Living Life Without Colour in Purgatory

by Roo

Spoilers: Pilot, Working Girls, Wagon Train

Content warnings: implied sexual situations, language

Summary: Chris trying to deal with the anniversary of the death of his wife and child…as only he can…

Disclaimer: The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters, settings or song references. I don't own the characters. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

Author’s notes: written 10 – 14th August 2005. First story in this fandom. Came to me like a dream in the night. Apologies if canon is wrong, I have only seen a few of the later episodes over here in the UK. Thanks to Winnie for looking over this.

The blond strained and clutched at her as he groaned the name “Sarah” into her neck. Spent and utterly gone, heart still racing, body still jerking with his final passion, he lay there for a moment or so before he murmured something and rolled off her. Sarah was not her name, but she did not mind. She had many names, if that was what a man wanted. The name she chose for herself was Abby. She liked it well enough and given the work she did, using her real name Kitty was a sad joke, God and her long dead parents would never laugh over.

The blond moved closer again and lightly held onto her arm. Tired but sated, she gently brushed sweaty hair off his face. It was a good face, slightly battered and defenceless now. The stress, worry and longing smoothed from his brow. It was too dark to see his expressive green eyes. She didn’t know how long it would last, but for now he was at peace. Lord knew they all needed a bit of that in this hard life.

She smiled; it had been a wild ride, sure enough, after the almost embarrassed pent up beginning. In fact, it was almost sweet. And you didn’t get much of that in Purgatorio that was for sure. This one could be a keeper if he’d let her. But she reckoned he wouldn’t be owned by anyone unless he wanted it that way. Besides, he had obligations elsewhere.

Abby knew who he was; most folks round these parts did. He was Chris Larabee, one of seven men who kept the peace over in Four Corners. Seemed to be doing fine at it too, if the reports were true. She reckoned he just plain scared a lot of bad folks right off with that glare of his. ‘Course wearing the black helped plenty too. She wasn’t scared of him.

Every now and then he’d drift into Purgatorio. Why, she never knew. Purgatorio was a hard place most folks tried to get out of. But she guessed that people had to be somewhere. And right now, she was here. Taking care of things. After all, men had needs. Lord, knew life was tough enough without a little bit of loving and comfort now and then.

Slowly she eased herself out of the rumpled bed and wrapped a robe around her naked body. She stood by the window and looked out into the velvet night. Weed tumbled down the road, and a cat darted in and out of the shadows. Chris moved, a hand seeking the warm spot where she had lain, or perhaps her she wondered. Man had plenty of energy, God love him. Not an ounce of fat. He was all lean and hard muscle in all the right places she grinned to herself in remembrance. Abby went to the screened washstand in the corner and washed her hot skin with the cool water.

Men. Always looking for something female to hold onto. A mother, a wife, a lover. ‘Course they swore black was blue that they didn’t need womenfolk in their life. But that was just man talk. Everybody needed somebody sooner or later. Like Chris here. She now knew about the name he had cried out, and the needing and the wanting that had finally got him to bed her. For all the men were tough and hard baked on the outside, they all wanted comfort. Wanting to be back inside their momma’s body. Shelter, warmth, love, all of those things. Sometimes they’d cry like little kids desperate for a loving touch, a kiss on the forehead, a soft voice.

And some of them were mean and rough and could, some had, hurt her. Wasn’t nothing she couldn’t handle a time or two. Just meant she worked differently for a spell. Not all of them wanted the physical loving.

The man in black was tough alright, those green eyes glaring hard at you making you shiver to your bones, hands ghosting to his gun. Yet there was a vulnerability about him that she sensed from time to time. A deep hurt that he hid under his black hat and scowl like a ‘Danger Keep Out’ sign. He’d said to call him Chris, when she’d finally got him to smile and loosen up a bit, okay a lot. He’d had a shot or two of Red Eye but he was okay with it. Wasn’t going to hurt her none.

He just wanted female company. They’d talk. Not many of her men wanted to talk. Or if they did it was all about them. The plans they had, the money they was goin’ to make and they promised to come back for her and take her away from this place. They never did, but then she didn’t expect them to. Chris never made promises like that. At least he was honest. He’d light up a smoke and they’d sit and drink and he’d listen to her voice talking about her day, friends, life. Sometimes he’d ask her to let him know if she saw this or that man in town from time to time and if so to get word to him. He told her to be careful about it though.

“Why do you wear the black all the time?” she’d asked once when she felt he might tell her. The answer was a long time coming. He wore the black like a shield, warding off anyone who came close. The dark ran deep and sunlight and smiles didn’t seep into its depths very often she was sure of that. Who had died and how long ago?

“Colour’s hard,” he finally said weeks later, lying on her bed staring up at the ceiling. “Don’t have to think about picking stuff out in the morning.” It was an answer of sorts.

And one she’d make do. At the time he was bone tired, damp and out of sorts and she didn’t want to press him more. Riding all the way out here getting caught in a storm, with a half healed knife wound in him was a stupid idea. She’d told him that, but he said he was fine, needed a change of scenery. The only scenery he saw for the next few days was her room while she looked after him until a man called Vin turned up and claimed him back.

The brown buckskin-clad man cussed Chris every which way but Sunday, with Chris giving as good as he got.

“Just checkin’ ya didn’t fall of yer damn horse and bust yer head open.”

“I’m fine.”

“’Course with yer head open it’s the only way ta make you see sense. Didn’t ya hear Nathan raggin’ on you? Brung ya some of his herbs fer tea. Why d’ya have to trail all the way over to this blot of a town anyways?”

“Don’t have to answer to you, Tanner!”

“Mind you I wasn’t expectin’ the current pretty scenery…”

“Abby, this is Vin. Vin this is Abby. I’m fine, told ya that already.”

“Yeah, c’n see that. Pale and puke looks good on ya.”

“So help me, I’ll kill you for that.”

“Sure, cowboy. Next week when you can get over here and reach me.”

Sounded hard but underneath she could tell it was soft as could be, worried, hurtin’, caring. For all Chris’ hard outer shell, Vin had walked straight through it to the inner core. And damn if he wasn’t polite and slightly embarrassed too. “Thanks Abby,” he said after Chris did the introductions. “Fer looking after the stupid Cowboy. Much obliged to ya.” But he never commented on who or what she was, or his feelings on why Chris was here.

Abby felt sad for whatever had stolen the colour out of his life, wasn’t right to be so dark and plain all the time. She was glad he seemed to have some people looking out for him.

Thinking back to the present, she looked back at the bed. Sure he’d been a bit wild but he’d been unexpectedly loving too. It was passion, a deep passion, not anger at her. For that she was grateful. He didn’t hit her or force her to do anything that she didn’t want to do. And boy had he needed to let go. Nothing wrong with a little passion in one’s life.

This tango had been developing for several months now. Abby knew that he was kept busy in Four Corners keeping the peace. When he was in Purgatorio he busted a few heads here too. That was how they met….

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee had saved her late one night from a particularly nasty piece of work, intent on blood, violence and hateful need in one of the alleys. She’d run from him once and said no, she wasn’t working and told him where the other girls were .She didn’t cater for that kind of need. Although she couldn’t say she hadn’t done a few distasteful regrettable things in her life. Didn’t mean she had a right to get beat black and blue and forced at knife point.

Suddenly a man in black appeared out of the shadows as she stood, back pressed hard against the side of a building, knees quaking, and face stinging from the blows to her face and side, the ranch hands big knife at her throat, his hand fumbling with her bodice, his heavy body pressed against hers. The sound of a gun being cocked back and a growled “That’s no way to treat a lady” stopped the man in his tracks. Hand on her throat he whirled round to face the man in black, knife poised in his other hand.

“She ain’t no lady. Git. She’s mine . Wait yer turn”

“She done told you, she had other plans mister.”

“Hell she do. She’s a whore. Min fer tonight”

“She said no.” The gun never wavered. The black-hatted man’s voice icy, meaning business. With a tiny motion of his other hand, he encouraged her to move away from the wall. The ranch hand heard her move and turned and made one step in her direction, even though it meant turning his back on the gun.

“Touch her again, and I’ll beat you black and blue, knife ya myself. See how you like it!”

“Jus lookin’ for a little fun is all. Payday.”

Suddenly the man in black pounced, that was the only way she could describe it, pushed the ranch hand to the wall gun in his back hand round his throat.

“Fun, ain’t this. You do it this way and she won’t be waiting for you next time. None of ‘em will. Treat ‘em right, they’ll be here for you when you need ‘em the most. Stupid!”

“Jes, a whore, they like it like…aarggh!” The ranch hands other words silenced as the man in black cold cocked him with the pistol. The ranch hand slumped to the ground, dazed and bleeding.

“I hear you causin’ trouble with the girls again. I will kill you,” declared the man in black. The hand groped for his knife again, but it was kicked away. Another kick went to the ranch hands vital soft parts. He gave a strangled moan and curled in on himself.

”That should cool you down some. Don’t seem to understand the word no, do you? You can get your knife back from the sheriff in town, or I can give it to the lady and she can cut off bits you won’t be needing anymore. What do you say?”

“Yes!” came the grudging reply. The man in black sighed as passed the knife to Abby.

“No!” shouted the ranch hand as he realised what was going to happen.

“No beatin’ up the ladies and I won’t set her on you …”

“What you say…sure,” agreed the ranch hand still slumped on the ground.

And with that the man in black stuck his hand out towards her and helped her out of the alley.

“You got girlfriends can take care of you tonight?”

She had nodded.

“Thank you…”

“All in a day’s work,” he replied, taking another look at her “You need a doctor, he didn’t…?” he asked softly.

“No doctor needed, I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll see you to your door and be on my way then.” A moment later they reached the back door and stairs of the saloon. Sally was leaning out of the window smoking.

“Not many would have bothered, mister…I …”

“Just tidying things up. Ain’t no bother.”

But it had been a bother and she didn’t understand why he just disappeared after that. Then she spotted him in town again several weeks later and that’s when he’d told her his name.

+ + + + + + +

Abby shivered suddenly chilled in the night air. She turned back to the bed and slipped a nightshirt on, discarding the robe once more. With the ease of practice she gently prodded Chris till he turned over, stopped snoring and left room for her to get back in.


He rolled over wondering what time it was, and found himself almost face to face with a female bedmate. For a precious second or two he thought the last four years hadn’t happened and that this was…Sarah. But his heart pounded and stomach lurched as he knew it couldn’t be. Abby was still asleep, but he was wide awake now. He slipped out of the bed, washed and pulled his black pants back on. Standing by the window he checked on the world outside.

He sighed. He wasn’t a saint and he wasn’t sure how bad a sinner he was. Certainly wasn’t no angel. God, but he missed his wife. The physical thing was only part of it. He missed the rosewater scent she wore, the way she gathered up her hair out of the way when she was doing the baking. She always got flour on her nose… The way she looked after Adam when he wasn’t there. Dammit! If only he and Buck had gone some other day to look at horses…She would…and Adam would still be here…Shit.

This time of year was always hard on him. The anniversary. Buck knew how hard it was for him to keep himself together. Buck’d wear himself out keeping an eye on him, steering people clear of him.

He couldn’t help it. It was the way he was. Holding the hurt deep inside. Men don’t cry, his pa had taught him that well. Made him tough. But he’d cried like a baby when he and Buck returned to a smouldering house and burnt bodies. The passage of time and plenty of whisky would never erase it from his mind. If he lived to be sixty he’d never forget it, and he didn’t reckon Buck would either. And the both of them had seen plenty of carnage during the war. Didn’t mean he expected to find it in his own yard. Helpless. Too late. Forever and ever. The burying and making the crosses leached all the tears out of his body. No tears left, just pain and rage.

Some years he blotted it out with the liquor and fights. Buck ever present somewhere keeping him from getting killed. Early on that’s what he wanted. Shoulda just blown his own damn head off. He must have done something to someone to deserve such a shitty hand of cards in the game of life.

At some point though he and Buck had parted on angry, bitter words. It took him another year and a half to think things through enough to realise that Buck was hurting just as bad as he was about the whole thing. But Chris didn’t know where Buck was by then. Until he came across him in some married women’s room in Four Corners and got him to help keep the peace with the other five men.

Another anniversary rolled round like they do. He visited the old homestead and tried to find something to do with his life. He existed and that was it. Drifting in and out of odd jobs along wagon trains, protecting the folks. Brokering horseflesh and delivering horses. Got handy with his gun. Got more jobs. Carried on rolling from place to place. Unsettled. Despairing. Angry.

Sure sometimes he found female company. He wasn’t a saint. He needed the release. But he didn’t tomcat around as much as Buck did and like he had before he met and married Sarah….

It was just that he felt bad for being with the women. He knew they were there to cater for man’s needs, but it made him remember what he missed most. So he picked ones who looked nothing like his wife and then worried that that was wrong in some way. Perhaps he thought about it all too damn much.

And this year…he really screwed things up this year, he thought grimacing to himself at the choice of words. How could he? Abby’s hair was the same colour and length of Sarah’s. The build was different and so was the scent she wore, luckily. There was enough though…and he had. Didn’t know if it would make things better or worse. Buck would probably have some idea, him being so clever with the ladies and all. Vin had seen Abby once months back, but he didn’t know what Sarah looked like. ‘Sides Vin would keep quiet anything he asked him to. Chris’ business was his own.

This year, like last year, now that he was based in Four Corners, getting to his old home was an easy distance. He went, took the flowers, placed them. Spent the night sitting there with his usual bottle of Red Eye. Remembering better times. Told them this was the longest he’d been in one place for years. Wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Putting roots down again….

He’d told the others he would be gone for a few days. He felt both angry and glad at the same time as he rode hard out of town. They knew what this time of year was and he could feel their concern. But he also knew they’d watch his back and the town while he was gone. Probably they sighed in relief now that he’d gone. He had been like a grizzly with a sore tooth. Snapping and snarling at anyone that came close. He could feel them watching him though. Didn’t like the way that felt. Made him want to just scoot on out of town. So he had. Before he shot somebody.

Maybe this was how Vin felt being in town for too long. Crushed. Couldn’t breathe. Civilisation was over rated. Didn’t want nobody to ask him anything. Tell him they understood. Why? Who would want to understand what he’d been through?

And then there was Mary and Billy. Oh boy. He’d told her right off he was the bad element. But she didn’t back off. He’d admired her guts the moment he saw her in the street with the shotgun facing down the men trying to lynch Nathan. She had begun to get to him and he tried to keep his distance. Not sure how he felt about the whole wagon train, Gerard thing. But then he had other things on his mind like Vin losing his heart and going off.

He knew Sarah wouldn’t have wanted him to climb into the bottom of the bottles, that she’d want him to find another woman to marry and have a life. He just couldn’t do it. He’d lost it all once. He could lose it easily again. So, better all round, if he didn’t even get that far, right? Hence the occasional working girl. Chris knew that Mary didn’t like them; she must suspect he visited them. Hard not to after he, Buck and JD came back from Wicke’s Town with some women who’d been roughed up by their keeper. Mary had steered clear of him for a while after that. Which kinda proved his point about being the bad element…

Shit, he was going round in goddamn circles here. Women. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them! After visiting Sarah and Adam he’d circled back round to his little cabin. The one Vin called a shack. But it was his. And this year he felt more alone than he’d ever felt. He did some repairs on the roof and corral. The hard work made him tired enough to sleep without thinking too much. Didn’t really feel like eating.

Woke up early one morning and found himself on his horse, riding out west, burning with restless energy. A change of scenery might do the trick. Yeah, right Larabee, who you kidding? Nobody at all. If he was going to be bad, he wasn’t going to in Four Corners where people seemed to make his business their business.

In Purgatorio he had a few drinks in the saloon, ignored the working girls even though he recognised Abby’s friend Sally. Maybe Abby was busy…did he want to be a customer or just company? He hadn’t been a customer before…she passed on information when she could get word. Maybe she wasn’t here at all. He got up from the table, his boot slipping in some spilled beer making him fling out a hand and rock the next table. Glasses and a bottle slid off and smashed to the floor.

“Sorry ‘bout that.” As he turned round to pay for the lost drinks he met with a viscous punch to the face that knocked him back into another table and chairs. Hooking a leg round the other man’s ankle Chris forced him to fall over too, stunning him. Chris came up with his gun in his hand.

“Slipped on the floor. Not worth dying over. Here’s something for the liquor.” He nodded to the bar keep, left the coin on the man’s chest and went out through the bat wing doors.

He stood for a second realising blood was dribbling down his face from his nose. He tried to wipe it off. Maybe he’d better just get away from town….he headed for the stables where his horse was. Probably a good idea to check he was alright. Horseflesh was a lot of money to lose.

As Chris stood in the stable patting and talking to his horse he heard the door quietly open. Whirling round, gun drawn he saw it was Abby. She flinched. He relaxed and holstered the gun.

“Heard there was a small ruckus in the bar. Knew you had to be back in town,” she said with a smile.

“Well, not for long,” he said.

“You’re hurt. Let me look at that!”

“I’m ...”

“Fine, yes I know. But you look like some ghoul with that blood all over. Gotta be spookin’ the horse,” she countered.

He stood warring with himself. If he went now, he’d lose the money on the cheap room he’d rented. The punch had been hard and his head was beginning to pound, a bruise rising up on his side from hitting the chairs. And he did have blood all over…She was offering to help clean him up and he could use someone to talk to.

They went to his room, a handkerchief pressed under his nose as they walked.

“No this won’t do at all,” she said when she saw the room he had. It was small, no window. Just a basic bed and table. She flipped the bedclothes back and didn’t like what she saw.

Before he knew it they were round the back of the saloon and in her room. The lamps were lit revealing a bigger and better bed, a comfortable chair and furniture plus some water to wash in.

“Sit down; you’re too tall, I can’t reach you up there!” she ordered as she got some more cloths and rummaged in a drawer for something.

He sat on the bed. Abby sat next to him as she dabbed at his face with the wet cloth cleaning the blood off.

“Didn’t start the fight. Just minding my own business. Somewhere to be,” he said.

“I heard. You okay in there? You seem a little off.”

“Dying is easy, it’s the living that’s hard. Even if I made a promise…,” he said tiredly.

“Is this about whoever died and left you so angry?”

“Don’t!” he barked, shaking his head at her. Annoyed and surprised that she’d pegged him so well.


“I…she…hell. They’re dead. Goin’ on four years now. I hate this time of year. There ain’t nothing you can do about it!” he shouted back at her.

He stood up abruptly and headed for the door, only to wince as his holster and gun stabbed at him in the side right where he’d fallen.

Abby reached for his gun belt.

He grabbed at her hands and pinned her against the wall.

“Didn’t come here for that!” he growled even as a tiny voice in his head said ‘are you sure about that?’ “Leave my gun alone!”

“Just wanted to get your shirt up to see what else you hurt,” she said calmly. Like she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. Not when he felt so lost. Hot damn, though she smelled nice, she was trying to help him. He groaned and leaned his head against the wall. She turned her head and kissed the side of his cheek. He let out a breath. She wriggled against him. He was a goner for sure by then. He kissed her and carried on pressing her against the wall. Then his hands were cradling her face and in her hair and when she unbuckled his gun belt he didn’t stop her.

One thing led to another and here they were, the morning after. His nose looked huge, he had a nice bruise on his side but he felt good. Still wanted to carry on living for a while longer he decided.

+ + + + + + +

A day or so later on the trail home, as he made camp for the night, he sensed he was being watched. Given where he was, there was only one person it could be. He dug out a spare mug from his saddlebag.

“Coffee’s about ready if you want some,” he said into the dark, the sparks from the wood creating a light show.

“You still in a bad mood, or can folk talk to ya now without gettin’ their head bit clean off?” said Vin as he stepped round the fire to sit near his friend.

“We’re talking ain’t we?”

“Guess so.” And they sat in comfortable silence nursing their coffee. Vin didn’t talk much as a rule anyways. And Chris was still getting his head round the last few days and the whole anniversary thing.

“I know yer hurtin. It’s hard. Buck…”

“Talks too damn much. Should have shot him years back when I had the chance. It’s my business!” Chris retorted.

“Yeah, but when you stomp about like a bee stung grizzly and take off, ya kinda make it our business. We’ve all had our share of hurt and grief, Larabee, that’s all I’m sayin’.”

“Huh.” He had to admit, Vin was right. Chris lit a cheroot and smoked in silence.

“Gettin’ in a fight calm you down some, cowboy?” Vin said after a while, noting the fading bruised eye and puffy nose.

“It was the clean up after the fight, what done that…,” Chris said with a slight smile.

“Hmmm.” was Vin’s response. “Abby?” and Chris sighed and thought some more.

“Whatcha thinkin’so hard about, pard? I can hear it from here,” asked Vin eventually, worried that the gunslinger was losing his edge because of some working girl.

“Maybe I should get some grey or tan shirts once in a while. They’d go alright with black wouldn’t they? Or how about a striped shirt?” came the thoughtful reply.

Vin had no idea why Chris was talking about clothes all of a sudden. Ezra and his hideous red coat was enough for the whole town without Chris joining in. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure it was living in town that did it. Made people crazy. Civilisation was over rated.

The End