The Connection

by Q'Mar

Notes: Occurs June 1998

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belongs to Mirisch Entertainment Inc., with all rights and privileges thereof. This work is a work of fanfiction, for the amusement of the author and fandom who have nothing else to do since they aren't making any more episodes of the show. No money or other renumeration has exchanged hands, this is just for fun, guys! All other series belong to their respective owners, no Infringement intended. Some dialogue from the original series.

The September Challenge 2004 (the First Meeting Challenge): offered by Helen W.
What I'd like to see are stories which explore events which are pivotal in establishing the standard canon/fanon relationships amongst the guys. This can be initial meetings or critical early encounters. I've never seen a really good explanation of HOW Chris and Vin became close, for example. I prefer the ATF universe, but any would be fine.

Outside Wrightly, near Homer's Corner, Colorado, June 1998

The wind whipped up the dying vegetation across the edges of the tired little ramshackle town. Something stirred in the wind, something coming closer. Vin Tanner scanned the horizon, but saw nothing, yet his heart and soul told him that something was coming and soon. He sat quietly on the ground watching, but not looking at the stubby vegetation. His mind was open to whatever was coming, but his head kept telling him that it didn't matter, it wasn't for him. Nothin' was for him, not anymore, probably never again. Such negative thoughts would have earned him a tongue-lashing from his Grandfather. Still would, if Vin knew where the man was. After escaping the most brutal of the lousy Foster homes that he'd been sent to as a child, Vin had returned to the Reservation to find his Grandparents Tanner gone. The only family member left hated him, so there wasn't much point in staying. He'd spent the remainder of his 'childhood' on the streets, so it was only with a little luck and a few friends that he'd managed to get his GED. College was a non-starter, no chance there. Vin had found his way into the Army. It hadn't been the best solution, but it had least for a while.

Kicking up sharply, the wind grew wild, throwing little bits and pieces of plants in his face and tangling his long brown hair. He looked for a storm but there was no sign, only a strong wind under a hot sun and a bright blue sky. Vin brushed the disordered hair out of his face and brushed his cheeks, feeling but not seeing the fragments of plant growth there. A quick flash of something caught his eye, but there was no chance to see what it was. It was too quick.

His leg was cramping but he made no move to rise. Sometimes it had been necessary for him to wait hours for an answer. The spirits just took their own sweet time about things. He'd really like to be moving on, soon. He'd never been much of one for dealing with a lot of people, not shy, just not comfortable. It had been okay in Denver, plain survival had made living in the city a challenge. This wasn't. This was the dullest place in the world, Vin was sure.

Homer's Corner was beginning to weigh on his nerves. Although he'd thought it a haven when he'd first come to this little nowhere town, it was rapidly turning into a prison all it's own. Being very ill at ease did nothing for Vin's peace of mind. It wasn't the people, not really, though Vin had little feel for them. They drifted in and out of his life and the shop where he was working. He might have been a piece of furniture for all that they noticed him. He saw them, but saw nothing that drew him to them, nothing that seemed real.

And he needed real right now, he needed it badly.

It had been a hard time in a life that had seen too many hard times. Vin had gotten attached to where he was and what he was doing, again. And once again it was taken away from him. It was always his luck. To find some place to start building a life and to have it ripped out of his hands. He wasn't sure that he could do it again. It was too much of a risk.

So Vin Tanner sat in the dust watching the road into the small trading post. It was the middle of nowhere, kind of like Vin's life right now. It wasn't that he was bitter about his losses, just confused and lost. He seemed to belong nowhere and with no one.

Every time he felt like he'd found a place to belong, a home of any kind, it had been taken away.

Oh well, Oma had told him that you never got by on wishing. What was in front of you was to be faced, what was behind you was lost to the past. But Oma was gone, long gone. He'd been taken away from her too.

Something tugged at the edges of his vision again. The blue sky looked like it would go on forever, unlike the town nearby. Homer's Corner was a makeshift attempt at a town. He kept his eyes open, but he couldn't see what had moved. The small brush gave way to green patches, but not grass. Too many rocks here. The trees were long and spindly, as if they'd been set here and forgotten. Vin felt a kinship with those trees. He'd ended up here, forgotten by all he'd loved.

Cyrne would have said that it was not like him to get depressed, but that was Cyrne for you. Never saw the man depressed unless it was a really bad situation, the National Crisis kind. But Cyrne was a Triana, and that was a kind of toughness that few other warriors of any type could match. The only time that Vin had ever seen the tough Triana break down was when they brought the shattered, tortured Triana Leader, John Grendal, back in the chopper with the bodies of his men. All of the Triannen had wept for Section One's fall.

Even Pack, that band of lunatics, had grieved for the First ones....

But that was worlds ago. Vin had descended from that company of heroes to the dirty world of the bounty hunter. He'd passed from an Army Ranger, a skilled sharpshooter, to a Federal Marshal, and fallen from grace to this, hunting men for money.

Last month he'd taken down Keith Hill, little man, big Bounty. His deadly skills had brought in a man who was a kind of living rabbit, terrified and bewildered by his situation. Hill was a so-called white collar Criminal.

White Collar, Blue Collar, It never made much sense to Vin. A criminal was a criminal, no matter what they'd done. It was for the lawyers and the judges to sort that out.

But Hill had made him think.... A lot.

The man had no understanding of what he'd done wrong. None at all. Contacts in the Marshals had given Vin the mission, but what he'd done by bringing the man in had done him more harm than the lost little rabbit had suffered. His soul felt sick with it. Hill had been so completely confused by being put into chains and led off to jail that Vin felt sorry for him. It was one thing to track the ruthless, he'd had no doubts whatsoever when he'd gone after Hank Carrollan. Monsters like that needed to be taken out for the people's own good.

Vin had killed Carrollan, a justified shoot. The bastard was going to blow away an old woman, just blow her away. He knew that he was cornered, that there was no escape, but he was going to kill her anyway. Just because he could.

But Hill, that was a different story altogether.

Vin Tanner had lost himself, the right, the wrongs. It was all confused in his mind. He had lost his path. Even though Vin had done a sweat lodge and a vision quest, he was mired in this place. The spirits wanted him here, and until he could straighten it all out, he was staying here, in Homer's Corner, waiting.

Something moved closer again, but it was too quick to be spotted cleanly.


He was working at the local general store. It wasn't much, but it was better than hunting bounties when you weren't sure where your loyalty lay. It was lunchtime and he was tired. It was amazing how much standing behind a counter all day could make you tired. He'd never been this exhausted, even after days on the trail.

Vin put his hand in his pocket. Ten dollars. That's all he had until payday next week. Ten dollars to survive on. He'd taken to eating only one good meal a day, supplementing his calories with quick junk out of the vending machines. It wasn't good for him, he knew, but he had to have something to keep going.

Cyrne would have had a fit, watching what he was doing to himself, but the Triana wasn't there and Vin was unlikely to ever find one again.

Biting off a piece of the hard supermarket jerky, Vin wished that it was just a bad batch his grandfather made, something real. But all he had were the illusions of shadow. All he had now was this dusty town and the word 'wait'.

Sometimes listening to the spirits was a real pain. Oma had been right that there were great teachers out there, but many of them made you learn the lesson by tricking you. He kept a sharp eye out for foxes, just in case.

Chanu, his cousin, would have laughed himself sick. Vin had had such a hard time fitting in when he was dumped with his father's parents after being seized from his mother's mother. It had been difficult for the small scraggly child to find his place in the strangeness of the Reservation. Especially difficult because his European grandmother had gifted him with blue eyes and her fair complexion.

Oma had come from over the sea as a war bride after the chaos of the Second World War. The Netherlands was in ruins and all of her people were gone. But even if they'd been there to speak, she would have been lost to them. She'd fallen for an American serviceman, and even worse, an 'Indian'. Once she left Holland, Vin's Oma knew that she could never return. She'd come anyway.

When her widowed daughter Emma had been horribly killed, she'd brought that same strength of will to raising her only grandchild, Vin. He could still remember the warmth of her hugs and the smell of the strange spices she used to bake cookies with. Oma he could remember, very clearly, her sharp blue eyes that missed nothing, the golden brooch she always wore, the feel of her delicate but wrinkled hands as they worked the lace bobbins she'd brought from her old home. All this Vin could remember, but it was harder to try to remember his mother. She was a phantom to him, a blurry face and a faintly remembered touch.

His father was a total question mark. Vin had been young when he died but somehow nothing remained of the man for him to remember him by. What photos there had been were left with Oma. Social Services didn't even let him pack before dragging him out of the little house that was the only home he remembered. Oma had not been permitted to contact him lest she upset the delicate "bonding" going on between himself and his father's parents. Mostly that meant that Social Services was worried that Oma would disrupt Vin's acclimatization to the fact that he was Indian or as they called it now "Native American". Because Vin was three quarters Native, Social Services was worried that they'd have a lawsuit on their hands about him not being raised "Indian".

Vin hadn't cared. Oma had loved him, but Social Services was adamant. He'd been scooped up like an unwanted cat and dumped on his paternal Grandparents' doorstep. The Social Service worker hadn't even waited to see if the man was in. Just hightailed it off the Reservation, grumbling about dumping kids with drunks and savages.

Four adults had watched the arrival of seven-year-old Vin Tanner, but they hadn't welcomed him. At least two of them were blind stinking drunk, Vin found out later, but then these two men always were, not wanting to cope with anything at all. They weren't the whole tribe, just a cliche. He'd learned to stay away from them by then. The third witness was the Tribal Chief. She was a good one, very strict, but a good one. It took Vin some time to find that out. At the time, he was just sure that she hated him and just wanted to go back to his Oma. As for the fourth, he just stood in the shadow of the little house and watched.

Vin tried to ignore the prickles on his skin, Goosebumps he knew were caused by any number of things, but that man in the shadow of the house scared him. There was something in the man's gaze that held him back from speaking. The fact that of all the people present, this man was in traditional buckskins and wore paint on his face made him pause. Much of what Vin knew about his heritage came from stories that he'd heard from Oma and his maternal grandfather's friends. He knew that there was something strange about the man, but he didn't seem to be one of the wandering spirits that his Oma had warned him about. Since the man had paint, he couldn't be one of the lost ones. Giving the man a self-conscious look, Vin sketched a little half-bow just like the one he generally gave to things that only he could see. This might be a spirit or not, this place was so strange.

He started trying to figure out where the road went so that he could find his way back to the main road when an older boy opened the door. For a moment it was hate at first sight. Levon was his father's sister's son, a cousin, Vin would later discover, but at the time all that he knew was that this boy hated his guts.

Vin could not say how he knew, but he knew that there were a lot of people watching unobtrusively from behind windows and around corners. He knew it and didn't know what to do, but he was caught off guard when Levon threw himself at him and began pounding the daylights out of him. Levon was at least twice his age and correspondingly heavier and Vin had no chance to get the boy off of him. He curled up tightly trying to shield his head and stomach.

He sensed rather than felt the other boy being pulled off of him. He didn't understand much of the curses being yelled at the boy by another boy, slightly younger than Levon, but stronger. His disgust at Levon was palpable to Vin, like a thick blanket. Vin shivered hoping that the new kid wouldn't hit him too. His side hurt and he felt like he was going to throw up.

"Easy kid" The boy said trying to gently pry Vin's hands away from his head. "Are you Okay?"

Vin looked up hesitantly. He didn't want to get hit again. "You're okay. Levon is gone. I won't let him pound you again." He smiled at Vin. "You must be my new cousin, Vincent." He said tentatively.

"Vin, My name is Vin." He'd gasped out as the older boy tried to determine just how injured he was.

Levon had fled, mostly to get gone before Grandfather could find out. The other boy's name was Chanu and eventually he would become Vin's closest friend on the Rez. Chanu was also a cousin, but he didn't feel annoyed that Vin had come home and 'displaced' him. He was considerate and protective of the younger boy. Vin's life on the Reservation would have been much harsher without him. He'd never been more than tolerated, except by his Grandparents and Chanu. Eventually he'd won respect, but never complete acceptance.


The Reservation had been uneasy with Vin Tanner and he with them. Vin's father had been expected to follow his Father, Vin's Grandfather, into the world of the Shaman. Grandfather had been strong, but he'd told Vin that his son had been stronger. No matter what others told Vin, Grandfather had assured him that Kyle Tanner had followed the path meant for him. He would never have been happy as a Shaman, nor would it have been appropriate for him to become one. Kyle's gift was...well different. That was all the old man would say, except that Vin was the same kind of Different.

Grandfather Tanner had however given Vin all his effort and energy, something that had not endeared him to much of the rest of the family, especially since they thought he was shorting Levon, his 'apprentice'. Not that Grandfather had wanted Levon as an apprentice, but the family had gifted him with the boy. Actually it had been his aunt's choice. She had resented Vin's father for not being what she thought he should have become. It hadn't helped that relationship that Vin had the same strange wildness as his father's. But Grandfather Tanner had shared so much with Vin, it seemed that he was aware of the short time that they'd have together. When Vin had asked for the reason that he was so 'different', Grandfather had laughed and told him that he had to find his own path. He'd even given him a small brass telescope to help him see his way.

Vin's Grandfather was like that, full of riddles and strange concepts. As a child Vin had drunk them in deeply. Between his mother's mother and his father's parents, Vin had learned to be self-sufficient, considerate, strong, and to have compassion on the world around him. It hadn't been easy to keep that ethos, especially not after Col. Oliver had forced him out of the Triannen's Camp. No one had been able to overrule that move, just like no one, not even the Tribal Chief had been able to stop his removal from his Grandparents Tanner just after his fourteenth birthday.

Vin preferred not to think about what had happened next.


Homer's Corner was not the kind of town that one found a lot to do in. It was the kind of place where the streets rolled up at 10 P.M. sharp. Vin concentrated on sweeping the all-pervasive dust. He was certain that he'd moved at least a ton of it in the month that he'd worked at Virgil Watson's hardware store. Sweeping kept him from having to listen closely to the old man's continuous complaints. Watson was unhappy with everything. It didn't matter what it was. By keeping to himself, Vin had so far avoided Watson's monologue on how the world did him wrong, for a while. Eventually he'd have to listen to the long list of querulous complaints, no matter how he tried to evade it. Like Virgil Watson had anything to complain about... He owned the store and half the town, he'd inherited his money from his dad, failed to be drafted because of flat feet... No, life could be good if you were Virgil Watson. The only real complaint Vin could accept was that Watson had no wife or children, but he figured that it was the old man's own fault. His nasty personality just chased any chance of them off.

Being removed from Oma's care and then from his Grandfather's had been much more to complain about. Not to mention that evil time when he was fourteen and had been removed from both...Nope, Vin told himself, shutting off the memories, Not going there. He concentrated on a particularly stubborn clod of dirt on the boardwalk. It took several tries to get it to move. The wind whipped by again, undoing all his hard work. Vin sighed and started over. After a little while, Virgil Watson came out to see what was causing the hold up in closing up. He berated Vin a little, the shopkeeper always treated him like a total imbecile, but Vin just took it.


Later that night, Vin tucked himself up in the battered old trailer that he was using for shelter. No one had wanted it, and the smell when Vin had first seen it had told him why, but Virgil had offered a semi-reasonable price for it's use. It had taken several weeks of concentrated cleaning, but the trailer was at least livable.

Tomorrow he'd try again.


Forcing a vision wasn't exactly the best way to go, but Vin needed answers. He was starting to get impatient, and that was dangerous on the spirit plain. Trying to calm himself down, he considered and released everything he felt one by one. Deep breathing and meditation worked a little. The Army had thought enough of the practice that they'd sent him to various masters of martial arts to learn, even an old Shao-lin monk. Vin had been tutored by the best in the military's attempt to make him the ultimate killing machine. The Triannen alone had not drawn him into their circle of practice. He'd been angry about that until Cyrne explained the type of gifts they had and the way in which they impacted each other. Mysteriously, Cyrne had given him the same answer that his Grandfather had. His gift was different, special and required different training. It would flower at the right time, but no time had been right yet.

For a long time Vin had been content with that, the idea that he'd find some place where he'd belong and the gift would bloom suddenly. Col. Oliver had changed that. Vin had heard from friends still in the service that the man was dead, killed by someone he'd done wrong. Whoever he was, Vin Tanner wanted to shake the man's hand. Oliver was pure poison. A poison that affected him and this gift he supposedly carried. He'd done all that he could to handle that venom in the Army after having been ripped away from the Triannen's Camp.

Cyrne had been a good and conscientious leader, like all of the Full Triana. He'd never asked anything that Vin couldn't deliver or didn't feel right about. Vin had never served under anyone so concerned with the needs, both physical and emotional, of his men. But all the Triana were like that he'd found. Rumor said that the Triannen was made up of survivors from an experiment that went wrong, that some members of the government had tried to make their own private army and the Triannen were the result.

It seemed true to Vin. Each of the types of Triana, no matter if they were the highly skilled and deadly Full Triana or the lowest rung of Taren Tri, each had irrational triggers that surged out in sudden violent explosions. These explosions were never punished; in fact they were treated as sorrowful occasions, but never as the acting Triana's fault. The Government just cleaned up the mess left in their wake, and given the skill level of the lowest member of the Triannen was far above even the Nation's own Special Forces, that Mess could be considerable. The rest of the time it was incredibly hard to move a Triana to irritation, much less anger, but hit one of those triggers and oh boy!

No, the Triannen were the deadliest fighters out there, but the most honorable of anyone that Vin had ever met. They ruled their passions, in part he supposed because of what would happen if they let that passion free. Vin wished that he had half the control one of the Taren Tri had, much less that of a Full Triana. There was too much emotion in his heart, in his soul for the iron control he'd witnessed from the Triannen. It was just that he hated it here in Homer's Corner and it was a hatred that grew each day. He'd been here too long. What were the spirits waiting for?

"Afternoon, Tanner." Said a man waiting for him at the counter. Since he was one of the few people around that Vin had a moment for, he didn't waste time working on his order. David Fairshawe. The man and his family owned the spread just outside of town. He didn't get along with Virgil, that was for sure, a rival, but one who treated everybody with due respect. Fairshawe didn't come into town often, feeling a little conspicuous with the heavy scarring on the left side of his face. It didn't matter to Vin. Fairshawe was a good man and a considerate one too.

"Good Afternoon, sir." Vin replied quietly.

"Not sir, Tanner." David Fairshawe laughed one of his rare laughs. "I'm not a sir." He stopped before he got started on that line of thought and looked at the man behind the counter. "You doing okay Tanner? Virgil treating you right?" Fairshawe's blue eyes raked over the younger man. Vin would swear that Fairshawe could see every hurt, every burden that he carried.

"Doing okay." Vin finally answered. He was uncertain why Fairshawe was concerned about him. The man was well to do, a writer, and in spite of his facial scarring, well thought of in the area. No stories about his damaged outside being like his damaged inside. Fairshawe had a reputation for justice, and for looking out for folks. It wouldn't have bothered Vin, except that he had little reason to trust right now. His gut told him that Fairshawe could be counted on, but his pride shied away from relying on anyone. After all, wasn't that what had gotten him into trouble when he was fourteen? Trusting someone?

Fairshawe reminded him that he was always welcome to come to his home, not just strongly encouraged, but somehow required to come if he was in trouble. Vin nodded shyly. He didn't quite know what to make of the man. He'd seen Fairshawe and his wife, Joanne, and their three beautiful little girls often enough. David Fairshawe was not the man to let Virgil Watson spoil everything in town, but Vin couldn't really understand why the man was so concerned about him.

Eventually Fairshawe left, but Vin was unsettled by his visit. So much so that he again missed the entrance of a customer, missed him until he was right in front of him. This man wasn't from town, of that Vin was sure.... In fact, as he got a better look at the man, he realized that he definitely wasn't from around here. The spirits had finally decided to answer his petitions, in their own due time apparently. He only hoped that Virgil would stay out in the back and keep reading his dirty magazines while the 'visitor' was here.

The spirit wore the clothing of the tribes, but he was in the guise of a white man. His sharp features and bright eyes reminded Vin of a fox. Vin's eyes widened as he caught sight of the bushy grey fox's tail that the visitor didn't bother to hide.

"Why does he shake you so?" The spirit asked, motioning to David Fairshawe out on the boardwalk. Outside, Fairshawe had rejoined his family and his high spirited daughters were laughing about something. They were a lovely sight, almost the picture postcard of what a family should be. Vin felt something twist inside him and he ruthlessly shoved the longing down deep. There wasn't a place for him, not here, not anywhere... no family either. Turning away from what he couldn't have, Vin faced the Fox spirit resolutely.

"Don't shake me. Just don't know why." Vin said slowly. He couldn't lie to the spirit even if he was a fox. Fox spirit was a teacher, one of the best, but a trickster. One very dangerous to anger was old Grey Fox.

"David" The fox man paused and grinned. "Fairshawe. David Fairshawe is an honorable man. He knows the creatures of the night, young Vin. He is one you could seek out for council and always find truth. That one has suffered a great deal in the world. There is much that he could teach you."

Vin was startled. He hadn't had an interview with the spirits like this one. Usually they came when he was their proper place.

"But who is to say what my proper place is?" The fox man laughed following the thought with no difficulty. "Just because you think a thing is properly done one way doesn't make another's way less valid. You asked for council, for direction. Does it matter where you are when it comes?" He was grinning widely at Vin's discomfiture.

"I would be glad to receive your council." Vin said as humbly as he could. Foxes were dangerous, crafty, and overly fond of playing tricks. The Grey Fox spirit smiled widely. It made Vin a little nervous. "Can you help me find my path?" He asked and watched, as the grin grew impossibly wider.

The Fox spirit gave a little bark of laughter. "Your path is it young one?" He croaked "Your path." After a moment more of mirth, the amusement left the spirit's face as if it had drained away. A very intense look replaced the smiles and Vin knew that this would be truth, pure and simple. Experience had told him that when Fox looked like that, the world could and often would twist on it's axis. It had before. Vin shoved away the memories of the last time he'd seen Fox as ruthlessly as he could. This was about the here and now.

"You wish to find your path? It's laid out for you wherever you look, young one." Fox said gesturing in all directions. "Here" He said leaning down and picking up a thread. "Here," He said again pulling the little thread up an showing Vin a long golden thread leading off into tangles around the wooden floor of Virgil Watson's old store. "Follow this one." Fox said and waited.

"Why?" Vin asked, knowing that this was a test. "Where does it lead?"

"You wanted a path, young one. Does it matter where it leads?" Fox retorted.

"Yes, very much." Vin answered. "I want to at least be decent in my life. Where does that one go?"

"So demanding." Grey Fox yawned. "You always were, even as a kit. A scrawny kit, but a kit. You aren't much bigger than a kit now, come to think of it."

"IF I follow that path," Vin demanded, "Where will it lead me?"

"Oh very well." Fox said wearily. "It leads to right here." Vin glared at him in response, so Fox added, "You could live your life out here, in Homer's Corner." Vin shook his head and Fox continued. 'It would be a safe life. No great moral decisions, no Halls or Carrollans to worry about. No need for those weapons you hide every night. No ambiguities either. It would be rather boring, after all of the excitement you've had in your kit-hood, but it would be a fine life."

Vin glared at Grey Fox in response. "I don't want to spend the rest of my life here."

Fox didn't look at all concerned by the low menacing tone Vin's voice had taken on. Grey Fox shrugged as if they were discussing nothing more serious than the weather. "How about this one?" He held another strand of thread out. "It won't be boring." Fox added decisively.

Vin looked at him suspiciously. "May not be boring, but may not be right either." He said.

"You are so picky, young one. Do you think that I have nothing else to do than to help you decide on a life path that is not boring, is safe, not morally ambiguous, does something, but causes no harm...and all of this dragging you along since you seem unwilling to reach for anything." Fox said his tone growing impatient. "You're the one who has to live the life you choose. Every path is open unless you choose to close it. There are thousands of threads, Young one. Grab hold of one and get going."

"But I want it to be the right one." Vin said, and paused. He sounded like a whiney child. "I need to find the right way."

"Is the way right or do you make the way?" Fox Challenged.

"I..." Vin paused. He'd allowed himself to get lost, allowed himself to let life come to him instead of going to it. There was no life in the way he'd been living, only existing. If he wanted something more, he'd have to reach for it, have to take a chance. "Fortune favors the bold." Fox stated. "That sounds like a fortune cookie." Vin snapped feeling the depth of his mistake.

"Who's to say that knowledge comes from only one place or one experience? Your Auntie wanted you to become a Shaman, she wanted the same for your Father, too. She couldn't control what he became, what he chose. The gift was inside him and he freely offered it...freely gave what had been granted him, in Service." Fox's eyes narrowed at Vin. "He made his choice to follow the way his heart led him, not meander looking for a 'path'. You have the same gift. It is not dependent on another to bring it forth, it is only that another kindred soul will help to give it definition and strength." Fox quirked an eyebrow. "What is it that you really want, Young one?"

"A place to belong." Vin said immediately. "To help, to protect, well all of that...but a place to belong, people to belong with."

Fox grinned showing all his sharp pointy teeth. "I'd like ten yards of three inch wide pink ribbon." He said.

Vin was startled. Ribbon? Without really understanding why Fox would ask such a thing, Vin turned back to the shelves behind the counter and reached for the spool of three inch pink ribbon. The corner of his eye caught movement outside the window. A group of local boys from the nearby mine were dragging a strange black man down the stairs from Dr. Shaw's next door clinic.

He heard strange foul words and then clearly heard the men say that they were going to string the man up. A lynching! Not on his life! Vin turned and grabbed for the key to the small cases of period rifles and Ammo that Virgil sold. He got the Ammo case open all the while tracking the movement of the men with his senses. They were making a whole lot of noise. Most of the townsfolk would be scattering to get both out of the way and a good location to see what would happen.

He could hear David Fairshawe pounding on the locked door of the sheriff's office. There was no way that fat old Sheriff Lasker was going to go out on this one. Besides, the man didn't like 'strangers' his euphemism for non-whites. Vin had had some run ins with the old man once he found out that Vin wasn't a white boy.

The box of ammo burst open as Vin struggled with it. He ended up with a handful of bullets as he turned to the Rifle case. Swearing quietly as the old lock jammed, Vin kept listening to the noise outside. Hearing the catcalls of the mob of men, Vin placed them near the old cemetery, he heard some odds and ends, several of the townsfolk trying to intervene. "Let me go! What are you doing?" Vin could hear the victim protesting.

"Stop right there." Another voice called. Vin recognized it as the voice of Joanne Fairshawe.

"Step aside, Lady." One of the men replied. There were catcalls at the woman and several vile suggestions.

"We don't hang men anymore. It's wrong. You can't do this!" Joanne cried. Vin fumbled with the safety locks on the rifle case. He just had to get the packing stuff off of it.

"He killed a good man. Said he was a doctor, but he let him die." One of the men yelled. The others agreed.

"I never said I was no doctor!" The victim protested. "I'm an EMT. There wasn't anything more that I could do. I did all I could. The wasn't anything anyone could have done. He's been dead for hours!"

Vin shook his head. Logic never had anything do with this sort of thing. The Hanks boys were spoiling for it, and there was no way the Sheriff would interfere.

"Nathan didn't kill your boss...gangrene did." Joanne's husband David called. He was trying to get the mob to settle down. "If you'd brought him in earlier he'd have survived. Drinking a case of Old Red Eye is not the way to treat serious injury. Dr. Shaw will say the same thing when she gets back from the mine. Nathan didn't kill your friend."

"Please." Joanne cried. "This is wrong!"

"Be thankful we're getting rid of this quack. Ain't no darkie doctors and there never will be. They shouldn't be allowed to practice. They's all fakes." The man screamed. The slur to his words told Vin that he was very seriously drunk. Drunken men couldn't be reasoned with. Damn. He couldn't get the case to open, so Vin broke the glass.

"You're not hanging that man." David Fairshawe exclaimed. Vin could hear a struggle.

"I said get out of my way! We're late for a funeral, boys. Get this &(*)*() moving!" Vin could hear more of a struggle and the sound of a beating. He got the Rifle out of the broken glass, removed the safety lock and burst out onto the boardwalk.

"Are you people just going to let this happen?" David Fairshawe said. He was holding a bloody cloth to his face that might have been one of his little girl's jackets. The Children clung to their parents. Joanne was trying to help David up. He'd been beaten pretty badly.

"You walk off with that rifle, and you're fired!" Vin wasn't startled to find Virgil Watson behind him. The man could be as quiet as a cat and loved to watch trouble. He'd probably found the whole incident amusing.

Vin turned to him and gave him a smile Fox would have envied. "Hell, I'll probably get myself killed. Now, I got to worry about a new job, too?" He asked in a burst of dark humor.

A moment caught his eye from across the street. Vin looked up, half expecting to see Fox, but his eyes went wide as he saw a man dressed all in black emerge from the 'Saloon' on the other side.

A Triana. Vin swallowed, uncertainly. The Triana tipped his head and Vin read the invitation plainly. He nodded. Across the street the Triana responded with a nod.

While Vin didn't recognize the individual Triana he was following, he knew that he was one, from the attitude to the trademark long black coat. Slinging the loaded rifle over his shoulder, Vin followed the man onto the dusty street. He was shoulder to shoulder with the Triana, just like Terry, Cyrne's aide had stood. Where was the rest of the group? Vin wondered. Triana usually didn't wander alone. They were too dangerous.

The Triana bore no marks of the 'resulk' which meant that this Triana was in fact on duty, not Sol, but an active duty Triana. Vin's step was considerably lighter as they moved down the road to the cemetery to stop the lynching. Following in a Hero's company was something that he'd never thought he'd ever be permitted to do again.

When they came to the Cemetery, the Triana just made motions. He didn't say the traditional phrase 'end of line' or anything else that Vin recognized, but the strength of will was there in full force. Vin could feel something inside him wake and open up with a vengeance.

The short gun battle was ordinary by Triannen standards, but Vin was surprised when he noticed the Triana signal the black man who was the target of the lynching. Responding to his leader, the man had used a couple of wicked looking knives to take out two of his persecutors. He guessed that he shouldn't have been so surprised. This must be one of the Triana's company. Vin nodded to the black man as the mob surrendered.

"You okay Nathan?" The Triana asked.

"Fine, Chris." Nathan replied rubbing his sore wrists. "A little banged up, but okay."

Chris nodded and strode back to the Sheriff's door. He paused a moment and then kicked the door in with one smooth motion. "Federal Agents!" He announced. "Get off of your lazy butts and pick that trash off of the street." The Glare he directed at the Sheriff and his men, who were cowering in the room, evidently waiting for the lynching to be over before moving to restore order, was deadly. Vin had never seen Sheriff Lasker so terrified.

The Triana shifted his weight, nodded to the Fairshawe family, and walked back to the Saloon.


Vin cursed himself for a fool two hours later as he cut apart boxes and stuffed them into the recycling bin behind Virgil Watson's store. The querulous old man had 'graciously' given him his job back until he paid for the damage he'd done to the Rifle and Ammo cases.

The man in black was an indubitable warrior, but he was no Triana.

"I never did get my Ribbon." A voice said. Vin whirled around to see Grey Fox standing behind him.

"You tricked me!" He exclaimed wanting to beat the hell out of the spirit before him. Fox was a trickster and he'd tricked Vin all right. "That man wasn't a Triana!"

Fox was nonchalant as he looked at Vin. "Who said anything about a Triana?"

"But he wore the marks!" Vin fumed.

"Does that matter? Your mind tricked you. I did not. You went to aid Nathan Edward Jackson and to prevent his murder. Do you regret saving a life, Young one?"

"No," Vin stopped himself. He was sounding childish again. He didn't regret saving Nathan. The man had made a point to come and thank him, profusely. It was embarrassing but Vin understood. Once upon a time he'd been in Nathan's place and been saved. No, he didn't regret saving Nathan Jackson at all. The only regret he had was that he hadn't found a place to belong. Wasn't that what he'd asked for?

"The only place to belong is the one that you make for yourself, Young one. Even people born into happy families have to find their own place. What do you want?"

"A place to belong," Vin said considering the Fox's words.

"Then make one." Grey Fox said firmly. "Were you expecting thunder and lightning and neon signs? Take your place with that man if that's where you want to belong."

"My gift stirred." Vin said, hesitantly "During the fight. I felt it coming awake."

"Then you have found one who can help your gift awake and reach it's fullest potential. Is that not something worth trying for?"

"Yes." Vin said, closing his eyes. He thought about the joy he'd felt at being part of the company of a Triana again. It didn't matter that he'd miss that. He could make a place to belong. "Christopher Matthew Larabee is no Triana, it's true." Fox said. "But there is much that you can do in his company. He needs all the help that he can get. He needs you, though he doesn't know it yet."

"It's a good path?" Vin asked the Fox teasingly. Grey Fox laughed uproariously.

"It's one of the very best, if not the very best." Grey Fox said measuringly. "If the very best happens you can repair a very great wrong, but that is if the very best happens. Possibilities happen for those who reach for them."

"What is this great wrong?" Vin asked. The spirits were rarely so direct. He'd always enjoyed Fox's teaching, though he hadn't always enjoyed the tricks that came with it.

"If the best is chosen, the truth will unfold and things can be changed." Fox looked at Vin seriously. "Seven Goods against Seven Evils stand. For this to happen the shadow of the past must be lifted."

"Past? My past?" Vin asked.

"All Pasts, Young one. All Pasts." Fox laughed. "Never become bitter, Vincent Richard Tanner, Never become bitter. Now go find that Christopher Larabee and build a place to belong." Fox smiled a twisted smile. "After all Larabee is no Triana...Yet." Fox laughed again and disappeared.


Continues in: The Connection, Flip Side