Like Dominoes Falling
Summary: No one noticed but Mary, and then she just had to go and tell Chris.....
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 25-30 July in response to the UK Mag7 Fans yahoo list First Anniversary on 31st July 2006.
Vin was pleasantly full of Nettie's stew and apple pie, and aching from honest work, as he rode back to town. He'd spent the afternoon helping out. If he didn't know any better he would swear she messed stuff, just so's he could fix 'em. Not that he minded, and she knew it. She might be old but no way was she stupid. He liked her company. Felt comfortable around her; felt he could be himself without watching what or how he said anything. He was disturbed from his thoughts as Peso side stepped something and when he bent down to pat him on the neck, the darn horse turned and tried to get at his fingers.
"Cut it out, you mangy mule! I know you can still smell the apple I gave you. Ain't got 'nother one, so give up!" and he jerked hard to stop him. He had no problem after that. But it didn't stop the big horse from trying to step on his feet in the livery as he took off his saddle and rubbed him down for the night.
"I swear, paying a peso for you was too much," he growled into one twitching ear, whilst feeding Peso the last half of the apple he'd hidden in a pocket.
Town looked peaceful enough, he thought as he made his way to the saloon with his package. Entering, he looked around to see who was there and get a feel of the place. Card games, a few floozies, lots of drinking and a few of his friends. He turned and ordered a beer.
"Vin's brought back booty," Buck drawled as he sorted his cards.
"I recall he was at Nettie Wells' abode, labouring past suppertime. That can only mean one thing," commented Ezra.
Vin smiled into his beer. He glanced over at Chris at his usual table but he sat hunched over his drink, deep in thought.
"Would you care to wager what Mr Tanner brought back from Mistress Wells' esteemed kitchen?" asked Ezra, his eyes lit up at the double prospect of food and dollars.
"No, it's got to be peach pie!"
"I must challenge that assumption; there is no way that Mr Tanner would be able to make the journey back here, many miles remember, with that pie intact."
"Who in the hell eats rhubarb Ezra? Apart from you that is?"
Vin left them to it as he waited for the bar keep to get a plate and some napkins. Finally he was able to cut the food Nettie had pressed him to take back for the other six men. Carrying two pieces over to Ezra and Buck "Apple cake, not a pie...." he said.
The wager was forgotten as they ate some of the cake.
"Anything I should know about?" Vin asked quietly, nodding towards Chris.
"Nope, just another day like any other. I saw Mary looking for him late this afternoon, showed him something. Been quiet ever since," offered Buck.
"Well, we know he don't say more than three words a day if he don't have to..." said Vin.
He took two more pieces of cake and his drink and sat down next to Chris. He looked like he was thinking hard about something. But in a good way, Vin thought. Normally he could tell when not to approach his prickly friend, or just sat there acting as a buffer against Chris' bad moods. Chris'd tell him like as not, when he was minded to.
Vin stared right back when Chris' inward gaze suddenly turned outward and focussed on him with razor like intensity. Vin raised an eyebrow at him you okay?and Chris raised his shot glass to him in reply never better. Vin settled back in his chair. A comfortable silence reigned.
From the other side of the saloon, Buck threw away another card, and shook his head.
"There they go again," he muttered.
"What?" asked Ezra.
"That..." Buck jerked his head towards Chris and Vin doing a whole lot of nothing at their table.
"Buck Wilmington," Ezra sighed "They always do that."
"Yes, but..." Buck was getting annoyed, "Can't you almost feel like they're having whole conversations...'cept they ain't?" he asked waving one hand about.
"Surely this cannot distress you after such a long time?"
"Guess not," admitted Buck grudgingly. "Don't know if that's better than them shouting an' cussin' at each other like polecats..."
"Pray do not remind me," Ezra shuddered.
"Still, it was a good fight while it lasted," said Buck smiling in remembrance.
Ezra raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Our esteemed healer, Mr Jackson, would beg to disagree with you."
"Hell, they wasn't hurt that bad. Just letting off steam is all."
Behind them, Chris and Vin finally dug into the cake and watched the customers in the saloon. Chris let out a satisfied sigh as he wiped his mouth.
"Guess Nettie's okay?" he asked.
Chris didn't need to ask him about unusual tracks or any other problems that Nettie and Casey may have noticed, because Vin would have said so right off. He swallowed the last of his drink and got up from the table.
"Gonna check on JD, take him his cake if you like?" he said. Vin nodded. It was part of Chris' routine to check on the jail if they had prisoners, then taking a tour of the town before he retired to bed.
+ + + + + + +
Later, after the jail and part way through his walkabout, Chris stood dark and silent in the shadows.
Waiting for...something but often nothing. Which was fine by him because it meant no trouble for his town. Shoot, where did that come from? This place wasn't his town. Hell, if he'd followed his original plan he'd have been gone by the end of that day. But no - a bullet smashed into his bottle of whisky, and then he saw a group of men trying to lynch a coloured man.
After that his life had changed.
One slight nod to another man across the street loading a rifle and he'd tucked his duster back out of the way of his holster as they both strode down the centre of the town.
Chris leaned against the side of the building, thinking about how many twists and turns his life had made before arriving at this moment in time. Jeez, he sounded like an old man. He was a man who lived for the moment so why should he be surprised that he'd had what you might call an 'interesting' life?
Some of it was hard, some of it was downright unendurable.....but with that pain he could remember the sweetness that he'd had once with a family.
And now? Now he could endure thanks to the bunch of misfits that Travis had persuaded to guard the town. And that was a good thing wasn't it?
It was late, time to grab the half full bottle from the saloon and retire for good. As he passed along the street he quietly said "Night Vin," to the darker smudge he knew was his friend. Watching his back.
+ + + + + + +
Chris rode out early the next morning while it was still dark but with the hint of sunrise coming. He got to the ridge, tied Pony and set to making a fire to brew coffee.
While it warmed he sat and watched the sunrise and the panoramic view that began to reveal itself before him. For a few minutes he felt like he was the only person in the world. He heard the sounds of another horse come this way and had the coffee and spare cup ready. Even so, it was only at the last moment he heard the scrape of boot on rock as he turned round to see Tanner standing there.
"Don't look so surprised Larabee. If ya didn't want to me to come you shouldn't use the side of my wagon to light your Lucifer for your damned cigar!" Vin said as he came closer and sat next to Chris.
Chris grinned, his teeth white in the morning light, and just passed him his coffee.
"Pretty ain't it?" Vin said softly admiring the view.
"That it is."
"Something on your mind, Cowboy? Something to do with Mary?"
Chris sighed, "Buck's mouth flaps too damn much."
"If there's a problem we need to know."
"It ain't a problem at all, just caught me by surprise that's all," Chris replied cryptically and fished in his duster pocket for two folded news-sheets which he passed to Vin.
It was light enough to read the paper now and at first Vin didn't get what he was supposed to see.
The first paper described Nathan's almost lynching following the death by gangrene of a ranch hand. It told the story of how he and Chris (a noted gunslinger) had gone after the mob defeating them at the cemetery. Vin smiled as he remembered Mary telling him how rude Chris had been to her 'Lady, I am the bad element!' The paper also printed notices detailing which shops had shut, Mr Potter's murder, people leaving on the next coach.
Vin glanced at Chris, but he was staring out at the view.
He started on the second paper. It was yesterday's. He read it carefully like the other one. People arriving on the coach, advertisements for goods now in at the store; mention of who was in jail and details of the arrest; what route the new railroad was taking.
He still didn't get it. He slid the papers together to pass back to Chris, and that's when he saw it. The date. Or rather the two dates. The same, only separated by a year. He hadn't realised he'd made a noise until he looked up and saw Chris looking at him.
"I didn't realise," he said.
"Neither did I," Chris replied. "Mary came rushing out looking for me. Why me? Anyway, she showed me the papers. I asked her what she expected me to do about it. Throw a party or something?"
"Bet she liked that idea. Any excuse for a dance," said Vin.
"I told her no party - over my dead body - it was just a day. But no, she started to go on about how much the town had changed for the better since then. Since we saved Nathan and saved the Seminole village and everything else that followed."
"I know, she just makes me mad sometimes getting in my face like that. No warning or by your leave. I never expected to stay in one place this long. Settled. Got me thinking."
"I was only s'posed to be in town long enough to earn some cash and then move on."
"I haven't forgotten," Chris said about Tascosa
"I know," Vin replied when the time is right we'll ride out
"None of us would be here now if it weren't for the ranch hand getting gangrene. I'm not saying Nathan did anything wrong. Some things a doctor can't save if it's too late. But once that happened, everything else was like a row of dominoes falling one after the other. Nathan. Us. Nathan getting Josiah, me getting Buck. And then Ezra and JD just happening."
"And we're still here, still together. Against all the odds," said Vin.
"A hell of a thing."
"A good thing," corrected Vin. "A man ought to have friends he knows he can count on to watch his back."
"Maybe...we should all ride out when the time comes," suggested Chris looking at Vin.
"I'd appreciate that."
Chris nodded and refilled their mugs and they went back to watching the new day and enjoying the view.