DISCLAIMERS: No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended. This is purely fiction and based on the television series The Magnificent Seven.


AU: Blood Brothers - For a rundown on the guys check out thhis page

SUMMARY: Buck arrives in Four Corners
SPOILERS: Pilot & Nemesis.  5th in the Series and follows directly on from my stories, Extort thy Childhood
Color me BlackYoung Warriors and Beneath the Surface.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Mitzi and  Beth Baker for beta reading this fic.
COMMENTS: Yes, please! 
DATE:  6 March 03


More than Friends

– Blood Brothers, AU

By Yolande


Little Chris Larabee sat on the edge of the wooden boardwalk.  Out of boredom he picked at the cracks between the planks, digging out the dirt and forming a small pile.  The seven-year-old brought his sturdy boots up and crossed his legs; his narrow shoulders were rounded over and his head nodded beneath his wide-brimmed hat.  

The air was thick as molasses and with every breath he took, his lungs complained.  A full blast of sunshine heated him through to his very core, and small droplets of sweat dotted his top lip.  He could feel a stream of perspiration run down the length of his spine and the young boy pulled at his shirt to capture the sticky liquid before it reached the waistband of his pants.  Such was the drawbacks of wearing only black; it seemed to draw the heat from the sun like a magnet, but he was not changing his clothes, not for anyone, or any reason.  This was how he was…who he had become. 

Chris continued to be mesmerised by the whitewashed boards, only occasionally glancing up and taking in the townsfolk who were moving about sluggishly in the hot sultry weather.  There was not much for a young child to do in Four Corners, not even a school to attend.  Not that he seriously wanted to go – schoolin’ was never going to be the same without Adam around.  

It would only take part of a day’s ride to reach Eagle Bend, and then an hour out to his former home – not that there was anything left of the old place after it had burned to the ground, but it was calling him and the need to find his brother was pressing in on him.  It seemed like forever since he’d seen Adam, and Chris worried constantly for his safety.  And now he had some help.  Young Larabee wondered how much longer he would be staying in Four Corners.  While Josiah, Vin, Nathan, and even the greenhorn, JD were eager to help him find Adam, there were preparations to be made, or so they said, but Chris was impatient for the expedition to begin.  And to his discernment, Ezra seemed to be quite content to settle his roots in this hectic western town. 

With the added interest to his quest, Larabee was wondering if the young gambler was pulling away from him.  Chris hadn’t seen Ezra much in the last day or so; perhaps he was considering going his own way now that Chris had the commitment of the others.  He’d have to make it a point to ask the Southerner what his plans were now, and if they still included him.  If not, maybe Chris would have to remind the gambler of his promise to look after him, and how it was Maude’s fault he had been drafted so far away from his home.  That should do it, he mused. 

With a cheeky smirk on his face and the plans set in his mind, Chris glanced up into the main drive as an open buggy carrying a Madam and her escort, drove into town.  His smile rapidly evaporated; it wasn’t that he knew the Madam or her companion personally, or even why they were journeying to Four Corners, but it was the familiar figure posed high on the back of a grey horse that trotted a pace behind the couple that caught his attention.  Buck Wilmington.  The dark-headed gregarious child paraded alongside the buggy as though he had not a care in the world, and Chris’ expression grew darker.  What the hell was Buck doing here, when he lived in Eagle Bend?  Chris wasn’t prepared to meet up with him yet…maybe never. 

Larabee frowned at the lanky eight-year-old, watching surreptitiously as he dismounted the fine grey gelding and slowly followed the couple inside the saloon.  Buck hadn’t noticed Chris sitting on the boardwalk. And Larabee had been careful to hide his face beneath the broad brim of his hat.  It had been four months since the boys had seen one another and Chris had changed so much in that short time.  Not his physical appearance, but his mode of dress, his attitude and his newly acquired skills, courtesy of Maude.  Gone was his former carefree nature, the fun loving boy Buck had once known and played with - in that place, stood a more sombre and controlled child.  And when he did let the emotions show, it was a mixture of anger and depression – hardly someone Buck would associate with.  So Chris curled into a ball, making himself invisible until he had the chance to escape. 

Chris ran flat out dodging people, animals, buggies and wagon traffic.  He didn’t quit until he was standing with his back to the wall of the boarding house.  He could stay here and Buck would never find him, he wouldn’t even know Chris was in town.  Buck didn’t need to know.  It had been a shock to see his friend, but the bitter taste that lived constantly in his mouth grew when he caught sight of Wilmington. 

**** That Afternoon… 

“Hey, Chris!”  Buck Wilmington grinned from ear to ear and raced across the road.  He wrapped his arms around the smaller boy and hugged him tightly.  Damn!  He’d thought he’d never see Chris again after he’d gone off with the lady gambler. “Hi!” he enthused again.  “Hey ya ole dog!  It’s good to see ya, buddy.  How ya doing?”  Buck might only be eight, but he was so used to looking out for Chris and his younger brother, Adam, that when they left, he’d felt bereft.  Of course, Adam’s absence had not been one of choice, seeing as he’d been kidnapped, but Chris willingly left, and it’d hurt Buck.  He hadn’t understood Chris’ reasons, or the hastiness of their departure - one day he was in Eagle Bend, the next he was gone.  He’d thought they were friends and they would face the world together, but Chris hadn’t talked to him, in fact he’d practically snubbed Buck following Sarah’s death and Adam’s kidnapping. He hadn’t understood, but now Chris was back and Buck could make up for lost time.  Buck would make it right. 

Larabee held immobile in the older boy’s grip, embarrassed by the sudden attention Buck had brought them.  “Easy, big fella.  Folks will talk.” 

Wilmington chuckled and released Chris.  “It’s good to see ya back where you belong.”  Buck pinched the sleeve of Chris’ shirt and pulled it outwards.  “What’s with the new duds?  Ya need some colour, Chris.  Yer looking a might drab all in black.”  

“It’s how I dress, Buck.”  That was the end of that exchange. 

“How long ya been in town…how’d ya get here?  And where’s the lady who took ya away?” 

“You ask too many questions, Wilmington.” 

But Buck hadn’t asked the questions he’d really wanted to.  Where was Adam?  Had Chris heard from the six-year-old boy?  Were there demands for Adam’s release?  Did Chris have any idea where to look for his brother?  Buck feared the answers, worried about Chris’ response, and was afraid of awakening Chris' anger.  Chris had a quick temper and Buck had been on the receiving end of Chris’ ire on more than one occasion.   So Buck grinned, perhaps they would discuss this later.  “And you always find a way of answering none of ‘em.” 

“What’s with the woman?” Chris lifted his chin and pointed to the saloon where he’d seen them disappear earlier that morning. 

Buck sighed, unable to stop the response.  So Chris had seen him arrive and hadn’t bothered to meet up with him.  A heavy sadness weighed him down.  But he wouldn’t let it ruin his day.  He’d been reunited with his best friend, and that had to mean something to Chris.  Sure, the seven-year-old was probably still grieving his mother, and Adam’s kidnapping had to be worrying him also, but Buck was back in his life, he would make it better for Chris.  If he was allowed.  “Oh, that’s, Cora,” he dismissed easily.  

“What’s she doing here?” 

Buck shrugged.  “Reckon she’s tryin’ to drum up some business… ta her way of thinkin’, it’s becomin’ a might slow back home,” he grinned.  “Figured I’d tag along for the ride…” He paused for a minute and considered the words he’d just spoken and bust into a fit of laughter.  Going for a ride…that’s what most of the ladies did for a living in the place he called home.  And one of those ladies, at one time, had been his mother.  

The smile softened as Buck recalled Marcy Wilmington.  She’d done her best, supporting her son for the first six years of his life, but the circumstances that brought Marcy to Cora’s establishment were not a happy time for the young widow.   Buck had pestered his mother time and again to relate the sad tale of a newly married woman who’d lost her husband not long after their nuptials only to find herself with child and alone in the midst of an unfamiliar territory.  No one had wanted to employ a woman, much less a woman encumbered with a dependant.  Work was scarce.  And she resorted to an age-old profession to survive.  She’d never considered giving up her only child and she never did return to her hometown.  Buck often wondered if this was the truth, but he wouldn’t besmirch her memory by attempting to find out any different. 

The memory misted the boy’s eyes and he grimaced, wiping his face to hide his emotions from Chris who was watching him intently.  He’d never told Chris how Marcy had died; but Larabee was a smart kid, and probably suspected something dire when, two years ago Buck had turned up on Sarah Larabee’s doorstep crying his heart out.  After that time, Buck had been always at their home.  He’d spent most of his days playing and fishing and getting into mischief with Chris and Adam, and then there was school.  It was only at nights that Buck would return to his sparse room in the bordello that he’d initially shared with his mother until her death, and afterwards, by himself.  Cora hadn’t the heart to toss him out, and she even worked out a routine for her working girls to keep an eye on the young Wilmington. 

Over the space of those two years Buck had fallen into a routine and considered himself a part of the Larabee family.  When Sarah had died in the house fire, and Adam kidnapped from their ranch, Buck felt the pain and trauma Chris had been exposed to; yet he felt worse…Was he entitled to grieve for his surrogate family?  And he couldn’t help but feel guilty for stopping Chris from taking on the men who’d killed his mother and kidnapped Adam.  The way Chris had looked at him…in fact it was very similar to how young Larabee was looking at him now.  “You couldn’t have helped them,” Buck attempted to ease the younger boy’s burden. 

“How would you know?  You didn’t even give me a chance!” 

“I saw what happened…I was there!  Adam was my friend, too, Chris and I think you know how I felt about your mother.” 

“Then why did you stop me?” 

“What could you have done?  Except gettin’ yerself killed, too.  How would that help Adam?” 

Chris scowled at the taller boy.  He didn’t want to listen to Buck.  He wanted things back the way they were, but that was never going to happen.  He did the next best thing, and that was to slug Buck on the chin. 

“What…?”  Buck stumbled back a step, but didn’t fall over. 

Larabee adopted a fighter’s stance…they’d done this many times before.  “Come on, Wilmington…” he baited.  “You gonna let me whip you with one hit?” 

Buck licked his lips and stared dumbly.  But when Larabee took a second swing at the older boy, he quickly dodged the flailing fist.  As Chris followed through, Buck grabbed him by the shirttails and pushed him to the ground.  “Want ta fight, Larabee?  Come and get me,” Buck urged, dancing around the sprawled boy. 

Chris growled, rolled and kicked out at the same time, collecting Buck in the shins and bringing him down to the ground.  

Buck let out an, “Oomph.”  They rolled together, grappling and kicking and squirming, stirring up the dust and cursing each other loudly.  Elbows and knees connected with flesh, boots and fists buried hard.  If anyone noticed the two boys rolling about on the ground they were unwilling to break up the pair, or leastwise interfere.  

When they’d finished, Buck sported a black eye, which was swelling quickly and several other scrapes on his face, arms and body.  His shirt was pulled out of his pants, and ripped in several places and his back and front were coated in a thick layer of dust.  He sat back on his heels glaring at his best friend, gauging the injuries he’d inflicted on the boy, and considered they must look quite the pair. 

Chris bent at the waist, his hands captured on his knees; he was still panting.  Blood dripped from his nose and it fell in pools, forming bloody puddles at his feet.  He sniffed, and squeezed both nostrils together, hoping to stem the flow.  He glanced up at Buck, and saw the damage he’d done.  He couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face.  “You look like hell, Buck.” 

“That’d be damn near impossible, but you don’t look so great yerself.  You got that out of your system?  Can we go back ta being friends again?” 

“Yeah…and it wasn’t your fault, Buck.” 

“I know.” 

“Yer a real smart ass, Wilmington.” 

“Yep.”  He grinned around the swollen features.  

“I’m goin’ back home…got some friends who are gonna help me find Adam.”  Not to mention his mother’s killers. 

“Home?  Back out to the homestead?”  Why did that seem so strange to Buck?  Chris, Adam and their mother had lived just east of Eagle Bend their entire lives.  Once Chris left, after his mother’s murder and Adam’s kidnapping, Buck figured he’d never see the youngster again.  But here he was. 

“No need for you to come along.”  Chris could easily predict his friend’s thoughts.   He was always trying to help, or take care of people he cared about.  

“Yeah, there is.  So if it’s all the same, I think I’ll ride this one out with you.” 

“Suit yourself.” 

“When ya leaving?” 

“Next day or so…you can meet the others.  What’re you gonna tell Cora?” 

Wilmington waved his hand skyward.  “She won’t even know I’m gone.  I’ll tell her, but she’ll prob’ly be grateful that I’m finally movin’ on.” 

“Then it’s six of us…” Chris thought momentarily of JD Dunne and his determination to help Chris in his search for Adam, but quickly shook his head.  There wasn’t a place for Dunne…he was too much of a greenhorn, and would be more of a hindrance than help.  He refocused on Buck and grinned, “You’re gonna really like Vin…”  

the end

Next story:- Creating Mischief - Coming Soon

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