Lost and Alone
by Mary Ann

In the Year AU

Main Characters - Vin

Author's Note: This story is set into the story - "In The Year - A Beginning" - you don't have to read that story, but it might answer some questions you might run across here.

Time stood still as he gazed out over the quiet landscape. He was totally alone now, other than the black stallion who stood beside him, his horned head held high as he sniffed the wind that blew into their faces.

For several minutes they stood, side by side, still as statues. With a sigh the teen turned to the black and grasping the long mane jumped onto the horses back and settled onto the old blanket on the broad back. Gathering the reins in his hands he nudged the horses sides. The stallion shook his head and stepped out at a ground eating running walk.

Vin Tanner glanced back over his shoulder. It had only been three days since he'd escaped from Phillips and his hideout. He figured it would have taken the outlaws at least a day to find their horned horses, then they'd be after him. The stop in the small town took longer than he'd planned, he'd had to find winter clothes that fit him better than what he now wore. His months as a prisoner had thinned him down more, but he'd also gotten taller. It'd taken extra time to find clothes that were large for him, then supplies. His stomach was growling as he stuffed his purchases into his saddlebags. He took a couple of minutes to go into a small store that carried fresh baked breads and other foods and bought a loaf of the sweet smelling bread before leaving. He ate a third of the bread before storing the rest away.

Now he was two days from the town, moving west, and not sure where he was going. He just knew he had to keep moving as fast as he could, to stay ahead of Phillips. He saw mountains in the distance and headed for them. Hours later he pulled Peso to a halt and eyed the mountains now laying ahead of him.

The tallest mountains were already snow capped on their tall peaks. The wind blowing into this face was cold. Vin took time to pull the coat he'd bought on before turning Peso once more to the west and they continued onward. They stayed close to the foothills fronting the mountains, keeping them to his right.

As the sun began to fall, Vin started to look for a place to stop for the night. They needed a safe place that would be easy to defend from predators. This close to the mountains he knew there were bears looking for food, preparing for winter. The animals wouldn't think anything of attacking a lone horse and rider. The wolves were bad enough, he needed to watch out for them all the time.

The sunlight totally disappeared behind low hills ahead of him. At the last minute Vin spotted a dark smudge to the right of them and turned Peso towards it. He hoped it would be something they could shelter in, and not occupied by something ferocious.

With darkness quickly falling, they reached the dark place which turned out to be a small abandoned building, half buried in the ground. The doorway was a crooked opening with the wooden door hanging half way off the last rusted hinge. A good two feet of dirt and weeds covered the roof of the structure. After making sure there was no movement anywhere, Vin dismounted and carefully made his way to the doorway. Nothing moved, there was nothing that smelled like a wild animal in the area.

Peso shoved his nose against Vin's shoulder impatiently and with a smile Vin stepped inside. His hand reached for the few matches he carried in his pocket. With a lit match he quickly scanned the room. He moved to a rock circle on the ground and spotted a deep bed of dried weeds and a few sticks. With a quick movement he bent and lit the weeds and stepped back.

The flames quickly lit the space and he added a few more sticks to it to keep it going before going back outside to get Peso. He led the horse inside then turned to work the door closed. The fire was almost out by the time he got the door closed. He grabbed more weeds and sticks and placed them on the fire. In the flickering light he untacked Peso and gave him some of the dried grass he found in a corner. With a smile he thought at one time it might have been a bed for someone.

Peso tossed his head then accepted the meager fair as Vin dug in the saddlebags for something to eat for himself.

After eating Vin lay on his blanket, head and shoulders cradled on his arms and stared at the fire as it died down. His thoughts went over the last nine years of his life.

The time with Nick Carter, how the man had taken him and Sinbad, his pinto horse, in when they arrived at his livery stable. The man never asked any questions, but they grew close over the months Vin lived with him. He wished he could return and see if Nick still lived there, but he wasn't sure where the town was or if he could even find it again

His thoughts turned to the time with Running Elk and Nicole, and the loss of Sinbad. The pinto had been his Mom's farm horse for years, though he didn't know sure how long. He remembered him always being there on the farm. They loved him as a member of their little family. Vin rode away after the loss of his mother, never looking back. The horse had been very old, but valiantly carried him through a blizzard, where Running Elk and his friends found them almost frozen to death. They cared for Vin. Sinbad died a short time after they were found.  

Vin touched the long black and white braid he'd braided back into his hair. His reminder of how close he'd been to Sinbad, how much the horse had meant to him. His thoughts went to Nettie and Allan Wells. And the happy years he'd spent with them, until Allan died. He felt tears gather in his eyes as he thought how the couple took him in and treated him, as their son. He thought of all the things he'd learned while he lived with them. Allan teaching him woodworking, Nettie, always busy began to teach him reading and writing, though it lasted only a very short time. The Wells had been the parents he never had, once his mother died. When Allan died he couldn't bear to stay on the farm, and after making sure Nettie would be safe and have someone there to help and watch over her, he left.

Then the last few months being held by Phillips and forced to work for him, but he was free now. No matter what he would not allow himself to be taken by Phillips ever again.

With a sigh, he wondered where he now was, this country was all strange to him. All he wanted to do was find a place to really be free, and not alone. He hoped someday his wish would come true.

He'd worry about those things, tomorrow. His eyes slid closed as sleep overtook him.


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