The Hideout

by MMW

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belong to John Watson, MGM, etc.

Author's Note: I just watched a special on tv and couldn't resist writing a fic on what I saw.

Chris leapt over the large stone and quickly ducked down, letting a curse slip from his lips. Sending a glare in the direction of his compatriot, he sought a way to blame everything on the long-haired man. His anger didn't ease any when he saw the twinkle in the blue eyes. "There's nothing amusing about this," he hissed.

Vin couldn't stop the smirk that formed on his face. Instead of a reply he simply raised an eyebrow.

Chris tried to scowl at the man, but couldn't stop the smile that tugged at his lips and soon a smile broke out. "OK. Maybe it's a little amusing," he admitted in a whisper. "But if you tell Buck I'll shoot you."

Vin's shoulders shook, knowing the threat was an idle one. Rising from his position, he peered over the top of the rock as a sound caught his attention. A soft curse escaped his lips. These people were very determined in giving them chase and they seemed to know a thing or two about tracking in the woods. Still, it wouldn't do for either to get caught. It was bad enough they were going to have to sneak into town later to recover their horses and possessions. "Follow me," the Tracker hissed, clapping Larabee on the shoulder.

Without a word or comment, Chris stood and followed his companion as closely and carefully as possible, not wanting to attract any undue attention. He bit back a curse as Tanner led them through some thorny brush toward a lake; the thorns tearing into his legs.

Vin knew exactly where he wanted to go. They just needed to get there.

Stopping at the edge of a pond, Vin pulled his knife and quickly cut two reed lengths no more than six inches long.

Chris turned to see what his friend was doing. He'd been keeping an eye and an ear out for their pursuers. He was getting nervous as he heard the sound of feet crashing through the underbrush. "Vin," he hissed, trying to urge his friend on.

Vin finished what he was doing with the reeds and handed one to Chris. "You ever use one of these to breathe underwater?" he asked. Vin almost laughed at the horrified look on the blond's face, providing the answer he needed. He quickly explained, "Put one end in your mouth and keep the other above water. Breathe through the reed, through your mouth, not your nose."

Were it not for the fact that Chris trusted Vin implicitly, he would think the man had lost his mind. Breathe through a reed? They had to be nuts. There was no way he was going to do this. A loud crash sounded behind them and Chris quickly followed Vin's lead, removing his gunbelt and hiding it in the place Vin indicated. Then, pushing aside his trepidation, he followed Tanner as the Texan waded into the water.

Releasing a soft curse as the cool water engulfed his feet and legs, Tanner scanned the area and found their salvation. The water was too clear to offer the cover they needed, but he had spotted somewhere else that could help them. Turning to give Chris a reassuring smile, he continued to wade out until he was deep enough to submerge his body in the water. He watched as Chris did the same.

Narrowing his eyes, Vin looked at the gunslinger. "You trust me," he asked seriously.

Chris felt his stomach clench at the question. "Yes," he replied without hesitation, wondering what was going to happen now.

Licking his lips, Vin nodded once. "Good. We need to swim underwater and find our way under that beaver lodge."

"What!?" Chris hissed, his green eyes wide with disbelief. He had done some pretty wild things in his day, but this took the cake.

Vin sighed and scanned the shore. He didn't want to spend the time explaining, but he had to get Chris to agree. "Beavers have an entry to their lodge underwater. It leads into a small chamber maybe two feet across and a few inches high. There's another chamber further up, but it's not big enough for us to get into. It is big enough to hold enough air to last us a while. We'll still need to use the reeds to breathe because the entry will be too small for us to get into..." He trailed off as he saw Chris shaking his head.

"Are you insane?" he demanded in a panicked hiss. "Tell me you've done this before."

Vin pursed his lips. "I could tell you that, Cowboy," he said, taking his reed in hand and preparing to dive, "but I'd be lying." So saying, he dove under the water and made his way underneath the beaver lodge, making sure there was enough room for both he and Chris to fit. He waited a few minutes until he saw Chris swim up next to him. Taking the lead, he moved his reed into position in the opening and placed the other end in his mouth. He blew through it to clear it of any water and began breathing.

Chris was not happy about this but followed Vin's lead. He made the mistake of trying to inhale first, but soon discovered his mistake. Stopping before he could choke, he forced air out of his lungs, clearing the reed. He still wasn't sure about this and was ready to swim back to the surface if need be, but was surprised when he found air to breathe. It was a little strange breathing through his mouth underwater, but he was doing it.

+ + + + + + +

It was hard to tell how much time passed as they waited underwater, waiting for safety, but it seemed like hours before Vin signaled that they should be safe to return to the surface. Taking one last deep breath, Chris removed the reed and followed his friend upward.

As he broke the surface, he took a deep breath of fresh air and scanned the area. He surprised to see that they really had been underwater for hours and the sun had set. The bright full moon provided a silver-white light by which he could clearly see his friend grinning at him. He found it impossible not to grin back. No one would believe what they had just done.

Vin nodded his head toward the shore and started on his way.

The two dripping men made their way to the place where they'd hidden their guns. Even Chris Larabee could see the footprints that trampled the ground around where they had stashed their weapons. They had been lucky to get themselves hidden as quickly as possible. Nodding his thanks to Vin as Tanner handed him his guns, Chris strapped them on and prepared to make the long trek back to town to reclaim his things.

+ + + + + + +

Lunch time the following day found them approaching home. Chris took the moment to stop Vin and remind him, "Remember, you tell anyone and I will shoot you."

Vin just grinned at his friend and urged his horse forward, leaving Larabee to wonder if Vin would remain silent.

+ + + + + + +

That night he headed into the saloon. He had gotten back just in time to cover his rounds. He was now on his way to get a drink, some food and let Vin know it was his turn for patrol.

Stepping through the batwing doors, he nodded greetings to several patrons before spotting his friends sitting in a back corner talking and laughing. A smile lit his face as he thought how good it was to be home. Walking over to his friends, he took the seat Vin pushed out for him. "Your turn, Vin," he greeted as he nodded his acceptance of the glass of whiskey pushed at him by Ezra.

"Best be going then, I reckon," Vin said, standing, tipping his hat to his friends and heading out of the saloon.

Quiet reigned at the table for several minutes before Nathan, Buck and Ezra exchanged an amused glance. Leaning back in his chair, Buck turned his twinkling eyes upon his oldest friend. Waiting for Chris to take a sip and acknowledge him, Buck's mouth twitched into a smile. Finally the green eyes met his.

"Gonna let me in on what's so funny, Buck?" Chris asked.

Buck's smile grew into a full blown grin. "The mayor's daughter, stud?" he asked, as he, Ezra and Nathan started laughing.

Chris felt his face flush. Vin Tanner was a dead man. Tossing back the rest of his drink in one swallow, he stood and headed for the door.

The three men laughed harder when, as the door swung shut behind him, they heard Chris call out "TANNER!"

The End