Myristica's Page

"A Face To The Reason" Parts 17-19 (Slash C/V and B/E)
What others are saying about Myristica's work...
"The Harp & Sword Chronicles"
"The Devil And Davy Jones" Monkees Slash Mike/Davy Part I By Myristica
"The Devil And Davy Jones" Monkees Slash Mike/Davy Part 2 (Conclusion) By Myristica
Magnificent Seven Fiction (Chris/Vin)
"Poet's Heart" (Gen)
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 1
"To Soar Above The Coulds" (Gen) Part 2
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 3
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Part 4
"To Soar Above The Clouds" (Gen) Conclusion
"A Face To The Reason" Prologue (Slash - Chris/Vin, Buck/Ezra)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 1-2 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 3-4 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 5-6 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 7-8 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 9-11 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 12-13 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 14-16 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 17-19 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Parts 20-22 (Slash C/V and B/E)
"A Face To The Reason" Epilogue (Slash C/V and B/E)

Enter subhead content here


”A Face To The Reason”

By: Myristica


Part 17

(Author’s note: My apologies to Star Trek TOS fans with the last line of part 17, but I couldn’t resist. It just sounded so ‘Buck’.)

Vin was sleeping peacefully in Chris’ bed, going through the final stages of withdrawal. Chris laid beside him on his back, an arm over his eyes, snoring softly.

Nathan quietly entered the room and paid no mind to the fact that both were lying next to each other. Chris looked like hell, but it was going on morning, and it was time for the shift change. He brought the cup of coffee over and gently nudged Chris awake.

Chris slowly roused from his sleep. “What?”

“Shh,” Nathan gestured to Vin. “Thought you might need to get some air,” he whispered. “Brought you some coffee.”

Chris noticed the bandage on Nathan’s head was bloodied and in need of changing. “I can help you with that,” he offered.

“No need. I’ll change it when I’m ready to sleep. Cut’s not that deep and it’s already starting to heal.”

Chris rubbed his eyes and turned to look over at Vin who hadn’t stirred. “The worst is over then?”

“The hard part, yes. Now we just got to get him on his feet again.”

Chris smirked. “Knowing Vin it won’t take him long to do that.”

Nathan just looked at him as he accepted the mug of coffee and took a sip. “What is it, Nate? You’ve got a look in your eye that tells me I should be on the look out for something sneaking up in the shadows.”

“It’s just that…you know how Soldier’s Sickness affects the body, Chris, but have you seen it affect the mind?”

Chris nodded. “I know what you’re saying, Nathan. I’m not going to pretend there’s not going to be problems now. But no matter what Vin goes through as a result of this, I won’t let him go through it alone. I’ll watch over him.”

“But you know he won’t be the same,” Nathan queried with an uncertain look in his eyes.

Chris nodded again. “I know that as well. But out there, by the wagon, the Vin I once knew shone through, Nate. He’s still in there, still sleeping maybe, but he’s still in there. And I know Vin’s spirit better than anyone, even himself. He’ll fight to keep this from defeating him.”

Nathan sighed. “I hope you’re right, Chris. I truly do. For both your sakes.”

Chris carefully flung his legs over the side of the bed and ran a hand through his disheveled hair. “I could use a nice hot bath,” he muttered as he took another sip of coffee.

“Got the washtub ready for ya’ in the kitchen. Change of clothes on the chair.”

Chris slumped with relief. “God, Nathan, you’re a saint.”

“Naw, just a friend who knows what’s needed. Go on before that bath water loses its steam.”

Chris stood and stretched. He stopped at the door and turned to Vin one more time. “For a while there I didn’t think he would make it.”

Nathan nodded grimly. “He wouldn’t have, Chris. You got through to him. I never saw anyone fight so hard to reach someone before. It was an amazing thing you showed.”

Chris shook his head. “It wasn’t, Nathan. My soul’s been lost twice already.” He stared at Vin’s scarred back and sorrow filled his eyes. “I’ll be damned if I lose it again.”

He turned and headed out, leaving Nathan to ponder the validity of the words, ‘lost soul’ and ‘damned’.

Words Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner were now able to share the meaning of beyond the memories of these last seven months.

It would not be an epitaph he would want for either men and he hoped something could happen to give them hope again.

Finding out the reason for it all would be a damn good place to start.


MacAfee rode up to the jailhouse and dismounted. JD stepped out to greet him. “Mister MacAfee, awful early to be riding out here, isn’t it?”

“I have news, JD. Where are the others?”

“Most likely sleeping.”

“I need you to get them for me. Tell them it’s urgent.”

JD nodded and hurried off down the street towards the saloon and hotel.


Ezra sat calm and collected at the table with the others as MacAfee went into his story. “I’m not sure if any of this can help you fellas, but I know when the next shipment of opium is due to arrive for my men.”

“When?” Buck asked.

Ezra had taken out a deck of cards and busied himself working his tricks as a means to focus. He’d cut the cards, rotate them, and place the deck together again, all with one hand.

Buck watched him in amazement. The man was deftly talented with those damn things.

“It’ll be Thursday,” MacAfee informed. “Around three in the afternoon. Outskirts of the railroad line near Dead Oak road. The guy I spoke to, he mentioned a guy named Garrison Jones who sends two men out with the shipment. These two men deliver, pick up the money and head back to Jones’ place.”

“Jones, Jones,” JD pondered.

“Mean something to you, Mister Dunne?” Ezra asked.

“Give me a minute, Ezra, I’ll be right back.” JD hurried out of the saloon and Buck and Ezra exchanged smiles. “Kid’s onto something,” Buck explained.

“Indeed. I venture his studying the claims around these parts will now prove fortuitous.” Ezra tipped his hat to Josiah, “A most excellent idea for Mister Dunne’s talents, Mister Sanchez.”

Josiah shrugged. “It only made sense when you hit on the fact that Vin had been returned within an hour of Chris’ return.”

“But that doesn’t change the fact that the name is not ‘Douglas’,” Buck suggested.

“Douglas can also be a first name, Mister Wilmington. A small but subtle fact all of us failed to consider.”

“Douglas Jones?”

“Name sound familiar?” Ezra asked.

Buck thought hard for a moment then threw up his hands. “I’m still at a loss. Can’t place the name Garrison Jones, either.”

Ezra’s face went blank, and his hand froze the deck of cards in mid-cut. “Dear God,” he muttered.

“What, what is it?” Josiah asked.

“Do you remember when Vin was first attacked by Calder, how he was dragged through the streets that day? And how Mister Larabee wanted me to look through Mary’s files on his exploits as a gunslinger?”

“The name ring a bell, Ezra?”

“Indeed it may, Mister Wilmington. Mister Sanchez, if you would be so kind as to go over Mister Dunne’s information, I would like to check those files once again. Mary gave them to me before she left back east, in case I could possibly do something with them.” Ezra put the deck of cards back in his pocket and stood.

Buck stood with him. “I’ll help ya’ there, Ez.”

“Much obliged, Mister Wilmington.”

Before MacAfee or Josiah knew it, both men had stormed past them to the swinging doors. They barely missed JD who was returning with a rolled up map in his hands. “Buck, what are…”

“Show Josiah what you may have, JD. Ezra’s onto something as well. We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

JD shrugged and went back into the saloon. He unrolled the map on the table and pointed to a spot, not four miles from town. “I remember this guy named G. Jones staked a claim here only a year and a half ago.”

“A year and a half?” Josiah asked, checking the route. “That’s the large house on that property near the canyon.”

“Exactly. And from what Chris said, they were heading that direction when they took Vin from his place.”

“When we checked it out, it was deserted, though.”

MacAfee looked over the area. “Not deserted if I remember this house right. My former employer would have been working the railroad during the time this man bought the property. If I remember the layout of the interior of the house correctly, we had been invited to go over investment options with the railroad with this Jones you’re talking about. I had a chance to look into his house. He has a very deep cellar.”

Josiah’s lips tightened into a deeply set frown. “By God, JD. They had Vin there all this time.”

JD swallowed. “And we…didn’t know it.”

Josiah quickly found his legs could not hold him anymore, and he fell into the chair Ezra had vacated. “Oh, God. This is going to send Chris into the arms of guilt more than anything ever could.”

“But...none of us could have known, Josiah.”

“We checked this damn place three times, JD!” Josiah almost shouted, his anger directed at the terrible knowledge just now revealed to them. “I’m sorry, JD. I don’t mean to yell at you. I just...”

“From what you told me, Josiah,” MacAfee said. “It sounds to me like this was all part of Jones’ plan to get back at Larabee. Wouldn’t that just be the finishing touch? To know that Vin had been nearby all this time with no one ever knowing?”

Josiah rose up and took the chair he had been sitting on. In a flash of anger, he crashed the chair into a table behind him, splintering it under the impact.

The yell of rage he let loose forced JD into action. He ran up and grabbed Josiah’s arm before he could do any further damage. “Josiah, don’t!” he pled. “Don’t let loose now. We have to have all that aggression stored for when we go after this bastard,” he reasoned.

Josiah quickly pulled JD into his arms and held him tight. He could not stop the broken sobs that poured out of him. “JD, JD, JD, my God, Son. Hold onto that reasoning mind of yours, because I think I’m losing mine.”


In Ezra’s hotel room, he and Buck worked together to pull the records out of the boxes Mary had given them. They poured over all the newspaper clippings that dealt with Chris Larabee from the time he lost his family to how he became known as “The Man In Black”. Chris Larabee, the gunfighter, seeking a means to end his life in many a drawing match.

Buck shook his head as he sat on Ezra’s bed, a leg tucked up under him. He laid some of the clippings around him. “I never knew Chris was so famous, Ez.”

“Unfortunately, his fame is not necessarily the kind most would aspire to,” Ezra replied from the desk by his window. He continued to leaf through the documents and reports that Mary’s deceased husband had begun in order to write his own story of The Man In Black.

Buck watched Ezra carefully as the gambler took more than three clippings at a time and perused the words to find the clues he was searching for. Ezra was like a hound on a trail, unable to move off the scent, unwilling to let the prize slip out of his reach.

“I know the story is here. I remember that name, Garrison Jones, from somewhere in these articles.”

Buck removed himself from the bed and went to stand beside him. He started to thumb through other articles and journal entries, hoping he could find some hint at the clue Ezra was searching for.

The sun was not yet completely up and so they were using the lanterns in Ezra’s hotel room as a means to read by.

Buck moved two lamps closer to them in order to increase the lighting.

He leaned over Ezra’s shoulder and couldn’t help brushing up against the gambler’s arm.

Ezra glanced up at him. “Sir, I realize the lighting in here is not incredibly conducive for two people, but…”

“Ezra, I’m just trying to help is all. Hand me some more of those clippings.” Buck reached around Ezra and found himself looking directly into Ezra’s eyes.

Ezra could see the scoundrel’s smile and swallowed. “Sir, is there a problem?”

“Not sure, Ez. Was hoping you could tell me. You seem awful breathless suddenly.” He quickly leaned in and pulled Ezra into a mouth-numbing kiss, searching to steal the gambler’s breath away.

When Ezra pulled away he cleared his throat. “I, uh, I seem to have, uh, lost my…”

Buck nodded, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Lost your train of thought?”

Ezra slid his eyes up to him and nodded.

“I have that way with…um…with how I kiss,” Buck replied.

Ezra arched a brow and gave him a knowing look. “Such conceit must draw your lovers in by the wagon load.”

“It’s not conceit. It’s confidence. Something my Ma taught me when I was just a kid. She never lacked for customers because she knew how to play...” he smiled at Ezra, “her cards right.”

He pulled Ezra against him and planted another kiss on those tempting lips. His tongue pushed against Ezra’s teeth until the gambler opened his mouth to allow him entrance. And when their tongues met in primal need, swirling around each other, Ezra moaned and wrapped his arms around the scoundrel with desire. “My God,” he whispered. “It’s been sometime since we did this in the alley. I had almost forgotten that know how to kiss, Buck.”

Buck gazed into his eyes. Unable to look away, unwilling to look away. “Ezra, by God, you aren’t bad on the kissing yourself. I think I’ve grown a bit...” he cleared his throat.

Ezra eased a hand down between them and brushed against the hardness that had formed within Buck’s breeches. “I’ll, uh, I’m not certain, sir, what you expect me to do about this problem. For as you can see,” he took Buck’s hand and guided it to his own hardening bulge. “It seems I’m in the same predicament.”

Buck let out a chuckle. “I guess we both asked for it, didn’t we?”

“I fear it’s the primal nature within the males of our species. Sex is something we simply cannot do without, and when the opportunity arises,” he checked himself, “so-to-speak, we simply give way to wanton abandon.”

“Damn, Ez, you talk too much.” Buck shut him up with another kiss and this time, he explored Ezra’s mouth and let Ezra explore his to their heart’s content.

When they were done, as much as they could be done, they looked at each other. “I’m not certain we should try to pursue this at this time, Buck. We do have a task to perform and, I, uh, feel that perhaps later would be a good time to...?”

Buck pulled away, suddenly coming back to himself. “Uh, sure, Ezra. We have some work to do. Can’t ignore what we came up here to find.”

”Indeed, as much as the thought of dealing with both our problems appeals to me, we can’t let Mister Larabee or Mister Tanner down with our selfish desires.”

Buck watched with delight as Ezra straightened his neck tie and coat and resumed the perusal of the newspaper articles.

He leaned closer to Ezra and brushed his fingers over the side of the gambler’s face. “When this is all over, you and I have got to take care of these...problems.”

To which Ezra nervously cleared his throat. “Yes, well, we best get back to searching through these articles.”

Buck smiled and grabbed a pile of clippings, laying them out next to Ezra’s.

But before he could actually start reading any, Ezra lifted a clipping and held it under one of the lanterns. “This is it!” he exclaimed. “My God, Buck, this is the one!”

“What is it? What?”

“We must hurry and get out to Mister Larabee’s right away. But first we must inform Mister Sanchez about this, and I’m anxious to find out what Mister Dunne has discovered.”

Before Buck could say anything, Ezra was out of the room, shouting over his shoulder. “Douse the lights if you would be so kind, Mister Wilmington.”

Buck slouched. “Back to ‘Mister Wilmington’ again,” he muttered. “Oh, well,” he said as he blew out one lamp, then the other. “I suppose it’s better than ‘hey, you’.”




Part 18

The sun was creeping up into mid-morning, when the rest of the seven, along with MacAfee, rode up to Chris’ shack.

Buck was riding his horse, while leading the chestnut horse Chris had traded his black for in order to return to town. He dismounted and tied both horses to the hitching rail outside the shack.

Nathan came out, wiping his hands on a towel, clearly he had been busy either cleaning or cooking. Cooking from the looks of the stains on the towel being used as an apron. “Buck, what is this? You know Chris only wanted one of you to check on us.”

Buck stepped up onto the porch. “We’ve got news, Nathan. Where is he?”

“Here,” Chris said, as he came out, dressed in a freshly cleaned black shirt and pants. He also looked to have recently bathed and shaved. He was holding a steaming mug of coffee in his hands. He looked as though he was ready to face the day, any normal day, but the dark circles under the eyes were testament to how he was feeling on a physical level. “What news?” he said, as he sipped some of the coffee.

He was bone weary and Buck wanted to get this over with so that Chris could have the necessary time to process all that was about to fall into his lap. He gestured to Ezra and JD who had dismounted and approached the porch. “Well, it’s really these two who did most of the research. Them and MacAfee.”

Chris tilted his head to the extra rider who dismounted and walked up to him, shaking his hand. “Mister Larabee. Sorry to hear about Tanner. I wanted to help when Josiah told me what happened.”

“MacAfee. Tanner will be glad to know he has such a good friend. But what can you possibly tell us?”

“A lot,” JD replied as he carried the rolled up map to Chris and unfolded it for him. Chris studied the area where a circle had been drawn.

Ezra planted a foot onto the porch step and waited for JD to give his information.

JD and MacAfee informed Chris of the house that Vin may have been held at, and why they thought it fit in with the pattern of the attackers…mainly to give Chris an added wound to the soul, once finding out that Vin had been under their noses all this time.

Chris took the map, studying it hard. His hand began to shake, causing some coffee to spill over onto the porch.

Buck hurried to Chris’ side and wrapped a steadying arm around his shoulders. “Easy, Pard. Take it slow.”

“Are you sure?” Chris pushed out the words, his voice hoarse with pent up anger.

JD nodded sadly. “I’m sorry, Chris, but everything fits, especially when you add in what Ezra found.”

Chris turned to the gambler. “Tell me,” he said, gripping the map with such fierce anger it was as though he wanted to strangle it.

Ezra held out the newspaper clipping. Chris hesitantly reached for it.

“It merely states, sir, that the man who we believe owns the property circled on the map may be Garrison Jones. And according to this article, close to four years ago, now…you killed his son in a shootout at a saloon. The reason I never made the connection in going over the articles before Mister Tanner was abducted, is because the name of the son was withheld in the article. All I saw was the name of the father.”

Chris handed the mug of coffee to Buck and took the article. He walked off a few paces and read the story of the incident.

“Garrison Jones,” he whispered.

“It happened in
Kansas City
,” Ezra went on, “but the details are somewhat lax. We were hoping your memory could assist in giving us more.”

“Chris,” Buck asked. “Could the son’s name have been

Chris, his back to them all, read the article in silence. Once finished, he slowly turned back to Buck and the others. “I don’t remember. The date of this article places the incident at about three months after my family…” he stopped and swallowed. “Back then I wasn’t interested in remembering much of anything.”

No one said a word to this. They had all been hoping the information would stir up within Chris some memories long forgotten, but it appeared they were still locked up inside of him, and that nothing could be verified.

“I remember so many times being called out in Saloon’s. This article doesn’t give much information, only that I was involved. It doesn’t say why the shootout happened.”

“Still, the name in the article fits the name on the claim to this property,” JD said, gesturing to the map. “As well as the man responsible for bringing opium stock to the Chinese working with the railroad. And Ezra has a plan to find out for certain if this is the guy we’re after.”

Ezra stepped up onto the porch and moved closer to Chris. “Sir, it would be my very great pleasure to assist in putting a face to the reason behind this debacle.”

Chris gazed at the gambler, a mixture of respect and gratefulness in his eyes. “Ezra, work out the details with the others. Only, keep in mind that Vin and I will want to be there, and he’s still too weak to move.”

“We have a few days before we can implement the plan I have in mind, Mister Larabee. I assure you, we won’t move until he’s ready.”

“I’m ready.”

The voice in the doorway took them all by surprise, and they turned to see Vin standing there, dressed in Chris’ discarded clothes. Looking as ill as a man on the verge of starving to death, Vin didn’t look anywhere near ready. But he was on his feet and his face, though drawn and hollow, held a look of determination that gave Chris a spark of hope.

Chris went to his side and took his arm. “Vin,” he whispered.

“I want to go,” Vin whispered.

“In a few days, Pard. They don’t need us, yet. Let’s use this time to get your strength back.”

Vin grabbed onto Chris’ arm to steady himself as a wave of dizziness swam over him. “Chris,” he whispered, and it was more a plea.

“I’m here,” Chris whispered back. “Let’s go inside, all right?”

Vin lowered his head, reluctantly gave a nod and allowed Chris to help him back into the cabin.

Nathan looked over at the others who had watched this scene with both sorrow and pride.

“Contact us when you have a plan set. We’ll do what we can to get Vin ready.”

MacAfee swallowed. “I want to be a part of it,” he said. “That man saved my life once. I owe him.”

“It could get dangerous,” Josiah said.

MacAfee shook his head. “My men may have been involved with this. If so, I want to know who and how.” He went back to his horse and mounted. “I’ve left the railroad in the hands of my partner. You’ve got an extra pair of eyes and hands if you need them.”

Ezra tipped his hat. “We may yet need them, sir.”

“Good. Then it’s settled.”

JD rolled up the map and went back to his horse. “Garrison Jones won’t know what trampled over his miserable heart when we’re done with him.”

Buck and Ezra exchanged subdued glances. “Do you think Mister Tanner will be ready in three days, Buck?”

Buck sighed, and put an arm around Ezra’s neck, giving it a friendly jostle. “You saw him just now, Ez. That look of determined stubbornness was shining through. His body may be battered and even his spirit, but that stubborn streak is probably what kept him alive all this time, and it’ll get him through what’s to come. That and Chris, of course.”

Ezra moved off with him back to their horses. “I do hope you’re right. It would pain me to not have Mister Tanner there with us when we find out the reasons for his current state.”

Buck clapped his shoulder, a gesture of encouragement, and mounted his gray. He turned to Chris’ horse. He knew he shouldn’t leave the horse there, knowing Chris’ instructions. He didn’t want to give Vin an opportunity to escape and seek out more of the drug that had pulled his body and mind into this hell, but he wondered if now would not be the perfect time to push Vin into making the decision himself. He was obviously on his way back, physically. Would Vin be able to come back at least part of the way, mentally?

Chris stood at the door. Buck looked up at him. Chris nodded. “Leave it. I know what to do,” he assured.

Buck tipped his hat to his friend and turned to the others. “Let’s get to work on how we’re going to do this thing.”


Vin sat at the table, stirring the stew around on his plate with his spoon.

Nathan and Chris were busy eating their portions and watching Vin carefully. “Just a few bites, Vin,” Chris said, “or at least the gravy and broth. Get something in your stomach. You’ll feel better.”

Vin dropped his spoon and pushed it away. “Not hungry.”

Chris pointed a finger at him. “Mister, you will eat a few spoonfuls, or I’ll have Nathan hold you down and I’ll force the food into your mouth. Now, eat!”

Vin glared at him. He angrily pulled the plate back to him and stuffed a few spoonfuls of gravy into his mouth. Then he pushed the plate away. “Satisfied?” he snarled.

Chris went back to eating, clearly not satisfied, but he wasn’t about to push it. “It’s a start.”

Nathan said nothing as he finished his meal and put the dirty dishes into a bucket of water next to the stove. “I got some clothes to clean this morning. I’ll be outside if you need me.”

Chris nodded appreciation to him as he left and closed the door behind him.

Chris pushed his plate of half eaten food away and watched Vin carefully. Vin was sitting sideways on his chair, fiddling with his fingers, not looking at Chris. There was anger in his movements, possibly more out of frustration than anything.

“Vin, talk to me.”

Vin shook his head stiffly. “Got nothin’ to say.”

“You’re hurting and I want to help.”

Vin got up and walked over to the kitchen window, gazing out at the horse. “Where’s Pony?” he asked.

Chris just sat at the table, sipping his coffee. “Had to trade him for that one, when I decided to come back here. I’ll get him back once this is settled. Don’t worry about him.”
Vin did not reply. He kept looking at the saddled animal. It would be so easy for him to get onto the horse and ride out. He looked down at his bare feet, and for a brief moment, thought about simply taking off with no gun, no boots, no money. He’d been stripped of such things before and had survived. May as well give it another try.

For some reason, however, he had spoken his thoughts out loud, letting Chris know what he was thinking. Perhaps he wanted to see just how far Chris would keep him a prisoner here. “I could just leave…right now.”

Chris crossed his arms over his chest and nodded, plaintively, keeping his eyes on his uneaten portion of food. “Yes. You could.”

“Would you stop me?”

Chris shook his head. “Not unless you wanted me to.”

“You mean you would let me go, just like that?”

Chris turned to him. “Just like that.”


Chris stood and walked over to him. “Because, Tracker. We needed you locked here while you went through the worst of this nightmare. To get you to the place where you could make a choice based on reason, not need. But the locks are opened, the chains released. If you really want to leave,” Chris went to open the door, “then go.”

Vin slowly walked up to the opened door and gazed out. He stood there for a long moment.

Chris reached up to a shelf on the wall just inside the door and pulled down a book. “Don’t forget to take this with you.” He handed Vin his journal.

Vin looked down at the journal and a look of horror flashed over his face. He fell to the floor, and sucked in a powerful breath as though the wind had been knocked out of him.

Chris got to his knees and pulled him into his arms. “What is it, Vin? Please. Tell me.”

Vin reached out and took the journal, holding it against his chest, a treasure lost in time and then unveiled by a quick and forceful pull of a curtain. “Where did you get this?” he choked.

“I found it the day you were taken from me, Tracker. I’ve kept it with me ever since.”

“Oh, God. I thought it was lost to me.” He forced the words out. “Lost.”

Chris lowered his head to Vin’s. “I kept it close. I kept you close.”

Vin fell into the strong but trembling arms that held him as the weight of Chris’ sorrow crashed into him. “You didn’t let me go?”

Chris shut his eyes, forcing the sting of tears back. “I couldn’t.”

Vin rested his head onto Chris’ shoulder. “Oh, God, I don’t know…I don’t know what I’m feeling right now. There’s a darkness eating at me, Chris. Gnawing at me and it’s so…thick.”

Vin’s voice drifted off, as his body eased into the offered shelter and rest. Chris held him close, cradling him. He was so light, that Chris did not find it difficult to lift him into his arms and carry him back to the bed where he laid him down gently amongst the rumpled sheets.

Vin gazed up at him with weary eyes, still holding the journal to his chest. “Don’t let go, Chris,” he quietly said, and reached out to grab Chris’ arm.

Chris sat on the bed beside him and reached up to brush the tangled hair from Vin’s pallid face. “We’ve got some mean roads to walk before this is behind us, Tracker. But I swear I’m not going anywhere. I’m never going to let you go.”

Vin tightened his hold as he closed his eyes.

Chris kept caressing the furrowed brow. “Sleep, Vin. Just sleep. I’m here.”

And I’ll drive that darkness away. Starting with a bullet into Garrison Jones’ head.


Part 19

The boards had been removed from the windows in Chris’ room. The cool breezes of evening flowed in, and he sat on the chair, allowing the soothing breath of the world to cascade over him.

Nathan was asleep on the cot in the kitchen, snoring peacefully.

In Chris’ bed, Vin slept as well, his body seeking repose from the horrors it had experienced these last seven months.


Though this battle was over, Chris knew the war was far from won. Now the true healing had to begin.

Buck and Ezra, Josiah and JD could take care of Garrison Jones for the moment. Chris had faith their plan would include both he and Vin. Three days was time enough for what Chris needed to do until then.

He would send Nathan home in the morning. No emergencies had arisen in town that required Nathan’s training as a physician, but that didn’t mean none would come up. There was no telling when that new doctor would need Nathan’s help. Vin was over the worst of it, now. Nathan could get some legitimate rest.

And that would leave Vin alone with Chris. To talk, to not talk, to touch or to not touch. Vin would call the shots in the next few days as to where they would go, what they would do regarding what was between them.

Vin clutching the journal to his body was a sign the Vin Tanner that Calder could not touch was still in there, possibly hiding, waiting for a moment he could deem it safe to come out.

Chris would give him that moment.

A moan pulled Chris from his pondering and he moved to Vin’s side in a smooth, wraithlike motion. He knelt by the bed and put his hand to Vin’s brow, caressing the furrowed lines that had knitted together from the threat of an oncoming nightmare.

“No,” Vin murmured in his sleep, flinging his arm out in a half-hearted attempt to push the unwanted visitor away from his dreams.

Chris covered the hand wrapped around the journal and squeezed. “Here, Vin. You’re safe, now. No more darkness. You’re safe.”

Vin quieted, his brow smoothing under the loving touch of a protector he was not aware was nearby.

Chris eased to the floor, to allow himself some comfort, and he leaned against the bed, holding Vin’s hand, caressing his brow, watching for any more signs of unrest.

When he was certain Vin had fallen back into an easy sleep, Chris lowered his head to the bed and, his hand still wrapped around Vin’s, fell into a needed sleep of his own.

“I’m here,” he whispered as he allowed himself to drift off.

Outside the cool breeze continued to wash over them through the open windows, like a gentle mother consoling her troubled children.


When Ezra opened his hotel room door, he was pleasantly surprised to find Buck standing there, hat in hands and a questioning look on his face. “Can we talk?” Buck asked, a hint of a smile lurking under the mustache.

Ezra gestured him in. “By all means. A conversation to go over the plan is what I had in mind. There are still some details I’m not completely secure with…”

When Ezra shut the door, Buck quickly silenced the gambler with a forceful kiss. “I didn’t come here to talk,” he whispered.

Ezra swallowed, his stomach suddenly performing cartwheels. “Mister Wilmington…”

“Buck, Ez. Call me ‘Buck’.”

He gently pushed Ezra against the wall and threw his hat to the side. “Tell me this hasn’t been something you’ve thought about all day.”

Ezra gazed deeply into the taller man’s eyes, saw the sincerity there, the prolonged need, and he found it hard to breathe. “Buck, please, this is not what…”

Buck pushed himself against Ezra, forcing a gasp from the gambler’s throat. “The walls are thin, Buck,” Ezra panted, but could not deny the excitement that welled up inside his groin.

Buck took Ezra’s face into his hands and stilled his trembling form with a spearing look. “Then don’t make any noise,” he instructed.

He pulled Ezra into his arms and searched the gambler’s mouth with his tongue. “I don’t know what it is,” he breathed out between kisses. “But seeing you take charge of this plan like you did,” he maneuvered Ezra around and started pushing him toward the bed. “I’ve been hard all fuckin’ day and I can’t seem to stop thinking about you.”

“I declare,” Ezra moaned, “Patience does not seem to be one of your virtues.”

“Life is short,” Buck replied and fell with Ezra onto the bed, the creaking loud and sharp.

Both stopped moving, listening to see if anyone would come storming up to the door to find out what the hell was going on.

“Did anyone see you come in here?” Ezra whispered.

“No, the hall was clear,” Buck whispered back.

“Oh, well, in that case…” Ezra quickly pulled off Buck’s neck scarf and started in on his shirt buttons.

Buck grinned with delight. “Oh, so youhave been thinking about me.”

“Shut up, stop flattering yourself and make love to me, damn it!”

“Such language, Ezra, from a Southern Gentleman, no less.”

Ezra pushed Buck onto his back and snarled. “It’s called ‘lust’, Mister Wilmington. And if you believe you can come in here and seduce me without some sort of repercussion…” he flung himself onto Buck, grabbing the man’s wrists and pushing them above his head, “then you are sorely mistaken.”

Buck grinned. “I like your definition of ‘repercussion’, Ezra.” He bucked up into Ezra’s hardness and smiled. “Repercuss away.”


Nathan checked the cinch on Chris’ saddle as Chris stood on the porch, holding a mug of coffee. “Seems we’re set to go,” the healer nodded and turned to Chris. “You sure you don’t want me to stay? Vin is still too weak to…”

“I can handle it from here, Nathan. Thanks for the offer, though.” He walked up to the man and held out his arm.

Nathan grabbed onto it and the grip from both was firm and strong. “You’ve been a Godsend, Nathan. I will never be able to repay you for your help with this one.”

“You two saved my life a few years ago, Chris. I think it’s high time I returned the favor.”

“You’ve returned that debt over and over since then, Nate. Still, the thanks I have doesn’t seem near enough…”

“It doesn’t have to be, Chris,” Nathan said, sincerity in his voice and gaze. “I did what I did because it was what I had to do, not just as your friend but as a man. If you need me for anything…”

“Just bring my horse back to us when you boys are ready. I’m going to see Vin through the rest of this storm, and get him to shore.”

“If anyone can, Chris, it’s you.”

They released each other’s arms and Nathan mounted the horse. “The food is getting cold. Best get him up and eating.”

Chris smiled and Nathan gently kicked the animal’s side and clicked his tongue. The horse moved off at a gentle lope, off the property and down the road to town.

When he was out of sight, Chris turned to see Vin standing on the porch, more stable than yesterday, but still far from ready to face the world.

“How are you feeling?” Chris asked, walking up to him.

Vin stared out after Nathan. He said nothing.

Chris gestured to the mug in hands. “Want some coffee?”

“I need the air, Chris.”

“Sit down, then. I’ll bring you a mug.”

Vin went to sit on one of the chairs on the porch. He leaned back and lifted his feet to rest on the porch railing.

In spite of the August weather, a cool morning breeze washed over him. It had been so long since he truly felt and understood the breeze around him, or the sunshine pouring down on his body.

Chris brought out a mug of coffee and handed it to him before perching himself on the railing. The blond studied him carefully.

Vin stared into the brown liquid, taking a sip here and there. “It’s good coffee,” he said.

A few more moments of silence; then Chris said, “Talk if you need to, Vin. I’m not going anywhere.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Whatever you need to say to let go that ache inside you. And I know it’s there. I can see it in your body and eyes.”

Vin traced the rim of the mug, keeping silent for a bit longer. He stared off into the trees surrounding Chris’ shack. “I feel…like I’m not really here. Like there’s something…dead inside of me.”

Chris lowered his head and said nothing. He knew he had to allow time for Vin to get his thoughts together. Vin needed to think. He needed to word things out for himself, to connect with his ability to communicate again. Chris wanted him to find that path of words for himself, or it wouldn’t mean anything.

Chris moved the chair beside Vin around to where they faced each other. He leaned back, giving Vin his space, but his presence also voiced that Vin was not alone.

Vin looked up at him, an emptiness clouding his eyes.

Chris wanted to reach out and wash away that emptiness, to fill it with hope and purpose again, but he knew that Vin had to reach out first. Chris would not give in to the temptation to pull Vin into his arms and comfort him this time. Vin had to come to terms with what happened, and Chris would do what he could when Vin asked him to, not before.

This was Vin’s call. Everything from this moment would be Vin’s call. No matter what that call would be.

“When I was captured, my only thoughts were of you, Chris. The only thing I could hold onto was you, your image in my mind and heart. It was the only thing that got me through the first few days. And then…then, after they started refusing me the drug, getting me to beg for it, the world I knew disappeared. I began to need the drug more than I needed my freedom. As the weeks went on…” Vin stopped, staring out into nothing, his throat working as though trying to regurgitate bile from within and having it stuck there. “You became less and less a part of my thoughts. I lost you completely near the end. You were gone. The Seven were gone, the town was gone. Nothing remained the same to me. All I wanted was that drug.”

His voice wafted off into nothing, and Chris knew that Vin was lost in the memories of that time.

Then Vin continued, his expression locked in the vacant stare of someone reliving another person’s history. Connected, but distant. “Calder…he...he did things to me, Chris. When I was on the drug, he would come in and do things to me.”

Chris fought down the anger that welled up inside of him. He could not let loose any emotion, not right now, not when Vin was so close to telling the complete story.

“I’m sure you saw the lash scars,” Vin prompted.

“Yes,” Chris replied, his voice choking on the word.

Vin looked up at him and saw the tears fringing Chris’ eyes.

“Calder was my problem, Chris. What he did to me had nothing to do with you. It’s from that time past.”

Chris worked his lips, trying to force his anger down, trying to force the hot tears back from where they came, but a few escaped and trailed down his face. He did not bother to wipe them away.

Vin did not bother to comment further on that part of it. He turned his attention back to the trees. “I sit here now and know that you sought for me. I sit here and see the torment in your eyes, Chris. But…my soul is broken and there’s no sense denying it.”

He turned back to Chris. “I don’t know what I need from you right now. I don’t know what you expect me to say or feel…or know.”

Chris turned his eyes away. He set his mug of coffee at his feet and stood. He walked to the porch step and leaned against one of the posts, his hands in his pockets. He stared out over the road leading back to town, wondering if he would ever step foot in that town again. Wondering if Vin ever would, or would want to. “What I need from you, Tracker, is to know that I still love you. Whether you love me is really not something I need to know right now. I’m not stupid. I know what this drug has done to your soul. But, know this and let it sear into your heart as much as it possibly can.” He turned to Vin. “I will go where you go, even if only as a friend and nothing more. This relationship, what we have, what we shared in the past…it’s a treasure to me, Vin. And it always will be. A treasure more valuable than money. So, you may question what you feel for me now and that’s all right. That’s something I truly understand. But, what I feel for you goes beyond the possible. You’ve made me believe in the impossible, Vin. And if I have to wait the rest of my life for you to believe in it, too, then so be it. My love for you is that deep. Even if it no longer exists within you.”

Vin watched as Chris walked back into the shack. “I’ll get our breakfast ready.”

Vin sat there, letting Chris’ words reach a level of his being he thought long since dead.

He slowly stood and followed Chris inside, watching the blond as he prepared their plates of eggs, bacon and bread and butter.

He slowly walked up to Chris as the plates were being put on the table. He took Chris’ hand in the hand that still bore the needle mark scars.

Chris turned to Vin who lifted Chris’ hand and studied it as though it were a marvel. “I remember what we shared, Chris,” he said. “I do, but,” he put a hand to Chris’ face, “the drug killed something inside of me. I need time.”

Chris eased his hands to Vin’s face. “Like I said, Vin, I go where you go. No pressure, no expectations.”

Vin put his hand to Chris’ chest, a question in his eyes, a need to know which step to take. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I want your heart, Vin, I want it back. That’s not going to be something I’ll keep from you. But, until you can give it to me, let this be all there is, and I’ll be happy knowing you’re alive and you’re here.” He eased Vin into his arms, holding him gently. “I lost you and thought you were dead. I’m not one to question my blessings, Vin. I won’t play that way with you or your heart.”

Vin slowly eased his arms around Chris’ waist. “Give me time, Chris.”

“I’ll give you eternity, Vin. Just don’t push me away as a friend.”

Vin tightened his hold and that was the only response Chris needed.


(TBC in Parts 20-22)


Click here to go to parts 20-22

Enter supporting content here