Of Man and Beast

by WendyW

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are owned by MGM and Trilogy. No infringment is intended. No profit is being made from this activity.

It had been a long dusty three day ride to Willow Pass and back, but Vin was in no hurry to return to Four Corners. He had only ten more miles but the gentle curve of the creek caught his attention. He turned Peso off the hard worn trail and down toward the sandy bank. Vin swung down from the saddle, stretched down to ease the ache in his back and the stiffness in his legs after the long hours of riding. Peso was led to the water and left to drink his fill as Vin pulled his hat from his head, soaked a bandanna and squeezed out the cool water over his head and neck. Sighing at the cooling relief he dropped back to sit on the bank leaving the wet bandanna around his neck. Vin was tempted to stay for a while but he was expected back in town. After resting for a short while he moved lithely to his feet and reached for the trailing reins, leading Peso back up to the main trail. He settled Peso and started to swing up into the saddle but Peso suddenly pulled his head around and danced to the side. Vin was caught unprepared. He usually could counter the moves of the recalcitrant animal, but he was tired and Peso usually decided to play these games at the beginning of a trip.

Vin landed on his butt in the dirt. He stood slowly, rubbing his bruised behind. Peso stood before him tossing his head and gave a short whinny as if laughing at his dust covered master.

"You think that’s funny horse. You in front of the tallow factory is funnier."

Vin was so preoccupied cussing out his horse he failed to see a rider up on the ridge. Chris Larabee was on his way into town from his shack. He knew Tanner was likely to be returning today, so he’d made a detour to watch the trail from this overlook. He started to move Pony forward when he saw Vin fall, concerned he’d been injured and even more concerned that his friend had been unseated in the first place. His fears were allayed as Vin quickly stood and brushed himself off. Chris had witnessed many fights between Vin and Peso but this one seemed to have taken on a new dimension. Larabee settled his weight back in the saddle and watched the entertainment unfolding before him.

Vin reached toward the bridle only to have Peso toss his head and dance away down the trail to town.

"You fuckin’ get here horse. You go into town and get to yer stall without me, then it’ll be the last time ya ever see that stall," he growled.

Peso continued to dodge the man and refused all bribes to come within reach. Vin measured the distance and tried a fast leap, aiming to grab the saddle horn or Peso’s mane, whichever came to hand. Peso was not so easily tricked and swung his hind quarters around, catching Vin in the shoulder and sending him rolling in the dust.

"Learnin new tricks. Try learning to get yer own oats next time ya bastard. Then ya won’t think this was so funny !".

Peso tossed his head and snorted at the snarls being thrown his way from his master. With an arrogant flick of his tail he turned and trotted a few more yards down the trail. Vin climbed to his feet trying to brush off the fine brown dust. He headed off on foot and watched in frustration as Peso continued to stay ahead of him.

Unaware of his audience, Vin continued after his horse. Peso had realised he had no corral fences to limit this game and continued this rare opportunity to torment his master.

"Ya can only be gelded once ya sack o’ shit, but if I git my hands on ya then yer gonna lose the rest of it." Vin yelled.

Vin ran out of English curses then started in on Spanish and a few Comanche for good measure. He was tired and dusty and his boots were starting to hurt. He hadn’t planned on walking home. The game of tag continued for nearly a mile when Peso suddenly stopped by the side of the trail to graze. Vin moved toward the wayward beast and grabbed the bridle tightly, yanking the animal’s head up.

"Yer sold ya ornery mule. I’m selling ya as a plough horse. Ya wanna walk in front ya can walk in front of a plough."

Peso seemed to eye his master in complete surprise. Vin tightened the girth on the saddle and set his foot in the stirrup, this time prepared for trouble.

"Ya move and I’ll put a bullet between yer ears, horse " Vin growled.

Vin swung astride and settled into the saddle without so much as a twitch from his horse. He waited for the fight to begin but Peso merely turned his head back to look at his rider, seemingly waiting for some instructions.

Vin shook his head at the contrary creature and kneed the animal forward. Satisfied that the trouble was over he set out at a fast canter, now keen to get back to town for a cold beer and to get as far away from his troublesome horse as possible.

Vin arrived back at the livery without further problems and led Peso to his stall. He scooped out some grain, poured some fresh water and began to rub him down. Peso might fight him when the mood took the animal, but Vin always appreciated that spirit. The horse swung his big head around and Vin moved quickly aside as the animal usually enjoyed snatching bites at his groomer. Instead, the horse stepped closer and nudged Vin gently in the chest with his muzzle. Vin ran a hand down the white blaze, then gently pushed him aside.

"Don’t think yer gettin out of this that easy," Vin threatened lowly.

Peso’s ears twitched forward and he tried pushing his nose against his master’s neck and softly wufflling.

Vin ignored the friendly overtures and continued the brisk grooming. With a last check of the feed and water he stepped out of the stall. Peso watched this with a roll of his eyes, then suddenly turned and snapped at the black stabled beside him. Larabee’s horse was accustomed to this treatment and merely stepped to the far side of his own stall. Peso neighed in disappointment as his targets moved out of reach.

"Yeah. Pick on someone yer own size," Vin called back to Peso as he headed out to the saloon.

Vin paused outside the saloon doors and took off his hat, slapping it against his leg to remove some of the dust. He ran a hand back through his damp, sweaty hair. Maybe a bath....but after a drink. He stepped inside and headed toward what had become the seven’s usual table. Chris and Buck were already seated there. Vin kicked a vacant chair out from the table then dropped into it with a sigh.

"You look like 20 miles of hard trail Vin," Buck exclaimed.

Vin just nodded then turned to Inez with a grateful thanks as she placed a beer down in front of him.

"I don’t know Buck," Chris interjected. "More like just one mile."

Vin looked at Chris, unclear of what that comment had meant.

"Yep, don’t think I’d care to be out walking today," Chris added.

"Walkin’?" Vin questioned, now a little uncertain.

"Did I say walking Pard ? I meant riding. Don’t think I’d care to be riding today. Mighty hot." Chris smiled at this, but that only disturbed the tracker more. He couldn’t have seen Peso’s games. Could he?

Buck watched the undercurrent running between the two. Smug was the only way he could describe Chris. If he had something over Vin then Buck just had to know what it was. It was a rare opportunity to catch Tanner out at something.

Chris eyed the empty whiskey glass in front of him, then reached out to give it a gentle spin.

"Of course, if you wanted to head out again we could go catch our horses?"

"Catch?" Buck mouthed at Vin.

Vin didn’t see that as he had frozen, staring at Chris like a startled rabbit.

"Catch?" Buck queried audibly, this time to Chris.

"Did I say catch Buck? My mistake. Fetch. We could go fetch our horses."

Buck had never seen Vin this disturbed with Chris. Vin watched the gunslinger spin the whiskey glass idly. He considered his reputation as a horseman and the possible cost here to save it. He called to Inez and indicated a refill for Chris.

Chris looked across at the tracker, his face serious, but Vin could see the bright laughing glint in those green eyes.

"Mighty generous of you Pard. I am a little thirsty."

"How thirsty?" Vin asked warily.

"Maybe a bottle would save Inez all those trips back to the table."

Vin scowled at his friend and carefully ignored Bucks inquisitive look. He dug around in the pockets of his pants and coat looking for spare coins.

"Nearly the end of the week Larabee," Vin growled.

Chris was tempted to relent knowing Vin was usually short of money, but he decided to have his fun and split the cost with the tracker later.

"So what’s going on boys ?" Buck demanded gleefully. It was apparent that whatever it was, Vin considered it worth money to keep it secret.

"Nothin!" Vin shot a look to Chris and saw he would remain silent, at least for the moment. "Just buyin’ a friend a drink Buck. Nothin’ unusual about that."

"I’ll sic Ezra on you. He can sniff out blackmail anywhere." Buck challenged.

Vin slapped his hand down over the coins on the table.

"Ain’t nothin’ happened," he said, daring Chris to contradict him as he gathered his money to stand. It wasn’t worth all this.

"Nope. Nothing going on here Buck," Chris agreed. "Did I tell you about the interesting ride I had coming into town today? Seems there was this man, and a big black horse. Only problem was ....."

"Okay! Shit ya never make conversation and now ya can’t keep yer mouth shut !" Vin interrupted quickly, slamming the coins down on the table to silence the gunslinger.

"Hey Vin, I want to know what happened !" Buck exclaimed, disappointed at losing this opening. He knew which man and black horse was involved here.

‘Ya get paid in copper or lead Larabee. Take yer pick." Vin tried for his most vicious growl. It didn’t impress Chris who leaned back and lit a cheroot, the laughter still in his eyes.

"Then again Buck, you know my memory gets a little hazy after whiskey."

"Inez, I need a bottle here !" Vin called. "A big bottle," he whispered under his breath.

Chris caught the last line. He exhaled the smoke from his cheroot slowly and aimed a wide satisfied smile at this friend.
The End

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