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.
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Buck & Chris
CATEGORY: OW Challenge
SUMMARY: Buck leaves Chris a gift.
SPOILERS: Obsessions & Vendetta
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to my wonderful beta - Mitzi.
NOTES: This is
my answer to Meg Tipper's Gift Challenge, Oct 2004 :-
more) of the Seven leaves another one of the Seven a gift (i.e. the gift-giver
doesn't hand it over, the receiver finds it left somewhere for him). It can be
anything -- large, small, a joke, something meaningful, something scary (it is
the month of Halloween after all), something smelly or even something sweet.
Rules are: (1) the receiver is alone when he finds/receives the gift, (2) the
title of the story must include the word "Gift" and (3) you must use one of the
following words: pumpkin, witch, monster, candy, trick, treat. BONUS: I double
dog dare you to try and use the words "googlism".
FEEDBACK: Yes, please!
DATE: 19 Oct 04
Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
No Greater Gift
Buck peeled open the package and viewed the contents, a sad smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“It’s good work…Yes?” Chen Wu asked, pleased with his skill.
Buck refolded the brown paper, covering the frame. “Yeah…it’s perfect,” he answered quietly, handing over the agreed upon money.
“Make a nice present,” the Chinese man persisted,
Wilmington nodded. “Yeah.” It was what the Asian expected to hear. But now Buck had the gift in his hand he was uncertain about presenting it. It might not be the right time, but if he waited, would Chris want it later? There’d be a time in his life, one day soon, when he’d want to look ahead, instead of being reminded of the past. But Buck figured Chris would always be looking over his shoulder for some reason or another. Once decided, he sighed. It had to be better than what that witch, Ella, had left him. “Thanks.” He left the small shop and a bell tingled over the doorway that he passed through.
Chris Larabee returned to his room—it was dark and smelled stale inside. It meant nothing to him—it was not special, not homey…just the room he rented, although his board was free while he acted as a peacekeeper for Four Corners. It was quite roomy and had a good view from the eastern aspect, but there was nothing that kept him attached to it. One day he’d leave, and this place would hold no important memories. It didn’t bother him. When the time was right, he’d leave.
Larabee closed the door with a slight click and threw his hat on the bureau before taking a seat on the edge of the bed and removing his boots. The first made a thunk as it hit the floor, but he stilled in the process of removing the second. His eyes narrowed on the unfamiliar package left on his night table. He dropped his boot to the floor and made a belated scan of the room. He was alone. Curiosity had him reaching for the parcel. Who had left it? What was inside? He took hold of it and pressed it gently, feeling for a clue. It was solid, but not a book. There was no note and only a select few who knew how to get inside his room. He untied the string and the paper fell away. He bit his lower lip and stared, lost in his emotions for some minutes. Buck…it was Buck who’d left the package. There was no doubt in Chris’ mind; only Buck would think of doing this.
It was hard to wrap his mind around it, but he eventually lifted the wooden frame from the covering. He reverently touched the sketch protected by glass—Sarah, Adam and him. It was a good likeness. He remembered the original photo being taken not long before the fire. He’d seen it again—burned, with Sarah’s image scratched out and Adam’s face missing, in Ella’s locked room of souvenirs. The bitch—she’d had Cletus Fowler steal it from his home…that and Sarah’s locket.
He’d lost his wife and son in that fire. It’d destroyed his life—eaten away at his soul and turned him into a monster. A gunslinger set on revenge. All his good memories had been destroyed in a single night. And for what? Crazy Ella Gaines—he should have shot her when he had the chance. He’d gotten Fowler—he’d get her. Next time.
Chris made room on the night stand and set the picture in its rightful place. Now this room held something he valued. It didn’t make the room more important—he could still leave it without a care, but the simple gift reminded him that it wouldn’t be as easy to leave this town or the people he now called friends. They’d come to mean a lot to him. He thought about his dead family—they were never coming back, but there were other people—friends, who’d started to fill that empty void.
Larabee left his room early—he had business to discuss with Wilmington and found him lounging out front of the jail. “Morning.”
“Chris,” Buck answered, lowering his legs from the railing. He knows. Buck could see it in his eyes.
Chris folded his arms, waiting for Buck to admit leaving the portrait, but he remained silent. Guess he was going to have to draw it out. “Ain’t my birthday.”
Buck sat the stool back on two legs and grinned. “I know.”
“Ya don’t owe me nothing.” Buck had always felt responsible for Chris staying that extra night—it was time for him to let go of that guilt.
Buck’s mouth twitched while he tried to hold onto that smile—it became forced and an effort to maintain. Why did Chris assume he’d given the gift as penance? He loved Sarah and Adam, too—they were his family. He’d hoped Chris would like the picture—hoped it would be accepted in the spirit that it had been given. There were no strings attached—there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his friend. “I know.” It had taken him a long time to accept this, but it was finally sinking in. It wasn’t his fault. There was nothing he could have done differently. He wondered when Chris would realize this.
Chris watched an old wagon roll down the road and pull up outside the livery. He waited, expecting Buck to say something else, but nothing further was added. Instead, the easy grin he’d been wearing became a tight mask and there was a hint of sadness that now filled his eyes. It hadn’t been Chris’ intention to allocate blame—Buck was not responsible. He’d shown what a true friend could be and Chris was more than grateful. He wished it was easier to show how much, but he’d been certain Buck had understood. “I know you left it.”
“Is that so?”
“Buck,” he growled.
Wilmington shrugged, regretting his decision to have the portrait drawn—it brought up too many old wounds that still needed healing. But he needed Chris to understand his motives. “You said you couldn’t see her face anymore or hear Adam calling you pa…I thought this might help ya some.” Buck had been completely blown away by the room Ella had set up as a shrine to Chris—the newspaper articles, the burnt photos, Sarah’s locket—the woman was obsessed. The idea had come to him when he came across the photo of Chris, Sarah and Adam. He’d taken it to Eagle Bend and had Chen Wu sketch the portrait. Buck had helped with the details of Adam and been pleased with the result. It was a simple gift for his oldest friend. He wanted nothing in return—except for Chris to show some signs of healing.
“Thought you reckoned it was better that I forgot.”
He’d told Chris that when Hank had come to town, but old man Connolly had been killed too. A man shouldn’t forget his family. “If you got to remember…it’s best to see them…how they were.” Remember the good times, not the bad.
Chris nodded appreciatively, his eyes showing how much the gift meant to him. “You eaten?”
“Nope.” He’d worried most of the night over Chris’ reaction—he’d half expected Chris to come gunning for him during the night…he’d still expected some violence this morning. The tension drained from him…Chris liked the sketch. That was all that mattered…he’d done something to please his oldest friend.
“I’m buyin’,” Larabee offered. Not waiting for Wilmington, he headed toward the restaurant. When Buck caught up and matched his stride, he added, “Thanks, Buck.”
Please let me know if you enjoyed it.