Main Characters: Chris, Vin, Casey
Notes: This is one of the earliest fics I wrote in the M7 fandom. When a wonderful show like Magnificent Seven disappears from your life, sometimes you just need to think about what happens to the characters sometime in the future. This is just my thoughts on what might lay in store for the seven men and those around them, a decade after they last rode across our TV screens.
Warnings: While I don’t truly consider this a deathfic, things happen over the course of a decade. Other than that, a little language, not much else.
Acknowledgment: The picture of Michael Biehn, or the older Chris Larabee, is from the movie Yellow Rock.
Webmaster Note: This story was previously archived at another website and was moved to blackraptor in June 2012.
Had it truly been ten years since he had been here? Ten years since he had ridden away from the dusty little town that had outgrown him. A decade since he had said good-bye to the men who had become like family; to the woman who had caused his heart to begin beating once more.
Nothing lasts forever. He had repeated those words over and over, trying to make himself believe it. It was only after he found that he couldn’t that he realized how much he had come to care. Something about the town, the people, it had all become very important to him. But the time had come when he could no longer make a place for himself. His skills had no use in a town turning away from the lawless frontier, toward peace and prosperity. And just as he found himself out of place in the town, he found himself with nothing to offer the young family he wanted desperately to be a part of. No that wasn’t right. He could offer them pain and heartbreak as the family of a gunslinger. Not much to give people you loved. It had happened once; that was enough.
And so he had said his good-byes, as quickly and cleanly as possible. He held a tight check on his emotions until he had ridden far into the countryside. Only then did the hot tears flow, and then only for a minute. Afterwards he sealed the emotions away, building up the walls that three years in the same place had begun to tear down.
In the years that followed he had built those walls stronger, chinking them tighter, until no emotions were able to seep either in or out. He became insular, cut off from all things human. His life had spiraled into the oblivion of whiskey and whores, odd jobs and gunfights. He rarely stayed in a town long enough to know the name of any of its residents. It was the way he wanted it; the way he needed it.
He didn’t know what had prompted him to return now. It would be doubtful that there would be anyone he cared to see. Perhaps Mary and Billy would still be around. Lord, the boy would be nearly a man now. And Mary, she had dedicated so much of her life to that town as it had grown. But the others... his friends... his family... there was no need to think that any of them would be anything more than distant memories. Scattered by the winds of fate as well as by their natures, these were not men to stay long in any one place.
Suddenly he realized where he was. The little house had been added on to, but he could recognize it. Nettie Wells’ home. On a whim, he decided to pay a visit, to see if Miss Nettie was still there. There was no reason to think she would have left if she were still living. Hell, maybe Casey was still around. Wouldn’t it be something if she and J.D. had married?
Reining his horse in near the stairs to the porch, he looked around. Well, there were definite signs of childhood scattered around the little yard. Maybe it wasn’t so crazy a thought after all. The door opened a crack and he watched closely. There was someone just inside, looking him over. “Hello the house,” he said in a whiskey-induced growl. “Don’t mean to alarm you. Just looking for some friends.”
“Mr. Larabee?” The voice was vaguely familiar.
“Yeah,” he answered. Before he could say any more, the door opened and a young woman appeared on the porch. “Casey?”
“Yes sir, it’s me. My heavens, we never expected to see you again! Please get on down from your horse. You have to stay for awhile!”
He sat quiet for a minute, trying to take it all in. He could still see the young girl he had watched tag along after J.D. Dunne, but there was maturity and signs of a hard life blended in to that child’s face.
“Mr. Larabee?” Casey was looking at him, concern growing in her voice.
“Sorry,” he said with a quicksilver smile. “Just didn’t expect to see anyone I knew still around.”
She nodded then turned and looked back into the house. “John, Josiah, come on out here.”
Josiah and John... J.D.? But two young boys, clearly twins and around seven years old, appeared at either side of their mother.
“Boys, this is Mr. Larabee. You remember the man your Pa talks about so often?” As they nodded in response, she continued, “You boys go find your Pa, alright? Tell him we’ve got company, but don’t tell him who it is... we’ll let it be a surprise,” she smiled at Chris. “I think he’s out at the dam... scoot.” As the boys leapt from the porch and ran around the house, she turned to Chris. “Please, come on in, Mr. Larabee –“
”Chris,” he responded.
“Chris,” she repeated with a smile. “Come on in. I’m just putting the finishing touches on dinner. It's nothin’ special, but you’re more than welcome t’ join us.”
“Don’t want to put you out,” he said while he dismounted.
“Nonsense. Come on,” she held out her hand.
Taking it, he allowed her to lead him into the little house. Inside there was a feeling of home, family and something he had known once, long ago – love.
“You sit, rest, the boys will be back with their pa in a few minutes.”
“So, how long –“ His question was cut off by a wail from deeper in the house.
“Oh, dear, someone’s ready to get up from her nap. If I don’t get her now, there’ll be no peace in the house. Excuse me,” with a smile she hurried through the door.
Sitting back in the chair, Larabee enjoyed the feel of sitting in a real home. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been in one. His life was spent in saloons, brothels and, from time to time, a rented room. Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes as he enjoyed another long-forgotten sensation... relaxation. The sound of footsteps a few minutes later pulled him back from his thoughts. Two pairs belonged to children; the twins. The third was heavier and uneven... a limp? The door flew open and the two boys came hurrying in, each tugging at a figure between them. He looked up with a smile, ready to greet the man who had been the love of Casey’s life, the man who had been little more than a kid the last time he saw him. Then his smile froze; his mouth dropped open, and his eyes widened.
“Hey, Cowboy!” Tanner’s excitement was real, his pleasure at seeing his old friend genuine. “My God, Chris Larabee, you old dog!” As Chris jumped to his feet, Vin grabbed hold of him. The two men embraced as the brothers they had once been. The sounds of backslapping and the cheerful calls of ‘cowboy’ and ‘look at that ugly face’ rang through the house.
“My heavens! It’s a good thing Nettie was awake. All that caterwaulin’ would have scared her out of a year’s growth!” Casey laughed from the doorway.
“Sorry, wife,” Vin said cheerfully. He limped over to her, wrapped one arm around her and with the other whisked the baby out of her arms. With a squeal the little girl snuggled in her father’s embrace.
For Chris there was still a faint twinge at the sight of a happy family, but time had dulled the pain significantly. He discovered that he could stay in the same room without wanting to die.
“Alright,” Casey said, “you men go clean up and get ready to eat.”
“Yes ma’am,” bending down, Tanner kissed her. Handing the baby back to his wife, he led Chris out to the pump.
While he dried his face and hands a few minutes later, Larabee regarded his friend closely. He was perhaps a bit heavier, but still as lean as a rail. His hair was short now, the ever-present stubble replaced by a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. The most obvious change, though, was that he no longer wore his mare's leg. As Vin looked up with a question written across his face, Chris said, “looks like we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, pard.”
Chuckling, Tanner said, “Reckon so. But I wanna hear what you’ve been doin’ first.”
Shaking his head, Chris said, “Shoot, that won’t take more than ten minutes.” But Chris soon found himself talking more than he had in years. Throughout dinner he recalled his life since the two men had last seen one another. Wisely, Casey had let the boys take their meals on the front porch. Much of what Larabee had to say was not something they needed to be privy to.
As evening approached, Chris’ story ended. Both Casey and Vin had listened, absorbed in his tale. Gunfights, bullet wounds, scrapes with the law, a stint mining for gold. Those things the gunman punctuated with briefer accounts of the longer stretches of wandering aimlessly across the country. He had returned to Indiana for a time, but found it far too settled. Traveling back, he had escorted a small wagon train, probably one of the last the country would see. It was the longest period of time he had spent with the same group of people.
Casey shooed them outside so that she could get the children to bed and clean up after the meal, but only after she secured Chris’ promise that he would at least spend the night. In the end, the promise of a night in the family’s tiny spare room, and a hot breakfast was too tempting to pass up. Settling in on the porch, the two men shared a companionable silence for awhile.
Vin watched his friend, as if afraid that the man would disappear. He could see the person he had once known so well, hidden beneath the signs of long years of a life riding the trails alone. Chris sported a scar along his right jaw, and his nose had an angle to it that hadn’t been there the last time Vin had seen him. He looked as if he had laughed very little in the past decade, something the gunman had gotten more comfortable with when they had all been together.
Lighting up one of his cheroots, Chris leaned back and said, “it’s your turn.”
“Yeah,” Vin responded. “Ain’t near as excitin’ as what you had t’ say. Just tryin’ t’ figure out where t’ start.”
“How about how Casey Wells ended up becoming Mrs. Casey Tanner?”
Laughing, Vin said, “yeah, you should have seen your face when I walked in. Expectin’ J.D. were y’?”
“Yep, reckon so. What happened? I didn’t even think you’d noticed the girl.”
“Hadn’t really. Hell, only time I ever said more ’n two words to her was after that dust-up with them female bounty hunters and the Spivak gang. She was just J.D.’s little tag-along... Nettie’s niece... a little tomboy. But then that all changed ‘bout a year after you left.” His face was a mixture of love for his wife, and something else... sadness.
“The winter after you left, Miss Nettie took bad sick. I had been stayin’ out at the reservation when I found out. I came in to see her and pretty much moved in t’ help out around here. She lingered all winter... Nathan said it was her heart. We buried her that spring. And by that time me an’ Casey’d got pretty close t’ one another. Just seemed natural t’ get married.”
“What about J.D.? I always figured...”
“They’d get married? Yep, reckon we all did, seein’s they talked things through after that mess with Achilles’ gang. But him an’ Buck left less’n a month after you did. Joined up with the Rangers like J.D. was always talkin’ about. Broke Casey's heart, but not as badly as she thought it would. Least that's what she tells me.”
“Yeah, young love can be like that. You know, J.D. I can see, he was keen on joining the rangers... but, Buck?”
“Didn’t last long with him. Think he just went t’ make sure J.D.’d be alright. He rode by here about a year, year and a half later. Decided the Rangers wasn’t for him... couldn’t carouse like he wanted I reckon, and was always in trouble. Last we heard, he decided t’ go lookin’ fer Kate Stokes.”
It took a minute for Chris to place the name. “KATE STOKES!? What the hell did he want to go after that little bitch for?” Memories of J.D. Dunne lying on the ground, Maddy Stokes bullet in his gut came flooding back to the gunman. Maddy had paid for her sins when Del Spivak killed her. But her sister Kate had ridden out of town, turned loose by Judge Travis. It had never set well with Larabee.
Tanner shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Think he had a soft spot for that girl.”
“He had something for her, but I don’t think there was anything soft about it,” Chris said with a chuckle.
Joining the laughter, Vin reveled in the companionship he had missed for so long.
“So what about J.D.?”
“He’s still in the Rangers. Must be doin’ real well, too. Last note we got was signed Captain John D. Dunne.”
Nodding appreciatively, Chris said, “always figured the kid would do something with his life...soon as he got shed of us,” he winked.
“Yep. We hear from him time t’ time, with lots a stories about roundin’ up one bad guy or another.”
“He have trouble with knowing you’re wanted in Texas?”
“Ain’t no more.”
“You finally got that taken care of?”
“Judge Travis did. Don’t know what all he had to do, but he handed me a pardon as a weddin’ present.”
Chris smiled broadly. “I’m happy for you, Vin,” he said with genuine affection. The former hunter nodded. “So, how is the Judge...and the rest of the Travis’?” Chris continued.
“Judge retired a couple years back. He’s ranchin’ up North a ways now. He sent Will – Billy – back East t’ school last year. Kid’s gonna follow in his granddad’s footsteps an’ go into law.”
“Good for him...” he paused. “Bet Mary misses him though.”
“She went back East, too, Chris,” the other man said the words slowly, hesitantly.
“Oh, “ Chris said softly when he could find his voice. “I... didn’t figure she’d ever leave.”
“We were all surprised. She went with Will t’ make sure he got settled in. Met some professor at the school and fell head over heels. Came back long enough t’ sell the paper, moved back there, and got married.”
“Well... I... uh... hope she’s happy.”
“For what it’s worth, she was alone 'til then.”
“In other words, I should have come back sooner...or never left at all,” Chris said, unable to keep the pain and regret from his voice.
“You did what y’ had t’ do, Chris.”
“I couldn’t have offered her anything but heartbreak, pard. She deserved better than that.”
Vin wisely chose not to answer. The two men sat in silence, watching the sun disappear, leaving the only light coming from a lantern inside the house. After a while, Chris said, “What about the others?”
“Well, let’s see... Nathan left right after Miss Nettie died. Town had hired a ‘real’ doctor by then, and he was pretty much out of a job. There’s a few of us still get him when we need healin’, but not near’s many. He moved out t’ the reservation and finally married Rain. They got four young’ns...maybe five by now. Last time we’s out there, Rain was pretty sure she was pregnant again.”
“Sounds like Nathan must be a happy man.”
“Yep. Family seems t’ agree with him.”
“You, too. Haven’t done too poorly in that department.”
Vin’s smile turned shadowed, a hint of pain in his pale blue eyes. “Reckon...”
After several, quiet moments, Chris said, “Vin?”
Having gotten lost in thought, Tanner started. “Sorry, just thinkin’.”
“Look on your face says it wasn’t something you were too happy thinking about.”
Vin’s voice became soft as he stared into the gathering darkness. “Had a bad fever come through here two years ago. Took quite a few folks in town... and,” his voice quivered, “two of our little ‘ns.”
“God, Vin, I’m sorry.”
Not trusting his voice, Vin only nodded. Another long silence found the men staring into the night, each lost in the bittersweet memories of lost children. Finally Tanner cleared his throat and continued. “Orin-Travis was three and Mary Kate was just past her first birthday. Thought for awhile I’d be puttin’ Casey in the ground with ‘em, she took it so hard. She still gets scared first sign a fever or even sniffles with any of the kids.”
“Give her some time.”
“Yeah... Chris, our babies weren’t the only ones we buried.”
Chris felt his heart jump. “Who?”
“Oh... damn...” he sighed the words as he mourned the loss of one of their number. “I’m... I’m sorry.”
“He’d been tendin’ the sick there in the church for a couple a weeks, pretty much night and day. Never let on t’ anyone he was feelin’ poorly. Nathan was here, helpin’ out with all the sick folks. He come in t’ the church one mornin’, and found Josiah slumped over on the alter. Said he went readin’ the good book.”
“Reckon he went peaceful.”
“What about Ezra?” Chris asked about the seventh peacekeeper. He thought of the conman fondly now, something he wouldn’t have thought possible at one time. “He slither off somewhere for deeper pockets to pick?”
“Nope. He’s still there in town.”
Shaking his head, Vin said, “In fact, he owns a big chunk of the town.”
Chris chuckled, “Well, he always did want to be a businessman.”
“He is that. He’s been a good friend, too. Helped me and Casey through some rough times.”
“That have anything to do with your limp?” He had tried to think of a tactful way to bring it up, but finally decided on the blunt approach.
“Noticed that, did y’?” He favored Chris with a grin. “Shoot, thought I hid it better ’n that.”
Chris smiled, but said nothing.
“Yeah... been near five years now. Had a dust up there in town... fellas tryin’ t’ take out th’ bank. I just happened t’ be there, figured I’d help out. Ended up catchin’ a bullet... took m’ knee cap. Couldn’t walk on it a’tall for the first year. The twins were little, Orin-Travis weren’t but a few weeks old... things got pretty scary there for awhile. Ezra got t’ comin’ out pretty regular, and every time he did, he brought somethin’ with ‘im... can goods, flour, stuff for the kids. Tried t’ get ‘im t’ stop, but he said it was the way he’s raised...never come callin’ empty-handed. Course knowin’ Maude an’ all, it was easy t’ see that weren’t true, but he stuck t’ the story. Came ‘round at least once a week for more’n a year.” He paused, smiling. “We’s gonna name the next baby for him, but it was a girl. Wanted t’ make him the godfather. He threatened t’ never speak to us again if we did though. Always figured he didn’t want people thinkin’ he was good enough to be a godfather ‘r somethin’. Reckon he’s all the kid’s godfather, though. He doted on Mary Kate somethin’ fierce, tore him up pretty bad when we lost her... the boys call ‘im Uncle Ezra.”
“There’s more to that man than he’ll let people see. I wouldn’t put much store in him at first, but he showed us a different side after a while.” Chris said softly.
After another long pause, Vin said, “Chris, guess Casey won’t mind me tellin’ y’ this... she’s expectin’ another baby in a few months. We’ve been talkin’, and well, if it’s a boy, we’d like t’ name him Christopher Adam.”
Chris was quiet for so long that Vin was afraid he had angered or hurt the man. When the gunman finally spoke, his voice was thick with emotion. “Thank you, pard.”
Beaming, Vin settled back happily in his seat. Glancing away, he said, “Sure have missed you, Cowboy.”
“Missed you, too... all of you. Thought about coming back a lot.”
“Why didn’t y’?”
He shrugged. “Never figured any of you’d still be here after a while... didn’t know if you’d even want me back around... and knew I wouldn’t fit in anywhere. Gotta say, you were the last one I expected to see here. Figured you were long gone.”
“Yeah, kinda took me by surprise, too. Figure if I hadn’t decided to spend time out with Chanu and his people, I’d a been long gone. Just the luck of the draw. Took some time gettin’ used t’ the idea a bein’ tethered t’ one place permanent. Can’t say Casey didn’t have a time with me for a couple’a years. Woman’s got the patience of a saint.”
“Don’t let him fool you, Chris. I couldn’t have asked for a better husband.” Casey had joined them on the porch. She stood behind Vin, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“He’s a good man, Casey, gotta say I’d agree that you’re a lucky woman.”
Even in the dim lantern light, they could tell the shy man was blushing. “Y’all are moonstruck or somethin’,” he said gruffly. Chris and Casey laughed.
“Chris, I’ve made the bed up in the spare room. Vin can show you where it is if and when you two decided t’ call it a night.”
“Thank you, Casey.”
“And if my husband hasn’t said so, I hope you know that you’re welcome to stay for as long as you’d like.” Before he could answer, she continued. “Well, you two enjoy your visit. I’m going to turn in.” Tilting his head back gently, she kissed Vin goodnight. Impulsively she stepped over and kissed Chris lightly on the cheek. As she did, she whispered, “He’s missed you something fierce.”
After she left, Vin said, “she tryin’ t’ get y’ t’ stay awhile?”
“She frets about me. Says I oughta have more’n m’ life than her, the kids, and this place.”
“What do you think?”
“Hell, Chris, they are my life. I don’t want for much...” he paused then said, “course can’t say havin’ my best friend around wouldn’t make life damn near perfect.”
“Lord, you two are about as subtle as an elephant in a prayer meeting.”
“Yeah, reckon we are, “ He favored him with an impish grin. “Never could get much past just tellin’ the truth.”
Smiling crookedly, Chris said, “can’t promise to stay long... but I wouldn’t mind staying a time.”
Slapping him on the leg, the former bounty hunter said, “good t’ hear! Why don’t we turn in for now, and finish catching up in the mornin’. Maybe I can get y’ t’ help me with that dam.”
Laughing, Chris said, “Now the truth comes out! Alright cowboy, show me where I’m bunking.”
Vin led him through the house to the little room. Chris’ things were already there, placed neatly on the room’s rocking chair. A small bureau and a narrow bed made up the rest of the room’s furnishings. Nodding his good night, Vin left for his own room.
Yawning, Chris closed the door and slipped out of his clothes. Sliding between the cool sheets, he smiled to himself. It might not be a bad thing to stay put for awhile... not a bad thing at all.
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