It All Comes Down Too...
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are owned by Trilogy and MGM. I am just borrowing them and do not make any profit.
Comments: I know I did not do Susan's scene justice. But, I tried my best. Thank you to Susan for writing the scene. Thank you for MOG for betaing!
Author: Tidia with first scene by SBerry
Archivist's Note: This fic was previously hosted on another website and was moved to blackraptor in September 2006.
"No, Chris. Not Nathan's," Vin's whispered plea cut Larabee like an ice pick through sand.
Questioning the wisdom of his actions but unable to ignore his injured friend's request, Chris Larabee hefted the younger man closer to his chest, carried him up to his room in the boarding house and laid him on the bed. He used his hand to gently wipe the sweat and grime from Tanner's forehead, soothing him with his words.
"I ain't gonna let them hurt you no more, cowboy. You're safe. You have my word on that."
With the slightest touch, Chris gently traced the purple and black bruise covering the majority of his friend's cheek. He wouldn't allow the anger, the rage, he was feeling to translate to his hands. He kept it corralled up inside him, unwilling to let the overwhelming feelings touch the wounded man.
Chris made sure the tracker was comfortable, then headed for the washstand and poured a pitcher of water into the waiting basin. Carrying it back over to the bedside table, he set it down before grabbing one of his cleaner towels. He dampened it, laid it across the bedpost, then sat down on the bed beside Vin.
"How ya doin'?"
The tracker heard the question, knew he should respond, but finding the strength to do so seemed beyond him at the moment. Squinting through blackened eyes, he managed to open them wide enough to assure Larabee that he was conscious and had heard him. Needing the reassurance of his friend's touch, Vin slowly raised his bloody and torn wrist just enough to grasp the cuff of Chris' shirt.
Chris caught the questing hand and gave it a light squeeze. "Easy, Vin. Easy. You're safe and I'm gonna take care of you." A slight nodding motion was enough to let Larabee know he'd been understood. "I need to check you out, Vin, see if Nathan needs to take a look at you."
"No," Vin gasped.
"No, you don't want me to help you?"
"Not Nate," Vin struggled to get up, "not....clinic."
Chris studied his young friend's face. The pain he saw there was quickly being replaced by panic. "Why Vin? A body's been hurt this bad, they need to go where they can get tendin'."
"Can't........near the others........danger."
"Okay, easy. Take a deep breath. That's good, now another one." Chris' mind was whirling. What had Vin got himself caught up in? Who could have done this to him and how would letting Nathan examine him put the other men in danger?
"I don't understand, Vin. What's going on? Who did this?"
Vin sank back into the pillows, allowing Chris to push the suspenders off his shoulders and unbutton his shirt. Sighing when the cool towel began to skim over his bruised and swollen side, he felt some of the tension leave him. "The men...said they work for....Travis. Judge Travis."
Chris watched the sun rise through the small opening left by the slightly parted curtains. He hadn't slept. Instead he sat in a chair next to his bed at the boarding house. Watching the tracker's chest rise and fall with each breath. He was coming back from the saloon late as was his custom. He had left Buck and JD bantering in a corner and Ezra winning some unsuspecting fool's money. He heard the scraping sound in the alley beside his temporary residence. He had gone in with gun drawn and cocked.
"Take it easy pard, " he heard a voice say from against the wall. The moon's light unable to penetrate the shadow of the building. He gave his eyes a moment to adjust to the lack of light. He then recognized the profile laying at his feet. It was an unconscious Vin. The sharpshooter was supposed to be camping for a few days. Chris's eyes scanned the alley for any intruders. He then quickly helped Vin into his room.
After he had eased Vin to his bed, he lit a match. The glow from the match momentarily flickering over Chris's features, before meeting the wick of the candle. Larabee was horrified to see the condition his friend was in. Chris had wanted to get Nathan, but Vin had protested, and then made the stunning admission. Judge Orin Travis had hired men to attack Vin.
Chris ran his hand through his blonde hair. Judge Travis was a man Chris thought he could trust.
The silent gunslinger noticed how the light streaming in bathed Vin's quiet form. His long hair sprawled in disarray on the pillow, a gleam of sweat covered his whole body.
"Chris!" Buck barged in, knocking as he entered the room. "JD was beat up pretty bad last night. . ." Buck glanced at the bed, "Vin?" His voice full of concern and puzzlement.
Chris nodded, any words he could say lost in his throat.
Buck moved closer to the bed. " I found JD in time to break it up, but they got away."
"How many?" Chris gritted out between clenched teeth.
"8," Buck's eyes never left the form of the tracker.
"Nate patched him up. Some cracked ribs and bruises. He's gonna be sore." Buck cocked his head gesturing toward Tanner.
"I think he has some busted ribs." Wilmington nodded.
"Chris, the men told JD they worked for Judge Travis. " His words hung in the air. Neither gunslinger looking at each other.
"Vin said the same thing," Chris closed his eyes, not wanting to go down this path of allegations.
"What are we gonna do?" Wilmington's voice was edged in revenge.
Vin moved his arm to cover his eyes. The sunlight seemed harsh. He regretted his action instantaneously and allowed a groan to escape his lips.
"Seems as though Brother Tanner has decided to join the land of the living."
"Where's Chris?" Vin croaked out, his voice raspy.
"Mister Larabee has gone to question our other fallen comrade," Ezra passed Vin a glass of water.
Vin struggled to raise himself to a sitting position. Josiah placed a bracing arm around Vin's back and assisted him.
"Brother Nathan came by and you have 3 broken ribs," Josiah watched him take a drink. "So what happened?"
"Didn't want you all involved," Vin said after he shakily sipped some water.
"Unfortunately you are too late. Our young associate was also attacked and informed us the miscreants are possibly related to the Honorable Judge Travis." Ezra's forehead crinkled in thought. His scarlet jacket too bright for Vin's sensitive eyes at the moment, Vin turned toward the preacher,
"JD alright?" Vin hated to think these men had gone after the young man too.
"He's in better condition than you," Josiah's face honest and expressive in its concern. "You get some rest. We are keeping this all quiet until we know more." Vin nodded and felt his eyelids close.
"Needless to say Mister Sanchez, God help Judge Travis if he is involved with these deeds," Ezra eyes looked over Vin's bruised and battered body.
"Amen Brother, Amen."
Chris was heading back to the boarding house to check on Vin. He had just visited JD who had met the same fate as the tracker. Luckily Buck had come by and saved him from anymore damage. JD looked so young in bed. The white sheet stark against the bruises given by unforgiving hands. JD had been alert and told Larabee about the men.
"Eight men!" Dunne had said excitedly. "They seemed to be waiting for me and knew who I was."
"Well, if ya didn't keep tellin folks you were the sheriff all the time," Buck mumbled. He glared at his injured friend, "young fool."
JD's eyes flickered momentarily with anger. He ignored Wilmington's comments and continued. "They said the Judge sent them," the young gunslinger's eyes questioned Chris. "Do we believe them?"
Chris did not know what to think, but he did not want his own opinion echoed in JD.
"We'll see, kid." Chris nodded at Buck. "We'll talk later."
Chris was hurrying past the Clarion when Mary appeared outside,
"Mister Larabee, one moment please." She stood in front of Chris, her blue eyes squinted in the sun as she looked up to him.
"Mary," he let the name extend on his lips. Her hair glistened in the sunlight. The dustiness of the town leaving her untouched.
"I just received a telegram from the Judge." She wiped her hands on her printing apron and pulled out the telegram from a pocket.
"Thought he wasn't going to come to town for another couple of weeks?" Chris did not want to believe his instincts concerning the Judge were wrong.
"Yes, well, he says in the telegram he has some unexpected business. I am surprised at seeing him comeback so soon since his wife Emily is ill." Chris watched Mary caress a wisp of hair back into place.
"I'm sorry to hear the Judge's wife is feeling poorly."
"Hopefully she recovers soon," Mrs. Travis nodded. "Judge took her to Colorado Springs. She is such a kind woman." Mary was looking up at Chris. She blinked her eyes as if prompting him to continue their conversation.
"Mrs. Travis, thanks for the news. I'll be looking for the Judge when he comes in." Chris's spurs quickly took him to the boarding house.
Larabee quietly opened the door, and let is close with a soft click, not wanting to disturb the patient.
"And how is our other fallen friend?"
Chris looked over to see the patient awake and a tray resting on his lap. The gambler was seated next to him and Sanchez was standing by the bed post.
"Nathan says he is going to be fine. Nothing broken." Chris's eyes glared over Vin's wrapped torso. "How ya doing pard?'
Tanner smiled back, causing his spilt lip to open slightly. Standish passed him a handkerchief to dab at the blood. "I'm fine cowboy." A steely determination was in his eyes. Larabee wanted to challenge the statement, but let it drop. He was happy enough to see his friend was doing better.
"Have we decided on our next course of action concerning the Judge?" Ezra quieted the deck of cards he had been shuffling and clasped them in his ringed hand.
"Judge is coming to town in a few days."
"That's providence," Josiah said, still leaning against the bed post.
"Judge's wife is ill. " Chris continued to fill them in as to what Mary had said.
"Never know how a man will react if his family's threatened," Sanchez said.
"Just can't believe we were wrong about him," Vin struggled to pick up the tray and move it to the night stand. Chris went to assist him, but Ezra nonchalantly lifted up the tray and placed it behind him.
"Let us not forget, powerful men make powerful enemies," Standish nodded at Josiah.
"Well I think we all have to have a little talk with the Judge." Chris sat down on the corner of the bed. "In the meantime I want more watches, and keep an eye out for strangers."
Judge Orin Travis stepped out of the coach into the dusty town he had helped bring a modicum of justice to. He was surprised no one was there to greet him. He tossed a coin to the stage coach driver, asking for his bags to be brought to the hotel. He walked to his daughter-in-law's newspaper office.
She had built it right along with his son Stephen. His thoughts went to Stephen, no one should have to outlive their children. Stephen was the best of him and his wife. He was willing to stand up to injustice. Granted, the Judge had envisioned for his son to follow in his footsteps, but Stephen said he was better at writing about injustices then talking about them in court.
Mary looked up when she heard the jingle of the Clarion's office door open. A warm smile graced her face. "Judge," she glanced at the clock, "I'm sorry I lost track of the time."
"It's okay Mary. I can see you are busy. How's my grandson?" Billy looked so much like Stephen. The Judge had enjoyed having Billy stay with him. Emily also enjoyed it. Billy comforted her through the shock of losing Stephen. She was a strong woman, and the Judge hated seeing her so frail. He had been so blind. He had been so caught up in his problem, he had not noticed his wife's illness. Luckily she was safe and sound in Colorado Springs.
"He's fine. He's napping right now." His son's widow looked back to the stairway that lead to the bedrooms.
"Can't wait to spend time with him." The judge focussed on the street outside. "So where are the seven law enforcers?" The Judge asked with curiosity in his voice. Usually one of them was patrolling the dusty street.
"Mister Larabee came by. He asked for you meet him and the others at the church. Some business they need to discuss with you." Orin started to head out the door. He had to talk to the boys too. He was allowing evil to come to Four Corners.
The church seemed deserted as the Judge walked up the steps. He opened the door to face five standing, silent men. The other two were sitting with their backs toward the door. The air was filled with suspicion.
"Boys," the judge greeted them and took off his hat.
"Judge," the blonde haired leader came forward.
"What's this meeting about?" Orin took a seat in one of the pews.
"It's about the men you sent to do your dirty work," Chris growled.
"My dirty work?" The Judge stood up. "I don't have any dirty work."
Chris clenched his fist.
"Ease up pard," Vin stood up. The Judge saw the bruises coloring the tracker's features.
"What happened to you?" Orin walked forward and saw JD's swollen face. "What's going on?"
"That's what we want to find out." Wilmington stepped forward in front of Dunne as if to protect him from another attack.
"Vin and I got beat up, " JD explained. "The men said it was you who sent them."
"Me!" The Judge stomped his cane, "Hillings!"
"Hillings?" Larabee asked, his fists relaxed momentarily.
Orin sat back down. "If I knew he was going to do this then I would never have agreed. . ."
"Agreed to what?" the gambler asked from the corner.
"I don't care! I'm leaving if the Judge has it in for us," JD said, his drink sloshing in his glass as he stood by the bar in the saloon.
"I know JD," Buck said trying to remove the drink from his inebriated friend.
"No you don't! You are going to stick it out, cause of Chris." JD swayed momentarily as he stood. "Well I am not going to be beat up again and have someone find me dead." The young man grabbed his hat and stormed out the saloon's doors.
Buck looked around, "What the hell are you all looking at?" He finished off JD's forgotten shot of whiskey. He saw Chris at the end of the bar.
"I've gotta go after him." Chris nodded. "He's right you know," Buck continued, "this town ain't worth it. We can't go against a Judge," Larabee watched as his friend left the saloon. Keeping his eyes focused outside a little longer, he saw Buck bump into Vin.Wilmington nodded his head and shook hands with tracker.
Vin entered the saloon slowly, his battered body still protesting. "Pard, I think it's time I cleared
my name in Tuscosa."
"You can't wait for a friend to join ya?" Larabee asked, hoping to convince his friend to stay.
"Thanks for the offer Chris, but I think it's best I leave as soon as possible," Vin moved in closer. "You never know when the Judge can have me swinging from a rope."
Chris nodded, "I'm gonna miss ya pard." He reached out his hand, but Vin pulled him in for a brief hug. The sharpshooter did not look back. He just walked directly to the livery.
"Well Mister Larabee, I hate to leave you short handed, but I feel I must also make a hasty departure." Chris raised an eyebrow to the gambler. "The Judge pardoned me and I hate to put my freedom in jeopardy." He stuck out his hand to Chris.
"Fine, Ezra, you run out like you always do," Chris slammed his drink on the well worn surface of the bar. Standish quickly left the saloon, the back of his jacket snapping behind him.
"Let him go Brother Larabee. You can not fault them for their instinct of self preservation."
"What about you Josiah?"
"Oh, I'll be at the church. I am always ready to wrestle with the devil."
Larabee smiled at Josiah's statement, "And Nathan?"
"Brother Nathan mentioned visiting Rain at the village for a spell." Chris nodded. He had the barkeep fill his glass again before he headed up to his room.
The next day a silence permeated the main street of Four Corners. Word had already spread among the townsfolk. The seven law enforcers had broken up and it had something to do with the Judge. Chris stood leaning against the entrance of the saloon door waiting for his chance to wrestle the devil.
From the distance the silence was broken. Four soldiers led the way, riding hard with a wagon behind them and another soldier bringing up the rear. They stopped in front of the first person they saw.
"Where can I find Judge Orin Travis and the jail." Chris gestured with his head to the hotel and down the street to the jail.
One of the soldiers quickly dismounted and went to the hotel in search of the Judge. The others went to the wagon, and with a struggle pulled out a perturbed man, shackles on his wrists and ankles.
"Doesn't look all that dangerous," Chris said gazing over the small, stout man.
"This man, Jeffrey Hillings, caused a heap of trouble in Texas. Killed his neighbors in a range war. Had the town all scared," one of the soldiers answered and spit tobacco juice at Hillings's feet. "Cause of his gang, we had to move him here all secret like. No one knew how we would get here." The soldier shoved the prisoner forward towards the jail. Warily the other soldiers followed. They were almost to the foot of the stairs when gun fire broke out. The prisoner quickly went down to find cover while his jailers attempted to return the shots. The soldiers returned fire in a haphazard manner, unable to ascertain from where the shots were being fired. One by one the soldiers were being shot down. Suddenly there was more gunfire.
Chris, Buck, JD and Josiah walked calmly down the street, shooting at the desperados hiding in the town's buildings. Vin was perched on the roof of the Clarion, watching their backs, and hitting the gang with deadly accuracy. Ezra and Nathan had taken up position at the saloon, clearing the way for the others to make it unharmed down the street.
Finally a calm silence was again in Four Corners. One of the soldiers stood up and grabbed the criminal by the collar as he scrambled to escape. The Judge reached the jail first.
"So this is Jeffrey Hillings," the Judge looked down his nose at the man.
"And this is Four Corners and your Magnificent Seven," Hillings looked at the men. " I thought my boys were going to take care of you," he looked at Vin. "Well, they didn't do too bad," a sinister smile crossed his lips.
Buck held Chris back as he lunged towards Hillings.
"We heard about the change of venue, Hillings," Buck sneered.
"Terrifying and killing your neighbors to win a range war, Mister Hillings. That was not very neighborly of you," Standish said, his gun stilled aimed at the prisoner.
"Those farmers had no business on my land," Hillings yelled savagely, his face turning red.
"Hope before your hanging you think about what you have done, Brother."
"Remember, you should never try to break up the seven," JD said looking for support from his friends.
"You know what Hillings," the murderer looked in Chris's steely eyes. "It all came down to do we trust the Judge. . " The gunslinger paused for a moment, and Vin answered,
"And we do." The men all nodded. The Judge patted their backs as he entered the jail with the soldiers to secure the prisoners.