Rating: PG-13 Language

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 Note: There's a lot of cussing in this story (I tried to write the guys as 'guys' even though there's a lot of emotions). The poem in this story is sad. The poem's author is unknown. Thanks to Phyllis and Becky for looking the story over for me. :)

Feedback is always appreciated. Please let me know what you think. [email protected]

 

I'll Lend You

Ruby

Damn spring-cleaning. Chris really did not want to be doing this. Not now. Not ever. But it needed to be done. He'd put it off and put it off. Vin had offered to help, though, so here he was, moving furniture, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning all those rarely-cleaned places in his big house.

Dammit. He was an ATF Team Leader. He was in charge of one of the best ATF teams in the country. He was not hunting dust bunnies in the corner of his bedroom. He groaned. "Shit."

"How ya doin' in there?" 

Chris cursed under his breath. "Fine!" he yelled, trying to hide the sarcasm. Vin meant well. Hell, he was a true sport for cleaning the cabinets out in the kitchen.

Chris would have to be more careful the next time he was pissing and moaning about the state of his house when the men were over. He shook his head. He hadn't meant for Vin to come out and help him clean. He'd just been sneezing a lot lately, and Nathan had mentioned it could be from dust. And then the tall medic had asked Chris when he'd last spring-cleaned. 'You know, all the nooks and crannies. Dust bunnies. The places you don't get with normal cleaning.'

Chris had grumbled that he knew what he meant for the love of god. And his house was clean. At least, as clean as he could get it with the vacuuming and dusting he did once or twice a week.

Now he had his bed moved into the middle of the room and was cleaning back in the corner. He picked a crumpled piece of paper up and started to throw it away. Something stopped him. A memory. A flash. He swallowed hard and started to straighten out the balled up paper. His heart stopped. He sat down hard, leaning back against the wall, his knees bent, wrists resting on them, paper held out in front of him.

Damn.

It all came back to him. The funeral. The well-meaning friends. The cards. The letters. The poem he held in his hand.

It had come in a sympathy card from one of Sarah's oldest friends. He could still remember the scream of rage when he'd read the poem. How he'd crumpled it up and thrown it as hard as he could. How he'd fallen on his bed and cried heartbroken sobs. Buck coming in, talking to him, comforting him, crying with him. He could remember waking up later and thinking it had all been a bad dream. Hoping that it had *all* been a bad dream.

The damn poem. The one that had made him cry for the first time after Sarah and Adam had died. The one that he didn't want to remember and couldn’t forget.

He carefully flattened the brittle paper out until he could read the words. Taking in a hitching breath, he let it out slowly before letting his gaze drift over the poem.

 

I'll lend you for a little time, a child of mine He said, 

For you to love while he lives, and mourn when he is dead. 

It may be six or seven years, or twenty two or three.

But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?

He'll bring his charms to gladden you, and shall his stay be brief, 

You'll have his lovely memory as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay, since all from Earth return, 

But there are lessons taught down there, I want this child to learn. 

I've looked the wide world over, in my search for teachers true, 

And from the throngs that crown life's lanes, I have selected you.

Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain.

Nor hate me when I come to call, to take him home again?

I fancied that I heard them say, Dear Lord, Thy Will Be Done.

For all the joy this child shall bring, the risk of grief I'll run.

We'll shelter him with tenderness, we'll love him while we may, 

And for the happiness we've known, we'll ever grateful stay. 

But shall the angels call for him much sooner than we planned, 

We'll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.

 

Chris sniffed once, twice and then just let the tears flow unimpeded down his face. The small black letters swam in his sight until they were gone. Tears dripped off his nose, hitting the paper and spreading the ink into dark splotches.

He heard a sound and looked up to find Vin Tanner standing in the doorway, his eyes wide, his face horrified. "Chris?" he gasped, concerned "You okay?"

Chris swallowed hard as he tried to nod. Bringing a hand up, he wiped it over his face, rubbing the tears away.

Vin took a step closer. "Are you hurt?"

Chris paused for a moment before slowly nodding his head. He let the tears come again as he watched Vin slowly move closer. His best friend watched him like a hawk.

"Something I can do?" Vin looked slightly uncomfortable.

Chris shrugged even as he smiled a little at his friend's awkward dilemma. 'Do I leave and let my team leader sit on the floor of his bedroom, crying like a baby – or do I come closer and risk being a part of an afternoon bawling session?' The corners of Larabee's mouth turned up into a crooked grin while he cried. He couldn't seem to stop crying but he couldn't pretend that he didn't see the strange humor in the situation either.

Friendship must have won out because Vin sat himself down beside him, his head cocked to the side, watching him warily.

Chris wiped his hand over his face again before he glanced over at his friend. "Sorry, pard."

Vin nodded once while he studied Chris's face. His gaze drifted down to Larabee's hand and the piece of paper.

Chris hesitated a moment before reaching out, offering it to his friend.

Vin took it hesitantly. Laying it on his jean-clad leg, he flattened the crumpled paper out and wiped the wet splotches off.

Chris watched him as he read the poem. Vin stared at the paper long after Chris knew that he'd finished reading it.

Finally, the sharpshooter glanced up and locked eyes with Larabee. "Damn."

Chris nodded once, his gaze returning to the paper. "Yeah." Pulling the tail of his tee shirt out of his jean's waist he ran it over his face, wiping away any wetness that remained.

"Damn," Vin hissed again and Chris glanced over at his friend to see him wiping his own eyes.

"Yeah," Chris repeated, his voice soft, understanding. 

Both men sat in silence for a long while before Chris sighed, a long, drawn out sound. He reached out and fingered the paper. "When I first read it, it was just a few days after the funeral. I'm sure the woman who'd sent it in her sympathy card had mean well." He looked up at Vin with a grin. "At least *now* I do. *Then* I wanted to hunt her down and rip her heart out." He laughed slightly. "I didn't care if she was an 80 year old lady who'd taught Sarah in Sunday School."

Vin smiled over at him then, his eyes twinkling.

Chris chuckled. "Let's just say this letter led to one of my longest, hardest drinking binges."

Vin nodded.

Chris sighed sadly as he looked down at the floor. "Thank God for Buck," he spoke softly, reverently. "He probably saved me from killing myself, drinking as hard as I was."

Vin nodded again, his face solemn. "I thank God every day for what Buck did during that time."

His voice was serious and Chris's startled gaze landed on his best friend's face.

"You've told me enough for me to know that you might not've made it out a that time if Buck hadn’t been there. I'll never be able to thank Buck enough for that, or pay him back." Vin's gaze drifted down to the hand that was holding the paper. "You're a good friend, Larabee. An asshole sometimes." His eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned over at Chris. "But a good friend nonetheless." He sobered. "I'da hated losing you to grief and booze 'fore I ever met you." Vin looked away then, his lips pursed.

The two men sat in awkward silence before Chris reached out and grasped Vin around his neck. "We both owe Buck, Vin. If I hadn't come through that time..." He grinned slightly when Vin looked over at him, the sharpshooter's eyes suspiciously bright. Chris continued, his voice lighter, "I might not've ever known that a stubborn damn ex-bounty hunter from Texas could've become my best friend, become family."

Vin sat, watching his friend. Chris squeezed his neck again before he dropped his hand down on the paper, snatching it out of Vin's hand.

"Who you callin' stubborn, you asshole." Vin cleared his throat as he reached up to wipe his hand over his eyes.

"If the orifice fits..." Chris grinned as he quoted Standish.

Vin curled his hand into a fist and sent it sailing into Chris's bicep. 

Chris rolled away from his friend and then stood, smiling down at the sharpshooter. "Damn, Vin. That hurt." He fake-whined as he rubbed his arm.

"I'll show you 'hurt'," Vin said as he slowly stood, his eyes menacing.

Chris rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever," he said flippantly as he turned and walked away. Opening a shiny wooden box on the top of his dresser, he folded the beat up piece of paper and then laid it reverently inside.

The two men stood, side by side, both looking at the paper lying on top of the pictures and memories from Chris's past.

"It's amazing," Chris spoke, his voice soft and serious now, "how sometimes it just matters *when* you hear something, or read something. Back then," he cocked his head towards the paper, "this tore my guts out. Now, it's..." he looked down as his voice drifted off.

Vin reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder.

Chris smiled slightly as he glanced over at his best friend. "*Now*, it's almost..." his voice cracked as he tried to put his feelings into words. "Well, it doesn’t hurt as much now. It almost feels like the poem was from Sarah. It's just something she would have liked. Would have saved. Would have used to offer comfort to a heartbroken friend."

Vin nodded. "Maybe it *was* from her." He looked over and caught his best friend's eye. "I mean, it was still there after all this time. You can't tell me you haven't cleaned that corner out in four years." His eyes narrowed as a wolfish grin slowly grew across his face. "Well, actually, you could tell me that." His eyes widened dramatically for a second and then returned to normal. He tried to hide his smile. "I wouldn't be surprised, either, Larabee. We both know how much you like to clean." He shook his head and then laughed loudly as he ducked out of the way when Chris took a swipe at his head.

"Now, now, Larabee. Is that any way to treat the fella who's cleaning the old boxes of Cream of Wheat out of the back of your kitchen cabinets?" A small knickknack flew by his head, missing him by less than an inch. "Damn, pard." He chuckled as he started for the door. "You didn't tell me that cleaning your house with you was such a dangerous, heartbreaking job." He glanced over his shoulder and made eye contact with his friend.

Chris swallowed hard as he slowly closed the lid on the wooden box and stepped away from it. Looking over at the Texan standing in the doorway, he grinned slightly. "I didn't know it was a heartbreaking job." He shrugged as their eyes met. "Sure am glad you were here."

"Me too, pard," Vin spoke softly, seriously, before his voice rose an octave. "And I learned something too."

"You did?" Chris asked as he walked towards his friend, propelling him out of the bedroom with a shove from behind.

"Yeah," Vin's face turned serious as he cast a solemn look towards Larabee.

Chris waited stoically, wondering what he would say. 

Vin's mouth turned up into a wicked grin as he took a step away from the team leader and out of arm's length. "We need to contact Nabisco, let them know that they're missin' out a great opportunity here. Bet they didn't know you could breed Bo' Weevils in three year old Cream of Wheat boxes." He took two jogging steps forward, barely avoiding the kick that was aimed at his backside.

"Asshole," Chris called out from behind him.

"*I'm* an asshole?" Vin asked, wounded. He shook his head in mock hurt. "Least I ain't lettin' critters take up 'residence' in my cereal boxes."

Chris glared at him. "Residence? All right. That's enough. You're not spending any more time with Standish."

"How come?" Vin asked as he cocked his head to the side. "'Fraid some of his anal housekeeping ways'll rub off on me?" He grinned wryly. "Maybe you're the one should be spending time with 'im."

"Smartass!"

"Dick!"

The two men's voices grew softer, more distant. 

Sarah smiled as she watched the two friends walk away.

 

June '03

 

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