It'll Never Happen
Note: This came out of the scene in "Backdraft" where one firefighter is hanging onto another in a burning inferno and one won't let go of the other. It's a very dramatic scene and those that have seen the movie knows what happens. This, of course, turns out differently with a surprising hero even.
Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner were in high spirits. They'd had a successful week of hunting down a marauding cougar that had been killing livestock around some of the farms and ranches near Four Corners. Vin could tell by the tracks that it was a wounded animal and so far it'd been going after smaller, weaker prey, but folks were worried that if the big cat got desperate it might change it's tactics and attack unsuspecting women and children. So the two peacekeepers had tracked the animal, chasing it into the mountains before finding and killing it. Now they were headed back down the steep mountainside to their hometown, looking forward to a good meal, good whiskey and a good hot bath.
The path they were taking was narrow and treacherous and the horses were slow in picking their way down. They were past the half way mark when Chris's horse, Pony, slipped on some loose pebbles and, in trying to right himself, his back right leg slipped over the edge. Chris tried to help compensate his horse's stumble by throwing his weight forward and to the left. Pony managed to pull himself forward but the shifting ground caused him to start falling to the left side, unseating the gunslinger. Chris rolled to get away from the struggling horse and it's deadly hooves as the gelding fought for purchase on the graveled trail. Pony finally righted himself but Chris had rolled too close to the edge, the loose pebbles and his momentum threatening to carry him right on over. As Vin fought to control a frightened Peso, he saw that Chris was headed over the ledge and literally dove for him, catching the gunman's right wrist with his own right hand as Chris slipped over the edge. The tracker's sliding momentum was stopped by his left palm being jammed against a tuft of grass protruding out of the rocky ground.
Vin felt a burning sensation along his right side and his right arm felt as though it'd been torn from it's socket as he held onto Larabee. The pain tore the breath away from him. He looked down to see that his best friend was hanging in mid air, the hat had fallen to his back held there by the stampede string around his neck and his black duster billowed out around him in the breeze. Chris had grabbed hold of Vin's wrist with his hand and the two looked into each other's eyes. No panic showed in either man's eyes, just the knowledge that they were in deep trouble. Chris could see that Vin was straining with everything he had, trying to pull him up, but with the tracker's cry of pain, the gunslinger knew his friend's body had been hurt, maybe even hurt too much to have enough strength to pull him up.
Vin tried to lift Chris using the tuft of grass as his source of leverage but had cried out as the pain from his chest and arm assaulted him. He just needed a couple of minutes he told himself, just a couple of minutes and he could do it, he could pull Chris up. He laid his head down for a minute to get his second wind and listened and watched in horror as dozens of tiny white roots from the grass tuft began to pop and tear away. Ah hell, he thought. Gotta do this now. On the count of three he told himself. One, two, three! and then he pulled as hard as he could but he just couldn't do it, the pain almost causing him to black out and he didn't want to do that, knowing then he would drop Chris for sure.
For the second time Chris watched as his best friend tried to pull him up but couldn't do it. He saw Vin's eyes almost roll back into his forehead as he fought the pain and he was afraid that if Vin lost consciousness, then he'd slip over the edge and they'd both fall to their deaths. Larabee wasn't afraid of dying, hell he'd been trying to do that for the past few years on his own, no, he wasn't afraid at all but he didn't want to take his friend with him when he went.
"Vin?" he called softly. "Vin?"
Vin's tear filled eyes looked to him.
"Let me go Vin, it's okay, just let me go." Chris's eyes pleaded with his friend's.
"No, Chris no never," Vin choked out to him. "It'll never happen. I won't let go. If you go then I go we'll go together."
"Vin, listen to me, it's okay I'm ready, just let me go it's okay," Chris said again softly. He could see that Vin was weakening and wouldn't be able to hold on much longer, the shaking in his arm and the strain in his face were a testament to that. But he knew Vin would never let him go, knew he'd die right along side of him, so he did the one thing that he thought would help ease his best friend's way and let him know it was okay. He let go of Vin's wrist. Now the only source of contact between the two men was Vin's hold on his wrist.
"No!!" Chris! Vin sobbed as he put his head down again crying out to the Great Spirit to help him and to the Four Winds to give him strength. Please, please, please, help me his thoughts cried out. Help me!
As if in answer he heard an eagle cry in the distance and then the cry came closer until it sounded as though it was right beside him. He lifted his head and saw that the eagle was hovering, caught on an updraft suspended in the air right near Chris. The powerful bird gave out it's shrill cry once more before flying away and then Vin felt something graze his left elbow. He turned his head to the left and saw Peso's right foot by his hand, the hand that was jammed up against the tuft of grass.
Vin's mind came alert now, thinking that if he just grabbed Peso's leg, that might give him enough leverage to pull his friend up. But what if Peso stepped away right as he went to grab him? Then they'd both be dead for sure because he'd never be able to grab the tuft of grass again. As he was thinking he felt a give at his left hand and watched as the last of the tiny white roots popped and tore the rest of the way and Vin's decision was made for him. He grabbed for Peso's leg just as the tuft of grass gave up it's hold. His hand locked on to the back of his big black's leg just above the ankle. He felt Peso lock his knees and pull back, just as a stubborn mule would plant his forefeet and refuse to be lead.
From somewhere down deep Vin felt a renewed strength and knew now was the time. With everything that he had left in him he took a deep breath, gritted his teeth and pulled, closing his mind to the agonizing pain and his eyes to the blinding tears; only envisioning pulling Chris up over the edge and away from certain death.
As the strain on his back, chest and arm lessened Vin was aware that Peso had stepped back and that Chris was up over the top. But that was all he was aware of. He never felt Chris peel away the death grip his hand had on the gunslinger's wrist, never felt his friend lay him down and cover him with his duster and blanket and put something under his head to cushion it from the hard ground. He never heard Chris's soothing words to him as the tears ran and his body shook uncontrollably. He just knew he had nothing left to give, nothing at all.
Chris worked to keep Vin warm and comfortable. He knew his friend had gone past the point of total exhaustion and was worried about shock setting in. He also knew the tracker was hurt, he didn't know how bad yet, but could tell by the way he held his right arm to his body that the shoulder was probably dislocated. He also knew Vin had landed on his right side when dove off Peso and no doubt he'd have some bruised ribs, possibly broken ones too. He kept talking to Vin trying to calm him, letting him know everything was going to be okay, that they both were safe and that they'd get back home as soon as they could.
As Vin began to settle and quiet some, Chris used an extra shirt as a sling for his friend's injured shoulder. He dribbled some water in between the slack lips and ran a cool wet cloth over the tear stained face. He checked Vin's chest and ribs for bruising and for broken bones and breathed a sigh of relief when he found nothing broken but, gauging by the bruising that was already starting , the Texan was going be mighty sore for a few weeks.
Vin slowly started returning to consciousness and tried to sit up but gasped in pain as his back began to spasm.
"Chris, my back!" he cried out and tried to move away from the pain but it even hurt to breathe. Never could he remember hurting so bad, it just seemed to come from everywhere on his body and he was powerless to stop any of it. He felt Chris's hands moving on his back trying to soothe away the spasms and heard him talking to him softly, telling him to try and relax. His body was on overload and he just couldn't seem to get himself to settle down.
"Easy Vin, just breathe easy, you can do it, just relax just listen to my voice Vin, you can do it," Chris kept repeating, trying to get his friend to calm down. As his hands worked on Vin's back, kneading the cramping muscles, he felt the tracker finally give in and relax some.
"That's it Vin, you're doing fine, just relax, just a little while longer and then we'll head back down the mountain. You can do it Vin, just rest some for now," Chris said as he finished up.
Vin turned from his side to his back looking into his best friend's eyes and grimaced in pain "Jest leave me Chris," he breathed. " I can't I can't hardly move let alone try try to make it back down. Jest leave me and go get help. I'll I'll be okay." If he weren't in so much pain, he could have almost laughed, seemed like just a short time ago when the tables were turned and it was Chris asking, no pleading for Vin to let him go. Hell, they were quite the pair. Maybe they just weren't either one suppose to make it down the mountain.
Chris shook his head slowly and said, "It'll never happen Vin. I ain't leavin' ya. When I go down, you'll go down with me, we'll do this together. I don't care if it takes us another week to get to the bottom, we'll do it together." You understand? He looked into Vin's pain filled eyes and waited for the nod to let him know that his friend understood exactly what he was saying.
The tracker blinked slowly and then gave a short nod. I understand, cowboy. Vin closed his eyes then and willed himself to relax as Chris sat down next to him. He knew he was going to need rest to gather his strength for the upcoming trek down the mountain, but with Larabee's help he had no doubt they could make it. Together they could make it happen.