Maybe

By: Ruby

 

Rating:  PG-13 Violence, Language

Disclaimer:  The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish, MGM, and some others I'm not sure of. I'm not making any money.

Author's Notes: I'm blaming this on the fact that I've been watching too many Westerns on the Western's channel lately. And I watched a particularly good, and sad, Roy Rogers movie, which inspired part of this story. I miss Trigger. (Did you know you can watch re-runs of Rawhide on the Hallmark channel? A young Clint Eastwood?! Whew!)

This is just a 'what if' story. (Anyone read the 'What If?' comic books? I loved those.) It does not necessarily reflect how I think the character was, but it is more just for fun (and because my Muse is on vacation and I'm trying to entice it back <g>). It's not betaed, sorry 'bout that.

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

 

Maybe

By: Ruby

 

Larabee stepped from the livery doors and out into the street. He squinted up at the noonday sun, his eyes crinkling at the corners. His mouth twisted into a grim line when he noticed the townsfolk lined up on both sides of the street. They were there to watch the show. "Some show," he hissed under his breath, shaking his head.

Chris Larabee had called the young gambler out the day before. He'd been drinking in the saloon when the red-coated man had accidentally bumped into his table, knocking his bottle of whiskey over and spilling its much-needed contents. Chris hadn't been in a good mood at the time, half-drunk and looking for a fight. 

Chris knew that people thought he drank all the time, but he didn't. He only drank when the pain got too bad, and then not usually to excess. He had to be 'there,' had to be sharp when he got called out. He was a gunfighter. He was the gunfighter Chris Larabee and there was always someone who wanted to make a name for themselves by taking him down. So he had to stay ready, stay aware, so he could stay alive.

But the day before had been bad. He'd been missing them even more than usual. Something must have reminded him, but he couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. He'd wallowed in his grief all day and it was after a half bottle of whiskey that the red-coated man had knocked into his table.

The look on the young man's face hadn't been sheer horror, so Chris guessed that he didn't know who he'd just pissed off. The gambler apologized profusely, offering to buy him another bottle and it was then that Chris stood, green eyes flashing, his ire raised.

"You think you can fix it just like that?" Chris slurred. "You think it's that easy?"

"Sir," he drawled in a thick southern accent. "I assure you that I meant no harm. I honestly was not watching where I was going and I am sincerely sorry that I lost you the contents of your bottle. Please let us not quarrel. I've got a game to get back to and I'm sure you've got...affairs...to attend to. Here." He held out a few bills, his face darkening when Chris slapped the money out of his hands. Green eyes narrowing, the southern gambler stepped back, his hand reaching for his sidearm.

"Not here," Larabee hissed. "Tomorrow. Noon. Street."

The Southerner's face hardened, becoming all sharp edges where before it was smooth. He nodded once. "Let it be so." He tipped his hat and then turned away, walking towards the bar.

Chris had been surprised when he hadn't seen fear in the other man's face. He wondered what, if not a life-taking gunslinger's calling him out, could possibly upset the smooth-talking man. He didn't ponder much on the subject, instead he ordered another bottle and spent the rest of the night in his rented hotel room.

Mid morning found him waking, bleary eyed and full of pain. Wishing he'd left that last bottle in the saloon, he slowly stood and pulled his wrinkled clothes on. It was then that he remembered. Noon. The young gambler with too-familiar green eyes. Calling him out. Another duel. Another life taken.

He pulled his watch out. Almost eleven. He wasn't late, and in fact had time for a bit of breakfast before noon. Some people might wonder how he could eat, how his stomach could handle it, but in fact, he had no need to worry. He was never nervous before a duel. Never had been, never would be. It was another walk down the street. Another quick draw. Another man lying dead in the dust. It was what he did. Sometimes for money, sometimes not.

His mouth tightened. It's not what Sarah would have wanted for him. Sometimes, Chris wondered if that wasn't why he was living the way he was now. Because Sarah wouldn't approve. Maybe he wanted her to hate him. Maybe that would be easier. If she hated him, if she didn't care, if she didn't love him anymore - maybe his guilt wouldn’t eat him up. Maybe he could sleep at night. Maybe he wouldn't see her beautiful face, shining with love for him. Maybe he wouldn't hear her screams. Adam's screams. Maybe... Enough of that, he admonished himself. Enough.

It was over. They were gone. Dead. Buried. Gone. 

Chris's eyes narrowed as he strapped his gun belt on. Maybe this would be the day. Maybe this would be the day he would go to them. He never thought of himself as suicidal, he was just... Just what, Chris? Just what are you? He didn't have the answers, and never did. So he would go through another duel, another showdown. One more. And maybe he would come out of it, and maybe not. Either way was fine with him.

He sat through breakfast enduring the townspeople's stares. He was used to that, and it wasn't something he gave any thought to. It came with the reputation. He glanced out the window and noticed the gambler coming out of the telegraph office. Chris's eyes followed the young man until he disappeared into the livery.

A stab of guilt hit his gut and he suddenly saw those green eyes again. The gambler had really done nothing wrong, nothing that the apology and the offer to buy another bottle of whiskey couldn’t have fixed. But no, Chris was too stubborn for that. Too pig-headed. He had to have a duel to settle it. And damned if that man couldn’t have run anytime during the night, but, no, here he was, still in town. Chris had to admire that. The young southerner had guts to face him.

"Damn," Chris swore to himself. Sometimes he really didn't like the man he was. Sometimes he wondered if there was something more, maybe something better that he was supposed to be instead of this cold-hearted killer he seemed to have turned into.

He looked at his watch. It was nearing eleven thirty. He wanted to stop at the livery and make arrangements for his big black in case something happened to him. He'd never lost a duel, and as much as he might like the idea of seeing Sarah and Adam again, he knew that he could never purposely lose, his pride and his quickness ruling that event out. But the horse had been good to him and he wanted to make sure it would be taken care of in case the gambler was faster than he looked.

When he stepped into the livery he immediately moved off to the side so he wasn't silhouetted in the light of the door. Years of watching out for himself had taught him some basic survival skills and that was one of them. He'd been quiet coming in and it was clear that the gambler hadn't noticed his arrival. Chris watched the young southerner as he cared for his horse, brushing it down and talking to it like it were an old friend. The younger man must not have known that anyone else was in the building with him, for he spoke openly to the big chestnut.

"You take good care of yourself, Ace. You've been a good horse. I've made provisions for you in the case that I should not return." He scoffed as he leaned towards the horse's flicked-down ear. "And let's face it, old boy, there's no way that I'm going to be returning. There are a lot of things that I am, but fast on the draw is not one of them."

The horse made a grunting noise and the red-coated man shushed it. "Now I know that I am fast, but not that fast. I've checked around, made some inquiries, and it seems I'm to be up against one of the best, one of the fastest, and one of the most cold-hearted men in all of this deplorable West. I've found out that he has never lost a duel and he has never left an opponent breathing."

He ran his hand down the shiny coat, across the mane, and then up over the forelock. "So, you're going to be on your own, my friend, and for that I am truly sorry. I had high hopes of us both growing old together, but that is not to be."

The horse moved its head, hitting the gambler in the stomach. "I could not have left in the middle of the night. My pride would not have allowed it. Besides," he added conspiratorially, "that is just what mother would have expected." He grinned slightly and then checked his watch. "It is time, Ace. You watch yourself. Don't let anyone abuse you, my good, kind-hearted friend. It is better to be dead than to be abused, remember that." He spoke sincerely.

Sighing deeply, he straightened his hat and then moved away from the horse without a backwards glance. Chris could see only his back now, as he was moving away from him and towards the small side door. What he could see of the man showed him ramrod-straight shoulders, a high head, and a true heart.

Chris waited a few minutes after the gambler left the building before he sought out the livery man, who was in the back room putting up hay, and made his own arrangements.

He glanced one last time at his watch. Five 'till noon.

Larabee stepped from the livery doors and out into the street. He squinted up at the noonday sun, his eyes crinkling at the corners. His mouth twisted into a grim line when he noticed the townsfolk lined up on both sides of the street. They were there to watch the show. "Some show," he hissed under his breath, shaking his head.

Walking forward, he saw his opponent at the other end of the street, in front of the saloon doors. The man was impeccably dressed, his coat pressed and his hat so clean it almost shined in the sun. Chris's black duster swirled around his legs as he came to a stop. He was close enough to see the younger man's eyes even though they were almost hidden in the shadow from his hat brim.

Green. Green eyes so much like his own. His own eyes before they died. Back when he was still alive, still lived, still breathed. Back when he had a purpose in life. Before he killed for money and for pride. Chris gazed at green eyes that didn't shine with fear but with determination, and a flicker of submission. The gambler knew he was about to die, yet here he was, not giving up without a fight.

Chris could not help but admire this man. He wondered, if things had been different, if the two of them might have been friends.

But, time for thought was over now. It was noon. It was time.

The two men watched each other, hands poised over pistols, eyes sharp. 

Chris drew first, and though the other man was fast, he wasn't nearly fast enough. The gunshot was deafening and Larabee grimaced as he watched the man fall. He wished things had been different as he watched the man hit the ground hard, his still-cold gun falling out of nerveless fingers.

Larabee turned and walked away, knowing that maybe this time things would be different. Maybe this time the outcome wouldn't be like all the rest. Maybe this time he could stop being the killer and start being something else. But what? And where?

Not this no-name town. Maybe farther west, by the desert. He knew his old friend Wilmington was there in some small town. Maybe he'd head that way, stop by a few towns on the way. Purgatory had been calling his name lately. But then, onto... what was that town's name? Four Corners?

His lips turned up slightly when he heard the yell.

"Get the doctor! He's still alive."

Larabee kept walking. Maybe. He sighed. Maybe he'd just turned his life around.

 

the end  (August 2002)

 

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