Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish and MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes.

AU: ATF - Thanks, Mog! :)

Author's Notes: Thanks to Phyllis for betaing this story for me. I wrote it back in January '02, and it was to be published in the By My Side fanzine. My best wishes to Wendy and Sue.

Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please let me know what you think. Ruby :)

 

Back Together Again

By: Ruby

 

My head aches something fierce. I can feel the blood drippin' down my face. I try to look around, see just where in the hell I am. A shooting pain jolts through the side of my head. Maybe I should just lie real still, I tell myself.

Everything's dark. Either it's night or I'm still out. Was I out? Yeah, from the way I'm feelin', I must've been. Hmmm. Well, something else to ponder on as I sit here in this awkward position. Shit, but my head hurts. And it's cold, too. Way too cold for my likin'. Taking it slow, I try to look around once more, this time without making my head feel like it's in a paper shredder.

My eyes are slowly growin' accustomed to the darkness, and shapes and forms are becomin' more apparent. Glancing over to my left, I can just make out a dark form. It's then that it all comes back.

The wreck. 

The truck rolling. 

The pain when it stopped. 

Truck? I don't own a truck. Oh, shit!

"Chris?" I can hardly hear my own voice, I highly doubt that he's gonna hear it way over there. I can see his hair, lighter than everything else. His head's down, lyin' on the steering wheel. Oh God. Is he dead? Please, don't let him be dead.

"Chris!" Louder this time, but still not loud enough. I need to get over there but I'm wedged into my seat somehow. Must have hit something on my side and it's pushed the truck in towards me. I try to pull myself free, ignoring the pain that rips through me.

He can't be dead. He just can't. It wouldn't be fair. Please, God, don't let him be dead.

Feels like my arm's broke, my leg, too, maybe. We must have hit whatever it is out there pretty hard. With one last hard tug, I get my arm out of the vice grip that held it, my leg comes free too. The pain is overwhelming. Too much. Black spots dance around the edge of my vision. Shit, but that can't be good. I'm so tired. I'm too tired to keep myself sittin' up now, and I fall over. Think I'll just rest here for a moment.

Just a moment. Just a short nap. 

Then I'll see if Chris is alive. 

'Chris!'

The thought sobers me, wakes me right up. My best friend, hell, my brother, could be dead and I'm gonna take a nap? Come on, Vin, you're a Tanner! The pep talk works a little bit, I move a few inches closer to Chris's body.

His body. That sounds so clinical. So coroner-report. 

Damn fool, better be alive or he'll live to regret it. I giggle, a light bubbly sound that, for a second, I can't believe came from me.

- Better be alive or he'll live to regret it. - 

What kind of goofy ass remark is that? Hmmm? Come on, Tanner, hold it together, dammit. This ain't the time to lose it. Gotta get over to Chris, make sure he's okay. Make sure he's not dead.

Dead.

Chris - dead. Why would Chris be dead? I can't remember. My head hurts. Wonder why? Hangover, maybe? Last night was poker night at Buck and the kid's; maybe I drank too much.

- "Want another one, Chris?" -

- "Nope, gotta drive tonight." -

- "Well, what about you, Vin. You want one?" -

- "Nah, I'm good to go. Think Chris and I'll go ahead and head on out to the ranch." -

My voice and Chris's voice and, yeah, the other one was definitely Bucklin. When was that? Last night? Feels like it was a million years ago. Feels like I've been lyin’ in this seat, bleeding all over Chris's nice leather, for a million years instead of just a few hours.

Blood. 

My blood. I can smell it. Chris' too, maybe, though I can't get over there to check on him. Hell, he could be dead by now. All his blood drained out of his body. I could be lyin' in some of his blood, right now. He's over there, dead, and I'm lyin' in his blood. Don't seem right. Don't seem right that his blood would be all over. Why is that?

Where am I again?

It's dark. And cold. Why in the hell is it so dark and cold?

Oh yeah, the truck. Chris's Ram. Wrecked on Vulture's Curve. That's where we are. Damn Vulture's Curve. How many white crosses are there now? Might be two more 'fore the night's over.

NO! 

Tanner! Pull yourself together and start thinking. You're not dead. Chris ain't dea- well, Chris might be dead. Yeah, Chris could definitely be dead.

I can't even see him since I fell over onto the seat here. If I could just get back up, but when I try it just hurts so much. My head. My arm. My leg. Hey, what doesn't hurt? Not much. Mostly everything hurts. I can feel the blood dripping down my face. Drip. Drip. Landing on the nice black leather seat underneath me. Wonder how much it'll cost to get these things cleaned? A lot, I bet. Too much. Too rich for my blood. Hah! Get it, 'too rich for my blood.' That's funny, Tanner. Hah. Get it? Blood. Too rich. Blood.

I'm tired. Think I'll take a nap. 

Yeah, a nap would be good. Real nice. Just lie back here in this nice, thick, smelly blood and take a nap.

Blood?

Whose blood?

Is it mine? 

My blood? Shouldn't that be inside me? Probably not a good thing for your blood to go leaking out all over the place. A body needs blood, doesn't it? I'm pretty sure that it does.

Damn my head hurts. And my leg. And my arm. Wonder if Peso threw me again. I'll never live that one down. If the guys hadn't a been there, I sure woulda never told them. That black monster can get down right ornery sometimes. Kinda like someone else I know...dresses in black...ornery.

Is that me giggling? 

That sound can't be coming from me. I don't giggle. 

Sure sounds like a giggle. 

Wonder if this is what it feels like to go insane.

Hell, I went insane a long time ago. Had to, to work with the bunch I work with. Strange ducks, one and all. Except maybe JD. He seems pretty normal. But just wait, give 'im a little more time with the rest of us and he'll be crazy as a loon, too.

Think I'll try to get up off this seat now and see if Chris is dead. 

Chris? Dead? 

Why would Chris be dead? 

Why am I lying in a pool of sticky blood?

Oh yeah, Vulture's Curve. That car on our side of the road. Chris yelling, turning the wheel. Tumbling. Spinning. Flying. Stopping. Everything was kinda fun 'till the stoppin' part. Everythin' but Chris's dyin'.

Chris? Dead? 

Am I dead too? 

My head sure hurts 'nuff for me to be dead. Wait. Do you still hurt when you're dead? My luck, you do. Well, if I'm dead it won't hurt when I try to get up off of this sea-

Whoa! I'm not dead.

Oh, shit, but that hurts. Shit. Shit. Shit. I think maybe a rib might be broke too. Something sure hurts down there.

Wait. Didn't I have my seatbelt on? Sure. I always wear my seatbelt. I may be a 'foolhardy risk taker,' but I'm not that dumb. Okay, so my seatbelt's what's rippin' into my side. Yeah. Now, if I could just get it undone and get up, I can see if Chris is still dead.

Still dead?

Chris's dead?

I'll just have to reach here underneath myself and-

Owwww! Son of a- Oh, that hurt!

Note to self: That arm is broke. Do not use it. 

Okay, let's try this again.

Other arm - underneath - seatbelt thingy - release. 

I must have missed a step. Okay, first step: move arm. 

That's harder than I thought it would be. Damn, think I'm lyin' on my arm. Well, this should be good. I need to get up off my arm to get my arm out, but I need my arm out to get up off my arm to get my arm out. I'm confused.

Being confused hurts my head. 

Where am I again?

Oh yeah - Chris's truck. Chris is dead. I'm stuck. Not a lot to write home about. 

Mama. 

Gosh, haven't seen her in a long time. I miss her. Miss her a lot. Maybe when I get out of here I'll go see her. Yeah, that would be nice. Haven't seen her in a long time. A long time. Long time.

No.

Mama's dead. Been dead a long time, you know that. She died when you was just a little fella. Jeesh, think you'd remember something as important as that, Tanner. Your mama's dead. Chris's dead. Mama's dead. Chris is dead.

Dead.

Am I dead?

No. Think I already figured that one out. I hurt too much to be dead. Unless God's got a nasty sense of humor.

So, what was I doing? 

Oh yeah. Get arm from underneath. Get arm from un- Damn! Wish that didn't hurt so bad.

I'm broke. 

All broken up on the inside. 

Just like Humpty Dumpty. 

How'd they put Humpty Dumpty back together again? They didn't, that's how. Nope. He's still in a million pieces. A billion. A million, billion. A lot. A lot of pieces. And he's never going back together again.

Wish my head didn't hurt so bad. Wish I could see right. Everythin's dark, blurry. Wonder why?

Is my head broke? Can you break your head? Wonder if they put a cast on it?

There's that gigglin’ sound again. That's *not* coming from me. Maybe Chris is alive again and he's gigglin'.

Nah, most likely not. Chris ain't the kind to giggle. Hell, probably don't even know what the word means. Wonder if you can giggle while your dead?

What's it like to be dead?

If Chris were alive, I'd ask him. 

Chris, pard of mine, mind tellin' me what it's like to be dead? Chris? Oh yeah, he can't hear me unless I talk. But that's not true, really. Sometimes he hears me when I'm just thinkin'. Damndest thing. Him knowin' what I'm thinkin'. Spooky a little bit, but mostly just nice. Nice to have a friend like that.

Had. 

Nice to've had a friend like that. Chris is dead. Dead. 

And I'm? 

Well, I'm lyin' on the leather seat in Chris's truck, bleeding like a stuck pig from a particularly nasty head wound.

Hah! Particularly. Sounds like Ezra. 'Cept Ez wouldn't say pig, he'd say bovine. No, wait, that's not right. That's a cow, stupid. Cow's ain't pigs. 'Cept for that one I saw at that fair that time, kinda a crossbred sort of thing, head of a cow, body of a pig. What would that be called? A cig? Or a pow?

Hmmm. 

Didn't like it when I saw it. All sad eyed, and hurtin' too. Looked like it didn't get treated too good, neither. Probably hurt it's feelin's, all those people starin' at it, laughin' at it. Cow's got feelin's? Don't know, but I think so. I know horses got feelin's. Just ask Peso. He'll tell ya.

What am I doin'? 

Oh yeah. Chris is dead, I'm bringin' the sale-price of his nice Ram down, and looks like the sun's comin' up.

Gettin' grayer out. Nice pretty color, the gray before the sun comes up. Good time to go for a walk in the woods by the lake out by Chris's ranch. Maybe he'd want to do that sometime soon.

Oh yeah. Chris is dead. 

Chris won't see any more gray mornin's. They're all gone for him now. Wonder if Heaven's got pretty gray mornin's?

Heaven. 

Sarah. Adam. 

Oh, Chris, you get to see Sarah and Adam again. Finally. Bet that's nice. Seeing them again. Real nice. Bet they're real happy to see you. And maybe you could say hi to my mama, too. She knows all about you, hell, I talk about'cha to 'er enough. Nice you get to see them, pard. Nice. But, now, I'm alone.

Might not be for long. Sure don't feel good. Can't feel my arm anymore where it's un’erneath me. And my head's hurtin' less. Not less, really, more like, it's just not there. Gone. Floating away. Guess I'll get to say hi to Mama, my own self. I can meet Sarah and Adam, too. Always wanted to. Always. Since I met'cha, I wanted to meet 'em. Meet the one's who own your heart.

I'll get to now. 

It's gettin' brighter, but fadin' away at the same time. 

Fading away. Kinda like me. 

Drifting. 

Can't feel the sticky leather seat no more. Can't smell the coppery blood. Can't feel my head hurtin' so bad, or my leg, or my arm.

Nothing. 

Just drifting. 

Dying. 

Be there soon, Chris. Save me a place. 

*****

- "He's suffered a severe head wound. Right now, we have no way of telling if he'll come out of it or not. His other wounds are serious, but treatable. It's the head wound that has me worried. The next twenty four hours will tell us, I think." -

"Can't beat Nathan for telling us how it is, eh, pard." Chris whispered as he sat quietly next to Vin Tanner's hospital bed, holding his cold hand in his own. Nathan had left a while ago to tell the others, waiting down the hall, about Vin's condition. Chris sat alone, against the ER doctor's orders, beside his best friend's unmoving form. He hurt. His head, where it had bounced off the side window, and then lay against the steering wheel for too long, hurt like a bitch. And his left leg had one hell of a bruise on it. But compared to Tanner, he was perfect. Fine. No problem.

Tanner was bad. 

The concussion and the head wound. The broken ribs. Broken arm. Broken leg. Hell, what wasn't broken? The sudden image of Humpty Dumpty entered his head. "Yeah, pard, that's you," he whispered.

"Come on, Tanner. You gotta pull through." 

His order was met with silence, except for the beeping of the machines monitoring his best friend's heart and other stuff. He was too tired to think about what all the machines meant. He usually knew. He'd been around these machines too many times not to know what each one did. But right now, he didn't care, he just wanted his friend to open his eyes and look at him with that crinkly-eyed half smile.

"Come, on, Vin. You're a Tanner!" 

Nothing. No movement. Just the beep beep beep. 

"Vin!" he tried again. "Come on, Vin! Get back here, right now!"

That didn't work. But, yelling at Vin to do anything, never really worked. He'd just get that look, the one that said he wasn't afraid of big-bad-wolf-Larabee.

He gripped the cold hand tighter. "Vin, please," he whispered, half talking, and half screaming the words into Vin's mind.

Movement. He felt movement. Vin's hand twitched, he was sure of it. 

"Vin? You with me pard?"

"-riss?" the word was soft, almost nonexistent, but Chris heard it. 

Vin's eyes blinked open, slowly looking around the white-walled hospital room before meeting Chris's eyes. Blue meeting green. "Chris?" His voice was scratchy. "You ain't dead?"

Chris laughed. "Not hardly, pard." And when he saw Vin's unbelieving look, he added, "And neither are you. We're both right as rain."

Vin nodded once, his energy seeming to leave him in a rush. His eyes drifted slowly shut before opening half way. "Glad’ja ain't dead." Then, he was asleep.

"Me too, pard. Glad you ain't, either. Your mama, and Sarah and Adam, they can just wait for us."

Vin's fingers twitched in Chris's hand and he saw his best friend smile in his sleep. 

 

the end - Jan 2002

 

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