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.
RATING: PG-13 Some language
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Chris & Ezra
CATEGORY: OW Challenge
SUMMARY: Chris has lost something and is frantic to find it.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to my beta's who are wonderful, fabulous people. Mitzi and Beth.
NOTES: This is
my answer to Celesta's
Keepsake Challenge March 2004 :- One of the Seven has a new keepsake,
(such as a keychain or a good luck charm they keep in their pocket.) What
is the keepsake, and the story behind it. At least one of the remaining
Seven needs to know/hear the story. Random Bonus Words (any/all) : Green,
Gold, Rabbit, George, Bagpipes, Scotland, Clover, Heritage.... Okay so I
didn't manage the bonus points for the extra words...aw shucks!
FEEDBACK: Yes, please!
DATE: 28 Mar 04
Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009
Chris Larabee hauled the bed over onto its side, smashing it ruthlessly against the wall. He grimily dragged out the box that had been exposed. There was no lid. Items had been thrown in with little care, but now he riffled through the box with fervent desperation. Searching. Looking. He shuffled the loose contents hoping to unearth his prize, but it was not there. Angrily, he upended the box and the few items tumbled onto the floor. A spur, three bullet casings, a nickel and a dime, an old copy of the Clarion and a flip knife. It wasn’t here! A knot in his chest tightened and his pain etched into a grimace. He had been certain that this, being the last possible hiding place, would have unearthed the item. But he’d been wrong. Again.
“Damn it all to hell!” Chris threw the box hard and it landed with a clatter. Where? Where had it gone? Where had he left it? Why didn’t he remember? How could he have been so careless? He reached for the opened bottle and swallowed - without tasting, the whiskey. It fell, burning a path of retribution down his throat, and slamming into his belly. “Damn, you!” he accused, raising the bottle to his lips once more.
On unsteady legs, Larabee crisscrossed the room, stumbling over the chaos he’d caused. With glazed eyes he searched the confusion, it didn’t matter that he had destroyed his cabin. Without the locket this house meant nothing. It could never be a home…not without his family. It was an empty shell…like his soul. The pain was eating away at his gut and he knew, that in some perverse form of reckoning, that he truly deserved this. “Sarah,” he groaned, kicking at the overturned chair and finding himself landing among the shambles. “Shit!”
“Ella Gaines, you are one hell of a bitch!” Chris rolled to his knees and crawled drunkenly to the cold stove. He pulled himself upright against the stove, then levered it backward and forward. Adrenalin rushed through him. Not to mention the anger, frustration and his hurt. Rocking and twisting, Chris pulled the heavy object until it was free of its foundation. The pipe disconnected and soot whooshed out, clouding the room in a thick blanket of black.
The stove fell over with a clamour, landing on its side and smashing Chris’ last bottle of whiskey underneath, its contents bleeding over the floor. “Hell!” He ran sooty hands through his blond hair and puffed, wheezing almost, to restore his lungs. Black soot invaded his airways and for a while he coughed with no end in sight. Eventually he sank to his knees, fighting his exhaustion, but not wanting to abandon his search. Why wasn’t it here? Sarah’s locket. He wouldn’t even have had that, except for Ella. The Locket was his only tangible reminder of Sarah he had left. He had nothing of Adam.
Chris rubbed his forehead, attempting to ease away the ache, but finding no solace in the action. Ella had ruined his life, taken away everything he held precious in the world and left him in a sea of misery and regret. Anger and revenge. If only he’d known sooner…but there was no going back. Now, the only piece that he could hold onto was gone.
An iron skillet beckoned. And he heeded the call. Clutching the handle in a white-knuckled grip, Chris surged off the floor and swung the pan at the toppled furniture, the windows, the bed and shelving. Anything that wasn’t fixed permanently in place…and then he swung some more. The walls where given a hammering, the door and even the floor when he fell.
What he hadn’t expected, was the cabin door to fly open during his manic destruction. “No!” Larabee screamed and instinctively threw the iron skillet at the intruder, not wanting to be interrupted. Only after he’d thrown the pan did he really take notice of who was standing in the doorway. But Larabee had so much rage and anger inside him, that the skillet had sailed perfecting through the air. Standish took the blow to his head, unable to fend off the weapon successfully. Larabee watched, almost in slow motion, as Ezra fell unconsciously across the entry. “Shit…” His voice trembled, a hushed murmur, a contrast to his mood only seconds before.
“Standish?” Larabee lightly pushed at the gambler’s shoulder. There was no response. What should he do now? Ride for Nathan? Just wait? Or put Standish over a horse and ride them both into town? Chris lifted the damp cloth off the gambler’s head. The bleeding had stopped, but there was a large knot forming. Can’t a person rant and rave in peace without interruptions? “Standish, what the hell are you doing out here?” Not that he’d ever considered Ezra as a person to act so rashly, or for that matter, come barging into his home prepared for trouble. What did Standish think was happening? A battle probably. An attack or confrontation.
Of course, Ezra’s interruption had quickly put an end to Chris’ destruction. After waiting uncertainly for several hours for the gambler to stir, he left the unconscious man on the floor and stepped outside. He needed to clear his head and inside was not the place to do so. He hadn’t heard the gambler arrive, that much was perfectly clear. He noticed for the first time Chaucer standing by the corral, waiting patiently for his master to continue their journey. “Hey, Boy.” Chris gently patted the horse.
The horse was packed, and Chris belatedly recalled that Standish had been planning a few days away from town. Not that he’d asked where the gambler had been going; it was none of his business where any of them went. He unsaddled the horse, set him loose in the corral and wandered back inside. He finally expelled a sigh of relief. “You all right?”
Standish blinked owlishly up at the gunslinger, still confused as to what had occurred. One thing he was certain of, was the pain that pounded against his skull, it was horrendous. He glanced guardedly at the havoc about the room. The confusion reflected in his eyes. “I thought…”
“Yeah…” Chris offered a hand and pulled Ezra to his feet. He expected the gambler to be unsteady and was proved right when Standish overbalanced into him. He righted a chair and pushed Ezra into it. “Sorry.” And he meant it.
“I seem to have interrupted…something.” Standish didn’t expect an explanation and he didn’t ask.
Chris crouched by the chair, and studied his cabin, seeing it as Ezra would be seeing it. It was one hell of a mess. “Was looking for somethin’.” His voice hitched a little, wondering once more where Sarah’s Locket has disappeared to.
“Please, don’t let me stop you.” Standish surged to his feet, determined to leave while the gunslinger was under some semblance of control. He couldn’t foresee how long the peace would last. He didn’t make it two steps.
“Reckon ya ought ta sit back down.” Chris guided Standish to the seat. Chris was uncertain what else he should be doing. The cut on the Southerner’s head wasn’t deep, but there was already bruising showing and a fair sized lump had grown.
“Perhaps,” Ezra agreed grudgingly.
Larabee looked out the open doorway and back at Standish. “Wasn’t sure how long ya were going to be out for…I unsaddled Chaucer.”
“Thank you…how long was I… out?”
“Goin’ on three hours…Thought I was going to have ta get Nathan…” Chris glanced outside and grimaced, “probably still should.”
“I’m fine…no worse than having a hangover. Perhaps I could encroach upon you to saddle Chaucer and then I will take my leave.”
Larabee was about to break one of his rules, but he proceeded anyway. “Where ya headed?”
“Poker tournament in Ridge City…it’s only a day or so ride.”
“Ya probably shouldn’t be goin’ off on yer own after…what happened.”
Standish sighed. “I shall be fine.”
“It’s gettin’ late; you should stay the night and head out in the morning.” Larabee saw the gambler’s reluctance to stay. “It ain’t open for discussion…yer staying.”
Ezra rested on the narrow bed, wincing at the shock of pain that ripped through his head. He closed his eyes and listened, attempting to place the gunslinger. He didn’t need to try very hard as Larabee’s spurs trilled on the porch. The footfalls stopped at the doorway and he waited for Chris to speak.
Standish nodded and sat on the bed cautiously, holding onto his head. Other than the bed being righted and the table and two chairs removed outside, the room was still in utter chaos. Chris hadn’t made the effort to tidy up while Ezra slept. Although, by the aroma that seeped in from outside, Chris had found the tools and foodstuffs to prepare a meal.
“Can you grab a couple of plates on yer way out?” Chris grinned sheepishly, nodding at the tin plates scattered on the floor.
Chris had prepared the meal over an open fire; there was no alternative after he’d toppled the stove inside. Dinner was a silent affair, with Ezra eating very little.
Standish rolled unceremoniously off the bed. He landed on his knees with a groan, clutching his rebellious stomach. “Aw, hell.” He stumbled noisily out of the cabin and made it around the back before falling to his knees, where he proceeded to lose his dinner. “Damn.”
Chris Larabee smirked, but was glad that it was hidden by the dark. “Give a person a complex, spittin’ out my dinner like that.”
Standish sprawled onto his back and stared up at the stars. “Like throwing a pot at a person,” he returned without humour in his voice. He sighed, relaxing onto the soft grass. “My apologies…that was a juvenile response.”
Chris grunted, dropping to the ground beside the Southerner. “Ya never said why ya stopped by.”
Standish closed his eyes and groaned. He’d forgotten. He patted his jacket and pulled out an envelope. “Ah, this arrived for you…as I was headed this direction I offered to deliver it.” He sighed again. “My apologies for the delay.”
Chris accepted the letter and shrugged. A smirk touched the corners of his mouth. He’d read it later. “Thanks. Come on, I'll help ya back inside.”
Standish folded his arms under his head. “I think I’ll remain out here…”
Larabee tugged at the green sleeve. “I’ll leave you a bucket, then ya won’t need ta do more than roll over in bed.”
Chris settled the gambler back on the bed and found a bucket and put it at the head of the bed. Standish was already asleep by now. Intending on returning to the porch, Chris picked up his long black coat from under a jumble of cooking supplies and coal dust. He stepped outside and shook the coat. A small thud met his ears. He felt around for the pockets, but they were empty. He probed the lining more thoroughly and discovered a hole. He’d missed finding that earlier. Within minutes he had retrieved the locket that had slipped through the hole and ended up at the bottom of the coat inside the hem. “Well I’ll be damned.” A smile flitted over his face all the while he fingered Sarah’s Locket. He flicked it open, inside was his picture. Sarah’s was gone. He curled his fingers around the locket and pressed it to his chest. A small sob of relief choked from his throat.
He walked back inside the cabin and glanced at his friend. Injured because of him. Because of his anger. Because of this locket. “Sorry, Ezra.” He watched the gambler for any signs of hearing him, but Standish lay unmoving, his face lax with steady even breaths. Larabee quietly moved over to the bed and took up a position beside it. “I found it,” he spoke softly, not wanting to wake Ezra from his sleep. “I found Sarah’s Locket. Reckon it was never really lost.” He snorted, shaking his head incredulously. “It fell through a hole in my jacket, got caught in the lining…and I near ripped this place apart looking for it.”
Chris kept his voice low, tentatively holding onto his prize. He’d believed that the locket was gone, that he’d never see it again, but here it was. “Ya know…I bought this thing for Sarah for her twenty-first birthday. When she unwrapped it she wanted me to return it …said we couldn’t afford it…Hell, she was right – we couldn’t. Things were pretty tight, had to save up months to get it, and it still wasn’t enough. I ended up selling one of my horses to the jeweller to make up the difference…ornery old cuss.” Chris nervously lifted his head, reassuring himself that Standish was still asleep. He wanted to tell his story, but wasn’t certain he wanted it heard. “Adam was only a tyke…and I figured she’d want to put his picture in it…but she’d straight out told me she was putting a likeness of her in one side and mine in the other. She said it was her way of always takin’ me with her when I wasn’t around. That way we were always together, close to her heart. I didn’t really mind. She wore it everywhere after I gave it to her.”
Chris’ smile turned into a frown. It pained him more than anything that he hadn’t been there...that he wasn’t in time to save his family. That Sarah didn’t have her locket as she passed from this life to the next. It bothered him that she didn’t, on some level, have that security to fall back on. “Fowler stole her locket…before the fire…and he gave it to Ella. When I found out Ella had it…” He squeezed the locket tight and his face contorted with pain. He sucked in a ragged breath. “Hell…for a long time I didn’t know whether I wanted it back or not. It was like I was being forced ta remember Ella, too, every time I picked it up. God I want her gone…so bad,” he growled. “What that bitch did…to Sarah and Adam…how she can live with herself…I don’t know. There weren’t ever anything real between Ella and me… not like there was with Sarah. She just doesn’t get it.” Chris sighed, pained again that he was wasting time on Ella when the locket was a key to Sarah…and his past.
“Sarah’s likeness is gone…but the locket was something that was special to her. I can’t wear it, but I need to keep it close. Wasn’t thinking straight…thought I’d lost it for good…made me realise that I do want to keep it…bad memories and all. I did think that maybe I should give it back to her…” But that option would leave him with nothing…and Sarah was gone now. It would have been different if he’d had the locket at the time when she was buried. “Reckon I’ve still got it for a reason.”
Chris patted the younger man on the shoulder. “Sleep well, my friend.” He would make sure Standish returned to Four Corners later in the morning and have Nathan check him over. He turned to head outside…the cabin wasn’t a fit place to stay at present. When he returned from town, he’d set about restoring some semblance of order. He needed the hole in his jacket fixed too. He gently closed the door and shaded his eyes against the streak of sunlight that broke over the horizon.
Ezra sighed deeply, and rolled onto his side. His head throbbed, but not too bad. It was early morning, but he figured Larabee might allow him to lie in bed for a while yet. It was unfortunate that he couldn’t reminisce with the gunslinger, but all in good time. Perhaps he’d never be given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the widower, but he felt privileged that Chris spoke so openly to him, even though he was supposed to be asleep. Surely on some level Chris had to know that he was awake. Perhaps not. Ezra knew he couldn’t be the one to bring up the subject or Larabee would know he was awake, but how would he entice Larabee to broach the subject? Perhaps it shouldn’t be him. He’d talk to Buck when he returned to town. A little subtle prodding in the right direction and Chris would spill his guts to Buck. Satisfied, Ezra closed his eyes; there’d be time to consider this later. Much later.
I hope you enjoyed this short story...I'd be thrilled if you could let me know.