Summary: A missing scene for Nemesis, set just after Chris has ridden out of town with Black Fox. Buck and Vin discuss why Vin isn’t riding with them.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Yuri for her superior beta skills.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. I don’t own the rights to the Magnificent Seven and I don’t make any money from this work.

Vin Tanner stood leaning against the post outside the sheriff’s office, arms folded, keen eyes trained on the horizon. He had kept track of the three riders until their progress could be discerned only by the cloud of dust kicked up in their wake. Within moments even that vanished, leaving no visible evidence of their passing.

Vin didn’t move as Buck walked up and stood beside him, uncharacteristically quiet as he too, stared into the distance. After a few moments, Buck broke the silence.

“You worried, Vin?”

Vin considered the question carefully before answering, because worry didn’t begin to cover what he was feeling at that moment.

Earlier that day John Black Fox, a man condemned to hang, had told Chris Larabee that he had information about the murder of Chris’s wife and son. He was willing to trade this information in exchange for remitting his sentence from hanging to imprisonment. Judge Travis had agreed that Chris could take Black Fox back to his old homestead to verify the story.

Vin was aware that this was the closest Chris had ever come to finding a clue to the murderer’s identity; he just hoped that it wasn’t a wild goose chase set up by Black Fox to buy himself some time or, more likely, a ploy to get out of jail so he could find a way to escape. Vin didn’t blame Chris for taking that chance; he knew he’d have done the same himself given similar circumstances. What concerned him most was Larabee’s state of mind. The gunslinger had ridden out of town like a black-clad hellion exuding fury from every pore and Vin was afraid that his state of mind would cause him to act rashly rather than thinking his actions through.

No, worry didn’t even begin to cover it. His chest tightened just thinking about Chris’s possible actions if he found the murderer – actions that would likely land him in jail.

Even as these thoughts flooded his mind, he was answering Buck’s question with simply, “He’s angry, ain’t thinkin’ too straight. Kin lead to mistakes.”

Out of the corner of his eye he caught Buck’s sidelong glance.

“If you’re so worried, why ain’t you riding with him?” Buck asked.

Vin shrugged, schooling his features into a neutral expression.

“Chris didn’t need all of us ta come along.”

Buck grunted. “This ain’t no ordinary ride. Man would have thought, with the two of you being such good friends and all…”

His voice trailed off, but it had held an odd note that caused Vin to turn and look at him sharply. Buck had lowered his head, a deliberate move to prevent Vin from reading his expression.

Vin thought back to his short-but-heated argument with Larabee in the livery less than an hour ago.

“I’m comin’ with ya.”

Chris shook his head. “No, you’re not. I need you here.”

It was obvious that in Chris’s mind the issue wasn’t up for debate, but Vin was ready to argue his case.

“Chris, ya don’t know what you’re gonna run into…”

“I’ve got Josiah and Nathan to watch my back.”

“Yeah, I know, but…”

Larabee turned sharply, his face darkening. “I said, NO!”

Vin bit back the biting retort that came to his lips and steadfastly held Chris’s gaze, determined that Larabee wasn’t going to get his way without a valid explanation. He watched Chris impassively as the gunslinger took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he finished tightening Pony’s cinch. When he turned back to Vin, the tracker could tell that the anger had abated for the moment, but he wasn’t fooled. Chris had been on the verge of full-blown rage all day and it wouldn’t take much to re-ignite his short fuse.

“That trail herd’s due to pass by today,” Larabee said, looking into his friend’s eyes for the first time. “I need you to stay here to take care of things.”

Was that all? Hell, Vin thought, that was no reason at all.

“Chris, any of the others can handle a bunch of drunken cowhands,” he protested. “That ain’t a good enough reason!”

Chris fixed him with the patented Larabee glare that was usually sufficient to intimidate any man. Any man except Vin Tanner.

“We’re paid to protect this town, Vin,” Chris clarified when it was obvious that Vin wasn’t backing down. “I. Need. You. Here.”

Vin held Chris’s steely gaze for a moment longer, finally comprehending the unspoken meaning behind the words. Yes, Larabee wanted Vin with him, but he was also a man with a strong sense of honor and he needed to set off on this trip without feeling he was letting the town down. Vin could have argued that any of the others was capable of taking care of things, but knew that he’d be wasting his time. Rightly or wrongly, he was the one Chris trusted the most. He might not like it, but he knew that on this occasion he was going to have to concede. Larabee was already strung as tight as a bow; if staying behind would give his friend a measure of peace, at least on this issue, Vin knew he had no choice.

He acknowledged defeat with a short nod.

“Give me your word you won’t ride after me until I send for you,” Larabee said.

Vin couldn’t help but smile at that; Chris knew him too well. He considered the request for a moment, then said, “I give you my word that I won’t ride after you ‘til the town’s safe. Good enough?”

Vin watched Chris narrow his eyes and once more the unspoken meaning passed between them - Chris understood that Vin was asking him to trust his judgement on this one. Finally, Chris nodded assent and held out his hand to grasp Vin’s forearm and seal the promise.

Vin was surprised that Buck hadn’t overheard the ‘conversation’ – he wouldn’t have been surprised if the whole town had heard it – but he wasn’t about to go into details, so again he answered Buck’s question with his usual economy of words.

“With that trail herd comin’ through, Chris needs us here to take care of any trouble.”

Buck snorted. “You mean, he needs you here. You’re his right hand man, the only one he trusts to take charge when he ain’t around.”

Vin should have guessed that Wilmington would immediately comprehend Chris’s decision. The edge in Buck’s voice spoke of a deeply buried but nevertheless genuine resentment that had never been voiced, but which Vin suspected had been festering ever since a scruffy tracker had met up with a black-clad gunslinger over a year and a half ago.

“Ya have a problem with that, Buck?” he said mildly.

Buck sighed and shifted position, leaning back against the hitching rail as he turned to face his fellow peacekeeper.

“It ain’t you, Vin. Guess it’s just that there was a time when I thought I was his right hand man, when I was the one he trusted.”

“He does trust you, Buck.”

“No, he don’t, Vin. Not the way he trusts you.”

Vin searched for the right words to answer this statement. He couldn’t deny Buck’s words. Between himself and Chris Larabee there was a mutual meeting of minds and an understanding on a deep level that he couldn’t explain. He only knew that he and Larabee had quite simply trusted each other from the moment they met.

During the time he had known Chris and Buck, Vin had picked up bits and pieces about their past. He knew that they had run wild in their younger days; that when Chris had married Sarah, Buck had remained a close friend to the family. He had sensed, too, that Sarah and Adam’s deaths had changed their friendship. Neither of them ever spoke about the dark days that had followed but Vin knew that there were still times when the past came back to haunt both men.

“Can’t deny the friendship between us, Buck,” he said finally. “But I reckon it’s been easy fer me - Chris and I don’t have no history together, there ain’t any bad memories. What you and Chris went through was bound to change things.”

“You reckon?” Buck asked, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I cared about Sarah and Adam, Vin. Chris was my best friend; I thought we were close as brothers. After… after they died, I tried to help him out of that hole he sank into, but I couldn’t. The friendship we had – it wasn’t strong enough. I keep wondering, if he’d known you back then, maybe things would have been different.”

Vin shook his head. “Ya cain’t know that, Buck. He was a different man then, we all were. Reckon no one could have reached him – it was too soon; he needed time. Ya did the best ya could fer him and I reckon he knows that.”

Buck sighed. “Maybe. Guess sometimes I just get to hankering after the old days, but I know we can’t go back - there’s too much pain in the past.”

Vin shrugged. “Reckon there’s times Chris looks at you and remembers the bad. But there’ll be more and more times when he looks and thinks on the good. Just give it a spell, Buck.”

Vin wondered whether he’d said too much about something that really wasn’t any of his business, but Buck didn’t seem to be angry so he decided to press his luck and go one step further.

“I reckon it’s your place to be with him now, Buck, not mine. You knew Sarah and Adam, cared about ‘em. You understand what he’s going through.”

Buck shook his head. “I ain’t what he needs. We both know I just can’t get through to him when he’s mad. You’re the only one of us who can get him to think straight.”

Vin had to acknowledge the truth of Buck’s words, but he had been talking about more than Larabee’s state of mind.

“Seems ta me, this isn’t just about Chris.”

Buck frowned. “What you saying, Vin?”

Vin chose his words carefully. “Chris ain’t the only one who has a score to settle. Reckon ya still blame yerself for what happened to Sarah and Adam.”

Buck shrugged. “We all know that I was the one who persuaded Chris to stay in town that night. If I hadn’t…”

“If you hadn’t,” Vin interrupted, “they’d of found some other way to get the job done. It wasn’t your fault, Buck, any more than it was Chris’s.”

Buck was silent.

“I gave Chris my word I wouldn’t ride after him ‘til that trail herd’s passed through,” Vin went on. “Don’t mean that someone else cain’t.”

Buck gave him a long, measuring look before answering. “He won’t want me with him.”

“Mebbe not; don’t change the fact that you need to be there; fer him and fer you.”

Vin figured he’d said enough; probably more than enough. He turned his gaze back to the horizon, giving Buck some space to consider his words. Several moments passed before Buck said, almost tentatively, “You think you can spare me?”

Vin grunted. “I’ve got Ezra and JD, don’t I? Day comes three of us cain’t manage a few uppity cowboys is the day I hang up my hat.”

“Reckon I’ll ride, then.”

Vin nodded. “Just tell Chris… tell him we’ll be ready when he needs us.”

“I’ll do that. Vin?”


Buck held out his hand. “No hard feelings between us?”

Vin took the proffered hand and shook it firmly. “No hard feelin’s, Buck.”

“Well, I’ll got get saddled up. Reckon it won’t take too long to catch up to them.”

Vin watched with mixed feelings as Buck strode off down the boardwalk. He knew it was right for Buck to be riding out, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling of frustration that he wasn’t going too. Before Buck had walked more than a few yards, Vin found himself calling after him.


Buck paused and looked back over his shoulder. “Yeah?”

“I…” Suddenly he didn’t know what to say.

Buck grinned, seeming to understand. “I’ll watch his back for you, Vin.”

Vin found the tightness around his chest easing a little. “I know ya will. You always do.”

The End