This follows Secrets, Secrets Revealed and Sorrows
The Magnificent Seven belong to MGM/Trilogy/Mirisch. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Vin Tanner sat alone at the corner table near the back of the bar. It seemed as though frequenting bars was how he spent most of his time since leaving Denver three weeks ago. As was becoming his usual habit, he toasted the day as being a day of recollection as his mind drifted over a lifetime of memories. He remembered himself as a child being sent to one foster home right after another and the abuse he had suffered in many of them. He remembered being on his own during his teenage years, working odd jobs to put himself through high school. Instead of first date, prom, and ballgame memories, his were of being teased because of his long hair and shabby clothing. Instead of memories of friends hanging out to study for exams, he remembered being ridiculed as his learning disability was perceived as ineptness.
Smiling inwardly, he recalled how after high school, it had looked as though his life were taking more of a direction toward living rather than just surviving. Finally, a joy for life was replacing feelings of unworthiness. A stint in the army had shown him a skill in sharp shooting, which proved invaluable later on as he began a career in bounty hunting. Then, three years ago, he had felt as though his life were finally on track when he met a woman with whom he fell completely in love.
Vin laughed bitterly to himself as his mind filled with memories of Lisa. His blue eyes glazed with the remembrance of old pain as he recalled how she had left without a trace the day before they were to be married and how he had almost felt it as his heart splintered into a million pieces.
Life began again for him a year later when he met ATF Special Agent, Chris Larabee, during a weapons raid. He smiled as he remembered how Chris convinced him to give up bounty hunting and join his team. It was as if he and Larabee were destined to be best friends. They could complete each other's thoughts and sentences and one glance could say more than words ever could.
However, none of his memories could compare to the hurtful one of a month ago. He recalled how he had told Chris about his relationship with Lisa and how she had left him. Chris had listened sympathetically and compassionately then encouraged him to bury the past and leave it there. Feelings of betrayal had overwhelmed him when he overheard Chris revealing to Buck that he, himself had known Lisa and that she had come to him declaring her love the day before she was set to marry another. It hurt even more to hear Chris say that he, too, had been in love with her. Vin wondered if Lisa ever really knew that her leaving broke one man's heart and left one wondering what might have been.
His anger at Chris dissipated, however, as he had realized it was not the older man's fault for knowing Lisa years earlier nor being the one she loved. Vin's old feelings of unworthiness and pain of desolation clouded his thinking. A chasm in his heart and a deep sense of loneliness that had seeped into his bones and soul caused him to turn his back on his best friend and resign from a job he truly loved. At least in his resignation letter, he had the presence of mind to absolve Chris from the guilt he knew the older man was feeling.
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Vin decided another toast was in order, for what he did not know or care. He threw back the shot of whiskey then closed his eyes as he felt the liquid burning his throat as it slid down. He opened his eyes then shut them again quickly and shook his head as if trying to clear it of the image that was assaulting his mind. Okay, now I'm seeing things. Must be drunker than I thought I was. He cracked open his eyes again. Damn, still there.
"Are you real or is it my imagination?" he asked the image sitting across from him.
"Oh, I'm real all right," said the voice of Chris Larabee.
"Okay, are you as pissed as you look?" Vin asked.
Vin was rewarded with the infamous Larabee green-eyed glare and growl. "More."
Vin sighed deeply and massaged his temples. Funny, he did not remember his head hurting until he saw the man in black sitting across from him. Then again, Chris could always be a pain, just usually in a different part of the anatomy.
"What are you doing here, Chris?"
Larabee replied, "I could ask you the same thing but I won't. How are you?"
Chris took in Vin's pale features and dark shadowed eyes. "Uh huh, looks like you are," he said.
"Chris..." Vin began.
"No," Chris cut him off sharply. "I've been looking for you for three weeks. I finally found you when an all points bulletin came through on your license plate telling me you were here in New Mexico. I've driven a long way to get here and I'm tired. So, the very least you can do is just sit there and listen, cowboy. You wanted to know if I'm pissed, you better believe it. Vin, I'm sorry I hurt and betrayed you. I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth about Macy...Lisa, whatever the hell her name is. I'm sorry I didn't force you to talk to me back in Denver. This is my entire fault. But, damnit Vin, I never believed you'd up and run away. You didn't even have the guts to face me with your resignation letter. You just left. You left me." He added softly, "I thought as friends, we could work out anything. Were you not willing to try to forgive me?"
Vin was speechless. This wasn't Chris' fault; he had it all wrong. "Chris, I told you in my note that you're not to blame for any of this. You knew Lisa long before I did and it's not your fault she loved you and not me."
Chris gave Vin a puzzled look. "If that's what you believe then why did you leave? Please talk to me, Vin," he appealed.
Vin's eyes blurred and his voice stammered as he tried to form the words to make Chris understand. "I've told you about the foster homes and school I was in. Those years were horrible for me, Chris. But, you already know that. You know all my secrets. What you don't know is that I feel like I musta done something really terrible in life to get what I got. Lisa was the first really good thing to happen to me. I guess I didn't deserve her because she didn't love me like I loved her. I guess I don't deserve to have you as a friend either."
Chris moved over into the seat next to Vin and placed his hand on the younger man's arm. "You think you deserve the hellish life you've lived? No, Vin, no...God, you need to be happy not crapped on. You have the strongest will and character that I've ever seen. You don't know how proud I am that you're my friend and that you accept me as your friend. Let me tell you something, cowboy, I'm pissed as hell that you think you're not worthy of the good things life has to offer. You deserve that and so much more."
Vin did not even try to speak, as it would have been impossible for words to get past the lump in his throat. Chris leaned over and forced the younger man to make direct eye contact. "Vin, I know you say you don't blame me but I have to ask you. Will you please forgive me?"
Silent tears ran down Vin's cheeks as nodded. "There's nothing to forgive, but if you need to hear it, yes, I forgive you. Will you forgive me for running away?"
Chris' eyes were suspiciously bright. "Of course I do. Vin, you belong in Denver with your family. Will you let me take you home?"
"Home," Vin repeated softly.
"Yeah, home. I didn't tell you but Buck is waiting outside. He'll drive your jeep and you ride with me. I missed my best friend and he's not getting out of my sight for a while."
Vin chuckled. "You were so sure I'd go back with you that you brought Buck?"
Chris managed to look sheepish. "Well, actually he's here for your safety. The others were afraid I'd wind up shooting you to get you home. Besides, I'm under orders not to come back without you. By the way, I didn't get a chance to process your resignation. Think you'll be ready to come back to work from your leave of absence in a few days?"
"I still have my job? Chris?"
Chris smirked at the shocked younger man. "You really think I'd let you quit? Listen, when you're ready, I'll help you find an apartment but I want you to stay at the ranch for a while. We need to talk more about everything. Especially these bad feelings you have toward yourself."
"I think you're friendship is getting rid of those bad feelings, Chris."
Chris smiled at his best friend. "Hey, Vin. Let's go home."
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