the properly very expensive cigar. Finn smiled, and continued on towards the main house.

At his hip — was nothing at all.

He was just in time to met Tristan stepping back out of the house. In the older man's left hand was a black felt cowboy hat, banded with silver conchos. When he saw him, Tristan smiled and gave the hat's brim a brush was his fingertips. Then he held it out to Finn.

"Joe jist brought this back from Silver City. Rebecca ordered it fer ya last time she was home."

"She did?" Finn accepted the hat. He eyed it for a moment, admiring the simple craftsmanship and the silver, and then put it squarely on his head. He seemed a little dubious about it at first, but soon
relaxed enough to ask. "How's it look?" He smiled, and then adjusted it to a more suitable angle, his opinion of that based entirely on films he'd seen in Shadow. "I'll have to remember to say thank you,
or at least not steal her cigarettes."

Tristan chuckled. "Made those conchos herself. Says silverwork's relaxin'. Don't look relaxin' when she's cussin' a blue streak over a piece." He jerked his head towards the direction Rebecca and Wyatt had walked off earlier. "Things're startin' ta get underway. I was jist headin' 'round back."

"That's relaxing for Rebecca. That or a good brawl." Finn fell inbeside Tristan. "I'll join you. Having a shower did wonders, and I'ma bit lighter, literally and figuratively." He smiled, "I hopethere's plenty. I can eat quite a bit."

Tristan laughed. "Son, we've fed Eric, and Rebecca her whole life. Cowboys ain't slouches in that area either. I reckon we can feed you . Jist havta add another side o' beef."


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