Disclaimer: I do not own the Magnificent Seven and claim no rights to the concept or characters. I do, however, contend that sometimes I have a better idea than what was on the screen. This is one such instance ;)
Warnings: Language. Some violence. H/C
Notes: Two things have always bothered me about Sins of the Past. Besides the whole 'dead Eli Joe' thing. #1 how did Vin escape from Eli Joe, Yates, etc. without a wound? I mean, it was the perfect chance for some hurtin' Tanner!! #2 why was Vin just sitting under the tree while Chris checked their back trail? So, here's my answer to both those questions J
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Blackraptor for the transcripts! I've used some of it from SotP here.
As the blindfold was pulled away, Vin blinked and squinted, making out the face before him. "Well, well. You're a long way from home, Eli Joe."
"Well, I figured I'd see some more of this beautiful country... look up old friends." The outlaw replied smugly. Then motioning to the others he said, "Hang him."
Seeming unfazed by the comment, Tanner noted, "You sure went to a whole lot of trouble not to face me alone."
"You're thinkin' it's cowardly. I think it's smart. See, I know all about your six amigos. You all have been making quite a name for yourselves around here."
Tanner took in the smirk on the other man's face. "Real proud of yourself, ain't ya?"
"Yeah, I suppose, but it had to be done. You see, I ain't been sleeping too well ever since I pinned that murder on you."
"Your conscience bothering you?"
Eli Joe snickered. "I ain't got a conscience."
"How about Jess Kincaid? You killed an innocent farmer just to frame me for murder."
"Got you off my trail, didn't it? Course this little voice inside keeps tellin' me Vin Tanner's gonna come lookin' for me, settle up old scores. So I figured I'd find you first. I'm glad I did." To his men he said, "Let's do this. Gotta get back on the trail."
They already had the noose set, slipping it over his neck as quickly as they could. He didn't put up much of a struggle; even though his heart was pounding so hard he kept waiting for it to fly right out of his chest. He wouldn't give Eli Joe the satisfaction of seeing him squirm and beg. One thing helped him in appearing calm, though. Chris. Despite the fact that he'd warned Larabee not to go against the law, he was all but positive that the gunman had come after him.
He was beginning to think that maybe he was wrong about Larabee when a shot rang out. He felt the rope around his neck jerk, then drop and, before the others had time to react, he dug his heels into Peso's sides and took off at a flat out run. Behind him, he heard his abductors respond.
One of the men, maybe Yates, yelled out, "Take cover!"
Another voice rang out, this one definitely Eli Joe. "Don't let him get away!"
On the heels of that barked order, Tanner felt a tug at his side, followed by a burning that grew steadily. Damn it! He'd been shot. Putting the pain out of his mind, he pushed his horse faster, heading directly for the place where Chris was hidden from the others.
As he drew to a stop near the blond, he smiled and quipped, "What took you so long?" holding his bound wrists out as he did so.
Chris quickly cut the ropes, freeing the other man. Tossing Tanner his mare's leg before he mounted, he said, "Thought you might need this."
They rode until they were both all but positive they weren't being followed. Vin was feeling the effects of the wound in his side more and more, but didn't let on. Right now his only concern was figuring out a way to get Eli Joe. The bastard had slipped him once, but it wasn't going to happen again. He would pay for what he had done. He wouldn't get the chance to make that happen, though, if the others knew he was wounded.
Chris reined in near a large tree, its shade more than adequate for them to rest under. Vin didn't want to rest, however.
Larabee said simply, "Get down."
"I appreciate you helpin' me out back there, Chris, but it don't give you the -"
"Get down," the blond repeated. "We're out of danger for the moment; I want to check your wound."
"My... what?" Tanner could only stare at the other man.
"I'm not blind, Vin, you're hurting and there's blood on your coat."
"Damn." Slowly he dismounted; the pain flaring as he shifted to get off the horse. He stood still for a few seconds when he was standing on the ground, giving his body the chance to adjust to the new position. He caught sight of Chris moving toward him, but wasn't about to let the gunman know how much he was hurting. Heading for the tree, he focused on his steps, pushing away the pain once more. Reaching the trunk, he braced himself with one hand, while he eased himself to a sitting position with nothing more than a soft grunt.
Chris knelt beside the other man, carefully pulling away his jacket. Blood had soaked the entire side of Tanner's shirt; he had lost more than was healthy. Pulling away the shirt and undershirt, he finally found the wound. It was a deep graze, digging a furrow in flesh and muscle along his side. The bullet had passed through, so they didn't have to worry about that. They would need to worry about blood loss and infection, though. He said as much to his friend.
"I've got some stuff in my saddlebags to pack it with. Reckon you've got yer flask with ya."
With a grin, Larabee replied, "Yeah. Not sure I wanna waste good whiskey on the likes of you, though."
"Yer all heart."
"Yeah, well..." Chris trailed off as he pulled his flask out of his duster pocket and handed it to the other man. "Take a drink while I get the other stuff."
Larabee gathered up the things he needed and returned to where the Texan sat. Vin's head was back, his eyes closed. "Vin?"
"Reckon you are." He laid out the things on the ground, dousing his handkerchief with water from his canteen, using it to clean up the wound area. Vin sat still, his posture saying he wasn't resting at all. Chris moved as quickly as he could. Washing the wound out with liquor, he mixed the herbs as Tanner directed him to and pressed it into the bloody furrow. The injured man cried out softly between gritted teeth, but otherwise sat still.
Dressing the wound with some boiled muslin, the blond finished his ministration by helping the Texan adjust his clothes, Vin grumbling that he wasn't helpless as he buttoned his shirt. Larabee just sat back, smiling.
Tanner squinted a look at the other man, but didn't say anything more. After a minute, he said, "Thanks."
"You're welcome. We need to get you back into town so Nathan can fix you up right."
"I'm fine, he can't do better 'n this."
"Vin..." Larabee's voice held a warning tone.
"Look, Chris, just... let it go. This is my chance, best one I've had since that bastard killed Jess Kincaid. If I've gotta sit around, waitin' fer this thing ta heal up."
"Is it worth your life, Vin?"
Staring hard at the other man, Tanner said, "It is my life, cowboy. Every mornin' I have ta wonder if I'm gonna see the sunset and every night I wonder if I'm gonna see the sunrise. I've known more peace since I've been here with you and the boys, but... damn it, Larabee, it's my name. I ain't ever had much, but I've got my name. Eli Joe took that away from me, and I aim ta take it back."
Admiring the lengthy speech, Chris only nodded and said, "All right. But as soon as we catch the scum - "
"I'll go sit in a rockin' chair and let Nathan fuss over me as much as he likes. I give you my word."
The blond smiled and nodded; Vin Tanner's word was as solid as they came. "All right, well, better go see if there's any sign of them."
"Okay." Tanner started to get up, but his friend pressed against his shoulder.
"I'll go, you stay here."
"Not arguing. You stay here and rest; I'll go check things out."
Vin sighed but, in the end, he simply nodded and watched as Larabee mounted his gelding and rode out. Leaning back against the tree, he laid his gun across his lap. All he could do now was wait.
Tanner roused from a light doze when he heard a horse approaching. He lifted the canteen and took a drink, watching as Larabee drew near and dismounted, speaking as he approached.
"I circled back two miles. Looks like they gave up on us."
"Probably fixin' to break camp and get the hell out of here."
"If they're smart, that's what they'd do."
Tanner fumed at the thought his chance to clear his name could be slipping away. "He ain't gettin' away this time. I'm going to drag that murdering sack of dirt back to Texas, and he's going to tell the jury the truth."
"I don't know, Vin. Truth and Eli Joe don't seem like a likely mix."
"I've lived with Kiowas and Comanches. I know a thing or two about getting the truth out of people."
"I look forward to seein' that. Too bad we got to keep him alive. Since we do, we best get us some help. Come on." He stood, reaching out a hand to help the wounded man to his feet.
"I ain't helpless."
"Never said you were. Just thought you could use a hand." He started to withdraw his hand and his offer. Then he smiled as Tanner reached out and took his hand. Leaning back, he helped the other man to his feet.
"Could always use a hand I reckon."
Eli Joe was dead. Vin sat, crouched on the roof, staring down at the broken body. Chris had shot him; there was no question in his mind that Eli Joe was dead. Suddenly the physical and emotional toll on him threatened to crush him. He doubted that he could even stand under the weight of the realization that he might never clear his name now.
"Go 'way, Chris, okay? Not right now."
"Are you all right?"
"No." As simple as that. He simply sat there until he heard the blond walking away. Then he slowly pushed himself to his feet and shuffled across the roof, climbing down the access ladder at the side of the building. Reaching the ground, he moved around to where Eli Joe was being gathered up, and placed into a cart. His friends walked by him, offering words meant to comfort. He didn't really hear them, though, just nodded as they moved away. Finally it was only him and Chris.
"I know you wanted him alive," the blond said softly.
"You did what you had to. I can't clear my name if I'm dead." It was true; he knew that as well as he knew that Chris would stand beside him against anything that came. As soon as that thought crossed his mind, though, his body betrayed him and his knees buckled. He felt a pair of arms wrap around him carefully, holding him upright without putting pressure on his wound.
"It's time for you to go see Nathan, pard. Everything you've been through the last couple days... well, it's enough to put any man down."
Vin sighed, not wanting to agree, but knowing Larabee was right. "Reckon I gave my word. Let's go."
Chris nodded, leading the younger man toward the healer's clinic. Time to make things right would come later. Right now, it was time to take care of his friend.