What Should Have Been
by Dawn Cunningham
This is my first Magnificent Seven story, but it will certainly not be my last.
This is my take on what they should have done with the show after the episode Sins Of The Past
Acknowledgments: As for all my stories, Melanie Riley gets the credit for trying to fix all my typos. I keep adding more in though, so don't blame her if you find something.
Judge Orrin Travis stood up as he spotted the riders headed into town. He'd expected them back a few days ago from escorting the wagon train, and he quickly counted heads. Heaving a sigh of relief when he found that all had returned, he moved down the few steps to the ground to greet the returning travelers.
"Grandpa! Grandpa!" Billy Travis was the first to spot him, and he waved frantically to the older man.
The rest of the riders immediately guided their horses to a stop in front of the judge. He reached up for his grandson who was sitting in front of the leader of the group. He hugged the small boy before setting him on the ground. "Any trouble?" he asked as Chris Larabee and the rest of the riders dismounted. He hugged his daughter-in-law briefly before turning back to the man dressed in black.
"Nothing we couldn't handle. Dicky O'Shea won't be bothering them anymore." Chris looked around the town. "Anything happen here?"
"Quiet as can be," the judge replied with a grin. "I don't understand why you seven have such a difficult time with this town."
Mary Travis laughed as Chris glared at her father-in-law.
"They were just taking it easy on an old-timer," he growled, but then ruined it when he smiled at the judge.
"Will you be around for a while?" Mary asked.
"A few days."
"Then we'll see you later. Come on, Billy," she said. "Let's go get cleaned up and get something to eat."
The judge watched her walk away before he announced, " The first round is on me, boys." He waved toward the saloon.
"Now that's an offer we can't refuse," Buck Wilmington spoke up quickly as he headed in that direction.
"Why it's practically tantamount to giving us a raise," Ezra Standish added, raising two fingers to his hat brim in a salute, his gold tooth gleaming in the sunlight.
Chris was a little more skeptical, fearing this was the judge's way to hand them a new assignment. They all needed a break after their run in with Dicky O'Shea. Too many people had died just because of gold. Plus, they'd almost lost one of their own - several times over. First, Vin Tanner had run off with Charlotte Richmond, the wife of the wagon train leader. To be honest, he'd almost expected to never see the tracker again. But Vin had returned to warn the wagon train that O'Shea was bringing in more guns.
If that hadn't been enough, Vin had almost been killed by dynamite. He could still picture the lean man tumbling head over heels down the hill after the blast. He'd been sure that Tanner had been killed. It had only been when Chris had taken the young man into his arms, and felt him move, that he'd managed to breathe easier.
Granted, they'd had a little time to rest on the return trip, but it hadn't been enough. Chris followed the rest of the men into the saloon, hoping that there wasn't bad news ahead.
"Inez, darlin'," Buck called out. "Have you missed us?"
"Like a toothache, senor," she retorted.
J.D. laughed as he pushed Buck toward a chair. "When are you goin' to give up, Buck? She ain't interested in you or your animal magnetism."
"She will be, once she reads this love letter I wrote her while on the trail!"
"She'll probably fall over laughing," J.D. replied.
"Beers all around, Inez," the judge called out as he motioned the men to pull up chairs around a table. Once everyone had a beer in their hand, the judge raised his high. "Gentlemen, a toast. I give you Vin Tanner, a man no longer wanted by the law!"
Total silence filled the saloon as seven stunned men stared at the judge.
Chris was the first to recover. "What?" he asked as he slowly lowered his beer to the table without taking a drink.
"That was quite eloquent, Mr. Larabee," Ezra chimed in sarcastically. "What our leader was trying to ascertain is how this remarkable happening occurred."
"How?" Vin asked, ignoring Ezra's comment, a shocked look still on his face. "Eli Joe is dead. He was the only one who could prove my innocence."
"Not exactly," the judge replied. "I spent some time talking with Eli Joe's gang before their trials. It seems that most of them had heard Eli confess to killing Jess Kincaid, and framing you for his murder. With Eli dead, five of them were willing to testify to that in exchange for lighter sentences."
"Not Yates?" Vin snarled.
"No. I didn't offer him the same deal. After all, he impersonated a federal marshal. Once I had their sworn statements, I sent a friend of mine down to Tascosa with them. It didn't take him long to convince the sheriff that he had been wrong. Therefore, the bounty on you has been cancelled, Vin. The posters have been sent out all over Texas and the Territory rescinding the bounty."
Buck raised his mug of beer. "Here's to Vin!"
This time the others added their voices to the cheer, while Vin continued to look stunned.
While Chris was happy for his friend, and joined in the celebration, he couldn't help but wonder how long Vin would stay around now that he was no longer being hunted. He didn't need six other men to watch his back any more. He could even return to Texas if he wanted to.
Once they had all congratulated Vin, Josiah held his hand up for silence. "While I hate to be a doomsayer, Vin, you still need to watch your back for a while. It will take time for word to get out to everyone."
"That's right," Nathan agreed. "Those posters said 'dead o' alive'. Some bounty hunter might shoot ya first befo' he found out yo' not wanted no mo'."
Chris nodded as well. Nathan and Josiah had a good point. "Still, it's got to be a good feeling that you're not wanted anymore."
Vin nodded. "Thanks, Judge." He raised his beer mug in salute to the older man, and the rest followed suit.
+ + + + + + +
Chris almost winced at the sunlight as he exited the boarding house the next morning carrying his coffee cup. They'd definitely partied long and hard last night, but he'd still woken up early. Of course, he was more used to that kind of drinking than the rest of the other men.
Still, all the drinking hadn't stopped the tracker from greeting the rising sun. Vin was in his customary spot in front of the jail, chair tipped back against the wall as he sipped on coffee.
Chris moved down to join Vin, taking the chair next to the younger man. They sat in companionable silence for a while.
"Nice surprise the judge had for you," Chris eventually started off, hoping to get Vin to open up about his plans.
Well, that didn't go very far. "Eli Joe is probably rollin' over in his grave now that you've been proven innocent."
"Reckon he is."
At least this time Vin had smirked when he replied. Finally, Chris decided to just ask what he wanted to know. "You thought any about what you're going to do now that you're no longer wanted?" he asked.
Vin studied the street for the longest time. "Reckon I could hang around here a while," he finally stated.
Chris took a sip of his coffee. "Reckon you can."
Nothing more needed to be said.
Comments are always welcome at Dawn341@aol.com