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Brothers by Heart
Warning: This is a DEATHFIC! So please if you don't like
'em, DON'T READ it. I don't want to upset anyone. I didn't ever think
I could write one, but when I did write this I had a lot of things and
people on my mind. So, I guess this has more of a special meaning for
Author's Notes - Thank you, thank you, thank you to my
two magnificent beta readers, Judy and Steph, for all of their help and
support! You gals are wonderful!
Winter is cold and bitter
Chill us to the bone
Haven't seen the sun for weeks
Too long too far from home
I feel just like I'm sinking
And I claw for solid ground
I'm pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh, darkness I feel like letting go
If all of the strength and
All of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I can love you much better than this.
Full of Grace
- Sarah McLacklan
The preacher halted his journey to the area just below a tall tree
in back of the church. His breath caught in his throat, as sad and tired
eyes recognized the black-clad figure that knelt there. Pondering going
to speak with the man, Josiah then thought better of it. The grieving
man would not be open to any words of comfort as they would only fall
on deaf ears. *God help our leader,* he prayed to the Lord. *God help
Josiah turned to let the gunslinger be. It was the first time in the
past two days that Chris had returned to the site since that black and
horrible day they buried one of their own. He knew the man would have
to sort this out on his own and prayed their leader realized he was not
Staring at the broken ground below him, Chris Larabee hadn't moved
for hours since he'd fallen to his knees. He silently thanked the others
for having the good sense to stay away while he grieved. They'd stayed
away even when the storm rose to give reality to the man's raging mood.
It wasn't easy for him to show his emotions, and it would have been near
unbearable in front of the others. He didn't want to see their looks
of sympathy. They were wrong. All of them were. The man that the earth
had taken back to it's embrace was not his best friend but an impostor.
Yet as he dug his fingers into the newly turned soil, reality once
again came crashing back to the gunslinger and made him face the horrible
truth. Vin Tanner - sharpshooter, tracker, ex-bounty hunter, best friend
- was dead. An anguished cry involuntarily broke from his lips, and the
man raised his head to let salty tears mingle and melt with rain drops.
The water falling from the heavens fell in sheets and hurt the gunslinger's
face. Yet, Chris didn't care anymore. He was beyond physical pain. *God
when will it end?*
Looking back to the tombstone, Chris could read the name as brilliant
flashes of lightning illuminated the rock. It was so simple - a plain
grave underneath a tall tree, full of life. Chris let a faint smile cross
his face ever so slowly. *Vin would have liked that.* The smile vanished
quickly when he felt himself sinking slightly into the earth. The torrential
downpours were making the ground soft and muddy. *Hmmm, maybe the ground
will swallow me as well. I think I'd welcome it.*
When Chris removed the knife from it's sheath, he let his lifeless
eyes stare down at it. They weren't even filled with rage anymore. They
were just hopeless voids that stared into the metal with no emotion at
all. The gunslinger absently noted that the blood had long since been
washed away, and it no longer bared the physical evidence confirming
its part in the hateful deed. Yet the blood would always be there, never
to be truly washed away.
Continuing to stare into it, Chris felt himself being pulled back
into the past - a short time before his healing world was again cast
a shattering blow.......
~~Two days earlier~~
A man that Vin had known years earlier during his bounty hunter days
had come to Four Corners. Vin had ridden with him for a long time and
counted him as a friend. Sadly though, Vin had been so very wrong. Even
more tragic was that Chris had been too. Thinking back, Larabee couldn't
help but question himself, *God, why did I let my guard down? ......
Vin believed him.......But he was a bounty hunter* Chris shook his head,
*No. Vin was a bounty hunter. You can't judge the man solely on that.*
He repeated the question to himself again and again, but the answer never
came. The only answer that he could come up with was that he had failed.
He'd failed when he left the two alone together and went up to the
bar. It all happened so fast; Vin never knew what hit him. Chris turned
around to see the 'friend' withdraw his knife from Vin's side, and the
man was dead by cause of Chris' gun before he even hit the ground. No
one ever questioned the black-clad man's actions and watched in horrified
silence as he eased his friend slowly to the ground, desperately trying
to staunch the blood that now flowed freely from the gaping wound. In
the next few moments, the saloon was plunged into chaos as Chris cried
out instinctively for Nathan and others came rushing to help. Nathan
seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Moving quickly in an effort to stop the flow of Vin's life giving
fluid, the healer worked valiently, yet so much of it already covered
the floor. Chris numbly registered the arrival of Josiah and Buck as
they moved to take hold of Vin, but the gunslinger clung tighter to the
tracker and refused to let him go. Maybe if he held on tight enough,
he could anchor his best friend's soul to its earthly body and the scarlet
liquid covering the floor wouldn't matter. It was Nathan's gentle yet
firm voice that penetrated the fog in his mind. "Chris we have to move
him. We have to get him to my room." The older man released his friend
as though he'd been stung, and let the others try to save him - all the
while pleading with God to spare his friend.
Alas, it appeared his prayers were to go unanswered. In Nathan's room,
Chris watched the skilled healer work harder than he ever had to save
the precious life in front of him. The black-clad gunslinger never let
his eyes travel from Vin's face as Nathan's hands worked frantically
to close the wound. Those eyes hadn't opened since he'd fallen in the
saloon, and that scared Chris to his very core.
When Nathan finally closed the wound but didn't smile, Chris's heart
sank further. It then went cold as the healer called them all out into
the hall. *No.*
Nathan seemed unable to meet the others' eyes. *No.* I was able to
stop the bleeding."
JD's scared voice held a glimpse of hope when he asked softly, "So
he's going to be alright. It's going to heal, right?" The teenager had
grown up so much since the seven had been together, but now he seemed
every bit the boy they had known not so long ago. Noting the paleness
in his friend's face, Buck stepped up and gently squeezed JD's shoulder.
Josiah had seen all that Nathan had done and had seen the extent of
Vin's injuries. No. Vin wasn't alright. He bowed his head in silent prayer
and waited for the unwanted confirmation.
Ezra knew that luck for the seven may have finally run out when Nathan
sorrowfully shook his head. He'd never seen the healer so tired, not
physically but mentally. "No, JD. Vin has lost too much blood....maybe
if the knife hadn't been removed it would have been different but........"
The healer's voice trailed off as though he couldn't bring himself
to say the words. It was Chris who broke the silence and snarled through
clenched teeth, "What are you saying, Nathan?"
The dark-skinned man flinched slightly as he felt the sting of the
other man's words. He knew the anger was not directed at himself, but
the pain in that voice had struck them all. One of their own was dying.
They all knew it, and there was absolutely nothing any of them could
do about it. "I'm sorry, Chris. I did all that I could."
The gunslinger's eyes seemed to burn two holes into the healer before
he broke the connection and moved to enter the room where Vin lay. Nathan
looked at the understanding faces around him, and Josiah walked up to
place a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Chris doesn't blame you, Nathan.
You have to believe that."
The healer nodded, "I know, but I'm a healer. I can't help Vin anymore.
I just wish I knew how to help Chris - how to help all of us."
It was Ezra who quietly responded, "We all feel that way, Mr. Jackson.
We all do."
Light poured into Nathan's room from an open window and vanquished
all of the shadows. There were no darkened corners that Larabee could
hide in and pretend that none of this was really happening. Instead he
assumed the wooden chair at Vin's bedside and took the tracker's hand
in his. His friend had already broken into a cold sweat, telling Chris
that the inevitable would soon follow. The gunslinger found morbid surprise
in the fact that the younger man's fingers were as cold as ice, and the
light shone on his face only added greater contrast to the paleness of
Looking out the window, Chris Larabee was angry. No, he was furious.
What right did the sun have to shine so brightly? What right did the
birds have to sing? What right did they have when Vin Tanner lay there
dying? What right did they have while Chris' world shattered into a million
pieces within the confines of this small room? Larabee sighed in frustration
as he realized that he was angry, because they were reminders that life
would go on. It would go on as it had when his family died. The sun would
still rise every morning. The birds would still wake up singing. Life
would go on as it always had. Only Chris wasn't sure that he wanted to
go on with it.
Casting his gaze to Vin, Chris noted that the tracker hadn't once
opened his eyes. The gunslinger was almost glad; he didn't want to see
that Tanner stubbornness fade out and extinguish. It was at that moment
that the others chose to slowly usher in, each silently giving their
last respects to their fallen comrade while at the same time giving their
leader the space he so needed.
Chris spared them a glance, and at that moment he saw the look of
surprise and fleeting hope flash across their faces. Turning back to
face the man lying in bed, Larabee's heart thawed a little at the sight
of Vin Tanner's vibrant eyes staring back at him. Chris didn't see the
glassy look he had feared. Those were the same eyes that he always saw
through all of their silent conversations - through the time when they
had first met. Pain did not thrive there as the man had seemed to move
beyond it and instead let his gaze fall for a short time on each of the
seven, silently thanking them for recent years of laughter, support,
Finally, the wounded man's eyes came to rest on the leader of the
seven. His raspy voice came so soft that Chris was forced to lean in
to hear the whisper. "Goodbye my friend, my brother." Chris shook his
head in anguished protest. "Don't worry, Chris......we'll all ride together
again some day...... in heaven."
Chris smiled for Vin's sake in an attempt to choke back the dam of
tears threatening to burst. "I thought you and I made a plan to ride
through the fiery gates together."
Vin was able to manage a weak smile. "Naw, I changed my mind. Hell
is a little too hot for me. .......... Besides, I don't want to spend
eternity apart from you all............. Because believe it or not....friends
like you will certainly be walkin' through the pearly gates." The tracker
again looked at the other men before returning his gaze to the gunslinger
beside him. Even in his state, Vin could still tell what the older man
was thinking. "Not your.... time yet Chris. But I'll be there to take
you home when it is." And with these parting words, Vin Tanner slowly
closed his eyes for the last time.
*No. Please God no.* But it was true. As Chris looked at the tracker,
he knew that the man had already left. Yet surprisingly, tears did not
come to the gunslinger. He placed his head down on the tracker's chest
and released a low sorrowful sound none of the others had ever heard
before. Then sobs came - not loud sobs of tears, but silent, anguished
gasps. The others, not knowing exactly how to respond or comfort the
man, walked out to give him some privacy and to grieve for Vin Tanner
in their own way.
And so here Chris sat on his best friend's grave burning holes in
the instrument of death with his piercing eyes. Some how he didn't think
Vin would mind him sitting there. God, what was he going to do now? *I
can't stay here. How many more are going to die because of me?* Then
Chris shook his head, *No. He didn't die because of me. But by God I
should have been able to stop it!* Squeezing his eyes shut against the
onslaught of tears that threatened to fall, the black-clad man asked
himself what Vin would have wanted for him. Yet, the only answer he could
come up with was to go on. *But not here. I just can't do it here.* His
mind made up, Larabee decided he would go to his remaining friends one
last time and then leave in the morning for good.
Years later when the rest of the seven had all moved on, Mary Travis
stepped out on to the porch of her Clarion News office and looked at
the bustling town around her. Sighing in nostalgia, she remembered how
things had been with a growing town and seven magnificent men to protect
it, but those days were long gone.
The judge had finally appointed real lawmen to take care of the town.
Four Corners was no longer a quiet frontier town, but had grown to be
big and prosperous. When the day came that the judge gave them the bad
news, Ezra moved on to Boston and Nathan returned to the Seminole village
when a real doctor had arrived. The only ones who had chosen to remain
in Four Corners were Josiah who had finally finished his church, JD who
settle down to marry Casey Wells, and Buck who didn't want to leave JD.
The others weren't surprised when Chris went off to wander on his own.
Looking down the dusty street, the newspaper woman could see a figure
off in the distance slowly making his way into town. Her breath caught
in her chest when she recognized the man dressed all in black. "Chris,"
she whispered faintly. Although she had always hoped he'd come back,
Mary had never actually thought that Larabee would ever return. But there
he was slowly riding his black horse. She noted the tiredness in his
step and the gray that tinted his once blond hair as he dismounted and
walked towards her.
"Mary." The blond reporter didn't have the chance to respond before
the man crumpled to the ground. "Chris!" she half screamed, but was to
late to stop his fall. Holding him until his fits of coughing stopped,
Mary pulled him close to discover that he'd fallen into darkness' quiet
Night had fallen and the shadows of five men and one women were cast
on the walls from the dim lamp beside their leader. "Well Nathan, is
he going to be alright?"
The healer raised sad eyes to look at the youngest of the group. My
how that boy had grown, and not just physically, but mentally as well.
Almost smiling, Nathan thought of the pride that was ever-present on
Buck's face, the pride of an older brother. "JD, I'm sorry but Chris
has consumption. The case is quite advance, and I don't know that he's
gonna make it through the night."
Nathan's words hit the group as if it had been a blow. He knew that
they were all playing visions of another of the seven dying in this very
same room all those years ago. Now they would be forced to watch another
brother, their leader, pass on to the next life. Then Buck snapped his
head to the figure on the bed, *He came back here to die.*
It was at that moment that the old gunslinger decided to open his
eyes to bid his family his final farewells. "I don't have...... much
time.... Do I, Nathan?" Chris' sentences were broken, because often his
lungs would force him to release a fit of coughs.
"What are you talkin' about Chris. I'm the healer here, and I say
you're gonna be just fine." Nathan tried to reassure the man, not wanting
to discourage his friend. However, he couldn't hide the slight crack
in his voice. Allowing himself to smile, Larabee responded, "It's okay
Nathan. I know ...... it's my time. Thank you for everything." Nathan
looked to Chris and had to wipe the tears that were forming away from
his eyes. "Thank you Chris. Thank you for always treating me as an equal.
If you and Vin hadn't helped me when you did..... well for that I'll
always be thankful."
Chris nodded and then turned his gaze on Ezra, "Well, Ezra, I know
we had..... a rocky beginning, but I like to think that we developed
a friendship over the years." The gambler and con-man looked at Larabee
with deep respect. "That we did, Mr. Larabee. Thank you for giving me
the opportunity to prove myself worthy of your trust."
Next the sick man looked to the preacher. "Josiah, looks like those
crows have come callin'. Maybe you could put in a good word for me with
the man upstairs?" Sanchez smiled, yet sadness still clouded his eyes,
"I will, Brother Larabee. Although I don't think you're going to need
much help gettin' in. You're a good man, and I'm proud to have stood
JD walked to Chris' bedside as the gunslinger called the youngest
to him. "I know I may have given you a rough time sometimes, kid. But
I'm proud to say you've grown into a fine man. I know you're destined
for great things." For the first time in a long time, JD Dunne was speechless
before his idle. All he could manage was an emotionally charged, "Thank
Mary tried to hide a sob by turning quickly to the window. The woman's
sharp movement was not lost on Chris and he noted the subtle shaking
of her shoulders. "Mary look at me." When Miss Travis turned around,
they could all see the red coloring her cheeks and brightness in her
eyes from the tears starting to fall. Mustering her courage, she walked
over to face the unwanted truth of Chris Larabee's impending death. Looking
down, she saw the man she'd loved ever since that fateful she'd set eyes
on him in the street as he went to help Nathan. Chris weekly took old
of Mary's hand and brought it to his lips. "I love you, Mary. Thank you
for everything." Closing her eyes she spoke softly, "I love you too,
Chris. I always have." With that she knelt beside his bed and waited
as the man looked to his oldest friend.
"Buck," Chris called as he reached for the other man's hand. "I just
wanted to say thank you for sticking by me through everything. You've
been my friend for as long...... as I can remember. I don't know what
would have happened to me if you hadn't been there after Sarah and Adam.....
and Vin. I know I didn't stay in Four Corners after that, but I felt
your support nonetheless. Thank you. Thank all of you." The others could
only nod in one final effort to give their leader strength now that he
needed it. That being said, the brave, tired heart of Christopher Larabee
pulsed its final beat, and his lungs took their final breath. "Goodbye,
pard." Buck choked as he reached over to close his friends eyelids for
the final time.
Chris Larabee stood waiting in absolute darkness. A soft golden glow
encompassing him was the only light. All the pain in his lungs was gone,
and all the aches had fled his back and joints. Once again, Chris felt
like a young man. Then the light surrounding him grew to include every
brilliant color of the rainbow. Chris watched in utter amazement as the
colors grew more and more vibrant, combining and melting into one another
until they became one pure, white light.
Staring into the light in front of him, Chris saw the figure of a
man slightly shorter than he with a slight lean to his stance. Larabee
recognized the figure instantly, and his heart warmed as it came up to
great him face to face. "Hello Chris. It's been a long time."
"Yes, Vin. It has." Larabee looked into the younger man's eyes and
knew this was his friend, his brother, from not too very long ago. "What
is this place?"
"This is where I take you home," the tracker spoke softly and held
out his hand. Looking beyond his friend, Chris saw the silhouettes of
a woman and a child holding her hand. "It's time to go home." What was
it that his mother had one told him? She believed that the last family
member to die was the one who would guide you to the other side. Vin
was a brother - a brother by heart. And for first time in years, Chris
felt all of his burdens lift from his soul. Smiling, he took his brother's
hand and stepped into the light.
We aren't brothers by birth
We knew from the start
God put us together
To be brothers by heart.
- By Unknown
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