It didn’t take long before Pony began expressing his displeasure at carrying both of the men. Vin lifted his head sniffing.



“Pony mad at’cha?”


“Cause when he’s mad at ‘ca he blows winds and he’s been doing that real regular for a while now.”

“I imagine he’s not real happy about carrying double.”

“Oh, he ain’t gonna start bucking too is he? Don’t figure I could take being throw’d just now.”

“He’s going to behave. But I can’t control the complaining.”

“To bad,” Vin said trying to smile. “ ‘M beat up enough without ‘m nose hurting too.”

“Smart assed Texan,” Chris said with a smile. At least he’s making jokes. That’s a good sign.

+ + + + + + +

The deer trail was steep and Pony was surefooted but after several hours it began to tell on the large horse. Vin was dozing again when Chris pulled Pony to a stop and dismounted. He stood for a minute rubbing the tired horses neck. It was still a long ways to the cabin. It was too far to make it today. If he remembered correctly there was a line shack at the end of this canyon. They could go there and stay at least overnight. Longer if need be.

“Wh…what’s wrong?” Vin asked struggling to open his eyes as he became aware that they had stopped.

“Nothing, just thought I’d walk a bit. Can you stay put by yourself?”

“Yeah.” Vin shifted in the saddle his feet hanging beside the stirrups. He twisted and wiggled a bit before he leaned forward over the horn. “Chris is it getting colder?”

“A bit, you want to wrap up in a blanket?”

“If it ain’t too much trouble. I’m a mite cold.”

Chris retrieved the bedroll from behind the black’s saddle and shook it open. As he wrapped the blanket around Vin’s shoulders he noticed the shivering. “Here, it isn’t to much further. Can you hold on?”

“Yeah,” Tanner answered through chattering teeth. “It’ll pass.”

Chris walked, looking back frequently at his friend. He was worried; Vin seemed sicker with each passing hour and there was little he could do out here. Not until they reached the line shack anyway. The sun had set but luckily the bright full moon guided them. Larabee’s legs and feet ached but he kept on, the injured man hadn’t made a sound in hours. If it weren’t for his raspy breathing Chris would have stopped fearing the worst.

Finally there was the shack, the roof shining in the moon light. Chris eased Vin off the tired horse and carried the unconscious man inside. He laid the tracker down and after lighting the lantern on the table he wrapped his friend in every blanket he could lay hands on. Sighing deeply he stumbled across the little room on shaky legs to build a fire. Once it was burning and sending out waves of heat he went outside to take care of the equally tired Pony.

“Sorry Pal, only a quick rubdown tonight. I promise more tomorrow,” Larabee muttered as he tossed in extra hay and some sweet grain for a treat. Making sure the weary animal had plenty of water Chris stumbled back to the shack.

He entered the door shutting it behind him and leaned heavily against it for a minute. Collecting himself he checked the water on the stove. It was warm and just right for washing.

The blond gathered the supplies he needed and went over to the cot where Vin lay. He was thankful to the cowboys that had stocked the shack. It meant a lot to the traveler who found himself needing assistance. Sitting down beside the younger man he reached out and tapped his flushed face. “Vin, Hey, Cowboy? Wake up just for a bit.”

The blue eyes slowly opened.

Chris smiled, “Hey, …”

The eyes started closing again.

“No, stay with me…”Chris tapped the Texan’s cheek again. “Vin! I need to see to your hurts. It’s gonna pain you a bit and I don’t want you coming unglued in the middle okay?”

Tanner looked at Chris blankly then very slowly he nodded. “Thirsty,” he rasped.

“Sure, here.” Larabee reached for the tin cup and held it to the slightly parted lips.

After he’d drunk a few sips, Tanner opened and closed his mouth then said so softly Chris had to strain to hear him. “ Jist do it.”

The gunslinger nodded and quickly undressed the semi conscious Tracker. He unwound the bandages on the arm and wrinkling his nose at the smell. Then he began cleaning out the again inflamed wound, using first warm water and lye soap, and then carbolic.

Vin tried weakly to pull away but Larabee’s soothing voice calmed him and held him still. “Easy Cowboy, I’ll be finished in a few more minutes.”

+ + + + + + +

Vin was sitting on the high mountain ledge. The one he loved. He could see forever here, it made him feel so free and happy. The light breeze cooled him. There was just one thing missing. Chris should be here. He would understand and appreciate the solitude also.

The Peregrine Falcon landed beside him. The Tracker sat very still and waited. After a short while the Falcon spoke.

“Who are you?” It asked in the language of the People.

Vin looked at the speckled bird and answered in the same language. “I’m Vin Tanner.”

Again the Falcon asked “Who are you?”

“I told you.”

“You gave me a name. You have had other names, but that is not who you are. Who are you?”

Vin stared at the bird. What did he mean? What was he suppose to answer?

The falcon came closer. “I am Peregrine Falcon. My feather’s are speckled so I might hide myself from prying eyes. So I can blend into the earth and hunt. You are like me Little Brother. You have made yourself to blend in wherever you are. But in that achievement you have forgotten parts of your true self. Think on it Little Brother, what part of you do you hide from sight? What do you hide from your new brother?”

The Hawk spread his wings and flew away leaving a puzzled Vin sitting on the hot rocks. They were hot too hot.

+ + + + + + +

“Vin …. Come on Vin wake up and drink this. It’ll help you cool off.”

Chris was calling him How did Chris get here? Tanner opened his eyes. “W..what?”

Larabee smiled. “Hey, come on Pard, you need to drink some.”

Vin looked first at the cup and then up at Chris.

Larabee lifted Tanner’s head and held the tin cup to his mouth. After he’d drunk it all Vin looked around.

“Where’s the…?" he started and then stopped.

Chris frowned, “Where’s what?”

“Nothin’. Was jist a dream.” Vin closed his eyes against the pain of his wounds and wondered what Hawk had meant. He dozed again too sick to puzzle it out.

+ + + + + + +

The street was hot and dusty from running horses. He could hear the screams of the scared animals but paid them no attention. His eyes were glued to the man lying in the street before him. He ran, falling to his knees beside the black clothed body. Vin turned him over and saw the blood, spurting out of the wound in his chest. “No, Chris, don’t you die on me.”

He pressed his hands against the crimson flow. ”Don’t you do this.” He closed his eyes, pushing on the chest as hard as he could. “Please Chris,” he whispered, “Please don’t leave me.”

+ + + + + + +

Larabee jerked awake at Vin’s call. “Chris!”

Leaning over he could tell Tanner was dreaming again. “Easy cowboy. You’re okay.”

“No…no Chris. Don’t…blood…so much blood… CHRIS!!!”

The blond shivered at the anguish in Tanner’s voice. “Vin. VIN! I’m here, I’m fine.” Chris took the rag and squeezed out the cold water wiping it over Tanner’s hot face.

“So hot… NO, get up Lar’bee….” His breath was coming in gasps, blue eyes darting under the closed eyelids. He moved restlessly until he banged his injured arm against Chris’ chest.

“Ohhhh, no… get away,” Vin’s voice became plaintive.

“Vin, listen to me.” Chris dropped the rag and held the man by the shoulders. “You’re hurt, sick, but you’re safe. Vin please…,” Larabee pleaded, “You just got yourself a little fever is all.”

Tanner stilled under the other man’s hold and the sound of that reassuring voice finally reached him through the nightmare. He struggled to open his eyes. “Chris? Ya.. yer not hurt?”

“No, I’m fine, it’s you that’s hurt.”

Vin’s eyes darted over Larabee’s spare frame. He reached up placing a trembling hand on Chris’ chest as if to reassure himself that the gunfighter was real and whole. “I….I thought…” He held his hand before his face. “No blood.. I … what happened?" he asked glancing back at Chris.

“There was a storm and you got hurt. We’re at a line shack in Percha Canyon. We didn’t quite make it to my cabin.”


“You weren’t riding Peso. Yosemite lent you a green broke mare.”

Vin frowned trying to remember. “Bay… wind spooked her. She fell…YOU come looking for me?" The tracker asked in astonishment.


“Oh…. Thanks,” he said softly. But his mind asked. Why’d he do that? Come looking for me.

“Vin don’t go to sleep, I need you to drink some water.” Chris held the cup to his friend’s mouth.

Tanner sniffed suspiciously, “ Ain’t water.”

“Mostly it is. But there’s some tea. You got a fever and we need to get it down.” Chris pressed the cup against the man’s mouth once more.

After Vin drank he closed his eyes again. Chris sat still for a few minutes and then got up. His friend seemed to be getting worse. He didn’t want to leave Tanner alone for the hours it would take to ride into town and back. But if he didn’t get better soon he’d have to take that chance.

Larabee stood in the door enjoying the cool air. He was keeping the shack very warm because the Tracker kept saying he was cold.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he’d have to risk it. If the fever wasn’t down by then he’d have to go for Nathan. When he turned back, he saw that Vin’s eyes were still open.

“Still awake?”

Vin didn’t answer but he watched as Chris moved about the room gathering supplies and setting them down on the seat of a chair.

“Well, since you’re still awake can you roll over and let me clean your leg?”

Sighing the injured man slowly managed to roll over onto his stomach and stretched out. Chris lifted the blanket and the pads he’d placed on the back of the leg.

“It’s looking a lot better. It doesn’t seem to be as red, except for a few of places. I didn’t find any thorns….must be real deep” As he talked he gently cleaned the wounds of the old poultice and pressed out some puss.

Vin hissed but lay still waiting. “They come out?" he asked.

“Nope just the corruption, “ Larabee answered truthfully.

“You can get some pine pitch an’ try that.”

“Pine pitch?”

“Yeah, seen it work. Y’ warm the tremenitina, the pitch, on the stove and put it over the thorns. It hurts a mite and I’ll be sick from it for about a day but then it’ll pop out bringing the corruption with it.”

“You’re sure.”

Vin sighed. “Yeah, gotta get it out. If not this way you’re gonna have to dig it out with yer knife. Can y’ find a pine tree some where abouts?”

“Alright, if you’re sure. I’ll find the tree.” Chris wasn’t sure about any of this but was willing to try anything to make the other man better. “I’ll go get some and be right back.”

He came back with some pitch scrapped into a washed out tin. Setting it on the stove he began heating it. As it warmed he asked. “Now what?”

Without moving Vin answered. “Mix a bit of lard in it as it heats it’ll make the spreadin’ easier. Needs to be warm but not hot enough to really burn.”

“Okay.” Chris turned and began stirring the heating pitch with a twig. He added a dollop of lard to it and stirred as they both melted. Finally touching his finger to the mixture he decided it was ready.

Carrying the tin over to the bed, he asked. “You sure about this?”


“Okay, I think it’s ready. Just put some over each spot?”

“Yep, make it thick enough you can get ‘holt of it later when ya pull it off.” Vin waited for the heat, when it didn’t come he raised his head and turned to look at the blond.

“What ‘cha waitin’ for? Get started, the longer you wait the longer it hurts.”

Chris looked Vin in the eye. “Right. Be still now.”

Larabee carefully spread the pine pitch over each of the punctures. He hoped this would work. The next step would be to dig the thorns out with his knife and he didn’t want to have to do that. As Chris spread the hot pitch over Tanner’s leg he could feel his friend struggling not to move. “ Easy, Vin. I’m almost finished.” He continued spreading the pitch. When the gunfighter was finished, he said. “You need to drink some willow tea now and try to sleep.”


Vin nodded in agreement and without argument drank down the cup offered. That worried the blond. The tracker not protesting was a sure sign of how much it really hurt. Chris sat and watched as the younger man slipped into a restless sleep. He looked down at the sleeping sharpshooter, brown locks covering half of his face.

God, was I ever that young? Asleep Vin looked very young because none of the harshness of his life showed. The schooled sternness was gone. I forget how young you must be. You never said. Do you even know? What happened to you after your ma died?

Chris thought of his son. What if it’d been him and Sarah who’d died and Adam had been left alone. Of course he would have had his Uncle Buck. But as far as he knew Vin had no one. Maybe that’s why he seems so much older when he’s awake. He’s been taking care of himself for so long. He’s had to look older and act tougher than he was to survive.

Chris walked over to the stove and poured him self another cup of coffee. Then he sat down on the other bunk. Glancing back at the sleeping man he sipped the hot drink while hoping that Vin would sleep the night through. He could do with a few hours rest as well.

+ + + + + + +

Tanner was dreaming again, it had to be a dream.

Vin walked into the saloon. He looked around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light. All of the others were there everyone that had become important to him since he’d come to Four Corners.

He walked over to the bar and said. “Beer.”

Inez reached for a glass when Buck stepped up to stop her. “Now Inez honey, you know you can’t serve his kind here.”

Tanner looked at Buck.

Wilmington looked back at him. “Sorry Vin but we just can’t have your kind being served here.”

Ezra stepped up behind Buck. “Certainly not, after all we are law abiding people here and it is illegal to serve, well you know.” His lip curled in distaste. “Your Kind.”

Vin looked around the room. All the others had their backs to him. His eyes went back to Buck when the bigger man started to speak again.

“You know Tanner, you really should have stayed with your own kind, not come around descent folk.”

Vin’s stomach was in knots. He couldn’t say anything; it was as if his mouth was glued shut. How can they say that, how can they treat me like this. We’re friends…..I thought.

“Really Mr. Tanner you should have kept your unfortunate childhood to your self. At the very least have the decency to be ashamed to have lived as a savage.”

Vin shook his head. Over and over again he cried “NO,” but no sound came from him. His heart pounded and his head began to spin. It was if he were in the middle of a kaleidoscope round and round until the room blurred into a stream of color.

“STOP!” Vin screamed in his head.

The Tracker looked around. He was no longer in the saloon but out side and surrounded by young men and boys. Comanche boys were taunting him again with hurtful words.

“ You are not true Comanche, You are white and do not belong here. Go back white boy to the slugs you came from.”

“No,” Vin protested. Then he felt a warm hand on his shoulder and heard his father’s voice.

“Be silent foolish boys. This one is my son, given to his mother and me to ease our sorrow. His heart is more truly Comanche than any of you.”

Vin turned around and looked into the dark wise eyes. “Do not believe what small children say to you my son. You have a true heart that will serve you well. It matters little what others say, what matters is what is in your heart.”

Then his father smiled at him.

Vin felt that smile warm him. He’d forgotten over the years how the man he’d called Father had guided him and taught him. Made him believe he belonged. Tanner opened his eyes and watched as Chris worked over the stove. The throbbing in his leg was worse but he distracted himself by thinking about his father. I bet Chris was like him. A good father to Adam.. Too bad Larabee didn’t get to raise the boy to manhood.

Tanner moved trying to ease his leg, but the movement brought an unbidden groan from him.

Chris was beside him instantly. “Vin? You need anything?”

“Jist tryin’ to ease ‘m leg some. Can I have some water?”

“Sure.” The blond got a cup of cool water and brought it over to Vin. He helped the tracker to sit up so he could drink.

“How long was I asleep?” Vin asked.

“Not long, a couple of hours.”

The tracker sighed. It was going to be a long, long day. “You got any more whiskey?”


“Care to share.”


“Damn Lar’bee, it’s goin’ be a long day if’n you don’t say more’n one word at a time.”

Chris handed the grumpy tracker a cup and said. “Be quiet. You’re just cranky because you can’t get out.”

Vin swallowed the drink gratefully. “Yeah, well, I’d like to see you lay here and be nice to people.”

“What people? There’s just me.” The blond reached over and touched Vin’s forehead.

“You still got a fever Pard. It doesn’t seem to be going down any. Probably shouldn’t have given you the whiskey.”

“It’s okay, I won’t tell Nathan. Helps some you know, with the hurtin’.”

“Yeah, I know, try to sleep some more.” Chris absently squeezed the man’s shoulder.

Vin frowned fingering the edge of the blanket.

“What?” Larabee asked, seeing the expression on the other man’s face.

“Nothin’, jist seem to be dreamin’ a lot lately.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

Vin shook his head. “Nah, nothin’ to talk about.” Just don’t want to dream anymore. Sighing Tanner rolled over lying on his stomach trying to get comfortable. He couldn’t even bend his knee because one of the larger pitch patches was on the back of it. He closed his eyes not really wanting Larabee to ask about the dreams. Awake he knew they were just dreams. It was just that everything felt so real when he was asleep.

+ + + + + + +

Tanner tried to roll over on the narrow cot. He could feel the throbbing of his leg echo through his whole body. His leg, back and head pounded “boom, boom, boom,” It seemed to keep time with the sound of the ax falling outside.

He knew it was Chris chopping wood to replace what they’d used. Sighing Vin tried to stretch out and ease his aching back without disturbing his leg too much. He slowly drifted asleep again.

+ + + + + + +

Vin sat hugging his knees in the dark. Hearing a rustle he looked up and saw the Falcon perched above him.

“Ho Little Brother, why do you hide here?”

Vin squinted up at the bird. “Not hiding.”

The Falcon twisted his head this way and that. “Really? I just assumed….You sit here in the bush’s shadow huddled in the gloom. You wear browns and tans to make yourself blend in with the land. If you are not hiding, what are you doing?”

Vin stared at the Spirit Hawk as he thought on the words spoken. He’d never thought of it as hiding. Hiding made it sound cowardly. ‘I’m just…I don’t know…Just don’t want folks to notice me any. I’d rather stay in the back ground. You see more that way.”

“Yes, you see more but no one will know you passed this way.”

“Chris’ll know. Chris is my friend.”

“Will he? Have you opened your soul to him? Have you shared yourself the way he has. He’s told you of his deepest despair, his darkest thoughts. Have you?”

“I told him about Tascosa,” Vin said defensively.

“Yes but is that your deepest despair? Think on it Little Brother. What is it you hold closest to your heart? Never sharing it for fear you would lose your place with these white men?”

“Nothing. There is nothing to tell…Can’t…tell….

+ + + + + + +

Chris walked into the shack carrying an arm load of wood. He heard Vin muttering and laid down the wood before moving went closer.

“Can’t….won’t tell… hate me…,” he heard the tracker mumble.

Frowning he gently laid a hand on the Texan’s shoulder. “Easy Vin,” he said softly. “Easy, you’re just dreaming.”

He could feel the dampness soaking through the blanket. Larabee hoped it meant that the fever had broken. He moved his other hand to Vin’s forehead. It did feel a little cooler. But at his touch Tanner flinched. “Damn Vin. I’m not gonna hurt you,” he whispered.

Chris waited until the tracker stilled. He did feel cooler. Perhaps the fever had finally broken. He watched the man sleep What’s troubling you, Cowboy? You can tell me.

The gunslinger walked over to the stove and got another cup of coffee. It was late afternoon and the 24 hours would be up soon. He hoped Vin would sleep until then. He hoped the pine pitch would work. Larabee wasn’t sure what he’d do other wise.

+ + + + + + +

Within the hour Vin woke. Chris glanced back at him at the sound of movement. “You okay Vin?”

“It throbs a mite,” came the muffled answer. Vin’s face was buried in the pillow, giving a better indication of how badly he was feeling.

“It’s been 24 hours. You think it’s been long enough?”

“Yeah, I reckon.”

“Maybe we should wait, to make sure,” Larabee said baiting the grumpy tracker.

“Lar’bee jist get to it and get it done,” Vin commanded through gritted teeth. He rolled over onto his stomach and reached up taking hold of the bunk posts.

“Alright I’m going to start with the one…,” Chris cleared his throat. “The one under your butt.”

“Fine, jist do it.”

Chris tried to make light of the situation, but he really didn’t want to do what he knew he had to. He knew that it would hurt a lot. Grasping the smear of harden pine pitch he jerked it off.

“OWWW!” Tanner cried out, his knuckles white where he gripped the bunk posts.


“Hell, yeah it hurt,” the Texan bellowed. Then calming slightly he asked, “Did it get the thorn?”

Larabee looked at the patch in his hand. “Yep, and all the hair around it too.”

“Funny Lar’bee.”

“Not trying to be. Ready?”


Chris pulled off the second patch. With it came skin, hair and what was suppose come out, the deeply buried thorn and the infection around it. With each succeeding patch Tanner gripped the bunk posts tighter. The muscles in his leg trembled in the effort not to move.

Larabee skipped the one on the back of the swollen knee and went down the calf of the other man’s leg. Pulling out the last of the small patches Chris sat back. He looked down at his hand and saw that it was shaking. He closed his hand into a fist trying to stop the tremble.

“Vin?" he asked, looking over at Tanner’s white face. The tracker lay absolutely still. His hands clinched around the rough bunk posts.

Larabee shook his head. He’d blocked out the groans but working on Vin’s leg. “Vin? You’d better answer me.”

The shaggy head moved just enough for Vin to rasp out. “What? Why’d y’ quit. Y’ finished?”

Chris smiled slightly at the growl. “No, got one more. Just needed to rest a bit.”

“Rest? Hell, y’ ain’t been doing much.”

“I know, Vin…the last one…it’s on the back of your knee. I think it’s a big one and it looks to be in there deep.”

“I know, I can feel it when I move. Y’ gotta get it out Chris.” Pain filled blue eyes searched Larabee’s face. “Y’ gotta dig it out if it don’t come out. No stopping Chris. Y’ gotta get it out.”

The gunman laid a hand gently on his friends shoulder. “I will. You want some willow tea before I start?”

“No, ‘M stomach ain’t too steady right now. Jist git it done.”

Larabee wiped his arm across his forehead and leaned closer. He took the edge of his blade and scraped the edge of the patch up enough to grasp it between his finger and the knife edge. Clenching his own teeth he tried to ignore the tremor in Vin’s leg.

He pulled steadily as the patch released the puss that poured from the wound. He kept pulling straight up until the patch was free and he could see the thorn slipping out of the hole it had made. Then suddenly it was free and he looked closely.

“Damn it all to Hell!” Larabee growled in frustration.

“What’s wrong?”

“Thorn broke off. Just got the top.”

Vin squeezed his eyes closed, took a deep breath and ordered. “Get the rest Chris.” His voice was shaky from the pain.

The older man took a calming breath. “You need something?” he asked.

“Need you to finish,” came the gruff answer.

Larabee nodded to himself and gripped the knife blade like a pencil and buried the point in the wound. He cut the sides to make it bigger and began to dig. He could feel Vin begin to shake and the muscles tightened as he fought to not move. He could hear the man muttering but couldn’t understand the words.

Larabee felt the knife scrape something. “Easy Pard, almost got it out,” Chris said as he dug at the wound in an attempt to pry the rest of the thorn out.

Vin moaned, fighting to stay still just a bit longer. His whole body felt like a knot pulled too tight. Then he felt the knife tip pop out and he gasped, barely cutting off a yell.

“Got it Cowboy,” Larabee announced, relief evident in his voice. “ God there was a good half inch left in there. Vin? …Vin you still with me?”

“Yeah.” The tracker’s voice was faint, weary with pain.

“Good. Hold on, let me clean it up some.” Chris quickly wiped the blood that dripped out of the wound. He packed the knee with carbolic soaped cloth and tied it in place.

Then Larabee helped the younger man roll over and got the cup of tea. “Drink Cowboy. You need to rest now.”

Tanner reached for the cup with a shaky hand and drank the pain killing tea.

Chris frowned at the lack of fussing on the part of the tracker. “Try to sleep and give that leg time to start healing. It’s going to be morning before we can leave for home anyway.”

“Kay.” Vin smiled feeling the tea beginning to work. “Home? Goin’ home sounds good…,” he said as he drifted off to sleep.

Larabee sighed as he stood and stretched his back. He was shaking all over from the effort of removing the thorns. He poured himself some coffee and put more than a little medical whiskey in it. Sipping it he looked back at the sleeping man. Damn I wish Nathan was here. What if I did everything wrong? He took another sip, I hate doing things like this.


The blond sat down on the other bunk. He stretched out his legs and leaned against the wall. He was so tired yet he didn’t want to sleep. He needed to watch over Vin and make sure he slept peacefully. The tracker had been right, his nightmares had come with frighten regularity. Chris couldn’t tell what they were about from the mumbled words Vin said but he knew they were bad.

Something was bothering the tracker, something that he didn’t want to talk about. Hell, Tanner what could be so bad that you can’t even tell me? You’ve seen me at my worst. Doing and saying things I wouldn’t want anyone to hear. Don’t you know that you can tell me anything? You’re as close to me as Buck and he’s like a brother to me.

The blond’s head dropped back against the wall, his eyes drooping shut. The coffee cup dropped from his hand so he drifted off to sleep.

+ + + + + + +

Larabee woke with a start. He glanced over at the peacefully sleeping Tracker and with a shiver padded over to the stove. He quietly loaded it again and adjusted the damper. Then he walked over to where Vin slept, a peaceful look on his face. There was a light sheen of sweat on his forehead. Chris hoped it was because the fever had finally broken.

Checking the fire he went back to the bunk. Lying down this time, he stretched out on his back. His eyes slowly closing he drifted to sleep again.

+ + + + + + +


The blond looked up. “What?”

Sarah Larabee put her hands on her hips. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

“Yes I did. I was just resting my eyes.” Chris looked in wonder at his beautiful wife. One part of his mind started asking “How?” But he ignored it. IT was a little voice he didn’t want to hear.

“Liar. What did I just say?”

Chris smiled. “I don’t know. I’m sorry honey, I was wool gathering.”

Sarah smiled. “I said you really ought to listen to your friend. Sometimes a man has something important to say but it’s hard to say so he skirts around it. You have to listen and pay attention. Sometimes you only hear what you want to hear.”

“Sarah, what are you talking about?”

“Just that you need to listen, sometimes with your heart, not just your ears.”

“Come here Sweet Sarah, and I’ll listen to anything you want to whisper in my ear,” Chris said with a smile and he opened his arms to her.

Sarah laughed and slipping into his arms. “You just remember to listen.” She bent down and placed a sweet deep kiss on his mouth.

+ + + + + + +


Chris jerked awake, looking around.


Chris looked around tensely until he realized it was the sound of the wood popping in the stove. Damn it. Chris lowered his head and squeezed his eyes shut.

His heart was pounding and he tried to calm his breathing. Sweet Sarah, I miss you so.

Larabee rolled over onto his side and watched the fire between the cracks in the stove. Why do I do this to my self? What did she mean I need to listen? Then he closed his eyes and relished how beautiful she was and how the dream made his mental picture of her become sharp and clear once more. Focusing on that the gunfighter fell asleep again.

+ + + + + + +

The sun shone brightly in the shack’s window waking Chris. He first glanced at the sleeping tracker and then got up to stoke the fire. Once he made a trip outside he started cooking breakfast. The snare he’d set the night before had caught a fat rabbit and he cleaned it. Cutting it up put it in the Dutch oven with some onion and water to cook. Then he mixed some flour and water to make a thick batter for dumplings.

The smell of the cooking meat woke Vin. He moved, trying to roll over and the sound of his movement caught Chris’ attention.

“Hey, Cowboy, how are you feeling this morning?”

“Better, I’m gittin’ hungry too.”

“Good,” Larabee smiled at the news. “By the time I check your leg and arm it should be done.”

The gunslinger gathered bandages and spread them out by the bunk Vin lay on. He unwrapped the bandage around the arm first.

“It looks good Pard, healing, no redness. Now roll over and let me look at your leg.”

Vin grunted and did as Chris said.

Chris lifted the blanket, took off the bandage around the knee and lifted the cloth he placed over the rest of the wounds. “Looks good Pard. No redness and real nice an’ smooth. Not a hair in sight. “

“Shut up Lar’bee.” Vin groaned as he tried to turn around and look for himself. Nodding he said, “Feels some better, but it itches . “

“Let me put a little salve on your leg and then… Are you sure your up to eating something?”

Tanner thought for a minute. “Yeah, I’m starved.”

When Chris was through spreading the soothing salve, he said. “There you go, smooth as a baby’s butt.”

Vin rolled over and sat up. “Go t’ hell, Lar’bee. Where’s ‘m clothes?”

Chris smiled. “Don’t have any. Had to cut them off you.”

“You’d better be lyin’,” Vin growled.

Larabee snorted. “Or what? My great aunt Emma could out run you right now.”

“Come on Chris, I need ‘m clothes. ‘M cold.”

Making a face the blond went over and started digging through the saddle bags. He threw a clean pair of long johns and a shirt at Vin. “Sorry Cowboy you only had one pair of pants and they got ruined. Lucky for you I’ve got an extra pair.”

“Aww, hell. I look awful in them black things.”

“You don’t have to wear them, you could just go around in your under drawers,” Chris shot back and the shy tracker.

Vin watched as the blond laugh and then moved to the stove to finish cooking. “Damn smart assed cowboy,” he grumbled under his breath.

“I heard that. You want to eat you be nice,” Larabee fired back at him.

Tanner struggled into the borrowed clothes after he dressed he sat on the edge of the bunk, staring out the window. The sun and warmth loving man smiled at the once again warm sunshine and lost him self in the view. Slowly the cabin disappeared from his perception.

+ + + + + + +

Vin stood on a high place looking out over the land. Looking one way he could see Four Corners and the people moving about. When he looked the other way he could see the village he grew up in. He knew it was impossible but he also knew it was true when he recognized the markings on the lodges.

Two homes, two places he belonged, but so different.

Looking up he heard the call of a Falcon. He watched as it flew toward him. Then the bird stopped, perching in front of him..

Vin waited. The Falcon watched him for a while before it spoke.

“Little Brother you are now ready to listen to my words. You have lost your true path. You hide your true self from those who would be your brothers. But you cannot be in their brotherhood completely until you are free to show them who you truly are. You must show them all of your true self.”

I must keep my past with the People hidden. The whites don’t understand. They will cast me out. It’s happened before, even with them. I have made myself a place with them. I won’t lose it.”

“Little Brother, your soul is twined with each of the others. Test this and them if you must. Tell the green eyed one first. Your spirits are as one and he will accept that part of you just as you accept that hidden part of him. As you have accepted the hidden part of each of them.”

“You will never belong to just one world. It is your fate to walk two paths, to show others the wisdom that is in each way. You must show those you are close to how to walk the middle path with out betraying their hearts.”

“I don’t know how to do that.”

“You will find the way, each step you take will show you the next one.”

The Falcon raised its wings and flew.

+ + + + + + +

Vin blinked and looked up at the morning sky. He’d had another vision he was sure of it. Then he saw the black spot up very high in the sky. Tanner watched as the spot grew and dived down. It got so close he could see the pattern of browns on the falcon’s wings and hear its cry as it captured its prey.

Smiling he thought, Thank you my brother, I will not forget.

“You ready to eat?” Chris asked.

“Yeah, ‘m hungry.”

“Good,” Was all Chris said. It’d been a while since the tracker had wanted to eat. “You wanna try eating at the table?”


Chris helped Vin walk the few steps to the small table and after sitting him down set a plate full of rabbit and dumplings in front of him. Then he got a plate for himself and sat down to eat.

After taking a bite of the rabbit the Texan looked at his best friend and cleared his throat. And he took that first step of faith. “Did I ever tell you ‘bout my Pa, my Comanche Pa?”

Chris looked up at Vin and waited. While he waited he heard whispered in the wind.