A Man Called Arizona
Disclaimer: Still don't own Buffy, never will. I don't own Brisco, either. Though neither show's writers are bothering any more, so someone might as well. . . .
Author's note: I really don't know how obscure The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is, nowadays, but I've had this story burning in my head for awhile now, and it just had to get out. It's slow going, mostly just playing with the characters and the time period so far, but I promise, more action and adventure to come.
Takes off at the end of "Potential", Buffy time, and grabs hold of Brisco, Bowler, and Socrates sometime after the series finale....
A Man Called Arizona (working title, may change)
A BtVS/Brisco County Jr crossover
by Casix Thistlebane
“I should get a cape.” Xander smiled softly and turned to leave.
Dawn couldn’t help a sigh. The two normal ones of the group. She and Xander would have to stick together.
She felt strange, her body tingling. She figured it was adrenaline left over from the fight at the school, until she saw blue flashes arch over her fingers. She stood.
Xander was almost out the door, but he rushed back as he heard Dawn scream.
Her body seemed to waver, surrounded by the blue sparks, and as he rushed toward her, she screamed again.
A green light shot from her, wrapping itself around him. He blinked, and slowed to a stop.
Five minutes later, Buffy came downstairs to check on her sister and found the dining room deserted.
The world that surrounded Xander Harris when the green light cleared from his eyes was not what he’d expected.
He hadn’t really been expecting much, mind you; seven years of knowing and fighting the world of darkness and magic had cleared away the majority of his preconceptions on just about everything. He did not think it was too much to expect that there would still be something solid beneath his feet, however.
As it turns out, there was. It was just about ten feet lower than it had been before.
He landed with a loud crash in a bush. It was several minutes before he managed to extract himself from it and take in any more about his surroundings.
They were decidedly bleak. And almost certainly surreal.
He was standing in the middle of a shallow valley, filled with rocks, dust, and sturdy, prickly bushes like the one he’d landed on. The sun was beating down on to his dark hair, the heat already making him sweat. The air had a dry, clean smell to it that was all but unknown in modern America. A faint breeze did little to cool him off, and sent painful stings of dust into his eyes and the scratches he’d acquired from his rough landing.
He was reminded of the movie version of “The Grapes of Wrath” that he’d rented in highschool to avoid reading the book.
Worst of all, in Xander’s estimation, was the fact that there wasn’t a single other person anywhere that he could see. He fervently hoped that Dawn was alright, wherever she was.
He couldn’t quite hope that where she was was home, working with the others on a way to bring him back.
A few more minutes of watching brought on several more disturbing revelations.
He was thirsty, and there was no water. He was hot, and he couldn’t find shade. He was pretty sure, he was lost, with no idea how to start getting home.
Overall, he figured he was probably going to die.
He set off at a slow, stumbling pace toward the nearest shallow ridge. The sun lay to one side of its apex, but with no idea whether it was moving up or down, he couldn’t be certain of his direction. He twisted both ankles several times on the rough terrain before he found a narrow, untended track to walk along.
Oh yeah, he though, shielding his eyes from the sun. he was a dead man.
Brisco let his mind wander with his gaze over the low hills of Southern California. Comet knew this trail well enough to navigate it without his interference, and for once he and Bowler were in no hurry to get anywhere. They were headed North at a leisurely pace, and not even the promise of a letter from Dixie in China could hurry him.
He smiled. After the year he’d had, losing his father, chasing Bly and his gang all over the West, dealing with destinies, distant futures, orbs, and lately, a near-political coup that placed him and his partner in front of a military firing squad, he felt he deserved a little R&R in the form of the open road.
Not that he’d trade his life in, for anything. He wasn’t ready to trade his dime-novel adventuring for a “normal” life just yet.
“Dang.” Bowler pulled his horse to a halt, tilting his head back and staring at the ground. Comet halted next to him without prompting from Brisco.
“Take a look at these tracks.” Bowler dismounted with an easy swing that belied his bulk. Brisco frowned, and followed suit.
“Whatcha got, Bowler?”
“Nothin’ like I’ve ever seen b’fore.” Bowler knelt down, fingers brushing in the dust next to a footprint. Brisco bent down for a better look.
“Those don’t look like any boots I’ve ever seen before.”
“Those look like boots that ain’t even been made.” Bowler pointed to the center of the print. “Caterpillar.”
“What?” Brisco looked. Sure enough, the word was printed in block letters in the middle of the print. “The treading I can understand. Might give you some good traction in the rocks, but who puts words onto the sole of a shoe?”
Bowler straightened. “They’s fresh. Came through, maybe an hour ago, out of the brush. Headed north.” He took a few steps forward. “This is another one of your ‘comin’ thangs’ ain’t it?”
“Dunno, Bowler.” Brisco adjusted his hat, eyes still focused on the tracks. “Whoever it is, they’re in trouble. Look at the lay of the prints. He’s staggering.”
“You’re thinkin’ to help him, ain’t you.”
“Well, why not? He’s headed our way, isn’t he? There isn’t a town for miles.” Brisco walked back to Comet. “He’d be dead out here without our help.”
“He might be dead anyway.”
“Can’t hurt to check.” Brisco remounted and nudged Comet forward.
“I was afraid you’d say that.” Bowler mounted and followed. “Fine. We find him, take him to town. That’s it, Brisco. No adventures. My crystal’s waitin’.”
“We’ll see, Bowler.” Brisco signaled Comet to canter. “Heeyah!”
Bowler watched his partner for a moment. “Your soft hear is gonna be the death of me,” He urged his horse to follow.
They found him, an oddly dressed young man, no more than 25 years of age, lying beneath one of the few trees along the dirt track through southern California. Even without the bold, yellow letters etched out in yellow rubber on the sole of his boots, Brisco would have known that this was the boy who’s trail they’d been following for five miles now. The skin on his face, as well as that which showed through the tears in his dark shirt was red with sunburn, paled only slightly by a light covering of dust. His lips were chapped into bloody lines, his body stretched out face-down in the dirt, but his chest rose and fell steadily, so Brisco breathed a faint sigh of relief as he rolled him over. He went for his canteen.
“Must have been robbed,” Bowler was saying, still checking over the odd clothing the boy wore. “No supplies on him at all, and not much by way of weapons.” He held up a pointed stick. “Unless you count his tent peg.” Bowler grinned, then pulled out a large wooden cross. “Religious type, looks like.” He stood. “We’ll get him to the next town, but that’s it, Brisco. I don’t care what kind of ‘comin’ thing’ he promises us, or what his danged sob story is. We’re on vacation.”
“You’re all heart, Bowler.” Brisco knelt down next to the young man’s head, lifting it slightly off the ground. He splashed some water on the man’s face, washing away some of the dust. The boy stirred somewhat, but didn’t wake. Brisco jostled his shoulder. “Hey, Arizona. Wake up.”
Bowler raised an eyebrow. “Arizona?”
Brisco pointed to a leather patch on the back of the boy’s denim pants. “His mother must have sewn it on so he wouldn’t forget it.” Bowler shook his head as Brisco continued to shake the boy. He stirred a few more times, but rather stubbornly refused to be woken. Brisco shrugged, and dumped a good third of the canteen on the boy’s eyelids.
That got a response. The kid bolted upright, sputtering, and reached instinctively toward his belt. Not finding anything, he scurried backward away from Brisco, eyes wide. “What the hell?”
Brisco held up his hands, showing them to be empty of anything other than the canteen. “Well, we were kinda hoping you could answer that question for us.”
The kid shook his head, looking from Brisco, to Bowler, who grinned at him. He shrank back a bit more, then resumed staring at Brisco. He shook his head, hands going up to wipe some of the water off his face.
“Okay, I’ve died, and heaven is some kind of Wild West show. I really wish Buffy had warned me about that.”
Bowler snorted, and headed back over to the horses.
“You’re not dead, Kid.” Brisco smiled. “Of course, if we hadn’t found your tracks and decided to follow, you might have been.” He offered his canteen, and the boy took it with a thankful expression, drinking in large gulps. “Woah, slow down. You’ll make yourself sick like that.”
The boy lowered the canteen. “Thirsty. And my name isn’t ‘Kid’.”
“We don’t care what your danged name is.” Bowler tossed the boy his tent peg. “We don’t care what your story is. We don’t–“
“Bowler, come on. Arizona here needs our help.” Brisco shot a look to his partner, then turned back to the kid. “My name’s Brisco County Jr, the surly one over there is Lord Bowler. You think you can identify the men who robbed you?”
The boy blinked. “Xander. Is, um, me.” He shook his head again. “Robbed?”
Brisco frowned. “That’s right. If you can tell us who it was, we’ll help you find ‘em, get your stuff back.”
Xander picked up the tent peg, then set it down on the ground. A cross and a small leather wallet soon followed it. Xander rubbed his head. “This is my stuff.” He shrugged. “I wasn’t robbed.”
“Then what in tarnation were you doing out here without supplies?” Bowler growled. “We’re in the middle of nowhere. What kind of idiot goes out into the California desert without even a canteen?” Bowler looked Xander up and down. “Or a hat?”
“So I’m still in California?” Xander glanced around, then sniffed the air. “This isn’t any part of California I’ve ever seen.” He shrugged. “Not that I’ve seen a lot of it, mind you. . . . Are we near LA?”
Brisco shrugged. “About two hundred miles north of it, give or take. How’d you end up here, Xander?”
“I have no idea.” He shrugged. “Magic, probably.”
At that moment, his brain seemed to catch up with the situation. “Oh shit! Dawn! Where the hell is Dawn?” He scanned his surroundings again, as though whatever ‘Dawn’ was would be lying in the bushes. Then he glared furiously at his two rescuers. “What the hell have you done with her?” He blinked, then swayed, looking as though he might pass out again. “And why are you riding horses?”
“You prefer we were riding rabbits?” Bowler frowned. He didn’t much like the way Xander was staring at him. “And we didn’t do a danged thing with your ‘Dawn’. Sun isn’t even on the horizon yet.”
“No,” Xander rubbed his eyes. “Dawn is a girl. My friend. We were talking, and then this blue light showed up, and she was screaming, and then I ended up here. Wherever that is.” Xander looked back over toward the horses. Comet neighed reassuringly at him. “Um, what year is it?”
Brisco and Bowler exchanged a look. Brisco’s was concerned, Bowler’s said that obviously, this kid had gotten his brain fried in the sun. “1895.” Brisco shrugged. “Why, what year did you think it was?”
Xander had gone pale, beneath his sun burn. He started shaking. “Eighteen–shit. More than a hundred. . . .” His voice trailed off. “Definitely magic.” He lay his head in his hands. “Dammit, Buffy’s going to kill me.”
“So let me see if I’ve got this straight.” Bowler sipped from his beer. Xander, looking worn out and more than a little sore from having had to ride double with Brisco on Comet, had drained half his pint almost before the barmaid had set it in front of him. “You and this Dawn girl got zapped with some kind of blue light, and it sent you back in time?”
Xander shrugged. “Pretty much. 108 years, to be precise. That is, assuming you two aren’t lying to me about the year.” Xander glanced around the saloon. “Which is seeming less and less likely.”
Brisco leaned his elbows onto the table. “This blue light, was it a haze, or in sparks?”
“Sparks. Like electricity, only Dawn didn’t look like she was being electrocuted. She was kind of . . . wavering. Like water, almost. And then a green haze covered everything, and then I was here.”
Bowler glanced at his partner. He knew that look. “Oh no. You think this is some kinda ‘orb’ thing, don’t you.”
Brisco shrugged. “That’s what it sounds like. Well, except the green haze bit.”
“Dang it, Brisco, I thought we were done with that thing when your naked lady took it back to the future!”
“So did I.”
Brisco turned back to Xander. “Yeah. Big golden ball thing, about. . .” He held his hand about two feet apart. “Yay big, with rounded rods sticking out of it all the way around.”
Xander shook his head. “Pretty sure I’d remember something like that showing up.” He looked at Bowler. “And a naked lady from the future?”
Bowler shrugged. “Don’t look at me, damned orb business never made no kind of sense. People wander around naked where you’re from?”
“Er, no.” Xander blushed. “At least, not most of them.”
Brisco smiled. “She said it was easier for long distance time travel. Of course, she was from a lot farther into the future than you are. It wasn’t magic, though, just really advanced science.”
“Don’t rule out magic, just yet.” Xander gulped back more of his beer. “Whatever it was, though, I don’t want to worry about that for awhile. First I need to find out where Dawn went.”
Brisco nodded. “Tell you what, I’ll wire Socrates in the morning, he should be able to get started looking for your friend. We’ve got our rooms for the night, tomorrow we’ll see about getting you a horse and some supplies. Then we can head back down south toward Los Angeles, see if we can pick up her trail. Were her shoes like yours?”
“I doubt it. She was probably wearing sandals or sneakers.” Xander relaxed slightly. “Thanks. I don’t have a lot of paper money, doubt it’d do much good here anyway, since it was minted a good hundred years in the future. But I’ll find a way to pay you back.”
Bowler’s eyes were getting wider and angrier as Xander and Brisco talked. He exploded. “Dang it, Brisco! I said we weren’t going to get wrapped up in his crap! Now you want to spend our hard earned paychecks on him?”
“Come on, Bowler, his friend could be in trouble.”
“You and your danged soft heart.” Bowler scowled and stood. “*I’m* still on vacation.” He stalked off toward the stairs to his room, cursing and muttering the whole way. Xander watched him go.
“He always like that?”
“Just about.” Brisco grinned. “Don’t let Bowler’s gruff exterior fool you, though. By tomorrow morning he’ll be ready to start using his tracking skills to help us out.” Brisco tossed a few bills down on the table to pay for their drinks. “So tell me more about when you’re from. You said you have ‘cells’ to communicate with each other?”
Xander grinned, pulling out a small contraption of metal and plastic from his jacket pocket. “Cell phones. Like a normal telephone, only it works without wires, and is a lot smaller.” He blinked. “Um, you know about telephones, right?”
“There’s been a little bit of news about them. Some guy back East invented them. You can talk over long distances.”
“Yeah.” Xander flipped his cell phone open and switched it on, showing Brisco the various buttons and the flat, glowing screen. “It’s no good to me now, though. There won’t be any reception for it for another ninety years at least.” He switched it off. “And when the battery goes, I won’t even get to play games on it any more. No charger.”
Brisco stared at the small piece of equipment, his eyes alight with a youthful glee. “Do you know how it works?”
“Nope. I’m just a carpenter. Willow could tell you, but. . . .” Xander sighed. “Well, obviously, Willow’s not here.” He tossed back another mouthful of beer.
“Obviously.” Brisco cast a sympathetic glance at the boy. “But I’ve got a friend who’d probably be really interested in taking a look at it. At that, too.” He gestured to Xander’s watch. “You say that thing’s digital?”
“Works using a tiny computer.”
Xander grinned. “Right. Those don’t get invented until the fifties.” He leaned forward. “Just wait until I tell you about television.”
“I done told you, Brisco, I ain’t interested in what the kid has to say.”
Brisco rolled his eyes, watching as Xander tried on every hat in the small general store. “Think about it, Bowler, you come home from a long day on the trail, and you can sit down and choose from over two hundred different plays, right there in your own sitting room.”
“I ain’t interested in the theater, neither.”
“Xander says one of these ‘channels’ is devoted entirely to naked ladies.”
Bowler’s eyes lit up. “Television, huh?”
“How about this one?”
Brisco turned to see Xander, wearing a ten-gallon, white cowboy hat. “It makes you look like an idiot.”
Xander grinned, and tilted the brim up. He squinted one eye and mimed removing a cigar from his sneered lips. “Do you feel lucky, Punk?”
Bowler rolled his eyes. “And now you *sound* like an idiot.”
Xander’s eyes unsquinted as he took off the hat. “That’s okay, I think I got the movie references mixed up anyway.” He blinked. “Not that it matters, since those movies haven’t even been made yet. . . . And you guys probably have no idea what a ‘movie’ is. . . .” He reached for a black bowler hat. Bowler glowered.
“I’m telling you Brisco. He’s insane.” His scowl deepened as Xander donned the hat, glancing into the warped mirror. “And he’s stealing my style.”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t look half as good in it as you do, Bowler.”
Xander seemed to agree. He quickly swept the round topped black hat off his head, reaching for another option, this time a dark brown one with a thin, beaded brocade just above the brim. He settles it onto his head, glancing at himself in the mirror. He tilted it to one side, then the other, then recentered it again. “Leone.”
Bowler raised an eyebrow. “What was that?”
Xander continued to fiddle with the hat, looking in the mirror. “Italy, pretending to be Montana.”
He smiled at his reflection, as Bowler twirled a finger next to his temple.
Brisco shrugged, pitching his voice so as not to be heard by Xander. “Be that as it may be, I still think he’s got something to do with the orb.”
Bowler sneered. “Yeah, well, I’m really wishin’ *you* didn’t.”
“Oh, I don’t know, we could probably learn a lot from the kid.”
“Told you,” Xander walked up to them, still wearing the dark hat. “My name isn’t Kid.”
Xander had added a dark brown canvas coat over his somewhat worse-for-wear denim shirt, which he’d buttoned up most of the way, to cover the even more ripped black t-shirt. His jeans were pretty much intact, as were his boots, so he wasn’t worried about replacing them. He held up two bandanas, a dusky red one, and a bright banana yellow one. “Why do I need one of these?”
“Oh.” Xander glanced between the two bandanas again, hesitating. Brisco rolled his eyes. He’d never seen a guy with such little clothes sense spend so much time deliberating over colors. Obviously, he’d have to go with–
“The yellow one.” Bowler grinned. Brisco shot him a look.
“The danged kid already looks too much like you for his own good, Brisco.” Bowler fingered Brisco’s own red scarf. “You want to dress alike, too?”
“Definitely the yellow.”
Xander grinned. “That’s what I was thinking, too.” He looped the yellow cloth loosely around his neck, then turned to the mirror. And frowned.
He quickly removed it, then grabbed a much more subdued looking pine green one. At Brisco and Bowler’s looks, he shrugged.
“Where I come from, it doesn’t really pay to draw that much attention to your neck.”
Another look was exchanged between the partners, accompanied by more confusion as to whether or not Xander was mentally healthy. Brisco lifted his shoulders again, then handed the clerk a handful of coins for the clothing. Xander shoved his hands into his new coat’s pockets, his shoulders slouching forward as he headed toward the door. “That it? Can we find Dawn now?”
“Well,” Brisco glanced over at Bowler again. “There are a couple more things to take care of. We’ve got to get you a horse, but first, I need to know the answer to one question,”
Xander blinked. “Um, you lost me.”
“Lost me, too.” Bowler raised an eyebrow.
“Can you handle” Brisco pulled his father’s ivory handled gun out of it’s holster, making sure it wasn’t cocked. “One of these?”
Xander blinked at the weapon, shying away from it ever so slightly. “It’s . . . been awhile. And those were mostly flare guns, or higher caliber weapons the army used.”
Bowler smiled. “You were in the army, Arizona?”
“Er.” Xander’s eyebrows scrunched together. “Kind of. It’s a bit . . . complicated.” He glanced back at Brisco. “And why have you guys been calling me Arizona?”
Brisco gestured vaguely toward Xander’s backside. “That’s what it says on your pants.”
Xander blinked. Then he chuckled. He blinked some more, putting a hand up toward his mouth. Then he simply burst out laughing.
Bowler threw his hands up in the air and marched toward where his horse was tied. “I give up, Brisco. From here on out, he’s all yours.”
Brisco watched his partner for a second, then turned back to the kid from the future. “I take it your name *isn’t* Arizona?”
“No. . . .” Xander chortled for a moment, then continued, still grinning. “No, Arizona’s fine. Xander Arizona. It’s got a nice ring to it. Very Old West. At least. . . .” He let out an odd “snerk”ing sound. “At least it’s not Calvin Klein,”
“Alright, Xander,” Brisco stepped back from the wagon, where he’d lined up twelve glass bottles of different colors. “When I say go, you shoot only the bottles that are the color I tell you.” Brisco winced as he saw the awkward grip the boy had on his father’s gun. “Er, but first,” He walked over, and shifted the boy’s grip. “Like that, okay? You’re gonna break your wrist, holding it the other way.”
Xander blinked. “Gotcha. Not used the hand-guns, so much.”
“You prefer a shot gun?”
Xander shrugged. Brisco nodded, then stepped back again. “Okay, GREEN!”
Xander rattled off two shots. One of green bottles burst into shards of glass. The top exploded off of one of the clear bottles. Xander reaimed, and took the second green bottle out a moment later.
“Not bad, kid. BLUE!”
Xander took these shots slightly slower, and managed to hit both blue bottles.
One of the brown bottles shattered, but then the hammer slammed down on an empty chamber. Brisco grinned.
“You’re out of ammo. Got to watch out for that.”
Xander grumbled something about being used to larger cartridges, which Brisco decided to overlook.
“You know how to load it?”
“Yeah.” Xander flipped the revolver open, and fumbled with one of the bullets. “Um, mostly.”
Brisco smiled and watched as Xander managed to load six bullets into the gun. “Alright. See how fast you can take out the last of them.”
Xander aimed and fired. It wasn’t the fastest shooting that Brisco had seen, not by a long shot. It would be awhile before Xander was much good in a fire fight, but he did have some good aim, and a lot of potential. He watched silently as Xander reloaded, flipping another bottle in his hands.
“You’ve got good aim at the stationary targets,” Brisco flipped the bottle again. “How about this?” He threw the bottle high into the air.
It took Xander four shots to hit it.
“Right.” Brisco walked over to retrieve his gun. “We’ll work on that. You wanna try it with a shot gun?”
“Nah.” Xander shrugged. “I’ll keep practicing though.” He grinned. “You should see me with a rocket launcher.”
Brisco raised an eyebrow. “Riiiight. You think you’re up to finding a gun of your own?”
“I really don’t have the money to–“
“If your girl is in trouble,” Brisco holstered his gun. “You’re going to need a decent weapon.” He looked Xander up and down. “Unless you think you can take the bad guys hand to hand.”
“I get by.” Xander adjusted his hat and shuffled his feet. “I’ve been wondering. Do you know anything about a town called Sunnydale?”
Brisco shuddered slightly. “Yeah. It was founded a couple years back, out near where Bowler and I found you.” He frowned. “You don’t think your friend is there, do you?”
“It’s likely.” Xander glanced askance at Brisco, his expression unreadable. “You’re not to keen on going there?”
“It’s not a good area, Xander.” Brisco shuddered again. “Even the federal marshals and the outlaws stay pretty well away. I’ve seen my share of weird places, but that place just gives me the creeps. You better hope Dawn’s landed somewhere else.”
“I’d like to.” Xander glanced at the horizon. The sun was closing in on its zenith. “Don’t think so, though.”
“That’s where I’m from.” Xander looked Brisco in the eye. “The words ‘Boca del Inferno’ mean anything to you?”
“‘Mouth of Hell’.” Brisco shuddered again. “That’s what the Spanish called that area.”
“Yeah.” Xander pulled his ‘tent peg’ from his pocket and flipped it in his hand. “And there’s a damned good reason for that.”
Brisco looked at the pointed stick. “That’s . . . not a tent peg, is it.”
“It’s a stake.”
“And you carry a cross.”
“So should you.”
Brisco leaned back. “You mentioned magic.” He stared at Xander. “What’s out there? In Sunnydale?”
“‘There are more things on Heaven and Earth, Horatio.’”
“‘Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’” Brisco lowered his gaze. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things, Xander. But magic?”
“You don’t have to believe me, Brisco.” Xander tossed him the stake. “But if we’re going to Sunnydale, which I’m pretty damned sure we are, you’re going to need that. Your gun won’t be much good at all.”
Brisco caught the stake and watched as Xander turned and walked back toward the town. He glanced down at the piece of wood, then back up. After a moment’s deliberation, he tucked the stake into his pocket.
If people could travel through time, he sure as hell wasn’t going to write off vampires.
“The paint mare?”
“Pigeon-toed. Sorrel gelding?”
“Plug. How about the buckskin?”
“Dunno, Brisco, it looks spooky to me.”
“It is kind of a snorter, isn’t it.”
Xander stood well back from the corral fence, where Brisco and Bowler leaned, studying the horses. He was pretty sure what they were talking about was complete gibberish, but they seemed to know what they were doing. Seeing as Comet, Brisco’s horse, was the first of the animals he’d ever been anywhere near, much less ridden, he’d decided not to get in their way.
Well, for the most part, anyway.
“Oh,” Bowler straightened, his hand going to his hat as though he were about to remove it. Which he did, a moment later. “Oh my.”
Brisco followed his gaze. “Hm. You’re right.”
Bowler nodded. “You wanna let Comet check her out?”
“Not a bad plan,” Brisco whistled sharply. “Hey! Comet!”
Xander nearly jumped out of his skin when Comet, fully tacked, came trotting past him. The horse had seemed to come out of nowhere.
Brisco lay one hand on the horse’s nose. “What do you think, Comet?”
There was a moment of silence, while, presumably, Comet watched the horses. He tossed his head and let out an impressed neigh.
“Yeah, we thought so, too.” Brisco gestured with his thumb toward Xander. “But do you think Arizona could handle her?”
Comet tossed his head again. Brisco laughed.
“Now, I’m sure that’s not true.”
“Hey!” Xander wouldn’t put money on it, but he had a feeling Comet had just insulted him.
“What do you think, Xander?” Brisco gestured into the corral. “The blood bay?”
Xander winced. “Um, please, nothing with the word ‘blood’ in it.”
Brisco snorted. “It means a deep red horse with a black mane and tail.” Brisco gestured again. “She’s a mare, youngish. Probably got some speed to her, and maybe an attitude. You think you could handle her?”
Xander searched through the various colored horses until he spotted the one Brisco was referring to. The horse was, indeed, a very deep auburn color. It’s coat reminded him more than a little of Willow’s hair, when she was younger. Its hooves were black, up to what he figured was the horse equivalent of its knees, except for the left front leg, which had black up toward its shoulder. Xander adjusted his new gun belt as he watched it prance slightly, away from the other horses. He stepped around the two partners, moving to one end of the fence to get a better look.
The mare trotted over in his direction, then halted and stood about four feet away, watching him. He leaned forward.
She wasn’t too big, maybe a little shorter than Comet, and she had an intelligent gleam in her brown eyes that made him think of Willow and Dawn. He reached out a hand, fingers held flat the way Brisco had shown him when he’d helped feed Comet that morning. She walked slowly forward and snuffled into his palm. Xander felt his eyebrows draw together slightly. She whinnied, then snorted slightly at his hat.
Comet neighed, nudging Brisco, and the mare whinnied back.
“Great,” Bowler scowled. “Another danged smart horse.”
Comet and the mare neighed in unison at him, causing Brisco to laugh softly. “It’s okay, Comet. He doesn’t know any better.”
Xander lay a hand on the horse’s neck, and she turned back toward him.
“A fine choice, gentlemen!” The horse’s owner, a rather slimy looking man who reminded Xander rather a lot of Willy, sauntered over. He wore a short, straw hat with a red white and blue band across it, and Xander had to remind himself that just because to his modern tastes, the man looked ridiculous, that didn’t mean he wasn’t to be respected.
“Nice hat.” Bowler’s mouth quirked up to one side.
Of course, it could be that the man looked ridiculous to Old West tastes, as well.
“You got your eye on Phoenix, there?” The man ignored Bowler, talking instead to Xander. “She’s just a year past her breaking, but a dang fine filly. She’ll serve you well, if you treat her right.”
“I know a thing or two about how to treat a lady.” Xander grinned up at the mare, who whinnied softly, nuzzling into his hand again. Brisco smiled.
“Is she bridle wise?”
“All my horses are, sir. If you’re looking for a good, strong gal, and a smooth ride, Phoenix should do you.”
“Hrm.” Brisco glanced consideringly at the mare again, who snorted at him. “Let’s see her teeth.” He stepped over beside Xander, and with a nod from the proprietor, pulled back Phoenix’s lips.
Xander leaned over to him so that he could talk softly without giving away to the salesman that he had no idea what he was looking at.
“What’s so important about the teeth?”
“They can let you know if the horse is well taken care of or not, tell you her age, and give you a bit of an idea how she’ll handle.” Brisco leaned down to get a better look at the bottom teeth. “And if the horse has been abused.”
Xander’s eyebrows rose. “So that’s why you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“You look *every* horse in the mouth, Arizona.”
tbc. . . .