Disclaimer: I don’t own the Magnificent Seven, and I’m not making any money off of this story.
Major Characters: Chris and Vin, with a meaningful appearance by Buck
Note #1: This story is written in response to the September 2004 challenge offered by Helen W: “What I'd like to see are stories which explore events which are pivotal in establishing the standard canon/fanon relationships amongst the guys. This can be initial meetings or critical early encounters. I've never seen a really good explanation of HOW Chris and Vin became close, for example. I prefer the ATF universe, but any would be fine.”
Note #2: This story is not betaed, you see. So, all the mistakes are mine and mine alone. I apologize for the ones that I’m sure are here.
Summary: The first meeting between Vin and Chris…and that’s all I’ll tell you, you’ll have to read to find out more.
Review: Please!! email@example.com
Date finished: September 16, 2004
Vin Tanner was an out of work sniper. Over the years, he had learned to trust his instincts; the nature of his life had forced that to be the case. And so, he’d known instinctively that despite all the time and effort he put in…it was time to leave the Marine Corps. The trouble was that the only profitable skill Vin had was as a sharpshooter. Well, that was not entirely true; the problem was that he had no accompanying talents, skills, anything. He was a killer and that was all. He’d tried to get work with the government but most government agencies, he’d learned, weren’t really crazy about hiring people who had crappy reading skills. Hell, the Marines had barely taken him. He’d just taken to the style of military living quickly. He was smart, naturally athletic, and able to follow orders…that life had come as naturally to him as it possibly can.
It got harder as the years had gone by though. Something about the nature of being a sniper in the corps didn’t sit right with him. He couldn’t place it exactly but it was there, nonetheless. Vin had gone through basic training as a newly turned eighteen year old, and his DS and CO had both taken a shine to him as much as people in those positions ever do. His aptitude as a marksman and ability to move stealthily had been apparent almost immediately. He remembered the day he talked to the lieutenant…when the man suggested that he might go into the Marine Corps Sniper School.
It hadn’t taken Vin very long to make that decision. It was a Hell of a lot better than being in the infantry, as far as he was concerned. Harder in some ways, perhaps, but after the lieutenant explained to him about being a sniper, he knew it was what he wanted to do. There was such a refreshing quality about it because he knew that he would be good at it. And for once in his life he knew it would offer him an opportunity to be the very best as something. Outwardly, Vin was not a man who seemed concerned with others perceptions of him, and perhaps he was not in the common ways, but he was only human. It bothered him that all his life he’d been viewed as useless, as not good at anything or for anything--because reading had never really come to him, because his writing was worse than illegible, because he’d been a complete failure in high school, because he’d never been able to keep a family…those things gnawed at his gut. They always had and deep inside he knew that they always would. But then, in that moment, he knew he’d been given the opportunity to prove all of those people who thought that he was worthless wrong. Then, he knew what he could do, what he would do.
It had been a good feeling. A good feeling that had gotten steadily better (he hadn’t even thought that was possible) as he proved over and over that he was more than a capable sniper. He was the best. And everyone knew it. They knew it so well that it didn’t matter so much that his reading skills sucked, that he’d practically flunked out of high school. It didn’t matter because he had been that good. He thought that it was a career that would last him forever…or at least until he was old (at eighteen the age thirty had popped into mind).
But now, he
was twenty-five years old. And no
government agency wanted him. He
couldn’t apply straight-in as a sharpshooter.
No, he had to go through all the punk ass government forms and
procedures. They told him he needed to
start in SWAT even if he’d already been trained as a sniper. He couldn’t start in any agency until he
passed a written exam. He couldn’t pass
the written exam. Then he’d started
getting into trouble a bit…job offers of a more dubious kind got around to him,
where he was, on the streets of
So…he chose homelessness. He’d saved when he was with the marines, sure. But, it had been a year since he’d had any real sort of job. Now, even at convenience stores, he got caught up on questions like Home Address. Briefly, he’d had a job as a cashier but his change making abilities were such that he’d lost the job. Now, he was looking pretty damn scruffy and nobody had any interest. He was going to apply to stock groceries at one of the big chains but he wasn’t getting his hopes up. He knew the score.
himself over and over again. He’d spent
too much time trying to capitalize on his skills as a sniper. He’d thought so much of them…it seemed as if
they’d taken him so far. But now? Now, they’d
landed him on the streets of
Chris Larabee was a man jaded. He’d lost his family when he worked for the Denver PD. Some son of a bitch he’d pissed off put a car bomb in his car but Sarah and he had switched cars that day so she and Adam got blown up instead of him. It would always be hard for him to face it; he’d finally accepted that much. It should have been him. That was the guilt he’d lived with every day for three interminable years. And he hated himself. He hated himself because they were dead and so was any hope of happiness for him. He hated himself because he wasn’t even brave enough to blow his own brains out. On the job he started doing stupid things, just looking for a bullet. And he drank. A lot. Eventually, he resigned rather than wait for the corrections department to just plain fire him.
He still had the ranch, although he nearly lost it. One night, in a drunken rampage, Buck had only barely managed to stop him from torching the place. He ignored his bills. He didn’t really eat, not that he remembered anyway. But he drank. It was, in fact, the one constant in his life. His house looked like a tornado hit it. His favorite pastime as a drunk had become trashing those things he’d already trashed over and over. He would have been surprised that he still had electricity, water, etc. if he’d ever been sober enough to actually consider it. Later he’d realize, or assume anyway, for the two never actually discussed it, that Buck had taken to paying his bills. That Buck came over night after night and prevented him from killing himself, one way or another. That Buck watched over him when he passed out.
Then it happened. The inevitable. He crashed, hard. He’d finally drunk enough whiskey to kill a horse (or a man) but only after going completely ballistic on Buck, bodily attacking him and kicking him out. Locking him out. Then he’d swallowed a bottle of Motrin and half a bottle of Tylenol, chased it down with some vodka, and rounded out another lovely evening by passing out in a stupor. Buck had, apparently, seen it coming because he’d broken into the ranch and called the paramedics. Hours later Chris woke up in a hospital bet with tubes down his throat and the remnants of his stomach having been pumped all over his crappy little hospital gown.
When he woke up Buck was there. He was Chris’s very own safety net, his very own dog to kick around. The big man had a deep gash across his head and looked like Hell. Not just from the beating he’d apparently taken from Chris. For the fist time in over a year actually he looked at the man who was his best friend. He looked old and miserable and tired. Ready to collapse. Chris knew he should probably say something. Thank him…or something. But he didn’t want to. At that point he wasn’t very thankful. He was half glad for the tubes making it impossible for him to speak.
“Pard,” Buck spoke quietly, somberly, “I’m sorry but I’m done with this shit. It’s killin’ both of us. You really want to die? Fine, I’ll leave you to it then.” He got up and started to walk out the door but then turned around again. “No, I’m not done. You gotta listen to me right now so I’m gonna take advantage. You’re a selfish son of a bitch, Larabee. You think you’re the only one who’s ever lost your family? Hell, no, you’re not. I looked around…there’s lots of ‘em Chris. And some of them don’t go around riskin’ peoples lives, pushin’ away everybody who cares about them. Do you even remember when your folks were here? Or your sister? Or Sarah’s sister? You don’t do you? Well, I do. You were cruel to every one of ‘em. I don’t care what you do to me…it was my choice to stay but I shouldn’t have. Your family…they’re smart people, bud. They knew when to leave. I didn’t, and that’s my fault. I just wanted to help you so bad. What a stupid bastard I am, huh? Here,” Buck reached out his hand. “It’s some information…AA and stuff like that. I know you won’t go to it but the doctor’s and folks wanted you to get it and I sure as hell don’t blame ‘em for not wanting to hand it to you themselves. See ya, pard.” With that Buck was gone. His diatribe had bothered Chris more than Buck realized.
It hurt, actually. Part of his mind offered that as more reason to hate himself. Buck was right in every way imaginable. He was right that he didn’t remember any of those people visiting. He remembered them at the funeral; he remembered having some very harsh words with his father. But past that he remembered little. Sarah’s sister? He didn’t remember talking to Rebecca at all, but he was sure Buck wasn’t lying. He could only imagine what he’d said. Dear God.
Days later he’d managed to get out form under the thumb of psychiatrists in the hospital and grief counselors and all that shit by promising to go to AA and either be counseled or attend a support group. Great. Now he had been classified as a complete fruit loop. He could tell…the way the doctors and nurses and people in the psych ward had treated him. He went to those AA meetings and went to a psychologist for grief counseling…it all just blew in his opinion. Especially since he didn’t seem to fit the mold in AA. He realized quickly that it was a godsend for some people but to him it seemed more like a cult. The grief counseling was okay, but he wasn’t into it. The only reason he tolerated it was because he really liked the psychologist. She was an older woman, maybe ten years older than himself, very down to earth, a bit of a hard ass, told it like it was. She didn’t let him make excuses but wasn’t unreasonable. And damned if it didn’t seem like she could actually understand. He’d hated it when people had tried to empathize with him because in his mind none of them knew what it was like. Even if they had lost loved ones they didn’t know how he felt, what he was going through. Please.
He found that
very slowly he was pulling his life
back together. After a year of sobriety
and grief counseling he got a shit job as a truck driver. His psychologist had given him the okay to
leave AA but he continued going to see her regularly despite the time consuming
work schedule. Time consuming was
precisely what he needed just then in his life.
Based out of
Then it happened. One of those moments that he just knew would change his life. Everyone has those moments…sometimes you’re aware of them and sometimes you’re not, but either way they come. Chris just had a feeling about this one.
He had just
Nothing seemed out of ordinary when he walked into the warm building, so he headed to the bathroom. As he headed out and toward the counter he heard someone talking. Not out of the ordinary in a truck stop, but the one voice seemed to stick out above the rest. That was unusual. He continued to walk toward the cashier not seeing anything that concerned him.
“I’ll do it, man, I’ll do it,” A man was speaking to the cashier. Chris finally saw him as he turned the corner.
“I believe you,” He heard cashier speak.
“I’m gonna do it…I am.”
“That ain’t a good idea,” Chris spoke quietly from where he stood. Immediately the man turned the gun on Chris.
“Don’t get into this, buddy…it’s not your business. You don’t know my troubles.”
“You’re right, I don’t. But, I know that threatening other people’s lives isn’t gonna make your troubles go away.”
“Shut up, you don’t know anything.”
“Mister, you oughta listen to this fella…he’s talkin’ sense,” The soft Texan drawl spoke.
Chris looked to the man who spoke. He was a young man with older looking eyes that were a striking, light blue color. He was wearing ripped jeans and a white T-shirt with an old, tattered leather jacket over the top of it.
The man started to shake his head. “No, no…” He mumbled. By now everyone in the truck stop was watching the gunman. A few decided to get out of there then, when the man looked like he really wasn’t paying attention anymore. As the truckers tried to get out the gunman seemed to spring back to life, “Nobody leaves!” he shouted. “Anybody move, and I shoot.”
One of the men had already reached the door and as the man continued to watch him, he shot. He wounded the trucker in the abdomen. “Whoa, buddy,” Chris tried to sooth the angered gunman.
“Nobody leaves,” The gunman reiterated.
“Okay, okay,” Chris spoke again. “Nobody’s gonna move.”
Meanwhile, the Texan had moved to the man who had been shot. He spoke, “Listen, Mister, you oughta let the paramedics come and take care of this guy. You don’t want a murder charge hanging over your head.”
“I don’t have to worry about that,” The man said, putting the gun to his own temple.
“Why you wanna do it?”
“What?” The man asked.
“Why do you wanna kill yourself?” Chris asked again.
“Why do you care?”
“Because your shootin’ people…threatening to shoot me. I think I have a right to know.”
“I can’t live anymore. My life…it’s over.”
“Why hurt other people?”
“I don’t know.”
“You…don’t…know? How can you not know? You just shot a man. Why should he have to die because you’re depressed? He ever done anything to you?”
“People have always been bastards to me! Nobody ever gave me a chance…nobody.”
“So? People are bastards…don’t mean we can kill them; it doesn’t mean we should kill them.”
“I don’t care what you say!” The man yelled. He pointed the gun toward Chris. Chris instinctively backed away from the man. Chris would later recall seeing the gun fire. He would remember seeing the incident happen in still images…clear but incomplete. He thought for sure he was dead. He’d never been a great negotiator…didn’t have the right kind of personality.
Everything seemed to be moving so quickly. At the same time, despite knowing everything that had happened, his mind seemed to be moving so slowly that it wasn’t until after moments later that he realized what had happened. He’d been so sure that he would be shot and killed. So sure, at least, that he would be shot that it took his brain time to process the fact that that hadn’t happened. It was a shock.
His eyes searched the store. Someone had been shot. That was for sure. Apparently one of the other truckers had seen Chris’s talking to the gunman as an opportunity for escape. An incredibly stupid presumption considering what had already happen, but people really weren’t that bright. The gunman had obviously caught sight of the man, turned and shot him, probably saving Chris’s life. Before he realized he was doing it, Chris ran toward the downed men.
“I don’t know if they’re gonna make it,” The Texan spoke quietly. “I don’t think they got much time.”
“I think you’re right,” Chris spoke in response.
“Hey, you two! What the Hell do you think you’re doing?” The gunman yelled.
“We’re seein’ what we can do to keep you from getting’ yourself in even more trouble.” The man next to him spoke quietly but very intensely.
“Well, I don’t care!”
“You oughta,” Chris spoke, becoming increasingly angry. Whispering he addressed his ally, “What’s yer name?”
“Tanner, Vin Tanner,” The man spoke quietly, having taken off his t-shirt he was trying to stem the flow of blood on the first man while Chris attempted to do the same for the second man. “You?”
“Chris Larabee.” Vin nodded in response.
The gunman was pacing now…restlessly and without ceasing. His eyes were strangely glassy. Chris had seen the look before. It was not a good one. It was the kind men often got when they were out of the reach of negotiators, of logic and sense, and about to do something horrible…when the human component of who they are get completely lost in the madness of their criminal selves. Not many men got like that, but he’d seen it. It was always terrifying because people like that were loose cannons.
Chris subtly motioned for a trucker he knew to come over and take his place with the man he was trying to help. The man went over and Chris stood to look the gunman in the eyes. Might just was well try again, he figured. He thought, still, that he may not be past the point of no return. Sometimes you just had to get them to talk to you…he’d seen negotiators do it a million times. “What’s your name?”
“What does it matter?” The gunman spoke bitterly.
“It matters ‘cause I don’t know what the Hell to call you.”
“Okay, James, you’ve shot two people, feel better now?”
“If you don’t watch it, I’ll make it three,” James responded.
“Don’t much care, buddy.”
“I am not your ‘buddy.’”
“Point taken,” Chris conceded. “Is there any way I can convince you that this course of action is not the right one to take?”
“No,” James said sternly, as if commanding a belligerent child.
Chris only nodded at first, “Why’d you decide to do this?”
“They wouldn’t hire me,” James said.
“The truck stop. I only wanted a job and they wouldn’t even hire me to work in this lousy place.”
“The straw that broke that camel’s back, huh?”
“Yeah,” James said, “I guess you could say that.” Chris could see James softening, if only slightly. The eyes had become, not less gazed, but James was making eye contact now at least. Eye contact was always a good thing. Then to Chris’s great surprise, Vin stood next to him.
“Mister,” Vin began, “Look I got somethin’ to tell ya. First, I realize that your doin’ this because you’ve had a tough life…you couldn’t get a job, folks ain’t been real nice to you…I understand about that. Nobody’d hire me either. And lots of people have tough lives. But these folks,” He motioned to the men on the floor, “They ain’t done nothin’ to you. Look, if these fellas die, even if you get away, people, the law, somebody is gonna hunt your ass down. Don’t do that to yourself. I’m a bounty hunter…some folks don’t think they still exist but they do. And let me tell ya, if the police don’t find ya, somebody will.”
“You’re tryin’ to scare me…” James’ comment was somewhere between a statement and a question.
“No,” Vin spoke with complete honesty, “It’s just the truth.”
Now, Chris saw it…now he knew they had some kind of chance. He saw the tendrils of fear creeping into his eyes. They had him. The silence was broken by the sound of a telephone ringing. “Can I answer it?” The man behind the counter asked James.
James looked like a deer in headlights. “Uh….okay.”
The cashier answered the phone, “Hello.…um, yes---“
“Who is it?” James demanded.
“Who called the cops?!” James fumed.
Damnit! He cracked, they’d lost him.
His eyes were wild, and he waved the gun around the room, looking for whomever it was that had contacted the police. “I’m gonna kill the son of a bitch who called the cops,” The calmness with which he said it was what really disturbed Chris. This was the attitude of a man who would really carry that statement out.
“Who called the cops?” James said in a deadly low voice.
No one answered. Everyone in the truck stop stood, frozen, staring wide-eyed at the man in front of them.
“No one knows, huh?” James spoke maniacally. “Fine. I’ll just start shooting people until the dumb bastard who did it steps up and admits it. I’ll start with…you!” He pointed to a random man on the other side of the room. He cocked the gun in his hand. Chris immediately started running toward James. He tackled the man to the ground feeling the pain of a bullet smash into his shoulder. James had seen him running and turned to Chris, firing at him just as Chris tackled him to the ground. James moved quickly, pushing him off his own body and the pain in Chris’ shoulder was so intense that he could do nothing to stop it. James turned and pointed the gun toward his head, “You made a mis—“
Before he was able to finish that sentence Vin seemed to materialize out of nowhere behind him. Putting his arm around James’ neck and cutting off most of the flow of oxygen he quietly spoke, “Put the gun down, James.”
James shook his head as best he could and wheezed out, “Like Hell I will.”
Vin turned them both toward the wall just in time for James to shoot it, instead of Chris. James tried to elbow Vin in the ribs but Vin seemed to completely ignore the pain…as if it didn’t even touch him. Reaching forward with his free hand, Vin took hold of James’ arm and twisted it…slowly applying more and more pressure. Everyone in the room heard, through the complete silence, the bones in his arm give with a blood curdling snap. Seconds later they heard the gun that had terrorized them drop harmlessly to the floor. Vin shoved James away from him quickly and as the man stumbled in an attempt to regain his balance, Vin downed him with a high kick to the mouth. James then lay unconscious on the floor. It was over.
Most everyone in the building left as quickly as they could. They heard the sirens blaring. Before long the paramedics were there. Everything happened in a whirl around them. Initially there were only enough paramedics to care for the two critically injured truckers, so Chris waited. By then he had managed to raise himself to a sitting position against the wall. He cradled the arm of his injured shoulder and tried to take deep breaths as a way of combating the pain. Though he believed he was in a losing battle.
He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. After he did so, he felt someone sit down next to him. Curious, he forced his eyes open and looked to his side. The man he had met that night, the man who had risked it all to save his life, was sitting next to him. “That was damn stupid,” Vin Tanner spoke.
“It worked,” Chris said sourly.
“Oh, you were intendin’ to get a hole the size of a golf ball blown into yer shoulder, were ya? Hot damn! You’re right, damn successful! Sorry.”
“You coulda got your fool self blown away just as easy. Tryin’ to sneak up behind him like that.”
“I ain’t the one bleedin’.” Vin pointed out.
Chris turned an icy glare on the young man sitting next to him... Vin had to bite back his laugh…he ended up displaying a big goofy smile just the same. “This is funny to you?” Chris spoke.
Chris gave him an exasperated look. For a few minutes the two sat silently before Vin spoke again. “You always ride that big ass white horse?” Vin spoke. If looks could kill Vin Tanner would have dropped dead on the spot.
“Ain’t got no white horse,” Chris growled through gritted teeth.
“Like Hell,” Vin said.
“Yeah, what are you ridin’…by your way of thinkin’ I’d say your just as big a fool as me. I reckon I can’t help myself…used to be a Navy Seal and then a cop.”
Vin nodded, “I was a Marine sniper.”
“Shoulda figured you’d be a damn jarhead,” Chris nodded matter-of-factly, though a smile tugged at the corners of his lips despite his pain. Moments later paramedics stormed them. Chris was surrounded. Vin stood up and as he moved to walk away Chris looked up at him and the two men nodded to each other.
After providing his statement, Vin walked through the parking lot. He wasn’t sure what to make of that night but intuitively he knew that something big had happened. On the surface it didn’t seem like anything substantial had changed, but he trusted his gut. His life would be changed by what happened that night. He just didn’t know how, yet.
Assistant District Attorney Orrin Travis had been awarded a high honor. For his work with senate committees dealing with foreign gunrunners, he’d been allowed the latitude to create an elite ATF unit that specialized in bringing down such gunrunners. He would be their supervisor, reporting to ATF leaders himself. It was a huge honor and he’d been allowed to approach it anyway he wanted.
He wanted the team to be special…not just experts thrown together but specially picked to be the absolute best and to have a special chemistry. He’d asked around…he needed a team leader. A man who he could trust to help him put a team together and one name kept creeping up. Chris Larabee. He’d gotten to know Larabee, and despite the trouble he’d been into Travis believed in the man. Larabee was past the trouble he’d had, Travis believed, and aside from that his record was impeccable. Travis implicitly trusted Larabee when they met, although he didn’t quite know why. Larabee told him to leave the other team members to him. Travis agreed the team would be the brainchild of both men.
Chris Larabee walked into a grocery store near a nasty