by mcat

Author's Note - Kind of a short post-ep for "Wagon Train."

Yup, one big happy ending, Chris thought to himself. The people in the wagon train had gotten to their land, with minimal losses to Dicky O’Shea. Mary didn’t marry Gerard. And the Seven didn’t suffer any casualties. Then Chris looked to his right. No physical ones, anyway, he thought, as he realized that Vin was no longer there. He remembered Vin saying he was going to scout the trail ahead. He was busy telling Billy a story, so he just absently agreed. But now Billy was dozing, leaning back against his chest. Chris had time to reflect. Remember the look on Vin’s face before he left. There was sadness and anger in his eyes. "Shit," he cursed to himself.

Sure, Vin had said he was okay when he asked him, when they first started for home. But that was Vin. He’d say he was okay on his deathbed. And he definitely wouldn’t say anything in front of Billy. Maybe some time by himself would do him good.

Chris looked around at the others. Buck and JD continued on and off, bantering back and forth about some love letter to Casey JD had written. Or did Buck write it? Nathan just kept giving Ezra dirty looks each time Ezra tried to start reasoning with him. Something about land and hospitals and saloons. Chris shook his head. Ezra was ever the con man, but there was no way he would ever be able to con Nathan. Ever. Then there was Josiah. Josiah was content to be by himself today. Guess he got himself smothered by the widow Alice. Chris was a little confused, though. Josiah’s expression kept changing. One minute he was looking relieved, like a man let out of prison. The next, he had a smile on his face, like he knew the punch line to the best inside joke around.

Mary rode next to him, offered to take Billy’s sleeping form from him.

"Nah," Chris replied. "I'm kinda enjoying this, to tell the truth."

"Me, too," she said, smiling.

"You regret not marrying Gerard?" he asked.

After a moment of thought, Mary answered. "No. I didn’t love him."

Chris nodded his head. Thought about asking her if she loved him. Decided not to tempt the fates. She’d tell him if and when she did. He wondered if Charlotte had told Vin that she loved him. And, in turn, if he loved her. His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of a rider coming close. He looked up and saw Vin returning to the group.

"Trail to the south is blocked by a rockslide," he reported upon arrival. "If you want to make camp a little later, there’s a nice spot to the south east aways further on. Otherwise, you can stop up there," he finished, pointing to a small area to the south, where a grove of trees surrounded a small stream.

Chris, looking down at Billy, said, "I think we’ll take the early camp."

Vin was gone again by the time Chris finished the sentence. Riding ahead to the stream.

Chris looked at Mary.

"Give him some time," she began. "He’ll come around."

He looked at the others. Vin’s behavior hadn’t escaped their notice either.

"You must remember, Mr. Larabee, that Mr. Tanner, unlike our friend, Mr. Wilmington, here," Ezra started, gesturing toward Buck, "Is not normally the ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em,’ type," he finished.

They all got a quick laugh out of the remark. Chris nodded to himself. He understood Vin’s dilemma. Charlotte was a beautiful woman. She and Vin seemed to hit it off well with each other. And Vin couldn’t just let her stay unhappy with her abusive husband. But husband was the key word, here, wasn’t it? Despite Mr. Richmond’s accusations, Charlotte had left willingly to be with Vin. Might have even stayed with Vin for a while. But when they came back and Richmond was shot, Charlotte was back with her husband, quicker than lightning.

A short while later they reached the campsite. Vin had already started a fire and was gathering some gear from his saddlebag to catch some fish for supper. Chris handed Billy down to Mary and dismounted himself. After settling his horse for the night he made his way over to Vin.

"Hey, Vin?" he called. "Got a minute?" he asked.

But Vin didn’t look at him. He just said, "Gotta catch some supper," and headed for the stream.

Chris was really starting to get angry at Vin, now. Granted they never did have long conversations, even on the trail, but this was different. Vin’s short informative way of talking here was accompanied by an anger in his voice. An anger directed at Chris. Chris was ready to storm after him when a hand dropped to his shoulder. He turned to see Buck.

"Leave it be, Chris," Buck intoned.

"Why is he angry at me?" Chris asked.

"He’s not angry at you, Chris," Buck replied. "He’s just upset about the whole thing, is all."

"No, Buck," Chris said. "You don’t see Vin like I do. He’s mad at me. Like I’m the one who made him leave Charlotte behind or something."

"Aren’t you?" Buck replied.

Chris gave him a questioning look, was about to ask him what the hell he meant by that, when Billy ran up to him.

"Chris! Chris!" the boy shouted. "Ma said you could take me to go hunt some rabbits! Can we go? Can we go?" he asked.

Buck backed away silently as Chris looked at the boy. Chris looked toward the stream one last time before picking up the boy and agreeing to his request.

"Sure, Billy," he said.

+ + + + + + +

After a supper of fish and rabbit, the group started to settle down for the night. Chris wanted to talk with Vin, finally get things out in the open. He’d hated the tension between them that day. But as he approached Vin’s bedroll, Vin turned away from him and pulled his blanket up over his chin. Chris didn't feel like an argument right now. Maybe the new morning, and further distance from the wagon train, would shed some peace on the pair.

+ + + + + + +

Chris woke to the morning light. Some of the others had already gotten up. Nathan and Josiah were making coffee and biscuits. He looked over to where Vin had been sleeping. He was gone.

"He left about a half an hour ago," Josiah said, seeing where Chris was looking.

"Where’d he go?" Chris asked.

"Scouting ahead again," Nathan replied.

Chris closed his eyes and sighed. He grabbed a biscuit and a cup of coffee and headed toward his horse.

"You goin’ after him?" Buck asked, coming up behind him.

"If I don’t settle this once and for all, it’s just gonna keep eating away at the both of us," Chris replied.

Buck nodded, understanding.

"We’ll catch up to ya later," Buck said, heading back to the camp.

+ + + + + + +

An hour or so later, Chris spotted Vin’s horse. It was ground tied near the base of a small outcropping of rocks. He looked up to the outcropping and saw Vin perched about ten feet up, looking through his spyglass.

"What’s the matter, Chris? Ain’t I dependable enough for ya yet?" Vin asked without looking at Chris, bitterness in his voice. "Gotta check up on me?" he added.

Chris just stood there, dumbfounded by the remark and its tone. Then he remembered the conversation he’d had with Vin.

"Shit," he muttered to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Is that what all this is about?" he asked.

"It’s what everything is about, Chris," Vin said as he started to climb down the hill. "I’ve been supportive of every decision you’ve made for the seven of us," Vin continued. "But did you support me? Did you even try to consider my feelin’s?" he asked, standing in front of Chris, now. "I came back to warn you! I risked getting killed by Richmond for you! I gave up Charlotte for you!" he shouted, his voice breaking. "And you have the balls to tell me that you needed to know when you could depend on me??!!" he exclaimed.

"I needed you thinking with your head, Vin, not your groin," Chris said evenly, trying to explain his earlier statement.

Vin looked up sharply at the comment and punched Chris in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.Chris rubbed his jaw and looked up, waiting for another blow. But Vin just stood there, tense, shaking, waiting for another reason to hit Chris.

"You never had Charlotte, Vin," Chris began, starting to get up out of the dirt. "She had you," he quickly added, seeing Vin ready to punch him again.

But Vin stopped. Something about what Chris said, and how he said it, hit him.

"That's right, Vin," Chris said softly, seeing the realization in Vin’s eyes.

"You knew all along," Vin said, sitting down heavily on one of the rocks nearby.

"Charlotte was miserable. Any man could see that," Chris started. "She probably would have gone off with anyone to get out of the situation she was in."

"And I just happened to be the first sucker to come along?" Vin asked, full of self-doubt.

"No, Vin," Chris admonished, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. "I really think she liked you.

But I think once the initial excitement and freedom wore off, she would have gone her separate way," he continued.

"I guess we didn’t really have a whole lot in common, did we?" Vin asked.

"No," Chris said, shaking his head.

Vin took a deep breath and let it out, sighing.

"Sorry ‘bout that," he said, pointing to Chris’s chin.

Chris nodded and smiled. "Don’t even hurt," he lied.

"Truce?" Vin asked, offering his hand.

"Truce," Chris responded, shaking the offered hand. "With the most dependable man I know," he added.


Just my thoughts. Chris’s words on dependability kinda bugged me.....