DISCLAIMER: Not mine. No profit.

Ratings: G

Gratitude Series: #1

by Tiffany

I'm not in the least bit grateful, you know. I wish to be very clear on this point. No one asked you to leap in front of that bullet like some misbegotten hero out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Least of all, me.

No. I am afraid, my dear sir, that I remain unmoved by your foolish actions. Let the others remark upon your brave deeds. *I* shall confine myself to remarks concerning the unwanted, unasked for, and most definitely unappreciated gallantry of certain long haired, illiterate, former bounty hunters.

There is not a single one of the others who would not rather have *me* lying there in your place. So pale. So still. Instead, thanks to you, they are forced to be content with having one fashionably attired Southern gambler alive and well. And one scruffy, ill bred tracker...

Well, your condition remains to be seen, does it not?

I refuse to feel guilty. I did my best to keep you at a distance. All of you. It is hardly *my* fault if you chose to ignore my attempts and insinuate yourself into my life. Smiling at me, blue eyes twinkling. Inviting me to share in the joke. The warmth. The laughter. The slight drawl in your voice, which became more pronounced each time you convinced me to participate in whatever scheme you and our illustrious leader had concocted in your, surprisingly imaginative, brains.

I may have felt a sneaking admiration for certain aspects of your character; Your ability to inspire respect and lo...and trust in people. Your admittedly superior outdoorsmanship. The honor and loyalty you so effortlessly displayed. The deep compassion you evinced towards those smaller and weaker than yourself. The... Well, anyway, ///cough///; as I was saying. Although I may have had a certain respect for your talents, we were *not* friends. We most certainly were not. We were...comrades in arms. Business associates. Yes. That is exactly what we were. Are. You and all of the others.

And let me just take this opportunity to tell you that I was neither flattered nor touched by your asking me to read your latest poem. By your faith in me, despite my untimely laughter the last time you asked such a favor of me. And you do realize, I trust, that the only reason I agreed this time was because I believe it prudent to remain on the plus side of the ledger when it comes to owing favors. And don't think I consider your misguided bravery in the light of a favor. I never asked you to do it. Remember? So you still owe me.

I must admit, rather grudgingly, that the poem was an acceptable enough offering. Although I never would have suspected you of such high flown sentiment. Ode To Friendship, indeed! Not a topic on which I am an expert. Which is exactly the way I prefer it.

So let me reiterate, my dear Mr. Tanner, I am not grateful. Not for your quiet offer of friendship. Not for your steady presence. Not for saving my life. If you were any kind of a true gentleman, any kind of a friend, you would open your eyes so I could tell you that to your face.

The End

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