INTO THE WEST by Ness Ayton

Disclaimer: The bit none of us like – not mine! Don’t think they ever will be however much I offer. And if they were would I be treating them like this? Hm, probably.

General: This story is AU ATF and very definitely Vin and Chris – anyone spot a pattern emerging here? This has not been beta read by anyone so any grammatical errors or typos are all mine.

Credits: The other really important bit is to point out that the opening line comes from Sue N’s story “Fade to Black” and was the inspiration for this story. I hope she doesn’t mind me using it here. Oh yes, and it’s the only bit of Texan you’ll be getting out of me; otherwise UK English is used throughout to ensure consistency ……… or something. And, of course, thanks to Mog for the ATF.

The other quotes are from the song “Into the West” by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox, which can be heard at the end of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It struck a resonant chord with me in conjunction with the Sue N line.

Warning: Honestly though, if you do not like deathfic really DO NOT read this – you have been warned. A box of tissues might be advisable for you other brave souls. I think I was onto my third by the time I’d finished writing it!

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey’s end

Sleep now
Dream – of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms
You’re only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

“You die on me agin, 'n I'll hunt ya all th' way ta hell, you understand me, Larabee?”

His words of a year ago echoed around his memory like the tolling of a bell. And now Chris was dead; irrefutably dead. He had stood and watched as the traitorous coffin was lowered into the cold, impersonal ground; finally having to accept the truth. And all the while his soul had screamed; had railed against Gitche Manitou and had slowly bled to death.

He had known the exact moment that Chris had died; had felt the breath torn from his body; had known the exact moment when his soul mate’s heart had stopped beating and had collapsed over his desk to the consternation of the others. The others had known that his heart was weeping blood and had watched helplessly as he had turned his back on them and buried himself in the grave along with Chris.

He had stood amongst the white serried ranks of gravestones, testimonials to the lost, and watched from afar; detached, cut off from those who would have helped. Josiah’s low voice had rumbled out the funeral service but his thoughts had been with the sharpshooter, knowing that he was out there, somewhere in the cemetery, watching and bleeding – alone.

JD had been openly crying as the coffin was lowered but he had no tears; not one tear had fallen. He had watched as they had thrown in handfuls of earth and knew that he should have been there, doing that for Chris, but he could not move. And then everyone had begun to move away slowly, leaving only the team behind and he had begun to move hesitantly through the stones, drawn inexorably to that hole. As the cemetery workers had begun to throw in the dirt, landing like gunfire on the wooden box below, he had whispered “No”. Then, suddenly, his legs had found their life and he had begun to run.

He had screamed as another shovelful of earth had flown through the air and had launched himself into the void, intent on reaching the other half of his soul, only to find himself caught from behind by a pair of strong arms. He had begun to fight like he had never fought before, but he had been drawn slowly back from the edge of the grave by those arms that had encased him purposefully but lovingly.

“Vin, son, it’s all right. We’re here,” Buck had whispered in his ear over and over again.

Suddenly he had gone limp, unable to fight any longer.

“Chris!” he had whimpered.

“I know, son,” Buck had whispered as he lowered himself to the ground, cradling the broken young man in his arms. The rest of the team had made a shield around them to hide them from prying eyes. And then he had cried; the hurt, anguish and rage pouring out in burning hot tears against Buck’s chest. He felt again the injustice of Chris dying in that dark, dirty alley; his blood slowly trickling away from the stab wound; unable to reach help – alone and afraid.

+ + +

That had been six months ago, six long anguished months, and every night he had returned to the grave and curled up at the foot of the bare mound to sleep, whatever the weather, needing to keep that link with Chris any way he could. He had been careful not to reveal the truth about his nocturnal vigils to the others whom he knew were already concerned about him despite his insistences that he was fine. And here he was, ready for another night under the stars, oblivious to the fact that it was once again raining, feeling like he had never felt before; as if he had been hit and run over by a truck. Nobody to talk to. No shoulder to cry on. No hope. What did people say? Time heals? Well it didn’t. If anything it was getting worse and worse.

As he had done for so many nights before he lay on the rain-drenched soil, draping his body across the mound and digging his fingers into the earth; allowing the tears to fall unchecked and calling softly to his soul mate, pouring out his grief into the implacable ground before falling into an exhausted yet tormented sleep. This night, however, seemed different, for as he lay there wrapped in his sorrow, he felt the earth shiver as though it were experiencing some great emotional upheaval and something akin to a sigh reverberated around the stones. He lay for a while waiting to see if anything else happened before succumbing to the lure of sleep.

How long he slept he was unsure but he was drawn from his uneasy slumbers by yet another sigh, a deeper one this time, in a timbre he recognised.

“Chris?” he called softly as he pushed himself onto his knees. It came again; a groan borne on the wind, swirling through the stones and enveloping him in the deepest despair he had yet experienced since Chris’ death. It cut deep into him like a knife twisting in the still raw wound of his grief and he found himself watching as his hand moved, as if by its own volition, towards his standard issue firearm. His finger had just touched the cold metal when the ground beneath him erupted in a shower of earth and worms and a hand gripped his in a steely clasp.

He jerked back instinctively, trying to snatch his hand away but the grip tightened, if that were possible, and a soft voice behind him breathed.

“Vin, no!”

“God, Chris, where are you?” he screamed, glancing wildly round for the voice’s owner, even as the heavens opened and the rain poured down on him in earnest. Abruptly he was released and he found himself falling backwards down the mound as it bucked and heaved in the ferocity of the lightning that now lit up the sky. He came to a shuddering halt beside the white headstone which, in the strange unearthly glow of the storm, looked as if it, like him, were weeping blood. Gasping to catch his breath he watched in detached fascination as the earth on the top of the mound split open and slid back to reveal a dark cavernous opening. But, even as he watched in calm surprise, from the depths of the darkness a faint red glow appeared and warm air swamped him in a rush.

He crawled across the strewn debris to the edge of the hole and saw a flight of steps leading down into the dark depths below. Without stopping to think he pulled himself up and set his foot upon the top step. Taking a shaky breath he started to descend the stairs, cautiously, one foot at a time aware that one false move would send him spiralling into the apparently bottomless void. As he drew further and further away from the hole he became aware that the stairs were gradually becoming lighter and lighter until, upon looking down, he could see the stones at his feet glistening red in an eerie glow. Then, as he looked back to where the steps were leading, he saw the silhouette of a man. A silhouette that he knew so well and that he had thought never to see again.

“Chris!” he breathed softly to himself and then, as the man continued descending the stairs in front of him, seemingly oblivious to his presence, he screamed “Chris!” Below him the man paused mid-step and turned to look back up. He was too far away to make out the face and the expression thereon but every nerve in his body tingled, telling him that this was indeed Larabee that he could see. Without a sound or sign of recognition the figure turned away and started back down the steps again.

“Oh no you don’t, Larabee. You ain’t getting away from me that easy this time,” he muttered determinedly, quickening his pace. Suddenly, however, his foot slipped and he found himself bouncing down the stairs, wondering vaguely how much further they went. He had just formulated this thought when he landed in a heap at the bottom and found himself fighting for breath.

“Why are you here, Vin?”

The quiet voice captured his attention immediately and he struggled to right himself before looking up into jade green eyes, awash with unshed tears.

“Because you left me behind,” he wailed, all the anguish of the last six months given voice in the simple statement.

“But I had to, Vin, I’m dead,” Chris reminded him gently.

“And I told you that if you died on me again I’d hunt you to hell itself – so here I am.” He looked round. “Is this hell?” he asked, “‘Cause if it is, it don’t seem too bad. Thought it was supposed to be all hell fire and brimstone.”

He saw Chris smile gently at him for a moment before crouching down and looking him straight in the eye.

“No, it’s not hell,” Larabee replied quietly. “It’s a kind of waiting room. I can’t move on because you haven’t let me go. You’re keeping me tied to the earth.”

He drew in a shuddering breath at the sadness in Chris’ voice.

“I can’t let you go,” he said. “You’re a part of me and I can no more let you go than cut off an arm or a leg.”

“Vin, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be,” he heard Chris remonstrate gently with him. “You mourn and you move on.”

Deep in his heart he knew that it was true but he was too overwrought to accept it and he couldn’t help glaring at Larabee.

“Can’t move on. Don’t want to move on. The others have but I can’t. Chris, I need you like I never needed no one before. You’re my anchor, my rudder. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know that, Vin, but there comes a time when you have to let go.”

He turned away from Chris for a moment, trying to compose himself so that he could argue rationally with his erstwhile boss. Then he turned back and tried to smile, but could not.

“Come back with me Chris, please,” he pleaded desperately. A faint smile played around Chris’ mouth.

“And how would we explain that to everyone? No, Vin, there’s only one of us can go back and that’s you. You’re the only one still alive out there.” Larabee stood up and began to move away. He sprang to his feet, furious that the man could appear so accepting of the situation.

“What the hell were you doing in that alley anyway?” he screamed at Larabee’s back.

“Nothing that you wouldn’t have done had you been there,” Chris replied calmly, turning to face him.

“And that was?”

“Trying to save a young girl from being mugged. But you know that already. You’ll have read the report.”

His head drooped.

“Yeah, I read the report. You did what you had to do. Hell, you’re right, I’d have done the same thing. But it doesn’t help any.” He dropped to his knees, barely aware when Chris came back and knelt at his side. He felt a firm grasp under his chin and then his face was tilted so that he had no option but to look up.

“Vin, you have to let me go and move on with your life so that I can rest.”

“Can’t do that, Chris. I’ve got no reason to live now you’re gone.”

“You can’t die, Vin. You have to go on living – for me,” Larabee pleaded.

“I’s already dead – inside,” he replied quietly, trembling, and then, without meaning to, he broke down in tears. He felt Chris slip down beside him and wrap his arms round him, offering the comfort that only the blond man could give. He was aware that they sat for a long time, him curled in Chris’ arms, crying, while the older man tried to soothe him.

Finally, the tears began to cease flowing and he found himself fighting to catch his breath. As he did so, he became aware that the darkness had receded and that where he and Chris now sat was filled with a soft silvery light. Instead of a dark cave they now sat on a beach lapped by gentle silver waves. In the distance a ring of tall cliffs made a natural harbour and he could see where a break in the rocks led out onto a glassy moonlit sea. There was the sparkle of crashing waves against the base of the cliffs and he felt his spirit soar for the first time since Chris had died. He looked up and saw that Chris had noticed the change in their surroundings too.

His eyes drifted to the edge of the surf where a small boat waited, its sails furled and the oars shining in the moonlight that spread across the water, lighting a path into the west. A tall hooded man stood in the prow of the boat, a skeletal hand resting on the rudder and eyes watching them without emotion. He watched as Chris’ eyes moved across to the man and he saw the hand beckoning.

“No,” he screamed, clutching at his boss. “You can’t go. Not now. Not without me.”

“Vin, I can’t ask you to do that.”

“I ain’t asking you to ask, I’m offering.”

“Vin.” Gentle hands began untangling him, smoothing his hair and settling him on the sand. “We have to say goodbye now.”

He gulped.


“Goodbye, Vin. Please say goodbye. Let me know you’ll be all right.”

He scrubbed his eyes with sandy fists.

“I can’t.”

“Goodbye; please just say it.”

“Goodbye,” he whispered, unable to deny his soul mate’s last request; but he felt the word catch in his throat as he watched Chris get to his feet and move across the sand to the boat. He watched, as though from a distance, as Larabee climbed into the boat and turned towards him with a smile and a wave. And then the ferryman pushed against the shore and the boat slipped out onto the silver water.

“Chris!” he wailed as the boat began to move from the shore and, without a second thought, he moved forward into the water, wading purposefully through its wake.

“Vin, no!” he heard Chris yell as he first waded and then began to swim towards his boss and the boat. He could see the horror in Larabee’s face but he pressed on through the waves, regardless.

He didn’t know the exact moment that Chris realised that he wasn’t going to stop trying to reach him and that very soon he would not be able to turn back anyway. He couldn’t see Larabee’s face as, with an aching heart, the blond made his decision and laid his hand on the ferryman’s arm, slowing the boat down until he could reach for the other half of his soul. He only saw the hand reaching out and grabbing his own flailing arm. Feeling the familiar strength and warmth of that grasp he looked into Chris’ face, his own lit by a radiant smile.

He never knew that at that moment Chris’ heart broke.

“God, Vin, what have you done?” he heard Chris whisper with a catch in his voice, even as he was pulled into the boat with him.

“Chosen you over life itself,” he replied simply, snuggling up close to the man and gently wrapping himself in Chris’ arms; hugging them tightly; oblivious to the tears that were spilling from the blond’s eyes.

He knew that Chris had accepted his choice as being irrevocable when he felt the hold on him tighten as he rested in Larabee’s arms and sensed a damp cheek resting on his soft brown hair. And the ferryman pulled once again on his oars, skilfully steering the craft through the small opening in the rocks and out on to the glassy sea; here he raised the silken sails allowing them to be filled with the gently billowing breeze as the boat carried them into the west.

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time

Don’t say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you’ll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the west

Comments. Tissues also accepted!