Where I Belong

by MMW

Main Character: Vin

Fifteen Year Challenge

Disclaimer: The characters of The Magnificent Seven belong to John Watson, MGM, Trilogy, etc and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended

Note: This story is for the 15-year challenge and is a follow-up to my ten-year challenge piece Cat And Mouse

Sitting on the edge of the cliff looking out to the sprawling town that he had once and still protected, Vin felt a small smile tug up the side of his mouth as the thought about how much the place had changed, and how much he had changed as well.

Fifteen years ago to the day, he and Chris met and saved Nathan.

Five years ago to the day, he had been sitting on this very cliff staring at the smaller version of the town in the distance.

He had just admitted to himself that he hoped his family would never give up looking for him. When his quiet rest was shattered by the nearly silent scrape of a boot against rock. In seconds he had his mare's leg in and was was prepared to meet his visitor.

Or, at least he thought he had been.

When the person came into sight, he nearly dropped his gun. He knew he could do nothing but stare as the one who'd found him dropped lightly beside him.

He winced remembering what he'd said in his shock.

(five years ago)

"Your husband know you're riding out of town like this?"

Casey snorted and offered a familiar glare that caused Vin's own lips to curve into a smirk. It was a look Miss Nettie had perfected.

A pang of longing sounded in his heart as he thought of the old biddy.

"JD may be my husband, but he doesn't control me."

As she looked him up and down, Vin could feel her cataloging the changes the years had wrought, but couldn't muster even the slightest bit of indignation.

"No," Vin agreed. "Don't reckon he could." He looked back out at the landscape below. "Don't make it any less dangerous for you to be here with me."

"Not half as dangerous as it's going to be for you once you get back," Casey warned, sounding very much like her aunt. "You've been running from your family for long enough, Vin Tanner. And for the last two years there's been no reason."

Vin felt his anger and indignation flare at her words before they fully registered. Once he understood, or hoped he understood her meaning, he didn't know what he felt, but an unbearable hope lit within him and he knew it was showing on his face.

Casey's own face softened as she reached out and rested a hand on his. "We never stopped looking. It didn't take long to figure out why you left, certainly didn't take a genius, but when everyone kept getting so close and just missing you, we knew, we all understood that it would never work, not until there was no reason for you to stay away."

She squeezed his hand and looked out at the view. "It was Billy Travis who insisted on fixing things and came up with the solution," she informed with a grin before it slowly faded away. "The day he saw you at Chris'..."

Vin swallowed hard seeing the shadows in Casey's eyes.

"He blamed himself," she whispered.

Vin closed his eyes against the pain that statement caused. He knew Casey felt it more keenly than she would have because of her own children.

Shaking her head as if shaking off those thoughts, she continued, "Took us a few years, but with everyone working it, we got a pardon for you and then managed to prove your innocence." She turned and met his eyes once more. "It's time to come home. We need you Vin."


It had been an interesting five years.

He didn't know what to expect when he and Casey rode into Miss Nettie's yard – now Casey and JD's home as well, but the welcome he got was like none he could have imagined.

Other than being warned by everyone to never run off again without telling them exactly where he was going and when he'd be back, it almost felt as if he'd never left, even with the lapse of seven years and a new generation toddling around.

He smiled thinking over the last five years as that generation continued to grow. Buck hadn't quite settled down, though he had become a one-woman man. His daughter Emilie was the center of his world.

He could still recall the day the little mite had stepped off the stage with little more than a note and a change of clothes.

Seemed that Miss Louisa had taken something more than a revelation of the truth of the territorial governor those years ago.

In the letter she admitted to keeping Emilie to herself as a way to keep some of the life she and Buck could never have really had together.

Turns out the governor held a grudge and used the same tactics on Louisa he had tried on Mary Travis. Unfortunately for Louisa, there were not peaceckeepers to help her. She'd dictated the letter on her deathbed, told Emilie about her father, and trusted the doctor to get their little girl to Buck.

To say it hadn't been an easy thing for the ladies' man to hear would be an understatement, but with Emilie to take care of, he pulled through.

A smirk lifted the corner's of Vin's mouth as he thought of the scheming little girl who was working to convince her father that a much more interested Miss Inez would be a perfect wife and mother for them.

Chris and Mary had finally settled their dance down a bit. They still had their struggles for dominance and independence, they still each carried a pain deeper than either would admit, but they'd found a balance that worked for them.

The town had a betting pool on just how long this "courting" period would last between the two blonds. Vin didn't see it ever ending. He had a feeling that both had been too well matched in their marriages and too deeply hurt by the sudden deaths of their spouses to ever let anyone that close again.

Still, they'd kept each other on their toes and took great joy in challenging one another

Billy Travis had finally come to peace with the fact that Chris would never officially be his father, but had gone off to college, not only to learn, but to make connections back east that would be beneficial to the ranch he hoped to help Chris run.

As much as Vin missed the others, upon his return he realized he missed the mothering from Miss Nettie and the sibling bond he had with Casey the most.

JD and Casey had four wonderful children who Miss Nettie spoiled in a way that made Vin envious. They all called him "Uncle Vin" and for a man who never thought to have family and didn't know what to do with the one he'd chosen, it meant the world to him.

He couldn't help but be impressed with the man JD had become. All the determination and grit the boy had shown fifteen years ago along with the best characteristics and lessons of each of the peacekeepers combined to make him a formidable and very admirable man. He somehow became the best of what each of them could be.

Though JD never realized his dream of becoming a Texas Ranger, he was continually sought by the territorial government and other law offers from across the West. It was more than any of them, including JD, had ever imagined.

Josiah and his wife still served the community as the leaders of the church and their children got into more mischief than all the others combined.

To say Vin had been surprised that the Preacher had settled down would be an understatement. He knew the devils which tormented the older man. But about two years after Vin left, a lonely wagon had been found on the side of one of the trails, left behind by the wagon train it had joined because they could not keep up, not with the broken wheel. It turned out to be more than that, though. The woman's husband had died several hundred miles before, leaving her and their two young children to press ahead. The others in the train helped where they could, but they'd encountered a lot of hardship along the way. When the wheel had broken, there wasn't anyone able to fix it.

Josiah had offered them shelter in the church. Somehow, and Vin still wasn't entirely clear on how it happened, there had been a huge dust-up between the woman and Josiah a few days after their arrival which ended in a formal courting and, eventually, marriage.

The couple still had their moments of "disagreement," which usually the entire town knew about, but on the whole the couple was very happy.

Nathan and Rain had continued healing the town – Nathan, finally having become a true doctor and Rain acting as midwife. Their small brood all showed the caring and compassion of their parents as well as their fierce loyalty.

It had taken some doing on Nathan's part to convince Rain to move to town and settle with him, but he'd done it. At least, that's how Nathan told the story. Rain's smile told Vin a different one. He had little doubt it had been Rain who pushed Nathan past his inactivity and convinced him that they needed to settle down.

There had still been those in town who looked down on the couple because of the color of their skin and Vin suspected there always would be, but those who had lived in the town before it began to grow had long come to appreciate the compassion and gentle touch of their doctor.

Another smirk twitched the corners of Vin's mouth as he thought of the first time he heard old man Conklin defend Nathan to a new arrival. Vin figured if the old man could come to appreciate the peacekeepers and a freed salve as a doctor, then miracles could still happen.

It was hard to think of Nathan without thinking of Ezra.

Ezra had headed East a few months after Vin returned and stunned everyone by returning with a wife who loved him dearly and kept him on his toes. The new Mrs. Standish, Almira to her friends, had quickly been befriended by Mary Travis, Josiah's wife, Inez, Rain and Casey. When those five got a certain look in their eye, the seven fearless protectors of the town knew better than to argue with whatever they had devised.

As for the Standishes, with Almira's help, Ezra had been able to open his dream saloon and withstand Maude's attack against it. That saloon had branched out into other businesses as the town grew. Most of the townspeople were busy right now trying to convince Ezra to run for mayor. The former gambler was reluctant, but Vin figured it would only be a matter of time. Ezra wouldn't be able to withstand the pleading from the children he'd entertained for years, at least not for long.

As for himself...

He smiled at the sound of small feet approaching.

Four years ago he'd been out on one of his "nature trips" as the others called them and came across a bloody campsite.

The man there – a Comanche brave – was dead. A small sound lead him to a hiding place where he found an white woman and a small child. From the look of them, he knew the child must have been the brave's son and the woman most likely his wife, but from the fear in the woman's eyes, Vin suspected it may not have been a love match as it had been between Chanu and his wife.

Still, moving slowly and talking softly in both English and Comanche, Vin convinced the woman to let him see her injuries.

It hadn't been pretty, but he did what he could, hoping it would be enough to see her safely to Nathan.

He could still recall her moans of pain as he bound up her wounds and tied her to his saddle. He and the boy had ridden bareback on the other horse until they reached town.

It had been touch and go for the woman, but she managed to pull through eventually.

By the time she had healed enough to leave the clinic, the boy, who she called Tom, had been thoroughly attached to Vin. Oddly, Vin found he didn't mind.

Neither he nor Sunlight Dancing had been particularly adept at living in town and prejudices against Indians and half-breeds still ran high in most places. They hadn't ever married or been involved that way, but they shared a house for two years and raised Tom as best they could. She never did recall her white name, but that didn't matter to Vin. He'd never really lost his "wild" ways from his time with the Indians and she couldn't remember anything else anymore.

She'd passed a little over a year ago – pneumonia.

"Pa!" an excited seven-year-old voice called out. "Look what I found! I think it's a snake skin!"

Vin's smile broadened as he took one last look at the sprawling village below him. A lot had changed in the last fifteen years, but he wouldn't change a second of it.


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