This is for the B&B Creativity challenge. I must admit and apologize that I have four other stories staring at me but going no place. This one I started and finished, but it's fairly short and it's sort of late. Sorry.
I don't own any of the guys and who would want my OC.
Thanks to LaraMee for the picture and a big thanks to KathyM for being my beta.
I used a word 'suvate' that I read in a book. It's supposed to be Comanche, I sure hope so.
Warning: Vin is not very nice in this one; he's bent on revenge and lets his inner 'savage' out. The name Two Ponies was a name I gave Vin in my story Flashback.
It had been four days.
Four days the six men had ridden stopping only to let their horses rest.
Four days following the silent tracker who followed a trail only he could see.
Four days since Chris Larabee had disappeared.
Four days into the badlands few white men had seen.
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Five men slumped over their saddles wearily watching Vin Tanner as he scoured the seemingly undisturbed ground. JD stood in his stirrups resting his aching butt and wondered, would this nightmare ever end.
Vin? Exhaustion was rough in Buck's voice.
I'm looking Buck. It rained last night.
I know, Vin. Buck said trying to keep despair from his voice.
Josiah bent his head in silent prayer. Barely thinking in words anymore just the desperate plea for help, for guidance to find their missing friend.
Tanner squinted into the distance and stood began walking. The ground was uneven and Peso stumbled several times as they went down yet another canyon.
This canyon quickly narrowed and the walls were towering over them as the light faded. Ever the caretaker Nathan looked around. There was next to no grazing for the horses here. It would be dark soon and they would be forced to stop and rest. They needed grazing for their horses and hot food for themselves. Only he decided that he was just dreaming because neither was to be found.
Buck rode up beside the tracker. Vin? Vin there's nothing there.
Tanner didn't even look up. There is, I just have to find it. There's always a trail.
Buck shook his head looking at the others.
You just gotta have faith Buck. Josiah whispered.
Yes, if nothing else, faith in our Mr. Tanner's not inconsiderable skill at pulling a needle from a haystack. Ezra added to support Josiah.
Vin ignored the talking and continued sweeping his eyes over the ground. Sometimes holding a hand out as if he could feel the passage of horses.
The tracker suddenly stood and leading Peso he began slowly walking up the canyon again. Just as the shadows were covering everything Vin dropped the reins and ran to a dusty lump in the dirt. Tanner dropped to his knees and with a trembling hand reached and turned the lump.
The others realized it wasn't a lump but a man. CHRIS! As one they rushed the last few feet to the tracker's side and then wished they hadn't.
Lying there, gently cradled in Tanner's arms was the ruined form of Larabee. There wasn't a spot on him that wasn't crusted with dried blood. His face was almost unrecognizable, his shirt and pants in rags.
Nathan? Buck groaned as the healer joined Vin on the ground.
He's alive! Vin stated flatly. He's still breathin'.
The men rushed about to make camp, to get Nathan hot water and to prepare a relatively clean bed for their injured friend. No one but Buck noticed when Vin let go and walked toward Peso.
Vin? His call ignored the tall rogue reached out to stop Tanner.
Spinning, hand on gun handle, Don't. I'm going after who ever did this.
Just wait, we'll go with ya.
No. If I wait I'll lose him. Vin looked straight into Wilmington's dark eyes. I'll catch him an' he'll pay.
Understanding, at least in part, Buck's hand dropped.
Vin gave a short nod. Jest get him home, Bucklin.
I'll do that Vin.
Then like a wisp of smoke Vin was gone.
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JD Dunne looked away from the mess that was Chris Larabee and searched for Vin. Buck? Buck, where's Vin?
Without looking up the older man answered. Gone, kid.
Gone? Gone where?
By now everyone was looking at Wilmington. Everyone looked except Nathan whose whole attention was centered on his patient.
Just gone, Kid. He's following the trail after the bastard or bastards who did this.
Oh JD looked around at the others seeing a grim acceptance and not a small amount of encouragement in their eyes. I'll um take care of our horses.
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Tanner rode leaning over the walking gelding's shoulder his eyes sweeping the ground looking for the slightest sign. The moon had risen and didn't light the path well but there was only one way out of the steep arroyo so he kept going with grim determination. Finally after Peso had stumbled for the third time he stopped. Unsaddling he gave his horse a few handfuls of grain and then hunkered down and chewed on some jerky drinking a few sips from his canteen once in a while. There was a puddle of rainwater left from the last rain and some scraggly greenery for Peso. Not exactly good feed but it'd do the tough mustang.
Vin didn't move except to stretch his back once in a while and to pull his coat tighter as the night cooled. No fire was built that could possibly warn anyone ahead. He waited until the moon was high overhead to give him a few hours until moonset to continue on.
He kept his mind blank. Banishing the vision of Chris lying in the dirt and so hurt he'd doubted whether he lived until he'd felt the too warm flesh. When the fear he'd felt at seeing the still form of his best friend tried to overtake him he squelched it and worked on his 'to do' list to catch the fool who'd done this.
He told himself Nathan would take care of Chris. Nathan worked miracles all the time and he would again. He could also trust the others to take care of business. Buck knew, he saw it in the rogue's eyes. Buck knew where he was going and at least had a suspicion what he would do when he caught up with the hijo de una punta.
The bright almost full moon overhead gave Vin's catlike vision a clear trail to follow. But the rocky terrain made the going very slow.
Four days since he'd found Larabee.
Four days he'd been tracking the horse with the cracked shoe.
Four days of no sleep, little to eat and a constant nagging worry about Chris. Yet he'd kept himself focused on the almost nonexistent trail. He'd refused to think of Larabee lying there in all that blood. He'd refused to give in to how totally exhausted he was. He rested only to rest Peso. A man needed a good sound horse under him to get anywhere.
Four days and today he'd catch the SOB.
The horse's trail showed he was limping, badly. That its rider was forced to walk leading the lame horse. The man he chased was getting careless he was slowing down. Perhaps he thought that no one was on his trail anymore. This would be the last day, this would be the day he'd get his hands and his knife on the bastard and find out why.
The tracker finally stopped at a grassy spot with water. Not much but enough for Peso. He unsaddled the horse and hobbled him. Smiling slightly as the black gelding sighed and lying down scratched his back, rubbing it in the rough sand and gravel. Finally finishing he stood, shook all over and began snatching at the sparse grass.
Vin nodded and after changing into a soft quiet pair of moccasins, he picked up his canteen and rifle. Stay here mule. When I'm done, we'll go home. He turned and walked away. The tracker walked for almost an hour before he smelt the smoke and another thirty minutes before he found a high spot to hunker down and watch.
He waited for dark. He waited for the moon to rise and the stillness of the night to tell him that the man was asleep.
Stealthily he crept toward the camp. Standing over the sleeping man he tapped him with the rifle butt just enough to make sure he stay still long enough. He then took the rawhide lacings from around his wrist and carefully tied them to the wrists and ankles of the unconscious man. He stretched the man out spread-eagle and using his razor sharp knife cut away the man's clothes.
It wasn't long before the bound man woke. What the hell? The man said before he felt the knife blade on his throat.
I got some questions, you got answers, and anything else will earn you a cut. Just to show the man he meant business Vin took the tip of his knife and gently ran it across the ribs leaving a streak of red behind.
Prittz looked up into the eyes of the man who was over him. He was a hard man who made his living hurting people for money. Little frightened him, but as he gazed into the hard blue eyes his heart started beating faster. Listen mister He stopped when he felt the blade draw blood again.
First question, Why Larabee?
Prittz felt rather then saw the knife slice leaving a thin trail of blood running from wrist to arm pit. He stifled a cry of surprise.
Why Larabee? Asked the raspy voice again.
Wasn't nothing personal, got paid.
Don't know just some guy I ran into around a month ago.
Prittz felt the knife again. For God's sake I don't know his name. Just said he had a job for me. Weren't personal, just business. He looked again into the eyes of his captor and knew he was going to die.
What'd he look like?
Never saw him clear, just a guy, average height.
Vin Tanner let his inner man, Two Ponies out and using all the skill he'd learned from the People he began. It didn't take long before Prittz began to scream.
He screamed a long time and then he died.
Two Ponies turned the horse loose after removing the broken shoe. He burned the tack, and the clothes he'd cut away. He walked away from the body leaving it for the buzzards and critters.
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Vin Tanner washed in the puddle of water, saddled Peso and headed home. He hadn't found out who had wanted Chris beaten and left for dead but that's just the way things went sometimes.
Pointing Peso in the right direction he said. Lets go home. Peso knew the quickest way; all he had to do was stay in the saddle.
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Chris Larabee was in hell. He hurt so bad it would have been easy to die. But he gathered some sort of resolution and tried to roll over. Tried, but pain, giant all encompassing pain enveloped him and silently he screamed.
// Where am I? Not on the ground? A bed? Was he on a bed?/// He tried to curl his fingers to feel what was under him. Only he couldn't move them. He then tried to lift his hands but they were so heavy he couldn't do it.
All this time he'd lain still now he tried to open his eyes, with no luck. He tried again to roll over and the sharp pain in his legs brought a memory.
He was lying in a canyon floor. Could feel the sharp grit of the sand dig into his tender back. One eye barely opened watching as his tormentor walked around him, whistling softly through his teeth.
Chris's legs were jerked flat and spread apart. The man lifted something over his head. The sun blinded Larabee so he couldn't tell what, then seconds later he heard a 'snap' and the pain did what the beating couldn't. It tore a scream from Larabee. Swiftly there was another 'snap' and a second volley of agony. Another scream that gurgled into a sob that came unbidden.
The unnamed man laughed and kicked the broken legs. Can't run now, can ya? Big tough gunfighter, now you crawl. No wait, ya'll need your hands to do that. I'll fix that big man.
Larabee felt his hands being pulled hard until he blacked out. But not for long was he free of the pain. The slaps on his already raw face brought him back.
Come on Larabee. I was told you're one tough hombre. You don't seem so tough now. I was paid to make ya hurt, so hurt ye will. Wake up Larabee. Someone's got a powerful hate going for ya and wants ya to know it.
Chris did the only thing he could do he cussed. He could no longer open his swollen eyes to see his tormentor but he cursed him anyway, until a fist broke his jaw.
“Shut the hell up.” The man said and when he heard the bone crack he laughed again. “You're a fine man now. Can't walk, can't crawl, can't see and now you can't talk. Let's see if ya can still scream.”
No, no more. The words came muffled and barely understood.
Chris. It's okay Chris. You're safe now. Ya need to be still. Try not to talk. I need ya to try an' drink this. Come on Chris, I know it hurts but try. Nathan coaxed the fever stricken man. Trying to calm him and trying to get not only some water into the sick man but a dose of laudanum that would help with the pain.
Desperately thirsty Larabee drank only half understanding the voice. Sleeping again he was back in the canyon. The sun was hot. He could feel it burn his skin.
The hated voice spoke again. Damn Larabee you look dry. Thirsty?
Then the water came. Falling on his face, into his mouth and nose choking him. Making him cough and try to roll away to escape the terrifying feeling of drowning.
What? Don't want no water? Well, alrighty then, just dry up and blow away.
Dry up and blow away.
He was so hot. Maybe if he tried hard enough he could dry up. Turn to dust and blow away into nothing. No pain, no thoughts, no tormentor, just dust in the wind.
Nathan came back to the cot and looked down at his patient. Frowning he watched for a second and then reached down. Chris! Chris you breathe damn you.
The healer pulled the man into a sitting position and whacked him between the shoulder blades. Don't you give up on me! You breathe, damn you, breathe. I ain't facing Vin when he gets back and telling him ya gave up. Breathe damn it.
Nathan was scared. He hit Larabee again and again until he was rewarded with a gasp and then a cough and another gasp.
Muffled words came to his ears. No, Don't. Can't. NO . Over and over it was repeated. Not quite a plea, more an exhausted 'leave me alone.'
Finally the words stopped and there were only infrequent sounds. Nathan laid the blond back down and watched closely. Muttered words came and went as Chris slept. Never distinguishable but deep down Nathan felt he was somehow calling for Vin. //God, please let Tanner get back here soon.// /
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Buck stepped onto the balcony of the little clinic and stretched. He felt every joint in his body pop and crack. Sitting in those little chairs Nathan had after a few hours was torture after a few hours, and he'd been sitting in one off and on for more than a week. Watching over his friend, willing him to get better. Willing the fever to go away and willing Vin Tanner to come back soon. He didn't think he could bare another day of the fever-induced dreams and the haunting unintelligible mumbles Chris made. Sighing he rubbed his eyes and face. You'd better get back soon Tanner, don't think Chris can hold on much longer, he muttered to himself.
He squinted at the setting sun one more time before he went back inside. This time a lone rider coming down the street rewarded his search. Vin? Moving much faster than his size would suggest he was on the ground as the familiar black gelding stopped in front of him.
Wilmington looked up at the rider and was taken aback by the pale exhausted face. Reaching up he started to pull the man down. Vin, hey ol' son, you in there?
Blue eyes blinked blankly and a frown appeared, Bucklin? You really there?
Yeah, it's me. You okay.
'M fine, jest tired to death. Where's Chris?
Buck shook his head, He's upstairs.
Tanner nodded and groaned as he swung his leg over to dismount. Damn, I think I'm growed to the saddle.
Nathan ain't gonna like you tracking all that dirt into his clinic. Chris is doing okay. Go get cleaned up it won't take that long.
The tracker nodded wearily. I reckon yer right Bucklin. It's been a hard ride.
You go on now, JD will take good care of Peso and you'll be up to seeing Chris after you eat and clean up, the rogue said as he gently pushed Vin toward the bathhouse.
Nodding, Vin stumbled over to his wagon. He grabbed the first clean things he laid eyes on and headed to the bathhouse.
Buck shook his head as he watched Vin make his way. He'd have never gotten away with the suggestion of bath and meal if Vin hadn't been so very tired. Once Tanner was inside he stuck his head in the sheriff's office. Hey, kid could you go over and take care of that devil horse of Vin's? He's dead tired and needs to clean up before Nate'll let him in the door
The dark head popped up from behind the desk. Vin's back? Did he bring in the ones that hurt Chris? Did he kill them all?
Whoa boy, easy there. Vin just got here and he's dog- tired and needs to see Chris. Didn't say nothing about the ones he was after. I expect he killed them. But right now he needs you to take care of Peso.
JD listened to his mentor and nodding went outside to get the big black.
Tanner managed not to fall asleep and drown and he managed to not eat himself sick from all the food Inez laid in front of him. He finally managed to get away from the fiery woman and crept up the stairs and entered the darkened clinic.
The moonlight showed him the sleeping man on the narrow sick-bed. The bandages were stark white even in the silvery light. Making no sound Vin walked over and sat beside Larabee. He gently laid his hand on a bare shoulder. He could detect a little fever and nodded once. Hey Pard. You beat this, get well. You win this battle and show them you're the better man. I know you can do it. Vin stopped and took a breath. That's when he noticed one eye, partially open the sliver of green following his every move.
Chris? You awake?
Where? Came the whisper as if through clinched teeth his jaw barely moving.
Yer in Nathan's clinic. We found ya an' brought ya home. All ya gotta do is get better.
//It's taken care of.// /
The one eye stared at Tanner and then there was a slight nod.
Vin felt the tense body relax after that. He sat down beside the bed and waited.
Hours later Nathan came in again and shook his head. I thought I tole ya to get some rest.
He needs me here, Nathan.
Ya ain't gonna be any good to him if you get sick too.
Ain't gonna get sick Nate. Just need to be near him.
Nathan was worried. He had enough to do taking care of the injured blond, he didn't need the tracker collapsing on him too. He watched as Larabee again became restless, thrashing as much as his bandages allowed, muttering unintelligibly. Vin started, waking from a doze and reached out and laid a gentle hand on the bare shoulder.
The reaction was instant. The gunman quieted. Resting peacefully again. Vin waited making sure Larabee slept.
I ain't leaving Nathan. Don't even suggest it. Chris needs me here. Tanner said to the shadow behind him.
Yeah, I know. But you can stretch out on the other cot right beside him. Rest yer back. You'll be close enough if he needs you.
Nodding once Tanner stood and went to the cot. Lifting it he moved it closer to Larabee and lay down. Making sure of his position he closed his eyes.
Nathan watched for a minute and went over to sit at his desk and read.
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Vin sat staring out the window. It was dark again and Nathan was sleeping, as was Chris. The ragged breathing only partially listened to. Tanner watched the stars not thinking of anything. He'd gone to that empty place men were prone to visit. No real thoughts or words. His hand rested lightly on the upper arm of his friend. The physical contact seemed to calm the sick man, as if he knew Vin was there and because he knew this, he was able to relax and heal.
The muscle under his hand jerked. Easy Pard. You're okay.
Vin? The word came softly without any movement in the jaw.
Yeah cowboy, it's me.
Chris struggled to open his eyes and was rewarded with a sliver of dim light. But it was enough to make out the outline of the tracker. Where?
We're in Nathan's clinic.
Chris tried to think about why he was laying down in the clinic. His thinking was muddled and he recognized the effect of the drugs Nathan used.
How? came the weak question.
Don't matter now. Ya got hurt real bad but you're gonna be fine.
Chris stared at the blurry shape trying to get around what Vin wasn't saying. But it took too much effort and he fell asleep again.
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He's just sleeping, Vin. It's the best thing for him. He'll heal faster that way.
Tanner glanced at the sleeping man. The visible bruises were brownish yellow now although the hands remained slightly swollen and purplish around the joints. Nathan was keeping the hands flat and wrapped to help them heal. It made tending to Larabee harder but the healer assured them that once the healing was complete, with some exercises Chris should have full use of his hands. The fever was gone, but each time the gunman woke he would ask the same questions over and over. Nathan said with the beating he'd taken, this was normal. But it scared Vin and he knew it scared the rest of them as well.
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Larabee opened his eyes. He knew where he was. He knew who he was. How? How did he get here? How was he alive? His mind still rocked from the laughs the taunts from He didn't even know the demon's name.
Chris looked around as much as he could without moving. His gaze stopped on the figure of the tracker. //Vin?// /He called silently.
//Did you? //
//It's done Chris. Ain't never gonna hurt no one ever again.//
Green eyes searched the face before him for the truth. //Good// and the eyes closed.
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Vin watched Larabee stare sullenly out the window. Nathan had finally relented and let him be propped /up into a sitting position. Still the gunman looked tense and tired. Vin knew he still wasn't sleeping without nightmares.
You see Miz Nettie heading down the street a while ago?
Yeah, she looked like she was after bear.
That's true and after I tell you what JD and Casey pulled you'll be glad yer out of Miz Nettie's range for a spell.
Chris smiled slightly, What did those two think up now?
Well, now, they was suppose to be Vin's voice calmed the blond, to the point he relaxed enough to lean back and listened as the soft voice reminded him of what it was like to be young and in love. Calmed him enough he slept.
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Vin stood watching. To most it would appear to be the recovering Larabee simply sitting on the porch of the clinic soaking up the early morning sun. Only Vin's sharp eyes saw the minute movements under the blanket that Nathan insisted on.
And knowing what Nathan had Chris doing to strengthen his hands. Opening and closing the injured hands into fists, over and over. Tanner looked up at the pale man's face. He saw the flicker of pain cross that face. Casually climbing the steep stairs he called softly. Hey Cowboy. I'm pretty sure Nate didn't want you to be doing those exercises all the time.
Startled green eyes turned to him. I'm gonna get Buck to put a bell on you. Then he glanced down at his hands, I'm not overdoing. Just hate being here. Faster I'm better faster I get out of here.
Mind your own business, Vin. I know how far I can go. The blond refused to look at Tanner but focused on some distant point only he could see.
Paying no heed to the testy gunfighter Vin sat down beside him. Nate say when you can try them crutches?
Sighing and finally stopping the non-stop movement and he shook his head. Tomorrow maybe. He always says 'maybe'. Maybe I can actually chew something in a day or two. Maybe if I keep working my hands I'll get my strength and dexterity back
Dexterity? Ya been talkin' to Ezra again?
I have read a book or two myself Vin.
Chris, ya almost died. Ya ain't gonna just walk away from it without working for it.
The blond closed his eyes as he leaned back. They sat in apparent silence.
//I'm just tired, Vin.//
//I know Chris, I know.//
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Chris hobbled from one end of the deck of the clinic to the other. Over and over until he was so shaky he felt a light breeze would blow him over. He finally gave up and sat down. He was sore. His armpits felt raw from the crutches and his legs burned like fire. But he was up and walking, more or less.
He looked up and down the street, smiling slightly when he didn't see any of the seven. Standing once again he slowly inched his way down the steep stairs. When he got to the last step there stood Tanner.
Goin' somewhere Cowboy?
Sighing, Larabee said defensively, A man wants to walk or hobble over to the saloon it's his business.
Vin grinned. Yep, especially when Nathan is out of town.
You got it.
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It was late and turning cold yet Chris sat on the 'porch' and enjoyed just being at his own place alone. Nathan had finally released him but made him promise to take a wagon instead of riding. He'd groused but was grateful for the crutches in the end.
By the time he'd put the horses in the corral and threw them some hay he was shaking. Going slowly he'd made it to the cabin and made coffee. Once he had it made he'd gone outside to sit.
He didn't move when Vin rode up and helped himself to the coffee. The tracker stood leaning against the post and stared into the same general direction as Larabee.
Finishing his drink Vin cleared his throat. Ya think comin' out here by yer lonesome'll make the dreams stop?
Don't know. Gotta try. When I'm awake I can't really remember all that happened. Then at night I wake up sweating, knowing I was dreaming about it. But when I try to remember there's nothing.
Tanner swirled the dregs in his mug around before he spoke. When you were so sick after I got back you'd wake a little an' every time you'd ask me where we were, then you'd ask not in so many words but you'd ask about the man.
I did? I don't remember that.
I know. But each time I told you it was taken care of.
Chris was silent for a few minutes while each thought over the last few months. He thought about Vin, always being there for him. How he felt deep down it was Vin's support that had kept him alive. Kept him fighting.
Tanner said suddenly, He died hard Chris and it took a long time. The People have a word 'suvate' it means it is finished. Don't matter who the moneyman was. We'll find out someday. All you got to remember is 'suvate', an' I got yer back, always.
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Suvate - it is finished.