Rating:  PG-13 Language, Violence

Disclaimer:  The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish, MGM, and some others I'm not sure of. The name of this fanfic comes from the comic book, ElfQuest, written by Richard and Wendy Pini and belonging to Warp Graphics. I'm not making any money.

Author's Notes:  Thanks to everyone who gives me encouragement. I really appreciate it. Thanks to Judy, a wonderful beta and a wonderful person. :)

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



By: Ruby

Part One

Vin could feel the rope biting into the tender flesh on his neck. His throat was on fire. His vision swam and bright spots flickered in front of his eyes. He could hear something, soft and faint. It sounded like a voice.


He was choking, gagging. His wrists turned in their tight bonds; sending blood cascading down his hands and dripping off his fingertips. His ears were ringing. The room swam in and out of focus; he squeezed his eyes shut. He heard the voice again, louder this time.


It was Chris Larabee's voice. A sob cracked the usually stern sounding voice and caught his attention.

What's happening?

Oh yeah, his knees. He was supposed to keep his knees locked. He pushed his knees back into place, straightening his legs out and pulling himself up to his full height. Sudden air filled his lungs, the force of it causing more bright spots to flash before his eyes.

A bout of dizziness made him nauseous and he swayed. The rope caught, tight around his throat once more, and he instantly righted himself. He sure didn't want to go through that again. He used every ounce of concentration he possessed to keep his knees locked and himself upright.

Finally he opened his eyes. Chris Larabee sat on his knees, his feet towards the wall. He was staring at him, his eyes full of naked horror. His mouth was still open from his last scream. Blood and tears mixed together and streaked down his face. His arms snaked around his back.

Vin suddenly remembered.

They'd tied the gunslinger's feet and hands together, too tight from the grimace on his face. That was after they'd beat both of them and tied the noose around his own neck.

A noose. There was a fuckin' noose around his neck.

That bastard, Joe Blackfell, had kidnapped him, shot Chris and now had them both in this cabin. He could still remember the man going on and on about Chris hanging his brother years ago and now he was gonna make Chris watch *his* little brother die.

He'd thought they were brothers. Him and Chris.

Two of Blackfell's men had beat Chris, paying *special* attention to the bullet wound in his left shoulder. They tied his hands behind his back, tied his hands to his feet then tied him to the wall.

Vin couldn't do anything to help Chris, his own hands were tied behind his back and Blackfell held a Colt tucked in between two of his ribs. When they started to bring that rope around his neck, he'd fought them the best he could. But they'd already beaten him good and he couldn't fight for long. He tried to quell the panic that enveloped him when he felt the rough hemp touch his throat. Chris was screaming obscenities at Blackfell. Vin figured he'd only have a few seconds before he hung. But he didn't hang. Blackfell tightened the rope so that it had about a half inch of slack while he was standing and backed away from him, an evil glint in his eye.

Vin knew what was going on. He'd lived with the Indians. He knew a lot of different ways to kill a man. A lot of ways to kill their spirit first.

It was going to be hard to stand up straight for long. Either exhaustion would take him or the lack of food. One way or another he was going to drop and when he did...he would hang. Vin knew that he could last quite a while. He was strong. He'd have a lot of time to think about it before it happened.

Blackfell and his two men backed to the door. Vin cursed and spat, screaming at the older man. But, Blackfell just smiled congenially and turned towards Chris. "Have a lovely couple of days Larabee. Hell, I figure you'll last that long. We bandaged up that wound pretty good. But," he glanced towards Vin then back to Chris, "I just don't think your young brother here is gonna last that long. I doubt any of those men you ride with are gonna find you way out here. Not in time, any way. Not before you have to watch your brother hang to death. Just like I had to watch mine." The three men turned and walked out of the door.

Suddenly Blackfell stopped and cocked his head to the side, like he'd forgotten something. With vicious calm he turned, pulled out his pistol, pointed it towards Vin's leg and fired.

Vin's world erupted in white hot fire as the bullet hit his thigh. His body was knocked backwards, he lost his balance and fell. The rope caught and he started to strangle.


Part Two

Vin finally pulled himself up, putting all of his weight on one leg. The pressure on his throat lessened and he took a deep breath. He caught sight of Blackfell as the older man turned around once more, closed the door and was gone. He watched Chris's eyes, he was glaring at the door Blackfell had just walked through. Chris finally brought his eyes back over to meet his.

Vin shook his head and glanced down at his leg. Blood was streaming down his tan pants. All he could do was try to stand still and hope that someone came for them. He didn't know how long he'd stood there in the middle of the room, before blood loss and exhaustion took their toll. He felt himself slump towards the ground, but just didn't have the strength to fight anymore. He was lucky Chris's voice finally pulled him from his death. He was still swaying. He looked over and saw Chris watching him, terror and relief vying for control over his features.


Chris watched as Vin's body slowly lost its long battle. It had been hours since Blackfell had shot Vin and left them in the cabin to die. Chris had done everything he could think of, from talking to Vin about his past to berating him for not being strong enough to keep on his feet. So far it had worked. Vin had kept his knees locked and himself upright and had avoided hanging. But now, now it looked like it was too late. Vin's eyes fluttered closed. Hid body swayed, righted itself then dropped. Vin instantly started gagging. Chris screamed, fought at his bonds and screamed some more. His best friend was strangling to death, right before his eyes.

Chris fought with everything he had, but couldn't break free of his bonds. He could feel the tears, wet on his face. Suddenly something he'd said must have broken through. Vin's legs straightened, his knees locked again and he stopped hanging from the end of the rope.

Chris's heart stopped for a second. Vin was breathing. He whispered encouragement to his best friend and watched as his blue eyes fluttered open.


"Vin. You're ok, just keep them legs straight and it won't happen again."

"Ti-," he swallowed and wet his lips, "tired."

"I know, cowboy, but you have to stay awake. Ok? You have to stay standing."

Vin stood still for a long time. He didn't make a sound except for the ragged breaths he gasped in. Finally he seemed to regain his composure. He looked up and Chris knew his friend was going to stay with him a while when his blue eyes took on a mischievous glint. Vin looked around, looked back at him and in a feathery light, raspy voice asked, "We in Tas-cosa?"

Chris laughed. He couldn't help it. Leave it to Vin to get a morbid laugh out of all of this. Vin chuckled and moved his good leg a bit. Chris figured that he had to hurt like hell and needed to find a more comfortable position. "Well, pard. Let's hope that one of the boys misses us and comes lookin'."

"Hell, what's the chances of that?"

Chris's eyes twinkled, "Where's Ez when you need him?"

Vin laughed then screwed his face up to imitate the southerners. "Mr. Larabee, I seem to be in a pre-dikerment here. Would you be so kind as to-," Vin started laughing and Chris joined him. Finally Vin looked down at his leg, then back up to Chris.

"It's bleedin' pretty good, pard."

Chris watched as the wound, that had stopped bleeding while Vin was staying still, started sending rivulets of crimson flowing down the tracker's leg again.

"I know." Chris locked eyes with his best friend. Vin knew that he wasn't gonna make it. Chris knew too.

"If someone doesn't find us soon..." Vin's voice trailed off.

"I know." Chris glanced at the door, willing one of the other men to show up. "I bet they're on their way right now."

Vin grinned at him. "That's good to know. Wish they would hurry up."


Part Three

Chris watched his partner slowly lose his battle. Vin had been quiet for a long while. His leg had stopped bleeding, far as he could see. The younger man was standing, swaying every so often. He hadn't seen his face in a while, just the top of his head and his hair. It surprised the shit out of him when Vin finally brought his head up and he got a good look at his face. He was deathly pale and it sent a chill down his spine.

Vin opened his mouth, licked his lips and cleared his throat. "Don't forget 'bout that five hun'red dollars."

He stared open mouthed at his best friend. Vin looked serious enough. Chris shook his head, looked down then looked back up. "Vin, I could no sooner take that five hundred for your body than I could put a bullet in JD's head."

Vin slowly nodded his head and looked away. "Jus' so's you know the offer still stands." He licked his lips again and finally looked back. "But, if you was plannin' on buryin' me somewhere...I've always liked the fishin' pond...south of town. Maybe next to that copse of trees...with the wildflowers."

Chris had to swallow the lump in his throat. He pursed his lips, "Sounds like a right nice place, pard."

The two men locked eyes, once again. Vin's raspy voice broke Chris's heart, "It was good ridin' with ya pard."

Chris nodded while still holding his best friend's gaze. "We'll ride together again."

The corner of Vin's mouth turned up, "I bet ol' Satan's runnin' for cover right 'bout now."

Chris pursed his lips again; a frown creased his forehead. He winced as he watched Vin grow paler by the second.

Vin struggled to keep his eyes open. His head wobbled back and forth, he opened his eyes wide and blinked rapidly. He glanced at Chris one more time, a sad smile on his face. Finally, his body won; his eyes fluttered closed and his body slumped towards the ground.

This time Vin's body didn't give much of a struggle against the rope.

Chris heard a few gasps. He couldn't watch anymore, he squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his head. He bent his head forward till it touched the ground - and he cried.

A loud thud brought his head up quickly. He was just in time to see Vin's forehead smack off the hard wooden floor.

The rope had broken.

Chris just couldn't believe it. The God damned rope had broken.

Vin's body lay, sprawled on the floor. Blood pooled around his head, but his chest still moved.

Chris pulled in a ragged breath and then let out an ear-splitting whoop. He grinned as he watched Tanner's eyes flutter open.

Vin turned his head until he could see the rope dangling above him. He looked down at the noose around his neck, then back up at the rope. He finally spoke, his voice a raw, scratchy whisper. "Are - you - shittin' - me?!"

He glanced over at Chris, shaking his head. Then he slowly looked back up at the rope again. "Are you fuckin' shittin' me?!! After all a that, the God damned rope was frayed?!" He looked over at Chris, disgust covering his features.

Chris started laughing. Not a slight chuckle, but whole-heartedly laughing.

Vin was still shaking his head when he finally grinned.

Vin slowly made his way to his feet and started towards the broken window on the other side of the room. He backed towards the glass and started working his bonds against it.

He finally pulled his hands free and brought them in front of him. He grabbed his bandana from around his throat, wiped at the cut on his forehead then tied it around his leg. On wobbly legs he hobbled over to Chris's side.

Chris watched the younger man as he leaned over him and started cutting through his ropes with a piece of the glass. Vin's face was still pale; exhaustion and blood loss taking their toll. He felt his hands come free of the bonds and watched Vin sink to the ground next to him. He reached around and taking the shard of glass out of Vin's hand finished cutting through his bonds.

He stood up and then leaned down, wanting to help the tracker over to the small cot in the corner of the room. Vin eyed him warily. "I can make it myself. Don't need you babying me."

Chris stepped back and watched Vin wearily make his way to his feet. He shadowed the tracker across the floor. Halfway across the room Vin faltered, Chris silently took him by the arm and guided him the rest of the way. He helped him onto the cot, pulling a blanket up over him. He'd need to go outside and get some water. He hoped that there was a well or a stream nearby. He needed to take care of Vin's wounds, and his own. He patted the tracker on the shoulder and started to get up.

"Chris?" Vin reached a shaky hand up and felt the noose around his neck. "Can you help me get this off?"

Vin was exhausted, he could hardly keep his eyes open. His voice was just a soft, raspy whisper now. Chris nodded, "Sure, pard."

Chris pulled Vin's head up, loosened the rope and pulled the noose over his head, revealing a torn, bloody rope burn.

Chris reached out a hand and held the noose out in front of the tracker. "Thank God for moth eaten ropes."

Vin eyed the rope for a long time before pulling it out of Chris's hand. He grinned, "Think I'll keep this...my lucky noose."

Chris waited until Vin fell asleep, before he slipped outside. He found a well and a bucket and brought the much needed water back into the cabin. He still wasn't sure how they were going to get home, but for now he just wanted to focus on taking care of Vin. Tomorrow they could deal with that.

With the water and some old clothes he'd found he worked on the tracker's injuries. He dabbed at the raw bleeding wound around the younger man's neck.

He'd come so close to losing him. He still couldn't believe that the rope had broken. Fate. It had to be. He didn't care what it was, as long as his best friend was still alive.

Vin slowly started to come around. He'd been asleep for a while. Chris had cleaned and bandaged his wounds and then looked after his own. He was sitting quietly beside the bed when Vin's eyes opened.

Vin blinked at him, tried to clear his throat and swallowed. "Thanks Chris."

Chris wasn't sure if he was thanking him for taking care of his wounds, for helping him through the ordeal or for just being there. He guessed it was a combination of all three. He smiled, reached out a hand and squeezed his shoulder.

Vin cleared his throat, looked at the noose that was lying beside him on the bed and then looked back at Chris. The corner of his mouth turned up in a wry grin. "I was wondering...maybe we could get them to use this noose in Tas-cosa."

Chris smiled. The tracker had been through something that might have killed a lesser man's spirit, but not Vin's. He was going to be all right. He chuckled and nodded, "Well, hell...I don't see why not. It bein' your lucky noose and all."

the end (Mar 2000)


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