Rating: PG-13 Bad language, Violence
Warning: This story has really bad language in it.
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes. Open Range is owned by Touchstone Pictures and Tig Productions.
Author's Notes: This story was totally inspired by the movie Open Range. I thought the characters in the movie were wonderful, especially Charley Waite, played by Kevin Costner. I wanted to try and make up a bit of a past for Vin (I hope I didn't blow it).
Thanks to Phyllis for the beta and great suggestions.
Feedback is always greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Ruby :)
A New Light
"Aggh. That's... gross," JD's high voice cracked.
Vin scoffed under his breath as he squatted down next to the body. Reaching out, he moved some of the blood-matted hair away to reveal the head wound. He moved the head slightly, oblivious to the blood and gore that coated his hands, to examine the face, or what was left of it.
He heard a low groan from the young man standing behind him and he glanced around to see JD, his face pale, shifting nervously from foot to foot before reaching out and grabbing onto the closest tree.
"Wha-what happened to 'im, Vin?" the young man asked, his voice weak.
Vin returned his gaze to the body. After a few seconds, he glanced back at his friend. "Looks like he was shot twice in the back of the head."
JD reached up and rubbed the back of his own head. "Ouch."
Vin's look turned grim. "No 'ouch' about it, kid. Probably didn't feel a thing." He watched as a sweat broke out on Dunne's green-tinged face. He turned back to examine the wound with a critical eye. "Executed, most likely."
"Executed?" JD's voice squeaked.
Vin shrugged. "Well, not for sure." He peered intently at the wound. "Shot twice in the back of the head?" He shrugged nonchalantly as he looked back at Dunne. "Sure looks like an execution to me," he said matter-of-factly.
"Twice?" JD gulped hard. He waved his hand at the body as he rested more of his swaying weight against the tree. "Wouldn't 'once' do it?" he asked, his voice cracking as he tried to sound lighthearted, but not pulling it off.
Vin cocked his head as he watched his friend, concerned at the younger man's color. JD gave him a brave-looking fake smile and Vin shook his head. He sniffed before considering the question, and then shrugged. "Guess whoever did it wanted to make sure." He tilted his head, his look approving.
JD's eyes widened as he stared at him, a comprehending light in his eyes.
"You okay, JD?" Vin asked tiredly, knowing the answer. Dunne was now looking anywhere but at the body, or him.
"Sure," the younger man said as he waved nonchalantly. "Fine." He glanced at Vin, down at the body and then immediately up at the sky. His skin turned an interesting shade of green-gray and he put a hand over his mouth and said, his voice muffled, "Think I'll... go..." he swallowed hard, his skin shiny, "check... on the..." Then he turned and bolted into the forest.
Vin turned away as he heard the young man vomiting. He shook his head. Kid tried to act so tough, so much older than his years. Hell, Vin scoffed. JD was a hell of a lot younger than he let on - and Vin knew all about that. He sighed sadly. He'd been as young as Dunne once, not too long ago. He shook his head. But it seemed more like a million years and a hundred lifetimes ago.
The hair on the back of Vin's neck stood on end and he scrunched his shoulders. He could feel JD's stare. The two were on their way back to town, the dead body wrapped tightly in a blanket and tied behind Vin's saddle. The close proximity of the corpse didn't bother Vin, but the kid's look, so full of admiration one second and then confused disgust the next, did.
JD rode behind him. Distancing himself from the smelly body, and from Tanner, it seemed.
Vin knew what the kid was thinking, could tell by the look on his face, that odd light in his eyes.
'You're a killer, Vin.' The tracker could almost hear the kid's mind screaming that at him.
Vin sighed. He wouldn't deny it. Couldn't' deny it. He *was* a killer. He'd killed for money and to stay alive. He'd lost track of the bodies he'd left in his wake. Too many to try and remember, especially when he fought so hard to forget. He'd been young when he'd killed his first man. It wasn't in cold blood, but it hadn't seemed to matter much back then. He'd killed in self defense and in defense of his family - the Indians who'd taken him in, cared for him, taught him how to survive, loved him like their own. He'd killed to protect them, and then to avenge them.
He'd been young. So young. And then he'd been on his own.
It didn't take long to find that no one had any use for a crazy-looking white boy dressed in Indian's clothing. He hadn't acted white and, even though his skin was deeply tanned, his light brown, sunbleached hair, and blue eyes gave him away. He'd ride brazenly into a town, his attire and attitude screaming 'Indian' and the townsfolk would have nothing to do with him. How young had he been back then? he wondered. Eleven? Twelve? Jesus, he sighed. Too damn young to be alone in the world.
He hadn't been able to get a job. Not a real one, or, more accurately, as Ezra would say, a respectable one. But he could track. Even at twelve, he put grown men to shame. And so he sold those skills. And others. His aim with a long rifle, among them. He could shoot - and he could kill. There was need for that in the West. Even from a wild-looking blue-eyed Indian boy. And he survived. Grew. Even while his soul seemed to die inside. Then the War came and they put him to use. His reputation grew until there were whispered legends of the blue eyed young man with death in his heart and blood on his hands.
After the War, Vin went west again. Tracked bounties for money. Made a decent living at it, until that fateful day that Eli Joe set him up. Bastard, Vin thought as he spit on the ground. He sniffed, coming back to himself, glancing back at JD, who quickly looked away. Vin turned his gaze forward, noticing that the town was finally in sight.
He shifted in his saddle as he felt JD's eyes on him again. This was going to stop, he thought, as he narrowed his eyes, his lip turning up in a sneer. He stopped his horse, hearing the yelp from the young man behind him. He turned and watched as JD quickly pulled his horse away from Peso. The little bay must have come too close to Vin's black as it had suddenly stopped.
"Warn a man, next time, Vin," JD said as he rubbed his prancing horse's neck to soothe it.
Vin turned his horse, cornering JD, circling around him.
JD's eyes widened as he pulled his horse away and backed up into a tree, caught. "Vin?" he gulped. "Wha-?"
Vin leaned forward, Peso blocking JD's little horse up against the tree. "You got something you need to say to me?" he hissed, his eyes dark.
"What?" JD's voice rose as he leaned back in his saddle, away from Tanner. "Vin, what's wrong with you?"
"You been giving me the eye since we started home, and I'm fucking tired of it. If you think you need to say something to me, you need to go ahead and spit it out. I'm tired of you staring at me like I'm shit on the bottom of your boot."
JD pursed his lips, his face turning white. He gulped and then cleared his throat loudly. "Nothin's wrong, Vin. I swear." He shifted nervously as Peso moved closer. "I was just... thinking... wondering... about," he motioned with his head, "back there." He swallowed hard. "'Bout what you said about 'makin' sure'." He licked dry lips. "I was just wondering why you said it like that. Like it was the right thing to do."
Vin's eyes narrowed. "Is the right thing to do, sometimes, JD," he said, his voice hoarse, deep.
JD shook his head. "No, Vin. Shooting someone like that, killing 'em like that, it ain't right." His voice pleaded, "You can't have done that. You can't have."
Vin backed away suddenly, like he'd been slapped. "You think?" he asked, his voice gravelly. "You really think I can't ever 've done that?" he glared. "What the hell you think I did 'fore I came here, kid? I hunted bounties. You think I never took someone in dead?"
JD's eyebrows rose as his eyes rounded. "No, Vin. You wouldn't kill no one you didn't have to."
Vin snorted loudly, a disgusted sound. He sneered at Dunne. "You keep thinking that, kid. You just keep looking at me like that. You keep that idea you got in your head that only some low-down bastard would kill som'n 'fore they had the chance to do the same."
Vin's right eye twitched as he leaned forward and hissed, "You keep thinking there ain't no time that it's right to take someone out to save your own hide. You keep reading them dime novels of yours - that cut and dried 'good guys and bad guys' crap. You keep listening to Larabee's don't-shoot-no-one-in-the-back fairy tale bullshit. You keep thinking that black and white, no gray area, shit of yours." He took in a quick, sharp breath before letting it out in a long, hard sigh. "You keep doing that, kid." He reined Peso away, glancing back with a razor-eyed look. "And you'll be dead 'fore you're twenty." He rode away, leaving a shattered looking Dunne in his wake.
"Fucking naive little son of a bitch," Vin ranted under his breath as he strode into the saloon and up to the bar. "God damned little fucking shit." He slapped his hand on the bar. "Whiskey," he hissed at the barkeep.
"Problems, Vin?" Chris Larabee stepped up beside him, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
Vin glared at him. "Don't even be talkin' to me, Larabee. You're as much to blame as anything else."
"What the hells gotten into your craw?" Chris asked.
Vin tossed his shot of whiskey back, wincing at the burn. "God damned JD. Looking at me like I'd never do nothing that didn't fit into his perfect view of the world." He poured another shot.
"Oh," Chris smiled sadly as he looked at the bar. "Fell off the white horse, did you?"
Turning his head sharply, Vin narrowed his eyes at him. "What the hell would you know about it, Larabee?"
Chris shrugged. "Just that it happens." He glanced down, his look haunted as he ran his thumb over a knife mark on the bar. He looked over at Vin.
Vin cocked his head at him, the anger leaving his face. "Kid's gonna get hisself killed some day." He sighed tiredly.
Chris shook his head sadly. "Hope not. But if it happens, won't be our fault." He swallowed hard.
Vin looked at him incredulously. "You think not?" he asked, his voice rising. "Jesus Christ, Larabee, that boy thinks we walk on water. Listens to everything we tell him like it's the fucking gospel. You think it ain't gonna be our fault when he takes a bullet to the god damned head while he's acting the hero?"
Chris winced. "It's Buck's job. Buck took on the role of big-brother," he shrugged, "not the rest of us."
Vin scoffed at him. "You keep thinking that, Chris. Hope it helps you sleep at night when the kid's blood's soaked into the street and he's buried up on the hill." He looked away, pouring another shot and tipping it back.
"Why are you suddenly Dunne's keeper?" Chris hissed.
"I'm not, dammit. We've known 'im less than a month. But if he's going to be riding with us, be one of us, then we're responsible for him, whether we like it or not."
Chris shook his head adamantly. "Dammit, Vin," he spoke through clenched teeth, leaning towards him. His voice cracked, "I already lost two people who were counting on me to keep them safe." He glanced away, the look on his face hardening. "I'm not putting myself up for that again."
Vin blinked twice as he watched Chris. After a moment, he cocked his head in thought. "You keep thinking that, Larabee," he said, only this time his voice was lighter. The corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk as Chris looked over at him. "Whatever helps you sleep at night."
Chris glared at him. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
Grinning, Tanner looked away. "Nothing." He smiled. "Just that the kid's gotten under your skin just as much as the rest of us."
Larabee scoffed loudly.
Both men turned as the bat wing doors slapped open and then closed.
JD stood there, breathing hard, his face pale as he looked from Vin to Chris and then back, his eyes wary. He gulped loudly and then raised his chin as he stepped forward.
Chris and Vin watched at he walked up to the bar to stand on the other side of Tanner.
JD rested his elbows on the bar and then looked at Vin.
Tanner kept his eyes straight ahead and Chris looked down at the bar.
"I'm-" JD cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, Vin," he said, his dark eyes bright as he looked at Tanner.
Vin and Chris both looked over at him and JD squeaked softly.
Chris smiled at him, shaking his head. He patted Vin on the back. "I've got to get some things done." He grinned at Tanner's look. He nodded once at JD and then turned and walked away.
Vin watched him go and then glanced over at Dunne.
JD stared at him, his eyes bright. He blinked a few times and then looked down. "I really am sorry, Vin," he said, his voice tight. "I..." he shrugged, glancing up and then back down, "don't really know what to say."
Vin sighed as he pursed his lips. He nodded and then tsked softly. "JD," he got the younger man's attention. "How 'bout I buy you a beer?" He cocked his head to the corner table.
"A-ah," JD stuttered as he glanced at the dark corner and then back at Vin. "Y-yeah. Sure."
Vin smiled at him. "I'm not gonna take you over there and murder you, kid."
JD laughed loudly even as he seemed to wilt in relief. "I know that, Vin." He chuckled.
Grinning, Vin pushed him in that direction. "I've got a story to tell you."
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