A Gunfighter's Hands
by  Holly

 Johnny looked at his hands resting on the table top. He turned them over, palm upwards and examined them carefully. Almost a year of ranching had taken its toll. Roping, branding, putting up fence posts had all left marks on his once smooth hands. He shook his head.  Never in his life before Lancer had he submitted himself to physical labor that involved his most precious commodity - his hands. Smooth callous free, they had earned him his daily bread and kept him this side of meeting his maker, or the more sinister counterpart in the fiery depths.
How different now they were from a gunfighter's hands. He had hardly paid attention to them in the past few months. Scarred hands, cut with fence wire, wrinkled with water, burnt with lasso rope, blistered with hammering even through the leather barrier of thick gloves. How he hated thick work gloves for the way they impeded feeling, made his palms sweat and his grip clumsy. But he was getting used to it, far too used to it.

Gunfighter's hands were made for caressing the soft curves of a woman, or the smooth wooden oiled butt of a pistol; for moving faster than the eye can follow.

Clenching his fists, he examined the gnarled knuckles, reddened and scarred, from fights and friction. Blunt and broken nails, dirt embedded deep, the quick ripped away.

Relaxing the grip, he studied the palms, blistered with hard outdoor work. No longer the hands of a gunfighter, sometimes when he practised flexing the joints creaked like unoiled hinges.

And when that happened his heart would leap to his throat and he would feel the fear burn him. How could he let his edge go so easily? What would happen if the unthinkable were to happen? The unexpected challenge? The goading into a quick draw?  Would the pistol leap from the holster to his waiting supple hand to point eerily accurate at the target, finger bend painlessly, smoothly to a release?

Smooth hands gone, the life of risk and leisure exchanged for this - physical work and a family.  Was it a fair trade off?

A small hand covered his own, barely. A small hand almost as worn as his own, but with delicate narrow fingers, where his were long and solid. Two pale hands now resting firmly on his, creating a nest, a haven. He stared at the hands a moment before raising thoughtful eyes to meet Teresa's smile.

Yes, without a doubt this was a fair trade.



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