Home Is Where The Heart Is

by Carla

Disclaimer: Not Mine

Note: Special thanks to Joy for reading this for me...Thank you for all your help and suggestions and for helping me to make the words flow....

Purgatorio was hot. The temperature outside had been well into the upper 90's for a week now. The city itself had become as unbearable as the weather. Vin Tanner was in his small apartment packing his duffel bag. Thankfully the ATF's Team 7 was spending the weekend at Chris Larabee's ranch. Even though the ranch was just an hour outside of Denver, it was like a whole different world to Vin. He smiled to himself when he thought of the cool breezes that brought the beautiful smell of the wildflowers down to the ranch. No matter how hot the city was, the ranch always offered a peaceful haven for him, and now he was more than ready to head out there.

Vin's apartment was on the fourth floor of an old brick building. As with most of the buildings in Purgatorio, the basic things seldom worked as they should. His apartment had gone beyond hot, it was now into sweltering. Air conditioning was a luxury that most people in Purgatorio would never be able to afford. Although Vin could have an air-conditioner, he was rudely reminded as to why he didn't. As soon as he turned on his window fan, the electricity in his apartment went out. Vin cursed to himself. He blew a fuse and now would have to walk down the four floors to the basement and fix it. He headed for the hallway and went to the stairs. He looked wistfully at the elevator. Yeah, right Tanner, stupid thing has been out of order for years. By the time Vin got to the basement, fixed the fuse and made it back to his apartment, his whole body was slick with sweat. His long hair was curling up with the heat and humidity and he was longing to be anywhere but where he was.

Vin checked his watch and decided to wait outside for Ezra to pick him up. He laughed to himself when he thought of his beat up old jeep. It fit right in with this neighborhood. It never worked when it was supposed to either.

He made his way down the four long flights of stairs. By the time he got to the front of the building to sit and wait, he was hot, tired and irritable. I'm getting too old for this crap. Reckon I outta just move on out. Vin wiped his dripping forehead on his sleeve. Don't know why I stay here. I got a good job. It's not like I can't afford to live in a better neighborhood. Hell, all the guys have been trying to get me to leave since we met. Don't know why I stay. He looked up and down the street. On the surface, Purgatorio was ugly. The streets were dirty and many of the buildings were boarded up and abandoned. There were broken bottles and stripped down cars. There was graffiti on every surface. Vin knew there were as many broken dreams and broken lives here as there were broken windows. But there was something else here too. If you looked beyond the surface, there was beauty to be found here. Vin looked at the dull gray building in front of him. His eyes came to rest on a flower box with its bright purple and white flowers contrasting against the drab building. You could find that beauty in those flower boxes or in the small gardens with the tomato plants growing tall. These small things gave people something to be proud of.

Even though poverty was a fact of life here, there were many hard-working people just trying to make a better life and there were many strong friendships and family ties that survived despite the conditions people were forced to live under.

Then there were the little ones. Running around and playing games. Not yet touched by the hard, indifferent world they lived in. The beauty of the innocence he saw in the eyes of these little kids nearly took his breath away.

Loud cheers from the neighborhood kids swung Vin's attention to the street in front of him. One of the kids had had enough of the heat so he took a wrench and opened up the fire hydrant. Vin smiled as the kids ran through the cool stream of water, finally finding relief from the heat. He remembered running through the hydrants himself when he was younger and he admitted that to this day he couldn't resist running through when he came across one. He would have gone through now if he weren't waiting for Ezra. He didn't think Ez would appreciate a soggy sharpshooter sitting in his Jag. He felt a smirk come to his lips. For some reason that image made the water even more tempting to him.

Vin was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard some of the kids picking sides for a game of stick-ball. Again he found himself thinking back to the time when he was a kid and he was playing. How he loved the hours he could escape the harshness of his life and get lost in the game. He thought to himself that stick-ball was purely a city game. It was born of the love of baseball and the desire to play. Very few, if any kids had baseball gloves and bats or even baseballs. Necessity being the mother of invention, the game of stick-ball was born. All that was needed was a rubber ball that could be cut in half and a broom stick cut in half and taped on the ends. Any thing could and would be used as bases.

Vin was mesmerized by the game, but he was actually seeing a game played over ten years ago. He saw himself standing on the sidewalk, so lost and alone, always on the outside looking in. He had nothing. No home or family to call his own. He wanted so much to belong somewhere and to someone. He longed to play that game, just to be a regular kid for awhile. He started to walk away with his head down and shoulders slumped, when he felt a hand on his shoulders. The man who tapped Vin on the shoulders introduced himself. He was the director of a youth outreach program. He invited Vin to join the game. During that game, just for a little while, his big blue eyes lost the look of the old soul he had become and sparkled with the look of the child that he really was.

Vin was brought back to the present as he heard the cheers from the game. He knew that when he was asked to play that game all those years ago, it was the beginning of a new life for him. He had met people who cared about him, who had helped him find a place to stay. They helped him finish school and eventually find his way to the army. Although his life was still hard and harsh at times, he didn't feel so alone. He had found a life-line and he had found himself. Thinking about all this made him realize why he stayed here. Why he needed to stay here.

Vin thought of the people who had reached out to him. People who could have left Purgatorio but stayed because they remembered someone who had stayed to help them. He felt honor bound to stay and give something back to the people of this place. He was not naive. He knew he couldn't save everyone. Knew so many kids who were so old beyond their years, who had seen too much and had done too much to survive that they didn't have any fight left. He himself had felt that way, but he had something inside that wouldn't give in to the hopelessness that he had felt back then. So when the helping hands were extended to him, he latched on to them for dear life. Now he knew that he would be those hands in this place, this pit stop between heaven and hell. He would be there to help anyone who wanted it. The people of Purgatorio helped to shape him into the man he now was, they were in his heart and he was grateful to them.

Vin looked up as he heard the kids whistling and pointing to the beautiful Jag that pulled up to his apartment building. Ezra had arrived.

Vin knew Ezra hated driving through Purgatorio. Ezra had told him he had visions of a gang of miscreants stealing his beloved Jag and taking it for a joy-ride, no doubt hitting every pot hole, before stripping it down. Vin, soaked from the heat and feeling rather wilted, opened the door and climbed into the car. He sighed gratefully when the Jag's air conditioning greeted him. Vin sank back into the plush leather seat as Ezra pulled the car into traffic, noting the stares of awe and envy as they drove away. Vin glanced at Ezra noticing the troubled look on his face. "What?" he asked.

"Mr. Tanner...er, Vin. Would you kindly enlighten me as to why you persist in residing in this less than hospitable abode?"

Vin looked out the window at the old buildings passing by. After a few minutes, Ezra figured he wouldn't get an answer. Then he heard Vins raspy voice.

"No matter what ya become in life. Rich or poor. Successful or jist gettin by. Don't matter where you end up or how ya got there. Home is where the heart is."

Ezra was stunned for a moment. When he looked at Vin he saw the pride and contentment in his blue eyes.

"So it is my friend" said Ezra

"So it is"....

The End

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