Disclaimer: Vin Tanner (sigh), JD Dunne, the Stokes sisters, Casey Welles & Nathan Jackson (as well as the rest of the Seven) don't belong to me, but to Trilogy & MGM, and a whole lot of other corporations. Don't bother suing me,it's not worth your time.
Spoilers: Mainly Lady Killers, a few references to The Collector.
Told from Casey's point of view. . .the scene between her and Vin in the stables is one of my favorites in the entire episode, and I always wondered what would happen the next time Vin and Casey saw each other
Oh Lord. There he is. How can I face him, after I. . .after what I done?
And of course, JD, who had said he was tired all of a sudden, regains his energy just as sudden. That ain't a surprise. No matter who pulled the trigger, it ain't likely JD's gonna forgive either of the Stokes girls any time soon. He don't want to see Kate Stokes. But I know he'll want to see Vin Tanner. And of course, I push his wheelchair, though not the way I was, when Buck went on ahead to talk with Miss Kate Stokes.
Vin sees us comin' and stops. He smiles and tips his hat with his good hand. Oh Lord. Why am I just now noticin' that his arm is broke? I mean, yeah, I knew it was broke. . .I just wasn't really payin' much mind to it. I was so angry with JD at first, then I was so worried about him, I kinda forgot bout everyone else. I feel my face burnin' with embarrassment, even as Vin says in his soft voice, "Hey, kid, you look like you're feelin' better." I can't see JD's face, but I know he's beaming, especially after Buck was teasin' him about lookin' like an old woman.
"I do. Are you okay, Vin? I hear you took care of the horses after we got back, and you're still hurt," JD replies, sounding concerned. Vin shrugs, and his face tightens with pain. JD's worried about him. He ain't as close to Vin as he is to Buck, but he's still protective of him. He ain't the only one. If Aunt Nettie knew what I done to Vin, she'd haul me over her lap and blister my hind-end like I was little Billy's age.
It ain't just that Vin got his arm and ribs broke while he was pushin' some ninny out of the way of the Spivak gang, as they were ridin' out of town. And would you believe, she didn't even bother to thank him? Can you imagine? A man puts himself at risk to push you out of the way of a horse, while you're standin' like a statue in the middle of the street, gets himself knocked through a hitch rail for his trouble, and you don't even bother to thank him? That ain't right!
But like I was sayin.' It ain't just that Vin got hurt because he was savin' someone's life. But my aunt Nettie thinks an awful lot of him. If it weren't for him, well, all of the seven, but he was most determined. . .we woulda lost everything. Including our lives. Aunt Nettie told me later, when she was worried bout Vin for another reason, that she reminded him of his ma. She died when he was only five years old. Just a baby!
So, Vin kinda keeps an eye on Aunt Nettie, and she does the same for him. So, I reckon that kinda makes him my brother, or maybe my cousin. And it ain't that I've never really looked at him. That ain't true at all. I know he's handsome. . .there ain't a woman in town who hasn't taken a second look at him. . .or third. But he ain't JD. And from the moment I saw JD. . . Well, it ain't real easy to explain.
I wanted to hurt him back. JD, I mean, not Vin. I found JD in the stables with Maddie Stokes. Then he rode outta town, searching for Del Spivak's gang. Vin, Nathan, and Ezra stayed behind. . .Nathan to look after one of the Spivak gang, Vin cause he was hurt, and Ezra. . .well, reckon to look out for the town. Vin bein' hurt, and Nathan takin' care of that murderer, somebody had to watch over the town.
Vin found me cryin' in the stables. Bein' who, and what, he is, he tried to comfort me, tried to explain what mighta happened. Cept I got mad. At him, at JD, at Maddie Stokes, at myself. Even now, as JD reassures Vin that he's all right, I find myself goin' red when I think about how I acted in the stables. I wanted to hurt JD, to get back at him for hurtin' me, so I set my sights on Vin.
I never thought much on it before. . .always figured that Vin knew how handsome he is. But now, as I think back on my aby. . .well, the way I acted in the stables, I realize how surprised he was when I decided to sow my oats' with him. Oh Lord. I've seen Vin Tanner in action before. He's tough and he's strong, and he's one of the best sharpshooters I ever saw. The man had broken ribs and a broken arm, and he still took down one of the Spivak gang.
But I scared him. Surprised him. Lookin' back now, I can see his eyes, so clearly. Not just because he's standin' in front of me, but I can see how hard he was fightin' to do right by both me and JD. JD's his friend. What else could he have done?
And that scares me. . .that I could scare Vin Tanner. Vin ain't even afraid of Mr Larabee. But I scared him. And I hurt him, when I was tryin' to kiss him. Hurt his arm, hurt his ribs. I hurt him again, when I slammed the saloon door into his arm. He's never done nothin' but help me and mine, and I hurt him. I don't even wanna think about how he must see me. Likely thinks I'm a foolish little girl, and likely he's right.
But when Buck brought JD back into town, hurt, he was there. One hand guidin' the horses, one arm around my shoulders. Tryin' to comfort me. Tellin' me that I didn't. . .that I ain't the one who shot JD. "Now don't start talkin' like that." Stayin' calm, and I know he was as worried about JD as I was. Buck and Nathan focused on takin' care of JD, but Vin was tryin' to take care of me.
JD is goin' on, and I'm still havin' a hard time lookin' Vin in the eye. I feel so ashamed of the way I acted. And I ain't real sure about what scares me more. . . seeing my own self-loathing reflected in his eyes, or seeing sympathy there. But Nettie Welles raised me. She raised me to admit when I done wrong, and she raised me to make right on my mistakes. The first thing I gotta do is meet Vin Tanner's eyes. That's the first step. And that first step is always the hardest.
In that, in the echo of my aunt's voice in the back of my mind, I find the strength to look Vin in the eye. I've felt his eyes on me, even as he was talkin' to JD. But I don't see anger there, or even sympathy. Just. . .worry. And guilt. He's worried about me. Why would he feel guilty? I gotta talk to him. It ain't enough that he doesn't hate me for what I done. That he doesn't think I'm a foolish little girl. I gotta know why he feels guilty.
JD is gettin' tired, so I let them say their farewells, Vin promisin' to look in on JD later. We go on to Nathan's, while I'm thinkin' on what to say to Vin. JD says quietly, "Vin was one of the men, wasn't he?" Once he was feeling stronger, I told him that I tried to. . .well, I told him what I done. Didn't tell him who it was, but I think he knew anyhow. He knew it was two of his friends, and guessed it was two of the other Seven.
"Yeah. He feels guilty about what I done, JD, and I don't know why. Will you be okay? I gotta make things right with him," I answer. JD looks at me, and his expression takes my breath away. We hurt each other good, but he still cares bout me. There's more than just affection in his eyes now. There's pride. He's proud of me. Can't figure why. . .Vin is one of his best friends. Sometimes, that hurts more than goin' after a stranger.
"I'll be fine, Casey. You make things right with Vin," JD assures me. Nathan meets us at the stairs. His eyes flicker to Vin, who's still standin' outside the saloon. He looks worried. Even more when he hears JD to tell me to make things right with Vin, but he says nothing. Instead, he helps JD up the stairs to his clinic, leavin' the chair to sit right where he left it. I watch them move haltingly up the stairs, then turn back to the saloon.
Vin is still there, leaning with his good shoulder against the post. He smiles as I approach and asks softly, "How ya doin,' Casey?" I don't answer at first. I ain't real sure what to say. I barely manage to smile back at him, and then find it hard to meet his eyes.
"I wanted. . .I wanted to say I'm sorry," I whisper and peek up to look at him. Now he looks downright confused. Lord, no one ever said Vin Tanner was an easy man to apologize to. I straighten my shoulders and force myself to speak more clearly, "I wanted to say I'm sorry. For what happened. For. . ." Throwin' myself at you? For askin' you to betray a friend? I finish lamely, "For what happened."
Lord knows, it was probably one of the lamest apologies of my life. But we are on the boardwalk of the saloon, there were people passin' by, and I don't exactly want to admit in front of all of Four Corners that I had thrown myself at Vin Tanner. To my surprise, he turns bright red and ducks his head, answerin' in a soft voice, "Reckon I didn't handle it real well. Long as you're okay, and you don't hold it gainst me, everythin's fine."
I blink. Huh? And for the first time, the guilt in his eyes makes sense. He blames himself for not being able to. . .help. But that ain't his fault! Truth be told, it really didn't matter what he had said, I would have still been mad. And now I understand what JD meant, about makin' things right with Vin. I impulsively put my hand on his good arm, telling him, "Vin, it ain't your fault. You handled it right good. It was my fault. I was wrong, askin' you to betray a friend. And I was hopin' you won't hold it against me, actin' like a foolish little girl."
Some of the red recedes, but he smiles and says, "Heck no! You were hurtin' somethin' fierce, Casey. Didn't hold none of it gainst you. And I didn't know what to say, fouled it up but good." I shake my head again, and Vin continues earnestly, "I ain't that good, knowin' what to say sometimes. Specially not when. . ."
"You did just fine, Vin Tanner, and I won't hear you sayin' otherwise. Aunt Nettie always says it's better to speak from the heart, and you did that. Besides," I add, laughing and wincing at the memory of the saloon, "you did loads better n Ezra." At that, he laughs outright. Darn. Wish he wouldn't do that. Man'll turn my knees to water if he does that too much. Instead, I ask shyly, "So we're still friends?"
He smiles again, a brilliant, devastating smile. Lord have mercy. That smile would make any woman swoon. That smile is answer enough, and I squeeze his good arm. Aunt Nettie always says that first step is the hardest, and she was right. I look around quickly. There's no one looking, so I feel safe rocking onto my toes and lightly kissing Vin's cheek. He blinks in surprise, and I whisper, "You're a good man, Vin Tanner. I'm glad you're my friend."
He smiles in response and I release him, then head back to Nathan's clinic. As I walk away, I think about how gentle he was, through this entire mess. He was so sweet to me in the stables, and after Buck brought JD back. And he forgave me so quickly. And it occurs to me, that part of what makes Vin Tanner so handsome isn't just his face, but his soul. He has a good heart. I wonder if I should have told him I think whatever lady finally captures his heart, will be real lucky. Naw. That would just embarrass him again.
Maybe one day. . .I will tell him. But not today.
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