A Magnificent Seven gen novel by JIN, set in the Old West and with lots of hurt-comfort. NOTE! These stories have appeared, or is currently available, on-line.
Vin is in a serious accident when he tries to help a little girl and hiis recovery is questionable. Later, while still on the mend, young boys begin to disappear and Vin know why.
177 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.
They all tried to act like nothing had changed. None of them opened their mouths when Vin struggled to mount up on Peso, or to crouch low to the ground for a sign, or to even walk across the floor of the saloon on his bad days. They all knew when he drank too much and ate too little that he was hurting, but it really wasn't their business, and there was nothing anyone could do anyway. Better to leave Vin alone, give him his dignity – act like nothing had changed.
But of course, everything had changed. Nathan thought he'd be used to it, four months having passed since the accident, but he wasn't. Every time he watched Vin climb awkwardly into the saddle, he winced. He decided, like Chris, he'd never really accept it; he'd always wonder if he couldn't have done something different, something more.
Although Chris would probably say he should have done something less. They'd argued about the morphine, damn near come to blows over it. Nathan just couldn't sit back and watch Vin suffer, even when he knew his friend was becoming more and more addicted to the drug. But it was Chris who sat with Vin when he went through the painful withdrawal, and Chris who guided him through every excruciating step afterward. Even though Nathan had settled his differences with Chris, he couldn't help feeling like he'd let Vin down. And every inadvertent grimace or poorly concealed groan from the tracker reminded him of that fact.
A few times he'd offered Vin some alternatives for pain relief; things he'd read about or heard about. But Tanner always thanked him and turned him down. "It's nothing','' Vin would say, "don't worry so much." Most of the time Nathan listened, because Vin really was handling it, and that was no surprise. Tanner was strong in character and spirit, if no longer in body.
His weakness, his only weakness as far as Nathan could see, was getting involved in the plight of innocents with no regard for his own safety. Jackson was glad of that at the beginning of their friendship – he'd have been hung if Vin hadn't stepped in – but that trait was likely to get his friend killed one of these times. And it was likely to torture him for months on end if this quest didn't have the happy ending Vin so desperately needed.
Speaking of torture, it had been a purely miserable night. Rainy and cold, camped out on hard, rocky soil, with nothing good to eat, or drink for that matter, and tension so thick it squeezed the breath right out of a man. Vin wanted to go; Chris knew they needed to stay. At odds with each other, with Chris questioning Vin's judgment and Vin knowing it. Even that had changed, though they were still closer than any two men Nathan had ever known.
Nathan followed behind both men now, not liking the way Tanner was hunched down in the saddle. Last thing he needed was to get sick, but the chances were good that he would. He still hadn't gained back all the weight he'd lost, and his reserves were low, at best.
Chris didn't look much better, his face white and stony beneath the brim of his black hat. He kept shooting covert glances in Vin's direction, and Nathan almost smiled at that. He remembered when Vin had been rammed into a fence by a horse in town, breaking a few ribs, and Chris had hardly batted an eyelash. But ever since the accident, Chris had become highly protective of his friend. Not all the changes were bad.
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