Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are owned by MGM and Trilogy. No infringment is intended. No profit is being made from this activity.
Rating : PG13, Minor Language
Chris watched the slightly twisted posture of his friend as Vin returned from patrol. His usual lazy slouch in the saddle seemed a little more crooked than usual. He stared intently, carefully inspecting the movement as Tanner swung down from the saddle and led Peso into the stable. Larabee couldn't detect anything unusual in the confident strides. He decided to await Tanner's arrival at the saloon, knowing he'd take his time with Peso before looking for a drink for himself.
Larabee headed to the saloon and settled at his usual table. Inez looked up in greeting and nodded at the silent order. She soon arrived with the drinks, automatically placing one of the glasses at the vacant chair to Larabee's right.
Tanner slipped into the saloon, the doors barely brushing once before swinging to close behind him. He headed for Larabee's table and the drink he knew would be waiting.
Chris watched Vin's approach. The movement still fluid and easy, but Chris noticed the hesitation as he sat and again the awkward angle.
"What? Ain't this mine?" Vin asked of the shot he'd just finished.
Chris realised his study of Vin had turned into staring. He decided to continue with his intrusion anyway.
"It's yours. Problems?"
Vin automatically rocked the chair back to his preferred lean, but bit down a yelp and let the chair drop forward onto four legs again.
Larabee's stare turned into a frown.
"Did you hurt your back?" Chris asked of the likely cause to Vin's crooked posture.
"Then what's wrong?"
"It plain something's not right Vin."
"Nothin's wrong," Vin growled. Chris ignored the tone of voice, more curious at the red the crept across the tracker's cheekbones as he voiced the denial.
Any further questions from Larabee were interrupted by the crack of a chair smashing back against the bar. Chris and Vin both moved to intervene.
Buck was already at hand and floored the first miner with a fist to the stubbled dirty chin, yellowed teeth flying. Vin moved to join the fray, ducking another chair being thrown in his direction. Buck leapt at the chair-thrower and flattened him to the ground. Chris grabbled with the third drunk, only to be forced back against Vin, stumbling together into the edge of one of the tables. Chris clearly heard the yelp of pain, but Vin had recovered his composure quickly and moved to aid Buck.
The miners where finally subdued and the rest of the bar quickly lost interest as the entertainment ended.
"I'm fine Chris. What about this lot?"
"Hold 'em until they dry out. See if they've got anything to pay for damages and they might get out tomorrow."
Chris turned to check on Vin, only to find he'd disappeared.
Buck drew his gun to encourage the miner's compliance, then ordered them to the jail. Chris followed Buck to the door and watched the complaining trio head down the street. A quick look around didn't reveal the tracker.
He knew well that Tanner would avoid everyone if he was injured. The sudden influx of newcomers and the two prison escorts had left them short-handed and over worked. The crowds in town had meant that Vin had taken to the longer patrols of the out-laying areas escaping to his preferred open spaces. Chris had stayed close to town and so had only been able to cross paths with his friend in the evenings.
Chris decided to involve Nathan. Although Nathan never mentioned it, he knew that Tanner went to him if his back became too much to bear. Vin never mentioned it either. Vin had refused to give up the long patrols so Chris had been watching and waiting for any signs of pain. Chris climbed the stairs to Nathan's clinic to call in reinforcements.
Nathan finally cornered Vin in his wagon.
"What's the problem Vin?"
"Larabee send you?"
"I'm here because I'm concerned. If something's wrong it's best to get it sorted out as soon as possible."
He could see Vin considering the matter.
"Ain't nothin' Nathan."
"You know the herbs usually help Vin."
"Ain't m' back. I'm fine."
Nathan couldn't force the man. Like Larabee, he'd keep a careful watch and see if the young man would finally give in.
Nathan returned to his clinic, passing the man in black on the boardwalk.
"Says he's fine."
"Can't force him Chris. He'll come around."
"Not before he makes things worse. He's not riding today."
Nathan watched as Chris' glare drilled a hole in Tanners back as he headed off down the street. Tanner raised a hand, acknowledging Larabee without actually turning. Nathan supposed that the instincts that felt a gun aimed at you, also kicked in for the Larabee glare.
Nathan quickly stopped smiling as Larabee turned to him, the glare still in place.
"I want you to look at him."
"Hey!" Nathan raised his hands, backing off. "You bring him and I'll look." Nathan took a moment and reconsidered, picturing the probable fight between the two men. Both were stubborn mules and if Chris pissed Vin off Nathan would never see him.
"I'll give it one more try, then it's up to him," Nathan offered.
Nathan, like Chris, took to studying the tracker for the rest of the day. Vin hadn't planned on riding out but by noon his friends were now driving him crazy. He saddled up Peso and swung a leg over, wincing as he settled into the saddle. Eventually the pain settled almost into numbness as he escaped the confines of the town for a few hours.
Nathan waited patiently for Vin to return. Chris waited impatiently for Nathan.
The focus of their study finally walked his horse back into town, the crooked posture again obvious.
Nathan felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise. Now he knew what people meant when someone was 'breathing down their neck'. "I'm going Chris. He's not even off his damn horse!"
Nathan decided to get this settled once and for all. He followed the tracker into the livery, cornering the man while he was still in Peso's stall.
"Vin, what's the problem?"
"I told ya Nathan, it's fine."
"You might be fine, but I'm not. I've got a pissed off gunslinger haunting my clinic."
"If he's got a question he should ask me."
"I think he tried that. Vin, don't make this difficult. You tell me now and we fix it quick and painless. You don't tell me and next time you're in the clinic I'll make sure you regret it."
Vin eyed the dark man and weighed up the threat. He knew Nathan didn't have it in him to really hurt him, but Chris was probably making his life hell. Nate didn't deserve that for all the help he'd given him.
"It's just the back of m' leg. It's been botherin' me for a few days. That's all."
"Bothering you how?"
"Just hurts. Just the one spot."
"Have you bruised yourself, been scraped up or cut?"
"No. It's not like that."
"How about you just show me."
"You said the back of your leg."
"Well, high up the back. Kinda like the top."
"You mean your butt?" Nathan asked, resisting the urge to smile at younger man's obvious embarrassment.
"No. Just real high up!" Vin denied.
"Just come up to the clinic. You can get it looked at there. Nobody has to know anything."
Vin finally agreed. It had been bothering him for over a week, but the last two days it had become extremely painful. Now that Larabee had noticed the problem he could no longer ignore it.
Vin looked around, still unconvinced that the closed door would ensure his privacy. Nathan raised an eyebrow and tapped his foot impatiently.
"You've been in this room naked as a newborn, Vin. This is just your pants," Nathan exclaimed.
"I was never awake when you stripped me naked. This'll be my doin'," Vin complained.
"Well there's only you or me and I think you'd prefer it's your doing."
Vin finally unhooked his braces and lowered his trousers and underwear.
"Top of your leg, hey," Nathan scoffed as he identified the red area just under the curve of Vin's ass cheek. "Go lie on the bed so I can get a better look."
Vin shuffled over, never releasing his lowered trousers. He finally stepped out of them at the edge of the bed and moved over to lie face down. He pulled his pile of clothes up toward the head of the bed, where he could keep a wary eye on them.
Nathan inspected the infection.
"How long have you been riding around on this?" Nathan gently probed at the red, swollen edges, checking there was only the one spot.
"Ow! Ya said yer only gonna look!" Vin complained.
"I looked. Now I'm touching and if you keep complaining I'll do more than that. So how long?"
"It's only really started to bother me the last few days."
"I'll put a hot compress on to draw out the infection before I clean it up." He tried to be as quick as possible, aware of the trackers flinch at every painful touch.
"Whad'ya mean clean it?" Vin asked suspiciously.
"Need to open it up and clean out the pus. It'll be less painful and quicker to heal this way."
Vin watched the steaming cloth coming his way, twisting around to follow its path down toward his rear. Nathan placed the cloth over the infection, knowing the heat would draw up the infection, and soften it ready for opening.
Vin hissed in pain as the continual throbbing pain exploded.
"Don't be a baby Vin. You can sit and bleed for days because of a bullet wound and now you make a fuss over a little hot cloth."
"I didn't ask ya to come chasin' me. I didn't do nothin'. You just leave it alone. It just appeared, so it will just disappear."
Nathan put a heavy hand to Vin's back, stopping the movement as he struggled to rise from the bed.
"These can get dangerous Vin. You don't want the infection to spread."
"No! Ya said a look and ya done that. Let me up!" Vin began to struggle in earnest to be free.
Larabee had become impatient and headed to the clinic. He caught the end of the conversation and knew Vin was starting to fight Nathan's help. He decided to risk Tanner's ire and strode into the clinic unannounced. He was confronted by a half-naked tracker, pinned face down on Nathan's bed.
"Christ Vin! What is that?"
"It's a goddamn' beauty spot. What d'ya think it is?"
"I think it's the biggest boil on the scrawniest ass I've ever seen!"
"Fuck Larabee, could ya yell any louder. I think there's three families in South Texas didn't hear ya!"
"I'm just calling it like I see it."
"Well if ya had any manners ya wouldn't be seein' it," Vin growled, trying to drag the blanket out from under him to cover himself.
"Oh no! I'm just ready to start," Nathan complained, grabbing the blanket away.
"A boil, Pard?"
"Not m' fault. It just showed up."
"Well, I don't know about it not being your fault," Larabee teased.
"What?" Vin twisted around. "How's it my fault."
"Well you've got to eat your green vegetables to avoid this type of thing. Everyone knows that," Chris looked to Nathan for confirmation.
While Nathan couldn't attest to the medical benefits, he could say in all honesty that he had heard it said. He was a great believer in taking advantage of the opportunities life offered you. Vin Tanner had a firm aversion to most vegetables, but green ones were completely refused. No, to be fair, he'd seen Vin eat vegetables on the trail where he'd gather them himself, but in town he refused the items, or picked around them on his plate if his order was ignored.
"It's certainly said so, and you know you don't eat anywhere close to a reasonable amount of vegetables."
"I eat plenty of vegetables!" Vin defended.
"Green ones," Nathan clarified.
"What's that for?" Vin asked with dread.
Chris watched the trackers eyes follow the instrument in Nathan's hand.
"Got to lance it," Nathan said. "Open it up and drain it."
Larabee smiled at the tracker's misfortune. His worry had turned out to be unfounded and the relief made him make light of Vin's situation.
Vin saw the laughter in Larabee's eyes.
"Ya better not say a word Larabee. I hear one thing from Buck, or any of 'em and I'm comin' after ya." The low snarl did little to discourage Chris's plans.
"We've been telling you to eat green vegetables. Now maybe you'll listen to us."
"A boil's got nothin' ta do with a pile of soggy green shit on m' plate. Yer both lyin'."
"Ask any mother in town. They'll tell you the same."
He knew they were teasing. Well he was fairly certain they were teasing. He hesitated again, knowing it was true that he didn't eat a lot of greens, and he did have a boil. He could hardly dispute the evidence.
He tried to identify when he'd last eaten a green vegetable. There'd been those peas in the stew last Friday, but he'd fished nearly all of them out. He remembered last month when they'd all gone to dinner at the Travis's during one of Billy's visits. Billy had tried to argue about the greens because Vin wouldn't eat them. Vin had given in to the green mess after insistent kicks to his shin from Larabee. Still, Mary was a mother and she knew about this green vegetable thing, just like Chris had said.
"Nettie doesn't make me eat them."
Chris's eyes widened at Vin's tone. It seemed the tracker had convinced himself and was reduced to sulking.
"She probably thinks you eat them sometime during the week and only make's your favourites when you visit."
Vin couldn't argue with that. He had made a big fuss the first time Nettie had served him green beans and again last Sunday when peas had appeared on his plate.
Chris exchanged looks with Nathan, knowing they'd hooked Vin. Nathan felt a little bad about misleading Vin, but considered the benefits. It might be an old wives tale or it could be true. Either way it wouldn't hurt the man to eat properly.
"Well, can't say I want to stay for the next part. I'll see you later Vin. Thanks Nathan."
"I'm telling ya Larabee. Not a word about boils or I'm gonna do some lancing of a few of yer body parts!"
Chris waved carelessly as he departed.
Nathan patted Vin's shoulder consolingly as he began. There was no hope that the rest of the seven wouldn't find out about this.
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