By Gina D
Disclaimer: Don't own them, making no money.
Comments: Several years ago someone posted a collage they made of MB coming out of a bottle. It made me wonder, just what sort of genie would Chris Larabee make. This is my answer.
Acknowledgement: To the wonderful artist who created the original picture. I lost your name but if you see this I would love to have a copy of the pic for this fic.
Notes: I wrote this several years ago but never archived it. So with some minor edits, here it is.
The morning cool might be edging into noon heat but the men working in the ruined cliff dwelling hardly noticed in their excitement. From base camp Vin Tanner stared up at the three men huddled around something they'd found. From what he already knew of the three, it was probably nothing more exciting than a broken pot. Course if Dr. Jackson was over there it might be some sort of bone. Dr. Standish was the one who got excited by broken pottery. Dr. Sanchez was more into the mystical aspects of a vanished race who'd left behind nothing but their homes cut deep into the side of a cliff. With a grin Vin turned to look for his camp helper, JD Dunne. The kid was young, barely 19 and eager, but he knew his horses and didn't goof off. Not spotting him immediately Vin yelled, "JD!" Sure enough a dark head popped up over by the horses. Vin raised his rifle a bit, "I'm going hunting." JD nodded enthusiastically then disappeared behind the large bay Dr. Sanchez rode. Vin headed out of camp, glad to let the peace of the forest surround him.
There were lots worse places a man could be, Vin thought, than the Big Horn Mountains in 1920. Last year at this time it had been war trenches in Europe. Shaking off the dark thoughts of those days in the mud he took another deep breath. Yes Wyoming was the perfect place to regroup from the horrors of war. Even riding herd on three professors from the University of California wasn't too bad. Vin had been expecting real dudes and was please to find that the prof's were experienced campers. Even the southerner Standish for all his manners and insistence on bringing in a fancy air mattress knew what he was doing. Really now that he'd led them into this remote canyon with it's untouched cliff dwelling all Vin found he had to do was keep the camp in meat. JD did most of the chores without even having to be asked.
Thinking of young JD brought a frown to Vin's face. The kid looked seventeen, but he'd been in Europe last year too. Vin hadn't intended to hire any help, but then JD approached him saying he'd work for room and board. Vin knew there was more to it. Turned out that JD's mother had died while he was in Europe, leaving very little behind. JD had taken what money there was and bought a rail ticket to Wyoming. He told Vin he just wanted to see the mountains, but Vin recognized the boy's harsh cough. It was one a lot of men had brought back with them, caused by exposure to mustard gas. Vin didn't think a summer in the mountains was going to cure JD. Nothing would so he figured the kid might as well do what he wanted. Sides Dr. Jackson had started out as a medical student and Vin knew he was keeping an eye on the kid.
A crash in the brush along the creek reminded Vin what he was out there for. Grimacing slightly at forgetting that, Vin pushed through the brush to look for tracks. A glint of sun flashed off something half buried in the mud. Grimacing at evidence that someone else had been in this valley leaving trash behind, Vin dug out the bottle. It was oddly heavy and strange shaped. It also surprisingly still had a cork. Dipping the bottle in the stream Vin used his hands to wash off the outside mud. As he rubbed at the mud the bottle seemed to shake in his hands. All of a sudden the cork burst out of the top startling Vin enough that he let go of the bottle falling back on the creek bank. The bottle fell on its side as what looked like smoke started to pour out of it. The smoke gathered forming into a figure, a figure that solidified into a blond man wearing nothing but black pants slung low on his hips. As Vin gaped at the stranger the blond looked around him like someone assessing a threat before turning his attention back to Vin.
"What year is it?" the blond snapped. When Vin didn't instantly reply he added, "Stop looking at me like that kid and tell me what the year is."
"1920." Vin managed, wondering if his grip on reality had just taken a sudden turn or if he was really sitting in some military hospital and this was just his latest delusion.
"Where are we?"
"Wyoming, Big Horn mountains," Vin shook his head. "Did you just "
"Pop out of a bottle, yeah," the blond looked even grumpier at the admission.
"Who, what?" Vin stopped not sure what to ask.
"Names, Chris Larabee," Chris snapped his fingers and a small cigar appeared already lit, "I'm a genie. So make a wish." The last bit was growled out as if it pained him.
Vin stared at Chris for a moment then slowly climbed to his feet. Without a word, he brushed off the worst of the mud on his pants then picked up his rifle, checking to see it was still clean. Resting the rifle across his shoulders Vin started walking away, following the creek.
"Hey kid, where are you going?" Larabee yelled. This was followed by a curse. Vin looked back to see the other man hopping on one foot trying to pull a sticker out of the other. Finally getting it out, Larabee snapped his fingers again, adding boots and a shirt to his outfit. Cigar clamped firmly in his lips he stamped over to where Vin still watched. "Look kid, you can't take off, we've got to get this wish thing settled. You've got three so let's have them."
Vin just shook his head and started walking again. After a second and a couple of curses Larabee fell in beside him. They walked in silence for a bit until Larabee made a sort of growling noise grabbing Vin's arm. "Enough already, I've got better things to do than hike through the woods. Now it's easy, you let me out you get three wishes. So make them already."
"Don't call me kid, names Vin Tanner." Vin glared at the other man. "I been doing a man's job since thirteen."
"Well I'm a lot older so you're a kid to me."
"You're a pushy hallucination."
"Do I look like a hallucination?" Larabee shouted.
"Well you ain't real," Vin shouted back. He was a bit surprised at how easily the hallucination had made him loose his temper.
The two men glared at each other for a moment. When Larabee spoke again, his tone was almost reasonable, "I think we got off to a bad start how about you just make your wishes and I'll be out of your hair."
Vin shook his head no, "Forget it, you ain't real. Sides I don't need anything"
This seemed to stun Larabee, he didn't even react when Vin started to walk away. Thinking he'd finally put his hallucination in its place, Vin started to relax looking for tracks again. Though the way he'd been yelling, there probably wasn't a deer for miles by now. Funny how after all this time
"Hey kid we aren't done yet."
Vin groaned as Larabee popped into view in front of him. "Go away."
"Can't." Larabee looked rather grim. "I owe you, so lets get this over with."
"I thought Genie's were supposed to be more polite? How'd a grump like you get the job?"
If anything Larabee's expression got even grimmer. He muttered something too low for Vin to hear.
Vin shook his head sinking down onto a nearby rock. "How long?"
"Musta really pissed somebody off." Vin easily ignored Larabee's glare.
Larabee stared at him for a moment then erupted, "Look this is simple, three wishes and I'm gone. So make them already. I'll even make it easy, how about the big three?'
"Big three?" Vin grinned slightly, he'd decided he might as well get some enjoyment out of this hallucination. Who knew genies were so touchy.
"Sure, wealth, power, women." Larabee stomped closer stabbing at Vin with his cigar. "Every red blooded man wants those."
Through a haze of cigar smoke Larabee studied this annoying new master. Blasted kid didn't seem to care he was playing with fire. All Chris wanted was to grant the wishes and go back into his bottle. He didn't want to be part of the world, hadn't wanted to for centuries. Most people were easy, give them what they wanted and be done with it. Most self-destructed, a few survived, Chris had long ago stopped caring either way. This one was different, he wasn't afraid of Chris or greedy, didn't seem to care what he was passing up. Chris' thoughts were interrupted when Vin suddenly stood up, rifle flowing to his shoulder. There was a single shot then Vin took off through the creek brush. Grumbling under his breath, Chris followed. He found Vin leaning over a buck, knife already out.
"Nice shot," Chris said grudgingly. He watched at Vin gutted the animal, skinned it then cut out the best parts of meat and piled them on the hide. When he was finished he walked back over to the creek to wash his hands and knife. Chris was rather impressed when Vin made a package of the meat and hide, attaching it to a small travois he made from some aspen saplings. Chris couldn't remember the last time he'd watched someone work. With a Genie around most people wouldn't. "You just going to leave the rest?"
"Yep." Vin picked up the ends of his makeshift travois then looked up toward the nearby cliffs. "There's a mama cougar round here, figure she can use the help."
Chris followed after the travois wondering about this quiet man who didn't want gold or jewels and shared his kill with a cougar. For the first time in centuries he was actually curious about someone.
Vin did his best to ignore the imaginary guy walking next to him. It was really too bad he'd survived the war only to go nuts now. Still seeing things didn't mean you couldn't go on working. Walking steadily Vin tried to recapture some of the peace he'd felt earlier. The genie kept quiet which helped immensely. When they came to the place where Vin had found the bottle Larabee stopped.
"You can't leave it here."
Vin stopped, looking back at Larabee, the genie was pointed to the bottle. "Why not?"
"Because, it's yours, unless you're ready to make some wishes." Larabee looked sort of hopeful.
"Told ya, no." Vin turned back to start walking. He'd only taken a few steps when Larabee appeared beside him holding the bottle. Vin looked from it to Larabee then with a sigh, took the bottle, tucking it in his jacket pocket before he started walking again. Larabee fell in beside him, a silent dark shadow.
Vin expected his hallucination to disappear before he reached camp, but Larabee was still there when JD hailed him.
"Hey Vin, you're back. Who's your friend?" JD nodded in his friendly manner at Chris. "Hi mister, are you lost? Would you like some coffee?" Before Chris could reply to either question JD turned back to Vin, "So what did you get? Can I help with anything?"
A bit staggered by the fact JD could see Chris it took Vin a moment to gather his thoughts. JD was used to Vin's thoughtful ways and just kept on jabbering to a slightly overwhelmed looking Chris. It was that as much as anything that snapped Vin back.
"JD, JD!" Vin had to raise his voice slightly to get the younger man's attention.
"JD, you can see him?" Vin jerked a thumb at Chris who was cautiously sipping the coffee JD had just given him. Catching Vin's eye, Chris' smirk said, told you so.
JD looked from Vin to Chris then back, "Uh yeah, why?"
"Describe him?" Vin growled.
JD looked a bit confused but obediently said, "He's tall, blond hair, dressed in black. Vin what's going on?"
"Your friend thought I was an illusion," Chris helpfully said.
"Why'd you think that?" JD was vibrating now with curiosity.
"Cause I'm a genie." Chris seemed to take almost malicious delight in saying it.
"Really?" JD stared at him wide-eyed. "That is so neat!"
"What's neat JD?" The professors were back from their cliff dwellings.
"Dr. Sanchez, Vin found a genie!" JD shared the information at the top of his lungs then broke into a coughing fit.
"Easy now," Dr. Jackson moved over to support him. The other two professors were staring at Chris, one with thoughtful interest, the other with deep suspicion. Groaning Vin dropped down on a log, either he was having the mother of all hallucinations or he'd just inherited a for real genie.
Once he had his cough under control JD jumped into action again as if hoping to pretend nothing had happened. Bustling around the fire, he started pouring coffee for everyone. The professors accepted their cups while continuing to stare at Chris. It was Standish who finally broke the silence.
"You don't expect us to actually accept your preposterous claim?"
Chris glared at him, "You are?"
"He's Dr. Ezra Standish, that's Dr. Nathan Jackson and that's Dr. Josiah Sanchez," Vin provided introductions. "You met JD Dunne first. This is Chris Larabee."
"Interesting name for a genie?" Josiah said.
"Wasn't always a genie," Chris grumbled.
"Indeed what were you?" Nathan had moved closer and was now circling Chris.
"Oh please, you gentlemen aren't really going to give any precedence to this outrageousness." Ezra snorted. "The man is some sort of charlatan." Stomping closer to Chris, Ezra threatened in his southern drawl, "You sir will not find us easily fooled. I learned the art of the con at my mother's bosom. Whatever game you intend I warn you now to desist."
Chris glared at the smaller man for a moment then said, "You talk to much."
"I'm not the," Ezra started to say stopping suddenly. A look of horror crossed his face as he opened and closed his mouth, not a sound coming out. Nathan and Josiah rushed to his side. Chris studied the scene with a rather satisfied look as he snapped another cigar into existence.
"Undo it," Vin said firmly. Chris just arched an eyebrow. "He was annoying me."
"Don't care," Vin moved right up into Chris' face. "Undo it."
The two men stared at each other for a moment, before Chris snapped his fingers. Vin looked over to Ezra, "You okay."
"Yes I believe so." Ezra glared at Chris.
"Josiah, you know anything about genies?" Vin asked.
"I've run across some writings on the subject. Course I always thought they were more fairy tale than fact." Josiah smiled slightly, "Looks like I was wrong."
"You know any of the rules?" Vin turned toward the older man.
Josiah looked thoughtful, "What exactly are you looking for?"
"How do I get rid of him?"
"Easy," Chris snapped, "three wishes. Name em and I'm gone."
"From what I remember depends on what kind of genie he is." Josiah said thoughtfully. "Like regular folk, they have both good and bad. The bad ones always find a way to turn your wishes back on you."
"So is he good or bad?" JD stage whispered to Nathan.
"I have an opinion," Ezra muttered still rubbing his throat.
Everyone stared at Chris who glared back puffing on his cigar. Finally Vin broke the silence. "JD, let's get this meat salted down. Josiah you still thinking about cooking some indian style? If so we'll get you some of that clay you found?"
"Baked venison sounds mighty fine." Josiah grinned appreciatively. "But it takes several hours to cook."
"We'll have that for dinner then," Ezra said.
"I saw some wild asparagus down by the creek," Nathan said. "I'll go get some."
Chris watched the ensuing shuffle that followed with a bit of amazement. Even Ezra dug into the cooking supplies for salt and other seasonings they'd need. He then started thinly slicing a piece of venison while Josiah worked on the roast. After a couple of minutes Chris edged over next to Vin and in a rather grudging tone said, "There isn't any need to go to all this trouble. I can provide the meal." Misreading Vin's expression he added, "won't even cost a wish."
"Nice offer," Vin straightened making a gesture at the ongoing activity. "But sometimes it's nice to do for yourself. You could go get some more wood if you want."
Chris thought on this for a moment then turned, disappearing into the brush.
"That will work better if you edge the coals with these." The words accompanied by three heavy thumps startled Ezra so badly he almost fell into the fire. Only a quick grab by Chris saved him. Once he had Ezra steadied, Chris took the three long narrow rocks he'd brought and arranged them around the fire, enclosing it in a pyramid shape. Snapping his fingers he overlay a metal grill on them. Then taking the frying pan from Ezra he laid on top.
"Uh thanks," Ezra stuttered.
Chris shrugged looking kind of irritated, at himself, Ezra, or the fire it was impossible to tell. He strode off without another word physically disappearing at the edge of camp.
Lunch was a quiet affair with everyone thinking about the recent events. When Vin suddenly stood up looking down the canyon intently everyone paid attention.
"What is it?" JD asked, standing on his tiptoes trying to see whatever it was Vin saw.
"Company coming." Vin moved over to where he'd left his rifle. Chris appeared suddenly at his side, he was now wearing a black gun belt with an ivory handled Colt. Both men shared a warrior's look.
"Think its trouble?"
"No reason for anyone else to be up here." Vin picked up his rifle, automatically checking it over. "Someone might think three archeologists, a sick boy and me are easy pickings."
Chris looked back over his shoulder not surprised to see that the other four men had all produced pistols from somewhere. "Someone would be an idiot."
"Yep, especially if they're local." Vin shot a look at Chris' gun belt, "Nice Colt, any good with it?"
Chris grinned in a rather feral manner, "Some say so."
"A gun carrying genie, thought my day couldn't get any stranger," Vin murmured.
The whole camp waited, as the sounds of at least a couple of horses grew closer. Due to the layout of the valley, the riders were invisible until they rounded the bend. Vin had produced a spyglass and now had it trained on where the trail first curved into sight. When the rider finally came into view Vin let out an amused huff lowering his glass.
"You know him?" Chris held out his hand for the glass.
Vin passed it over, "Yep, that's our backer. He's sponsoring the dig." Chris raised the glass and took a long look while Vin continued. "Said he'd come up and see how we were getting along. Never figured a rich dude like him would try it on his own. Lucky he didn't end up at the bottom of some ravine." Chris lowered the glass with a grunt. Handing it back, he disappeared. Vin shook his head, wondering why he picked now to not be seen. Turning towards the others, he said, "Looks like Wilmington took you up on your offer Josiah."
Josiah tucked his own pistol away before joining Vin. "I do believe there is more to Mr. Wilmington than a hefty wallet."
Buck Wilmington was a very wealthy man. Besides his Wyoming ranch he supposedly owned homes in New Orleans, Berkeley, and Greece. His family had owned the Flying W since the middle 1800's but it was only in the last year that Buck had taken up residence there. Since 1888 the family had managed the ranch long distance. When he'd approached Josiah about the unknown cliff dwelling the archeologist has been suitably excited especially when Buck offered to subsidize the dig. The tantalizing prospect of an untouched site plus a generous backer had made it easy for Josiah to tempt his fellow professors to spend a hot Wyoming summer in the mountains. Vin, newly back from the war, had been suggested by Buck's foreman as a man who knew the country and more importantly how to survive it. Vin had spent the month before the expedition at the Flying W getting ready. Vin had gotten to know the rancher then and found him a man to respect. Still when Buck said he might mosey up and see how they were doing Vin didn't really expect him to show. But here he was, on the big gray he favored, grinning down at them.
"Howdy boys. Brought the mail and some supplies," Buck indicated the two mules behind him. Oddly, following behind the mules was a black gelding, fully saddled and looking none too friendly.
"You're most welcome," Josiah said, moving to shake his hand. After the first rush of greeting everyone helped unload the mules. Vin and JD then took the animals off while Buck visited with the professors. Vin had JD tend the mules while he did the horses, leaving the black until last. Prepared for anything Vin started to unsaddle the gelding while keeping a sharp eye on his teeth. He was pleasantly surprised when the gelding did nothing more than glare at him in a manner reminiscent of Larabee.
"Glad to see Shade hasn't taken a bite out of you yet." Buck could sure move quiet for a large man. Vin wasn't sure how he felt about being snuck up on.
"He's a fine animal." Vin ran a hand down Shade's leg. "Bring him for a reason?"
"Maybe," Buck shrugged, "we'll have to see. You got some mail."
Vin found the comment slightly too mysterious for his mood that day, but he let it drop taking the envelope. It was from the government, probably something about his discharge or veterans benefits. Vin had received a couple of such letters since getting home. He found them annoying reminders of something he was trying to forget. Stuffing it into his jacket he nodded to Buck, "Thanks."
"No problem, hope none of it's bad news.
"Nope," Vin nodded a small smile on his face.
"Well Josiah wants to show me what they've found so far." Buck indicated where the professors were waiting for him. "See you later."
Vin watched him walk away thoughtfully.
"What does he want?"
Vin was starting to get used to Chris suddenly appearing. This time he'd almost been expecting it. "He's the man paying for all this. Guess he just wanted to check up on us."
Chris looked at Vin out of the corner of his eye. "I could give you enough money for a hundred expeditions."
"Do you ever give up?"
"No, I'll make your life hell until you make those wishes."
"Well that explains it I guess." Vin started to walk away.
"Why someone threw you away in the middle of nowhere."
Chris studied Vin's shrinking form, a glint of respect in his eyes.
Dinner was festive with Buck around. The rancher had brought not only brought the mail and fresh food, he'd stuck a bottle of good whiskey in. After a dinner of roast venison, baked potatoes, fresh vegetables, and biscuits everyone sat back with coffee laced whiskey.
"Dang I almost forgot," Buck jumped up heading over toward the packsaddles. "Got something else to go with that coffee." He rummaged in one of the panniers pulling out a packaged wrapped in butcher paper. Bringing it back over to the fire, he said, "My cook calls these Poorboy cookies. Not sure why cause they ain't a cookie and he soaks the raisins in my best brandy, but anyway." Buck unwrapped the package, placing it in the small dishpan before handing them around. Inside were what looked like small cakes, golden brown studded with raisins. Time passed as everyone sipped their coffee and consumed dessert. Talk was general focusing on the ruins and what the professors hoped to accomplish. Vin let it all drift over him enjoying the evening breeze. So when Buck asked, "Anything else interesting turn up?" it took Vin a minute to react to the sudden silence. Pushing his hat up he looked at the others. So far no one had mentioned Chris, their silence now told Vin they would leave it to him. Taking his time Vin sat up, taking another sip of his coffee before he said, "Think there's a mama cougar up in the back of the canyon. Saw some tracks this morning."
"Do we need to be concerned?" Ezra asked.
"Nah, huntings too good for her to want our horses," Vin reassured.
"Well if she does come down around the horses, Shade will let us know," Buck informed everyone. "He pure don't like cats."
"Good to know," Vin stood up, "Gonna take a walk."
Buck watched him walk away then stood up stretching. "Think Vin's got the right idea. I'm going to stretch my legs." He left the fire circle in the opposite direction Vin had taken.
"I wonder why Vin didn't tell Buck about the genie?" JD said.
"Well without the proof on the hoof so to speak that might be hard to do." Josiah stood up. "I'm for bed.
Buck Wilmington was a thoughtful man as he wandered along the canyon. It looked like his plan had failed so far. Maybe he needed to guide things along a bit. Tomorrow he'd take young JD exploring, maybe invite Vin too. Course first he had to find the damn bottle. It was in this canyon, but Buck wasn't sure exactly where.
The quiet words cut across Buck's thoughts like a knife startling him enough he actually jumped. Whirling he stared at the familiar black clad figure. No matter the century or fashion Chris always wore black. Buck noted the Colt in its holster. Well Chris had probably found the 1800's his favorite time since the Crusades. Buck knew he'd enjoyed it.
"Chris you old war dog." Buck grabbed the other man in a hug. Chris endured the hug for a moment before stepping free. Snapping a cigar up, he offered it to Buck then produced another for himself. "You look good Buck."
Still smiling Buck smiled back. "You too, its sure good to see you after all this time."
"Guess I have you to thank for this intrusion." Chris half-heartedly growled.
"It was time Pard. You've been lost up here a long time."
"Maybe I was content to be lost. How'd you find me anyhow?"
"It took some doing." Buck sat down on a convenient rock. "I tracked you to that Russian Count in 1866 then it was like you just disappeared. Finally about ten years ago I ran across an old journal written by a cavalry lieutenant. It talked about an Sioux attack on some Russian bigwig. How the guy was livid, wanted his property back especially an old bottle. Lieutenant said they chased the indians into this part of the country then they disappeared. From there it was just a matter of riding the hills until I felt you."
Chris snorted, shaking his head. Buck made it sound so easy, but he knew better. Just to find the journal had taken a minor miracle. He had to wonder how many hills Buck had ridden to get close enough to feel him. The range they could feel each other was about a mile. If Chris was making an effort to shield himself, like he'd been doing today it was impossible. "Buck you've got to be the most stubborn man I know. How'd you talk a master into letting you do all that?"
"Well I ain't had a master in about a hundred years Stud." Buck looked highly pleased with himself.
"What?" Chris' voice was a whip crack.
"Yeah, met this little filly. Sweetest little thing worked in a parlor in New Orleans. Got her, her own house, some pretty jewels." Buck waggled his eyebrows, "Gave her some loving, Wilmington style and she used her third wish to free me. Been looking for you ever since."
"Now you're looking to save me." Chris waved a hand, "This is one of your ideas. Drag a bunch of scholars up here and hope one of them finds me? How is that going to help?"
"Now calm down Chris. I checked these men out, they ain't angels, but they do have a real good sense of justice."
"Had a run in with him huh?" Buck chuckled. "Well if it don't involve a card game I think we can trust him. He's too cautious to make wishes without thinking through all the angles. He found the bottle then?"
"No, Tanner did. What?" Chris asked seeing the hesitant look in Buck's eyes.
"Well, it's just that I don't know much about him. Was gonna have my foreman bring the professors all up, but he recommended Tanner instead. I like him though. What about you?"
Buck laughed, "You like him."
"Didn't say that."
"You don't need to Stud. Yeah he'll do to ride the river with."
Chris glared at his oldest friend for a moment then deliberately changed the subject. "So how come you're still kicking around a hundred years after being freed?"
"Well I'm guessing has something to do with the curse. Remember, your fate is my fate. So as long as you're a genie, so am I." Buck punctuated his words by winking a glass of whiskey into his hand. He passed it to Chris before conjuring one for himself. Turning serious he said, "It's time to end this Chris. Can't you feel it? Magic is passing out of this world."
"I feel it."
"I figure we don't end this soon there won't be enough left."
"Shut up Buck." The words were harsh, but the tone was soft. The two men fell into a comfortable silence sipping their whiskey.
Vin backed quietly away. He'd heard enough for now. Back at camp in his bedroll he thought about everything he'd learned.
The camp was woken in the morning by one of JD's coughing spells. It was a particularly bad one, taxing both Nathan and Josiah skills. When it was over Nathan insisted JD stay in bed for a while. Vin's sharp eyes saw the blood stained cloth despite the kind professor's efforts to hide them. Buck saw them too with a sad look at the youth he went to tend the horses. Vin followed him. As they tended the stock Vin asked, "Can't you do something for him?"
Buck looked over cautiously, "Not sure what you mean."
"You're a genie too, can't you make JD well?"
Buck gave a heavy sigh, "Wish I could. I'd do it in an instant. But there are rules." Vin noted he didn't seem surprised that Vin had figured out his secret. "Minor magic versus major. Major requires a wish."
"So you can conjure whiskey and cigars but you can't save a boys life?" Vin didn't understand how someone could have that kind of power and not help others.
Buck looked at him steadily refusing to take offense. "You saw us last night."
"Yeah, something wasn't right. Wanted to find out what it was."
"How much did you hear?"
"All of it I think. Why didn't he just ask me?"
"How many folks do you think would free a genie just cause he asked?"
Vin studied Buck with narrowed eyes then nodded sharply. "Good point." Raising his voice Vin called, "Show yourself cowboy."
"Did you just call me a cowboy?" Chris appeared glaring at him.
"Yeah, got a wish for you."
Chris arched an eyebrow, "Really well let's have it then."
"Want you to fix JD's lungs."
"You got to make it official," Buck counseled. "Be real specific about what you want and say I wish."
Vin wondered if he looked as silly as he felt. "Okay. I wish you would repair the damage to JD's lungs he received from the war."
Chris actually smiled. "Granted."
Vin nodded, "Thanks." He jerked a thumb back towards camp, "Before I make my other wishes, I have to talk to the others."
"Well I'll be." Buck whispered as he and Chris watched Vin walk toward camp.
"But Nathan I'm feeling better." JD argued as he tried to get out of his bedroll.
"Forget it JD, you need to rest those lungs." Nathan replied one hand firmly planted on JD's chest.
"You can let him up Doc." Vin squatted down next to JD. "How you feeling?"
"Great!" JD's new health shone from his eyes. "My chest doesn't hurt for the first time since " The words trailed off as JD's eyes widened. "You didn't."
Vin shrugged, "Good camp help's hard to find."
The others had caught on by now. Like Vin they'd found JD's youthful enthusiasm and refusal to let his illness dim it refreshing. As Nathan pulled out his stethoscope to listen to JD's lungs, Josiah clapped a heavy hand on Vin's shoulder. "Good use of a wish son."
"Very good," Ezra agreed softly.
Their praise made Vin uncomfortable. Looking to change the subject he said, "Want to talk to you all before I make my next one."
"I want to free him." Vin didn't need to say who he wanted to free the others knew. "Figured if something goes wrong the four of you are in the crosshairs so to speak. So I'm giving you a vote."
"I think it's a great idea!" JD exclaimed.
"I don't know, is it wise to give a being of such power free rein?" Ezra asked in a general manner.
"If it helps, Buck's one too. He's been free for a while now. He couldn't heal JD, said it took to much magic for him." Vin's added information helped to reassure the others.
Josiah nodded at Vin's words, "That's good to know. I vote with JD."
Nathan said quietly, "Slavery isn't right even if it does come with power. I say free him."
Everyone then looked to Ezra sighed heavily. "With reservations I will cast my lot with the majority. When is this event to take place?"
"Now's as good a time as any." Vin stood up. "Cowboy, ahhh." A blast of energy grabbed him, throwing him across the camp. As the others scrambled for their guns another blast struck Vin shoving him against a tree. A small woman with dark hair appeared in the center of the camp her arm extended toward Vin. She was dressed in a long dress the color of blood and would have been attractive except for the rage distorting her face. Moving her arm in an arc she used some sort of energy to sweep the others off their feet and send them flying. "No one will free my love but me," she screeched. Turning back to Vin she raised her hand again. Pinned against the tree there was no escape Vin felt the blast rip through him. "Aaarhhhh."
"ELLA!" Chris appeared at Vin's side. Stepping between her and Vin he ordered, "Leave him alone."
"I cannot do that my love," Ella purred. "If I do he will free you, something I will not allow." With another wave of her hand she swept Chris aside before returning her power back on Vin. He cried out at the pain tore through him.
"Turn around witch," Buck appeared behind her. Raising his hands he shot his own bolt of energy at Ella. It distracted her but didn't seem to do much else. With a scream she whirled on Buck throwing out both hands at him. Buck took the blast returning one of his own. In that moment while Buck held her attention Chris knelt next to Vin urgently shaking his shoulder, "Come on cowboy, say the words."
"Words?" Vin was having a hard time thinking past his pain. Then it came to him. "Wish, free," he started only to have Chris interrupt.
"Not those words, hurry before she kills Buck."
The word, kills, helped Vin put it together. Summoning his remaining strength he whispered, "Cowboy, I wish you'd kill that woman before she kills any of us." With a light of almost joy in eyes, Chris stood up whirling back toward the fight just in time. Buck was on his knees struggling to hold back Ella's power blasts.
Chris raised his own hands sending a black fire at her back. Fueled by his rage and the power of the wish the fire engulfed Ella causing her to cry out in pain. She turned a look of astonishment on her face. "Beloved?"
"Not your beloved witch, not then, not now, not ever. I've lived for the moment when I could repay you for killing my wife and child." Chris' eyes almost glowed from the power of his revenge.
"But I loved you," Ella's last words ended in a scream as the flames engulfed her. Within moments there was nothing left but a pile of black ashes.
"I loved my wife and son." Chris growled before turning away.
"Easy kid," Chris said as he helped Vin sit up. "Let me take a look."
"You just call me a kid?" Vin half gasped, half grunted.
"Yeah, now shut up and let me work." Chris held his hands over the burns on Vin's chest. Vin watched as they began to disappear. "How?"
"A genie can heal his own master," Chris explained.
Vin looked over to where Buck was holding a hand over JD's wrist. "What about Buck?" Chris followed his gaze, "Buck's a force of nature and the kid's wrist isn't serious. There, you'll feel a bit weak, but a good nights sleep will fix that."
"Thanks." Vin grabbed Chris' arm as the other man started to stand. "Wait, got one more wish."
"Really?" Chris couldn't help asking. It had been too long for him to have much hope left.
"Hang on a minute." Chris rose walking over to Buck. The two men stepped aside for a moment heads bent close before walking back to Vin. "Okay, kid, do it," Chris said.
"Uppity genie," Vin replied. Sitting up a bit more he continued, "Chris Larabee, you stubborn grumpy genie, I wish you free."
The air around Buck and Chris seemed to shimmer for a moment and there was a loud pop as Chris' black bottle over by Vin's bedroll shattered. The two genies stared at each other then Buck began to grin, a grin that turned into a laugh. "You were worried for nothing pard."
"Worried about what?" Josiah asked.
"Chris wasn't sure what would happen when Vin freed him. We half expected that would be it. After all, we should both be long dead."
"Why did you take the risk then?" JD wanted to know.
"Rather be free and dead then living as a slave to that cursed bottle." Chris glared at the black shards.
"Well we ain't dead," Buck laughed. "This calls for a drink." He held out his hand then looked puzzled. Holding it out again he said, "bottle." Nothing happened. Chris' eyes narrowed as he snapped his fingers. Like Buck's bottle, the cigar refused to appear. Buck studied his empty hand sadly, "Dang I'm gonna miss that."
"Well it appears we still have the bottle from last night." Ezra held it up, "Drink anyone?"
After a couple rounds of the bottle, the questions started.
"So how did you guys end up as genies?" JD asked, eyes bright with curiosity.
Buck looked over at Chris who shrugged then said, "Go ahead tell them. You do it better than me anyway."
"Just how old are you?" Ezra asked.
"Well not sure exactly." Buck said. "Folks didn't keep too good track back then of dates. Can guess, but probably be off by a year or two either way. We were long past the squire stage anyway."
"Squire, so you were knights?" Josiah leaned forward a light of interest in his eyes.
"Sure were, old Chris here was a Lord," Buck looked proud. "I was his second in command. We were part of the first crusade in 1095. That was a horrible time," he said sadly. "Chris and I turned back at Constantinople. Just wasn't right, killing others because of how they chose to worship. Course, that didn't go over to well with the some of our group." Buck's eyes were seeing something only Chris knew at that point. "They took all our gear, left us to die. Only we didn't. That's when she found us."
"She?" Ezra waved a hand toward where a black spot could still be seen. "Do you perchance mean that harridan from earlier?"
"Yeah," Buck looked grim. "The Lady Ella," he spat the words. She seemed like the answer to a prayer at first. Chris had been wounded when they set us afoot. He was near dead by the time we stumbled across her castle. She nursed him back to health." Buck stopped as Chris suddenly stood up walking away into the dark. Buck watched him leave with a sad knowing look, waiting until the sound of footsteps faded to begin speaking again. "You'll have to excuse Chris, what happened next is bad. See by the time Chris was well, Ella had decided she was in love. Well it was awkward to say the least, cause Chris was married. Maybe if we'd known what she was," Buck stopped obviously needing a moment. "But we didn't and when we found out it was too late. She killed them, Chris' wife and son."
"How?" Nathan started to ask, then stopped not sure if he should press for details. Buck had obviously decided they needed the whole story because after a pull at the whiskey bottle he continued.
"See when Chris told her he was married and had to get home she played along, provided horses and supplies. What we didn't know was that she followed us. Then she used her black magic to get ahead once our destination was clear. We rode into Chris' keep only to find that there had been a fire the night before. Sarah and Adam, that was his wife and son, were dead. A couple of days later Ella showed up. Don't know what she expected, but Chris was so wild with grief that he could have cared less about her feelings. He said some things, got her mad. That's when she said she'd done it for them. Got real ugly." Buck stopped talking, seeing again that horrible day. Shaking away the memories he looked at the others. "She cursed Chris, said he'd be a genie until someone freed him. When I tried to do something she made my fate his. So here we are over eight hundred years later."
"That's incredible." Josiah shook his head, "To think that magic really exists."
"Well it was a lot stronger back then," Buck said. "The magic in this world gets a little weaker all the time. Most magical creatures retreated to other realms centuries ago. With Chris and I loosing our powers and Ella dead, I'd say it's about gone. Though there are still some pockets around."
"So now what?" JD piped up. "I mean what are you going to do now that you don't have any powers."
"Well," Buck laughed, "I'm still rich. I built my fortune the old-fashioned way so it won't be affected by this. Guess Chris and I will just take it one day at a time. See what comes. He'll have some adjusting to do since he's been in that bottle since the mid 1800's."
"I suppose we can start back tomorrow," Josiah sighed.
"What for?" Buck seemed surprised. "I thought you were gonna want all summer to study the ruins."
"Well if they aren't real, it doesn't see fair."
"Ah heck Professor, I didn't magic those up." Buck waved in the direction of the cliffs. "Those were there when I found this valley while looking for Chris. They just provided a convenient excuse to get you all up here. I picked you fellas because of what you did down in Colorado a couple of years ago. I figured men who would stand against a whole town to protect a couple of indians had the kind of ethics that would make them free a genie."
The three professors looked much happier at the news. Buck grinned, "I said I'd sponsor the dig and I meant it."
Vin left Buck and the professors talking happily about dig plans for the next day to go check the horses. Somehow he wasn't surprised to find Chris already there running hands over the black gelding's legs.
"Guess Buck brought him for you." Vin leaned against a nearby tree.
"Yeah, he's a good animal."
"Got a bit of a temper. You two should get along well."
Chris gave Vin a mock glare, "Careful, just because I can't turn you into a toad." He let the rest of the threat hang.
"Got any plans yet?", Vin redirected the conversation.
"No," Chris shook his head. "Expect Buck has some though." He laughed, "He usually does."
"He's thinking about staying up here a while. The professors are gonna stay through the end of August. Might be a good way to get used to being a regular person again."
"What she did." Vin paused as Chris' shoulders still tensed up. When the ex-genie said nothing he continued, "It wasn't right. She deserved to die."
There was silence for a bit then finally Chris said, "Thanks."
"So you really know how to shoot that thing?" Vin indicated the Colt on Chris' hip.
"I'm not bad, had a lot of time to practice."
"Uh huh, you any good with a rifle?"
"Why don't we go hunting tomorrow and find out."
"Sounds like a plan, maybe take the horses. That is if an old man like you remembers how to ride."
"Careful kid, I bet you couldn't even climb on a horse wearing full armor."
"Come on," Vin jerked his head toward the fire. "I'll buy you a cup of coffee."
"Is that what you call that black stuff? Now the Arabs, they knew how to make coffee."
The two men walked back to the others still arguing.
Yes I know I left out some details, like why genies, what was Ella. I decided sometimes the best things come from the fewest details. Look at what Mog spawned with one tiny fic. So, if this has caught your attention, run with it. At this time the only AU certainties are;
Josiah, Nathan, and Ezra are professors at the University of California in Berkley. I see Josiah as the anthropologist while Nathan and Ezra are archaeologists. But you can fire them if you want.
Buck is very rich and happy to pay for exhibitions to wherever. He has homes in Berkley CA, New Orleans, Greece and where ever else you might want. Plus the ranch in Wyoming.
At this point no one has any magical powers. Buck and Chris will now be like anyone else. You can shoot them, beat them up, whatever. LOL
Vin and JD both fought in World War One. JD's lungs were damaged by mustard gas but are now healed.
That's really it. I kind of see this AU as Indiana Jones meets the Maltese Falcon meets Doc Savage. But I'm not putting any restrictions, beyond no underage slash. If you don't have my vision, I'll consider it an AU of my AU.